Tarot Cards & Their Meanings

The tarot is a series of 78 tarot cards used in fortune telling, psychic readings, and insight into past, present, and future events. These tarot card definitions help you understand how to interpret your tarot reading. Tarot cards are divided into 2 main sections—the major arcana and minor arcana—and further into 4 suits:

Before a tarot reading, the cards are usually arranged in a spread. A tarot spread is the pattern in which the cards are placed on the table to be interpreted by a tarot card reader. There are many different types of tarot spreads—entire books have even been written on the subject. Spreads can be as simple as a 1-card draw, or complex enough to use all 78 cards.

One of the most popular spreads is called the 3-card spread, which gives you answers to immediate questions about your relationships, career, and life in general.

A Brief History of The Tarot

No one knows for certain where or when the cards originated—some say the practice goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. What we do know is that reading the tarot cards gained notoriety sometime around the 18th century.

The tarot can be used for many different purposes. The archetypal images reflect your story back to you, and bring you insights on situations in the lives of those around you. Those same images make good meditation companions or provide you with a ‘thought for the day.’ You might even use the tarot as a writing prompt in a blog, or as inspiration in artwork. There is no limit to how these images can be used, you just need to decide what works for you and go for it.

Modern technology made it even easier to get daily readings, peruse different interpretations of the classical images, and connect with others who share your interest in the cards. Of course, before you can get really immersed in understanding the tarot, you have to know a few basics. They’re not difficult, and once you recognize them you can master the mysteries of the tarot.

The Major Arcana (Tarot Trump Cards)

The major arcana (trump cards) represent your journey through life, starting out as the innocent and carefree card representing The Fool (at number 0), and going through all your stages of life until you get to The World (at number 21). Each of the trump cards represents an important issue in your life and asks that you pay particular attention to this situation. As you get to know the Major Arcana, you’ll see that the first 11 cards represent your journey out into the world while the last 11 represent your journey into your own awareness.

The Minor Arcana

The minor arcana is a grouping of 56 tarot cards that acts as a support system for the major arcana. It's divided into 4 suits, much like playing cards, and each suit has 10 numbered cards and 4 court cards. Traditionally, these court cards are called page, knight, queen, and king.

Some decks may use different titles for these figures but their meanings and their positions in the hierarchy of the court cards remain the same. Each suit of the minor arcana corresponds with a specific area of life, and each card has a meaning within that area. The number 1 is the first in a sequence (representing beginnings).

The numbered minor cards may have images on them, or they may just have ‘pips’ on them like playing cards, depending on the deck you're using.

Each suit of the minor arcana is also associated with specific signs of the zodiac.

Wands

Wands (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)

Pentacles

Pentacles (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)

Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
cups

Cups (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)

Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
swords

Swords (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)

Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

The tarot provides guidance that has stood the test of time. And as with any tool, the tarot needs to be used responsibly. The cards themselves are not good or evil—it’s how you use them that creates them a positive or a negative experience. After all, the tarot is just a collection of images and have no power on their own—it’s their mystery that allows them to endure. What wisdom do those images want to share with you today?