What Is the Difference Between Tarot, Lenormand, and Oracle Cards?

Updated on July 15, 2019
SM OBrien profile image

Sharon is a certified health coach and Mindful Life Guide. Her mission is to help others develop harmony and meaning for themselves.

Tarot, Lenormand, and Oracle cards. Each has its own system for divination.
Tarot, Lenormand, and Oracle cards. Each has its own system for divination. | Source

What Is Cartomancy?

Simply stated, cartomancy is the use of cards for divination or fortune telling purposes. Each system of cartomancy is different, though tarot is the most well-known.

Card reading has fascinated (and, unfortunately, frightened) many people throughout its long history. Not everyone agrees on the actual origin of cartomancy, or more specifically tarot, but it probably began as a parlour game in Italy and France in the late 1400s. In the 1700s, it seems to have gained popularity for telling fortunes. Other cards that have been used for cartomancy are the usual 52-card playing deck and the 32-card decks most popular in France.

During the reign of Napoleon, a very skilled psychic and cartomancer named Marie Anne Lenormand gained much notoriety, and she lends her name to another deck still used today—the 36-card Lenormand deck. Many of these cards are still used today, although the tarot seems to be the most famous.

In this article, we will delve into tarot, Lenormand, and oracle decks in depth, but if you need a quick summary, check out the table below for the basic differences!

Basics of Tarot vs. Lenormand vs. Oracle

Deck Type
Number of Cards
Card Meaning/Interpretation
Tarot
78 cards.
Depends on reader interpretation/where card falls in a spread.
Lenormand
36 cards.
Depends on reader interpretation. Must be read with other cards. No card has stand-alone meaning.
Oracle
Various deck sizes.
Often printed directly on card. Useful for setting daily intentions or meditations. Cards have stand-alone meanings.

The Tarot Deck

Tarot Deck Composition

The tarot has 78 cards. The pips, or suits, are Cups, Wands, Pentacles, and Swords. Each suit has 14 cards, beginning with the Ace (considered number one), followed by two through 10, and concluded with a Page, Knight, Queen, and King. In addition, there are 22 Major Arcana cards, which depict scenes starting with the Fool, and include such cards as the Hermit, the Tower, the Sun and the World.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Hermit. From the Rider-Waite deck.Sample reading about a job.
The Hermit. From the Rider-Waite deck.
The Hermit. From the Rider-Waite deck. | Source
Sample reading about a job.
Sample reading about a job. | Source

The Most Feared Card in Tarot

Probably the most well-known, yet misunderstood, card in tarot is the Death card. This does not represent physical death, but rather a transformation. If you get this card in a reading, know that things will change, but that this change is not necessarily a bad or fatal thing!

How Tarot Works

Tarot is not so much about telling the future—although it can give an indication as to what will occur if you follow your current path—as it is about the inner workings of your situation. It can tell you what is influencing things around you, why people are acting the way they are, and how you really feel about it all. It is good at getting to the heart of the matter, offering advice, and delving into the subconscious.

You can do a simple spread of one card and learn enough about a question. A common spread is the 10-card Celtic Cross, which is an in-depth analysis of a situation. You can also design a layout to pinpoint what is going on in a specific area or your life. For example, let us say that you want to know if you will get the job that you want.

You pull five cards representing:

  1. The past.
  2. The present.
  3. What you need to know.
  4. What is hidden from you.
  5. The outcome if you follow the current course.

Let's say you pull the:

  1. The Eight of Pentacles.
  2. The Magician.
  3. The Three of Cups.
  4. The Five of Wands.
  5. The Sun.

From this reading, we can say that you have worked hard and honed your craft while enjoying what you do, as evidenced by the Eight of Pentacles representing the past. In the present, the Magician card shows that you are applying all your knowledge and skill and have made practical use of everything at your disposal. The Three of Cups indicates that you will have a cause to celebrate, perhaps meaning that you will get the job. What could be hidden from you, according to the Five of Wands, is that you could have people working for you who will have to learn how to work together as a group. Finally, the Sun in the outcome position says that all will be well—you will be happy while gaining exposure.

This of course is an oversimplified version of the reading—there are so many textures and nuances to explore with each card. For example, every card has its own technical book meaning and yet also has a personal meaning to each individual reader. On top of that, the meaning of any card can shift depending on what cards it is surrounded by in the reading, or if the reader gets an intuitive sense of a different meaning that has nothing to do with more conventional interpretations. As you can see, tarot is a very complex system, and it keeps revealing itself the more you read. After some practice and many readings for yourself and others, you will begin to see patterns that are unique to how you read. Go with these patterns, even if they differ from the books. Many books don’t even agree on meanings, and I have not met two readers who read identically.

