Oracle Cards Vs. Tarot Cards – What’s the Difference Between Oracle Cards & Tarot Cards?!

Updated: May 3, 2022

What’s the difference between tarot cards and Oracle Cards? I get asked this question all the time!

When I was 17 years old I got my very first personal Oracle in the form of a tarot deck. It was the Rider Waite Tarot and it changed my life forever. 

Then shortly after I was introduced to other divination systems, like Norse Runes, the I-Ching, and others that lit me up like a candle! Little did I know then that teaching about divination tools and Oracles as a means of self-understanding and communicating with the Divine would become the main focus of my work. Curiosity led to transformation and now here we are. 

Over the years, (even before I began my now 35-year-long career working as an intuitive and Oracle creator), I used the tarot daily and collected tarot decks. At one point I had 62 decks! As you can imagine, I got to know how to work with the tarot intimately. I taught workshops on working with the tarot, then eventually went on to create a different form of Oracle – these are called Oracle Cards.

In recent years, Tarot Cards and Oracle Cards have become more and more popular as people are looking for ways to form a direct relationship with their higher power. Personally, Oracle Cards are one of my favorite tools for getting guidance from Spirit and staying aligned on the path of my highest good. 

There are both differences and similarities in Oracle Cards and Tarot Cards, so how do you know which one is best for your needs and desires? Let’s explore!

So what is the difference between Oracle Cards & Tarot Cards?

The question of what sets these two types of cards apart stems from the fact that they do have some similarities! So let’s talk first about what they have in common…

  1. The Tarot is an Oracle in the form of a card deck.   
  2. Oracle Cards are an oracle too (form implied) 

What is an Oracle?

Outside an Oracle being a person who receives and delivers wise guidance (like me, or like the ancient priestesses in the Greek temple of Delphi), an Oracle is a tool used in divination. 

It is an intermediary tool that is created to facilitate Divine or Higher Guidance that uses symbols to form a language through which this communication is possible. An Oracle works through synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence when a person uses it. 

An Oracle can be a card deck, a set of runes on wood chips or stones, sticks or coins like the I-Ching, etc… It always works on a specific symbolic system that allows the information to be accessed about whatever subject the person using them seeks to know. 

Okay… now that we know Oracle Cards and Tarot Cards are both Oracles and their purpose is similar, let’s explore their differences. 

The Tarot

The tarot is a fixed system. That means it has a strong tradition and is meant to have a specific reliable structure. 

In order to call a card deck a Tarot Deck, it must have 78 cards that will always be split into 22 major arcana cards, and 56 minor cards.

When you pick up a deck that says “ tarot” you can expect that deck to have that specific structure. The meanings of each card should be similar in every tarot deck with slight variations based on the psychology and spin that the author and artist provide. 

The tarot’s history is rich and long as it was first designed in 15th century Italy (that we know for sure) although much lore surrounds the tarot’s possible relationship to Egyptian mystery traditions, the Kabbalah, and others. 

The bottom line is the Tarot has been around for a few hundred years, and we associate specific traditional spreads with it too, like the 7 card Horseshoe Spread, the 10 card Celtic Cross and the 21 card spread, which I used in my work as an intuitive. 

Even the traditional imagery of tarot and its card meanings still shows its medieval roots as it was created in that specific time to reflect society at that time although there remains a universality about it regardless.  

When I created The Good Tarot, I designed it to be used by traditionalists and modern spiritual seekers, and innovators alike. 

If you know how to work with traditional tarot, you can use my Good Tarot deck the same way. If you want to work with it as I have created it – you will see in the guidebook affirmations and a positive modern psychological twist to the way you’d read them. As if you were moving through the experience of the cards that reflect your life rather than seeing the cards as fixed in their subjects. You can find out more about my Good Tarot deck or purchase your copy in my store… 

Modern Tarot creators take some liberties to shift the focus onto our contemporary lives. 

Oracle Cards

Now, Oracle Cards are different from tarot because they are fluid systems.

What does that mean? It means every Oracle deck will differ from the other. It’s up to the author to create the vocabulary and system the Oracle card deck operates on. It’s called a Lexicon. All the parts of the Oracle need to work together to have an Oracle that works as a true divination system. 

