The Minor Arcana

The fifty-six Minor Arcana represent life’s daily trials and tribulations, situations we might find ourselves in as we move through our lives. Similar to a regular deck of playing cards, the Minor Arcana are organized into four suits of fourteen cards each, numbered from Ace (1) to 10, and four royal or Court cards. Each suit has a particular, and traditionally elemental, significance:

  • The suit of Wands (in some decks called Rods or Staves) is represented by the element of fire, and the cards in this suit all deal with issues of creativity and will

  • The suit of Cups (also called Chalices) is represented by the element of water, and these cards all address emotions and love

  • The suit of Swords (sometimes called Blades or Spades) is represented by the element of air, and the cards here have to do with thinking and reason

  • The suit of Pentacles (also called Coins or Discs) is represented by the element of earth, and these cards focus on possessions or the material body

 

The Minor Arcana card numbers convey an additional layer of meaning to the card:

  • Ace = new beginnings, potential

  • 2 = balance, duality

  • 3 = growth, groups

  • 4 = structure, stability

  • 5 = conflict, change

  • 6 = harmony, communication

  • 7 = reflection, assessment

  • 8 = action, accomplishment

  • 9 = attainment, fulfillment

  • 10 = end of a cycle, renewal or overexpression

  • Page = open, discovering 

  • Knight = active, idealistic

  • Queen = maternal, inward-focused

  • King = paternal, outward-focused

 

So for example, the Ace of Wands can mean a new beginning in a creative project; the 4 of Cups can mean stagnation in a relationship; the 7 of Swords can mean evasion or dishonesty; and the 10 of Pentacles can mean experiencing wealth and abundance. The Court cards traditionally represent people acting in our lives, so the Page of Wands can mean someone who is eagerly beginning a new project; the Knight of Cups can mean someone who loves doing big romantic gestures; the Queen of Swords can mean someone who approaches situations with discrimination and wisdom; and the King of Pentacles can mean a mentor who provides guidance and support.

 

Many tarot users find it helpful to use keywords to help understand the meaning of the cards. A keyword is a one or two-word summary of the card meaning, a sort of shorthand to help with quick reference and understanding. Some decks notate the keyword right on the card, while others list them in the little book of meanings that accompany the deck (called the “little white book”). In this way, we can also utilize verbal language, in addition to symbolic language, to more fully understand what the cards are meant to convey.