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The Oracle Deck I Turn to When My Life Is in Crisis (or When Friends Come Over)

Photo: Gabriel Mac

“If you are longing to caress the moon,” begins a line by the 13th-century Sufi Muslim poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi, “don’t turn away from it!” I know that because this morning, in a moment of self-doubt, I popped open a box of oversize glossy cards and drew one called “Victory of Maryam” that directed me to it. What else was I supposed to do when I was standing in the middle of my office trying to remember what the hell I’m doing with my life?

This was not the first time I consulted the Rumi Oracle — a deck of cards, containing rich illustrations by Iranian painter Rassouli, that’s accompanied by a book of corresponding poems and spiritual advice. Years ago, amid massive and overwhelming life changes, I picked it up on a possibly desperate whim in a “spirited gifts” store. I’ve since returned to it in moments of confusion, existential terror, or light boredom. It is, let me assure you, always more fruitful than watching TV, my other go-to when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Everything is so hard, for example. Why is everything so hard? Surely, if everything is this hard, I am doing it wrong. An oracle deck is a little like a tarot deck, which I don’t know how to use, but less complicated: I draw a card, look the card up in the book, and get a poem from Rumi, most renowned mystical poet, along with inspirational text by Alana Fairchild. “This oracle brings you guidance and comfort,” says the message following this morning’s poem. “Whatever is going on in your life right now — whether it brings you joy or deepest struggle — is the Divine in you, as you, breaking through into your life.”

Who doesn’t need to hear that? I was deeply, almost resolutely disconnected from myself and any kind of spirituality when I bought my Rumi Oracle, and I found it life changing. I’ve since browsed dozens of other oracle decks and even bought a few. Occasionally, I feel called to use them for a different flavor of encouragement — I have one with illustrations of plants and an accompanying text about what I might learn from them — but this is my standby. Rumi never fails to evoke joyful or loving or profound reflection. Fairchild’s text always assures that whatever else is happening, I am worthy and whole.

I’ve offered to pull a card for a friend on the phone having a hard time; they went on to buy their own box. Sometimes, I offer the deck to friends who come over as we’re hanging around, an invitation to drop deeper into the shared space. (At least one of them, also, later bought their own.) Everyone can use reminders that they’re on the right track, that living your fiercest, authentic life is hard but also enchanted. Once, I lost one of the cards — “Commitment” — behind a baseboard in a former apartment. Months later, in a new place, an acquaintance who’d come over to discuss embarking on a major project drew it from the deck. When I freaked out, asking if there must have somehow been two copies of it, the acquaintance, calmly embracing the possibility of magic, said, “I think it just … turned up.”

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The Oracle Deck I Turn to When My Life Is in Crisis