Tarot vs Oracle

Oracle Cards vs Tarot Card: What’s the Difference?

I get asked all the time about the difference between Oracle Cards and Tarot Cards. It seems that more people are familiar with Tarot than Oracle and the truth is that I didn’t even know what Oracle and Angel cards were until just a year and a half ago.

So let’s take a quick look at both of these wonderful divination tools and the differences between them.

What is Tarot?

Tarot decks are mostly used as a divination tool. This means that cards are pulled from the deck and placed in a spread with each position holding a specific understanding in order to bring forth messages and guidance to the person being read. The information that comes from the reading is understood to be divinely curated.

Tarot is a specifically structured system that is represented consistently in all decks. The specifics are listed below.

These are a few of the standard cards in a Tarot deck. The Modern Witch Tarot Deck by Lisa Sterle

What is Oracle?

Oracle decks are also used primarily for divination. The cards are often pulled from the deck and placed in 3 to 5 card spreads. From deck to deck, Oracle varies drastically in theme and artwork. For this reason, Oracle is often read intuitively.

A Very Brief History of Oracle and Tarot Cards

The use of Tarot cards as a divination tool dates back to the late 16th century. The original usage for divination was very simple compared to how Tarot is used now. It wasn’t until the 18th century that specific meanings were assigned to each card and readers began to use various layouts to clarify the messages.

Oracle cards have only been used as a divination tool since the 19th century. It wasn’t until the past decade that the mainstream popularity of oracle cards really took off. Oracle is definitely the “new kid on the block” compared to Tarot.

Comparing Tarot and Oracle

Tarot Decks

  • Has a specific structure (all Tarot decks follow the same format)
  • All standard Tarot decks contain 78 cards
  • The theme is broken down into two levels. This is the Major and Minor Arcana
  • Major Arcana is 22 cards representing over-arching life lessons and understandings. This includes cards such as Death, The Tower, Temperance, The Foor, The High Preistess, and others
  • Minor Arcana is 56 cards representing specific, day to day life situations and events.
  • Tarot is divided into suits; Wands, Swords, Cups (Chalice) and Pentacles (Coins). Each suit contains 14 cards: ten cards in numeric order from the Ace (one) to Ten, followed by the Page, Knight, Queen, and King.
  • Cards always have a meaning specific to the position they are pulled. (right side up or upside down. AKA reversed)
  • All Tarot decks have the same structure, but vary in artistic representation of each card.

Oracle Decks

  • Oracle decks do not follow a set structure.
  • Each deck has a unique theme.
  • The number of cards in an Oracle deck varies. Decks often have anywhere from 36 to 54 cards.
  • There is no breakdown of theme or suits within oracle decks.
  • Oracle cards are often numbered, but not always.
  • The author of the deck provides an intended meaning for each card in a guidebook that accompanies the deck.
  • There is rarely a separate meaning for cards pulled in the reverse position.
  • Oracle allows the reader to interpret the meaning of the cards more intuitively.
The Moonology Oracle deck is based on the various phases of the moon.

Which One is Right for You? Oracle or Tarot.

Most intuitive readers that use cards as a divination tool incorporate both, Oracle and Tarot into their practice. However, there are many that prefer one over the other. It is always going to come down to personal preference. Here are some general understandings that may help you decide where to start.

The learning Curve

Of the two, Tarot is definitely more challenging to learn and master. The structure of the Tarot deck and the importance of each card’s meaning will require practice and patience when learning to proficiently read.

Reading Oracle Cards can be mastered relatively quickly since the decks are more free-flowing and open to unique intuitive interpretation.


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Intuitive Involvement

Opinions differ greatly about whether or not one must possess a psychic or heightened intuitive ability in order to read cards. My personal opinion is that you don’t. It definitely helps, but it is not required. Between Tarot and Oracle, I feel that Tarot can bring forth a more detailed reading without intuitive input from the reader.

Oracle cards generally have very broad meanings and messages assigned to them by the author of the deck. This is why I believe that Oracle is best read with an intuitive interpretation. The reader’s intuition will fill in the details of the general messages that are pulled from the deck.

Celtic Cross Tarot Card Spread
This is the classic Celtic Cross Tarot Spread.

Oracle and Tarot Can Be Used Together

It is quite common for intuitive readers to incorporate Oracle cards into their Tarot spreads. The use of Oracles in a Tarot spread provides a great way to validate and clarify the messages coming through. This is good news for those that enjoy both.

Artistic Variation

Although Tarot decks are structured with specific cards, the artwork on the cards may vary a little. Overall, the artistry of the Tarot depicts very similar images from deck to deck. Alternatively, Oracle decks are all so different when it comes to the artwork and theme. This is one of the main allures of Oracle decks. The diversity of Oracle offers a little something for everyone.

The Light Seer’s Tarot by Chris-Anne is a very popular deck because of its modern, poetic take on traditional Tarot.

Final Thoughts about the Differences Between Oracle and Tarot.

As you can see, there are many differences between Oracle Cards and Tarot Cards. Even with these differences, both are wonderful divination tools that can be used by anyone and they can be used together in readings to amplify the messages. If you haven’t yet ventured into this wonderful world of intuition and divination, head over to Amazon.com and start by purchasing your first Oracle or Tarot deck(s).

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