Tarot and Oracle card spread

Tarot Cards and Oracle Cards: What is the difference?

tarot cards on books with crystals

Welcome, spiritual babies! If you have found yourself here, then you are probably new to the world of woo and wondering where to start. 

I remember my first time in a spiritual store. Walking in, my senses were overwhelmed with the smell of incense, sound of wind-chimes and sight of spiritual tools everywhere I looked. There were so many different products on display, and I had absolutely no idea how to use them. Feeling deflated and confused, I left without talking to anyone or purchasing anything. 

Thankfully, the internet is here to help - and so am I. When speaking with Tash of Mana Moon she told me that the most common question asked by new spiritualists is about cards, and the difference between them - specifically, the difference between Tarot and Oracle cards. Now, these are the people who are confident enough to ask for help, so there must be many more individuals who feel too overwhelmed to ask for assistance, and so go home and turn to Dr Google. 

Read on to find out about Tarot Cards, Oracle Cards, the similarities and differences between them and how you can use them to access your intuition. 

Why are Tarot and Oracle Cards Used in Spiritual Practice

We are all spiritual beings, each with our own magical gifts and abilities (yes, even your conservative uncle Bill - he just doesn’t know it). However, we all express our spirituality in different ways. For some of us, the power within us grows through music. For others, we connect to the universe through religion. For me - I use cards. 

Tarot and Oracle cards are used to provide insight and reflections on life, love, and relationships. When you use your intuition and open yourself up to the power of the card, it will open up doors that provide answers to your most pressing questions. The cards guide you to use your spirituality to manifest the life that you desire.

If an intuitive reader is using the cards for you, they are helping you to clear the debris from your life, and showing you the patterns within your life and your potential. They use cards to clear your energy and make way for your rebirth. When you are using the cards yourself, you reveal your authenticity and secrets, and create a free-flowing, authentic, empowered life. Clear the confusion in your life, relationship, business, make room for love and light.

So, both Tarot and Oracle cards are another spiritual tool within our toolkit. They provide insight, guide manifestation, reveal patterns and secrets, and grow intuition.

tattooed hand reading a spread of cards

How do Tarot Cards and Oracle Cards Work

Let’s make one thing clear - Tarot and Oracle cards do not predict your future. Despite what many misleading Hollywood depictions would have us think, this is not about fortune-telling, this is about intuition. 

The most powerful way to use tarot and oracle cards is to access your intuition and inner-wisdom. The cards help you to access your subconscious mind, and discover how to make positive shifts in your life. 

For example, if you want some insight on how to find a new romantic relationship, you turn to your cards. What they won’t tell you is that you will meet a handsome stranger on a train in three days time. What they could tell you, is that in order to bring love into your life you need to open yourself up to new opportunities. The card, or cards, that you pull will tell you how you can manifest romance into your life. 

So, both Oracle and Tarot Cards work by providing guidance and clarity. They do not reveal the future, but they tell you what you need to do to manifest the future you want. 

However, as I have mentioned, the cards provide insight - and this can be insight into future energies (but not future events). When we connect with our cards, we tap in to a collective mind of universal wisdom and are able to see the possibilities open to us.

The Difference Between Tarot Cards and Oracle Cards

Tarot Cards

tarot deck spread with candles

Tarot Deck Composition

Most tarot decks are based on Rider-Waite Deck. This Rider-Waite Deck is the OG of tarot. Originally published in 1901, it is the most popular deck, and goes by the name Rider-Waite, Waite-Smith, Rider-Waite-Smith or Rider Tarot Deck. 

As such, tarot decks usually have 78 cards. (There are decks with less than the full 78 cards, and it is rare to find decks with more than 78 cards). Each of these cards has its own imagery, symbolism, and story. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, 56 minor Arcana cards, and within these, 16 Tarot Court Cards. 

The Major Arcana represents life’s karmic and spiritual lessons, the Minor Arcana reflect our daily trials and tribulations, whilst the Court Cards represent the 16 different personality characteristics that we may be expressing. 

Tarot Deck Differences from Deck to Deck

Although the majority of Tarot decks follow the same structure and ‘characters’, this does not mean that all decks are exactly the same. If there were, then there would be no need for the multitude of different Tarot decks available on the market.

The basic meaning of each card relies the same, but there are artistic differences from deck to deck. For example, Neo Tarot is a self-care Tarot deck, offering insight and practical self care activities to nurture our spirit and soul, and Archangel Power Tarot Cards is a deck which focuses on giving the user the courage and motivation they need to take decisive action in their lives, using the messages the deck provides them. 