To make it even more complicated, there are many types of tarot cards—the most famous being the Rider-Waite deck. Many card decks have their own design scheme based on the popular Rider-Waite, while other decks are quite different and are interpreted based on the unique story of the deck. For instance, there is a Lord of the Rings deck with images and storylines from the books. The cards in this deck would be read with different interpretations than the cards found in a deck based on the stories from King Arthur.

Source

Tarot Card Care

There are many different beliefs about tarot cards and a reader's relationship with them. Some readers believe you should always have your first tarot deck gifted to you, while others say you should purchase it yourself and choose one that speaks to you. There are also many suggested methods of how to break in a new tarot deck, how to store it, etc. This section could fill an entire article on its own, but the main takeaway on any of these questions is to always go with your gut—tarot is intuitive.

The Lenormand Deck

Deck Composition

The system of cartomancy known as Lenormand differs from tarot in the specificity of the cards and its requirement for collaboration. There are 36 cards, and each card has a set meaning. They are designed to be read together—in a “sentence” if you will. One card alone will not give any insight.

How to Use the Lenormand Deck

Most common are three- and nine-card spreads, and the Grand Tableau, which uses all 36 cards. Where the cards fall in relation to the significator (a man or woman, depending on the person being read) and to each other gives an overview of any question you may have. For instance, there is a card with a heart that signifies love and romance. If this card shows up in a Grand Tableau spread and it falls near the right side of the man/woman card for the person being read, then love is in the future. But, if the heart card falls near cards such as the snake or clouds, then the querent should beware—these signify an untrustworthy person who could cause confusion in someone's love life.

Within the Grand Tableau, you can also utilize “houses”, by using the numbers on the cards. For example, if the book card (number 26) falls in the 31st position of the spread, you can bet a secret will come to light and be exposed because the Sun card is number 31.

Tip for Using a Lenormand Deck

There are inserts on most Lenormand decks that can be most helpful in deciphering what your cards and spreads might mean.

How Is Lenormand Different Than Tarot?

While tarot is open to interpretation and intuition, Lenormand is very direct and to the point—almost bluntly so. The Lenormand cards form an elegant little deck and are fun to work with. They are not very well-known at present, but more and more card readers are discovering these unique cards and are fascinated by them.

A card from the Doreen Virtue Magical Messages from the Fairies deck.
A card from the Doreen Virtue Magical Messages from the Fairies deck. | Source

Oracle Cards and Fortune Telling Cards

There are many, many different oracle decks out there, and they vary in design and number of cards. Some decks use angels, others use fairies, and some even use cats or dogs. Regardless of the design of a deck, the meaning of the card is often printed right on it. In Doreen Virtue’s Message from the Fairies deck for instance, you can pull a card that says “Everything’s Okay”. The meaning of this card is pretty obvious.

While the meaning of a card in an oracle deck is commonly written right on it, there are some decks that leave it up to you to interpret as you see fit. With such a variety of types of oracle cards, you can probably find a deck to fit any of your various interests.

Daily Inspirations

Oracle cards are great for people who are looking for a daily card to help them set an intention or meditation for the day ahead.

Using a Standard Playing Card Deck

A common playing card deck can also be used in fortune telling, and is probably how many cartomancers read in the past. This practice is a bit different in scope. Like Lenormand, there are assigned meanings for each card, and like the tarot, the meanings relate somewhat to the suit of each card. There is a deck of cards called the Gypsy Witch deck which is based on Lenormand and meant to be read in much the same way. The deck has 52 cards, is designed like a regular deck, but has pictures and meanings for each card.

Additional Deck Types

  • Sybilla Cards.
  • Gypsy Fortune Telling cards.
  • Parlour Cards.
  • And many more...

Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling cards
Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling cards | Source

Pick a Deck That Speaks to You

This is a very brief overview of cartomancy and its different types of cards. When choosing a deck, make sure it is something that “speaks” to you—you should be able to identify with it easily. Get to know the images, look for anything that grabs your attention, and think about what the individual cards say to you personally. Cartomancy is fun and enlightening, and while it is easy to learn, it would take more than a lifetime to know all there is to know.

One final note on reading the cards: our future is not set in stone. We are constantly in flux, making changes that will affect us in the future. No reading is the “last word” on anything, and outcomes can always change.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Sharon OBrien

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, exemplore.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://exemplore.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)