Tarot for Beginners Part 1

Tarot for Beginners Part 1 – The Differences Between Tarot and Oracle

Hi Tarot Tribe, today we are looking at the first part of my Tarot for Beginners series of videos and blog posts where I’ll be covering The Difference Between Tarot and Oracle Decks.

Before I begin, as with everything I share, take what resonates with you and simply leave the rest.

I have had many Tarot students and clients over the years look at me in surprise when I let them know that there is indeed a difference between Tarot and oracle decks. Some people have been working with Oracle decks believing that they were learning the Tarot.

However, not all cartomancy systems are the same. It doesn’t mean one is better than any of the others, that is down to personal preference. My preference is the Tarot but I also work with Oracle and Lenormand decks. Each system requires techniques to read them.

To be good at anything, be it a sport, sewing, cooking, or being an amazing card slinger, it is going to take time and practice to get comfortable with your tools and stretch your abilities.

So let’s look at the key indicators of each of these so that you can identify which one is which when you see them in the wild (aka your favorite bookshop etc).

Tarot’s Key Indicators

tarot deck

Number of Cards

There are traditionally 78 Cards in a Tarot Deck.

Some newer Tarot decks have added their own cards in, and some have removed cards. Most Tarot decks will have 78 cards in them.

Structure

The Tarot is broken down into three different parts

  • The Major Arcana – Spiritual lessons, collective consciousness archetypes.
  • The Minor Arcana – Everyday divinity and lessons.
  • Court Cards – The people and the personalities of the Tarot.

The Tarot has a specific numbered structure. There is a progression in the Major Arcana, Minor Arcana and the Court Cards.

Along with the numbered structure within these sections, there is also a progressive story to each of the elements and structures of the Tarot.

In the Major Arcana, The Fool’s Journey is one example of this. The Fool is either seen as the beginning of the Major Arcana or even outside of it all together because it is numbered 0.

On the Fool’s Journey, the Fool meets each member of the Major Arcana and learns lessons which is a reflection of the journey of life. There is more than one school of thought when it comes to grouping the Major Arcana and each one of them has something to offer.

Likewise, the Pages in the Court Cards is the first entry to the Court. The Kings are at the end of the Tarot Courts Structure. I even have stories for each of the Minor Arcana suits which I share with my students in my training.

Flexible Uniformity Across Systems

There is more than one system of Tarot, which can be another layer that adds confusion. I am going to cover this in a different blog post but for now, know that when you pick a Tarot deck up you are likely to find that there are similar meanings given to each card in the materials you find.

It is flexible and the cards are deepening and changing as the system grows. You can pick up any Rider Waite Tarot inspired deck for example and there will be similarities between those decks. There will also be similarities in the books you read on the Tarot, and that knowledge can be applied to many decks.

Additional Esoteric Systems

There are other schools systems and traditions weaved into the Tarot depending on the Tarot deck. These include Astrology, Numerology, Kabbalah and deep symbolism to name a few. While this is also true for many other types of Cartomancy these systems are often used as the theme to the deck, not the overall structure.

Oracle Decks Key Indicators

oracle deck

Number of Cards

Varies from deck to deck. It can range from anywhere between 20-100+ it really is totally up to the deck creator.

Structure

There is no uniformed structure in comparison to the Tarot or Lenormand systems. Many oracle decks number their cards but that is usually so it is easy to find the card meanings in their guidebooks.

There are oracle decks with built-in structures but this varies from deck to deck.

Individuality Across Systems

Oracle decks are standalone decks. No two decks are the same as creators have complete free reign to do whatever they like with their deck. This is reflected in the written materials that accompany oracle decks. Each book is going to be different. Where you can find more connective content in the Tarot across decks.

Lenormand Deck Key Indicators

Lenormand deck

Number of Cards

Traditionally there are 38 Cards in a Lenormand Deck. Some decks have added more or given different options for their cards, but most Lenormand decks have 38 cards in them.

Structure

The Lenormand is based on playing cards so along with the numbered and symbolic structure that the deck has each card has a counterpart in a deck of playing cards. Each Lenormand card holds the same hierarchy and importance when reading.

The power in the Lenormand is how each card interacts with the others in a reading and they are also excellent for pinpointing timing in a reading.

The deck is read face up only (no reversals) and this will be reflected in the written materials that support the deck. The iconic ‘Grand Tableau’ reading is designed for the Lenormand cards. It can be done with other deck systems but it has been created for Lenormand cards.

Mostly Uniformity Across Systems

The Lenormand has a set meaning list for each of the cards so written materials will be able to be used with a number of decks. Like Tarot there may be other themes in the deck (eg: Fairy Tale Lenormand – which still holds the structure and meaning of the cards but the images are that of fairy tales).

Tips For Identifying Your Deck

So how will you know if you are new to the art of reading the cards if you are holding a tarot or oracle deck? Sometimes deck can be tricky. They will have a title that uses the word Tarot for instance when it is, in fact, an Oracle deck.

Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Look at the title of the deck – most Lenormand decks will say that in the title. Likewise, most oracle decks are going to say that they are oracle decks too. Although, I have come across decks that have, in my opinion, get it wrong. If the structure of the Tarot is not present in a deck, for me it is not a Tarot deck.
  2. Look at the number of cards in the deck – If you are looking at a deck with 78 cards it is most likely a Tarot deck
  3. Flip through the deck (if you can) to see if you can identify any Major Arcana cards, Court Cards and other familiar indicators for a specific deck.

There you have it. The Differences between Tarot and Oracle decks. I hope you found this helpful and I will see you for Part 2 of my Tarot for Beginners series soon.

8 Comments
  • Patricia Darrow
    Posted at 08:23h, 14 February Reply

    Wonderful presentation, Ethony!

  • Laura Haviland
    Posted at 08:28h, 14 February Reply

    Wonderful..thank you.

  • Prochi Sookun
    Posted at 10:01h, 14 February Reply

    Ty so much for this insight

  • Andy Name
    Posted at 11:39h, 20 February Reply

    Thank you , a very helpful beginning overview and looking forward to next!

  • Nancy Siwik
    Posted at 12:20h, 20 February Reply

    Very nice and informative part 1. Thank you!

  • Klausenlift
    Posted at 11:22h, 25 February Reply

    Thanks Ethony and thanks for sharing your great recipes every week!

  • Thespia
    Posted at 12:15h, 27 February Reply

    Ethony, thank you for this post. Its very inspiring.

  • Maya Michel
    Posted at 05:55h, 28 February Reply

    I’m sitting here with a tarot deck I bought 20 years ago ang felt too unknowing to proceed. Recently I found some Oracle decks. I’m looking forward to this!

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