I’ve been working with the Oracle of Fortuna, a divination system created by the seemingly little-known occultist who used the moniker “Ophiel.” This is a method of divination with a playing card deck by playing a game of solitaire (patience). Specifically, the well-known game of Klondike — long familiar to Microsoft Windows users — is the base for this oracle.

An old method of divination using solitaire is based on the idea of winning the game to answer a question: if a person meets the winning condition the answer is yes, otherwise no. Ophiel’s system is more sophisticated, by fine-tuning the rules to allow for three end conditions, one of which is “winning.” However, he intended the system to provide guidance for its user. Even without a winning condition the reader is empowered to find where things might be stuck and get an idea of how to improve his situation.

Besides a standard 52-card deck, the reader needs a set of seven planetary cards and four elemental cards. Ophiel gives directions for making and using these. The energies shown by these cards are the extras that help turn the game into an oracle that can offer both coarse and subtle advice. Elements and planets allow for pinpointing issues according to elemental influence in a planetary sphere.

I’ve done three basic readings as I’m new to the Oracle of Fortuna. I cheated and used a tarot deck, so that I could substitute appropriate major arcana instead of creating planetary cards. I chose my pocket-sized Thoth deck, especially because it’s small; and partly because the majors have planetary glyphs visible on the cards. I removed the major arcana and princess cards, leaving me with a playing card deck equivalent for the game. The drawback of the Thoth is that the art is “busy” and distracting when these small cards are laid out to play solitaire.  I used the seven majors with planetary associations as the planet cards, and played the game according to Ophiel’s rules. As I was mainly interested in getting a feel for the rules, I wasn’t trying to get a detailed analysis at this stage.

My results were interesting. Even at a basic level of interpretation, my answers seemed relevant. One question regarded an aspect of my personality which I would like to change, and the answer was valid to me in terms of making some steps in this direction. Another question was about a celebrity, and the answer received some corroboration from a published quote I learned of later. My third game ended in a draw, as I’d made a mistake in the game and wrote off the game. This was due in part to the busy art on the Thoth deck, and shows the need for clear and focused attention while playing the Oracle of Fortuna.

I see a lot of potential for this system. Ophiel gives hints that encourage the reader to use his knowledge of numbers, planets and elements to give in-depth exploration of the spread, in as many steps and details as desired. For example, the reading could be examined at every stage of game play to get more detail of the goings-on behind the scenes of life. Ophiel teaches the elements as a fundamental force behind our mundane life, and the Oracle of Fortuna is a way of tapping into and examining those forces. The goal is that the reader will steer his way through these forces, deflecting them or making use of them as necessary.

I look forward to spending more time with this method of divination. I believe this system has many subtleties to be developed through experience.The oracle facilitates a meditative or absorbed state of mind, due to the need to pay attention while playing it. And although the game is more time-consuming than, say, a quick line of cards, it’s also more fun because the reader is playing a game.

And why read any cards if it’s not fun?

Reader’s Note:

Oracle of Fortuna is long out-of-print. It’s available at booksellers such as Amazon.com, but I see it has a hefty price tag.