Tarot & Oracle Cards: What’s the Difference?

Posted on December 11, 2019

Oracle cards by Sodini and Tarot cards by Astrology Answers.

Everyone loves the Tarot, and the age-old system that is cloaked in charm and mysticism certainly is popular for a reason. What about its magical other half, though — an Oracle deck? Let’s discuss the key differences between Tarot and Oracle, and decide whether or not you should invest in either system…or both, of course!

Let’s Talk Tarot

A Tarot deck is a 78-card deck that adheres to a specific format, one with which you are probably at least a little familiar! This lovely system consists of both the Major and Minor Arcana, and tells the story of various stages of human existence and life — whether that’s heartbreak in the Three of Swords card or new beginnings and healing in The Star card.

Traditionally, the Tarot includes 4 suits that make up the Minor Arcana — Wands, Pentacles, Cups, and Swords — but they do not always have to be presented this way. Sometimes, a Tarot deck might show the suits as Fire, Earth, Water, and Air, for example, to correspond to the elements of each suit.

However, no matter the artist or kind of Tarot deck, it’s unlikely that a Tarot deck would veer too far from the original system. The key is that the heart and symbolism of a Tarot deck might be demonstrated in slightly different ways, but its origin typically always shines through.

The structure of an Oracle deck can be hard to initially understand, and that’s because it doesn’t have to have one! An Oracle deck can have a uniting theme or no uniting theme, 10 cards or 60 cards, and is overall going to vary widely from deck to deck — and that’s the charm of it!

What about Oracle?

While the variability can make learning or getting a hold of the meaning of each Oracle card a little more difficult, some may find the versatility preferable to a system like Tarot that is much more finely structured. This is also isn’t to say that Oracle decks have no structure at all; an artist may choose to have a strong overarching theme, like the Moonology Oracle cards that focus on the moon cycles, or The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck which focuses on animals.

There isn’t necessarily so much of a “better” as there is simply a scale of personal preference. Learning Tarot allows you to more safely move from one Tarot deck to another because of the baseline level of similarity they will share, whereas an Oracle deck can be a new ballgame each time. However, both systems are equally powerful, enhance your intuition, and get clear messages across. That said, there can absolutely be different uses for each system.

While the technical uses for each kind of deck can still be a matter of preference, a Tarot deck is already built to describe, discuss, and show you different kinds of situations and emotions naturally in the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. For this reason, a Tarot reading is suited to show past, present, or future events, as well as the underlying feelings of anyone around you (including yourself).

So, Which is Better?

When Should You Use The Tarot?

Because this can encompass so many topics, themes, and situations, this is why many readers opt to use Tarot spreads in order to maintain focus on what’s important and hone in on the areas that are more essential. Choosing a spread is also a great starting point if you still find yourself feeling lost or overwhelmed by the amount of freedom within this system.
While this certainly differs from Oracle deck to Oracle deck, these decks tend to lean towards a more affirmative, kind voice. Oracle decks more often than not are suited to lend words of advice, affirmation, and reassurance, and can be the uplifting message that is needed during a reading. In other words: whereas Tarot can tend to be more objective and straightforward in its message, an Oracle deck tends to come from a sweeter angle.

When Should You Use Oracle?

In this way, Oracle and Tarot decks actually complement each other rather than clash, and can in fact both be used at the same time in a reading. Perhaps you opt to use a Tarot spread and then pull one or two Oracle cards for final words of advice or affirmation.
When choosing a deck, keep in mind that it’s not necessarily a mutually exclusive process — you may choose a Tarot deck at first and later pick up an Oracle deck at any time, or even at the same time! It is ultimately up to you to decide whether an individual deck speaks to you no matter its system or structure, and the journey of card reading will be rewarding no matter which avenue you take.

A Final Reminder

When choosing a deck, keep in mind that it’s not necessarily a mutually exclusive process — you may choose a Tarot deck at first and later pick up an Oracle deck at any time, or even at the same time! It is ultimately up to you to decide whether an individual deck speaks to you no matter its system or structure, and the journey of card reading will be rewarding no matter which avenue you take.

Related article: Are Moon Phases Impacting Your Tarot Readings?

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An honest Aries with a grounded Virgo Moon and Rising, Lexi Hikari picked up her first astrology book at age 12, and has loved the language of the stars ever since. She began her… Learn More About The Author »

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