Fortune telling and divinatory purposes; many consider that Tarot readings are related to astrology, the Kabbalah, and Pythagorean Numerology.
What is the Minor Arcana?
The Minor Arcana has the closest resemblance to our modern playing cards deck. It contains four suits that correspond to any game playing deck you may have around the house. These suits are Wands, the correspondent of Clubs, Cups, the equivalent of Hearts, the Pentacles, our modern-day Diamonds and the Swords, correspondent of Spades.
Understanding the Tarot means understanding its basic spiritual concepts. One of the most important is the knowledge of the Four Elements of Tarot – Earth, Water, Air, and Fire.
There are no quick and easy solutions. There are no shortcuts, and it is better to get comfortable grab the latest go-to and practice the principles of Tarot – apply its capabilities for personal self-growth and discovery.
- The Concept of Four Elements
The concept of four elements of our world is an ancient one. It has been used in many spiritual traditions (astrology, Feng shui, numerology, magic, esoteric, yoga, tantra), and Tarot’s 4 elements are no different from what you would find elsewhere.
- The Characteristics of Element Earth
The characteristics of the Earth Element are growth, healing, material gain, money, ownership, and economy. In concord with its name, Earth represents everything material. In astrology under the Earth’s influence, we find Taurus the Bull, Virgo the Virgin, and Capricorn the Goat signs. In the Tarot, Earth is represented through the Pentacles or Disks.
There are precisely ten cards within the minor arcana subset that bear the mark of Pentacle. If we exclude the aces, the remaining nine cards can be divided into three groups times three cards. Each group of three cards represents a person born in the horoscope signs of Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo, respectively. Here, while discussing the four elements, is the most obvious place where we see the Tarot-Astrology overlap.
- The Characteristics of Element Air
The characteristics of the Air Element are related to the area of intellect, reasoning, and a specific limit to the will. In astrology, we encounter the signs of Gemini the Twins, Libra the Scales, and Aquarius the Water Bearer.
In Tarot, the air is represented in the swords suit of Tarot cards, belonging to the minor arcana. As before, starting from 2 of Swords and up to the 10 of Swords, we walk through the nine decades of the three air signs of the horoscope.
- The Characteristics of Element Water
The characteristics of the Water Element are expressed through the Tarot cards of the Minor Arcana marked with Cups. Water means feelings, emotions, love, and everything related to the human astral body. Here we speak also of psychic abilities and intuition. In the horoscope, we find Cancer the Crab, Scorpio the Scorpion, and Pisces, the Fish.
- The Characteristics of Element Fire
The properties of the Fire Element are expressed through the Minor Arcana cards tagged with Wands. Fire means expansion, creativity, energy, and will. The horoscope signs related to fire are Aries the Ram, Leo the Lion, and Sagittarius, the Archer. Just as before, here we also get a clear overlap; for example, the Tarot cards 2 of Wands, 3 of Wands, and 4 of Wands correspond to the first three decades of Aries, and so on.
The Four Suites of The Minor Arcana
For each symbol: Pentacles, Cups, Swords, and Wands, we have 4 Court Cards: Knight, Queen, King, and Page. Although it might be confusing at first glance, each of the Four Elements contains within itself a fiery part, airy part, watery part, and solid part. The four Knights are always the fire part of each element. The four Queens are the watery part, the four Kings are the air part, and the four Pages are the earth part –
- Swords associated with Air
- Wands associated with Fire
- Cups associated with Water and
- Disks associated with Earth
It should also be noted that certain methods of performing Tarot readings consider cards to have a different meaning when they are Reversed.
- The Multiple Layers of the Court Card
Character traits are divided up into four primary groups – the elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. A Court Card can represent the key personality.
You – is the sense of how you are acting and behaving in the moment, which is likely to be a result of the situation. This may be very different from your basic personality.
The Court Card may be asking you to look at behavior and ask yourself whether you need to bring the energies of that card into your actions or whether you are, in fact displaying the negative aspects of that card, and you need to tone down your actions. As an example – a King of Swords card may be telling you that you need to be logical and analytic in your approach, mainly if you are an emotional person, or it can be telling you that you are too cut off from your feelings. Maybe you are too cynical, sarcastic, or inflexible.
Court cards will show other people around you, who are important in your life. These may be family or important friends or people you live or work with. The Court Cards will show both their essential nature and their behavior at the moment, mainly if the latter seems very out of character. Sometimes you see two Court Cards together, which look to represent one person, where one card is the personality, and the other is the current behavior.
