What are Oracle Cards?

Categories: Blog

“Really, the cards are pieces of stiff paper with images and colours on them. The magic happens when you open to universal consciousness and connect to a global knowledge of human experience and questing. The beauty of the Oracle is that while each card in any given deck will have a meaning as translated by the author, you, as the Quester, are encouraged to make your connection to how the symbols and meanings relate to your life.” 

The Heart’s Journey: Healing Hearts Oracle Cards and Guidebook, Megan Edge


Many people are unfamiliar with Oracle cards and how the use of Oracle cards as a meditative tool can help them through their lives. They may have heard of Tarot cards, and many also have an accompanying misunderstanding of what those are. I want to clear the slate on the meaning and use of Oracle cards and Tarot as beautiful and accessible forms of divination, guidance and meditation.

To be human is to experience love and hate, pain and pleasure, abundance and loss, anger, guilt, joy and sadness, and other complex emotional responses to being alive. To be human is also to be infinitely curious. We wonder, as human beings, about everything. We also don’t have all the answers when we question how to best be in our lives, so we seek guidance from friends, family, teachers, mentors and our spiritual or religious systems and beliefs, to name a few.

We find inspiration and comfort in many places: books, movies, and other people’s stories and experiences. We also find comfort in familiar symbols and symbolism. This is where Oracle cards and Tarot cards come in. Tarot, for example, is based on the journey of the human being, starting at the beginning of one’s life with the Major Arcana. The Fool card represents the journey’s beginning with the energy of youth, vitality, and new beginnings. In contrast, the World card, which ends the life cycle of the Major Arcana, represents completion, integration and accomplishment. In between are the characters and concepts a person meets as they travel through life. 

The Minor Arcana in a deck of Tarot cards represents the elements of human existence— Coins for wealth and property, Wands for intellect and the sharing of ideas, Swords for strife and conflict and Cups for well-being and abundance. Each card in a deck of Tarot follows and includes a set of universal symbols that resonates with the card’s meaning as it appears in our lives. So, the Tower always shows some form of dramatic wake-up call, often intense or dangerous, and the Four of Cups will include images of clouds and trees to connect you to your abilities to see the abundance around you through self-awareness.

There is nothing to fear from the images and symbols in a deck of Tarot cards other than life itself. If there is no fear of life, then there is no fear of knowing what your life is all about. Think of the Tarot as a map of your life, providing direction from yourself and your higher self that helps you get from A to B.

The use of the Tarot goes back many centuries. Its origins are hotly disputed—a deck of pretty cards to keep the ladies of the French and Italian aristocracy entertained or the tools of the ancient Egyptians, a secret language of the priests, who held power over life or death—perhaps both; lost in time and then re-found. 

It’s the symbols of the Tarot, ultimately, though, that speak through the ages, not where they came from. Although each life is unique to the person living it, we share many common experiences and universal symbols, such as the sun and moon, moving water, or a mountain. Regardless of our cultural and ancestral differences, these symbols can connect us. 

What is there to fear in the quest to know oneself? Responsibility for our actions! Tarot and Oracle Cards and all other forms of divination insist that we, and only we, are responsible for our reactions and actions. Beautifully, they also provide us with ways to begin to take responsibility for ourselves with the guidance offered by the authors of these decks of cards.

Oracle Cards differ from Tarot in that they diverge from the symbolism of the journey from birth, childhood, youth, adult and elder. In ancient times, an oracle was someone who offered advice or a prophecy thought to have come directly from a divine source. In modern usage, any good source of information can be called an oracle. Oracle cards embrace the colour, creativity and movement of this human experience in ways that Tarot does not. Tarot is structure and predictability—both valuable and necessary, while Oracle is freedom and expression, and anything goes.

Universal symbols are conveyed through both Tarot and Oracle cards. Oracle cards represent flow, new energies, change, and creativity, while Tarot cards bring linear life experience. They work together. Tarot holds to the rules while Oracle challenges and celebrates them. Tarot represents the foundation, while Oracle holds out for change.

The beauty of Oracle cards is that there are no rules. Oracle cards’ imagery and symbolism rely on intuition to express the human experience. It is never the job of an Oracle card to tell you what to do or how to do It. Oracle decks hold guidance and personal experience as their ideal. This expression can be as varied as the person creating a deck of Oracle cards. Some Oracle card decks may be themed on sunsets, colours, fairies or plants and animals in nature. Others may focus on symbols, such as hearts found in nature or stars or mandalas. The possibilities for creatively expressing the human experience through symbols, colours, realism, or fantasy are endless.  

The ultimate beauty is that whatever it takes to get you to pause in your life, to take a moment and stop and listen, to open to your knowing of the truth of your life, is precious, amazing and profoundly helpful to the complete evolution of yourself and those around you. The use of Oracle or Tarot cards can enhance your ability to know yourself while at the same time allowing you to help others connect with their knowing of themselves.