Tag Archives: folk art

Two Easy Oracles



Crowstones have been around for about six years. For a long time, I passed on them – I didn’t dislike them, they just weren’t a priority. They seemed simplistic, and I was immersed in the complexity of the Lenormand Grand Tableau, the Grand Jeu Lenormand, and about a half dozen other things. But every now and then I’d come across praise from one respected reader or another. Everyone loves their accuracy, so last summer I took the plunge. Yes – they’re quite accurate, and very easy to use. The biggest difficulty I had was amending the rhyme in my head from “One is for sorrow, two is for mirth…” to “One is a message, two is for mirth…”, etc. Once you’ve got the rhyme, you’re all set.

They’re hand painted on your choice of colored glass (Robyn paints everything, she’s always creating decks and oracles, and a glance at her facebook page shows she’s painted her entire reading tent. So don’t sit still too long around her, she might paint you. 😀 ) I don’t know what the process is, but she’s done something with them so the paint doesn’t chip – I use mine often and they’re still like new. So yes, they’re a “don’t miss” item, very affordable, and as of right now (December, 2013) they’re on sale – so click the “Add to cart” button! http://tarotgoodies.webs.com/apps/webstore/



Jiaobei blocks aren’t well known here, but they seem to be common in Asia. They’re paired wooden blocks in the shape of almost-half moons, commonly used in temples. Their use is a bit ritualized, but that seems to help with the accuracy of these yes/no-type oracles – otherwise, you might as well toss a coin.

Traditionally, they first should be purified by circling the incense burner three times. Kneel while clasping the blocks together in your hands. They then state your name, date of birth, where you live, and your question. After giving all the necessary details, pray for guidance with the jiaobei raised to the forehead, after which the blocks will be dropped on the floor.

The answers are produced by the pattern of the jiaobei’s landing:

If the jiaobei land with one round side up and one flat side up, that represents balance, the Tao – it’s a ‘yes’.

If they both land on the flat sides (rounded sides up), it’s a ‘no’. By falling flat on the floor, it is said that the gods are showing their displeasure or anger with the question posed. It’s not necessarily ‘no’ forever, but you need to wait for some time before posing the question again.

If they both land on the round sides, flat sides up, sometimes it’s referred to as an “angry answer”. It’s said that your question annoys the gods. But if they land like that and they’re rocking (and I’ve never known them not to rock), it’s a “laughing answer” – the rocking motion symbolizes a show of laughter. IOW, the gods are laughing because 1) The question is not clear enough 2) The divine reply is not sincerely sought as the questioner has already decided what to do 3) The questioner knows the time is not ripe for the matter posed and yet still wants to seek divine direction.The question posed is therefore considered irrelevant, or 4) The questioner already knows the answer, is just looking for reassurance, and the consultation isn’t necessary.

(Note: If there is still no clear answer after several attempts of tossing, the divination session should be terminated. For repeat consultation of this same problem, the next divination session should only be held after a lapse of some time.)

Jiaobei can be used alone, or in conjunction with fortune stick oracles like the Kuan Yin. Here is a video of a man showing his daughter how to cast the jiaobei:

If you’re handy with woodworking, jiaobei would be quite simple to make. I’m not, so I got mine here:

Now also available from Feng Shui Bestbuy here http://www.fengshuibestbuy.com/HH8704-deityenquiryindicator.html
and here http://www.fengshuibestbuy.com/HH8703-deityenquiryindicator.html

So You Want To Get Creative

Mesquite Oracle

Mesquite Oracle

Since this is a fortune telling blog, I’m guessing you want to make an oracle. Speaking as someone who has designed a working oracle, I’d like to offer some guidance.

1. Understand what creativity is. Let’s look at the definition of “creative”: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work. What this means is that you need an original idea. You can borrow bits here and there (look at the similarities of Lenormand, Gypsy Witch and Whitman cards – they share some images, but not all, and the interpretations can be quite different) but the oracle itself should be original. What this means is CREATE something, don’t put out yet another ill-conceived Lenormand with glaring mistakes like a female Rider. (When the Rider is read as a person, he’s always male.) Making a dysfunctional version of something that already exists isn’t “creating” anything.

2. Work backwards. This is what I did with the Mesquite Oracles I was making back in 2008. I sat and made a list of things that impacted peoples’ lives, common things like getting paid, traveling, endings, and friends. Some things I split into more than one symbol – I made separate symbols for love and attraction. But I thought of the meanings FIRST, which was a lot easier than creating symbols and then assigning meanings to them.

