Tag Archives: oracle

Tarot 101: An Intro to Tarot (Part 1)


I’ve talked a couple of times on the blog about card meanings, how to read tarot, and what it means when a deck doesn’t feel right, but I realized that I’ve never talked about the basics. I just assumed that anyone finding my blog would A.) already know or B.) be able to find the basics elsewhere since there are so many websites out there now that cover this topic.

But I’m about to add one more.

I realized if I’m going to talk about the more advanced stuff, I should probably also cover the basics as well. Not only does this help add more information to the topic, but it also gives my readers a basis of where I’m coming from and how I work. Which seems like a pretty good idea to me.

Please keep in mind, not every tarot reader works the same way. I’m quite certain there are other readers out there who do things very differently. And that’s OK! That’s awesome! One of the great things about reading cards is that there are so many different ways of doing it and each reader is free to find the way that works best for them.

So, to begin . . .

What is Tarot?

Tarot is a tool. The cards can be used to gain insight and perspective into the self and situations. Tarot cards aren’t inherently bad or “evil”, though there are some negative stereotypes that persist about the cards and readers. Anyone can read the cards, though in my experience, some of the best readers are those who have spent some time studying the symbolism and meanings of the cards.

Tarot has been around since at least the 15th century and was originally a card game. At some point, they became a tool for divination. Probably the most well-known deck, the Rider-Waite, was designed by Arthur Edward White and published in 1910. Depending on how you’re taught, some say that the tarot cards are the journey of the Fool, the first card of the Major Arcana, and that the Fool travels through the deck to experience each card.

How are Tarot Cards Different From Angel and Oracle Cards?

For the most part, tarot cards are set up as a specific system and angel and oracle cards aren’t. The primary purpose of most angel and oracle cards is to be read intuitively and with very little or no study of the cards needed. With tarot, the reader often benefits from studying the cards as well as reading intuitively. There is a specific number of cards in any tarot deck (78), and they generally stick to a system of four suits plus the Major Arcana. Angel cards tend to be a deck of cards of any number with images of angelic beings. Oracle cards tend to be a deck of any number and usually with custom artwork or images of any variety. There are some varieties of tarot that deviate from the typical 78-card system and don’t stick to the popular Rider-Waite imagery, but they still tend to be divided into the suits and the Arcanas.

What are Tarot Deck Basics?

A typical tarot deck consists of 58 Minor Arcana cards and 22 Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana is divided into four suits: pentacles, swords, wands/rods, and cups. The names of these may be different depending on author, but they tend to be relatively interchangeable. For example, I’ve seen the pentacles suit called the coins suit.

Each suit consists of fourteen cards: ace through ten, page, knight, queen, king. Again, the names of the royal cards may be different depending on deck, but they tend to follow a hierarchy. For example, I’ve seen the page also called the princess and the knight called the prince. It depends on the author of the deck. The Minor cards tend to be symbolic of everyday life and indicate everyday issues.

The Major Arcana is 22 cards going from the Fool to the World. These cards tend to reflect archetypes or overall lessons. Some say that the Major cards indicate karma or karmic rules, but not everyone agrees on this.

How Can I Learn What the Cards Mean?

There are many different ways of doing this. Some people take years to study and read up on the cards. Others don’t. I have a couple of suggestions for those who want to learn what the cards mean:

  • Keep a tarot journal. Record your impressions of each card as you come across it. You can even photocopy the card you want to work on a tape or paste it into the journal. Then study the card and write down any impressions you get. What does it mean to you? What to the symbols tell you? Listen to your intuition. Then, once you’ve recorded what the card means to you at the time, look up what it means to other people and see if there’s anything you want to add. A good website I’ve used before for card meanings is http://learntarot.com/cards.htm.
  • Pull a card a day. Every morning, shuffle and ask the deck what your day will be like. Pull only one card, study it for a few minutes, write down initial impressions, and then leave it alone. Come back at the end of the day and see how you did.

