The Tarot deck is made up of 78 cards, divided into the Major and Minor Arcana. Each card is full of symbols, which can vary greatly from deck to deck. Following is an extremely general list of common symbols and interpretations for the Tarot.
Minor Arcana/Pip cards
The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards, divided into four suits, numbering from ace to ten with four court cards. It is similar to a standard playing card deck. The four suits of the Tarot deck correspond to four divisions of energy and activity.
Wands/Rods - correspond to the element of fire; energy, creativity, passion, and spirit.
Pentacles/Disks - correspond to the element of earth; money, material matters, and physical well-being.
Cups - correspond to the element of water; emotions, relationships, love, and intuition.
Swords - correspond to the element of air; intellect, communication, and conflict.
In general, the ace is the earliest, most primordial form of the element, and the ten of each suit is the maximum manifestation of the quality of the element. Two through nine are valuable lessons which nurture a slow evolution or ripening, as the individual gains in control and consciousness within the activities of the element.
* Wands build towards constructive passionate energy.
* Pentacles build towards physical security.
* Cups build through emotional fulfillment.
* Swords build through increased wisdom and knowledge.
* Ace - beginnings, the arrival of something new and untried
* Two - choices, decisions
* Three - planning, preparing
* Four - stability
* Five - challenges, adapting
* Six - patterns, cycles
* Seven - individuality, developing the Self
* Eight - organizing ideas and efforts, structuring
* Nine - expansion, development
* Ten - fulfillment, maximum manifestation
There are a few different ways to interpret the court cards if they come up in a reading. One way is to interpret them as the physiological or zodiacal representations of people, using the same guideline as when choosing a significator (see below). Another is to interpret the court cards as representing stages in personal development within the element.
* Page - risking, daring
* Knight - focusing, intensity
* Queen - mature, competent
* King - completion, ready to let go or move on
Choosing a Significator
Although it is not necessary to choose a significator, some people choose a card to represent the questioner and lay down the spread around that card. Here are a few common methods for choosing a significator from the court cards.
* Zodiac - The signs of the zodiac are divided along the 4 elements as well. Determine what sign the questioner is, and then use the court cards of the representative suit.
* Wands - Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
* Pentacles - Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
* Cups - Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
* Swords - Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
* Physical Appearances - A significator can also be chosen by the questioner's physical appearance.
* Wands - blond hair and blue eyes; red/auburn hair and green/hazel eyes; fair complexion
* Cups - light brown hair and brown/hazel eyes, light complexion
* Swords - medium to dark brown hair, brown eyes; medium complexion
* Pentacles - black hair and dark eyes; dark complexion
* Sex/Age - After selecting the appropriate suit, choose a card most fitting to the questioner's age and sex. If the sex of the questioner is different than the sex of the character portrayed on the card, but that card seems to be the most fitting - go with the card. Use sex only as a guide.
* King - mature male
* Queen - mature female
* Knight or Prince - young adult, usually male
* Page or Princess - youth or young adult female
The 22 cards of the Major Arcana are also known as the Trumps or Triumphs contain strong symbols and meanings. In earlier decks, these were often the only cards specifically illustrated according to meaning, with the cards of the Minor Arcana illustrated rather literally (for example, the Four of Swords shows only four swords).
The figures, forces, and qualities depicted in the Major Arcana are highly archetypal and even one with no specific knowledge of the Tarot can immediately get a sense of what each card indicates. This resonance of the cards with the human psyche can be expressed in many ways, from Carl Gustav Jung's theory of archetypes and the collective unconscious to the all-encompassing spiritual archive of the occultists' anima mundi ("world soul") or akashic records. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1962), Jung wrote: "The collective unconscious is common to us all; it is the foundation of what the ancients called 'the sympathy of all things'." The Major Arcana is one doorway to this realm.
The Trumps follow an ordered sequence from I to XXI, with the Fool unnumbered or assigned 0. The Fool is sometimes placed in order before the rest of the Trumps, after them, between XX and XXI, or sometimes no place at all. This order is fairly standard, though certain decks do tinker with it: Arthur Edward Waite transposed Strength and Justice in the Rider-Waite deck, for example. In keeping with his Thelemic system on which his Thoth deck is based, Aleister Crowley changed the names of some of the cards: Justice becoming Adjustment, Strength becoming Lust, Temperance becoming Art, Judgement becoming the Aeon, and the World becoming the Universe.
Here is a brief list of Major Arcana meanings:
0 The Fool - choices offered
1 The Magician - creative energy
2 The High Priestess - mystery, hidden influences
3 The Empress - abundance, fertility
4 The Emperor - leadership, control
5 The Hierophant - convention, society
6 The Lovers - love, relationships
7 The Chariot - mind over matter
8 Strength - courage, strength, power
9 The Hermit - wisdom, spirituality, inner seeking
10 Wheel of Fortune - unpredictability, changes
11 Justice - legal issues, balance
12 Hanged Man - withdrawal, rest
13 Death - change
14 Temperance - moderation, adaptation
15 The Devil - temptation, the material world
16 The Tower - conflict, problems
17 The Star - hope, inspiration
18 The Moon - unseen troubles
19 The Sun - marriage, success
20 Judgment - awakening, renewal
21 The World - success
~from Maat's Book of Shadows