Recently I’ve gained an interest in shadow work, and during my research binge I’ve found that a lot of people use tarot and oracle decks as a tool to help them in their shadow work. A lot of the decks they use are darker and often eerie, with lots of horror elements and skulls. There is nothing wrong with that, and I have a few of those decks myself, but they don’t fit me or where I stand in my current path. So I went searching for a deck that spoke to me, something that would work for me, and I found… nothing.
So after watching Dawn Michelle’s videos on her handmade deck I was inspired and figured: why not make my own? And why not share my process so you can make your own as well?
Fase 1: Theme
So my first step was brainstorming and research. Starting with choosing a theme for my deck. I’d already picked my theme, sort of through necessity: shadow work. Now, I didn’t want all the cards to be deep, thought invoking, dramatic cards. So what could I add that didn’t take away from the goal of the cards or the feel that I wanted them to have? For me, shadow work stands hand in hand with personal empowerment. This because of my habit of underestimating or forgetting my own power. So those would be the offset to the shadow, which also gave me a working title: “Power and Shadow”.
Fase 2: Brainstorm
I didn’t write any of this down, and I think I should have. So I’m giving the advice to grab a journal or open a new document and just… write. Write down anything you can think of about the ideal version of this deck. Some questions to help you get started:
What oracle do you want it to be? I knew I wanted a card deck, but it could of course be anything! Painted stones, pyrographed wooden sticks, charms, you name it.
What are the colours? I decided on muted tones with lots of dark blues, greys and blacks. I also wanted the backs of the cards to be black and/or grey.
What are some card names that you can think of right now? I did write some of these down quickly; collision, healing water, let go, toxicity, storm, adrift. Along with, if I had them, a short meaning to each. For collision this was “confrontation needed/unavoidable”, just so I could remember why I had that title.
What does this deck need to have; are there certain themes, images or words that are a must-have? This will not only help you get a clearer view of the deck, but will also help you where to research. I know a theme was shadow work, so I knew I had a direction to search in. I knew I wanted to incorporate poetry into them, shot poems by people like Nikita Gill, Abigail Lovelace or something I wrote myself. The moon and stars are very important to me, as is the sea. I love nature and forests, so those are for me must-haves in anything that has to do with personal work. For empowerment the wolf is a very strong symbol for me. So I knew where to search for meanings and names of the cards, as well as art or photographs.
Fase 3: Research
Start looking at other oracle decks. What do you like, what don’t you like? Both in looks, aesthetics, vibe, card names and themes, you name it. What decks do you have, are they hand-drawn or digital? Lots of colour or not? What themes or images keep coming back in these? That will help you get a clearer view of the things that already work for you.
I also watched videos about other people talking about their favourite oracle decks for shadow work. I noted some of the things they said and wrote them down. I felt drawn to some of the cards and titles and wrote them down as well. I watched flip throughs of the decks they mentioned and took notes in my notebook about the things that spoke to me. For example: the Vampire Deck by Lucy Cavendish gave me the names “redemption” and “primal”.
Keep your notebook handy while looking at other media as well. A video by Joey Morris about a ritual do deal with a break up gave me “sunset: letting go, liminality, healing from endings”, while a video about creativity by Kelly Ann Maddox gave me “sacred rebellion: Fight capitalism, do things for yourself, not because they make you money”. Inspiration is everywhere, darlings!
Research the themes you are working with. What are things that keep popping up in your theme? In my chosen themes it was things like privilege, the inner critic, childhood, toxicity, forgiveness, release, being kind to yourself, self love. Find those and see how you can incorporate them into your deck, and what they mean to you.
Look towards other decks (both DIY and not) to see what style speaks to you. I mentioned Dawn Michelle’s videos earlier, I love the cards that she made, but I knew that even though I think they are gorgeous, they are too busy for me. I knew the moment I had a sort of visceral reaction to her “simplicity” card, that that was way more my style. Clean, simple and the picture is the star of the show. I had a stack of photography magazine clipping that I knew would work perfectly for this style.
For the backs I had fallen in love with a deck of playing cards, where the cardstock was matte, but the images were glossy. I knew that would be perfect for the feel that I wanted this deck to have. So I went on to step 2: experimenting!
So join me next time to see how I experimented with making my own cards, what worked, what didn’t work, and how I found the perfect cards for me. If you have any questions, leave a comment down below and also tell me about your oracles! Have you made one yourself, how and what did you use?