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Tarot Tuesdays – Basics of The Minor Arcana

This is the second post in our blog series, “Tarot Tuesday.” Every other Tuesday I will post a new little gem about Tarot. It will include questions to ask the cards, spreads, how to read, how to tap into your intuition, card meanings, numerology, astrology, theories, history, best practices, and so on.

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Tarot Tuesday:
The minor arcana

Some tarot cards on table with blind women with swords on top

In the last Tarot Tuesday post we looked into The Fool from the Major Arcana from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck system. To recap, “Arcana” translates to “secret” and each card is considered a key. There are 78 cards in a Tarot deck, divided by two Arcana groups, the major and the minor. The Major Arcana, also known as “Trump” cards, are concentrated around big life decisions, developmental milestones, ingrained personality traits, and major events in the seeker’s life. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, ranging from 0 (The Fool) to 21 (The World) and follows the journey of The Fool. For further review, read the post here. 

In Rider-Waite-Smith decks, there are 56 Minor Arcana cards (called “pips”) which represent daily life and elements of the human condition. Like a regular deck of cards, they are broken down into four suits. Each suit contains 10 numbered pips and 4 court cards. Before diving any further into specific card meanings I feel that it is important that we set a strong foundation covering the basics of the Minor Arcana. Today we will look into the meaning of each suit and the numerology. 

The Suits

tarot aces suits minor arcana

Each suit is made up of several attributes including a season, a natural element, a cardinal direction, yin/yang energy, and a facet of the human condition. Let’s look into them.  


Also known as staves or rods, the wands are often the first suit of the Tarot after the Major Arcana because they represent an energetic new spark. When one lists the elements, fire usually goes first (technically, ether does, but we don’t have a suit for that), followed by water, air, and earth. In my personal opinion, the greatest key word of the wands suit is “creation.” 

  • Element: fire
  • Human element: the soul / spirit
  • Human conditions: ego, spirituality, enthusiasm, energy, creation, development, passion, sexuality, desire, travel
  • Energy: active / Yang / masculine
  • Season: spring
  • Direction: south
  • Phase of the moon: new moon
  • Social class: working-class / farmers / laborers / lower economic class
  • Traditional deck suit: clubs / batons
  • Astrological signs: Leo, Aries, Sagittarius


Traditionally, water comes after fire and so the Cups comes after the Wands. They are sometimes called Chalices, or less commonly, Goblets. My first thought when thinking of the cups is “emotions.”

  • Element: water
  • Human element: the heart / emotions
  • Human conditions: emotions, love, partnerships, creativity, intuition and psychic abilities, healing, cleansing, friendships and socializing
  • Energy: recessive / Yin / feminine / passive
  • Season: summer
  • Direction: west
  • Phase of the moon: waxing crescent
  • Social class: clergy
  • Traditional deck suit: hearts
  • Astrological signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces


Representing the element of air, Swords are the third suit. My immediate reaction to the swords card is, “thought.” 

  • Element: air
  • Human element: the mind
  • Human conditions: intellect, knowledge, communication, conflict, obstacles, destruction, ambition, pain, decisiveness, leadership, sorrow, misfortune, maturity, quick-wit, power, change, logic
  • Energy: active / Yang / masculine / dominant
  • Season: fall
  • Direction: east
  • Phase of the moon: full moon
  • Social class: nobility / upper class
  • Traditional deck suit: spades
  • Astrological signs: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius 


The final suit, Pentacles, are also commonly known as coins or disks. My first instinct when thinking of the pentacles is “material world.”

  • Element: earth
  • Human element: the body
  • Human conditions: harvest, occupation, finances, possessions, comfort, stability, achievement, study, self-image, nature, grounding, business, property, pragmatism, planning, advancement and growth
  • Energy: recessive / Yin / feminine / passive
  • Season: winter
  • Direction: north
  • Phase of the moon: waning crescent
  • Social class: merchants / artisans / middle to upper-middle class
  • Traditional deck suit: diamonds
  • Astrological signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

The Numbers

Pips 1-10
Tarot minor arcana pips
Seven of Swords, Ten of Pentacles, Three of Pentacles

Numerology is SO important in Tarot. It’s so important, in fact, that I am going to devote at least two more posts just on Tarot numerology. Every number represents a certain type of energy, and when combined with the meaning of it’s suit we can extrapolate the general meaning of any Minor Arcanum. For example, we know that cups means emotions and you will soon see that 5s can mean loss. Often the five of cups represents an emotional loss and a period of grieving. 

