Oracle Cards vs Tarot Cards: 3 Differences

Whether you’re new to the world of oracle and tarot cards or a longtime enthusiast, chances are you’ve encountered the terms “oracle cards” and “tarot cards” used interchangeably. Some people say they’re the same. Other people say they’re different. Which is it? And, what are the differences between oracle cards vs tarot cards?

The truth is that both oracle cards and tarot cards have unique abilities to help you with your spiritual journey.

While both products harness the power of mythology and magic, there are some noticeable differences between them. Both offer guidance and advice during periods of change in your life, and I have used both to ask my higher self questions. I have also used both when asking these cards about events relevant to someone else I’m reading for.

This article will help you compare these two forms of divination and help you decide which to use when choosing oracle cards vs tarot cards.

oracle card deck

Oracle Cards Are More Theme-Based, While Tarot Cards Are More Archetypal

One difference between the two decks is fairly simple: Oracle cards deal well with the “why” and “how” of a situation, whereas tarot deals with the “what” and the “how”. In other words, oracle cards are more concerned with the underlying reasons or motivations for things happening in your life. In contrast, tarot focuses on interpreting specific events (both can focus on past, present or future).

Oracle cards tend to be easier to learn to use and understand with imagery that often clearly represents the card’s meaning. Tarot has more of a learning curve with multiple interpretations of the same symbols present in the cards. Some also believe tarot to be more “dark” or “negative”, and while this may appear to be the case based on some of the images and card names, I don’t think this way at all.

For example, some people are fearful if they draw the Death card in a reading. However, I tend to see this card as representing rebirth, the circle of life, or the end of a specific chapter.

As I describe below, tarot decks have cards that represent the main archetypes of people. On the other hand, oracle cards depend on the author’s theme. Some follow a tarot-like structure, and others may be designed to provide you with a quote to focus on throughout your day.

Oracle Cards Tend to Focus More on the Present Moment; Tarot Cards Tend to Read the Past, Present and Future

Oracle cards tend to focus more on the present moment and give you spiritual guidance; Tarot cards tend to read the past, present and future and dig deeper into your life events. Tarot is also known to focus on practical ways for you to solve problems or make decisions.

Oracle cards are used for self-development, meaning that they help you understand yourself better to make better decisions in your life.

Tarot cards are sometimes used for divination, meaning one can use them for predicting the future.

Both types of card decks contain symbols that have different meanings depending on their position within a spread (or layout).

Both are great for personal guidance — it’s just that Oracle cards can be more abstract in their interpretation, whereas the tarot deck is more concrete in its language and imagery.

tarot card deck - the empress card

Tarot Deck Structure

The tarot follows a typical structure of 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards. The Minor Arcana is further sub-divided into four suits; Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles. Of course, different tarot decks may use other names, but they typically follow this structure.

The term Major Arcana is derived from the Latin word “Arcanum”, meaning “Secret, and “Arcane”, meaning “Understood by few, mysterious”.

The most common tarot deck is the Rider-Waite deck (as seen in the image of The Empress above).

Major Arcana

These cards represent the main archetypes of the world and depict the soul journey of an individual through different stages in life. The presence of a Major Arcana card in a reading signifies great significance relevant to the question’s theme and the meaning of the card. When multiple Major Arcana cards are present, it is commonly thought to indicate a significant life event or change.

These are the cards of the Major Arcana:

  • The Fool, number 0.
  • The Magician, number 1, I.
  • The High Priestess, number 2, II.
  • The Empress, number 3, III.
  • The Emperor, number 4, IV.
  • The Hierophant, number 5, V.
  • The Lovers, number 6, VI.
  • The Chariot, number 7, VII.
  • Strength, number 8, VIII.
  • The Hermit, number 9, IX.
  • Wheel of Fortune, number 10, X.
  • Justice, number 11, XI.
  • The Hanged Man, number 12, XII.
  • Death, number 13, XIII.
  • Temperance, number 14, XIV.
  • The Devil, number 15, XV.
  • The Tower, number 16, XVI.
  • The Star, number 17, XVII.
  • The Moon, number 18, XVIII.
  • The Sun, number 19, XIX.
  • Judgement, number 20, XX.
  • The World, number 21, XXI.

