Suits of the Minor Arcana

Tarot Cards

The Minor Arcana
Understanding the suits and corresponding elements


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The Minor Arcana are the set of 56 pip and court cards that address the everyday events and activities of our lives. 

Many tarot decks contain fully illustrated minor cards designed with helpful images to make meanings easy to pick up. However some decks are more like ordinary playing cards where only the Major Arcana, and perhaps the Court cards, contain more than just symbols.

Limitless interpretations

One of the wonderful things about tarot is that once you know the basics you can read almost any tarot deck regardless of what the images are. The challenge comes in grasping how the cards influence each other and intuiting what the symbols mean in each instance. When looked at from this perspective it’s easy to see how limitless reading interpretations can be. They are really only restricted by the way we feel, see and intuitively realise their meanings.

To begin with it’s useful to understand the suits and their corresponding elements. (It also helps to know something about numerology and astrology but for now let’s start with the elements). 

The Elements

Each suit represents one of the four elements that sustain life on our beautiful planet. They are essential for our survival: earth, water, air and fire. Earth for food and shelter, water because our bodies need to be kept at about 60% full of it, air for oxygen and fire for warmth and light. Fire is attributed to the sun of course but fire is also needed in its very real form when the sun is not shining on us. Even some plants need fire to help with seed germination. 

Just as a quick aside here; there is a fifth element that most, if not all of us, consider vital for life; spirit. Whatever we choose to believe about spirit, it has an influence on the way we interpret all the essential elements and it gives meaning to our lives. When reading tarot cards spirit may also contribute to the meaning a card reader will assign to an individual card and/or how the cards work together.


Wands (clubs, sticks, rods) are all about action and passion. Connected to the fire element, wands are the fastest element, quick to ignite and not always easy to snuff out. They will ferociously burn down anything that threatens loved ones or blocks the way forward. Wands are fearless and unpredictable. Fire can burn cool, warm or extremely hot. It provides warmth and light, but can equally  cause tremendous damage. Fire is centred at our belly and connects to our gut instincts. When used extensively fire can cause severe burn-out.


Swords (knives, arrows, spades) are all about thoughts and power and are connected to the air element. They are sharp, quick, intellectual and often fact oriented but can also flit all over the place. This element can jump from one idea to the next at dizzying speed, particularly if it encourages the wind to pick up. Swords align with our mind and third eye. They are cool customers who can think outside the box and are usually good at keeping secrets. Likewise, they are known to be secretive, sometimes sneaky and occasionally cunning and calculating.

If switched on, a sword can be a highly intuitive, psychic all knowing being, thanks to that third eye connection. A swords words can placate, excite or hurt, just as air can summon a soft breeze, an unsettling wind or a damaging hurricane. Swords think nothing of using their weapon to chop away dead wood or swiftly slice through threats or blockages on their path.


Cups (hearts, chalices, vessels) are about feelings and emotions. They are connected to the water element and draw from our heart. Typically they represent love of all kinds and especially romance. Cups are both sexual and nurturing but can also cause confusion. At their worst they can create conflict and jealousy or whip up a tempest of angry rage. Like the water element they can move from icy cold to boiling hot in very little time. Fortunately cups generally prefer to get along with others and let most unpleasant things flow around them.

This watery suit plays in the realm of wishes, fantasy and dreams. Cup energy works through our blood and bodily fluids influencing our hormones and heart rate. Cups can reach into our psychic senses, sometimes unconsciously, and operate as mediums for spirits and unseen energies. They enjoy light, happy, bubbly conversation but can just as easily cope with deep and meaningful talk when necessary. Cups are likely to send out a tidal wave of emotions to protect their loved ones. If left uncared for they can stagnate or choose to wilfully erode whatever is blocking their path.


Pentacles (coins, diamonds, gems) are about material things, substance, property and money. They are connected to the earth element. Pentacles draw from our core, our root chakra through to our solar plexus. Typically slower to act than the other suits pentacles are methodical, measured, reliable and stable. They are grounded.

Pentacles represent everything that our beautiful planet provides; nourishment, shelter, home. They relate to the health and safety of our environment and can effect reproduction and prosperity. These cards are often linked to family, child rearing, farming, harvests and abundance, or a lack of such things. Pentacles are typically loving and generous but when riled they can erupt and destroy everything within minutes, just as a volcanic eruption or earthquake might.

Tarot is an amazing divination tool

Understanding tarot is an ongoing learning process, even for professional readers. I hope this brief outline of the basics encourages you to dig deeper and learn more about this amazing divination tool.

Further posts will dive into the connection between the cards and numerology and astrology, so keep an eye out. For a little bit about the Court cards see “The Throne Sisters” posted 27 January 2022.

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