Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Patti Wigington, author of the new Badass Ancestors.

Old Photos

Patti Wigington

After three decades of working with my ancestors as part of my spiritual practice, I’ve found that my long-dead kinfolk are an incredibly valuable resource when I need guidance, wisdom, and insight. I call upon my family members in divination workings regularly, and they’ve never failed me yet. While I do keep a scrying mirror and a pendulum on my ancestor altar, I’ve found that the most powerful divination tool I can use with my people is the set of ancestor oracle cards I’ve made for myself.

Ancestor oracle cards are a uniquely personal divination tool that only you can make for yourself, because they involve images of your own ancestors. You’ll never be able to walk into your local metaphysical shop and buy a set of photos of your kinfolk, but that’s okay… because making an ancestor oracle deck is, in itself, a magical action.

Oracle decks can have as many cards as the creator wants, and because they can have any meaning the creator assigns them, they’re fairly easy to learn. Each card has an image, as well as words associating the image with a particular concept or idea.

What family photos do you have access to? If you’re doing ancestor work, they may be right there on your altar! Look at your photos, and consider what concepts come to mind when you study them. Make a list of words or phrases to represent each picture. For instance, does that photo of your great-grandmother make you think of hard work and perseverance? Perhaps you’ve unearthed an image of the horse your great-something-uncle won in a card game, and it brings to mind good fortune at games of chance. Did you have a picture of an ancestor who survived a frightening experience, and who serves as a reminder that your family is strong and courageous?

Scan your photos, creating digital images. Print them out on card stock and be sure to label each with the phrases and words you associate with each picture; you may also want to add the person’s name to help keep things straight later on. For extra durability, consider laminating them when you’re done.

To use your cards, simply hold them in your hands and ask questions as you would with any other oracle deck. Call out to your kinfolk as you shuffle your cards, and then draw a card to see which ancestor has a message to offer you—and then listen to what they have to say.

An ancestor oracle deck will be an ongoing project, as you connect with more ancestors during your research, and unearth photos of them, their homes, and the lands they left behind. Store your cards in a place of honor on your altar, and let the wisdom of your ancestral guides help inspire you on your journey.


Our thanks to Patti for her guest post! For more from Patti Wigington, read her article “9 Things to Keep On Your Ancestor Altar.”

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Written by Anna
Anna is the Senior Consumer & Online Marketing Specialist, responsible for Llewellyn's New Worlds of Body, Mind & Spirit, the Llewellyn Journal, Llewellyn's monthly email newsletters, and more. In her free time, Anna enjoys reading an absurd number of books; doing crossword puzzles; watching ...