The Difference Between Oracle Cards and Tarot Cards

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The Difference Between Oracle Cards and Tarot Cards

Divination, or the use of tools in the occult arts to connect with otherworldly knowledge, is most popularly identified in the use of oracle cards and tarot cards. If you were to glance over at a table where someone is offering a reading to another with the use of a card deck, it might be very difficult for you to tell the difference between oracle and tarot cards.

While it’s true that both types of cards are used very similarly on the surface, there are actually fundamental differences to each that play a huge role in how they can affect a reading and whether your situation would call for their use.

If you are seeking guidance from a psychic that uses divination, you’ll want to know exactly what the difference is between oracle cards and tarot cards before you make a decision about your reading. Let’s dive in!

The History of Using Cards for Divination

The use of card decks to glean insights beyond the immediate reach of knowledge is not a new practice at all. In fact, it is one of the oldest forms of divination that we know about in the history of psychic practices. Tarot cards, in fact, are so old that they originate from playing cards used as early as the 1300s.

In their earliest forms, they even still kept much of the structure and imagery that we identify today as playing cards, such as with the 4 sections (clubs, spades, diamonds, and hearts).

Oh and if you love deep, healing, and predictive, you’ll LOVE The Shankara Oracle.

But how did the use of these cards transition from gambling and play to fortune-telling? Humans have this incredible talent for recognizing patterns and getting in touch with our “gut” feelings. Attaching luck and superstition to the order and times in which certain cards turned up during play was not such a huge leap! Suddenly, people were pulling purpose and meaning from each card in the deck, and the original tarot card deck was born.

Over time, people began mixing the original playing cards with mythological and religious imagery, such as from the Catholic Church and Roman legends. In the 1900s, tarot cards became popularized again by the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, setting the stage and much of the standardized imagery and meanings that are still used today across the board in tarot cards. While the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is the standard, it didn’t stop various movements throughout the 90s, especially the Hippie movement and the New Age movement, from putting new spins on the tarot deck with different imagery and interpretations.

It wasn’t until after the tarot card deck had been the standard for hundreds of years that oracle cards came about. While oracle cards are a much younger form of divination, that doesn’t make them less powerful or helpful – just different!

The Structure of Tarot Cards vs. Oracle Cards

One of the biggest differences between tarot cards and oracle cards is that tarot cards have a set structure, or are at least much more standardized than oracle cards. Most decks consist of 78 cards. There are also decks you can get, though less popular, that have less. The 78 cards are broken down into 22 Major and 56 Minor Acana cards. Much like their origin – the playing card deck – tarot decks break down their Minor Acana cards into four suits and even keeps them numbered: Swords, Wands, Pentacles, and Cups. The meanings and imagery of each card also has stayed largely unchanged and standard across decks, meaning that someone practiced in reading tarot card decks can typically pick up any deck and read it well.

Even the use of tarot cards has a standard structure. Most often, tarot card readers will use the Celtic Cross practice, which is the set way one turns over and sets down the cards they draw in the sign of a cross on the table. This means that the reader does not only rely on the specific card they pull for meaning, but also on where the card is placed within the cross.

On the other hand, oracle cards have almost no structure, standard, set meaning, or even widely-accepted use. They also typically come in smaller decks and cover a wide range of themes. Anyone anywhere can create their own oracle cards, and it is often more of a personal spiritual journey to create or find oracle cards that speak to your own needs than picking up a tarot deck. While you can find a range of styles and themes for both, tarot cards will keep the same meanings for each set card, and oracle cards will have meanings and structures unique to that set.

For example, oracle cards can come in decks of any number with any structure. They may or may not use sections, suits, and numbers. More often, they’re a deck of cards with unique imagery on each card where the creator has decided how that specific deck should be interpreted. There is also no set way to pull the cards from the deck and read them!

The loose standards for the creation and use of these cards derive from their more recent origins in the free-flowing, individual-centric feelings of the modern ages. In fact, they came into play as tarot cards went out of style for a while before the 1900s and were made popular by a French fortune-teller, “Lenormand.” Like tarot cards, oracle cards can thank the Hippie and New Age movements for increasing popularity and continued use by diviners everywhere.

The Difference in Meanings Between Tarot and Oracle Cards

There is no easy way to explain for sure how oracle cards and tarot cards differ in meaning other than the fact that tarot card readers study a very specific set of interpretations and methods while oracle card users are not stuck in a system. Even if the themes of the tarot card decks you pick up are different — such as if you own a deck themed with nature and a deck themed with pop culture characters — you’ll ultimately be following the same structure and interpretation guidelines. If you choose to use oracle cards, you’ll follow the theme of the deck you’ve chosen and not any other exterior set of rules. You’ll typically receive a guidebook that helps you interpret that specific deck or oracle cards.

When it comes to interpretation, tarot cards can also be much more serious. They address all aspects of life as well as past, present, and future, and they will reveal all kinds of things whether they are negative, neutral, or positive. Oracle cards, on the other hand, tend to lean more toward positive and uplifting interpretations.

Oracle cards will also focus much more on “big picture” concepts than tarot cards. Tarot cards are much more intensive, with more cards and set interpretations, meaning that they can be used to get very specific and detailed readings. Oracle cards, on the other hand, are much more about capturing themes, feelings, and larger ideas that can guide the user towards a more general interpretation.

Should I Use Oracle Cards or Tarot Cards?

Which type of card deck — tarot or oracle — you choose will entirely depend on your goals. If you are looking for loose guidance that helps with self-growth and stays more positive, you might enjoy oracle cards much more. They’ll also take much less practice, time, and brain-power to learn and interpret. They’re great for beginners! Tarot cards will take time to learn and practice, and you’re much better off going to someone who understands them well for a reading. You’ll also want to make sure you’re open to hearing a much more in-depth and well-rounded reading from the cards.

There’s also no shame in using both! Many people choose to use oracle cards to open a session before diving into a more detailed reading with tarot cards. Oracle cards can help set the stage and provide a loose understanding of what the reading will be about, and then tarot cards can help further interpret.

What you choose to use for guidance on your journey is entirely up to you. I’ve even created my own deck, called The Personality Cards, which you can check out here!


You are a beautiful Living Being filled with light and love, born from stardust. You are unlimited potential in every direction. With a focus on discipline, virtue, and your own goodness, you can become as expanded and liberated as you desire.

Pray for others and the Universe prays for us.



There is no “Other.” There is only you experiencing yourself.


Meet Paul Wagner

Paul Wagner (Shri Krishna Kalesh) is an intuitive mystic, clairvoyant reader, and a loving life & business coach. He created “THE PERSONALITY CARDS,” a powerful Oracle-Tarot deck that’s helpful in life, love, and relationships.

He created The Shankara Oracle, a profound divination tool that includes 18 gemstones, a lavishly designed divination board, and over 300 penetrative oracle cards – all to help you heal to your core and illuminate your Being.

Paul studied with Lakota elders in the Pecos Wilderness, who nurtured his empathic abilities and taught him the sacred rituals. He has lived at ashrams with enlightened masters, including Amma, the Hugging Saint, for whom he’s delivered keynotes at Her worldwide events.

Paul tours the world lecturing on spiritual liberation. He lovingly offers intuitive readings, inspirational coaching, and illuminating courses to help others with self-discovery, decision-making, healing, and forgiveness. Book a session with Paul: HERE

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