Major Arcana vs Oracle Cards: Understanding Deck Structure

Tarot cards have become increasingly popular over the years as a medium for divination, spiritual guidance, and self-exploration. Today, there are various types of decks available in the market, each with its unique characteristics and structures. Two of the most commonly used decks are the Major Arcana and Oracle Cards, which are known for their insightful and meaningful interpretations. While both of these decks are used for divination and guidance, many people are perplexed about their differences and which one to choose. In this article, we will conduct a comparative analysis of the Major Arcana and Oracle Cards to help you understand their structures, meanings, card types, and how they differ from each other. We will explore the pros and cons of each deck and help you decide which one is best suited for your needs.

The Major Arcana

The Major Arcana
The Major Arcana cards are an integral part of the Tarot deck and are often considered to be the backbone of any Tarot reading. These cards are both mysterious and symbolic, representing archetypal images that can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the context of a reading. Each card carries its own unique energy and significance, and can offer profound insights into the human experience. If you’re interested in the Tarot, it’s important to have a solid understanding of the Major Arcana and the role they play in the deck. To learn more about the structure, meaning, and types of cards in the Major Arcana, continue reading this article or check out our previous articles on tarot vs oracle suits and courts, numbers in tarot vs oracle cards, diversity in tarot vs oracles, and symbolism in tarot cards.


The structure of Major Arcana and Oracle Cards is quite different from each other. Major Arcana cards follow a standard structure that consists of 22 cards, each with a unique number and name. Meanwhile, Oracle Cards have no standard structure, and the number of cards can vary depending on the deck.

To illustrate this further, we can look at the table below, comparing the structure of the Major Arcana and Oracle Cards:

Major Arcana Oracle Cards
22 cards Variable number of cards
Each card has a unique number and name No standard numbering or naming system
Follows a specific order and sequence No specific order or sequence

As shown in the table, Major Arcana decks have a standardized structure that follows a specific order and sequence, with each card having a unique number and name. On the other hand, Oracle Cards do not have a specific numbering or naming system, and the number of cards can vary from deck to deck.

This difference in structure can affect the way the cards are interpreted and used in divination. Major Arcana cards are typically used to explore major life themes and experiences, while Oracle Cards can be used for more specific or personal topics depending on the purpose of the deck.


When it comes to the meaning behind Major Arcana and Oracle Cards, there are some key differences to note. Here, we will break down the meaning of each type of card.

Meaning of Major Arcana Cards:

  • The Major Arcana cards represent major life events, transitions, and spiritual journeys.
  • Each card in the Major Arcana has its own unique meaning and interpretation, which can vary depending on the deck being used and the reader’s personal interpretation.
  • These cards typically depict archetypal figures, such as The Fool, The Magician or The High Priestess, and often contain esoteric symbols and hidden meanings.
  • When pulled in a reading, Major Arcana cards indicate significant events or turning points in a person’s life, and often provide guidance or insights into how to navigate these situations.

Meaning of Oracle Cards:

  • Oracle cards, on the other hand, are not typically associated with specific meanings or interpretations.
  • Instead, they are designed to provide guidance and insight into a person’s current situation or question by tapping into their intuition and the energy of the universe.
  • Oracle cards often feature positive and uplifting messages, and may include themes of love, abundance, and personal growth.
  • These cards can be used for self-reflection and introspection, as well as for readings with others.

As you can see, there are some significant differences in the meaning behind Major Arcana and Oracle Cards. While Major Arcana cards tend to focus on life events and transitions, Oracle Cards are designed to tap into a person’s intuition and provide guidance on their current journey.

Card Types

The Major Arcana and Oracle cards differ in the types of cards they contain. In this section, we will explore the different card types in each deck.

