Tarot vs Oracle Cards: My Thoughts & Journey

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Ah, the age old question! And also, I started out as somewhat of an oracle-deck hater, but I do talk about how I changed my perspective! So make sure you read the whole post before you throw stones at me. :P


At first, tarot cards appealed to me more because it involves a process of studying. I'm a bookworm, I love reading, and I love studying. I am very textual when it comes to expressing myself and this is also true to my style of learning.

Because things like archetypes, numerology, astrology, and various symbols are more or less universally recognized, there is a system to tarot that oracle cards tend to lack. There is a unified canon of knowledge that enables easy contextualization and intellectual application.

This is most likely an extension of the part of me that is passionate about analyzing literature; I often compare the process of reading tarot to reading poetry. I approach a spread the way I approach a poem: read it once, reading it twice, then read it several more times to get its rhyme, its internal workings, and the messages it carries. Doing a tarot reading is kind of like taking a metaphor and examining form the palm of your hand--the metaphor is rich in meaning, and takes a myriad of forms depending on the eyes and experiences of the beholder. It carries a truth that has the ability to speak to everybody, boundless in form and technicality, touching the strings of our hearts in the most intimate, illuminating way. Tarot bridges the gap between our consciousness and our intuition, resulting in awareness and insight. In short, it provides a language for one's intuition and profound understandings, and "verbalizes" them, making them visible.


Oracle cards are a different kind of creature. Without the systematized groupings and "language", there is nothing to "study" other than the little white book that accompanies the oracle deck in question. In the beginning, I couldn't really connect with oracle cards simply because there was no need to study it--the textual part of me grew restless from the lack of materials. I needed something to absorb, to consume--but there was little of that. In addition, being a literary nerd I found the free-styling, free-forming, and new age vibes exuding from oracle cards shallow.

I wanted more metaphors, more mythological references, more symbols, more complex language--something that I could decipher, sometime that would take time to decipher. Things like "Healing the Ouch" or "Follow Your Dreams" seemed like random phrases slapped onto a piece of artwork and didn't seem to signify much. Those were the reasons why I stayed quite aloof towards oracle cards, despite the fact that I collect them.


Ever since I received an oracle card reading, I completely and utterly changed my view. I was given a general tarot reading in which the reader used Osho's Zen Tarot. Even though "tarot" is present in its name, it is more of an oracle deck than a tarot deck. (Or that was what it felt like at the time. I eventually acquired the deck and discovered that it maintained the system of tarot but reinterpreted + reinvented the suits and the major philosophies behind each archetype.)

I was pleasantly surprised by the profound messages oracle cards can provide and I felt a kinship towards oracle cards that I had never felt before. I immediately tried a few readings using the oracle deck that I own: "Wisdom of the Hidden Realms" by Colette Baron Reid. I realized that oracle cards, despite its lack of "system" and definite form, is wonderful precisely because of its lack of system and definite form. There's nothing you have to worry about--you can just let your intuition flow. No universal symbolism to consider, to numerological associations to keep in mind, no elemental attributes to add to your conclusions--you read what you feel. Interpretations become uninhibited, unrestricted, undaunted. It can be more liberating than tarot cards, and it's certainly more down to earth and straightforward.


One major difference between oracle cards and tarot cards is probably the fact that oracle cards tend to focus on the internal workings of an individual. Oracle cards has an inherent mechanism that promotes self-healing, self-reflection, creativity, positivity, and spirituality. I find oracle card decks are generally much more nurturing than tarot decks. Tarot readings can be an epic slap in the face sometimes, whereas oracle cards are much, much, much gentler and more supportive when it comes to delivering their messages. My current favourite oracle deck is Journey of Love Oracle by Alana Fairchild. It's an absolutely beautiful and spiritual deck.

Of course, the themes and tones of each tarot deck are also extremely diverse - there are tarot decks that are known for their “harsher and no BS” tones and there are also tarot decks known for their sweet and welcoming nature. I suppose it all depends on the imagery - but I do find oracle cards are easier to journal with. I journal regularly with tarot or oracle cards - and intuitive journaling is just much easier with oracle cards. For my personal practice, anyway.

What about you? Do you approach tarot cards and oracle cards differently?

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