The repetition of specific number(s) in a reading is important and should never be ignored. For instance, if you pull out several twos in your reading, this amplifies the importance of a crossroads or a decision needing to be made. This goes even deeper according to how many of the same number you draw; 2 twos, 3 twos or 4 twos, each have their own combination meaning. Tarot numerology can get very complex with concepts such as timing and birth cards, so, today we are going to focus just on the basics and delve deeper into this fascinating topic in subsequent Tarot Tuesday posts. 

Generally, you can consider odd numbers as unstable and yang and even numbers as stable and yin. The unstable/yang numbers are more challenging but offer an opportunity for change or growth. The even/yin cards often reflect foundations, comfort, and stability (or lack thereof in the reverse position). Even and odds are sometimes used as one of the common methods to answer yes/no questions. 

ODDS: masculine, yang, unstable, active, leadership, change, conflict, potential, movement, no

EVEN: feminine, yin, stable, passive, comfort, enduring, stasis, peace, yes

** Remember, these are general and traditional rules of thumb. When reading, intuition ALWAYS comes first.**

Number meanings:

  1. new beginnings, potential, inspiration
  2.  balance, choices, crossroads, plans, reflection, duality, partnership
  3. growth, relationships, expression, birth, chaos, community
  4. stability, foundation, restoration, building, structure, power, diligence 
  5. loss, conflict, competition, disagreement, forced growth
  6. success, victory, harmony, compassion, solutions, balance
  7. strategy, cunning, discontent, restlessness, changing direction, waiting, struggle
  8.  action, release, strength, movement, attainment, evolution, control
  9.  contemplation, near to completion, reflection, refinement, discipline, defensiveness, struggle for control
  10.  completion, end of a cycle, release, attainment, transformation
The Court Cards...

…will have a post all their own. However, we can touch on their numerology and basic meanings for now. The court cards are depicted by the Page, Knight, Queen, and King, and often represent the seeker or people that the seeker knows. Alternatively, they can often represent messages (mail, email, phone call) or descriptive energies like strength, spirituality, or materialism. To decipher if they are people, messages, or energy, the reader will need to factor in the surrounding cards and the seeker’s question at hand. 



Page of cups, tarot card. Vector illustration
  •  Children (page of cups would be emotional, intuitive children, a page of swords would be a studious one, etc.)
  • Incoming message related to the suit (a financial message with the page of pentacles, a love message with the page of cups, etc.)


Knight of wands, tarot card. Vector illustration
  • Young adult, male or female
  •  Often depicts the raw energy of the suit (knight of swords charges into action with tunnel vision, knight of cups is a romantic charmer, etc.)


queen of swords tarot suits


  •  Represents feminine energy
  • Females, males, or other genders can be represented, but usually females
  • The evolved yin aspect of a suit, (Queen of cups is intuitive and loving, Queen of wands is energetic and highly spiritual, Queen of pentacles is worldly and loves people, animals, and comfort, etc.,)


King of Pentacles with crown and long beard holding golden shield with the symbol of the pentacle in the center. King of Gold. Minor arcana Tarot cards. Spanish playing cards.


  • Represents masculine energy 
  • Usually represents males but can be any gender
  • The evolved yang aspect of it’s suit (King of pentacles is often well off financially and is often very generous, King of sword is a decisive and calm leader, etc.,)

1 thought on “Tarot Tuesdays – Basics of The Minor Arcana”

  1. Verrrrrrrrrry interesting. I honestly never knew all these fundamentals or perhaps have forgotten them since my tarot class was prolly 10 years ago. Well done. Nice hierarchy of information.

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