tarot vs oracle cards
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Tarot Cards vs Oracle Cards: What’s the Difference?

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Hey friend! Whether you’re a seasoned spiritualist or a curious newbie, you’ve probably heard of tarot cards and oracle cards. For centuries, people have utilized these magical decks to divine the future, gain insights into their inner selves, and connect with the celestial realms.

But with so many different types of cards out there, how do you know which one to choose?

That’s where I come in! As a card enthusiast, I’m here to break down the differences between tarot cards and oracle cards and assist you in determining which one suits you best.

Whether you’re looking to unlock your intuition, gain clarity on a particular situation, or simply indulge in some spiritual self-care, I’ve got you covered.  Let’s go!

The classic rider-waite tarot deck
The Classic Rider-Waite Tarot Deck

Tarot Cards

Alright, let’s start with the OG of divination decks: tarot cards. Tarot decks have been around since at least the 15th century, and have a rich history of use in occult practices, esoteric studies, and personal reflection.

The classic tarot deck consists of 78 cards, divided into two main categories: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.

The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, each representing a different archetype or stage in life’s journey.

The Minor Arcana is divided into four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles), each with 14 cards representing various aspects of daily life.

Intricate and symbolic illustrations adorn the cards, often featuring figures from mythology, spirituality, or daily life.

While tarot cards are often associated with divination and fortune-telling, they can also be used for introspection, meditation, and creative inspiration (which is how I prefer to use them).

So if you’re looking for a deck that’s steeped in tradition, packed with symbolism, and endlessly fascinating, tarot cards might be the perfect fit for you!

How tarot cards are used for divination and self-reflection

When it comes to using tarot cards for divination, there are a few different approaches. Some readers use specific spreads (or layouts) of cards to answer particular questions, while others draw individual cards and interpret them based on their symbolism and intuition.

tarot vs oracle cards spread example

Regardless of the approach, the key to tarot reading is interpretation. Each card in the deck holds unique symbolism and meaning, and the reader can interpret it in various ways depending on the context and their intuition.

A skilled reader will use their intuition, knowledge of the cards, and understanding of the querent’s (the person asking the question) situation to provide meaningful insights and guidance.

But tarot cards aren’t just for divination – they can also be used for self-reflection, personal growth, and creative inspiration. Many people (including me) use tarot cards as a way to explore their inner worlds and gain insights into their emotions, motivations, and values.

By drawing cards and reflecting on their meanings, tarot readers can gain new perspectives on old problems, identify patterns in their behavior and relationships, and uncover hidden strengths and opportunities for growth.

Tarot cards can also be used as a tool for creative inspiration. Many artists, writers, and musicians use tarot decks as a way to tap into their intuition and spark new ideas. By drawing cards at random and using their imagery as a starting point, creatives can generate fresh perspectives, themes, and characters for their work.

Overall, whether you’re seeking answers to life’s big questions, looking to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your place in the world, or simply want to get in touch with your creative side, tarot cards can be an incredibly powerful tool for growth and transformation.

With practice and an open mind, anyone can learn to read tarot cards and unlock their potential for insight and inspiration.

Pros and cons of using tarot cards

Like any tool, tarot cards have their pros and cons when it comes to divination and self-reflection. Here are a few of the most common advantages and disadvantages:

Pros:

  • Tarot cards can provide meaningful insights and guidance on life’s big questions
  • They can help us gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationships
  • Tarot readings can be empowering, giving us a sense of agency and control over our lives
  • They can be a fun and creative way to explore our intuition and creativity
  • They can be used in conjunction with other practices, like meditation and journaling, to enhance personal growth and self-awareness.

Cons:

  • Tarot readings can sometimes be overly reliant on intuition and interpretation, rather than concrete facts and evidence
  • Some people may find tarot readings to be overly vague or difficult to interpret
  • There is the potential for readers to project their own biases and beliefs onto the cards, rather than providing objective insights
  • Tarot readings can be emotionally intense or triggering, especially if they touch on sensitive topics or past traumas
  • Some people may view tarot cards as superstition or magic, which could be a turn-off for those who prefer more rational or scientific approaches.