3. Take your time. Don’t rush. Make a proto-set and experiment with it for a few weeks. You’ll find yourself dropping symbols and adding new ones. Test for accuracy and ease of reading, and refine accordingly.

4. Choose your medium. A good rule of thumb is for less than 30 or so symbols, a casting oracle is good. Wood, glass, stone, metal, whatever you like to work with. More than 30 symbols calls for cards.

5. Write instructions. This can be as simple as an explanation of meanings, or quite elaborate, complete with spreads and sample readings. Just make sure the instructions are clear.

6. Set your prices. Be sure to factor in your overhead, including shipping and packing materials, and your time. My Mesquite Oracle was cheap to make, but labor intensive and time consuming since each symbol was individually drawn and burned into the wood, all by hand. Most people understood this, but a few complained that the price was too high. I just pointed out that it took several full days to complete a set, and that I wasn’t even clearing minimum wage. (You won’t get rich doing this, consider it a labor of love and a little pin money.)

7. Be available for questions. If you’ve done well, it won’t be confusing as a rule, but people still get stuck sometimes. These are your patrons, help them out.

Ryder’s Lenormand

 photo 636aa149-a605-41b2-952e-11a0970d148e.jpg

Look at the cards in the 3×3 above. It’s very easy to tell which cards they are, even though the spread was done with a tiny mini deck and the picture was shot with a cheap camera phone. This is the first thing you look for in a Lenormand: clarity. It’s important to be able to locate cards in a split second if you’re doing a Grand Tableau for a client, you don’t want to sit there going “Uhhhhh…”! That’s why a lot of us are into old decks like the Glück and the Mertz. They’re easy to read.

Now see what liberties the artist has taken, if any. Some decks try so hard to fit a theme, or the personal vision of the artist, that they forget all about Lenormand. This one has no variations from the standard, except extra cards intended for the reader to choose from in order to make a regular 36 card deck. This doesn’t hurt anything at all and it makes it fun: like a lot of recent decks, it has two Man cards and two Lady cards. What’s different is that there are two Child cards as well, a boy and a girl. One family is made up of contemporary people, the other is made up of…medieval superheros! Now we’re rockin’. 😀 There’s two Rider cards, too, since the artist is named Ryder – one goes left and one goes right.

The next thing you do is go through the cards to see whether the person who created it understands Lenormand. Ideally, there should be visual cues and memory-joggers like two birds on the Birds card, and well-defined dark and light sides on the Clouds card. And of course the cards should be properly numbered and have correct playing card insets. This deck gets a TOP SCORE on all of that. Not only is the important stuff all there, the expressions on the Courts fit the meanings: The King of Clubs looks angry, the King of Hearts is smiling, etc.! Some of the information that comes with the cards is by Rana George (Ryder’s mom) who is a top-notch reader. (She had a book coming out soon – get this book!!!!!) – but here she gives some background info about Ryder and how the deck came to be, and then stands aside – the keywords for each card are by Ryder, and he knows his cards.

Next, see how the deck handles. Ideally, the cards should slide easily, they should be flexible and comfortable, neither too stiff nor so delicate that you’re scared you’ll crease them. This deck feels exceptionally good, and a very close look told me why: it’s got a cambric finish, which creates a kind of air cushion between the cards. This was fairly common for playing cards years ago, but now you only see it on stage magicians’ sleight-of-hand decks like Tally Ho and Black Tiger. The only cards I’ve owned until now that had it were a couple of Bulldog Squeezers poker decks, and I’ve often bemoaned the fact that it’s never used for oracle and Tarot decks. It’s such a nice finish! The bar just got raised: deckmakers, take note!

Does the art appeal? Yes! It’s 100% freehand drawing, very expressive and it’s got a fantastic folk-arty vibe. Perfect for a Lenormand. Here’s the kicker: Ryder is eight. Yep, eight. He’s a great kid, and he’s got a great mom (I’m a HUGE believer in encouraging kids in their areas of interest, they’re natural learning sponges if they like something. And what’s really cool about this is when I show it to kids, they’re so impressed that somebody about their age made something and it got published. It opens possibilites – you can almost see a wall come down in their minds.) Oh, and the backs are classy: blue and tan with “RG” (Ryder George) worked into the pattern. 🙂

You get two decks, a standard sized one with borders and a mini without. Each one comes tied (mine have fuzzy yarn and tinsel, respectively) and they’re in a muslin drawstring bag that’s decorated with all kinds of stuff, each one is unique (Ryder did these, too.) Mine has an elephant (trunk up, that’s good luck!) with all kinds of ink stamps and drawing going on around it and a smileyface button. Even the back of the bag has a secret owl. 😉

Don’t miss this one. Paypal Rana at:
For US $30+$6 for shipping.
For out of the US $30+$14
And that is for both decks.

