I spent a fair amount of sleepovers flipping through tarot cards without always resonating with the cards I was pulling. As fun as it was diving into the deep meaning of each card that showed up, I always felt like in order to formulate a better, well-rounded interpretation, there had to be something more. I've since learned that there are actually alternatives to the ever-so-popular Rider-Waite tarot deck, so if you’ve experienced a similar feeling, you’re not alone. There’s a huge variety of tarot cards to choose from, but there’s also an entirely different set of majestic cards: oracle decks. Oracle decks are much more unique and personalized, and they can often better represent you than the tarot can. The difference between oracle and tarot cards may seem subtle, but using them together can really improve your readings and deepen your intuition.
You may already know how tarot cards work — or at least, what they are. A tarot deck is a classic set of 78 cards that fall under the category of major or minor arcana. From there, the cards are divided into four suits (wands, cups, swords, and pentacles). Tarot cards are studied and interpreted by expert readers, primarily to provide insight to a personal situation, affirm things you already intuitively know, or just to simply seek some spiritual guidance.
What Are Oracle Cards?
Oracle cards are more free-wheeling from the set structure of tarot. An oracle deck can essentially be whatever the creator of the deck wants it to be; they pick how many cards are in it, what sorts of imagery it'll use, and what purpose it's supposed to serve. There are many different types of oracle decks that come in all shapes, sizes, and functions. The basic setup is that they have images and words, along with a book that explains ways in which a reader should interpret them. There’s much more room for creativity and intuition with oracle decks, making them a perfect deck for those just dipping their toes into the world of intuitive card reading.
Understanding The Differences Between Tarot And Oracle Decks
To understand oracle decks better, I spoke to Aarona Lea Pichinson, the author and co-creator of The Moon Deck, an oracle deck that's supposed "to help ritualize the path to self-love," according to Pichinson. Because tarot takes time to study and is a more extensive, detailed deck, Pichinson says oracle decks could be "more accessible for more people" in some cases. Oracle cards can be a variety of things, from affirmations to work with the elements to spiritual guides. Each card in The Moon Deck, for instance, has a write-up and ritual attached to it, so it prompts actions and accountability "to participate in [a reader's] own development and healing." What the flexibility of oracle cards means, she says, is that more creative people are getting into the making and reading of oracle decks, "where you can really bring a fusion of one's teachings on a personal development and spiritual path into something visual, digestible, and experiential."
Pichinson explains that oracle cards are like tarot in that they are "directive tools," so they offer guidance, clarity, and a new perspective — often pointing you toward something you already knew, but needed an outside vision on. "It's helped me to get a little more clear and connected to an answer I'm seeking and remembering that the answers are in me, and these cards really help direct that," she says.
Although anyone can make their own oracle deck, it does take a lot of time and dedication to put it all together. Unlike the tarot deck, you need to create your very own cards and meanings, which can take some time. "It's an intense process," Pichinson says, adding that it took her and the team a few years. She began ideating around 2010, and spent a few years collecting notes and researching as she wrote the language for the cards. Pichinson eventually asked her friend Andrea Keh to be the deck's illustrator. From there, she had to think about what the deck would be, and she decided she wanted her deck to be feminine, about the moon, and ritual-based.
Pichinson adds that if you want to make your own oracle deck, you should "start before you think you're ready." The Moon Deck didn't happen overnight — it took years of thinking, learning, writing down notes, and then doing the work of writing and making the art for the cards. "For me, it was a survival, that became a passion, that then became a profession," Pichinson says about her journey with cards. When creating a tarot deck, on the other hand, there’s less of a need to come up with meanings because they’ve already been formulated. Oracle can be whatever you feel called for it to be, making it more appealing for many. While tarot speaks to card reading tradition, oracle adds a deeper meaning to your readings and adds an extra layer of intuition.
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