An Introduction to the Minor Arcana

An Introduction to the Minor Arcana
The Basics of the Minor Arcana in Tarot Reading

A tarot deck consists of 78 cards that are separated into two general groups: the Major Arcana cards and the Minor Arcana cards. The Minor Arcana makes up the majority of the tarot deck consisting of 56 cards. 52 of the 56 cards in the Minor Arcana loosely correspond to the 52 cards found in a regular playing card deck. The remaining four cards are the four page cards, or in some decks, the princess cards. Like a regular playing card deck, there are also knights (e.g. jacks), queens and kings. These are called the court cards and they typically used to represent people during a reading. The other remaining minor arcana cards are numbered one through ten and are referred to as the the pip cards. Pip cards usually are used to represent everyday events or situations in readings.

The 52 Minor Arcana cards are composed of four suits. Although various tarot decks can call these suits by different names, the more traditional decks refer to them as Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles. Each suit is associated to a particular element: earth, fire, water and air which are thought to correspond to different aspects of our daily lives. Every suit also has an astrological association as well which represents a particular season of the year. By understanding the astrological associations and season of the year, you can determine when things might occur. Here are the basics:

The Suit of Wands: The Element is Fire
Aspects: Spiritual undertakings, Fertility, Sexuality, Careers, Directions in Life and Sense of Purpose.
The Suit of Wands direction is to the east and the season is spring.

The Suit of Cups: The Element is Water
Aspects: Relationships, Emotions, Intuition, Creativity, Love and Romance
The Suit of Cups direction is to the north and the season is summer.

The Suit of Swords: The Element is Air
Aspects: Abstract Thinking, Rational Thinking, Challenges and Obstacles, Truth, Clarity, Intelligence
The Suit of Swords directions is to the west and the season is fall.

The Suit of Pentacles
The Element is Earth
Aspects: Material possessions, security, money, ethics and values, growth and manifestation
The Suit of Pentacles direction is to the south and the season is winter.

Astrological Associations
• Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are signs associated to the summer.
• Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are signs associated to the spring.
• Libra, Gemini, and Aquarius are signs associated to the fall.
• Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo are signs associated to the winter.

Choosing a Signifier Card
When you learn to do tarot readings for other people you will have to choose a Signifier card. A Significator card (also sometimes referred to as the "Significator card") is a card that represents the person being read. In most cases one of the court cards is usually chosen by the reader to represent this person. This can be accomplished through their astrological sign, their age, or on their personailty traits. Here are some of the most popular associations readers use to select the appropriate signifier card:

  • Pages are children or adolescents.
  • Knights are men or woman under the age of thirty.
  • Queens are mature women.
  • Kings are mature men.
  • The Suit of Wands is associated to Leo, Aries and Sagitarius.
  • The Suit of Swords is associated to Gemini, Aquarius, and Libra.
  • The Suit of Cups is associated to Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio.
  • The Suit of Pentacles is associated to Taurus, Capricorn and Virgo.

Understanding Reversed Tarot Card Meanings

Although some tarot readers may choose not to use reversed cards, many tarot readers rely on a cards position to deepen the cards meaning. In this respect, each card has two separate meanings: one for an upright position and the other for a reversed position. In most cases, uprights cards tend to be positive while reversed show obstacles or blocks. Many beginning tarot readers often choose to read the cards in an upright position while they are initially learning the various tarot card meanings. Once they become familiar with the upright meanings they then can begin to incorporate reversed meanings.

© 2011 All Rights Reserved. Images of individual tarot cards are from the Aquatic Tarot Deck created by Andreas Schröter and are used with his permission. They are for example purposes only.


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