The Four Tarot Suits and the Four Elements - The Simple Tarot

Tarot Suits and the Elements

It is easier to understand – and remember – the card meanings when you know the underlying patterns and symbols.

There are MANY symbols that will help you learn the Major Arcana cards, but first, we’re going to start with the Minors – specifically the four elements of Air, Earth, First, and Water and the four suits of the Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and the Wands.

Check out this video that covers them all, or continue reading below…

When you understand the suits and elements, you can combine them with the card numbers or people to get the card’s meaning.

For example, the King of Wands is a passionate master of power and creativity.

The King cards ALWAYS mean a person who is an active master of his or her domain.

The Wands cards ALWAYS represent passion, creativity, and personality. And the Fire Element ALWAYS represents intensity, and bolsters the Wands cards.

So, the King of Wands becomes an intense, passionate master of power and creativity.

We can do this for ALL of the cards, which will start to give us a common language, pattern, and format for their meanings.

The Cups and the Water Element

Cups are used when we toast in celebration, connect over meals, and drown our sorrows. The cards of the Cups suit represent your relationships and emotional connections.


They have to do with love, friendship, connection, and affairs of the heart.

A person ruled by Cups (or the Water element) will be creative, empathetic, nurturing, intuitive, and caring.

If this energy is taken too far, it will become needy, overly sensitive, easily hurt, and demanding of attention and emotional validation.

The Water element is connected with the Cups suit. You’ll often find water on the Cups Cards.


It is also commonly shown on cards with a strong emotional element, such as the Six of Swords or the Three of Swords (as rain).

Water is also found on the Temperance card and The Star, where it is combined with Earth to represent harmony.

The Pentacles and the Earth Element

Pentacles look like coins. The cards of the Pentacles suit represent the physical world, including money, property, worldly possessions, the home, a career, or our physical bodies.


A person ruled by the Pentacles (or the Earth element) will be hard-working, practical, loyal, and stable.

If this energy is taken too far, it can become shallow, petty, dull, boring, or miserly. People who are ruled by the Pentacles make great project managers, but often lose track of the forest because they are too busy counting and cataloging the leaves on each plant in their garden.

The Earth element is connected to the suit of Pentacles. In tarot, it is often depicted as an abundant garden.


It is often shown on cards with a strong practical or physical element, such as The Magician or The Empress.

The Swords and the Air Element

The Swords suit represents the intellect, including logical thought, intellectual pursuits, and communication.


A sword can cut both ways, and many of the cards in the Swords suit are tough lessons to learn. The swords will cut through confusion, lies, and limiting beliefs. They can be used to attack, and they will allow you to defend your most cherished ideals.

A person ruled by the Swords (or the Air element) will be dynamic, witty, intelligent, and action-oriented.

If this energy is taken too far, it can become cold-hearted, distant, or cruel. They are excellent at solving problems and making plans, but their sharp tongue and cutting words can ruin relationships.

The Air element connected with the Swords suit. In tarot, it is often depicted by birds in flight, moving clouds, butterflies, or other animals or beings with wings.


It is also sometimes shown on cards with a strong intellectual or logical element, such as the Eight of Wands, the Four of Cups, the Justice card, and The Emperor.

The Wands and the Fire Element

The Wands cards represent the burning passions of your personality and spirit. These cards are about creativity, inspiration, ambition, dreams, and goals.


A person ruled by the Wands (or the Fire element) will be driven, passionate, optimistic, energetic, and creative.

If this energy is taken too far, it can become self-centered, overly dramatic, rash, or immature. While they may be extremely charismatic and energetic, they sometimes hog the limelight and let their temper blaze into an inferno.

The Fire element is connected with the Wands suit. In tarot, it is often depicted by a desert or blazing sun.


It is often shown on cards with a strong element of energy or passion, such as the four Aces, The Chariot, and The Sun card.

Now that you’ve seen many of the common symbols shared between the tarot cards – and between your tarot decks – you’ll be finding these symbols everywhere.

It’s a fun adventure to be able to “read” this symbol language.

If you want to go deeper into the tarot suits and elements, check out The Simple Tarot Deck Companion Guidebook, which goes into this much deeper – and includes many other symbols that you’ll find on your tarot cards.

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