4 Big Differences Between Tarot Cards & Oracle Cards

The two are not one in the same.

oracle Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock

If you are versed in divination and tarot cards, you may have heard about "oracle cards." Even if you aren't in any Tarot-related groups, you have certainly heard the term oracle cards being used in various contexts.

But you probably don't realize that there are some key differences between oracle cards and tarot cards.

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What is the difference between oracle cards vs. tarot cards?

1. Oracle cards are not structured the same way as tarot cards are.

Tarot decks are comprised of 78 cards and have a specific story-telling structure. Tarot cards also have a common theme, even though there are many decks with various designs.

But the rules, the themes, and the structures are the same. Tarot cards also provide you with several messages in each card.

Tarot offers you an opportunity to dig deep into your intuition to get answers. Oracle cards don’t do that.

Oracle cards are good for answering broader and more basic questions that don’t involve having to dig deep within your intuition, whereas tarot cards do.


There is also a variety in type of oracle cards, such as angel cards, spirit animal cards, and Lenormand cards. Some oracle cards come in decks of 40 cards or 36 cards, as the Lenormand deck does, depending on which type.

Tarot decks have 22 cards in the Major Arcana, which represent life events and situations. There are 56 cards in the Minor Arcana, representing more mundane events that affect us on a smaller scale.

There are four suits in the Minor Arcana that represent the elements, including wands (fire), pentacles (earth), cups (water), and swords (air). Oracle cards do not offer that at all, since there is no theme or story-telling structure. There is no division of any type in oracle decks.

2. Tarot cards are not black and white like oracle cards.

Oracle cards either have positive, neutral, or negative significance, like you see in the Lenormand deck. Tarot cards are not labeled that way.


Even cards that are seemingly negative — like The Tower, The Devil, and 10 of Swords — can represent positive issues that come out of challenges.

The Mountain in the Lenormand deck, for instance, is negative, and represents delays and obstacles. There are no positive sides to this card.

If this particular card comes in a spread, even alongside positive cards, such as the Fish, which represents money, this means that money will come, but it will not come right away and it will be a struggle to get it. There is no other way to dig deeper within that with the Lenormand deck.

However, tarot cards offer you a variety of messages, as well as way to find solutions around an obstacle.


Finally, with tarot cards, you have the option to read "reversals." A reversal, or a tarot card in reverse, is when that card shows up in a reading upside-down. With oracle cards, there are no reversal readings. Therefore, you can see the major differences between oracle cards and tarot cards.

3. Tarot dates back to the 15th century, while oracle cards are more modern.

Oracle cards and tarot cards have origins that are separated by about 400 years!

While it is true that the exact origin of Tarot is unknown, they have been used since at least the mid-15th century throughout Europe.

According to Tim Husband, Curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "The earliest references to Tarot all date to the 1440s and 1450s and fall within the quadrilateral defined by the northern cities of Venice, Milan, Florence, and Urbino. Because of the complicated nature of the game by that point, it is likely that it had begun evolving earlier in the century."


Oracle cards, on the other hand, are more modern divination practice.

Oracle cards date back to 19th century France, and are thought to be developed by Marie Anne Lenormand, a fortune-teller and cartomancer who was said to have given divine advice to leaders of the French Revolution, as well as other famous leaders of the time.

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4. Oracle cards are more beginner-friendly than tarot cards.

Learning how to read tarot cards is a tricky practice that can take time to master.

Most tarot decks come with an entire guidebook to help you figure out the individual meaning of each card, as well as interpretations of the symbolism and archetypes. Of course, once you memorize those meanings and start practicing regularly, the interpretations come more easily.


Oracle cards are pretty easy to understand once you pick up a deck. Each card in the deck comes with its own meaning, but ultimately, there are really no rules, unlike in Tarot.

Can you use oracle cards and tarot cards together?

You can use oracle cards and tarot cards together, but it depends on the type of readings you do and what you feel is right.

Sometimes, readers use both tarot cards and oracle cards. Some prefer to read one over the other. But again, it really all depends on your preference. Why not try testing them both out to determine what is fitting for you? Only you will know in the end.

Some examples include an Oracle Wisdom Spread.


Wisdom Spread

The Oracle Wisdom Spread uses five tarot cards and one oracle card. In the spread, the oracle card is the overall message that binds the tarot cards together. It's like the theme of the reading.

  • First card: Past, events that came before
  • Second card: Present, where you are now
  • Third card: Bridge, what led to your current state
  • Fourth card: Future, what is possible
  • Fifth card: Block, hat is blocking you from what is possible
  • Oracle: Universal guidance

The first five cards you will draw are from the tarot deck.

The first card represents your past, what you have been through, the struggles you have overcome, and the strength you gained from them.

The second card you draw represents where you are presently, what you are currently going through, and how it is affecting you now.


The third card is the obstacle or event that has brought you into the state you are now. It's what is making you feel the way you do currently.

The fourth card represents your future, what potential options are on your life path, and what may happen on your journey through life.

The fifth card from the tarot deck represents an obstacle — specifically, the obstacle that is blocking your path down your journey in life, and what is stopping you from fulfilling your potential.

The last card is drawn from an oracle deck. This card represents what the universe is guiding you toward and sets the overall theme behind the rest of the tarot cards.

7-Card Spread

Another popular spread that mixes oracle cards and tarot cards is a simple one found on TikTok that consists of 7 cards.




There is no particular way to lay the spread out; all you do is pull them from a shuffled deck. This means you can use tarot cards for the first six draws, and then add an oracle card for the seventh one.

Again, the oracle card is used as the overall theme for the tarot reading.


The first card represents what you are going through.

The second card represents your relationship status.

The third card is about your self-esteem.

The fourth card describes how your heart is feeling.

The fifth card represents what you have been speaking about out loud.

The sixth card represents what your higher self has to say.

The seventh and final card, the oracle card, symbolizes what the universe has to say.

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Miriam Slozberg is a clairvoyant tarot reader, author and freelance writer. She specializes in astrology, tarot, and past life readings.