Isn’t it always the way when you’re Christmas shopping?… While hunting down Christmas gifts for family members last holiday season, I happened upon this compact and cute little dice game—Rory’s Story Cubes—and decided I’d just have to purchase it as a little gift to myself.
Dice, not unlike playing cards, were widely used throughout history (even ancient history) for entertainment and for leisure gambling games.
I kind of love the simplicity of Rory’s Story Cubes—which comes with nine specially-designed die cubes—particularly as a creative prompt for imagination-play for younger children. But it also became obvious to me that it wasn’t all that dissimilar from tarot, or other “oracle” generators. The point is to use the visual cues depicted on the dice and from a random “throw,” interpret or create a story or narrative. It’s easy to see where the temptation comes from to use the narrative as a fortune-telling device: all one has to do is place the narrative in a projected future, and “viola!”
As readers will know, I’m not an advocate of that. Creative narrative and creative imagination are important storytelling elements, but keeping fictionalized narratives in reality perspective is also an important facet of psychological health as well. The images on these dice are whimsical enough to avoid such detrimental convolutions of play. However, imagination building and creative narrative have been shown to be important facets of young brain development towards intelligence later in life. And the creators of this game—I think—have done a brilliant job of using simplicity to create a complex brain-development toy.
What I love about this toy is that it’s not just useful for children’s imagination development, but also as a “storytelling tool” for individuals with special needs, elderly people, or people in speech development and rehabilitation programs. It’s not just fun; it can be therapeutic.
I’ve explored the palliative effects of game-playing in a previous blog post and how playing games can build empathy between reader and client. And as Arthur Rosengarten, PhD, notes in his book Tarot and Psychology: Spectrums of Possibilities, “…game related activities develop important abilities and attributes such as creative imagination, problem solving, self-expression, plotting strategy, competitive tasking, skill and coordination, planning, risk-taking, storytelling, spontaneity, [the difference between] winning and losing, and even a little humor… Unlike games based on competition…, psychological games have the underlying purpose of cognitive or emotional development and assessment.” (Rosengarten, p. 14-15)
Here is one of the company’s website videos:
The creator’s website also has a page devoted to additional ways to play with the dice (not dissimilar from the fact that one can play any number of different games with the same deck of playing cards). Check out their “Ways to Play” webpage for more videos.
As noted on the creator’s website, people are constantly asking them what exactly the icons on the dice are supposed to “mean.” Here’s their answer to that question:
“What do the icons mean?
“We get asked for definitions of the icons every day—but their meanings are intentionally open, in order to trigger multiple associations. For example, the castle can be a castle, or it can refer to a princess, or to someone who’s behaving in a guarded way.
“Your brain is constantly trying to make meanings and it thinks in pictures. When you look at an icon, you can’t help but find meaning. Your brain is doing it all the time, constantly filling in the gaps. Your brain searches through all your memories and experiences to try and find a meaningful association.”
…All of which should sound familiar to tarot readers and tarot enthusiasts. Images are prompts for your subconscious to play with, to contemplate, to meditate upon, to inspire the blossoming of new ideas and concepts. That’s partly why this toy is so brilliant. The creators understand psychology and brain science.
The company also notes that in playing the game, or in making up a narrative, “There is no wrong answer.” This is just as true in tarot reading. There is never any wrong answer. There really can’t ever be a “wrong” card drawn, because, as with all games, the draw is completely based on chance (which is often the point). There is never a “wrong” response from the tarot reader, because the reader is simply creating a narrative from the visual prompts. And there is never any “wrong” response from the querent, because if the querent is being honest about how he or she feels emotionally about the narrative that the reader has inspirationally created, he or she will either agree or disagree, at which point further discussion, further revelation, or further card-drawn narrative can delve deeper into the querent’s emotional response.
The only wrong answer to the game would be if the tarot reader decided to be adamant in projecting their own narrative version onto the querent, and forced them to accept it. (Nobody likes a board game bully who makes up rules along the way.) Or, if the querent were dishonest about his or her true feelings, or refrained from divesting all relevant information that would assist in creating the truest narrative story—because that’s really the whole point, isn’t it? …To create the truest narrative storyline that satisfies our most honest hopes and dreams, or reflects our most insatiable purpose in life, or satisfies our innate virtuous images of ourselves. The best storylines aren’t existential and don’t leave us begging to gamble more of our money on additional fictional tarot narratives; the best storylines realistically satisfy our most inner consciences, and allow us to envision the story’s realization in the world.
There are other tarot professionals who have latched onto this idea of alternate oracle games. Both Carrie Paris and Michele Jackson have created charm and curio oracle sets which have proven extremely popular. Carrie Paris’s Magpie Oracle seems to be consistently sold-out on her website. She has, however, left instructions and recommendations for reading the Magpie Oracle up on her blog and you can request a PDF of her Magpie Oracle reading instructions by signing up for her newsletter. Paris’s alternative oracle is inspiring, and frankly, creating a charm and curios oracle collection seems like it would be rather easy (as well as self- empowering, and possibly lots of fun) to create on one’s own—doesn’t everybody have a junk drawer with those kind of miniature doo-dads just overflowing and looking for some useful purpose?!
For those interested, Michele Jackson has written an entire book on the art of alternative oracle reading called Bones, Shells, and Curios: A Contemporary Method of Casting the Bones, available on her website.
And, “Kristen R.” of the Over the Moon Oracle Cards website did an a-m-a-z-i-n-g guest blog post on Beth Maiden’s Little Red Tarot blogsite titled “How to create (and read) a charmcasting oracle.” Kristen excellently details some of the associations she’s made with her array of curios and charms, which she has collected and consolidated herself over time.
The truth is, there is a vibrant history of humans using images as amulets for protection, of humans reaching new heights of association based on visual perception, humans creating narratives from visual stimulation, as well as creating visual interpretations out of narratives. That history is too extensive to fathom here in what was meant to be a short blog post about a contemporary children’s dice game, but there are several books and resources that exist to be able to investigate that history on your own independently…
Some other alternative oracle generators included dice, seashells, bones, runes, I-Ching, coins, tea leaves, hand-palm crease-lines (palm reading), phrenology, charts derived from astrological birth signs, numerological associations, water or cloud scrying. And pretty much all of these have their innocent and creativity-enhancing positive facets (what child hasn’t lain in a grassy field and made stories up based on cloud shapes?), and each of them has the potential to cross the border into detrimental projection scenarios.
My advice? Obviously, sometimes people come to see tarot readers and consultants when life has really got them in a bind and a snitch. And a tarot reader should be empathetic to every scenario independently. Sometimes a serious situation demands some serious narrative.
But if it’s a question of whether a tarot—or oracle—reader is going to overwhelm the client/querent with dooming or damning projections about the future —versus— creating a narrative dialogue that might open up creative envisioning about possible next steps, or help the client/querent determine if more serious questions should be asked (maybe by a more specifically licensed professional), well… I’m always going to advocate for the latter. My preference is to make the communion/interaction with clients as light and cheerful as possible (reasonably dependent on the situation)—remember the “play” element; go for the game aspect that’s gonna make everyone feel like a winner; bring the fun back into the fray. Again, we’re talking about dealing with semantics—but our semantic definitions have real consequences. Stick with the (responsible) creative possibilities route and you can’t go “wrong.”
Below, please enjoy some of the dice roll combinations that I found that could correlate to card allegories from the tarot deck. Click on any image to generate a larger lightbox view. Within the lightbox, click on the “i” at the bottom of the box to read more information about the pictures: