What’s The Difference?

Tarot & Oracle, The Beauty of Knowing Your Cards

Often times when I give a reading clients are puzzled when I pull out a couple decks and begin shuffling. Some sit and watch and let me do my thing and others ask, ‘what are those’? I explain that I prefer to use a variety of styles of decks in my readings and that I feel it gives a stronger sense of cohesion throughout the reading. Naturally their next question is, ‘what’s the difference’?

Many years ago when I began reading tarot I quickly discovered what a vast system it really is and the many layers of understanding within it. Although in my pre-teenage mind the idea of committing every card to memory seemed overwhelming and nearly impossible, I was resolved to do it. Tarot being ,what I thought at the time, the definitive form of divination and with no guidance to lead me elsewhere, I practiced exercises that gave me practice and eventually every card became a new friend that had its own special insight.

The effort I put into learning that cards and spreads, the time dedicated to journaling and developing my own methods coupled with the time spent in my new fascination learning the history and lore behind its mystery as well as all of the other associations it carries gave me a deep sense of respect and love for the cards which I carry in my heart this day.  I tell beginners over and over again when they come to me for advice that the cards contain within them a universe of possibilities. Rome was not built in a day and the cards cannot be learned in such either.

Having that background of dedication and practice of such an ancient system lent me to some skepticism in my young age when I mistakenly bought my first deck of oracle cards. The pictures were simple. There was no hidden symbolic systems to study or decipher, no secrets to uncover. It seemed elementary.

Use my intuition?

The meanings are different for everyone?


I wanted answers! What kind of low budget knock off of tarot is this I couldn’t help but think.

I put them away and never picked that deck up again. Honestly, I don’t even remember what deck it was. I gave it to a friend at some point that showed interest since I had none. Years went by and I continued my journey with tarot. Throughout my life it’s been one of the few constants always available to me throughout the joys and trials of life. To this day, after 20+ years of reading I maintain that divination in any form is a lifelong journey of learning. I have a much to learn now as I did in my youth and I’m sure 20 more years from now I will still be learning, growing and evolving.

As with any journey though, there come times when we reach plateaus, road blocks, peaks and valleys. There have been times in my life I could not dedicate to my growth as I would have liked for various reasons and others when I have been able to dive in wholeheartedly and embrace a renewal of spirit. It was within one of these periods when I was feeling as though my current studies had reached that pinnacle and I would begin to need to dive into a fresh pool of thought in my studies to further my growth when a moment of synchronicity began my new journey with oracle.

Several months before I had received an oracle deck in a trade form a wonderful woman I know. I thought the images were beautiful and for the first time I thought perhaps I’d give oracle a whirl. As practice I began doing short readings using the same methods I had been using for years in my work with tarot. The readings were nice but not what I had hoped for. They seemed to lack the depth and detail I was used to and I was frankly a little disappointed.

It wasn’t until a group session when doing general readings when I pulled them out and thought, ‘what the hell, right?’ when I began to lay the cards down in a general energies type layout when they began to singing of themes and cycles. Emotions and moments. Only a reader understands what it means to say that the cards made connections quicker that I could speak them, telling a story like I’d never seen them tell before. It was like an explosion of energy on my table. As a group we all felt the energy present and could agree is was an amazing reading.

The next morning as I sat with my coffee and a deck of tarot cards as I do every morning for a few minutes contemplating the day I reached for my new found friend and pulled a few cards giving them a general purpose in the reading. To my satisfaction they fit as though they were the missing piece of a puzzle I never knew was incomplete.
The time I had spent reading them and expecting them to speak to me as the tarot had all those years and finding disappointment in the lackluster results I had been getting it never occurred to me that my perspective is what was askew. I was simply reading them all wrong. In changing my expectations of what they should provide my entire experience changed.

They went from being an uncooperative frustration to a wealth of insight and wisdom. These general energies they brought to me began to set strong tones for my readings. I developed simple layouts to aid in my  readings addressing general energies, lessons, themes, and other broad aspects that were being overlooked. I began using general spreads for what I expected to be simple readings that over time, with the growth of my own understanding, became quite in depth themselves. By engaging the general energies and incorporating them into my understanding of each individual reading I began to see things that would likely not have been addressed otherwise.

As I continued to use them they grew to speak more and more. As a companion with my tarot and other tools I found embracing the energies they embodied opened new doors within my readings. Where the tarot often speaks to the details of mundane events and circumstances in my readings I have found that including oracle gives a broader sense of purpose and understanding to the blessings and struggles we experience in our lives.

When we receive a reading we seek peace of mind by understanding the situations we live with, how they have come to be, how they may play out and what we can do to change those circumstances if we don’t like them. We seek guidance in how to manage the difficult decisions in which we are faced. We seek reassurance that those we care about are safe, that our chosen path is our highest path and that our security is in fact secure. It’s easy when things are good and energies are flowing unrestricted but when we’re faced with struggles, disappointment and pain the questions we ask become deeper and more numerous. When we can see a situation and its circumstances clearly it helps us in our quest to manage or accept that situation and put it into perspective. If we can see beyond one particular scenario into a larger picture and understand how those occurrences fit into the grand theme of our lives, the lessons we need to learn and the effect they have on those around us our view becomes clearer. It opens our eyes to new possibilities we may not have been open to before. We may see validity in something we may have discredited or find acceptance in something we would not typically have seen fit to accept.

Regardless of the situation understanding how the details we find in the tarot and how they fit into the universal picture provides yet another layer of understanding and guidance to our readings that I believe we all can benefit from if it is something we see fit to pursue. Every reader is different and we each have our own tried and true methods that work for each of us. Though I love the tarot and have many fascinations with other modes of divination as well, this has been my experience with oracle cards. A system in which I had previously written off as invalid in my world had become an integral and deeply loved part of my readings alone and as a companion to others.

When you find yourself not connecting with a deck or particular method of reading you feel drawn to don’t give up. Consider another perspective. No two systems are the same and all hold their own value in the world of divination. As with anything else, it’s important within this realm to know your cards, their purpose and what their message is for you.

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