Oracle Cards: History and Use

Learn how to create your own oracle deck


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Most people are familiar with the standard 78-card Tarot deck in all its many incarnations. You can find Tarot cards with just about anything on them, from baseball to kittens to zombies. However, for those who aren't interested in learning about the deeper complexities of the Tarot, there's a perfectly good alternative out there: oracle cards.

What Are Oracle Cards?

A deck of oracle cards is a divination tool that many people are embracing. They are a little more free-form than Tarot, and a lot of people find them easier to understand and navigate. Typically, an oracle card contains an image and an associated phrase or word. The cards can be laid out in any format, and, like the Tarot, are used for guidance and introspection. For instance, Rebecca Campbell's popular Work Your Light deck features cards like "Awakening" and "Sisterhood of the Rose." The deck Moonology Oracle Cards, by Yasmin Boland, includes lunar imagery on all of the cards, along with phrases like "Hold Your Vision" and "Believe in the Impossible."

Some people feel that the positive feeling found with oracle cards is more their speed than Tarot. The imagery on the cards is often light-hearted and inspirational, eliminating the darker mood that some Tarot decks present. Angels are a popular theme in oracle cards, and there are a few decks that even have heavily Christian overtones.

When you buy an oracle card deck, you'll find a booklet included—much like the little white book that comes with Tarot decks—that explains the meaning of each card. Some booklets even include a ritual you can do with each card, as well as different layouts and spreads that are unique to that particular deck.

Differences Between Oracle and Tarot Cards

In the Tarot, there are some pretty standard structures in place. A Tarot deck contains 78 cards, beginning with the cards of the Major Arcana. There are also numbered cards in each of four suits: Wands, Pentacles or Coins, Swords, and Cups. Typically, the meanings are universal across the board—a 2 of Wands in one deck means essentially the same thing as the 2 of Wands in another deck. Although the artwork may vary depending on the design of the card, the symbolism in each card is nearly always the same.

Unlike the Tarot, in an oracle deck there's no set universal number of cards included. There can be as many as the deck's creator decides are needed. Furthermore, in addition to be being presented as a deck of standard rectangular cards, oracle cards can appear as circles, squares, or any other shape.

Make Your Own Oracle Cards

Still life with tarot cards, Lenormand oracle ritual.
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Anyone can make an oracle card deck, but because they are so uniquely personal, you'll have to put on your creative thinking cap to create one. Unlike making a Tarot deck, where you have 78 specifically defined themes and structures, with an oracle deck, you're pretty much on your own to craft your cards and decide their meanings.

It may take a lot of time, dedication, and soul-searching, but the best way to start is jotting down ideas of things that matter to you on a spiritual level. What messages would you like your future self to be aware of? Are there words or quotes that resonate with you on a spiritual and emotional level? Brainstorm themes for your deck—what inspires you? Is it nature, or animals, or the planets? Perhaps you're part of a fandom that is a big influence on your life, and you feel like the characters and places from that fandom might make a great deck for you to use in divination.

Some people prefer to create the meanings first, while others begin with the artwork and then see what each image inspires in them. There's no hard and fast rule about which way to do this, but if you're an artist, you might want to begin with the images themselves. If you're not, it might be easier to begin with the concepts and text.

To make the actual cards, you can use heavy cardstock, pre-cut card blanks, or even bits of recycled cardboard from boxes around your home. Paint, decoupage, or draw your images onto the cards in whatever medium works best for you, and then add the text for each card. Some people like to design an image for the back of the cards as well—this can be either uniform so that all cards have the same backing, or it can be different for each one. To make them uniform, you might find that patterned adhesive paper works well for you—plus, it will give you the added bonus of making your cards sturdier, which means they'll hold up for a long time.

Once you've created your deck—and this may well be an ongoing, lifelong project for you—be sure to consecrate your cards as you would any other magical item prior to use. When it comes time to reading your cards, experiment a little. Draw one or two cards a day to see what they have to tell you each morning, or play around with various spreads and layouts—they're your cards, so use them in the way that inspires you the most.


  • Magner, Erin. “Big Deck Energy: How to Choose the Best Tarot or Oracle Cards for You.” Well Good, 24 Oct. 2019,
  • Linder, Jean. “What the Heck Are Oracle Cards?” Kellee Maize,
  • “What's the Difference Between Tarot and Oracle Cards?” Biddy Tarot, 16 May 2019,
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Wigington, Patti. "Oracle Cards: History and Use." Learn Religions, Aug. 28, 2020, Wigington, Patti. (2020, August 28). Oracle Cards: History and Use. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Oracle Cards: History and Use." Learn Religions. (accessed March 27, 2023).