If a Court Card represents a situation, this can mean that the situation calls for the character traits that you would typically find in a person. As an example, a King of Swords is a logical, analytical, clear-thinking, straightforward person with little emotion. It may be that a situation calls for the people involved to act in that manner to resolve it.
The meaning will depend on who is doing a reading and for whom and on the other cards around a Court Card. If you are using a Tarot card Spread that has positions, then the meaning of a Court Card will depend on whether it has appeared in a place that relates to people or a situation.
In most cases, a Reversed card simply has the opposite meaning of the standard Tarot definition. To some people, one of the most astonishing aspects of learning to read Tarot cards is the discrepancies in the many printed descriptions for each card. Because of their symbolic nature, Tarot cards are intended to be a tool and help the subconscious to communicate with the conscious mind.
A Short Description of the Suits
- The “Cups” predict the changes to emotional life.
- The “Swords” is another abstract symbol used to foresee mental challenges and sufferings.
- The “Pentacles” denotes money and other material goods.
- The “Wands” card represents some specific changes in our career.
Each card interpretation won’t have just a few lines in its description any longer, especially when any of us decides on getting in-depth answers. This time will be about Tarot Spreads and meanings, which could tell us more about how our lives are seen under the scope of divinatory power.
The Cups – First Suit of the Minor Arcana
The Cups Suit in the Rider Waite Smith deck of Tarot cards is made up of 14 cards. These consist of an Ace, which usually denotes the number ONE, a further nine cards which represent the numbers TWO to TEN and then four COURT CARDS. These are PAGE, KNIGHT, QUEEN, and KING.
All the Cup cards have a chalice type CUP in them.
The Cups symbolize matters to do with the emotions, hearts, memories, and feelings. They can also indicate new ideas and projects. They represent profound hopes and wishes – your real heart’s desires.
One of the most reliable keywords associated with The Cups is LOVE. The Cup cards can indicate when Love is present, and life seems fantastic and full of good feelings as well as when Love is absent, and everything seems a real challenge because the emotions are negative.
They can also highlight your deepest fears, which are often emotionally based. These can often be irrational and illogical. However, they are mighty and can override most logic.
Cup cards can indicate how someone is feeling about something or someone and also the feelings they are showing the world.
From The Cup Cards, you can see the whole range of human emotions, from the depths of despair to the height of happiness.
The Cups associated with the element of Water. Astrologically Water is related to the signs of Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio. In a Tarot Card reading, the traits themselves are more important than the Astrological sign.
- The Positive Side of Cups
On the positive side, the traits commonly associated with the element of water are:- loving, caring, giving, compassionate, healing, psychic, intuitive, dreams, nurturing, empathy, profound, artistic, deep feelings, imagination, creativity, gentle and peaceful.
- The Negative Side of Cups
On the negative side, some traits can be – moody, inconsistent, daydreaming with no action, crabby and nit-picky, struggle to express emotions, self-destruction, insecure, unfocused, self- critical, uncommunicative, deceitful, over-sentimental, living in the past and living in victim mode.
The position of The Cup Card in a Spread will usually indicate whether it refers to a person or a situation.
The Swords – Second Suit of the Minor Arcana
The Swords Suit in the Rider Waite Smith deck of Tarot cards is made up of 14 cards. These consist of an Ace, which usually denotes the number ONE, a further nine cards which represent the numbers TWO to TEN and then four COURT CARDS. These are PAGE, KNIGHT, QUEEN, and KING.
The Swords is about what’s going on in our heads and minds. It often represents the analytical, logical, reasoning part of us. It is the “head stuff” part of us.
The Swords usually specify our response to anxiety and how we cope with it. Where there are a lot of Sword cards present in a reading, there is likely to be a lot of personal, current or forthcoming challenges and this can be made worse by the negative thoughts that people are having about themselves or their situation.
In The Swords, we find the doubts and worries that people have. Some may be, every-day worries, and some may be deep-rooted fears and firmly held beliefs and convictions.
The Swords can also indicate the “might be” or “what if” fears, some of which may be valid and some of which may be unfounded. The Swords can appear very challenging because not only do they indicate the events of our lives, but they also represent our reactions to them.
Astrologically it represents the element of Air and the signs of Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius, although the character traits are more important than the actual sign.
- The Positive Side of Swords
On the positive side, people displaying Air tendencies can be great visionaries with fantastic ideas, and they can be amazing communicators. They are nippy, witted, and have sharp intellects. Some other qualities can be analytical, inventive, original, versatile, and curious. The element of Air can also be connected with space, computers, technical and scientific matters.
