When I first began reading cards, I was completely oblivious to the fact that there were non-Tarot decks out there, so when I came across posts on Facebook and Instagram of people utilizing oracle and lenormand decks, my mind was blown. I thought, “What are these things? How are they different from Tarot? Are they better? Are they the same? Why would you even need them if you’re already reading Tarot?” I decided to do a little research on these “new” decks and what I found was…..hardly anything. I mean, sure, I understood that they varied in the number of cards and interpretations, but no one could really explain why I should use one over the other for divinatory and/or personal growth purposes. So, I decided to find out for myself and I went down to my local New Age shop and purchased Doreen Virtue’s “Goddess Oracle.” I absolutely fell in-love with it and, over the following year, that one oracle deck turned into 3 more, plus a lenormand deck.
After playing with and using them on a consistent basis, I’ve come up with my own interpretation as to the purposes of each deck, which I’m going to give you today since there maybe some of you out there who were once like me and are still stumped with what these things are and why you should even use them. Keep in mind, these might not be “traditional” explanations, so understand that what I’m going to write is solely based on my personal experience and knowledge with them. I hope you find the clarity you need and give all of these decks a try at least once!
Tarot: I’m going to start off with a familiar beast; the Tarot. Most of you already know what this guy is all about. It has 78 cards, 22 Major Arcana (21 if you don’t count the Fool) and 56 Minor Arcana, the latter of which includes 4 suits (Wands/Fire, Swords/Air, Cups/Water, & Pentacles/Earth) that are numbered Ace-10 and have 4 court cards in each of those suits (Page, Knight, Queen, & King). Although some of these decks can vary, the amount of cards usually stay the same and typically follow (although not always) the Rider-Waite system.
Each card in the deck represents some type of archetypal situation and/or emotion that we as humans experience, both individually and collectively (e.g. birth, death, love, loss, good times, bad times, etc.). It doesn’t matter if you’re reading with a traditional RWS deck or with the revolutionary Dreams of Gaia Tarot, they essentially do the same thing, which is to help you navigate through the various stages in life that you are currently struggling with by giving you descriptions of what you need to know about yourself, your environment, and your situation. It can sometimes take a lot of concentration and patience to interpret these cards because they’re not always going to give you a direct answer; all they do is shine a light in the dark towards the direction you need to head in and everything else is up to you.
Oracle: I’ve found that oracle cards can range from being very up-front to being very vague and the amount of cards, meanings, images, etc. differs from deck to deck. Similar to the Tarot, the messages usually pertain to positive and negative situations, experiences, and emotions we all usually are confronted with at one point or another in our lives. However, unlike the Tarot, they are a little easier to read (if not a lot easier), especially if there is a word or a “blurb” on the front of the card, next to the image. They are great for quick readings if you’re just wanting to pull one or two cards for that day or if you need some clarification after a tarot session. Decks that have cards with a short explanation as to what they mean on the front tend to be the easiest to understand because they’re direct and are therefore difficult to mis-interpret, unlike the cards in a Tarot deck, which can have multiple meanings regardless of whether or not they’re right-side up or reversed.
Some people don’t like these kinds of oracle decks and prefer ones that only have just a single word with the image since it allows them to utilize their intuition more as to what they think the card means in relation to the querent. For example, if a client pulled a card from my deck that had “Trust” written on it next to a picture of a woman alone in a forest, I could interpret it to mean that they needed to start trusting people more or else they’ll close themselves off to the world. On the flip side, if another client came in and pulled the exact same card, the interpretation may change and I would tell them not to be so trusting with others and to just be by yourself for a while. My explanation to the both of them would be completely based off of my own intuition since the cards reveal very little detail and are open to being interpreted anyway that I see fit. Regardless of an oracle’s presentation, I think it’s a great tool and I use it quite often, sometimes more so than Tarot, especially if I just need a general outlook for my day.
Lenormand: Finally, we have the lenormand deck, probably my least favorite of the three. Don’t let my opinion sway you though; many people swear by these cards and even like them more than the Tarot. Lenormand actually precedes the Tarot since it was created in the early to mid-19th century. It was named after Marie Anne Adelaide Le Normand who was one of the biggest fortune tellers in Europe at that time (legend has it she read for Empress Josephine and Napolean very often and even predicted the famous emperor’s eventual downfall), but she never read with the deck that’s available to us today. She originally used a combination of French and German playing-cards and it wasn’t until 3 years after her death that the lenormand deck was created. Unlike tarot and oracle decks, the number of cards (36) NEVER change and they have ZERO room for interpretation. The images and their brief meanings will ALWAYS be the same, so they’re very direct and provide a quick answer to your question (as long as you’re only doing 3 or 5 cards; a “Grand Tableau”, which is where you use all 36 cards, take a lot more time). You also read them differently than you do tarot and oracle cards, both of which use the same spreads.
For example, let’s say a client asks the question, “Why haven’t I met my soulmate yet?” and then they draw “The Book”, “The Ship” and “The Birds” from the deck. You’ll look at the card in the middle (“The Ship”) first because it’s the one that carries the most weight as to what that reason might be. Then, you need to read all 3 cards together like a storybook; first you find a connection between “The Book” and “The Ship”, then “The Ship” and “The Birds” and finally “The Book” and “The Birds”. All of this will end up revealing everything that person needs to know and how they can use that information to fix their situation. Honestly, I find lenormand cards to sometimes be…creepy. Not in an “evil” or “bad” way, but just because their descriptions, even though brief, are VERY direct and in your face. There’s no “going deep” with these cards; what you see is what you get and for me personally, that makes the whole divinatory process seem cold and mechanical. Now, I do have a lenormand deck and I use it every once in a while, but my heart belongs to tarot and oracle cards because they just have more warmth, heart, and depth that I need in my life right now.
Well, I hope that clears some things up and you have a better understanding of each of these decks and how they’re used. They all serve a similar purpose, so it really just comes down to what you like and have more of a connection with. Regardless of what you choose, I hope that your cards provide you and others the knowledge, inspiration, and compassion that’s needed to enhance and improve your lives.
Love and Light,