Major Arcana Card Types

The Major Arcana deck consists of 22 cards that are numbered from 0 to 21. Each card has a unique name and image that represents a specific theme or archetype. The following table outlines the different card types in the Major Arcana:

Type Number of Cards Meaning
The Fool 1 Represents new beginnings, innocence, and spontaneity.
The Magician 1 Symbolizes creativity, manifestation, and personal power.
The High Priestess 1 Represents intuition, inner wisdom, and the mysteries of the subconscious mind.
The Empress 1 Symbolizes fertility, creativity, abundance, and nurturing.
The Emperor 1 Represents authority, structure, and the masculine principle.
The Hierophant 1 Symbolizes tradition, religion, and spiritual guidance.
The Lovers 1 Represents love, partnership, relationships, and choice.
The Chariot 1 Symbolizes victory, willpower, and determination.
Strength 1 Represents inner strength, courage, and perseverance.
The Hermit 1 Symbolizes solitude, self-discovery, and contemplation.
The Wheel of Fortune 1 Represents the cycles of life, fate, and destiny.
Justice 1 Symbolizes fairness, balance, and integrity.
The Hanged Man 1 Represents surrender, letting go, and sacrifice.
Death 1 Symbolizes transformation, transition, and the end of a cycle.
Temperance 1 Represents balance, harmony, and moderation.
The Devil 1 Symbolizes materialism, temptation, and addiction.
The Tower 1 Represents upheaval, chaos, and sudden change.
The Star 1 Symbolizes hope, inspiration, and faith.
The Moon 1 Represents the subconscious mind, intuition, and uncertainty.
The Sun 1 Symbolizes vitality, joy, and optimism.
Judgement 1 Represents rebirth, renewal, and self-reflection.
The World 1 Symbolizes completion, achievement, and fulfillment.

Oracle Card Types

Unlike the Major Arcana, Oracle cards do not have a standardized structure. They can contain any number of cards and come in various themes, motifs, shapes, and sizes. However, most Oracle card decks consist of 44 to 78 cards that feature artwork and affirmations, messages, or predictions related to a specific topic or intention. The following table illustrates some of the typical themes and card types found in Oracle decks:

Theme Card Types Meaning
Angels and Spirit Guides Archangels, Fairies, Mermaids, Guardian Angels, Spirit Animals, etc. Offers spiritual guidance, protection, and inspiration.
Relationships Soulmates, Twin Flames, Love Oracle, Relationship Revival Cards, etc. Provides insight, advice, and support for romantic, platonic, or familial connections.
Self-Development Affirmation Cards, Empowerment Cards, Mindfulness Cards, etc. Aids in self-discovery, personal growth, and healing.
Divination Tarot Card Decks, Clairvoyance Cards, Astrology Cards, etc. Used for fortune-telling, prediction, and intuitive insights.
Healing and Wellness Chakra Cards, Crystal Cards, Herbal Healing Cards, etc. Offers support, guidance, and insights for physical, emotional, or spiritual wellness.
Manifestation and Abundance Law of Attraction Cards, Prosperity Cards, Gratitude Cards, etc. Helps in manifesting desires, cultivating positivity, and attracting abundance.

As seen from the table, Oracle cards can be quite diverse and versatile in their themes, styles, and purposes. Whether one uses them for divination, affirmation, or inspiration, Oracle cards provide a flexible alternative to traditional Tarot or the Major Arcana deck.

Oracle Cards

As we dive deeper into divinatory card practices, another set of cards emerges, captivating us with its unique features and enigmatic charm. These cards, known as oracle cards, distinguish themselves from the Major Arcana in their construction, interpretation, and purpose. While the Major Arcana cards present a structured system with established meanings, oracle cards offer a more intuitive approach, with broad interpretations and limitless possibilities. Let us explore the intricacies of oracle cards, examining their structure, meaning, and variety of card types.


When it comes to the structure of the Major Arcana cards, it is important to note that they are part of a 78-card Tarot deck that is divided into two main sections: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards and is considered the heart and soul of the Tarot. These cards are the ones that typically depict powerful images such as The Fool, The Lovers, and The Tower.

On the other hand, Oracle Cards are their own standalone decks, usually comprised of 44-60 cards. The structure of Oracle cards can vary greatly depending on the creator or theme of the deck. These cards often feature individual illustrations that align with the theme of the deck rather than a larger overall structure.

Both the Major Arcana and Oracle cards use symbolism to convey meaning. However, the Major Arcana follows a structured path that represents the Fool’s journey of self-discovery through life, whereas Oracle cards can have a looser structure that allows for more creative interpretation by the reader.