So, while you can pull the same card in either of these decks and the underlying meaning of the card remains the same, one deck will use the meaning of this card to guide you to self-care methods,  whilst the other guides you to positive change and decision making. Confusing? To put it in the most simple terms possible, the initial interpretation of the card remains the same, but how the meaning is elaborated on differs. 

Tarot Card Reading

How you choose to read your Tarot Cards (or have your cards read to you) is up to you. You can choose to draw your cards instinctively by asking questions and receiving answers through guidance, or, you can choose to use a structured spread.

Spreads vary in size and complexity, from easy 3 card spreads, to more complex celtic cross spreads.

Oracle Cards

Single Oracle card from light work deck

Oracle Deck Composition

Unlike Tarot, there is no template to create an Oracle Deck. There is no set number of cards, and there are no set cards or suits.

Oracle Decks can essentially be whatever the creator wants the deck to be - they choose how many cards are in the deck, the imagery of the deck, and the purpose it serves. In the most basic sense, the composition of the oracle deck is a set of cards which contain images and words, with a book to teach the reader how to interpret each card’s message. 

Oracle Deck Differences Deck to Deck

When you pick up a Tarot Deck, you know the basics of what you are getting - usually 78 cards, split into Major and Minor Arcana, Court Cards, and Suits. With Oracle Cards, you get something completely different each time.

There are Spirit Animal Cards which communicate through the attributes that the animal embodies, Empowerment Cards to provide inspiration and validation, Moon Cards which give guidance and provide insight into the energy of the moon and it’s position, and Light Cards to strengthen your intuition and help you connect with your purpose. As you can see, these are only four decks, and they are completely different. 

As such, each Oracle Deck will serve a different purpose and hold different meanings. However, all Oracle Decks serve as a spiritual tool to assist you in connecting with your inner power and the universe around you, providing you with guidance and strengthening your intuition. 

Oracle Card Reading

With Tarot Cards, you usually need to pull at least three cards to gain an insight into a situation, as they are all detailed interpretations. Put these three cards together, and you have an answer which gives insight and clarity. Oracle cards, on the other hand, hold bigger energy, and give insight into your situation through one card, rather than through many.

Many people are drawn to Oracle Decks as they can be more accessible. Tarot takes time to study and understand, whereas Oracle Cards can be used as a one-card pull to provide insight into the situation, set an intention for the day, or find a ritual to manifest your dreams into reality (depending on the purpose of the deck, of course).


How do I know which deck to use?

It comes down to two factors, the first of them being you. If you respond to structure, logic, and order, then you will love using a Tarot deck. You are able to memorise cards, understand their meaning and grow your interpretations with time the more you use the deck. On the other hand, if you want an answer to a question straight away and respond better to instant affirmations rather than more complex interpretations, then you will work better with an Oracle deck. If using a Tarot deck is like reading a book to find an answer, then using an Oracle deck is reading a sentence. Decide how you want to work, and go from there.

The other aspect that you should consider is what you want to get out of the deck and reading. Due to the more complex and structured nature of Tarot, you experience a spiritual journey with ancient forces and energies, and all the light and shadow aspects that come with the human experience. With Oracle cards, you call on the energies that are existing in the world now, and use the cards to harness the energies that exist within you. 

If you feel that you like the idea of both Tarot and Oracle, then you can always work with both! For a deeper spiritual reading combine the two together. You can do this by drawing an Oracle Card at the beginning to understand the general theme of feeling before using Tarot Cards to gain a deeper insight. Or, you can use an Oracle Card at the end of a Tarot reading to give advice and recommendations, and bring together the messages of the Tarot into one overall idea. 

Tarot and Oracle cards in one spread

Me? It depends on the day, and what I want to get out of the reading. If I’m looking for an intention to start my day, then I will turn to my Oracle Deck to quickly pull a card, and then keep that image and message in mind, carrying with me during my daily business. When I want insight into a situation (such as what energies I can expect to experience in the next month, or how to navigate a difficult relationship) then I will use my Tarot Cards for a more in-depth reading.

As always, it comes back to intuition. Let your intuition guide you to find the best deck for you. You are the master of your own life - whatever you choose will be right for you.

I hope that this has helped clear up the confusing world of Tarot and Oracle cards. Now armed with this new knowledge, choose your deck and begin your spiritual journey - the magic is only just beginning.