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When I was 17 years old I got my very first personal oracle in the form of a tarot deck. It was the Rider Waite Tarot and it changed my life forever. Then shortly after I was introduced to other divination systems, like Norse Runes and the I-Ching, and others that lit me up like a candle! Little did I know then that teaching about divination tools, and oracles as a means of self-understanding and communicating with the Divine would become the main focus of my work. Curiosity led to transformation and now here we are.
Over the years, even before I began, my now 30 years long career working as an intuitive and Oracle creator, I used the tarot daily and collected tarot decks (at one point I had 62 of ‘em) and got to know how to work with the tarot intimately. I taught workshops on working with the tarot, then eventually went on to create a different form of Oracle – these are called oracle cards.
There is a difference between the tarot cards vs oracle cards as well as similarities. I’m going to get you in the know now, so if anyone asks you’ll have the answer!
So what’s the difference between tarot cards vs oracle cards? This is the number one question people write in to us every week. So here goes!
Let’s first talk about what they have in common (which is what brings up the questions in the first place).
What is an oracle? Outside an oracle being a person who receives and delivers wise guidance (like me, or like the ancient priestesses in the Greek temple of Delphi), an oracle is a tool used in divination. It is an intermediary tool that is created to facilitate Divine or Higher Guidance that uses symbols to form a language through which this communication is possible. An oracle works through synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence when a person uses it. An oracle can be a card deck, a set of runes on wood chips or stones, sticks or coins like the I-Ching, etc… It always works on a specific symbolic system that allows the information to be accessed about whatever subject the person using them seeks to know.
OK .. now that we know they are both oracles and their purpose is similar so let’s explore their difference.
The tarot is a fixed system. That means it has a strong tradition and is meant to have a specific reliable structure.
In order to call a card deck a tarot deck, it must have 78 cards, that will always be split into 22 major arcana cards, and 56 minor cards.
When you pick up a deck that says “ tarot” you can expect that deck to have that specific structure. The meanings of each card should be similar in every tarot deck with slight variations based on the psychology and spin that the author and artist provides.
The tarot’s history is rich and long as it was first designed in 15th century Italy ( that we know for sure) although much lore surrounds the tarot’s possible relationship to Egyptian mystery traditions, the Kabbalah and others.
Bottom line is the Tarot has been around for a few hundred years, and we associate specific traditional spreads with it too like the 7 card Horseshoe Spread, the 10 card Celtic Cross and the 21 card Gypsy Spread, which I used in my work as an intuitive.
Even the traditional imagery of tarot and its card meanings still show its medieval roots as it was created in that specific time to reflect society at that time although there remains a universality about it regardless.
When I created The Good Tarot I designed it to be used by traditionalists and modern spiritual seekers and innovators alike.
If you know how to work with traditional tarot you can use my deck the same way. If you want to work with it as I have created it – you will see in the guidebook affirmations and a positive modern psychological twist to the way you’d read them. As if you were moving through the experience of the cards that reflect your life rather than seeing the cards as fixed in their subjects.
Modern Tarot creators take some liberties to shift the focus on to our contemporary lives.
Now, oracle cards are different from tarot because they are fluid systems. What does that mean? It means every oracle deck will differ from the other. It’s up to the author to create the vocabulary and system the oracle card deck operates on. It’s called a Lexicon.
All the parts of the Oracle need to work together to have an oracle that works as a true divination system.
Each oracle card deck is its own little universe and is generally distinct from the others by their art, author, and themes.
I can only speak for myself but my decks are all based on a system I created inspired and derived from the ancient ones and each one is unique.
That said oracle cards are fairly new forms of divination. Oracle Cards began to be popular in the early 1900s in Europe with the advent of the Lenormand Oracle (which I’m not going to get into here), then gained popularity again in the 1970’s onward.
Today you will see unique and interesting oracle cards that reflect our current culture.
The way Oracle card decks are created and for what purpose varies:
There are many different versions, and these days, there are so many to choose from!
Oracle card decks are independent of the others, although I love to use more than one for a second opinion or different take on a subject. And, all my oracle card decks were created to work together like a mystical council of wise beings that can connect you to your highest good and deepest wisdom. It’s probably why so many people collect my decks.
Choosing A Deck
When choosing a deck, a few good pointers are:
That said there are great decks out there by first-timers too so keep an open mind and follow your heart. You will find the one that works for you- tarot or oracle card deck, or maybe both!
I hope this brief comparison helps you to distinguish between tarot cards vs oracle cards.
I will tell you I love them all.
My current passion is creating oracle cards and I am blessed to have a fantastic publisher at Hay House Inc. who gives me the opportunity to make them and an amazing artist that works with me on every deck. I am also blessed to feel prolific when it comes to creating and channeling oracle card decks for specifically divination purpose
I love the tarot too, especially because they were the first tool I learned.
And neither is better or worse – they are just different.
No matter which oracle card deck or tarot deck you find that resonates with you, remember that they are a tool to help you connect to a chatty Universe. And, as I always say, when you open your connection to the Universe anything is possible!
“ Anything is possible when you open your connection to the Universe”