Structure of the Major Arcana Cards:

  • The Fool
  • The Magician
  • The High Priestess
  • The Empress
  • The Emperor
  • The Hierophant
  • The Lovers
  • The Chariot
  • Strength
  • The Hermit
  • Wheel of Fortune
  • Justice
  • The Hanged Man
  • Death
  • Temperance
  • The Devil
  • The Tower
  • The Star
  • The Moon
  • The Sun
  • Judgment
  • The World

Structure of Oracle Cards:

  • Archangels and Ascended Masters
  • Goddesses and Gods
  • Nature and Earth-based Decks
  • Zodiac Signs and Astrology
  • Angels and Divine Beings
  • Animal Spirit Guides
  • Celtic or Norse Mythology
  • Crystal and Gemstone-themed
  • Intention or Affirmation-based
  • Chakra or Energy-based Decks

While the Major Arcana has a clearly defined structure, Oracle cards usually have more diverse and flexible structures that offer a wider range of themes for users to choose from.


When it comes to the meaning of Tarot cards, each of the Major Arcana cards represents a different stage or lesson in a person’s life journey. Here are the meanings of some of the most well-known cards:

  • The Fool: Represents new beginnings, innocence, and spontaneity. This card typically signifies a need to take risks and embrace uncertainty.
  • The Magician: Represents manifestation, creativity, and personal power. This card highlights the importance of tapping into one’s own talents and abilities.
  • The Empress: Represents creativity, abundance, and nurturing. This card is often associated with motherhood and represents the need to care for oneself and others.
  • The Tower: Represents sudden change, upheaval, and destruction. This card is typically associated with a major life crisis, such as a divorce or job loss.
  • The Sun: Represents vitality, positivity, and success. This card is typically associated with achieving a long-term goal or resolution.

Oracle cards, on the other hand, can have a wide variety of meanings, depending on the specific deck and interpretation. They often focus on spiritual guidance and self-discovery. Some common themes in Oracle cards include:

  • Affirmations: Oracle cards that focus on positive affirmations and self-love.
  • Astrology: Oracle cards that draw inspiration from astrology and the positions of the stars and planets.
  • Angels: Oracle cards that focus on connecting with guardian angels and other spiritual guides.
  • Nature: Oracle cards that draw inspiration from the natural world, such as animals or plants.
  • Relationships: Oracle cards that focus on personal relationships, including romantic partnerships and family dynamics.

While the Major Arcana cards generally represent more specific life lessons and stages, Oracle cards are often more open to interpretation and can offer a wider range of guidance and insight.

Card Types

When it comes to card types, the Major Arcana and the Oracle Cards differ significantly. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Major Arcana Card Types:

  1. The Fool
  2. The Magician
  3. The High Priestess
  4. The Empress
  5. The Emperor
  6. The Hierophant
  7. The Lovers
  8. The Chariot
  9. Strength
  10. The Hermit
  11. Wheel of Fortune
  12. Justice
  13. The Hanged Man
  14. Death
  15. Temperance
  16. The Devil
  17. The Tower
  18. The Star
  19. The Moon
  20. The Sun
  21. Judgement
  22. The World

The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, each with its own unique symbolism, theme, and meaning. These cards are considered to be the “higher” cards, as they represent major life events or phases. Some of the more popular cards include The Fool, The Magician, and The Lovers.

Oracle Card Types:

  1. Angels and Archangels
  2. Ascended Masters
  3. Tarot and Archetypes
  4. Nature and Animal Guides
  5. Spiritual and Mystical
  6. Sacred Geometry
  7. Affirmations and Inspirations
  8. Goddesses and Divine Feminine
  9. Fantasy and Fairy Tales
  10. Crystals and Gemstones

Oracle Cards, on the other hand, can have a wide range of card types, depending on the theme of the deck. Some popular types include Angels and Archangels, Goddesses and Divine Feminine, and Nature and Animal Guides.

While Major Arcana cards generally have a consistent theme and meaning across all decks, Oracle Cards can vary greatly in their themes and meanings, depending on the deck. This is because Oracle Cards are not based on a specific structure or system like the Major Arcana. Instead, they can be created based on personal interpretation and intuition.

