Following the dream

In 1992 I had a dream in which I created a deck of cards with different information on each side.  On one side was a circular image surrounded by symbols, with a few lines of script at the bottom, possibly a poem.  On the other side was a nursery rhyme.  The cards in the dream were read using a set of three dice.

The dream stayed around me for more than a year, until I decided to make the deck. The first shape the Oracle cards took were as little leather circles with colored beads fastened on their rims. I next remade the discs using hardened deer hide. Images appeared which I enhanced with India ink.  The little ring of different colored beads was still added to each rim.  The dried rawhide was too irregular and bulky, so I started painting each card as a round art work using colored inks. The colored beads became my color selection for each card. I began searching to include other surfaces to inspire card images.  The 94 images of the Journey Oracle deck were found by gazing into the surfaces of dried rawhide, Brazilian agate, and fossilized ammonite shell.  Traces of these animal, earth and water origins appear in the webbed, radiating, and spiraling card images.

Meeting the Oracle

The painting process took five years because I felt impelled to impose limitations.  Each painting had to be completed in one sitting and no image could be discarded as a mistake.  Therefore, each card only had one image, and not a selection from which I could choose. While the cards initially were not named, during the years of painting the cards became called by their fit in one of four organizing categories: the months of the year expressed through Robert Grave’s version of the Celtic tree alphabet; the full moons represented by locally significant names given to seasonal change; the wheel of the year whose movement is the progression of solar and lunar holidays, especially as these are understood in Wicca; and the unfolding of a shamanic journey as reflected in the symbolic meaning of these words: path, vision, sun, east, south, west, north, stars, moon, whole self, teacher and mystery.

As three of these organizing categories were framed by time—so too was the painting of their corresponding card images. The paintings associated with the full moons and Earth holidays were created within the three days of their peak energy, those of the tree months were created within the 28 days of their influence.  If this window was missed, the painting waited a year until its particular energy became available again.

The discovery that each card had two sides came about naturally, and literally, inasmuch as each object used as a source—flat rawhide disks, slabs of agate, and cross-sections of shell—had two sides.  Given the requirement of working with the calendar, each card’s two images were not created together but months and more typically years apart.

Initially, I imagined both sides corresponded to versions of light and dark reality.  Later, in a dream, I was shown that the cards were dancing.  This insight shifted my focus from polarity to movement, and eventually resulted in the notion that a card reading required one to move, to take a journey.

Receiving messages

The 94 completed cards were shown to three women who were asked to spontaneously say whatever occurred to them as they looked through the little round paintings.  I recorded verbatim what was said.  All the phrases for each card were numbered.  Three poem-like clusters of phrases were created using three dice and a spirit-directed game of chance.  One cluster was then selected and one phrase eventually was winnowed out from this group to become the title of all three clusters.

When the cards evolved from round images to circles within squares, this title became a phrase written below the image on one side of the card; the “line of script at the bottom” that appeared in the original dream.  The question that appeared on the other side of the card came literally in dreams.  I would go to sleep asking to receive a question “to dream on” for the card and wake with a dream in which there was embedded an actual question.

The Oracle speaks

Early in the process of finding a way to interpret the Oracle card images, I decided to create sentences for the cards using 19 categories of correspondence.  Ten were correspondences to the natural world—element, direction, mineral, plant, tree, insect, fish, bird, animal and color. Five were correspondences to the human senses—smell, sound, taste, touch and sight.  Four were related to the directions—East, South, West, and North.

Each sentence had a set beginning but the ending was created by making a connection between an event occurring on the calendar day or energy of the card, and my spontaneous impression of that event.  For example, the set beginning of the Plant sentence was “The Mother of the situation is….”  So when I saw a chrysanthemum just opening on the calendar day of the Moon card, I spontaneously finished the sentence, “The Mother of the situation is an unfolding.”  The tree category was “The Father” and so on this same Moon day—when I noticed I was eating a highly polished apple—that sentence became “The Father of the situation is a shining.”

But I abandoned the partially completed charts of correspondences for lack of fit to what I then understood to be the Oracle’s format of cards and poems made from the clusters of phrases.

