Oracle Cards vs Tarot Cards: Important Differences

mediumship psychic Dec 16, 2022
an oracle deck being used in psychic intuitive practice and psychic medium reading


Exploring Tarot and Oracle cards is a great way to connect and develop your intuition and psychic practice. As a professional psychic medium, I work with both types of decks in my practice and clients often ask what’s the difference between the two. Both are great tools for divination and self-discovery, so let's look at the key differences between Oracle and Tarot cards.



What exactly are Oracle cards and why use them?

Oracle cards are a divination tool that can help to open intuitive awareness and build a connection to yourself. Oracle cards tend to be free flowing and vary in their messaging and artistic design. There are many different types of cards available; some feature simple imagery or words and others may be complex in design and feature stunning original artistic work. There are no set number of cards in an Oracle deck and some come with detailed guidebooks and some do not. Oracle cards have become increasingly popular and widely available in recent years. Adding an Oracle deck to your morning routine or intuitive development practice can help foster a close connection to your intuitive senses. 



What exactly are Tarot cards and why use them? 

The Tarot typically has 78 cards that begin with the major arcana and the minor arcana The Major Arcana are 22 cards that begin with The Fool and follow his journey as he meets and collides with every facet of human existence from The Magician, Death, The Tower, and finally, The World. Within the Minor Arcana cards contain 16 Tarot Court Cards representing that are typically face cards and these represent 16 different characters that may be expressed. The Minor Arcana includes forty cards that follow in suites of swords (air), pentacles (earth), wands (fire), and cups (water). These numbered cards with 10 cards in each suit, represent situations that you may encounter in daily life rather than major turning points that the major arcana tend to represent. Learning the meanings of each card takes time and practice, however in learning you develop a valuable tool for divination and self-discovery. Once you enter a regular practice, don't forget it's crucial to regularly cleanse your tarot deck.



Are Oracle cards and Tarot cards the same?

Oracle cards and Tarot differ in lots of ways with the main difference being that Tarot cards follow a specific structure and typically contain 78 cards. Oracle cards have no set structure to them and can vary in the amount of cards each deck contains. With Tarot, once you learn the meanings of the major and minor arcana and the suits you’ll be able to interpret and recognize most any tarot deck. Oracle cards tend to be more straightforward and some even have the meanings written on the front of the cards. Oracle cards will vary completely from deck to deck, sometimes they will have a theme, sometimes not.

Both Oracle and Tarot cards can have the same purpose and intention for divination and to get clarity around a situation. Both types of cards can be worked with intuitively and both tend to have a variety of symbols and imagery to help stimulate your psychic senses. Both tarot and oracle cards are used in spiritual practices, divination or coaching sessions to gain clarity and insight around situations.

Both Tarot and Oracle cards act as a mirror of the current energy. They will reflect the truth of your situation and point out possible ways forward. Think of reading the cards as a conversation with a trusted mentor or your higher self. There is no judgment or “negative” or “positive” messages. There is only the reflection of energy and an opportunity to find a way forward through self-knowledge and an understanding of circumstances.



Should beginners start with Oracle or Tarot cards? 

Oracle cards are more free-flowing and may be easier for beginners to understand. Unlike Tarot there are no meanings and suits to memorize. This is not to say that Oracle decks are only for beginners. Many professional readers use Oracle cards in readings and they are great for self-development, positive affirmations and beginning or enhancing an intuitive practice. Oracle cards often have rich imagery and are available in many varieties so it may be easier to find a deck that resonates with you.

I recommend Oracle decks for anyone who has any fears around Tarot decks and is looking for gentle imagery. In my professional practice, I find that Oracle cards will often point to the overall themes that a client is working through in their life. It is common practice from professional readers to add Oracle cards into a tarot reading session but this depends on the individual reader. 


Affiliate link disclosure: I recieve a tiny commission for purchases made through links in this post. 


Key Differences Between Oracle and Tarot Cards


1. Tarot cards have a set structure and Oracle cards are more free flowing.


Every Tarot deck is going to have a predictable structure and a set of suites as referenced in the section above. Oracle cards can vary in the amount, theme, and imagery. Tarot will have familiar symbolism between decks. Most decks are based off of the Rider Waite Deck which follow the archetypal images created by Pamela Colman Smith in 1909 under the direction of Arthur Edward Waite. Oracle cards are free flowing in imagery, color, symbolism, theme and messaging. There are no rules or prescribed structure when it comes to Oracle cards.


2. Tarot is part of an ancient tradition of divination and Oracle cards are more modern. 


While the origins of the Tarot are unknown, it’s believed to have been around since ancient times and linked to ancient Greece, the Kabbalah, and Romany people. Tarot cards are a powerful tool of divination and many readers feel them to be an extension of their energy. Oracle cards are a more modern divination practice. They also tend to be more mainstream with therapists and coaching using them regularly. While people don’t necessarily attach spiritual beliefs to Oracle cards, they can be used by spiritual practitioners and many people love to use Oracle cards in combination with tarot, astrology, or psychic readings.