- The Negative Side of Swords
On the negative side, their heads can be full of ideas and minimal action. They may be fickle and whimsical and find it hard to complete things. They can be nit-picky and critical and can tie people up in knots with their words. They can be argumentative, lacking empathy, cynical, inflexible, and eccentric.
The Pentacles – Third Suit of the Minor Arcana
The Pentacles Suit in the Rider Waite Smith deck of Tarot cards is made up of 14 cards. These consist of an Ace, which usually denotes the number ONE, a further nine cards which represent the numbers TWO to TEN and then four COURT CARDS. These are PAGE, KNIGHT, QUEEN, and KING.
The Pentacles represent practical and material things in our lives, such as home, money, work, business, prosperity, studying, and developing skills.
Although all the cards show Pentacles, which are similar to coins, the energy of the cards does not necessarily involve money. They represent things that give a sense of material and physical well-being, which can also include the physical space and environment that you live or work in.
Pentacles represent the Element of Earth, which in Astrology points towards the signs of Capricorn, Virgo, and Taurus, although the character traits are more important than the astrological sign.
Earth type people are often rooted, grounded, practical people who can be very good at doing things with their hands. They usually have a strong connection with nature and the earth. A Female Pentacle person will often create a welcoming home or safe sanctuary for animals or other creatures.
- The Positive Side of Pentacles
On the positive side, the type of qualities that spring to mind for an AIR type person are salt-of-the-earth, dependable, reliable, honest, trustworthy, straight-forward, organized, systematic, completes the job, know the value of money, enjoy the good and in particular good food, steady, secure, goal-oriented, determined, pragmatic, persevering, unflappable common-sense, no-nonsense approach, and providers.
- The Negative Side of Pentacles
On the negative side, you can find indications of being stuck, being a plodder, unable and unwilling to make a change, unexciting, tedious, rigid, inflexible, placing excessive value on material things, pedantic, over-cautious, fault-finding, unimaginative, pessimistic and a worrier.
The Pentacles are about tangible, practical, reality based events. They signify “DOING” and “ACTION.”
When the Pentacles represent situations rather than people, there is a need for well-thought-out, well planned, meticulous actions. The energy is that of taking one step at a time and a methodical approach will bring the best results. The success might not be immediate, but it will come in time.
As with all the Tarot cards, the Pentacle cards will be influenced by the other cards around them. This will indicate whether the cards refer to a person or a situation and also whether the energy of the Pentacles is flowing well or is blocked.
The Wand – Fourth Suit of the Minor Arcana
The Wands Suit in Tarot reading is associated with energy and creativity.
It is an act based suit of cards and interprets business or work. The cards in the suit of want are about compelling imaginative ideas and turning them into actuality.
As you can see in the pictorial representation, all the Wands cards in the deck of Tarot cards are shown as wooden poles with little green leaves propagating out of them. It represents the beginning of a new life or a phase even though the surrounding situation may look a bit grim.
The Wands can also have erotic meanings. Now look carefully at the Wands cards, you will notice, they are decidedly phallic-shaped. This is mainly visible in the Ace of Wands and the Page of Wands.
You might have noticed that sexual energy is one of the important driving force in The Wands.
In context to the Author Napoleon Hill, in his classic book ‘Think and Grow Rich’, sexual energy, when accurately directed, can be a huge power-house of the artistic drive.
As per astrology, The Wands are associated with the element Fire – representing, making things happen. Fire is associated with Aries, Sagittarius, and Leo.
It mainly symbolises external appearance, self-esteem, and ego of a character as it is associated with Fire.
- The Positive Side of Wands
The positive side of Wands mainly focuses on the energy, passion, vision, enthusiasm, creativity, leading power, loyalty, courageous, adventurous, self-starter, initiative, disposition, cheerful, optimistic, happy, hardworking, action-oriented, persuasive, making things happen, outgoing and expectations.
- The Negative Side of Wands
The negative side mainly focuses on blind optimism, rash, fiery temper, diplomatic, aggressive, ego, impulsiveness, drama king or queen, lack of proper planning, prone to exaggeration, a slave driver, riding roughshod, inability to listen, lack of attention, boredom attitude, explosive, intolerant and unable to delegate.
Take Your Time
We can never really say for certain that the divine messages or interpretations from the cards are set in stone; from my very limited experience, I try to embrace the possibilities depicted by the cards but at the same time remain slightly objective. I’m sure that with more practice and or exposure to Readings I can better interpret the outcomes of the cards.
Once you understand the general principles, it does get easier – break your study down into bite-sized chunks and tackle a piece at a time. Above all have fun.