Overall, whether tarot cards are a good fit for you will depend on your individual preferences and beliefs. If you’re open to the idea of using tarot cards as a tool for personal growth and self-reflection, they can be a powerful and transformative practice. But if you prefer more concrete or evidence-based approaches, tarot cards might not be the best fit for you.

Ultimately, the choice is yours!

Oracle Cards

Okay, now let’s talk about oracle cards!  Oracle cards are similar to tarot cards in that they are used for divination and self-reflection, but there are some key differences between the two.

Oracle decks are typically more focused on specific themes or messages, and they often feature simpler imagery and symbolism than tarot cards.

tarot vs oracle cards: oracle cards can have more text on the card than tarot.
Work Your Light Oracle Cards

The origins of oracle cards are less clear than those of tarot cards, but they are thought to have developed in various cultures and spiritual traditions over time. One of the earliest known oracle decks is the Lenormand Oracle, which originated in 19th-century France. 

Lenormand Oracle cards

Structure and components of an oracle deck

Unlike tarot cards, which typically have a standard 78 cards divided into two main categories (the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana) for every type of deck, oracle cards can vary widely in terms of structure and components. Some oracle decks have as few as 36 cards, while others may have 100 or more.

Deck creators craft each card in an oracle deck to convey a specific message or theme, often using simple imagery and keywords. Some popular oracle card themes include angels, animals, chakras, affirmations, and goddesses, among others.

When it comes to using oracle cards, there are a few different approaches. Some readers draw a single card each day as a way to focus their intentions and gain insights into their day ahead, while others use more elaborate spreads to answer specific questions or explore particular themes.

Overall, oracle cards offer a more focused and specific approach to divination and self-reflection than tarot cards.

They’re an excellent tool, particularly for individuals seeking more focused insights and guidance, especially those drawn to specific themes or spiritual traditions.

How oracle cards are used for divination and self-reflection

Like tarot cards, oracle cards are often used for divination and self-reflection. However, because they are typically more focused on specific themes or messages, they can be especially useful for gaining insights into specific areas of our lives.

Some common ways to use oracle cards include:

  • Drawing a single card each day to set an intention or gain insights into the day ahead (a personal favorite of mine!)
  • Using a specific spread to explore a particular theme or question, like you would a tarot card spread
  • Adding oracle cards into a meditation or mindfulness practice to deepen self-awareness and intuition
  • Using oracle cards as a tool for creative inspiration, such as drawing a card to inspire a piece of writing or art.

When using oracle cards, it’s important to approach them with an open and curious mindset. Every card is crafted to convey a distinct message or theme. However, it’s the reader’s role to interpret that message in a manner that aligns with their own experiences and intuition.

Overall, oracle cards can be a powerful tool for gaining insights, guidance, and inspiration in our lives. Whether you’re looking for a daily dose of wisdom or a deeper exploration of a particular theme or question, oracle cards offer a flexible and accessible approach to divination and self-reflection.

Pros and cons of using oracle cards

Just like tarot, there are both benefits and drawbacks to using oracle cards for divination and self-reflection. 

Pros:

  • Oracle cards are often more accessible and less intimidating than tarot cards, making them a great option for beginners or those who are new to divination.
  • Themed as they usually are, oracle decks prove particularly useful for individuals drawn to specific spiritual traditions or content, such as angels or goddesses.
  • Oracle cards can be a great tool for creative inspiration, providing prompts and ideas for writing, art, and other forms of self-expression.
  • You can use them in various settings, ranging from formal readings to daily check-ins and moments of mindfulness.

Cons:

  • Because oracle cards are often more focused on specific themes or messages, they may not offer the same depth or complexity as tarot cards.
  • Some critics argue that relying on oracle cards for guidance can be overly simplistic or even dangerous, as it may lead us to rely on external sources rather than our own intuition and inner wisdom.
  • It’s important to approach oracle cards with an open and curious mindset, as relying too heavily on their literal meanings may lead to a sense of dependence or disempowerment.
  • As with any form of divination, there is always the potential for misinterpretation or misreading, which can lead to confusion or even harm.