The Mesquite Oracle


This is Americana, hand made and influenced by multiple cultures. Not mass-produced, no factories, sweatshops, corporations, pollution or bar codes. Individual pictures are hand sketched and burned on mesquite, which is then rubbed well with linseed oil. No polyurethane or plastifying.  Mesquite is a lovely hardwood with an attractive reddish tinge. The mesquite tree itself thrives in the southwest and even a small tree can send a taproot as much as 175 feet into the ground to get the water it needs. I like that metaphor for doing readings.

The oracle is read very much like Lenormand, there are no meanings to study since you already have associations for images like the Sun, Stars, Mermaid, and Hand, only a brief explanation of the images is really necessary. It’s all very simple but not dumbed-down.

MIRACLE – Bodhisattva Tara’s TAM glyph. Very lucky break, deus ex machina, transcendence, mercy, compassion. Active, dynamic divine energy. This is the one that tells you things are going to be fine. (Note: I included this one because Tara’s specific function is mercy and compassion, she is said to help anyone who calls on her sincerely. In other words, it’s more specific than, say, an angel, which could simply be a messenger. This oracle is not particular to any one religion or system of belief. It should work for everyone.)

GOLDEN APPLE – Eris’s golden apple. Chaos. Stirring the pot. Pranks! The Golden Apple can be stressful, but it shakes things up and can keep a situation from becoming stagnanat. Chaos contains both order and disorder. Strife, but also creativity.

PENTAGON – A pentagon. Order.

Imposed order and chaos escalate in direct proportion to each other. A little order is good. Too much order is fascism. Well aspected: organization, neatness, etc. Ill aspected: prison, military, controlled environment.

SUN – A sun with a man’s face. I had a little trouble making such a round face look masculine and experimented with facial hair, etc., but what I finally did was to do the features like Sitting Bull’s, and it looks fine. Sun, man, active, yang, etc. The male consultant.

MOON – Moon with a woman’s face. Lunar, woman, receptive, yin, etc. The female consultant.

STAR – A star. Similar to the Lenormand Stars. Clarity, aims, guidance, wishes, very auspicious!

EYE – An eye. You are being observed with interest. Constancy, “eye of God”, watching over someone/something. Alternately, spying, stalking.

MOUTH – A mouth. Consumes. Could also indicate speech. The Mouth reverses to a kind of pout, so you can see if a situation is pleasing or not! If badly aspected, can indicate gossip especially when near the Eye.

HAND – A hand. Work, job, human endeavors, efforts, help.

HEART – Human lives, love, affection.  Pay attention to what falls close to this one! They show what is dear to your heart, and what threatens it.

MERMAID – A mermaid. Strong attraction. La Sirena! Mermaids sit on rocks and lure men to their doom, so be careful what you are attracted to. Music, flirtation, pleasure.

GHOST – A transparent lady in front of an old New England style gravestone. Things that haunt, keep coming back, won’t go away. Stalking, sometimes. Illusory things, things that are hard to prove or pin down.

SNAKE – A snake. Same as Lenormand. Detours, danger, pipes/plumbing, people or things that are snake-like.

MERCURY – A winged foot. Communication, letter, phone call, email, message, etc. Also speed.

PAYDAY – An eagle crapping dollar signs. You’ve heard the old blues songs that say, “The eagle flies on Friday”, but what I remember the old people saying was “the eagle shits“.  Money, especially money you earn.

DOG – Friend, loyalty, protection, vigilance, fidelity. Like Lenormand.

CAT – Stealth, agility, self-reliance. As Kipling wrote, “I am the cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.” Self-serving, can be false if badly aspected.

BABY – A baby. A child, a new project, new idea, anything just beginning. A “little” of something. Responsibilities, things that require care and attention.

HARPY – A harpy. Malice. Harpies snatch things away and crap in your food. Someone who tries to make trouble out of pure spite, even take your basic sustenance.

SCISSORS – Scissors. “Cut off.” That’s it. End. Over. Separation. Like Atropos.

PITCHFORK – A pitchfork. Defense, protection, something needs to be/is being “pitched out.”

HOUSE – A house. Your actual home, its issues,  and the people who live there. Stability, security.

HIGHWAY – A highway. Travel. Change. Distance, either literal or metaphorical.

You can see some individual pieces

here and here.

23 pieces to a set, including one custom piece made to your specification.

ETA: I am not making these anymore at the present time. If I start again, I will let you guys know!