Designing Divination

an initial design of my experimental oracle deck.

As part of my research on rituals of divination, I am creating an oracle deck that interprets my father's migration from Venezuela to the United States. Through the eyes of a tapestry given to me by my late grandmother, I am reimagining my father’s story through symbolic iconography and universal archetypes.

This deck is intentionally unfinished and expanding; it considers my family’s immigration mirrored across generalized experiences of diaspora. Both intimate and familiar, it highlights personal narrative for ritualistic self-reflection. Below are my initial experiments as well as a summary of the latest prototype.

The beginning stages of this cards development was spurred out of an ‘experimental play’ research class where I was tasked with creating an interactive documentary. Read more about my ruminations here. Below was the back of the first card I created, which was an extension of the tapestries original border (on the left).


After reading and tracing my grandmother’s tapestry, I began formatting and prototyping the cards ‘look & feel.’ I tested different sizes, paper weights, foil additions, and settled on a cool oceanic palette for the first version. Yay for holographic magic! I also concluded that the cards were stronger with a more minimalist appearance, so I removed the longer text from my first reading.

I also considered integrations with digital technology as a means to integrate craft with a sort of technopaganism, and reference to my father’s software/systems engineering background. I revisited the TUIO markers from previous experiments, and designed the back of the deck to include unique markers per card. Using these markers, I was I able to reincorporate the initial reading I had for each of the symbols as they related to my father’s story in the form of Ken Burn’s style documentary snippets.


[ divinación en migración ]

Tentatively titled [ divinación en migración ] or [ divination in migration ],

Parameters for interaction

  1. Split the oracle deck, and draw a card of your choosing.

  2. Read the card, and interpret its meaning as it related to the concept of human migration.

    • Defined as, “the movement by people from one place to another with the intention of settling temporarily or permanently in the new location.”

  3. Write down your interpretation of its meaning on one of the empty cards.

  4. Place your oracle card face down (text down), and your new card face up (text up).

  5. The oracle will record your card and share a reading from its memory.

  6. After your reading, place your new card in the oracle’s cabinet or take it with you.


Draw a card from the oracle deck.


Read the card,

and interpret its meaning as it related to the concept of migration.


Write down your interpretation of its meaning on an empty card.


The oracle will record your card and share a reading from its memory


Screenshot 2018-10-29 23.13.22.png

spacial design

Some considerations for the installation layout. More on this soon….


Past, Present, Future

A reading about vulnerabilities, the full moon, and creative expression.

  • PAST: Queen of Wands, Generous (green)

    • These full moon vibes have me reflecting on my openness to receiving critique, being vulnerable, and building intimacy with others. This card indicates that I have been generally very “open” in the past: extroverted, determined, and busy with work. Perhaps because the work wasn’t “precious” to me personally, that I wasn’t as insecure about giving and receiving feedback. You could say I was more “cut-throat…” in a charming, bold way. Reading this card more closely I wonder if there’s a sort of naive delusion about whether or not I was actually receptive to feedback. Indeed, I was probably more stubborn than I’d like to admit.

  • PRESENT: the moon, Flow (Orange) * Reversed *

    • As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that I am becoming more introverted. I am less concerned with being loudly performative, but instead more in my head and concerned with trying to hold space for others. The nature of this card being upside down indicates that I am in the process of overcoming anxieties and fears that I didn’t know I had: obsessive-compulsive tendencies, perfectionism, and excessive need for control. It’s almost as if the creative “flow” I thought I had was actually over-regulated and under-loved. I need to practice more loving-kindness on myself, and let my work flow (not forcing it in any specific direction.) This is incredibly daunting; however, I need to acknowledge and honor my existing structure and systems-oriented thinking. I need to trust that intuitive energy.

  • FUTURE: Queen of Swords, Beauty (purple) * Reversed *

    • So many upside down cards lately. Upright this card is the archetype of ‘mature’ feminine intellect, but actually leans heavily on masculine logic as there is a desire to put the mind over the heart. The reversed Queen of Swords indicates that I may be thinking too much with my heart in the future. To the extent that my heart might actually cloud my decision-making, maybe even lean a little “cold-hearted” and callous. TBH based on recent events, the divisive zeitgeist, and my disappointment in other people… I could see that happening. However, this could also be a potential outcome of reconciling with present anxieties, so I actually don’t think it would be too bad. More often than not, I am in my head ruminating and calculating. It would be nice if I could fall back in love with my heart and trust its guidance - hopefully finding some semblance of balance and harmony.

Zoe Sandovalritual, divination, mfa