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How Do Oracle Cards Differ from Tarot Cards?

Oracle Cards

Whenever you hear of a psychic reading, the most common example is a Tarot reading. Many people, even those who don’t believe in the practice, are familiar with the general concept behind a Tarot deck. If you asked them how many cards in a Tarot deck there are, they might not be able to tell you, but they would understand the basics. However, it can be a common mistake to confuse Oracle cards with Tarot cards. What are Oracle Cards? We’ll answer this question and more as we cover the key differences between a Tarot and Oracle deck.

The Tarot Card Basics

Let’s start by considering the basics surrounding a Tarot deck. How many cards in a Tarot deck are there? For a standard deck, such as the Rider-Waite deck, there are 78 cards. This includes 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards. The Minor Arcana are also divided up further into 4 suits: Wands, Pentacles, Cups, and Swords. Each suit has ten number cards (Ace, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10) and four Court cards (King, Queen, Knight, and Paige).

The difference between the Minor and Major cards can be quite extreme. Each Major Arcana card has a unique meaning that is separate from the others. For example, The Magician carries a very different meaning to that of The Fool or The Wheel of Fortune. The suit cards are a little different as each suit is connected by a theme. For example, the Cups are associated with emotions and feelings, while the Swords represents actions, thoughts, and sometimes words.


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The images are one of the most important aspects of Tarot. Each image depicts not just a character, but an entire scene with hidden detail and meaning. Most Tarot decks are consistent in this regard, but there is room for a little variation. When interpreting the meaning of a card, the reader has to take into consideration the card itself, the image, and how any of the details connect to any of the other drawn cards. So, what are Oracle cards and how do they differ to Tarot cards?

The Oracle Cards Basics

What can you expect when it comes to a standard Oracle deck? Well, the truth is that there is no standard Oracle deck. A deck can have any number of Oracle cards, and each card can contain any type of image. Many cards will also contain a word or phrase, but you’ll find many decks that contain nothing but images. Another unique aspect is that many people create their own decks. So, one Oracle deck could be completely unique from all others.

Many people will choose to create themes for their deck. Some even create their own suits within the cards. If you buy Oracle cards that somebody else created e.g. the Moon deck, you will likely receive a guide that explains the general meanings of each card.

Cards that contain words can also vary quite drastically. Different decks might choose different words or themes as their focus. In one deck you might find a card with the words, “Witch of Air”, while in another deck there may be cards that contain the words “humility” or “grace”.

The key principle of Oracle cards is that they can be anything, and so you have the freedom to create a deck that is unique and powerful to you, one that adapts to your skills and gifts.

The Readings

We’ve covered the basics of each of the decks, but what about the readings? With one deck being more rigid than the other, can the same readings be carried out with each set of cards? The short answer is yes. For example, if you wanted to carry out a 3-card spread for a reading, then you could use either deck. We come back to the key principle of any Oracle reading: freedom. With this deck, you have the freedom to create your own spreads and your own type of readings.

One example might relate to group activities. If you’re a teacher, on holiday with your family, or camping with friends, you could use your Oracle cards to focus everyone’s mind on the same idea. You would simply gather everybody around, pull a card from the deck, and use that concept, word, or idea as your focus.

Another idea for an Oracle reading involves multiple decks of cards. This can even include Tarot cards. Take a few from a variety of decks until you have a good number (you would probably want at least 30), and then perform an Oracle reading with them. Alternatively, spread all the decks out and choose just one the card from each.

Why Choose an Oracle deck?

So, why would you use Oracle over Tarot cards? Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference. There’s no immediate benefit to choosing one over the other. Tarot cards are more well known, at least as far as the card meanings go, and so there is a larger database of resources to pull information from.

At times though, this can be just as much of a curse as a blessing. Similarly, Oracle cards can have any meaning and so huge aspects of life can be missed out which could lead to inaccurate readings, whereas Tarot cards cover all the bases.

You need to consider which one works best for you. Some people simply don’t connect to Tarot cards and so performing readings can become difficult and frustrating, no matter how often they practice. Some people also find Tarot cards to be too rigid and old fashioned, whereas Oracle cards can be whatever you want them to be.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours. Trust your intuition and feel which one is likely the best fit for you. If you can’t make that decision, consider trying out both. Some people need a specific deck for different situations, and so there’s no harm in having both Oracle and Tarot cards on hand, just in case.

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