The suggestions above are more for those who want to learn what the cards mean to them on an intuitive level. I usually say that the cards have different meanings for different people. You can certainly look up what the cards tend to mean, and I encourage you to do so, as studying the symbolism can really help understand the nature of the deck. But I also contend that there’s an intuitive element to reading and the usual meanings will not always apply in every situation. This is why I encourage a mixed approach–practice the intuitive while also studying the symbolic.

That’s all for Part 1 of Tarot 101. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!

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Oracle Cards


Oracle cards.  What are they?  How do they work?  How are they different from tarot, and how do you use them?  These are the sorts of questions I’ve been hearing ever since I picked up my deck of oracle cards in Sedona and started using them.

First of all, what are oracle cards.  Oracle cards are a set of cards used for divination.  They are not divided up into suites like tarot–in fact, most oracle deck don’t have any divisions at all.  Each card has a picture and a name, and nothing else.  No suites, no elemental associations, no numerological or astrological associations aside from what’s given to the reader in the painting itself.  There is nothing outside of the oracle card to tell you what it means.  What I mean by that is, there is no association telling you that pentacles is connected to earth element and implies stability and fertility.  What’s in the picture is all you get to figure out the card.

How do you use these cards?  Pretty much like you would use a tarot deck.  You decide on a layout–one card, yes/no, three cards, crosses or lines, etc.–and phrase a question.  Shuffle how you wish and then lay out or pull the cards.  There are no reversals in oracle cards as far as I can tell.  Reversals would strike me as rather pointless, since oracle cards tend to emphasize positive occurrences by their very nature.  Then you read the cards to find the answer.

Because oracle cards don’t have number, elemental, or suit references to help read them, the reader is forced to be more intuitive in order to gain insight into an answer.  This is the aspect that I both like and dislike about oracle cards.  On the one hand, oracle cards are easier to read in that there are no outside associations for you to learn.  You have to learn the cards themselves rather than the associations with the elements or suits, etc.  On the other hand, there is nothing to tell you what the cards mean.  You’re pretty much on your own and have to trust your own instincts and intuition.  It can be a little intimidating to realize this.

Unlike tarot, oracle cards tend to emphasize positive thought.  You won’t find something like the swords suit in an oracle card deck.  There are some cards that look negative on the surface, but if you look closely, they are actually framing that negativity differently than expected so that it is positive.  Which is very, very interesting to work with.

Decks come in all different sorts.  A lot of them feature angels, fairies, mythological creatures, mermaids, etc.  The deck I have is one I absolutely love–Mystic Art Medicine oracle cards.  These cards have a Native American feel to the artwork even when the main feature of the picture is Christian or Buddhist or Hindi or something else.  I like that because Native American beliefs and traditions very much speak to me and have for a long time.  I can connect with the images on the cards and understand what they say.  I think it’s very important when buying an oracle card deck to really look at the pictures and find a deck that speaks to you, which isn’t that much different than buying a tarot deck.  The difference here is really in the pictures, because the picture is all you get to read the card, so you’d better find a deck that speaks to you and that you can understand.

I won’t be abandoning my tarot deck any time soon.  Oracle cards tend to emphasize positive thought, which strikes me as being very Fluffy Bunny.  It doesn’t leave as much wiggle room to acknowledge the negative aspects of life that are inevitable, not in the same way that tarot cards do in the swords suit and the Tower card.  Having said that, I also can’t deny that I’ve done some good readings with oracle cards.  While they do not have the same balance as tarot cards do between Dark and Light, the deck I use is not so positive-leaning that it completely discounts any negativity.  Rather, it acknowledges the negative and then gives a positive spin.  For example, in my deck there is a card called Fear.  It’s a frightening card with a depressing picture–but when you look at it, really look, it’s not so frightening.  There is hope and Light in the Dark.  That, I think, is the real advantage and real lesson of oracle cards.  Yes, they are more positive-leaning, much more so than tarot, but I think it is simply another way of framing the Dark in your mind in order to meet it head on.

Tarot cards have their advantages as well, and I see no reason why a reader couldn’t be equally familiar and comfortable with both types of decks.