When encountering a new age book store, one who studies the shelves of Tarot decks may come across another kind of deck called Oracle cards. These Oracle decks are comprised of various images (typically depending on the deck’s theme) and usually assigned a word or words that encompasses the meaning of that card. These decks can be a compliment to the Tarot or the reader may chose to only read from Oracle cards and not Tarot cards. So what are Oracle cards? Where do they come from and how do they work?
Tarot cards, as we know, evolved during the Renaissance. They featured unique images on each card and were designed to compliment regular playing decks in enhancing game play. The cards imagery was influenced by Hermetic, Egyptian and Christian spiritual philosophies. Though regular playing cards were used to divine the futures of those who sought its wisdom, the Tarot ultimately took over this role. Oracle cards did not evolve in quite the same way. Oracle cards are attributed to the French fortuneteller Marie Anne Lenormand, who used a regular deck of cards to divine her client’s futures. Lenormand lived during the 18th Century and counted many famous Europeans among her clients, including Napolenon’s wife Josephine Bonaparte. Her ability to take a deck of cards and thoroughly and accurately account for the future of someone’s life brought her great fame and notoriety. A few years after her death a new deck of cards was created and entitled “Le Grand Jeu de Mile. Lenormand” by Lenormand’s alleged student Madame Breteau. Soon after, yet another deck emerged from Germany, also using Lenormand’s name to sell the product.
Lenormand cards were designated as Oracle cards and though there is evidence of even older versions of Oracle cards, the Lenormand’s had the biggest impact.
The Lenormand cards typically consist of numbered cards with an image included on each of them. The reader interpreted the image or symbol for the sitter in each card and then combined them with the images in the cards in the rest of the spread. Combining all of the messages from the spread developed the overall meaning of the reading, just as in Tarot. However with Lenormand cards the interpretation could be very simple and straightforward in the interpretation of each card, where as the Tarot has layers of meaning that can change based on the cards around it.
Each Oracle deck is different and typically based on a theme that the deck designer has chosen such as butterflies, angels, or witches to name a few. Oracle decks are heavily image based, and usually with a word or words that identify the meaning of the card. The Tarot in contrast has similar imagery across most of its decks, has a number structure in place and a hierarchy system. Each card typically means the same thing throughout most Rider-Waite-Smith based Tarot decks. Oracle cards are completely up to the developer regarding how many cards are in the deck, what they mean, what order they go in – if there is an order at all.
At the end of the day, Oracle cards are great tools for a broader divination reading. The Tarot is better used for more specific information. It depends on the reader which kind of deck – Tarot or Oracle- the reader is most drawn to for the completion of divination work.
Here are some cool Oracle decks to check out. Perhaps you will find them more appealing then traditional Tarot?