Difference Between Tarot and Oracle Decks

Difference Between Tarot and Oracle Decks

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In this article, I will share my perspective on the difference between tarot and oracle decks. Both tarot and oracle cards are used for divination but there are some key differences between them. But first let’s define “divination”.

What is “divination”?

Divination is the practice of seeking knowledge to gain insight into the future through mystical tools such as tarot cards, scrying or runes. Other methods can include use of oracle cards, psychics, pendulums or astrology. The hope is that these tools can help us make sense of life events, gain clarity, self-understanding, and anticipate future outcomes. 

Historical Origination of Tarot Cards 

  • Tarot cards have a long and uncertain history that dates back to the 15th century. They are believed to have originated in Italy as playing cards. The original deck of tarot cards had four suits like a standard deck of playing cards, but also included a fifth suit with 21 “trump” cards. These trump cards later became known as the Major Arcana, which includes cards like the Fool, the Magician, and the World.
  • In the late 18th century, tarot cards began to be used for divination and fortune-telling. French occultist Antoine Court de Gébelin wrote about the tarot’s symbolism and its connection to ancient Egyptian knowledge, which added to its mystique and popularity in the world of esotericism.
  • Tarot cards gained even more popularity in the 20th century, with the popularity of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.

Oracle Card History

  • The history of oracle cards can also be traced back to ancient times when various cultures used different forms of divination to connect with the divine and receive spiritual guidance. Oracle cards, in particular, originated in Europe during the 17th century when card decks were used for entertainment purposes and as a tool for divination.
  • The first known oracle decks were created by an Italian aristocrat named Filippo Maria Visconti in the 15th century. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, oracle decks continued to evolve, with new designs and symbols being added to the cards.
  • During the Victorian era, interest in spiritualism and the occult led to the creation of many new oracle decks, which were often used to provide insight and guidance about life’s challenges.
  • Since the 20th century, the popularity of oracle cards has continued to grow and many new decks have been created that draw inspiration from a variety of spiritual traditions and practices. 

Structure of the Decks 

  • Tarot cards have a specific structure and meaning. A tarot deck includes 78 cards that are divided into major and minor arcanas, each with its own symbolism and interpretation. 
  • Oracle cards, on the other hand, are often created around a specific theme or intention and can vary greatly in structure and number of cards. 

Use of the Decks 

  • Tarot cards are often used for more in-depth questions because they can provide insight into the past, present, and future of a situation. They are designed to be more predictive. 
  • Whereas, oracle cards are often used more for general guidance and inspiration. They provide messages and affirmations to help the querent navigate their situation.

Imagery of the Decks 

  • Imagery in tarot card decks often (but not always) have a consistent set of  symbols and meanings that are associated with each card. Images on the tarot cards often depict scenes from traditional stories or archetypes. 
  • Oracle cards, on the other hand, can have a variety of imagery so each deck has its own unique style and theme. For example, you can find oracle decks based on gardening or animals.

In summary, tarot cards have a more structured and traditional approach to divination, while oracle cards offer more versatility and flexibility to the user.

My favorite Tarot and Oracle Card Decks

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Featured image photo by Viva Luna Studios on Unsplash


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