How They Differ

How They Differ
As we have seen in the previous sections, while the Major Arcana and Oracle Cards share some similarities in terms of their purpose and use in divination practices, they also have significant differences. These differences can be observed in several aspects, such as deck structure, interpretation, and self-discovery. Let’s delve deeper into these key differences to better understand which deck might resonate with you the most.

Deck Structure

When it comes to the deck structure, Major Arcana and Oracle Cards differ significantly. Major Arcana decks are composed of 22 cards, while Oracle decks can vary from 36 to 80 cards, sometimes even more. Major Arcana decks have a fixed structure where each card corresponds to a specific archetype, while Oracle decks have more fluidity in their structure and theme.

The Major Arcana deck structure is divided into three groups of seven cards each, with an additional card, The Fool, as a standalone entity. Each of these groups is associated with different stages of life, the psyche, and spiritual development. The first group, comprised of The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, and The Chariot, represents the individual ego and personal growth. The second group, which includes Strength, The Hermit, The Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, and Temperance, symbolizes the challenges and experiences that lead to spiritual awakening. Finally, the third group, composed of The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgment, and The World, embodies the ultimate spiritual transformation and enlightenment.

Oracle Cards, on the other hand, have a more flexible structure. While some oracle decks may have a theme or follow a specific structure, most can be more random in their card choices, providing a more open-ended reading experience. Oracle decks can still have a set number of cards, but the number is often more variable than Major Arcana decks.

In terms of card design, Major Arcana cards have distinct illustrations with rich symbolism, often displaying figures and scenes from mythology or religious iconography. Oracle cards, on the other hand, can have a wider range of designs and can include photographs, abstract designs, and other visuals that may not have a connection to any particular mythology.

While both Major Arcana and Oracle Cards offer unique ways of divination, their differences in deck structure give them distinct characteristics and uses. Major Arcana decks have a structured approach that can provide a detailed interpretation of a specific issue, while Oracle decks are more fluid and can offer more personalized insights.


The interpretation of the cards plays a vital role in the practice of divination. Both Major Arcana and Oracle cards require interpretation, but they differ in their approach.

When interpreting Major Arcana cards, the reader typically relies on established meanings and interpretations. Each card has a traditional meaning that has been developed over the years, and these meanings are well-documented in tarot literature. However, it’s important to note that the interpretation of each card can vary depending on the context of the reading and the intuition of the reader.

Oracle cards, on the other hand, offer greater flexibility in interpretation. The meanings of oracle cards are not as rigidly defined as those of Major Arcana cards. Many oracle decks are designed to allow the reader to tap into their intuition and connect with their own spiritual guidance. As a result, the interpretation of each card can be highly personal and unique to the individual reader.

To illustrate the difference, we can compare the “Devil” card from the Major Arcana with the “Transformation” card from an oracle deck. The Devil card is traditionally associated with temptation, materialism, and bondage. In contrast, the Transformation card might represent change, growth, or releasing old patterns. While both cards can be interpreted in a variety of ways, the Transformation card offers a more open-ended interpretation and allows for greater personalization.

To sum up, while both Major Arcana and Oracle cards require interpretation, Major Arcana cards offer more established meanings, while Oracle cards allow for greater personalization and intuition.

Let’s see a table of the key differences between the interpretation of Major Arcana and Oracle cards:

Interpretation Major Arcana Oracle Cards
Approach Relies on established meanings and interpretations Offers greater flexibility with a focus on personal interpretation and intuition
Meaning Traditionally defined meanings Meanings that are less rigidly defined and open to interpretation
Personalization Less room for personalization due to established meanings Greater room for personalization and intuition

The interpretation of Major Arcana and Oracle cards differ in their approach, meanings, and level of personalization. However, both methods of divination offer their own unique benefits and can help individuals connect with their intuition and spiritual guidance.


When it comes to self-discovery, both Major Arcana and Oracle Cards have their unique strengths.

Major Arcana: As the name suggests, these cards deal with significant life events and spiritual growth. Each card contains a powerful message that can help an individual in their self-discovery journey. The Major Arcana cards allow the individual to delve into their subconscious, exploring their deepest desires, fears, and hopes. These cards can help an individual gain clarity and insight into their true selves, helping them to unlock their full potential.