3. Tarot takes time to learn and develop and Oracle cards are more beginner-friendly.

Learning the traditional meanings of Tarot will add a magical reference system to your intuitive work. In the beginning, you will use the guidebook to understand and interpret the symbolism and archetypes. Once you memorize the meanings and start to practice regularly, you’ll see that the cards may take on different meanings and you’ll have your own interpretations of them. As you learn, pay attention to your intuitive interpretations as these will help you interpret the messages as well. Many Oracle cards can be easily understood as soon as you pick up a deck. Each deck is different, so you’ll want to choose one with imagery or a theme that resonates with you.



Using Tarot and Oracle Cards Together 

Many professional readers and Tarot enthusiasts use Oracle cards and Tarot cards together. Some feel that Oracle cards add a deeper meaning to a Tarot spread and vice versa. There is no right or wrong way to use the cards together as long as you are comfortable with both decks you're using. It’s good to experiment with different Tarot spreads and methods to see what works best for you.

I like to keep several decks on my desk and during an intuitive reading I may feel drawn towards a certain deck that feels best for that person. I have also seen readers pull an Oracle card at the end of a reading to give a deeper understanding and validation of the messages that were shared or at the beginning of a reading to set the tone going forward.



How to Get Started with Tarot Decks


Choose a deck that speaks to you.

There are superstitions that you need to be given a tarot deck to begin and this is untrue. Buy your own deck and take your time getting to know it. Build a relationship with your tarot deck and allow it to guide you slowly. 


Let your intuition guide you as well as the traditional meanings.

By simply wondering what each card means, you will invite your intuition to provide context by communicating to your intuitive senses. This may happen through images in your imagination, feeling, sensing or knowing meanings, or even hearing words in your mind. There is so much symbolism and meaning in a tarot deck, as you draw the cards in answer to questions or queries the universe will always take the opportunity to respond and provide you with the answers you seek, then it’s up to your intuitive senses to take over. 



Recommended Tarot Cards for Beginners:


Wild Unknown Tarot

The imagery is beautiful and highly resonant of nature and the elements. These come with a comprehensive guide book that will appeal to beginners. The court cards are family style instead of King, Queen etc. they are referred to as father, mother, son, daughter which can be helpful in helping to establish and understand these archetypes. 


The Fountain Tarot 

I use this deck in my everyday practice, the artwork is stunning and the archetypes are diverse. The Fountain Tarot is a bold re-envisioning of the classic tarot deck, bringing the traditional archetypes and symbology of tarot into a contemporary context.

The Rider Tarot Deck

The deck that many other are based off of: Rider-Waite Tarot has set the standard for hundreds of other tarot decks, which follow the archetypal images created by Pamela Colman Smith in 1909under the direction of Arthur Edward Waite. 


Accurate AF Tarot

A beautiful deck of circular cards with surrealist artwork. The cards have key descriptive words on them to prompt the reader.



How to Get Started With Oracle Decks


Use the cards for intention setting.

Oracle cards tend to be uplifting and inspiring. Place a card that represents your intention on your desk, altar, or someplace you can see it each day. When I was finishing writing my book, I put a card that said “little by little” on my altar to remind me to stay consistent and patient with the process. I love placing cards that represent the elements earth, water, fire, and air that I want to call in or embody. You may choose cards to call in more love, abundance, joy, or connect to intuition. 


Start a daily practice.

Writing intentions and journaling can be a powerful tool in creating your reality. Pull 1-3 cards daily and journal your impressions. Take a few deep breaths as you tune into your intuition. Let yourself be free in your writing as your words become an extension of your energy. This is a wonderful way to receive messages and connect to your inner guidance.



Recommended Oracle Cards for Beginners:


Sacred Symbols Oracle Deck 

One of my all time favorites for its simple imigary, I purchased these for some of my family members this year. Marcella Kroll created this 50-card deck that represents a clear path to both personal and universal understanding.


Faceted Garden Oracle

These cards are enchantingly beautiful and deeply rooted in exploration of the spirit. The messaging in the guidebook is gentle, yet specific. 


Soul Space Oracle

These cards are beautiful and I almost always have one on my altar or around my home. There is no guidebook and the single word messages mixed with rich watercolor imagery encourages a deeper intuitive exploration. 



Is one type of card better than the other?


The only person who can determine if Oracle cards or Tarot cards are a better fit for you is you! There is a myth that you need to be gifted your first Tarot deck and this is absolutely not true. I encourage you to pursue whichever cards are most interesting to you. If you feel excited and motivated to learn Tarot, that is a sign that you may be reading to find a deck that suits you and start learning. With Oracle cards, you might want to practice with a few different decks to get a feel for the varieties that are out there. This way, you can choose a certain deck to pull cards from based on your mood that day.

What about Angel cards?


Angel cards have become popular in recent years and are actually a version of Oracle cards. I think of them as angel-themed Oracle cards. Many people who study and resonate with angels may be drawn to the messages and imagery of these cards. This could be particularly helpful if you're studying angels and want to get more familiar with different ones. I have also heard people who feel connected with angels say that the messages they receive feel personal to them. As with any divination tool, choose what resonates for you.



Going Forward

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Sheryl Wagner - Author

Welcome, I’m so glad you are here. I’m Sheryl, a psychic medium, teacher, and author of the book Uncovering Intuition. I love writing about my experiences with the Spirit World and the magic of synchronicity. Learn more about how you can work with me.

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