Sacred Symbols

Exploring the symbols, metaphors and archetypal patterns found in myth, pop culture, nature, literature, oracles, astrology, religion, psychology, Tarot, art and history.

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Leftover Christmas and Yule Cards - Make an Oracle Deck!

Jolly snowmen, cheery red cardinals, shining stars, festooned trees, intricate snowflakes, welcoming wreaths, glowing candles, silver bells, crackling fireplaces, glistening ornaments, gentle doves, majestic Magi—Christmas and Yule cards are replete with universal symbols found outside the winter holidays.

In my opinion, some of the most beautiful, uplifting art decorate these annual missives.

In fact, I can’t bring myself to throw them away—so I keep them. Every one.

If you’re short on space or averse to saving anything that’s non-essential, one thing you can do with those winter holiday cards is create your very own oracle.

It’s so easy, even a child can do it. Or even a caveman.

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All you need is a stack of large index cards, scissors, a glue stick, pen and your Christmas or Yule cards. (Feel free to substitute crayons, color pencils or metallic markers for a mere pen).

Look through your cards. Cut out any section that depicts an object that could be used as a symbol. Some cards feature more intricate scenes than others, so while one Christmas card may yield five different symbols—another may only provide one.

Each symbol gets its own index card (granted, some symbols may be quite small, while others may take up much of the white space).

I prefer orienting my images in portrait, but you can do landscape—or a mixture of both.

On the top of the index card, write the name of your symbol. Towards the middle, glue the cutout image. Try to leave room at the bottom to list your own keywords for the card. (This isn’t necessary, though. You could always keep your keywords on a separate piece of paper, notebook or computer file).

Since this is your personal oracle, you can run wild with the keywords. A sassy blue bluejay or a crouching Krampus may remind you of several words that wouldn’t occur to another person…and that’s OK. Brainstorm your associations (first thought, best thought I always say—especially when it comes to intuitive tools).

If you’re stuck for keywords, consult a symbol dictionary. (Every pagan should have at least one, in my opinion!) My favorites are The Book of Symbols (Taschen), Signs & Symbols (DK), The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols by Adele Nozedar, A Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects by Barbara Walker and A Dictionary of Symbols by J.E. Cirlot.

However, there are other books that yield incredible insights into symbols. For animals, Ted Andrews Animal Speak is the best. But you could just as easily consult Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World’s Wildlife, read about an animal’s behavior, habitat, diet and appearance, and create custom keywords from the provided details.

For botanicals, you might refer to The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants by Susan Gregg or The Magic of Flowers by Tess Whitehurst. Or, go right to a primary source like The Western Garden Book (Sunset).

You could stop right there and have a colorful, attractive and (most importantly) useful oracle at your fingertips.

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But if you’d like to go the extra mile and make card “backings”, get a roll or some sheets of holiday wrapping paper that you especially admire. On the blank side of the paper, trace an outline of the index card. Cut out the index-card shape. Glue to the card “back”. Tada! All the backs are matchy-matchy. (Now, you’ll have to make sure you have enough paper to cover all the cards—and perhaps more for the future—if you want the backs to be uniform).

Every year, you can add to your oracle using the Christmas and/or Yule cards that you receive. Or, you can visit stores and get in on the after-holiday discounts, purchasing a box or two of Christmas cards filled with multiple designs.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even create your own Tarot or Lenormand Deck!

Making your own set of symbol associations is a worthwhile endeavor: by coupling your own interpretations with universal meanings, you create your own intuitive symbol dictionary. This dictionary can then be used for dream interpretation, divination, rituals, spells, talismans, altar art, jewelry and more.

If you decide to use your leftover winter holiday cards to make a personal oracle deck, do get in touch and share your images! I’d love to see them—and perhaps even show them here to inspire others (if you’ll permit me).

Caveman image: 3 Material card from the Snowland Deck, the only Tarot/Oracle deck dedicated to winter and its myths and symbols.

P.S. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some symbols to look for in your holiday cards:

Poinsettias

Stockings

Santa

Bells

Reindeer

Elves

Holly

Star

Wise Men

Yule Log

Red

Green

Gold

Manger

Snowmen

Gifts

Mistletoe

Snowflakes

Moon

Sleigh

Trees

Baby Jesus

Ornaments

Scarves

Bows

Squirrels

Candy Canes

Wreath

Sun

Horse and Cart

Polar Bears

Angels

Hats

Mary and Joseph

Steeples

Ribbons

Bluejays

Fireplace

St. Lucia

Carolers

Houses

Children Playing

Lamp Posts

Candles

Dancers

Camels

Donkeys

Cows

Doves

Musicians

Strings of Light

Cardinals

Rabbits

St. Nicholas

Ivy

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Janet Boyer is the author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse and Naked Tarot: Sassy, Stripped-Down Advice. She's the co-creator (with her husband, artist Ron Boyer) of the Snowland Deck and Coffee Tarot, and authored both companion books to those decks. Janet is a Jewelry Designer, and is the Creative Director of ChezBoyer.Etsy.com, as well as a Scent Alchemist (AromaPower.Etsy.com). As a respected, trusted Amazon.com Hall of Fame Reviewer, she's penned over 1,200 published reviews that have also been featured in print magazines and other online outlets. Next to creating, her favorite thing to do is spend time with her beloved husband, son and 5 cats at her rural home in Pennsylvania.

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