The Four Suits of the Minor Arcana

If you would like to see clearer images of each card, please take a look at this Wikipedia article.

The Minor Arcana make up the majority of a typical tarot deck. There are 56 cards, divided into four suits: wands, cups, swords, and pentacles. Each suit goes from ace to 10, and then has four court cards. These are Page, Knight, Queen, and King. If you take out one court card from each suit, you can use the Minor Arcana as a deck of playing cards. 

It may seem overwhelming to learn the meanings of each of these cards, but I’m going to try to categorise them to make it easier. Each suit has a meaning, and each number, ace to 10, page, knight, queen and king has a meaning. You can combine these to greatly reduce the memorisation needed. This will make more sense later, so please don’t worry if you’re confused just now. Also remember that the Minor Arcana tend to represent more mundane matters than the Major Arcana.

Here’s what we’ll do. Today we will talk about what each suit represents. In the next lesson, we will go over the meanings of each ace. Then the next lesson, each two and so on. Then once we have learned from ace to 10, we will explore the court cards of each suit starting with the page, knight, queen and king of wands. That means that including this lesson, there will be 15 posts about the Minor Arcana. I think that will be less overwhelming than you having to read 56 separate blog posts.

So, wands, cups, swords, pentacles, what’s that all about? Well, each one represents one of the four classical elements, fire, water, air, and earth. 

Wands: The Suit of Wands represents the element of fire. It’s the essence of life, that fiery energy that motivates you. It’s a creative spark, confident and determined. Think of willpower and movement when you see a wands card. It can be impulsive and hard to control. 

Cups: The Suit of Cups represents the element of water. Think emotions, love, and relationships. Think of harmony and healing. It’s adaptable, but it can be a bit fantastical and vague. Overflowing emotions can be disruptive and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Sometimes called ‘chalices’.

Swords: The Suit of Swords represents the element of air. Air is all about intelligence and rationality. It’s skeptical and powerful, cutting through illusion. This suit has some of the most painful cards in the whole tarot deck. This suit represents pain, anger, and conflict. 

Pentacles: The Suit of Pentacles represents the element of earth. It’s often associated with work and money. Earth is all about the physical world: think of a tree with its roots deep in the ground, stable and nurtured. This suit is often associated with prosperity and working with your hands. It can be a bit materialistic. Sometimes called ‘coins’.

The tarot is all about balance, and this is clear when you put the qualities of all four elements together. Too much or too little of any of these concepts is unhealthy, and by exploring how those ideas play out in each card can help you to make decisions in your own life. 

As a fun addition, I’m reminded of ikigai. It’s this idea that what you should do in life is an intersection of four things, what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at:

 

Source

I see what you love as being similar to the ideas in the wands suit, what the world needs as similar to the cups suit, what you can be paid for as the pentacles suit, and what you are good at as the swords suit. Using this framework, it is clear how important it is to balance all these ideas to live a happy and fulfilling life. Do you think you’ve found your ikigai? 

I hope you’ll join me next time when I talk about the ace cards in each suit. 

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