What's the Difference Between Tarot and Oracle Cards?
I get asked this question a lot. And not in an influencer way of "a lot of you have been asking about my tarot routine..." For someone starting with tarot, this is a very common question. Since there are many places to learn all about the Tarot, including this book we carry, I won't go into a full explanation. Hopefully, I can just answer the question at hand without overwhelming you.
As to not turn this into a history lesson, I'll be brief- 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 very popular Rider-Waite deck (which we will soon carry!) hit the scene. The latter is a deck that most of us think of when we picture the classic illustrations of the tarot.
Tarot tells us a story of the Fool's journey, symbolizing our journey through life. The Fool is the first card (card 0) in the 78 card deck. In life, we come across things that happen on a large scale and things that happen day-to-day. To represent that, the deck is broken down into 2 major parts. The Major Arcana, which are the first 22 cards in the deck, symbolize life's big moments and choices. The Minor Arcana, the remaining 56 cards, are those 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. Each of these suits has its own representation. 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- just not in the same way or at the same time.
Hopefully, I haven't lost you so far. Because all of that to say, the tarot 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.
Oracle cards, on the other hand, follow no rules and each deck can have its own theme 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 guidebook or story to follow. The structure that exists in an oracle deck is unique to each deck. Now (hopefully) knowing the difference, you would think only one tarot deck was needed if it's the same theme throughout, however, I will say that it's fun to see all the different interpretations from each artist. I have around 4 tarot decks and feel called to them differently- depending on my mood, who I am doing a reading for, which deck I feel like is calling to me, etc. Oracle decks however are a whole separate type of addiction!
Both tarot and oracle decks usually come with their own guidebook so you know the symbolism behind each card. Tarot can be a lot to remember so there are stand alone books that do a great job of explaining in more depth. We currently carry 2 different books on the subject- This one and this one.
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 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. But you have a lifetime here to learn if you were interested! There are so many comprehensive resources to teach tarot these days- I say if you're on the fence, go for it. All in all, there is a seat for all at the table so just pick what you like!
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Example of how The Fool is depicted in different decks- All are currently available on our site except The Rider Waite (coming soon!)
Examples from a handful of oracle decks we carry