Whether you read tarot, oracle cards, or something else really depends on your personal preference, but there’s no rule that you must stick to one type, even in the same reading! Using tarot and oracle cards together can add more depth and understanding to your readings for yourself and your clients.
Oracle cards are very popular with card readers around the world. With their varied systems and types of art work, they do an excellent job at maintaining meaning while keying into specific interests and connections. There are oracle decks based on psychology, herbalism, various Pagan belief systems with art that ranges from unicorns to Hallowe’en. There is truly a deck for everyone.
It is important to remember that oracle and tarot cards are different. For a more in-depth explanation, check out “How to buy a tarot deck.” In brief, tarot is a system with 78 cards, major and minor arcana, and fairly standard meanings thought various decks. Oracle decks, on the other hand, can have any number of cards with the meaning and system assigned by the creator of the deck. To make it really simple, tarot is a specified system, oracle decks are a free-for-all.
Most oracle decks will come with a guidebook that explains the meanings behind the various cards. Because of the individual nature of these decks, these books are really the only guides that will help you learn to use the cards to their fullest. Thankfully, most of these guides are quite comprehensive.
Using oracle cards in conjunction with tarot can add a fun twist or add a different point a view to a standard reading. Here are some tips for how to use the two mediums together.
Related: Reading tarot professionally at parties and events, by Donyae Coles
Related: Tarot reading online: Making a digital connection, by Donyae Coles
Related: How to buy a tarot deck, by Donyae Coles
Matching oracle and tarot decks
The first question many people ask is how to match up your oracle with your tarot decks. Are there bad matches? Are there match ups that work better together? The truth is that there are no hard and fast rules, only options. It really depends on what you are hoping to get out of the reading. There are many ways to match decks together, but here are four basic, broad techniques.
1. Like decks together
This method of matching is the most straight forward. Just put like decks together. If your tarot deck is angel-themed, match it with an oracle deck that features angels. If your tarot deck is a dark-themed deck, match it with an oracle deck that also dark.
Some tarot decks have corresponding oracle decks by the same creator, such as the Wild Unknown Tarot and Animal Spirit decks from Kim Krans. Although this is helpful, it’s not necessary that the decks be created by the same person or even be thought to work together.
You can match decks by subject matter, art, or theme. It does not need to be a perfect match, but for some readers, seeing the like cards together opens up new paths of understanding.
Related: Wild Unknown: Animal Spirit, reviewed by Donyae Cole
2. Opposites attract
Look for a deck that’s the direct opposite of the tarot cards you’ve chosen. If the deck is a light one, like the Good Tarot, choose a dark oracle deck like the Oracle of Shadows and Light to check out the shadow aspect of the reading. If a deck is more straightforward, match it with something that is more spiritual in nature.
This is a useful technique to add depth to the reading, especially when using decks that are more one-sided in feeling and emotion. By using an opposing oracle, the feeling of the original reading remains, while still giving some insight into the other side.
3. Find the missing pieces
This matching technique brings other occult and spiritual practices into a reading. With so many different decks, they don’t all feature or make use of all the various layers of symbology and guidance that are available.
Matching oracle decks that do have these elements can add a different layer to the reading. Cards that work with astrology, numerology, deities, or elements can help a reader find new connections and meanings in their readings, even if the tarot decks do not contain this information in an explicit way. For example, the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot includes a number of occult disciplines, but doesn’t do much with sacred geometry. Pairing it up with Sacred Geometry Healing Cards adds that depth and can even lead to incorporating more crystal work with your readings.
Related: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot, reviewed by Donyae Coles
Related: Find your new favourite indie tarot among these 11 decks, by Daleth West
4. Absolute free-for-all
The third option is to just grab whatever tickles your fancy. It could be an oracle deck that you or your client is drawn to, one that you feel gives you good insight, or just a random choice from your collection.
Going this route is more about intuition and trust than the first two options. There’s also a lot more room for surprise. It may not be perfect for all readings but for some, this method can really make the reading that much more special.
I like to pair up the Aquarian Tarot, a very straightforward Rider-Waite-Smith derived deck, with Soul Cards, a much more intuitive and deeper deck. These two decks have nothing in common but I like how it works to get me to think of the reading in a deeper way.
