Pathways Magazine: Sacred Signs and Symbols

Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of Pathways Magazine.

Have you ever heard the parable of the Drowning Man? It goes like this: Once there was a man stranded on top of his house during a flood. A man in a rowboat stops by and says “Hey get in, I’ll save you!” The drowning man replies: “No thanks, I’m waiting for God to save me.” Next, a man in a motorboat happens by, shouting: “Jump in, I’ll save you!” The man again replies: “I’m good. I’m waiting for God to save me.” A while later, a helicopter whizzing by sees the man on his roof and slows to hover overhead. The pilot shouts down: “Hey, do you need some help!?” The man shouts back: “No thank you. God will save me!” The water rises, and the man drowns, as he is unwilling to accept any offered help. When he gets to heaven and sees God he asks, “Hey! Why didn’t you save me!?” God says to him: “I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat and a helicopter, you idiot!”

The moral of the story is obvious to us, the outsiders, because it’s always easier to see what’s going on when you’re outside, looking in. But when you’re faced with a major life decision, like relocation, leaving a job, or getting married, things aren’t always so clear. You’re too close to the matter, and your monkey mind creates static interference between you and your intuition. The universe is constantly sending you signs to help you out, but do you know what to look for? Are you even paying attention, or are you busy staring at your phone?

Learning to read the signs around you is one of the most accessible ways to tap into your intuition and have a direct dialogue with the universe. In Sacred Signs & Symbols: Awaken to the Messages and Synchronicities that Surround You, Sherri Dillard shows us how to recognize and decipher the smoke signals the universe is putting out.

Sherri Dillard is a psychic medium and a well-established author. In 2011, after reading her book, Discover Your Psychic Type, I booked my first-ever intuitive reading with her. It was a positive experience and one that I’ll never forget. You can trust that she’s the real deal when it comes to communicating with the spirit world.

I’ve often wondered why Dillard doesn’t have a tarot or oracle deck, but that question was answered with the release of this book, as the whole thing is basically an oracle guide. Dillard writes: “A couple of years ago, I began to get a message to develop an oracle system. Yet, I was not sure what type of oracle guidance system to create. Intent of figuring this out I asked for a sign or message to help point me in the right direction. I soon experienced an outpouring of them.”

Dillard explains that she received so many signs it became undeniable she was headed in the right direction but she remained confused about how to get started until she came across a hawk feather near a church. When she picked it up, a message “shot through her like a bolt of lightning” and she instinctively knew that she was meant to create a sign oracle.

Dillard calls her oracle system, The Living Oracle, and the book has three main sections explaining how it all works. Part One: Understanding the Signs that Surround You, is the foundation, with discussions on what a sign is, how to spot one, getting familiar with signs, and one that I find especially useful, an exercise to strengthen symbolic awareness. Dillard explains that there are several different kinds of signs: healing, decision-making, comfort, redirection, change, guidance, and “I am Here” signs, which alert you to the presence of the Divine in your life. Dillard also includes a useful introduction to the different messengers sending these signs, like archangels, spirit guides, and even your higher self (which is a little mind bending when you think about it).

Part Two: The Living Oracle, is about working with the oracle, casting the oracle, and different divination methods that you can use with the oracle. Dillard gives instructions for casting three different kinds of oracles within the system. The Sign Signature method is explained as “a way to ask for an identifying sign from a loved one on the other side, an ascended master, an angel, an archangel, a spirit guide, or a nature spirit. This is their sign signature and they will use it to let you know when they are present.” So, you could cast Sign Signature and get the message that your grandmother is present whenever you see a bluejay. There’s also Temple of Spirit– a one-sign oracle used to connect with the Mother Goddess, and Sign Medicine Wheel Oracle–a healing rite to promote peace and harmony.

Dillard explains: “Similar to tarot card spreads, oracle divination methods provide you with a format to further discern and gain deeper understanding from your signs.” The text goes into detail discussing different divination methods for interpreting the signs. Part of the beauty of tarot is being able to tell a story with the cards via spreads, so you know what card refers to a specific area of inquiry, (eg. the past, present, future spread) vs drawing a jumble of cards and trying to make sense of it with no order.

Likewise, the Living Oracle gives instructions and formats to help you gain deeper understanding from the signs you see when casting. It works similar to other oracle systems. Just as if you would draw a tarot card from the deck, you “draw” a sign, by walking around, sitting, or vision questing until you’re finished collecting signs, and then you write the signs down on pieces of paper and shuffle them into a spread for further interpretation.

In this way, Dillard has managed to create an oracle system that unboxes oracle possibilities more than ever before. With tarot, sure there are 78 cards and potentially thousands (or millions?) of meanings, however when you’re using cards the traditional way, you’re still limited to the symbology of each card. With the Living Oracle, the system is created as you go. You can include that red car, the heart-shaped cloud, and the smell of fresh grass, and because the signs unfold organically and are not predefined, it’s like having your very own custom oracle deck, but you know, in real life. Genius I say.

Part Three takes up roughly half of the book and is a glossary of possible sign interpretations. Dillard urges readers to follow their own intuition, but provides the meanings of various signs as a starting point for those who prefer a little more hand-holding. While there are more traditional definitions like animals and colors, there are ones I’ve never considered before, such as crosswalk, storage unit, and delivery truck– all things you would expect to encounter in modern life when out and about.

Books in this genre that break away from the norm are rare. Sure, everyone has different interpretations on what’s the best way to develop your intuition, and 1001 ways to read a tarot card, but mostly, it all blends together. So when a book like Sacred Signs & Symbols comes along–one that’s not only well-written but decisively practical and innovative–I can’t praise it enough.

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