Tarot vs Oracle Cards - What is the difference?

Tarot vs Oracle Cards - What is the difference?

Tarot and oracle cards and are two popular forms of spiritual guidance tools used for personal growth, insight, and self-discovery. Although both have similar purposes, they are different in a few key ways.

Here are the main differences between tarot and oracle decks:

Tarot Cards

Here are the key defining characteristics of tarot cards:

Tarot Is Ancient

While nobody exactly knows how old tarot is, its card form can be traced to at least several hundred years ago to the 1400s, but may be even older. Tarot has a rich history and a specific structure that has been used for hundreds of years.

Most tarot decks today are actually based off of a deck released in 1909 called the Rider Tarot Deck. This classic tarot deck has deeply symbolic archetypal images.

Takes Practice

Using tarot cards will take a bit of practice and training to understand their symbols and meanings. Thankfully, helpful guidebooks make the process easier, as well as an understanding of the basics of tarot. This will help you with interpreting the symbols and archetypes that the cards reveal. Eventually, you will end up making connections with your own meanings with the cards, especially as you connect with your inner wisdom more.

Major & Minor Arcana

A tarot deck consists of 78 cards divided into two sections, the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.

The Major Arcana cards, comprised of 22 cards, represent major life events or themes, such as the Wheel of Fortune, Death, and the Lovers. In all, they are symbolizing the major life lessons and choice points we have. These are the more critical messages in a tarot reading.

The 56 Minor Arcana cards represent the smaller everyday experiences, such as the Four of Swords or the Ten of Wands. These are the smaller messages that are conveyed to us by higher consciousness, although that doesn't make them insignificant. This simply reflects how our lives are many up of many more common experiences and a smaller amount of major ones.

They closely follow the more commonly known playing cards we are all familiar with, such as the Minor Arcana being comprised by four suits of 14 cards each:

  • Cups
  • Wands
  • Swords
  • Pentacles
Within the Minor Arcana are the following types of cards:
  • Aces
  • Page
  • Knight
  • Queen
  • King

Each one of the four suits corresponds with one of the four elements:

  • Wands - Fire - Action
  • Cups - Water - Emotions
  • Swords - Air - Logic & Thought
  • Pentacles - Earth - Material World

Unique Reading Method

Tarot readings often use a set spread or layout, such as the three-card spread, to interpret the cards. Here are the steps that are quite unique to tarot in terms of how it is usually done:

A question, topic, or thought is conjured and placed into the forefront of your mind.

You then shuffle them while thinking of the area in your life you'd like clarity on.

Next, intuitively pick three cards and place them in a row, going left to right. These symbolize the past, present, and future.

Reveal the cards one by one. going from going from left to right. Once you do, become aware of your reaction to the cards, meaning your emotions, what colors and symbols stand out to you, and so on. Keep doing this until you reveal all three cards.

Finally, identify what story the cards altogether tell you. This will help you connect the past, present, and future messaging that higher consciousness is revealing to you. You can go classic like the Rider Tarot or make use of novel perspectives of tarot decks like the Tarot of the Little Prince if you are looking for something a bit gentler in its messaging.

Once you're done with the reading, express your gratitude for the new insights and messages.

Oracle Cards

Here's what make oracle cards different from tarot cards:

Newer Method

Oracle cards are a much more recent form of using cards with symbolic imagery to glean insights beyond our conscious understanding.


Oracle decks, like the Nature's Whispers Oracle Cards, are also easier to get started with if you are new to these sorts of spiritual tools. In fact, as soon as you get a deck and reveal a set of cards, you can identify what the message is, while getting an expanded understanding of the message by reading the often-included guidebook (which all of the oracle card decks in our shop have).

More Freeform

While tarot decks have a specific number of cards split up into two different types and several specific kinds of suits, oracle decks have a more open and flexible structure.

Oracle decks can consist of any number of cards (usually between 22 and 88), with varying themes and designs, and do not have a set structure like the tarot.

These cards can either come in the classic rectangle card style or other formats, such as circles, squares, or even other shapes.

Various Themes

The themes of oracle cards can range from angels and fairies to chakras and sacred geometry. Oracle card readings also do not have a set spread, allowing for greater creativity and personal interpretation in the reading.

Intuitive & Personalized Interpretation

Another difference between tarot and oracle cards is their approach to interpretation. Tarot readings often have a set meaning for each card, based on tradition and established symbolism. Oracle card readings, however, encourage a more intuitive and personal approach to interpretation, relying on the reader's own connection with the cards to guide the reading.

Same Same, But Different

Both oracle and tarot cards can be used for receiving messages to questions we have from the higher Self and the Divine. Both sorts of decks include a range of symbols and imagery to help pique your psychic senses for that intuitive guidance you're after. To get insight and clarity about situations, tarot and oracle cards are both used in spiritual activities, divination, and coaching sessions.

These two different types of spiritual tools both reflect the present energy but can also identify the past and future possibilities. They will portray the reality of your circumstance and suggest potential courses of action.

Consider connecting with your Higher Self or a trusted mentor as you read the cards. There are no judgments, only potentialities and reflections - a mirror of energy and a chance to move forward by understanding yourself and a given situation.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, tarot and oracle cards both offer valuable insight and guidance for personal growth and self-discovery. While tarot cards have a structured and established approach, oracle cards offer more flexibility and personal interpretation.

Ultimately, the choice between selecting one of these two comes down to personal preference and what resonates with you. You may find that having a tarot deck as well as an oracle deck on-hand will provide you with a comprehensive spiritual toolset for gaining deeper understanding and vision you seek.

Check out our extensive collection of tarot and oracle decks. We're sure that we have one that speaks to you, and if we don't let us know and we'd be happy to add one that does to our collection.

About the Author

Paul Lenda is an author, writer, speaker, conscious evolution guide, decentralized & regenerative systems advisor, and ambassador for a new conscious paradigm. Paul's work has a strong focus on conscious evolution, reclaiming sovereignty, and the transformation into a supramentalized society. Learn more about Paul's work at Evolving Mandala.

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