Understanding the Minor Arcana

Minor Arcana - A suit of fifty-six cards in the tarot deck

Minor Arcana – A suit of fifty-six cards in the tarot deck


If you’re looking to become proficient in the Tarot, there are myriad things you’re going to have to learn. One of the most important things you’ll have to learn is the difference between the 22 cards of the Major Arcana and the 56 cards of Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are more recognizable because of their titles and images. However, the Minor Arcana are just as important in tarot readings. If you’re interested in learning more about the Tarot but aren’t sure where to start, a good place to begin is by familiarizing yourself with the Minor Arcana. This isn’t something you can do in a couple of hours, however; you’ll have to spend ample time doing readings and going over each and every card before you’ll be familiar enough with each one to understand all the meanings.

Making a Comparison

People tend to learn the cards of the Minor Arcana faster than those of the Major Arcana. This is because of how comparable the Minor cards are to a regular deck of playing cards. The Minor Arcana and a deck of playing cards basically share the same structure. There are four suits with both, though instead of hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds the Minor Arcana has cups, pentacles, wands, and swords. There are alternative names to these suits that you may see from time to time, as well. Wands can be staves, batons, or rods. Swords can be Spades. Pentacles can be stones, disks, or coins while cups are chalices. Each suit has cards numbered one through 10 as well as four court cards that take the place of the jack, queen, and king. The Minor Arcana has the knight in place of the jack and a queen and a king. The additional court card with the Minor Arcana is the page.

Understanding the Elemental Association

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Each suit of the Minor Arcana is associated with an element. This elemental connection is how Tarot readers are able to connect the meaning of the card to what happens in day to day life. The sword suit relates to fire or air, which can represent intelligence, challenges faced in life, or individual methods of thinking. The wand also represents fire or air, but represents inspiration and the influence of your career on your life. Pentacles relate to earth, which usually represents things like money and your presence in the physical world. Cups relate to water, which can represent things like relationships and emotions.

Understanding the Numbers

Just as every suit of the Minor Arcana relates to the elements, the numbers on each of the cards have their own meanings. By understanding the relationship between the numbers and the suits, you’ll be better able to comprehend just what kind of reading the Tarot is giving you. Each of the court cards represents a certain aspect of personality, with the page being naïve and eager, the knight being extremist or focused, the queen being nurturing and introspective, and the king being mature and sometimes controlling. It is a simple matter once you understand what each suit and number represents to tie the meanings together and interpret what the Tarot is telling you.

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