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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.