Each Oracle Card deck is its own little universe and is generally distinct from the others by its art, author, and themes. I can only speak for myself, but my decks are all based on a system I created, inspired, and derived from the ancient ones and each one is unique

Oracle Cards are fairly new forms of divination. Oracle Cards began to be popular in the early 1900s in Europe with the advent of the Lenormand Oracle (which I’m not going to get into here), then gained popularity again in the 1970’s onward. 

Today you will see unique and interesting Oracle Cards that reflect our current culture.

The way Oracle card decks are created and for what purpose varies:

  • Some Oracles are meant to be pulled with only one card a day. 
  • Others are true divination systems with which you can do Oracle card readings for yourself and others
  • Some are reflective cards for emotional wisdom.
  • Others are affirmations. 

There are many different versions, and these days, there are so many to choose from! 

If you want to learn more about Oracle Cards, check out my blog post called, What are Oracle Cards?, where I talk in more detail about how Oracle Cards have impacted my life and how you might use them on your spiritual path. 

Oracle card decks are independent of the others, although I love to use more than one for a second opinion or different take on a subject. And, all my Oracle card decks were created to work together like a mystical council of wise beings that can connect you to your Highest Good and deepest wisdom. It’s probably why so many people collect my decks.

If you’re curious about dipping your toes into the world of Oracle Cards, or going deeper on your Oracle Card journey with a new deck, I created an Ultimate Guide to my Oracle Cards, where I introduce my favorite decks, why I created them, and what they’re best used for. 

Choosing an Oracle Card Deck

When choosing a deck, a few good pointers are:

  1. Do you vibe with the author?
  2. Do you feel your values align with the authors?
  3. What level of expertise and background does the author have?

That said, there are great decks out there by first-timers too, so keep an open mind and follow your heart. You will find the one that works for you- tarot or Oracle card deck, or maybe both!

One of the things I love about working with this form of divination is that Oracle Cards can offer really practical guidance on your spiritual path. In fact, I teach people how to do Oracle Spreads for all kinds of topics, including spreads for love and relationships, and so much more! 

If you’re just starting out on your spiritual journey, Oracle Cards are a perfect place to start. You might also enjoy checking out this guide to getting started on your spiritual journey. 

I hope this brief comparison helps you to distinguish between tarot cards vs Oracle cards and gives you an idea of how you might begin exploring whichever one speaks to you. I will tell you, I love them all.

My current passion is creating Oracle Cards and I am blessed to have a fantastic publisher at Hay House Inc. who gives me the opportunity to make them and an amazing artist that works with me on every deck. I am also blessed to feel prolific when it comes to creating and channeling oracle card decks for specifically divination purposes.

I love the tarot too, especially because they were the first tool I learned.

And neither is better or worse – they are just different.

No matter which Oracle Card deck or tarot deck you find that resonates with you, remember that they are a tool to help you connect to a chatty Universe. And, as I always say, when you open your connection to the Universe anything is possible! 

If you’re feeling curious and excited about Oracle Cards and how you can use them on your spiritual journey, save your spot for my FREE Online Masterclass: “How to Use Oracle Cards in 3 Simple Steps: Discover How to Confidently Read Oracle Cards and Completely Trust Your Intuition.” It will be streaming on Wednesday, May 11th, 2022 at 12pm ET and 4pm ET! Click here to save your spot now!

Showing 38 comments
  • Jennifer
    Reply

    Thank you! Really great blog. I personally get the most depth from my Rider-Waite tarot deck. I do love oracle cards, though, and find they offer perspective and opportunities for reflection. The tarot decks do indeed have a structure, but for me, they are less constricting than oracle cards due to the richness of the imagery. I use the tarot when I want more detail, and oracle cards for more of an overarching guidance or perspective. I feel I can only go so far with the oracle cards, and I’m more likely to read an oracle card similarly each time I draw it; whereas, with the tarot, the meaning of any card (only speaking of my own interpretations) is more likely to be less rigid and more intuitive. I think that probably has more to do with how the tarot resonates with me and I’m drawn to it more than other divination tools. As you said, it really just depends on what deck a person is drawn to, and that will vary from person to person. Speaking of decks a person is drawn to, are we ever going to get to see you working more with the Mystical Shaman deck? 😉 I love getting to see the new Spirit Animal deck, but I so love the Mystical Shaman deck.

  • Mary
    Reply

    Exactly what I was looking for today 😄😄😄

  • Lori
    Reply

    Colette I absolutely love your deck the Good Tarot it is always spot for me I use it along with oracle cards and it works wonderfully!!!!!!

