The tarot deck is divided into two sections: the major arcana and the minor arcana. The minor arcana are then subdivided further into four suits that each has 14 cards. These are comparable to modern playing cards but the verbiage varies slightly depending upon your deck.
A Basic Overview of the 4 Suits
Tarot cards can be divided into four suits: cups, wands, swords, and pentacles. Cups, wands, swords, and pentacles are also known as the minor arcana. The major arcana are a separate set of tarot cards that have their own unique symbolism. The major arcana are indicative of major life events and milestones, whereas the minor arcana reflect on smaller day-to-day occurrences.
If you’re just starting out with tarot, it’s helpful to learn the meanings of the four suits. This will give you a basic understanding of the tarot deck and how it works.
Each suit corresponds to a different element: cups represent water, wands represent fire, swords represent air, and pentacles represent earth.
Each suit has its own meaning and symbolism. Cups often represent emotions and relationships, wands represent energy and enthusiasm, swords represent conflict and change, and pentacles represent material wealth and stability.
How the 4 Suits Align With Playing Cards
You’ll see traditional poker or playing cards reflected in the division of the minor arcana of tarot decks. Each suit aligns with a suit of poker cards, as follows:
- Wands = Clubs
- Swords = Spades
- Pentacles = Diamonds
- Cups = Hearts
Alternative Names for the 4 Suits
While all tarot decks are based on the major and minor arcana and will have a near-identical structure, there are a few differences in how the suits are named across decks.
- Cups is also sometimes referred to as goblets, chalices, cauldrons, and vessels.
- Swords is sometimes referred to as blades.
- Pentacles is sometimes referred to as coins, disks, rings, gold, or cash.
- Wands is sometimes referred to as staves, clubs, or batons.
What Cups Represent in Tarot
Cups often represent emotions and relationships in tarot readings. They can indicate feelings of love, joy, happiness, and satisfaction. Cups can also indicate the beginning of a new relationship or the culmination of an existing one.
When appearing in reverse, cups represent negative emotions such as sadness or hostility. It may also represent a relationship going south in a reading focused on family and friends.
What Wands Represents in Tarot
Wands represent energy and enthusiasm in tarot readings. They indicate a person who is active, creative, and ambitious. Wands can also indicate someone who is impulsive and can have a short temper.
When appearing in reverse, wands represents egotism and impulsive decision-making.
What Swords Represents in Tarot
Swords represent conflict and change in tarot readings. They indicate a time of turmoil or upheaval. Swords can also indicate a person who is analytical and logical.
When appearing in reverse, swords may indicate being at a standstill in the decision-making process or a blockage in communication.
What Pentacles Represents in Tarot
Pentacles represent material wealth and stability in tarot readings. They indicate a person who is practical and down-to-earth. Pentacles can also indicate someone who is greedy or selfish.
When appearing in reverse, pentacles may represent a loss of wealth or material items. It may also mean you are focused too heavily on material and wealth rather than morality and values.
Understanding the Suits During Tarot Readings
Understanding the symbolism of the four suits is essential to reading tarot cards. When you understand the meaning of each suit, you can better interpret the cards’ messages for yourself. Tarot readings can provide guidance and insight into your life, and understanding the symbolism of the four suits can help you make the most of your readings.
If you’re interested in learning more, I’d recommend checking out a few books on tarot readings or taking a course on the subject.