Overall, whether or not to use oracle cards for divination and self-reflection is a personal choice. Like any tool, they have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to each individual to decide whether they resonate with the messages and themes they offer.

As with any spiritual practice, it’s important to approach oracle cards with a sense of openness, curiosity, and healthy skepticism.

Tarot Cards vs Oracle Cards

Both tarot and oracle cards can contribute to personal growth, but they exhibit some key differences. Let’s lay out the major differences between them.

Structure and components:

☀Tarot cards typically have a standard structure, with 78 cards divided into two main groups: the Major Arcana (22 cards) and the Minor Arcana (56 cards).

☀The Minor Arcana divides into four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles), each containing 14 cards (10 numbered cards and 4 court cards).

🦄Oracle decks, on the other hand, may have a wide variety of structures and components, with anywhere from a few dozen to over a hundred cards in a deck.

🦄While some oracle decks may have suits or categories of cards, others may be more free-form and focus on a particular theme or message.

Symbolism and interpretation:

☀Tarot cards are known for their rich symbolism and archetypal imagery, which can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the reader’s knowledge and intuition.

☀Because tarot cards have a set structure and symbolism, they can be especially useful for gaining insights into complex situations or exploring the deeper layers of our psyche.

🦄Oracle cards, on the other hand, tend to be more focused on specific themes or messages and may have more straightforward or literal interpretations.

🦄While some oracle decks may have rich symbolism and imagery, others may rely more on language or text to convey their message.

Ultimately, the choice between tarot and oracle cards comes down to personal preference and the type of guidance or insights you are looking for. Tarot cards offer a structured and complex approach to divination, while oracle cards offer more flexibility and simplicity.

Tarot Cards vs Oracle Card: Types of Questions You Can Ask

One of the key differences between tarot cards vs oracle cards is the types of questions they are best suited to answer. While both types of decks can be used to gain insights into a wide range of situations, they each have their own strengths and limitations.

Tarot cards are particularly well-suited for:

  • Questions that require a more structured or complex answer, like questions about relationships, career paths, or personal growth.
  • Situations where multiple factors or influences are at play, and where a more nuanced understanding is needed to make sense of them.
  • Deep introspection and exploration of the psyche, like shadow work or spiritual development.

via GIPHY

Oracle cards, on the other hand, are particularly well-suited for:

  • Questions that require a more straightforward answer, like yes/no questions or questions about specific situations or decisions.
  • In situations where there is a need for a simple but powerful message or affirmation to guide and inspire.
  • Providing daily guidance and inspiration, oracle decks often feature uplifting and empowering messages that you can incorporate into your daily routines or meditation practices.
  • Affirmations that you can add to your daily mindset practice or manifestation rituals.

These are, of course, just general guidelines, and there is overlap in the types of questions that tarot and oracle cards can answer.

Unique Strengths and Weaknesses of Tarot Cards vs Oracle Cards

While both tarot and oracle cards can be powerful tools, each type of deck has its unique strengths and weaknesses.

One of the biggest strengths of tarot cards is their depth and complexity. Tarot decks typically feature 78 cards, each with intricate symbolism and meaning. This allows for a wide range of interpretations and insights, making tarot particularly well-suited for more complex or multifaceted questions.

However, this depth can also be a weakness. The sheer number of cards and symbols can be overwhelming, and it can take time and practice to develop a deep understanding of their meanings and how they interact with each other.

In contrast, one of the biggest strengths of oracle cards is their simplicity and accessibility. Oracle decks often feature fewer cards than tarot decks, with each card focusing on a specific message or theme. This makes them particularly well-suited for quick, direct guidance or inspiration.

However, this simplicity can also be a weakness. The messages and themes of oracle cards can be more limited or one-dimensional, and they may not be as well-suited for more complex or nuanced questions.

Ultimately, both tarot and oracle cards have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of which type of deck to use will depend on your personal preferences, the situation at hand, and the type of guidance or insight you are seeking.

Tarot Cards vs Oracle Cards: Which Should You Choose?

