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What is the difference between tarot and oracle cards?

Historically the Tarot has ancient roots while Oracle Decks (angels, fairies, guides, fractal, etc.) are the new kids on the block.
However, they are structured quite differently. The tarot follows it’s own set of rules laid out by original masters of days gone by, while the artists of oracle cards are free to do whatever they want.

Here’s the comparison:


  • The tarot structure is predictable. If you learn the Rider-Waite, then you will most likely be able to read any other tarot deck.
  • Tarot always has 78 cards (except Osho Zen – he added himself)
  • Major Arcana = 22 cards relating to major events and life pivoting events
  • Minor Arcana = 56 cards Page, Knight, Queen, and King (Ace through 10 are known as the Pip Cards, the Page, Knight, Queen and King as the Court Cards)
  • The Tarot is divided into suits; Wands, Swords, Cups (Chalice) and Pentacles (Coins)
  • The modern deck of playing cards is a descendant of the Tarot; Hearts are cups Pentacles are diamonds, Wands are clubs and Swords are spades. The Joker and the Fool are nowhere and everywhere and the Court Cards that remain are the King, Queen, and Jack.

Oracle Cards

  • Oracle decks are structured independently and each follows it’s own set of rules
  • They may have any number of cards usually between 36 and 64.
  • Rarely have suits, although they are often numbered for guidebook reference.
  • Some have a bit of a tarot theme while others do not.
  • Some have the meaning of the card printed on them.
  • Novices refer to guidebooks for information and in many cases; it is acceptable for professional readers as well.

Is one better than the other?

No – they are just different. It’s the deck you love that will work the best for you.

Oracle Cards tend to be easier to learn, while Tarot takes a level of practice and mastery to become proficient and offers an expanse of detail at a depth that most Oracle Cards can’t reach.

Oracle Decks are more free-flowing and open to many levels of interpretation that the strict rules of the Tarot don’t allow.

Nowadays it is common practice for professional readers to add an Oracle spread to their Tarot sessions to validate or amplify messages received.

The underlying similarity is that when working with the cards, one must have some level of psychic ability. Nope. Not true. You don’t have to be ‘psychic’ to read Oracle Cards.