The first time the Journey Oracle was sent to prospective publishers the book contained on each right hand page a card’s two images and its three- part poem. The left hand page was blank and intended for notes by the user about each card’s personal meaning.  After having this version rejected, I was told in a dream that “the left hand is missing.”  I came to understand that the left hand page was to be the Oracle speaking through the correspondences. Two more years were involved with completing the Oracle’s left hand; the first in completing the expanded charts which now had additional correspondences to Wind, Helpers, Energy, Between the Worlds, and Guidance.  The second year was spent translating each correspondence into one of the Oracle sentences.

Talking to sticks and stones

During these early days, a friend called to say she had had a dream that must be meant for me, because upon awakening she was told, “Kristen’s line is busy.” This dream was instructions for conducting a stick divination.  Each stick represented an aspect of a situation, and when thrown on a specially prepared circle of cloth, the pattern of their falling would bring insight.  The five sticks represented: the situation, personal alignment to the situation, exterior systems, change, and Divine Will.  Although certainly I used this dream-sent divination tool in my personal practice, I did not connect its categories to the Journey Oracle.

Years passed, my shamanic experience deepened, and I realized that I could talk to stones. My teaching stone did not speak English inside my head, but rather created patterns of vibration I felt in my hand that I understood to mean, “Yes, No, Sometimes, Back up, Stop, Go forward.”

Somehow I made the connection between my teaching stone and the cards. I understood from the stone to write a story for each card, to be composed during the time of that card’s calendar energy.  My stone teacher would give me a memory of a true personal experience.  A phrase for a title would occur to me that I would confirm with the vibrational patterns from the stone.  I understood that this phrase was to also appear in the last line of the story. Even though the gender of the main character was changed randomly, every story really happened.

During these years I conducted many readings. I filled journals with dream instructions and descriptions of Oracle images. I read about how the Oracle of Delphi was a Python. I threw the five sticks onto a velvet cloth embroidered with the black and white of fate and marked into quarters with string caught on twigs from a wild night of rattlesnake death in Mexico.  But I did not make a connection between the Journey Oracle and snakes.  When I would conduct a reading for someone else, I would begin by saying “Think of a situation for which you would like some guidance.”  I did make the connection between constantly saying “situation” and the five categories of the stick divination.  Eventually these categories became the organizing system within which the twenty five sentences of correspondence for each card were grouped.

Becoming lost

And then most of this disappeared.  The notion of a journey disappeared into a one-card reading.  Wanting the cards to be easily accessible caused this shortened reading form to become more about the words written in the card margins and less about the images.  The message phrases and the dream questions did not know who was speaking them, or why.  Someone said the sentences of correspondence were too obtuse and numerous to understand so I reduced these from twenty five sentences per card to 5,  so each category had only a single sentence, which did not have the strength of the Oracle speaking. The stories could not find their purpose in the reading and languished without relevance.   Still I did not remember that sometimes the Oracle had come as a snake.

Staying found

And then without knowing how or even exactly when, slowly I woke up.  Although the early versions of the cards were very beautiful, the computer layout for printing had been accomplished by someone else.  I reclaimed the cards by doing the work myself with mouse hands to remove the phrases and questions, and to centre and nudge each circle and number into place in a new form. Yet because neither Nature nor Art ever loses anything and always transforms everything, the original background color became the luminous rim around the card’s image.

I aligned the phrases with the Sun and the questions with the Moon and was led to understand that these were messages from the Nature identity of each Oracle.

I found the only remaining paper copy of the sentences of correspondence written almost two decades ago, and re-hydrated these to their original form and number.

I learned about the progression of a dream from studying C.G.Jung, and his four aspects of a dream translated into 4 cards drawn for the Dream Journey reading.   Suddenly the reading was about how a situation was right now and who its major players were, just like a dream begins with a setting and characters. The cards next revealed the experience happening within the situation, like a dream develops a plot of increasing tensions and uncertain outcomes. The cards then illustrated the culminating change—that moment in a situation when, like in a dream, something decisive happens or something changes completely. The reading concluded by telling a story that contained the resolution: the solution most wanted by the unconscious.

I learned from Bruno Bettelheim that the stories were fairy tales with unnamed characters for easy self-identification; with plots of symbolic meaning and with happy endings.  The fairy tales in the dream of 1992.

The reading became a shamanic journey into a waking dream.  I listened to suggestions from those who first used the deck, and created audio instructions so that the experience of the reading would truly be a trance journey.  I remembered that this deck has always been called the Journey Oracle, and so finally, I journeyed to the Oracle.  And on the way I met a Snake.

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