Friday, January 15, 2010

Tarot Cards & Oracle Cards

Throughout the past 30+ years of teaching and reading Tarot, I’ve been blessed to have met so many people who have an appreciation and love for the cards. In all that time, however, one topic seems to be the most common source of confusion – Oracle cards versus Tarot cards. New readers find it difficult to choose which system to choose. They want to know which one is better, or why there are different types of cards. Understandably, Tarot and Oracle cards are often found in the same area of most establishments that sell them which further suggests that they’re similar.

Let me first say this: neither type of divination is better or worse than the other. They might both be printed on cards and used similarly (shuffle and lay them out on a flat surface), but they are two different styles of divination. I use both Tarot cards AND Oracle cards, and they each have their place in my divinatory life. I’m sure once you recognize the differences you too will keep both in your divination toolbox and love them as much as I do.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the difference between Tarot cards and Oracle cards boils down to two fundamental factors: structure & purpose.

Understanding the structure of the Tarot and an Oracle deck is important, and you will see some important differences. The traditional Tarot deck consists of 78 cards in total, and it is broken up into the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are 22 cards of higher wisdom, numbered in ordinal fashion from zero (The Fool) to 21 (The World). These cards are often categorized by a roman numeral and a title, such as XIV Temperance, XII The Hanged Man, and VIII Strength. The Major Arcana are cards of higher / karmic wisdom. They point to the big issues in our lives. The other 56 cards in the Tarot are considered the Minor Arcana – the Minors tend to be more about details within a reading. The Minor Arcana has 4 suits (Cups, Wands/Rods, Pentacles/Coins, Swords/Staves). Each suit consists of cards numbered Ace through 10, and has 4 court cards (King, Queen, Knight, Page).

The Oracle cards are a little less structured. There can be as many or as few as the author intends. I’ve seen as many as 90 cards, and as few as 10. Oracle decks often follow a theme, whether it is about Fairies, cultural systems, shamanic practice, animals, Gods/Goddesses, angels, or affirmation/self-help.

The purpose of each style of divination is important in choosing which one to use. Unless you choose to use the Major Arcana only, the Tarot tends to give much more detail and less spiritual/karmic/life lesson information in the reading. This can be useful when you want specifics on a particular situation. The symbolism in the Tarot is also important, as particular colors, items and numbers are part of the meaning of each card. Oracle cards, on the other hand, are like a big ol’ deck of Major Arcana – they are all about life lessons and abstract ideas. They require less interpretation and are very straightforward. The symbology tends to be less vague, which sometimes makes it easier for the reader to decipher.

Again, one type of deck is not better than the other, they are simply different. To say that Tarot decks and Oracle decks are identical is like saying that an amethyst crystal is the same as a lapis lazuli stone. Sure, to the untrained eye, they’re both physically rocks. However if you look at them structurally through a microscope, you will find that they are composed different and energetically they are VERY different! Still, you can use each stone in your spiritual practice, both for energy work and for spellwork. Neither is better or worse than the other, but they are suited for different things.

So, when do you use a Tarot deck and when do you pull out your Oracle cards? Personally, I rely upon the situation and the person I’m reading for to determine which kind of deck to use. Remember that Oracle cards are good for big ideas, and give you a 30,000 foot bird’s-eye view of things, and Tarot cards can get very granular in scope. Where Oracle cards can be very “big picture”, Tarot can help you tease out details and specifics. Who and what are you reading for? Is it a topic that deals more with the mundane or is it a deeply spiritual reading? Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which tool is right for what you need to do.

The best way to learn more about the tools so you can choose the best method for the situation at hand is to work with the cards – both kinds. Practice with them; use them on yourself and your friends. See what kinds of messages they give you and how your intuition responds to each system. You can take different situations / people and do both Tarot and Oracle readings – see how each deck speaks to you about the situation. Note your own feelings and what you feel is more appropriate.

Again, there is no system that is better or worse than the other. But a good reader understands his or her tools and uses the best tool for them based on their needs. Don’t shy away from the Tarot or Oracle cards because of misinformation. They are both lovely systems that can be the perfect tool!


TeresaB said...

Thank you Kaerwyn!!!!!! I have been searching for the differences between Tarot and Oracle cards and the way you put it, blows me away!!! Thanks again !!!!!

TeresaB said...

Thank you Kaerwyn!!! I was searching for the differences between Tarot and Oracle cards and your definition hot the nail on the head !!!! Thanks again