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What’s the Difference Between Tarot and Oracle Cards?

By June 8, 2017 July 23rd, 2020
What's the Difference Between Tarot and Oracle Cards

I can’t tell you how many times people asked me, “Do you read these Oracle cards or just Tarot?” and “Is it OK if I do both?” and “How do I do both?” and so on.

That’s why I wanted to tackle this topic today, to really show you how you can integrate these two beautiful tools together. Let’s jump in.

Tarot vs. Oracle cards – What is the Difference?

At a really high level, Tarot cards come as a traditionally structured deck. There are a few more rules when it comes to Tarot than there are with Oracle cards. Oracle cards are really free-flowing – and they can feature almost any kind of content. With Tarot cards, there are usually around 78 cards. Some decks like to stand out and be a bit different. You might end up with 80 cards or 44 cards, but for the most part, it’s 78 cards. With Oracle cards, on the other hand, there is no set number of cards. You can have a deck with 12 cards, 100 cards, or anything in between.

Tarot cards have a traditional structure to the deck and common meanings. Most decks are Rider-Waite derivatives, and they share common themes across those different decks. The images and the pictures might be completely different, but often the messaging behind that card is very similar. So with Tarot cards, there is a common theme that runs through most cards, whereas Oracle cards have no common theme.

I see Oracle cards as the main meal and Tarot cards as the ingredients. You wouldn't have more than one main meal (it's very filling), but you could certainly have lots of ingredients.

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Energetically, Oracle cards hold a lot of ‘big' energy. They give insight into the greater sense of what is going on, but Tarot cards can provide more detailed interpretations.

I like to think of Tarot cards as the pages inside a book. When you're doing a reading with Tarot cards, it's like a storybook, and each of those cards is like a page in that storybook. With the Oracle cards, on the other hand, it's more like the whole book or a chapter of the book.

Is one better than the other?

No – ultimately it's up to the reader to choose what feels right.

How to use Tarot & Oracle cards together

I love using Tarot and Oracle cards together. Here are two of my favorite ways to use them together:
1. At the start of a reading, draw an Oracle card to understand the general theme or feeling that is influencing the situation. What's the surrounding energy? Then, do the Tarot reading with multiple cards to get the full picture. Also, look for the Oracle card's theme in the Tarot reading – you'll often find the Tarot cards explain in more detail what's going on.
2. At the end of a Tarot reading, draw an Oracle card to understand the underlying theme, or to give advice and recommendations, a parting message, to the client. It adds closure to the Tarot reading, which will have multiple messages in it.

My favorite Oracle decks

My favorite Oracle decks all come from Alana Fairchild, who I was thrilled to interview on the podcast back in BTP49:

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