Oracle Cards: These cards are specifically designed to help individuals on their self-discovery journey. They can help an individual gain insight into their innermost emotions, desires, and needs. Oracle Cards usually contain more positive and uplifting messages, which can be particularly helpful for individuals who are struggling with anxiety or depression. Oracle Cards offer guidance, encouragement, and support in a gentle and compassionate way.

To compare the two, below is a table highlighting the pros and cons of each for self-discovery:

Major Arcana Oracle Cards
Pros Powerful messages that can help an individual unlock their full potential Positive and uplifting messages that can help individuals struggling with anxiety or depression
Cons Can be overwhelming for individuals who are not familiar with the tarot May not provide the deep introspection that some individuals are looking for

Both the Major Arcana and Oracle Cards can be incredibly beneficial for individuals looking to embark on a journey of self-discovery. The choice ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual needs.

Pros and Cons

As with any decision, it’s important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages. Choosing between the Major Arcana and Oracle Cards is no different. Each option has its own specific benefits and drawbacks that should be taken into account before making a decision. Let’s dive deeper into the pros and cons of each type of deck, so you can choose the one that fits your needs the most effectively.

Major Arcana

The Major Arcana cards are a significant component of any Tarot deck. They are considered the heart of the deck as they are the most complex and profound cards. In this section, we will explore the structure, meaning, and types of Major Arcana cards.

Structure: The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, which are numbered from 0 to 21. Each card has a unique name and illustration that depict important milestones in one’s life journey.

Meaning: The Major Arcana represents significant life events and challenges that one must face on their journey to self-discovery. These cards offer insight and guidance to the individual as they navigate through life’s ups and downs.

Card Types: The 22 cards are divided into three distinct categories:

  1. The first seven cards are known as the “spiritual” cards and represent spiritual growth, enlightenment, and connection with the divine.
  2. The next seven cards are considered the “mental” cards and represent intellectual growth, self-awareness, and personal development.
  3. The final eight cards are known as the “physical” cards and represent material success, achievement, and fulfillment.

The Major Arcana cards are often seen as the most important cards in the Tarot deck due to their profound meanings and their ability to offer guidance on one’s life journey. Understanding the Major Arcana cards can help individuals gain insight into their current situations and offer perspective on how to move forward.

Oracle Cards

Oracle Cards are another type of divinatory tool used for receiving guidance and insight. Unlike the Major Arcana, Oracle Cards do not follow a specific structure or set of rules. This allows for more creativity in the deck’s design and interpretation.

Structure Meaning Card Types
Oracle Cards are usually a deck of 44-55 cards, although the number can vary. The cards can have various shapes and sizes, unlike the uniform size of Major Arcana cards. They can also feature a wide range of design elements, either with or without the use of traditional symbology. Oracle Cards are designed to provide guidance and insight by tapping into the intuition and inner wisdom of the reader. Each card may contain messages that invite self-reflection, offer advice or suggest actions that can be taken to overcome challenges or achieve desired outcomes. The reader may connect with and interpret the cards in their own unique way based on their personal experiences and understanding of the messages. Oracle Cards can vary greatly in terms of their topic or theme, often centered around a specific area, such as relationships, career, spirituality, or personal growth. Popular Oracle Card decks include the “Angel Cards” by Doreen Virtue, the “Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards” by Colette Baron-Reid, or the “Energy Oracle Cards” by Sandra Anne Taylor.

Some Oracle Cards may have a guidebook or instruction manual that provides some general guidelines for interpretation of the cards. However, it ultimately relies on the reader’s intuition and willingness to embrace their own interpretation of the cards. The purpose of Oracle Cards is to provide an open-ended, more intuitive approach to divination.

Oracle Cards offer a more personalized and flexible approach to divination, allowing the reader to connect with their own intuition and unique interpretation of the cards.

Which One to Choose?

Choosing between the Major Arcana and Oracle Cards can be a difficult decision for an individual. The two decks differ not only in their structure but also in the way they’re interpreted.

Major Arcana: For someone seeking a structured journey of soul development, the Major Arcana is the suitable choice. With these cards, one can explore different esoteric concepts, and each card has a specific meaning. The Major Arcana is a well-researched and defined system with long-standing roots in tarot history. It’s best for those who prefer a hierarchical system and a self-discovery journey that follows a definite path.

