Tarot vs Oracles

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
XXV Spider from the Sacred World Oracle by Kris Waldherr published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc., 2013.

I love writing formal poetry. I love the way my intuition opens up when the rigid guidelines of meter and rhyme keep me focused. I love how a perfect line spills out of me in response to the limitations of the form and the preceding choices I made within that form. I love following a tradition.

Tarot to me is like formal poetry. It has a tradition, a form, and was used by the divinatory greats. It lets me go deep so I can soar higher. Oracle decks are like free verse. They are pretty, accessible, and optimistic.

Tarot to me can get down to business—it can address any life situation. It can be practical, realistic, specific. And it can open us up to the highest levels of inspiration and transformation. An oracle deck is the friend who always cheers you up. Tarot is the friend who always tells you the truth—even if it’s hard to hear.

“Oracle” is the broad category that includes tarot. Oracles also include Lenormand and playing card cartomancy, both of which have a specific structure, different from tarot but with rules and a particular form. But more generally, when people talk about oracle decks they usually mean decks that are less structured and more dependent on beautiful artwork and inspiring verses to uplift you. Oracle decks often have a single theme that guides their images: angel cards, animal cards, Goddess decks.

I’m a tarot reader. I don’t use very many oracle decks. I have always liked the pretty pictures, but their insipid verses and saccharine positivity leave me feeling let down, even betrayed. I want something that can take me deep and allow me to find the perfect rhyme that grows out of my unique limitations. And I have always found that in the tarot.

But oracle decks seem to be ubiquitously popular. I believe the reason is that oracle decks are seen as easy and accessible, while tarot is perceived as relying on a knowledge base—I think people believe that the cards must be studied for years before accuracy can be gained.

Earlier this year I developed a talk that addresses the use of both oracles and tarot as tools to access your intuition and find your answers—no secret information or years of study needed. I wanted to show people that tarot is just as easy and accessible as oracle decks—but then has the ability to take you deeper and further as you grow.

To demonstrate how to use an intuitive approach with either oracle or tarot cards, I developed the following exercise. The exercise can be done by asking a question and then pulling one card either from an oracle deck or a tarot deck.

If you’d like to try it out, you might consider using the free One Card Oracle at TarotGoddess.com. You can choose your deck, with both oracle and tarot decks offered. I used The Sacred World Oracle by Kris Waldherr for my oracle reading. (Read my review of this deck.)

And if you’d like to do the exercise with a tarot deck, this site offers several choices, including the classic Rider-Waite deck by Pamela Colman Smith and Arthur Edward Waite.

“Access your Intuition and Find your Answers Using Tarot and Oracles” Exercise

1. Choose your deck
2. Ask a question—write it in your journal
3. Shuffle and randomly select one card.
4. Take note of the words or affirmation on the card.
5. Take note of 3-5 things in the imagery of the card and record them in your journal.
6. How does the imagery answer your question?

I selected the Sacred World Oracle deck for my reading.

I asked, What can I do to best prepare for my class on Thursday?

I randomly drew the card, XXV Spider.

The advice associated with the card was, “Greater connections. The web which ties us all together. Communications.”

I looked at the imagery and noticed:

  • The spider web
  • A kind of path through the trees
  • A stream or snow in the background
  • The spider in the foreground

 Card Advice: My thoughts

I realized that the best thing to prepare for my class was to remember that we are all connected through all forms of divination, whether they be tarot, oracles, runes, palmistry, I Ching, etc. All forms of divination serve the same purpose—they are a tool that allows us a deeper and clearer connection to our intuition, which is the source of our answers and advice. Greater connection to our intuition is formed through using these tools. Communication is a dialogue—and the tools become a part of that dialogue that we have.

Web: My thoughts about the image

The web connects us all, and if you think of the web as a dream catcher, you can see how the web filters out what is irrelevant to our question and only allows through the most important and pertinent information.

Path: My thoughts about the image

As the instructor, it is my job to point out the path, assist people over difficult points in the path, get people back on track if the path is hard to see or they wander off it, and remind them that it is their path to walk and their journey to experience.

Stream or Snow: My thoughts about the image

To me, this confusing image in the background reminds me that sometimes learning something new can be confusing. My association of water with the emotions reminds me that often our emotions can cloud our intuition. If it is snow, then I think of melting snow, spring, new beginnings, and crocuses sprouting—new, delicate, tender and beautiful ideas pushing forth through the unencouraging chill of our environment. Crocuses don’t grow because they want to or because it’s on the to-do list or because they set an intention or because they are trying to spite the snow. They grow because it’s their nature to grow. It’s important to remember that no matter what environment we are in, we can succeed through being true to our own nature.

Spider: My thoughts about the image

I wrote this down last, even though it was the title of the card. And I realized that I was hoping to get really nice, uplifting, pretty thoughts from this oracle deck—that’s why people like them, right? But no, I got a spider. I like spiders. But not everyone does. And so in this class it’s important to remember that sometimes we have to work with something that’s uncomfortable, scary, creepy or simply that feels one way for us and another way for someone else. It’s my job to understand both the beautiful and helpful aspects of Spider as well as the scary and destructive aspects of Spider—and show how both qualities fit into the reading and intuitive process.


You can also read my review of the Sacred World Oracle.


Joy Vernon has been teaching energetic and esoteric modalities for over twenty years. She is one of the Psychics of Isis in Denver, Colorado and reads at Northern Lights in Fort Collins. She teaches Tarot, Astrology, Qabalah and Traditional Japanese Reiki. She is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and a member of the American Tarot Association. Her specialty is Empyrean Key Transformational Guidance, which helps her clients break through blocks and align with their higher purpose. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit JoyVernon.com.

© 2013 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.

Articles: 472

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