Tarot or Oracle Decks

OCT 22, 2023

What's the difference between tarot and oracle cards?

When beginning your divination journey with cards, it can be confusing to know not only the difference between the two, but also when to use each in your practice.
Hopefully, I can explain it simply and without overwhelming you.

The Tarot

First, bear with me as I get into a very, very brief history.

Though the tarot has been around for hundreds of years, it wasn't until the late 1700's that the cards began to be used for divination purposes in Europe. Jumping ahead to 1909, the now well known Rider-Waite deck was created. This deck is probably what most of us picture as far as the classic illustrations of the tarot.

At it's core, the tarot is telling us a story of the Fool's journey, which symbolizes our journey through life. The Fool is the first card (card 0) in the 78 card deck. I would suggest you lay the cards out 0-21 (The Major Arcana) and try to see the story, or the journey, of the Fool- The good, the more difficult, and the lessons learned and earned.

There are two sections in the deck- The Major Arcana (the first 22 cards) and the Minor Arcana (the remaining 56 cards). The Majors represent big moments in our lives. They tend to carry more weight in a reading, and are here to show us life's beginnings, endings, lessons, etc. If I was doing a reading and pulled a major arcana card, I would see there were bigger life shifts happening.

The second half, the Minor Arcana, are the remaining 56 cards. These will represent the struggles and joys we experience each day on a smaller level.

Within the Minor Arcana, you will find 4 suits-
Cups, Pentacles, Wands, and Swords.
These are the more traditional names, you may find different creators using different terms.

As the Fool moves through the journey within the cards, and as we move through life, we will all inevitably experience the same types of things- but not in the same way or at the same time. We are, after all, our own main character.

If you remember one thing with the tarot, just know that it will always follow the same 0-78 card symbolism. There will always be the same characters and themes. The artwork may look different, pentacles may be referred to as coins, and so on, but the Fool still begins his journey and travels through a Major and Minor Arcana along the way. The tarot is always the same story and each deck tells that story, just perhaps in a different form.

After using tarot for a while, you will begin to remember what each card means. You may intuit it a little differently from reading to reading, just because the question or situations will change, but the overarching "definition" of the card stays the same.

Oracle Cards

Oracle cards, on the other hand, follow no rules. Each deck can have its own theme, illustrations, or, simply just affirmations and guidance we can choose for that day.

The design and symbolism are entirely up to the creator of the deck, there is no set story to follow.

The structure that exists in an oracle deck is unique to each deck. And almost always, they will come with their own guidebook, explaining the creator's inspiration and an explanation or key for each card.

When to use
Tarot or Oracle

The short answer is use whichever type of card you feel led to in the moment. A lot of times, people use both. You may pick a tarot card first and then an oracle card to gain more guidance in a different way.

If I was doing a spread for more guidance or something like a past, present, future spread, I would use the tarot. Personally, I pick a tarot card every morning and journal about the theme of that card, and how I think it may show up. This is also a great way to learn tarot!

You can absolutely use oracle cards in this exact same way. There is no right or wrong. This is your journey to begin or continue. Divination should be personal and heart-led. You will know what you need in that moment. Don't over think it, just feel.

To wrap it up...

In a big picture way, I think of Tarot like baking and oracle cards like cooking. Baking will have a recipe you need to follow. You may add a little spice here and there, but for the most part, the ingredients need to be exact for it to work.
In cooking, there is a lot more freedom to play and interpret how we feel or what we have in the moment.

So which is best for you? Honestly...both? All? It's what you're drawn to. Whether it's the imagery or overall feeling the deck gives you, you will know. There are some cards that I received and did not connect with at all.

Oracle cards can feel much "safer," as there is more room for our own interpretation. They can also be much more straightforward and wonderful tools to use as journaling prompts.

When it comes to tarot, some people are too intimidated to begin because it feels overwhelming. Remember, it's okay to use the included bookley or another Tarot book as long as you need! You have a lifetime here to learn if you are interested.

All in all, there is a seat for all at the table so just pick what you like!

Older Post Newer Post