What is the difference between Tarot and Oracle cards

This is a common question that many people ask when they’re starting out on an inner quest – Tarot Cards or Oracle Cards – which are better? How are they different? Let me try to break it down for you.

The difference between Tarot and Oracle cards

Both the Tarot and Oracle cards can be powerful tools for personal growth, inspiration and divination. So there is no major difference there. Where they really differ is in their structure.

No matter which Tarot deck you buy  or which system it follows, a Tarot deck always has 78 cards. These cards are always divided into 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards. The 22 Major Arcana cards always depict major events and turning points in our lives. The naming conventions may differ slightly from deck to deck, but the broad meanings are largely similar.

The rest of the 56 Minor Arcana cards are suit cards – wands, swords, cups and pentacles. These represent the daily ebb and flow of life. Each of these is related to one of the four elements and a particular trait.

Wands represent the Fire element, and is the suit of creativity, action and movement.

Cups represent the Water element, and is the suit of emotions and relationships.

Swords represent the Air element as is the suit of logic and the mind.

Pentacles represent the Earth element and is related to all things material.

The names of the suits can also change – for instance, some Tarot decks may call wands rods or staves; pentacles are also called coins or disks. But a change in the suit doesn’t change its meaning or Element.

So the Tarot is a very structured, ancient system of divination. It takes some time and effort to master, but once you understand the cards, you can pretty much read any Tarot deck without much of a problem.

Oracle cards, on the other hand, do not have a set structure or interpretation. There is no set number of cards or system that all of them follow. The style, tone, and content of the cards can vary depending on the author’s intent for the cards.

The Wisdom of the Oracle deck by Colette Baron-Reid, for example, blends elements of the I-Ching, Norse runes, traditional tarot and other ancient divination tools. The Sacred Rebel Oracle by Alana Fairchild was created for those who want to live unique, inspired lives…to help you celebrate and nurture your individuality, to honor your creative powers.

There are Rumi oracles; numerous Goddess, Angel and Fairy Oracles; Earth Magic and Elemental card decks; and Chakra and Color oracle cards. All of them come with guidebooks, and the level of detail can vary from one author and card deck to another.

Oracle cards are generally hard to read intuitively, so you will almost always have to turn to the guide book to interpret the spread. But they can be very insightful as well.

So, which one is better – the Tarot or Oracle cards?

Well, there is no clear answer here. The Tarot, given its structure and rich history, takes some time to master. But once you master it, you can easily read most Tarot cards – and there are a huge number of them available in the market! It took me quite some time to understand the cards and master them. But personally, I find that the Tarot offers much deeper insights, and my readings are more relevant and helpful.

The Oracle cards are excellent for those who are just starting on a journey of self-discovery and want to experiment a bit before investing the time and effort required to learn the Tarot. That’s how I started too! I have a few decks that I absolutely love – I still turn to them for monthly insights and a quick read on the week ahead – and some that I hardly ever look at. So I will say that is important to pick your deck wisely.

The best advice I can offer: If possible, take a look at the cards and handle them before you purchase them. That’s not always possible in India. So the best alternative is to read the description and the reviews, and look for the images online before you make up your mind on which deck to buy.

Want recommendations?

Here ya go!

For the Tarot, I suggest you pick up the Original Raider-Waite (RW) or the Universal Waite deck. They Original RW is the most commonly used and the symbology on them is excellent. I have both, but I use the Universal Waite deck.

For Oracle Cards, I really like the Wisdom of the Oracle deck and Wisdom of the Hidden Realms, both by  Colette Baron-Reid. I’m also in love with the Kuan Yin Oracle deck by Alana Fairchild – the cards are stunning, the messages are deep and juicy, and I love the healing and prayers associated with each card. If you’re in the market for an angel deck, Doreen Virtue is the queen of angels – Messages from your Angels is a very soothing and gentle deck, and may be perfect if you’re just starting out.

What else?

Head over to my Facebook page. I do a free Oracle reading there every Saturday.

Here’s how it works: On Saturday morning, I’ll post 3 cards {overturned, so you can’t see what the cards say}. Choose one or more cards that call to you. Come back on Sunday for the big reveal. Simple!

If you want something that is more in-depth and personalized, book a Tarot reading with me at the special introductory rate of INR 550. Just 2 days for that offer – so grab it quick!

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I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?


  1. I’ve heard of the Tarot card and learning about the Oracle cards for the first time. And it’s really interesting to know that you know how to read these cards! They always fascinate me in a way but haven’t really tried my hands on it!


  2. this was an interesting read. I haven’t heard of Oracle cards before… it’s nice to know about them. I hope I remember to turn up on your page this Saturday for some reading 😀

    • I’ve been reading cards since years! I just started reading Tarot professionally and plan to do the Oracle readings every Saturday for fun! 🙂

  3. This is an informative post! I find tarot reading very fascinating and would like to get it done sometime. Oracle cards is something new for me. Will check out your FB page this Saturday! 🙂

  4. This was a wonderfully lucid and succinct post. I myself used to read the Tarot ( only for myself) but found that I got too bogged down by every day life and didn’t have any clarity in my thinking any more.
    Does one need to have a particular mind set to be a successful tarot reader? Can this aspect be developed? Would love to know . Am also going to check in tomorrow for a reading.

    • Well, that’s an interesting question. Reading professionally and reading personally are slightly different – as a professional you can keep your distance and perspective intact. When you read for yourself, sometimes that perspective gets lost. I think a post on using the Tarot for personal guidance may be helpful!

  5. Very interesting and I certainly don’t know anything about how these cards can lead to self discovery. I will dig out more and find out. Thank you for sharing. These are things most of your readers would not know

  6. I ordered the Wisdom of the Oracle cards today and they should come tomorrow. I was very drawn to the cards as they’re beautiful. I can’t wait to learn as it’s my first deck!

    • Those are beautiful cards! I hope you enjoy them and that it’s the first of many wonderful oracle and/or Tarot decks!

  7. I like the idea of the elements,feels connected to the earth wisdom we all carry,As much as i admire the structure of tarot..I find myself seeking and feeling resonance with the oracle cards you have mentioned too.Maybe I find imagery of tarot a little scary after the movie”knight of cups”

    • Hmm…I haven’t seen this movie. Maybe I should! 😉 I find that I enjoy both. Sometimes I mix tarot and oracle within my spreads, and at other times I use only oracle cards too. The structure of tarot does seem to make it a bit easier to read than some oracle decks for sure!

  8. The Sacred Rebel Oracle by Alana Fairchild have always been my favorite.I deeply relate to the elements more then the tarot suits..Maybe someday I will look into tarot deeply.I love oracle decks by Colette Baron-Reid.I think the art is so appealing and wondrous.Just curious,what was your first ever oracle deck? and what was your first ever tarot deck?

    • I love Colette Baron-Reid’s decks too! My first tarot deck was the Raider-Waite Smith, which I hate! I got the Universal Raider-Waite soon after. That was my only deck for decades, because tarot/oracle decks were not easily available here in India. My first oracle deck was Messages from the Fairies by Doreen Virtue {hers used to be the only decks available in India at one point}, another deck that I did not and do not like!

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