Recently my sister came to me asking questions about tarot. She was interested in purchasing her first tarot deck. This always excites me, as I love sharing my love of all things tarot with others. As we chatted though, I realized, it wasn’t tarot that she needed, it was an oracle deck. As I explained the difference between tarot and oracle, she lit up! “Yes, that is exactly what I want!” So what is the difference? Oracle Cards vs Tarot Cards, which one is right for your needs? Let’s explore the magical realm of cards!
What’s the Difference between Oracle and Tarot?
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Perhaps, like my sister, you have visited a magick shop or browsed online, looking for a deck of cards to guide you. The world of magical cards intrigues you, and you want to open yourself to learn the lessons from the cards. To dive deeper into your own mind and spirit, to find ways to better yourself. To be a stronger, healthier you.
Both Oracle Cards and Tarot Cards can help you on this journey!
They can provide insight, clarity, guidance, wisdom, perspective, knowledge and personal growth. But they do it in ways. Once you understand the differences between Oracle Cards vs Tarot Cards, you can find the perfect card deck for you.
What are Tarot Cards?
First let’s explore Tarot Cards. Tarot has been around for hundreds of years. There is some debate on where exactly they started, but most place their origins in the 15th century, Italy where it started as a parlour game before being used for divination.
Tarot decks have a very strict structure of 78 cards that depicts beautiful imagery. The symbolism within the art may draw from Western esoteric traditions, astrology, numerology, Kabbalah, mythology, pop culture, or any other influences that fit the theme set by the tarot deck creator. Basically if there is something you love, there is probably a tarot deck with that theme!
Tarot is divided into the Major Arcana (22 cards) and the Minor Arcana (56 cards).
The archetypal themes depicted in the Major Arcana cards reflect universal human experiences and spiritual lessons. I personally find it fascinating, that no matter how much our world changes, these lessons still apply. Each card in the Major Arcana has powerful imagery, is named, and numbered (0-21, with The Fool being the 0 card).
The Minor Arcana is divided into four suits, similar to traditional playing cards. These suits are commonly called:
- Wands (associated with fire and creativity),
- Cups (associated with emotions and relationships),
- Swords (associated with intellect and challenges),
- Pentacles (associated with material aspects of life).
The specific names for suits can vary across decks (such as Coins instead of Pentacles), but typically they use these four names.
Each suit has ten numbered cards (Ace to Ten) and four court cards (Page, Knight, Queen, and King). In some tarot decks the Minor Arcana contains very simple repetitive art, but many decks, especially more modern decks, have wonderful art continuing through the Minor Arcana.
On a personal note, I much prefer decks that have gorgeous artwork throughout the entire Major and Minor.
Doing tarot readings requires knowledge of the card meanings (which involves a lot of study and learning), plus personal intuition and interpretation. Even after many years of study, and a very full shelf of Tarot books, I constantly feel that there is more to learn.
Readings are done by creating a tarot spread. A tarot spread is a specific placement of cards after shuffling. It can be a simple spread, such as a three card spread, or much more complex such as the Celtic Cross or Wheel of the Year spread.
The spreads are then interpreted by the reader to gain knowledge or insight into a central question that guides the reading. The question could be themed around personal growth, guidance in life, insights into a spiritual journey, or as a divination tool.
With Tarot cards, the meaning of the cards can change based on the orientation of the card, the question, and most importantly, the spread. If two cards are positioned a certain way in a spread, it can completely change their meaning. Tarot involves study and learning meanings and structure. For some, this ancient practice is fascinating and a rabbit hole they happily fall down, often for many years. For others, the long journey of learning tarot is daunting.
Learning tarot takes time, and requires study and practice.
What are Oracle Cards?
Oracle decks are a simplified, modern twist on tarot cards.
It has many similarities to tarot but with a more simple structure and purpose. While tarot decks have a specific set of cards and a structured system with the Major and Minor Arcana, oracle decks are more flexible and can vary widely in terms of card numbers, themes, and styles.
Oracle decks often have a unique vision and symbolism that focuses on a specific theme such as angels, animals, goddesses, astrology, crystals, affirmations, nature, etc. The cards usually feature artwork, and keywords/short phrases on each card that convey the intended meaning. This makes them wonderful decks for beginners.
Where Tarot Decks follow a fairly strict set of rules around structure, number of cards, and meanings, Oracle decks are each unique and different. They follow no set rules. They can have 20 cards, or 100 cards. Best of all, there is full flexibility in reading the cards. You can follow your own intuition and interpret the cards however you like.
This can be both a positive and a negative. For someone like my sister, who does not want to spend a lot of time learning Tarot, an Oracle Deck provides her with the perfect medium for her goals. She has found a couple of decks that resonate with her. Now she can do daily pulls for inspiration, meditation, spiritual guidance, and daily guidance for personal growth.
Oracle Cards vs Tarot Cards Which are Right for Me?
The big question of the day is Oracle cards vs Tarot cards, which one should you use? Well, it all depends what you are seeking from the cards.
In Tarot cards, you have hundreds of years of history, numerology, and astrological symbolism that is infused into the tarot card meanings. The layers of meaning you can gain from the cards continues to deepen the more you work with them. This allows for a more in-depth understanding and knowledge of situations, timing, and people. This is something that isn’t available to the same degree with Oracle card decks.
With an Oracle card, the meaning is very clear, and usually written on the card. So you don’t even need to reference a guidebook. You can pull multiple oracle cards if you wish, but even in a spread, the meanings are usually quite clear and can be read intuitively. Oracle decks are perfect for beginners.
Check out this flip video of Stellar Visions Oracle to see this beautiful deck.
But when it comes to digging deep, doing shadow work, tarot spellwork, and approaching more complex questions about past, present and future, I always turn to Tarot. The knowledge and lessons that come from Tarot are always much more profound and deeper.
Find the Right Cards for You
Both Tarot and Oracle cards provide an incredibly diverse opportunity to work with the cards. There are stunningly gorgeous decks of both types out there, that appeal to so many different areas of interest. So at the end of the day, whether you chose oracle or tarot (or both!), find the deck that speaks to you, then open your heart and mind to the beautiful world of magical cards.