Minor Arcana

These cards are more related to everyday life, e.g. work, love, finances etc. Each suit (Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles) is made up of ten “Pip” cards and four “Court” cards. Like your traditional deck of playing cards, the Pips number one through ten, and the Courts include a Page, a Knight, a Queen and a King.

Oracle Cards Differ From One Deck to Another; Tarot Cards Have Similar, More Traditional Imagery

Oracle cards have pictures that might be wildly different from one deck to another or have less traditional imagery; Tarot cards have the same (or very similar) imagery in all decks.

Oracle cards are more diverse but can also be overwhelming at first glance because of the variety of themes available – dragons, angels, crystals and moon phases being just a handful of examples.

Some people prefer having a lot of options, whereas others prefer consistency. Suppose you’re unsure which type of card reading method is right for you. In that case, it’s best to try both and see what resonates with your personality and preferences better than anything else!

You Can Use Both Kinds of Decks for Personal Guidance

Both types of decks help tap into your intuition for personal guidance. They have their strengths and weaknesses, but they complement each other.

For example, Tarot cards give you a general impression of what’s going on in your life and how it will unfold if you take certain actions. Oracle cards provide more specific information to help you make better decisions about the future.

Specific Oracle decks may be better for asking questions about love, money and careers. In contrast, tarot may be better for helping you understand a past situation in your life.

Both Oracle and tarot cards are beneficial if you have trouble asking questions or working with the energy around intuitive readings. You don’t have to know what you’re supposed to ask or what you’re supposed to do next because the cards will set up a point of focus for you.

oracle cards vs tarot cards

Oracle Cards vs Tarot Cards: They’re Both Excellent Tools – Choose Whatever Speaks to You the Most

When it comes down to it, both oracle cards and tarot cards can be handy tools for divination, providing clarity or simply providing a journal prompt. You don’t have to use one or the other—you can (and should) use both as you’ll get different perspectives from each. Just choose whichever deck resonates with you the most!

Both tools can provide insight into your situation or decision and help unleash your intuition, but they are very different in design, meaning, and usage. If you’d like to learn more about either of these divination tools, your best bet is to try them out for yourself.

Oracle cards are a fun and simple way to learn the wisdom of your subconscious; even if you’re sceptical of their “powers”, it’s worth giving them a go. You never know what you might find out about yourself! Oracle cards are unique because they are more like a series of meanings and interpretations, while tarot cards are frequently used to interpret past or present events or predict future outcomes.

In short, both have their place in a reader’s toolkit. Finding out which oracle cards or tarot cards suit your needs is largely a matter of personal preference, so check them both out and see if you can’t find a style that speaks to you.

Neither are the be-all, end-all or the only method to getting answers to your burning questions. However, the subconscious is one of the most potent parts of our inner being. Knowing how to communicate with it can lead you down a road of endless possibilities.

Over to You!

Have you used tarot or oracle cards or had a reading done for you? How have you found your readings helpful? I’d love to know – just leave me a comment below.

Or, if you haven’t had a reading before, are you interested in giving it a go?

2 thoughts on “Oracle Cards vs Tarot Cards: 3 Differences”

  1. I have never had a reading done, in a funny way I think I assumed that it was about reading the future and that I was scared of it. So finding that there are Oracle cards and Tarrot cards and there are similarities and differences, are very interesting. Tarrot cards are the ones that I have heard of most. Fascinating that the decks of Oracle cards are all different. Does that make it very difficult to learn and use for readings?

    Which cards would be best for a complete beginner? Thank you. 

    • Hello!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. 

      I don’t think you’re alone when it comes to being somewhat afraid of tarot or what a reading might reveal. As I mentioned, many tend to view some of the tarot cards as being negative but, there are always two halves to a whole. Yin and Yang or light and dark, if you will. 

      It’s very easy to use oracle cards! Each deck typically includes a guidebook describing the theme of the cards, some examples of questions you might ask the cards, and different spreads or layouts you might try. Also, the guidebook will describe what each card represents.

      I think oracle cards are the best choice for a complete beginner. Say you like birds, for example. You might choose to use The Winged Enchantment Oracle Deck, and begin with asking a simple question like “what should I focus on today?” and then draw one card. 

      The more you use them, the more familiar you’ll become, and you’ll discover new spreads or questions to ask.

      I hope this helps! Feel free to reach out if you’d ever like me to draw a card for you.

      Love and light,



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