A Guide to the 4 Tarot Suits: Cups, Wands, Swords & Pentacles

The Tarot is a tool that has been around for hundreds of years and is used for divination. It allows one to connect to the spiritual side of themselves to see how to heal on a deep psychological level so one can manifest more positive life experiences. Traditionally it was used to foresee future events but with the advances in studies on metaphysics, many people now find it most empowering to use it to help them step into their life calling and figure out how to navigate their emotions to create the life they desire most in their heart.

The Tarot speaks in symbols and archetypes, the languages of the subconscious, the intuition, and the creative mind. It allows us to bypass the analytical mind in order to access higher spiritual knowledge which comes through in impressions we get while reflecting on the cards. Tarot can be consulted for both small and large life questions from anything as simple as what outfit to wear to the bigger and deeper philosophical questions such as what to spend our life doing and who to spend it with.

One of the starting points in learning this tool of divination is to understand the symbols. It’s actually not hard to learn when you start to break down the Tarot into categories. Today we are looking at the 4 categories, called suits, of the Minor Arcana.

Tarot Suits in the Minor Arcana

When learning the Tarot, it’s essential to understand the symbolic meaning of the 4 Tarot card suits. There are 78 Tarot cards total in a deck which is further divided into the two subsections called the Major and Minor Arcana. There are more cards in the Minor Arcana, which is divided into the four suits of swords, cups, wands, and pentacles.

The Minor Arcana deals with the day to day interactions we encounter. It may have to do with small decisions or the habits we develop between the more major events of life. It has to do with the way the subconscious mind guides our daily actions and thoughts.

In short, it helps us see why we may or may not be enjoying ourselves and how to improve upon our experience. Once you know the meaning of the suits you can see how it links to the number of the card or the court member pulled. Each of the Minor Arcana numbers indicates something specific. Generally, odd numbers represent conflict while odd numbers represent harmony. There are layers of meaning in each card and the card reader is able to ascertain which meaning resonates.

Tarot Suits & the Elements

Cups correspond to the element of Water.

The area of life the suit calls our attention to is our emotions.

The cups can indicate there is a need for emotional healing or that emotions need to be dealt with. A cup card can indicate a time of positive emotions and celebration as well. It can lead you to see how an old experience is affecting your current life so you can release old stuck energy to move forward. This is a yin or feminine suit that helps you receive things and helps you learn how to attract resources to you. It deals with romance, all forms of relationships including the relationship you have with yourself. It is also tied to intuition and the subtle guidance of energy we feel in a relaxed state. It can help awaken and heal the emotions of the inner child where your manifesting abilities can become alive again. It relates to fertility as well.

Swords correspond to the element of Air.

This element relates to our thoughts and communication.

It helps us see how the words and thoughts we have create positive or negative energy. It reveals how we can be trapped by our own thoughts unnecessarily and it shows us how we may be sabotaging our life by speaking harshly or without pure intention. It can reveal the power hidden in our words and help us connect to the masculine, yang energy of the analytical mind. It can represent order, structure, and discipline which can help us move forward towards achieving our goals. It has to do with our intelligence and can help us see how to use it. It relates to words of all kinds written, spoken and thought and can help you see how your mind is affecting your life so you can change it at will. It can relate to lying, bad intentions of others or reveal fears of our own.

Wands correspond to the element of Fire.

This element most closely relates to our passion and creativity.

It can help us connect to our life purpose and help us see when our creativity has no outlet. It helps us direct our energy towards something that is meaningful so we don’t get angry or obsessive due to stuck energy. It can help us find our true desire and source of motivation. It is a masculine or yang energy that propels us forward and fuels our lives. We can look to Fire to reveal our true passion and get away from living a life that we feel obligated to based on other people’s opinions. It can help you start and sustain projects and the energy comes from a place deep within your soul so that you can overcome fear and create with your directed intention.

Pentacles correspond to the element of Earth.

It is linked to our work, home, food and material possessions.

It can indicate our physical health as well. The Earth element is what we can see, touch and feel because it is physical. It can help us see how we are using our money, how we can start a new job or that we need to make a decision related to our money and home. This is an essential part of our lives and the foundation for us to be able to keep our stress low. The Earth provides for us and connecting to this energy allows us to feel safe and supported. It is a feminine or yin energy that is steady, practical and nurturing. This suit can help you manifest and grow wealth and align with work you feel good about.

Tarot Suits & Astrology Signs

The Tarot suits and zodiac also correspond because of the symbol of elements they are linked to.

  • Cups can be linked to Water signs Pisces, Scorpio, and Cancer.
  • Swords can be linked to Air signs Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra.
  • Pentacles link to Earth signs Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo.
  • Wands link to Fire Sagittarius, Leo, and Aries.

If you had a reading where you had a lot of swords, for instance, you may want to look at your birth chart and see where you have Air signs. This reveals your own tendencies that may need to be realized or redirected.

Tarot Suits & Playing Cards

Some people read playing cards just like a Tarot deck.

It’s not that common, but once you know the meaning of perhaps the Ace of Wands as starting to speak your truth or perhaps a 3 of Cups meaning a celebration or cutting lose to enjoy yourself, you could easily use playing cards. You can always reference our Tarot card meanings here, but here’s a breakdown of how playing card suits can work as the Tarot suits:

  • Hearts stand in for Cups
  • Spades are the Swords
  • Diamonds act as Pentacles
  • Clubs work as Wands

Concluding Thoughts…

Once you feel comfortable with the meaning of the four suits, you can then study the meaning of each of the numbers 1 through 10, the meaning of the court cards, and the meaning of each Major Arcana card. A good approach to learning the Tarot is to read the meaning of the card when you do a daily reading. Pretty soon you’ll have seen all the cards and your mind will naturally start to associate each card to people, experiences and feelings. It becomes a bank to draw from over time. You may want to check out our very own Tarot deck for yourself!

Related Article: Understanding The Tarot Court Cards: How To Interpret The Court Cards in Tarot

About The Author

Shannon Yrizarry

Shannon Yrizarry has taught metaphysical subjects since 2013 including the deeply esoteric lineage of kundalini yoga. She has worked as a healer, clairvoyant and card reader and been featured as a dream interpreter on Viceland’s Nuts + Bolts show as well as for Mercedes Benz and Refinery29. She has read Tarot for The Zoe Report, done readings for stars and aims to bring the empowering wisdom of astrology mainstream.With a bold voice, she wants to uplift consciousness to help us evolve to a healthier more spiritual society. Her classes can be found online at www.HOI.TV/authors/shannon and you can follow her daily inspirations on Instagram @shannonyrizarry. She also teaches kundalini yoga in Portland, Oregon. What gets her out of bed is helping people align with their soul purpose.Shannon is the author of two books published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Psychic Yoga and Modern Guide to Meditation Beads.
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