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Whatever it is that one needs to inspire, comfort and teach in a gentle non condescending way, you’ve got it. I really like your way of generously explaining certain concepts and helping one see the tools you offer as opportunities to connect with spirit and guides. Its refreshing and exciting to learn.
    🙂

  • Kathryn
    Reply

    I started with the Tarot deck & mainly used my intuition looking at the cards. However it didn’t really move me. Years later I took a course & used that person’s cards. Again there was something that didn’t really resonate within me although I was getting good results from readings I gave. Again I didn’t stick with it. Maybe I am ready now & have found the right teacher for me. Colette I love the WOTO cards & the way you teach. I’ve been with you since April & joined Oracle School & am loving it! As I take in the essence of it all I feel I am quietly releasing all sorts of “stucks” I didn’t even realize I had. This is amazing! Thank you!

  • Olfa Diazz
    Reply

    Colette,
    I feel that oracle is more about receiving wisdom , guidance and the connection with the universe. I am in the learning process. Looking forward for more wisdom and knowledge.

    • Jennifer
      Reply

      💜💜💜

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Thank you! I really appreciate your time to explain the difference between tarot and oracle.

  • Olfa Diaz
    Reply

    Colette,
    Thank you for the explanation between oracle and tarot.

  • Inga
    Reply

    Hello Colette,
    I just love all of your decks, I have all of the ones available in Germany and use them also in combination. “The good Tarot” however is a different cut in German and I wonder if there is a reason for it? I love the feel of the cards with the round edges (corners) instead of the very pointy version of the german ones. I own both and when I quit my last job, I started to let all of my favorite customers pick one card (of the german ones, for them to keep) and they just loved it. Now everyone got the card they needed and they have something to remember me.
    Thank you for all your wonderful cards and inspiring videos,
    Light and Love to you and your Family
    Inga

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      hi INga I don’t know why they do that in different countries! Use the English cards with the German guidebook!

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Dear Colette,

    You are a wonderful conduit, and gift, from the Divine. Always teaching, helping those of us who are ‘beginners’ feel our way to our Source. Thank you for this wonderful blog, for those of the past, and I am sure, those of the future.

  • Sharon
    Reply

    Your artist is AMAZING!! You two make an awesome team – I am loving the new Spirit Animal deck….might have to get it! Currently diving deep in The Wisdom of the Oracle cards. There is so much depth in them. Thank you Colette!

  • Sherry R Hash
    Reply

    Colette, I stumbled onto you by accident and I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe everything happens for a reason…rather it is to learn a lesson or teach a lesson. I have always felt there was something more then the eye could see because my intuition is extremely high. I hug people and it’s like traveling through time. I distinctively know when I’m with a good soul verse a not so good soul and I’ve been that way ever since I can remember, I also have very vivid dreams. I have been doing chakra and reiki for some time now and I was just so drawn to you when I came across your readings on YouTube. I am an animal lover and they all just seem to come to me and befriend me earlier, I also hear chatter and my name beging called when no one is there. So I was immediately drawn to your animal spirit Oracle cards and absolutely love them. I will be joining your class next September and can not wait. Thank you for all you do and thank you for accepting us for who and what we are. All souls trying to live in a universe that only wants our higher good.

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      very happy to have you!! keep following me and check out all the free stuff, also we will be launching a membership site in January!

  • Sherry Sine
    Reply

    I own all your decks and use them all the time. Thank you for your description of the difference between the Oracle and Tarot.
    Love ya 💕

  • Gyan Tomasic
    Reply

    Hi Colette, the cards drawn for this reading were so on point and incisive and pertinent to the prevailing weather conditions with me. I am aware of infinite possibilities, and the double edged sword of lack consciousness undermining the potential. And Skunk Spirit had me reeling, saying “Awww” with recognition, and all this a nice invitation to remedy the energy by getting into alignment, and being at home in my own skin. Wombat Spirit reminded me of No Place Like Home, and both reinforced the call to action this week. Thank you so much. These cards and your readings are magical.