So, now that we’ve talked about the differences and unique strengths of tarot and oracle cards, how do you decide which one to use? Here are some tips:

⭐Your personal preferences: Do you prefer a more structured and complex approach to divination or a simpler and more direct one? Are you drawn to the symbolism and imagery of tarot, or the themes of oracle cards?

The types of questions you want to ask: Are you looking for deeper insights into complex situations, or more direct guidance and inspiration? Do you want to explore your inner psyche and spiritual development, or focus on practical decisions and actions?

Your level of experience: If you’re new to divination, oracle cards may be a good starting point, as they are often easier to learn and interpret than tarot cards. However, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to study and practice, tarot cards can offer a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the situation at hand.

Your budget: Tarot decks can be more expensive than oracle decks, as they often feature more cards and elaborate artwork. However, there are also plenty of affordable tarot decks available, as well as free resources online to help you learn and practice.  Biddy tarot is a fantastic free online resource for learning tarot card meanings.

The choice of which type of deck to use is a personal one, and there is no right or wrong answer. 

You probably already know what I’m going to suggest: I use both!  I love oracle cards for a daily card pull to set the tone for my day, and for deciding which affirmations will help my mindset with a specific goal.  But tarot cards are what I turn to when I need to tap into my intuition about any situation I’m facing.

The most important thing is to choose a deck that resonates with you and allows you to connect with your intuition and inner wisdom.

Tips for choosing the right deck

With so many different tarot and oracle decks available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for you. Here are some tips to help you make the best decision:

✨Research different decks: Take some time to browse through different decks and read reviews or descriptions online. Look for decks that resonate with you on a visual and emotional level.  You can search for the deck names on YouTube and there will most likely be someone showing a flip-through of the entire deck so you can see if the imagery resonates with you.

Think about your level of experience: If you are new to divination and self-reflection, you might want to start with a more straightforward deck.  Especially with tarot, keep an eye out for decks that don’t have imagery in the minor arcana (called pip decks).  These decks just have numbered cards, like playing cards, for the minor arcana, which makes it incredibly difficult to use your intuition when there aren’t any images to go off of.

An example of the 5 of cups tarot card from a traditional deck and a pip deck.

Think about your style and preferences: Do you prefer decks with bright colors and playful imagery, or more traditional and serious designs? Do specific themes or motifs, such as animals or angels, attract you?

Consider the size and format of the cards: Some decks come in larger or smaller sizes, and some have different shapes or orientations (some decks are even round!). Think about what size and format feel comfortable for you to hold and shuffle, and what will fit easily into your bag or purse if you plan to take your deck on the go.  Some oracle decks can get pretty big!

Look for a guidebook or companion material: Many tarot and oracle decks come with guidebooks or other companion materials that provide additional information and insights into the meanings and symbolism of the cards. If you’re new to the practice, having this extra support could be helpful for you.

Your intended use for the deck: Are you planning to use your tarot or oracle deck primarily for personal self-reflection, or are you looking to use it for professional readings or counseling? Some decks may be more suited to one purpose than the other, so consider your intended use when selecting a deck.

Choose a deck that speaks to you: The most important factor in choosing a deck is how it makes you feel. Choose a deck that resonates with you on a deep level, and that you feel drawn to intuitively.


Whew! Well, that’s it! We’ve explored the similarities and differences between tarot cards vs oracle cards, and hopefully, I’ve given you some helpful tips for choosing the right deck for your spiritual practice.

In summary, tarot cards, steeped in rich history and symbolism, are typically employed for more complex, in-depth readings. On the other hand, oracle cards, more modern and versatile, find use in a wide range of purposes and questions.

When it comes to choosing the right deck for you, it’s important to consider factors like your goals and preferences, the size and format of the cards, and the availability of extra resource material.

But ultimately, the most important thing is to trust your intuition and choose a deck that resonates with you.

So whether you choose to work with tarot, oracle cards, or both, remember that the most important thing is to approach your practice with an open heart and mind, and to allow your intuition and inner wisdom to guide you on your journey.

Happy card-slinging!

If you’re new to tarot and oracle cards, check out my guide for beginners here!

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