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How to Interpret the Meaning of the Minor Arcana of the Tarot

By Pythia

As you probably know the Tarot Deck consists of 78 cards. The whole deck can be divided into two parts: Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. While the Major Arcana is mostly recognized and used as a token of Tarot itself, the subset of Minor Arcana is less known but very important, especially in divination and reading. Within the Minor Arcana there is a group 56 Tarot cards. This group can be further divided into 2 subgroups. One of this group are the Court cards, and there are 16 of them.

The alternative name for the Minor Arcana cards is "Lesser Arcana". This subset contains 4 suits, cups, swords, wands, and pentacles, each of the suits contains 14 cards. Within a suit, the cards are numbered, from one to ten, and then we have the court cards: page (or princess), knight (or prince), queen, and king.

The Court Cards

What the Court cards actually represent are the very basic cosmic elements. These elements are never pure in their form as we will see below. The four cosmic elements are Fire (Wands), Water (Cups), Earth(Pentacles) and Air(Swords). For example, there are 4 Court cards of the Wands: King, Queen, Knight and Princess of Wands.

the king of wands minor arcana card the queen of wands minor arcana card the knight of wands minor arcana card the page of wands minor arcana card

For example,

The Queen of Wands is the watery sub-element of the Fire (Wands) element.

The King of Wands is the fiery sub-element of the Fire (Wands) element.

The Prince of Wands is the airy sub-element of the Fire (Wands) element.

and The Princess of Wands is the earthy sub-element of the Fire (Wands) element.

Similar relations can be established for the Cups, Pentacles and Swords Court cards as well.

Another alternative meaning to the Court card can be given if we link them with the four-fold mystical concept of Father-Mother-Son-Daughter. In that case, they can be understood as describing various types of personalities, as follows.

  • The Kings are representatives of strength — think of the Hebrew letter Yod in the Tetragrammaton. The Kings are the active energy of the four elements; their activity is very swift and sudden. They carry the first phase of any creation.

  • The Queens correspond to the Hebrew letter He. They receive, ferment and transform the initial energy of the King &mash; they belong to the second phase of creation. Depicted as sitting on a throne, the Queens are obviously there to perform a certain predetermined function.

  • The Knights represent the strength of the letter Waw. They are the active result of the established unity between the King and the Queen. They are here to further transfer the combined parental energy and therefore they are depicted as riding a horse.

  • The Princesses (Pages) are the second letter He in the YHWH formula. They are the final result of the initial energy when it has been crystallized and materialized. That’s why they are depicted as figures firmly standing on their own feet. They, at the same time, balance and re-absorb the initial energy, so that the energy cycle can be maintained. They have no zodiacal attributes.

Numbered Minor Arcana

After this short overview of the 16 Court cards, we can turn our attention to the remaining 40 Minor arcana. They are representative of certain basic ideas, and, in groups of four, they can be ascribed to the 10 Sephiroth of Kabbalah. Each of the remaining Minor arcana can be understood as a special symbol within the Sephiroth.

The Aces symbolize the root of the four elements of tarot and correspond to the Keter Sephiroth. They are not the elements themselves just as yet, but rather their seeds or potential through which the elements are developed. Since the first Sephiroth Keter is hidden, the aces are only seeds, that is, invisible potentialities. An element becomes an element only when it reaches Chokmah.

Therefore, the cards with number 2 are related to the second (Chokhmah) Sephiroth, and so on, down to the number 10 cards and the last, Malkuth Sephiroth.

Here are some examples of these Minor arcana cards:

10 of Wands

10 of wands minor arcana card

The most important keywords of the Ten of Wands card are Trouble and Anxiety. It also means persistence, reliability, strength, and will. People born in the third decade of Sagittarius can learn a lot by examining this card. Position of this Tarot Card on the Kabbalistic Tree of life – Sephiroth Malkut. Astrological characteristics: Saturn in Sagittarius. Here we are faced with the greatest aversion; Sagittarius is spiritual, swift, illusive, light, and bright.


8 of Wands

8 of wands minor arcana card

The main characteristic of 8 of Wands Tarot Card is speed. People born from 23rd of November to 2nd of December (first decade of Sagittarius) can learn a lot by examining the 8 of Wands card. Their main character virtues and flaws can be deducted directly from the this tarot card.


3 of Swords

3 of swords minor arcana card

Some of the keywords of this Tarot card are Suffering, Distress, Trouble, Tears, and Confrontation. The element of Three of Swords Card is air. Air means reason, but also instability and mental clearness. The potential of this card is determined by its number. In this case, potential number 3 — which signifies determination, intensity and pride.


6 of Wands

6 of wands minor arcana card

The most prominent figure of the 6 of Wands Card is a crowned horseman. He holds in his right hand one staff with a laurel attached near the top. There are 6 visible staffs altogether, some of them in the hands of several footmen barely visible at his side. This card has a potential number 6 — ambition.


10 of Swords

10 of swords minor arcana card

People born from 11.06 to 20.06 (the 3rd decade of Gemini in the horoscope) are represented through the Ten of Swords Tarot card. What does this card mean? In short, it mean contempt, arrogance, downfall. The potential number 10 signifies perseverance, stubbornness and conservativeness. These qualities are often expressed in a negative way, but, depending on the other character traits of a person, they can also be positive.


5 of Pentacles

5 of pentacles minor arcana card

The meaning of the 5 of Pentacles Tarot Card is related to potential number 5. This potential brings activity and power of resistance, as well as masculine energy. The frequency of this card is that of Mercury. This symbolizes sharpness, quick and cunning thinking, but also very often short-sightedness.


Conclusion

I hope you have seen that the Minor Arcana cards are an important part of the Tarot. While the Major Arcana foretell major important events and turning points, the Minor Arcana provide insights and clues about the everyday happenings. In addition to their meaning in tarot reading, they have their spiritual, mystical and astrological significance. All cards presented in this post are from the Rider Waite tarot deck. You can read about the Rider Waite Tarot it in this post.






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