Tarot Cards

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he standard Tarot deck is a pack of 78 cards divided in two categories: the major and the minor Arcana. The word Arcana is the plural of the Latin word arcanum meaning “deep secret, the occult”. Alternate names are the Minor Trumps and Major Trumps, or simply the Minors and the Trumps.

The Major Arcana

The Major Arcana (Trumps Major, Minor Trumps) of the Tarot deck consists of 22 cards. Each depicts a scene, mostly featuring a person or several people, with many symbolic elements. In many decks, each has a number (usually in Roman numerals) and a name, though not all decks have both, and some have only a picture. The earliest decks bore unnamed and unnumbered pictures on the Majors (probably because a great many of the people using them at the time were illiterate), and the order of cards is not standardised.

The images on the Major Arcana are often very heavy with symbolism; in more occult decks, there is far more to the illustration than a mere depiction of the card title. The Major Arcana are usually regarded as relating to matters of higher purpose or deep significance, as opposed to the Minor Arcana which relate to the everyday world and matters of immediate significance..

There are 22 major Arcana, also known as Trumps, Triumphs or Keys. Each of them symbolises some universal aspect of human experience. They represent the archetypes, the universal transcultural psychological symbols present in everybody’s subconscious and accessible by all through the collective unconscious.
For example, the Emperor symbolizes all the qualities and defects embodied in the concept of the Father; security, protection, structure, order, despotism… The Empress represents all the qualities that we attribute to the Mother; fertility, abundance, fecundity, futility, whim…

The major Arcana are given numerological, astrological and cabalistic correspondences. Each card has its own large, complicated and disputed set of meanings. Altogether the major arcana is said to represent the Fool’s journey: a symbolic journey through life in which the Fool overcomes obstacles and gains wisdom. Click HERE for the cards of the Major Arcana.

The minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana (Trumps Minor, Minor Trumps) of the Tarot deck consists of 56 cards, which are closely related to the deck of 52 playing cards used in most modern card games. It is comprised of four suits, most commonly named Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles, though there is a wide variety of different names and suit symbols used in different decks.
Each suit has 14 cards, being Ace (One), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Page, Knight, Queen, King. These last four are called the court cards, and often have different names in different decks.
Modern decks often have the card named and numbered, though many resemble early decks in that there are no titles or numbers on the cards. The numbered cards usually have the appropriate number of symbols for the suit depicted, and the court cards usually have the corresponding person depicted holding the symbol of their suit. Modern decks will often have a symbolic scene depicted on the numbered Minors, though this was never the case before the early 20th century when the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was published. Before this, the numbered cards of the Minors showed merely a geometric arrangement of the appropriate number of suit symbols.

The interpretation of the Minor Arcana is more practical and refers to the issues, problems, concerns that compose our daily life.

The four suits are associated with the four elements: Swords with air, Wands with fire, Cups with water and Pentacles with earth.

The Face cards also correspond to the Elements. The Page is Earth, the Knight is Air, the Queen is Water, and the King is Fire. This makes the Page of Pentagrams (or Earth of Earth), the Knight of Swords (or Air of Air), the Queen of Cups (or Water of Water) and the King of Wands (or Fire of Fire) very strong cards.

The Wands, Cups, Swords and Coins also each correspond to an area of your life. Understanding these correspondences can give a quick sense of what the cards are trying to say in a particular Tarot spread.

Wands, staves, rods or batons, represent creativity, action, business and movement. They correspond to the Fire element.
Pentacles, coins or discs, representing down-to-earth matters, practicality, material concerns and especially financial issues. They correspond to the Earth element.

Swords, the suit of reason, thought, mind and the intellect. They correspond to the Air element.
Cups representing emotions, feelings and spirituality. They correspond to the Water element.
One of the first steps in interpreting a Tarot reading is to gauge which of the four Minor Arcana suits is most prevalent in the Tarot spread. That suit will often tell you where to focus your interpretation and make it easier for you to relate the cards to your life.