The Difference between Tarot and Oracle Cards

Some people look at divination cards and think they are all the same. Isn’t any deck of cards used for divination considered a Tarot deck? It’s all very confusing. Here is a quick rundown on the differences between tarot, oracle, and Angel cards.


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Tarot has a specific structure of 78 cards, with the 22 Major Arcana and the 56 Minor Arcana cards, split into 4 suits (traditionally Pentacles [Coins], Swords, Wands, and Cups). Each of the 4 suits have cards 1 (Ace) to 10, and then their respective court cards, consisting of Pages (or Princesses), Knights (or Knaves), Queens, and Kings.

Under that structure lies the freedom of the artist. Depending on the theme of the deck or the artist’s intentions, specific cards can be renamed or switched, the elemental correspondences can be switched (some decks match Swords with Fire and Wands with Air, for example), or the suits are even named or depicted differently (I have seem some artists change Cups to Hearts etc).

Even if a tarot deck breaks the mould, if it follows the structure I listed above, I still consider it a tarot deck.


An oracle deck, I have found, leads to more questions than answers. It can include as many or as few cards as the artist/author intends, and has its own structure. For example, Fortune Oracle: 36 Gilded Cards, by Sharina Star which has 36 cards to The Healing Spirits Oracle: A 48-Card Deck. The Heart of the Faerie Oracle has 68 cards, with names like The Dreaming, The Queen of Bedlam, and The Temptation. While there is structure to an Oracle deck, it is a decidedly more forgiving one than tarot. You are also likely to cling to a Companion book for interpretation of the artist’s imagery and symbolism, which may not make sense if you were to just take the deck and dive right in.

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I don’t know a lot about Angel decks because I’ve never used one. The most famous of which is Doreen Virtue’s angel decks. For example, the Archangel deck features 45 cards. These cards feature a different angel on each and a message of advice, hope, or comfort. To be honest, I find Angel cards to be a bit too New Age soft for me (yes, even as a professional psychic), but to each their own. If it works for you, go for it!

Join in the discussion: Do you read with tarot cards? A different oracle deck? What are the differences between these decks? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.

One thought on “What are Tarot and Oracle Cards

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