Interpreting single cards
The first technique is the simplest, a single card. This technique can be used with any tarot spread, but it can be used in two very useful ways. The single card can be read as a signficator for the central person the reading is about, or it can be used to key into the overall theme of the reading.
1. Draw the significator at the start of the reading
If you are using the single card as a querent card or the focus for a person that the reading is about (such as “I am wondering about my boss or partner or landlord’s feelings or plans with me”), this card should be drawn before the reading with the tarot cards. Once the card is drawn, spend some time focusing on it and interpret this card on its own. Consider what the deck’s creator said about it, as well as what feelings you or your client are getting from it. Once you’re ready, lay out the tarot spread, and while you’re reading, keep that oracle in mind and interpret the entire spread using that card as a thread to guide you.
2. Draw the significator at the end of the reading
With the second technique, the card is drawn after the tarot reading has been completed. This card represents an overall energy or message for the reading. It may also give clues for how the knowledge and insight from the reading can be used or put into effect. This technique is a good way to focus the reading, and give the querent a single, solid image and goal to hang onto after the reading is over.
Interpreting oracle cards in a mini spread
Sometimes you need more than what one card can give you. For those times, creating a “mini spread” using two or three cards from the oracle deck can help. You can read oracle cards in groups, similar to tarot in practice, but there’s a bit of a trick to the process.
The meaning in oracle cards is usually written in such a way that single, standalone ideas or concepts are expressed on each card. Often they don’t create an easy narrative in the way that tarot cards do. They are, really, a different type of divination practice. That being the case, once you’re well practiced with a deck, reading a spread with them should be no problem.
This spread is separate and done after the main tarot reading. Readers can ask a separate question, or just look at it in comparison to the tarot spread. Familiar spreads (such as past-present-future) can be used. With the oracle cards, it stands separate from the main reading, so it does not need to be the same or a mirror of the original tarot spread.
This is a good way to dive into meaning in a reading, especially if the original spread wasn’t clear enough for you to fully understand. Sometimes by doing a mini reading with oracle cards, readers can see things that were previously a bit hazy.
This is also a solid technique for looking at energy and emotions around a reading that may not come through in the tarot reading itself. This trick is also helpful for learning more about the reading the cards. If you aren’t familiar with using an oracle deck in this manner, having the familiar tarot reading to relate to and tie-in can help anchor and guide your reading as you’re still mastering working with oracle cards.
Match for match
The final technique that we will cover is matching oracle cards to every tarot card you pull, or to sections of complex spreads. For this method, the energy and meanings of the oracle cards sort of overlays the tarot cards — like a filter.
1. Matching cards in small spreads
Matching cards for cards is usually done with smaller tarot spreads: think three to five card spreads. The practice is done by simply drawing oracle cards to lay down alongside the tarot cards. You can read them separately, as two separate spreads and relate them to each other, or by reading them together as one, card for card.
What that means is that you connect the oracle card with the tarot card that matches it in the spread, that way that the two are read as one unit. This is carried all through the spread, each set of cards read as one and related to each other as one. This leads to interesting results, as the addition of the oracle card may alter how the tarot card is seen.
This can be a complex reading technique. Think of how the Wheel of Fortune from the Morgan Greer Tarot, which features the wheel turned by a divine entity, would read with the Power card from the Psychic Tarot (which, despite it’s name, is not an actual tarot deck). Could this be a sign that you are not to let things just happen but to take control? Or that the turn of the wheel is going to lead to more empowerment for you? As you can see, it can be read in a variety of ways.
2. Matching cards in large spreads
When you have a large tarot spread, you can draw oracle cards for each major section of the spread. For example, if laying down the Celtic Cross, you would draw one oracle card for the cross and another for the staff. These cards would be a means to read the energy that exists around those parts of the spread.
This technique is great for large spreads to create order in what can seem like chaos. The use of oracle cards can act as a guide for the reading, a simple way to see connections between the cards.
Choosing the right technique
Depending on how you decide to match decks and which technique you use, you can have vastly different results. Here are some questions to help you decide which decks you want to use, and which technique is best suited for you:
- What cards do I have available to me?
- What type of reading am I doing? Is this for a party? Myself? A personal client?
- What sort of time do I have to perform this reading?
- What information am I looking to find out with this reading?
- Do I need more information or will this reading be better to keep simple?
Keeping these questions in mind will help you find the perfect technique and card combination to work with tarot and oracle cards together.