  • Thais
    Reply

    Colette, thank you for the explanation. I love reading your blog and the weekly forecast.
    My first divination tool was a Tarot Deck – the Mythic Tarot (by Liz Greene and Juliet Sharman-Burke). I have always loved Greek Mythology since I was a child. Then I got The Wisdom of Avalon Oracle Cards and I got to know more about you. Now I also use the Enchanted Map Oracle Cards. I love them both!
    As a matter of fact, it’s been a while since I last used the Mythic Tarot.
    Anyway, your oracle cards are amazing, Colette!

  • Jennifer
    Reply

    Colette, did I imagine that I heard you say recently (maybe on your radio show) that you were working with someone on a new show? I am currently rewatching Messages From Spirit (it’s no less amazing the second time around!), and I would love to know if another show is in the works. I hope so! Thanks.

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      yes you did but its not me doing mediumship – I am writing a scripted series 😉

      • Anonymous
        Reply

        Well, anything you are involved in is bound to be great, so please keep us updated about this new project!

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      I would have loved to do that one again.. but alas

  • Esme
    Reply

    Please Colette! I LOVE your decks,I’ve got “oráculo de la sabiduría”.I ‘m from Spain.
    A good idea would be translate your decks to spanish versión. Animal Spirit Oracle for example. Thanks!!

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      they are being translated! the last 3 oracle decks have been sold in spanish!

  • Elena
    Reply

    Hi Colette,
    I collect oracles cards many years now. I’ve had cards that were quite reliable as oracles and others that would offer insights about my soul evolution but strangely I felt truly connected for the first time only with the ‘wisdom of the house of night’ cards. I see that you never mention them. Why?

    Elena

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      they were created as an oracle for PC Cast’s fans for her vampire book series The House of Night and so they were specific to the characters in the books and the symbology as well. Happy you love them though!

      • Elena
        Reply

        Thank you for your answer.

        This is so weird. I’ve never read any of her books…

        Elena

  • Jena
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing! I started with oracle cards and then I got your tarot deck (The Good Tarot) as my first one. I am still learning about the symbols and meanings, but it is a good challenge. I, too, find it easier to use the oracle cards sometimes. Beautiful job with this blog post and video. It was so informative and just, well…beautiful. Thanks!

  • Sage
    Reply

    I have The Good Tarot deck and LOVE it! After Kyle Gray suggested learning Tarot and Oracle, (In the webinar series) I got my Rider Tarot deck out and quickly remembered why I hate Tarot. It is confusing, and the guide book is next to useless for me! Is there a book about Tarot that could help? Have you considered doing a more standard Tarot deck with a better guide book? Your guide books are always the best!!

    Just thought I’d throw that question out there even though I’m exceptionally happy with oracle decks.

    Thank you for doing what you do! So joyful!

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Oh wow, I know this is an older blog post but your simple concise explanation is really great for beginners like me.
    thank you, I’m going to follow you and hopefully learn much.
    Bec

  • Rebecca Clarke
    Reply

    Oh wow, thank you so much for such a concise simple explanation.
    just perfect for a beginner like me.
    I’m going to follow you and hopefully learn lots.
    many thanks
    Bec

  • Rianne
    Reply

    Hello Colette,

    A great post about Tarot versus Oracle decks!!!
    On my journey through the card worlds I also started with the classical Raider White deck. To begin with I used these to develop my intuition. I found a few books that supported my longing to learn intuitively. I began to study the cards , one by one and made notes. Also to try to visualize the cards.
    These being the Major Arcana cards then later started to learn all kinds of ways to read the cups, pentacles, swords and wands.

    Later I worked closely with a group of others and a mentor offering Tarot Card readings through an online platform. where I once again was reminded of the multi colored facets of card readings.

    For me Tarot is more a psychological deck than Oracle cards.
    Oracle cards give a wider perspective since I feel these are more used to scry, to look into or perhaps from within. I see the oracle decks as mirrors, offering me insights on various levels.
    It all depends on the deck, the question asked, the theme will appear by itself. Personally i love to do the scrying with the oracle cards since often an oracle card will have one word only. Some decks offer more than others though an oracle deck can also support the tarot.
    I feel when one asks with pure intentions, an answer will arrive, sometimes later through signs, conversations or something I read after having pulled a card. My journey and journaling remain endless paths of insights which I am thankful for!!!

    with best regards
    Rianne

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      this is such a wonderful share regarding your journey, Rianne! and I’m so grateful you shared this with us! do you have a go-to Oracle Card deck? do you find yourself looking at the artworks for meanings rather than referring to the guide books?

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