Tarot cards have been popular since they were nothing more than a game in Medieval Italy, and they remain among the most popular tools of divination. Oracle cards have also existed for quite a while, and their popularity continues to grow. So which of these two tools is actually better? Does it really matter? The following post will highlight some of the differences (and similarities) between tarot and oracle decks.
Traditional tarot decks are made up of 78 cards, broken into the Major and Minor Arcanas. On the other hand, oracle decks are more fluid in how many cards could be included at any given time, depending on the creator. Some oracle decks have very few cards, and some have as many as a deck of poker cards. There are no rigid traditional guidelines to follow when it comes to how many cards are in an oracle deck, or how the cards are categorized and labeled.
The artwork on traditional tarot cards are usually similar in how it is constructed — with symbolism, colors and the like. This is done in order to keep the cards relevant to their traditional meanings. Oracle cards have no traditional meanings or guidelines to follow, so there is room to get creative. There are obviously different styles of tarot decks, and every artist is different in how they visually interpret the cards’ meanings, but a guideline is still there — if even subtle.
Tarot has developed slowly over a span over more than 600 years from a system of playing cards to a tool of occult practice and “fortune telling.” The concept of tarot, during its earliest days, passed through numerous hands — through countless cultures. Nonetheless, some people feel uncomfortable using tarot due to the various cultural and religious symbolism embedded within each card. Some people even believe that tarot was stolen from other cultures, and that it isn’t appropriate to use it (though, this belief is based out of ignorance or misunderstanding of the history of the cards). Because of these reasons, a lot of people gravitate more comfortably toward oracle cards. Oracle cards provide the same kind of feel of reading tarot, without any religious or cultural elements that might be unethically used. That’s not to say that there aren’t culturally appropriative oracle decks — because they do exist. There are even oracle decks that are marketed with the offensive “G” slur in their titles.
Some people feel like oracle cards are more positive, in general, than traditional tarot cards. These are people who shy away from any “spooky” warnings that a tarot spread may throw at them, and prefer that their cards give positive affirmations and meanings. People who prefer tarot cards over oracle cards tend to prefer the “honesty” that the traditional 78-card deck affords their readings. Truth be told, even oracle cards can carry not-so-positive messages if you’re an intuitive reader or even if your particular oracle deck is designed to include glances into our shadow selves. It all boils down to personal preferences, really.
How are Tarot Cards and Oracle Cards similar?
It’s obvious. They’re both designed cards to be used for divination or other related spiritual practices. The entire concept of throwing out random items (cards, stones, bones, etc.) in order to tell the future is called “casting lots,” and it is something we — as a species — have been doing for thousands of years. Whether you use any of the hundreds of commercial tarot decks available on the market, or one of the hundreds of commercial oracle decks, you’re still doing the same thing. You’re casting lots to practice divination. More specifically, both systems of divination are a form of Cartomancy, which is the literal use of cards as a system of fortune telling.
So it really doesn’t matter, even at a fundamental level, whether you choose tarot cards or oracle cards to incorporate in your spiritual practice. As stated in the section above, it all boils down to personal preferences.