Oracle Cards: If you want a more open-ended and intuitive guidance system, the Oracle Cards is the deck to go for. These cards come in different designs and themes that rely on the artist’s interpretation of the subject. Some oracle decks use fewer cards than the Major Arcana, while others have as many cards as the tarot deck. Oracle cards are best suited for those who are looking for different interpretations of a particular concept, and do not want to follow a set system.

However, the choice between the two ultimately comes down to personal preference. It’s essential to ask yourself whether you are willing to invest time and energy into learning a structured system, or whether you prefer a more intuitive approach to guidance.

Consider also the reason why you want to use cards. For example, if you want to look for guidance on a specific situation, oracle cards may be more suitable as they offer diverse interpretations that allow you to explore various perspectives. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more exhaustive and detailed journey into your spirituality, the Major Arcana’s structure and strict symbolism may be a more appropriate option.

Before choosing between the Major Arcana and the Oracle Cards, consider the reason why you want to use the cards and the kind of journey that suits you best. Try out different decks and see which one resonates with you the most. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on your individual needs and preferences.


After analyzing the structure, meaning, and card types of both the Major Arcana and Oracle cards, it is clear that they have their own unique features and benefits.

The Major Arcana cards carry a deep spiritual and symbolic significance, with each card representing a major life lesson or archetype. These cards can aid in self-discovery and personal transformation, providing insight into aspects of our lives that may benefit from growth or change.

On the other hand, Oracle cards offer a wider range of card types and interpretations, covering a broader range of topics and themes. They typically have less rigid structure and symbolism, allowing for more intuitive readings and personal interpretation.

When it comes to choosing between the two, it ultimately depends on individual preference and needs. Those seeking a more traditional and spiritual approach to divination may prefer the Major Arcana, while others looking for more flexibility and modern approach may prefer Oracle cards.

Overall, both types of cards have their own strengths and can serve as powerful tools for self-reflection, insight, and growth. Whether you choose Major Arcana or Oracle cards, it is important to approach them with mindfulness, intention, and an open mind. Through careful study and use, both types of divination cards can bring greater clarity, understanding, and confidence to one’s life journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Major Arcana and Minor Arcana in Tarot?

The Major Arcana represents significant life events and universal archetypes, while the Minor Arcana represents everyday situations and experiences.

What are Oracle Cards?

Oracle cards are a type of divination tool that are not necessarily structured like Tarot cards. They may have different themes or meanings, and can be used for personal insight or guidance.

Do Tarot cards predict the future?

Tarot cards are not meant to predict the future, but to offer guidance and insight into the present. The future is shaped by the choices we make in the present.

Can anyone use Tarot or Oracle cards?

Yes, anyone can use Tarot or Oracle cards, regardless of their spiritual beliefs or experience level. It is important to approach them with an open and receptive mindset.

How do I choose a Tarot or Oracle deck?

It is important to choose a deck that resonates with you, whether it is the imagery, theme, or style. Look at reviews, browse online or in-store, and trust your intuition.

Do I need to be trained or certified to read Tarot or Oracle cards?

No, there is no prerequisite certification or training required to read Tarot or Oracle cards. However, it is important to research and understand the meanings of each card before working with them.

Can I use Tarot or Oracle cards for personal growth and self-discovery?

Yes, Tarot and Oracle cards can offer insights and perspectives into one’s own inner state and personal path. The cards can be used as a tool for reflection and self-exploration.

How often should I use my Tarot or Oracle cards?

There is no specific frequency that one must use Tarot or Oracle cards. It is up to the individual and how often they feel drawn to work with them.

Can I use Tarot or Oracle cards for decision-making purposes?

Tarot and Oracle cards can offer insight and perspective on a situation, but ultimately it is up to the individual to make their own decisions based on their intuition, values, and circumstances.

What should I do if I receive negative or frightening information from Tarot or Oracle cards?

It is important to remember that the cards reflect the present moment, and that the future is not set in stone. If the information is disturbing, take time to reflect and seek guidance from a trusted source before taking action.


Leave a Comment