Tarot card meanings – Complete Guide

Tarot card meanings explained - as above, so below

 

The purpose of this page is to provide a comprehensive guide to understanding Tarot card meanings. This Tarot guide will be completely free of charge and available to all. I am not hiding anything in a book or paid webinar. It is all going to be available on this website, free for everyone to use at their convenience.

My goal is for you to under Tarot card meanings at their deepest, symbol level so that your intuition has a solid foundation for your own Tarot practice.

Without symbolism, your intuition is empty. Without intuition, symbolism is blind.

What is the Tarot?

“THE TAROT is a pack of seventy‐eight cards. There are four suits, as in modern playing  cards, which are derived from it. But the Court cards number four instead of three. In addition, there are twenty‐two cards called “Trumps”, each of which is a symbolic picture with a title itself. At first sight one would suppose this arrangement to be arbitrary, but it is not. It is  necessitated, as will appear later, by the structure of the universe, and in particular of the Solar System, as symbolized by the Holy Qabalah. This will be explained in due course.” (Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth)

“The Tarot is a pictorial representation of the Forces of Nature as conceived by the Ancients according to a conventional symbolism.” Aleister Crowley, on the Ordo Templi Orientis card that comes with the Thoth Tarot deck

“[The Tarot] is, in truth, a monumental and extraordinary work, strong and simple as the architecture of the pyramids, and consequently enduring like those – a book which is a summary of all sciences, which can resolve all problems by its infinite combinations, which speaks by evoking thought, it is an inspirer and moderator of all possible conceptions, and the masterpiece perhaps of the human mind.” Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic, London, 1958, 3

“[T]he Tarot, viewed philosophically, is a teaching device intended to assist in the subjective journey of consciousness from one objective center of energy to another.” (Robert Wang, The Qabalistic Tarot, p. 46)

Structure of the Tarot

78 cards total

22 Trumps or Major Arcana (Major Secrets)

56 pips or Minor Arcana (Lessor Secrets), which breaks down to:

  • Ten cards of each suit: Wands (Fire), Cups (Water), Swords (Air), Pentacles (Earth)
  • 16 Court cards, four of each suit
    • Page
    • Knight
    • Queen
    • King

How to Learn the Tarot Card Meanings

“THE TAROT is a pack of seventy‐eight cards. There are four suits, as in modern playing cards, which are derived from it. But the Court cards number four instead of three. In addition, there are twenty‐two cards called “Trumps”, each of which is a symbolic picture with a title itself. At first sight one would suppose this arrangement to be arbitrary, but it is not. It is necessitated, as will appear later, by the structure of the universe, and in particular of the Solar System, as symbolized by the Holy Qabalah. This will be explained in due course.” (Crowley, The Book of Thoth)

Similar to famed Tarot teacher Rachel Pollack, my approach to the Tarot is “structural.” By understanding the essential symbolic structure of the Tarot and how it relates to other Symbolic Systems such as astrology or Qabalah, one can begin to understand the deeper meaning of each Tarot card and how they relate to the entire Fool’s Journey.

Theoretical Approaches to Tarot Card Meanings

Deleuzian Metaphysics and the Tarot

Astrology

Classical Theory of Elements

Qabalah

Gender and the Tarot

Tarot Spreads

Tarotpaganism

Tarot Card Meanings [In Progress]

The Major Arcana

0 – The Fool
1 – The Magician
2 – The High Priestess
3 – The Empress
4 – The Emperor
5 – The Hierophant
6 – The Lovers
7 – The Chariot
8 – Strength
9 – The Hermit
10 – The Wheel of Fortune
11 – Justice
12 – The Hanged Man
13 – Death
14 – Temperance
15 – The Devil
16 – The Tower
17 – The Star
18 – The Moon
19 – The Sun
20 – Judgement
21 – The World

The Minor Arcana

Tarot Card Meanings in the Court Cards

The four suits of the minor arcana are wands, cups, swords, and pentacles, corresponding to a deck of playing cards as clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds, respectively. 

Astrology of Minor Arcana

The general pattern in the Minor Arcana is this:

2,3,4 Cardinal
5,6,7 Fixed
8,9,10 Mutable

 

Which therefore leads to the following pattern:

2,3,4 Wands Cardinal Fire Aries
5,6,7 Wands Fixed Fire Leo
8,9,10 Wands Mutable Fire Sagitarius
2,3,4 Cups Cardinal Water Cancer
5,6,7 Cups Fixed Water Scorpio
8,9,10 Cups Mutable Water Pisces
2,3,4 Swords Cardinal Air Libra
5,6,7 Swords Fixed Air Aquarius
8,9,10 Swords Mutable Air Gemini
2,3,4 Discs Cardinal Earth Capricorn
5,6,7 Discs Fixed Earth Taurus
8,9,10 Discs Mutable Earth Virgo

The Court Cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith

When you arrange the Knights of the RWS deck in their proper order (Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles) you can see some of the brilliance of Pamela Coleman Smith:

Wands: leaping outwards, in motion

Cups: looking inwards, away from Wands, guided by emotion

Swords: facing away from Pentacles, attacking Cups with the sword

Pentacles: looking outward, opposite of Wands, planted firm. Grounded

Tarot Court Card Naming Conventions

Book T RWS Tarot Thoth Tarot Hermetic Tarot Element Suit Family Qabalah
Knight/Lord Knight Knight Knight Fire Wands Father Chokmah
Queen Queen Queen Queen Water Cups Mother Binah
King/Prince King Prince King Air Swords Son Tiphareth
Knave/Princess Page Princess Princess Earth Coins Daughter Malkuth

Tarot Card Meanings in the Court Cards

Wands

Page of Wands
Knight of Wands
Queen of Wands
King of Wands

Cups

Page of Cups
Knight of Cups
Queen of Cups
King of Cups

Swords

Page of Swords
Knight of Swords
Queen of Swords
King of Swords

Pentacles

Page of Pentacles
Knight of Pentacles
Queen of Pentacles
King of Pentacles

Tarot Card Meanings: The Aces and Pip Cards

Wands

Ace of Wands
2 of Wands
3 of Wands
4 of Wands
5 of Wands
6 of Wands
7 of Wands
8 of Wands
9 of Wands
10 of Wands

Cups

Ace of Cups
2 of Cups
3 of Cups
4 of Cups
5 of Cups
6 of Cups
7 of Cups
8 of Cups
9 of Cups
10 of Cups

Swords

Ace of Swords
2 of Swords
3 of Swords
4 of Swords
5 of Swords
6 of Swords
7 of Swords
8 of Swords
9 of Swords
10 of Swords

Pentacles

Ace of Pentacles
2 of Pentacles
3 of Pentacles
4 of Pentacles
5 of Pentacles
6 of Pentacles
7 of Pentacles
8 of Pentacles
9 of Pentacles
10 of Pentacles

 

 

Related Links from other sites

Tarot card meanings – Biddy Tarot

Tarot card meanings – Labyrinthos