Tarot Cards vs Oracle Cards: What’s The Difference?

Exploring Tarot and Oracle cards is an excellent way to connect with and develop your intuition and psychic abilities. The tarot (/tro/, first known as trionfi and later as tarocchi or tarock) is a deck of playing cards that has been used in various parts of Europe since at least the mid-15th century to play games such as Italian tarocchini, French tarot, and Austrian Königrufen, many of which are still played today.

The origins of playing cards are unknown, but they first appeared in Europe in the late 14th century. The first records date from 1367 in Berne, and they appear to have spread very quickly throughout Europe, as evidenced by the records, mainly of card games being banned. Little is known about the appearance and number of these cards; the only significant information comes from a text written in 1377 from Freiburg im Breisgau by John of Rheinfelden, who, among other things, describes the basic pack as containing the still-current four suits of thirteen cards.

The first mention of tarot divination dates back to 1540 when one of the earliest treatises on divination with playing cards by Marcolino da Forli was published. The homeland of tarot is Italy, where some of the very first tarokka decks were created. Some tarot decks began to be used for divination via tarot card reading and cartomancy in the late 18th century, leading to the development of custom decks for such occult purposes.

Caroline Crawford

An access to the subconscious through images

In any case, tarot is a method of accessing the subconscious through images. Techniques similar to fortune-telling are now used in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in a variety of ways. Pareidolia refers to the pattern recognition mechanism used by the human psyche for survival (responding to danger in a split second).

This mechanism allows us to see castles and other familiar shapes in passing clouds. Psychotherapeutic work with metaphorical maps is based on this mechanism, on the brain’s ability to isolate familiar details from abstract images and build them up to concrete ones.

What is the function of metaphorical associative cards? There are various card sets with varying numbers of cards. The set “Myths” has 55 cards, the set “Ekko” has 99, and the classic set “He” has two sets of 88 cards, one with the names of life situations and the other with images of these situations.

The recipient reveals the essence of his problem while describing the card, projecting it onto what he saw and describing the image in his interpretation. Wheter we’re talking about oracle or tarot cards, those can help tremendously regarding the relation to intuition and our higher self.

Both are great tools for divination and self-discovery, so let’s look at the key differences between the two. 

Petr Sidorov

What defines tarot cards?

Tarot cards are more structured than oracles cards. When picking a tarot deck, you know that you will typically find 78 cards, beginning with the major arcana and progressing through suites of swords (air), pentacles (earth), wands (fire), and cups (water). The Major Arcana are 20 cards that begin with The Fool and follow him on his journey as he encounters and collides with every aspect of human existence, from The Magician to Death, The Tower, and The World. Learning the meanings of each card takes time and practise, but once you’ve mastered them, you’ll have a powerful tool. A few variations can occur depending on the origin of the deck and the period where it was first set up, but the structure is appliable to all.

The structure of the tarot is predictable. If you can read the Rider-Waite, you should be able to read any other tarot deck. The modern deck of playing cards is actually a descendant of the Tarot; hearts are represented by Cups, Pentacles represent diamonds, Wands represent clubs, and Swords represent spades. The Joker and the Fool have vanished, leaving only the King, Queen, and Jack as Court Cards.

Edz Norton

What defines oracle cards?

Oracle cards are more free-flowing and may be easier to understand for beginners. This is not to say that Oracle decks are only appropriate for beginners; oracle cards are used in readings by many professional readers, and they are excellent for self-development, positive affirmations, and starting or expanding an intuitive practise. Oracle cards often have rich imagery and come in a variety of styles, making it easier to find a deck that speaks to you. Oracle decks are recommended to anyone who is afraid of Tarot decks and wants to see gentle imagery. If the Tarot system can be used to consider any situation because it encompasses all of our world’s phenomena, the same cannot be said for oracles.

There are, of course, universal oracle decks. However, narrowly thematic ones are also common, such as those focused on viewing love relationships, health or business issues, or united by a single theme – the oracle of flowers, animals, stones, and so on. They may have any number of cards, but it usually stays between 36 and 64.

Oracles rarely have suits, although they are often numbered for guidebook reference.

Caroline Atwood

Which one to use?

None is better than the other, they are just different. It’s the deck you love that will work the best for you.

Tarot and Oracle cards both serve as a reflection of the current energy. They will reflect the reality of your situation and suggest possible solutions. Consider reading the cards as if you were having a conversation with a trusted mentor or your higher self. There is no condemnation or “negative” or “positive” messaging. There is only a reflection of energy and the possibility of finding a way forward through self-awareness and an understanding of the circumstances.

Oracle Cards are typically easier to learn, whereas Tarot requires a level of practise and mastery to become proficient and offers an expanse of detail at a depth that most Oracle Cards cannot. Oracle Decks are more free-flowing and open to many levels of interpretation, which the Tarot’s strict rules do not allow.

Also, nothing is stopping you from using both. It is now common practise for professional readers to incorporate an Oracle spread into their Tarot sessions in order to validate or amplify messages received. Tarot cards can be used to go dig into the challenges, needs and desires and where to attention should focus, and oracles cards can be used at the end of the reading to summarize around a singular theme, path or solution.

But you can use them in the order you like, there is no right or wrong – your preference is the way to go.

Laurence BL
Chief Editor

3L – ART MAG is a citizen’s initiative fighting for liberty of the press, humanity and the (he)artist involved in its ascension.

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