Oracular Mechanics

Symbols - The Language We Speak
By Allan Ritchie

Rory's Story Cubes® were created to encourage the imagination. White cubes encoded with pictures seem simple but how do they make mental creation possible? Though remedial, it is essential to say, Story Cubes work because of the pictures. Story Cubes promote the premise that a player can create a narrative from pictures even if they appear as random non sequitur. The cubes serve as a trigger for the imagination. Like with the imagination, intuition and divination are not dependent on a physical tool or prompt. Yet as with the imagination physical prompts help. In the same manner as with the cubes, Rune stones, Tarot cards, I Ching coins, and other oracular tools exist in abundance because the handling of an object and the random patterns they create provide an experience that promotes intuition and divination.

Our senses shape our thoughts. When we hear, see, taste, smell and touch the physical world we create thoughts. The Story Cubes with their simple, clear pictures transmit thoughts when we see them. It starts with a single word when we name the picture. I roll a single cube and I see flower. Another roll and I see fish. These were not thoughts in my head before I began to roll.

We start with the initial image but then logical associations develop into a growing web of mental ideas. Here is an example. One specific symbol on a Story Cube intrigued me. From the Voyages set, one image is of round spectacles. I encourage you to take a moment and consider the image.

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All done? Some will see these glasses and recognize them as those worn by the boy wizard Harry Potter. Other from from a different generation may see round glasses as a representation of the iconic John Lennon. You may remember the farmer in the painting American Gothic. Even more Sigmund Freud, Steve Jobs and Mahatma Gandhi all wore round glasses. Each of these connections are a deep well of meaning. Eye glasses can also represent, scholarly students, academic pursuits, blurry vision, seeing clearly, short sighted, or a blind spot.

When we take in something with our senses and it has a larger association than the thing itself then it has become a symbol. Symbols are intrinsic ways of communicating. Language is only a system of symbols that have a social agreement of understanding. The sounds that I make with my voice are only words if they hold symbolic meaning to others. The arrangement of letters I type are only words have if they follow the socially agreed system of symbolism. Symbols illustrate how knowledge and communication are larger than language. Those who use their imagination and intuition are aware of the depth of wisdom and knowledge that is greater than words.

We can not rely on written or spoken language completely. Can you think of a time when you wanted to communicate something but lacked the words? Language limits the expression of our thoughts. Struggling to communicate we might use terms of comparison, "It is like," "It reminds me of when.” If comparison fails and we may abandon speech for something different like drawing, gestures, or miming. Symbols take many shapes, sizes and representations.

Rory's Story Cubes® are language independent and transverse the realm of thought and idea without words. Wordless and lacking a frame of reference Rory’s Story Cubes are open to any and every interpretation. Working directly with symbols moves us into our deeper, internal selves. Looking at the cubes, they are conveyers of symbols. As I look at how I began to understand the Tarot, I learn that it is built on a foundation of symbols.

Symbols are the language of the Tarot and oracles. If Story Cubes are going to work as an oracular device then it must build on the power of symbols. The imagination runs wild when it explores symbols. Where we do we start? Modern language teaching begins with a one for one translation. Therefore it is natural reaction in learning a new oracle to gather a list of keywords for the symbols. If you don't believe me I challenge to you find a tarot book that doesn't attempt to translate image into words. Volumes of text are dedicated to ascribing meaning to each card according to a system of correspondence.

It is natural to categorizes the world. When I took up the Story Cubes I surrendered to the compulsion and examined the images to create a keyword list. How is such a list concocted? I examined images and started making connections. The same as we did when we looked at the Glasses. I wrote down the thoughts came into my head. Self-generated keywords are one thing but Tarot is an educational tool of esoteric knowledge. Tarot is a structure on which western hermetic meaning was placed. Language is a social construct and Tarot meanings are essentially communal because of that overlaid and adopted structure and not individualized like my Story Cubes keyword list.

The Tarot adept puts away the keyword list and engages the cards more fluently. Once the connection between image and concept is cemented the adept with internalized broader associations begins to communicate. Established connection between symbol and linguistic concept initiates conversation. Here is where the magic starts. I have my thoughts and when I lay out the cards with their encoded symbolic language it takes on the appearance of communication, a conversation.

When I roll the cubes and then create a fictional narrative from the images I am using my imagination. When I lay out the Tarot cards with a question in mind, looking for an answer what do I get? If I have trained my brain to recognize Tarot symbols and connect them with cognitive ideas then they create a new thought. My senses take in something larger than itself and it becomes a symbolic message. If this symbolic message is a response to a question then it is logical to consider that this is an answer. Is the answer I perceive from the internal working of my mind called Intuition? But if there is a universal agency at work directing the message is that Divination?

This is the mystery of it all isn't it? Tarot has existed for centuries and continues to prosper not because they are pretty cards but because they work. Identifying what it means for them to work is to understand that they create a meaningful conversation. When a reader say that the cards don’t read for her I understand that there is a break down in the conversation. When it works the symbolic message provide a thought that has meaning, understanding and knowledge and then answers the questions of clients and readers.

This brings me to the end of this article where I am more aware that through training, study and practice I have enabled myself to potentially have a conversation with my Tarot deck. I am still learning language of Story Cube symbols, so I am not fluent but I am making some connections. I am still left with the question of when I do readings and have that conversation where does the information come from? Is it my imagination, my intuition or divination? One thing I know for sure it that it comes from the symbols.

All submissions remain the property of their respective authors. All images are used with permission. Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - 2016  Questions? Comments? Contact us at ATAsTarotReflections@gmail.com