Getting to know the Tarot Minor Arcana

A lot of people work with the Tarot as a means of gaining insight into their lives and the lives of friends and family. To do so, it is not necessary to know all the meanings of the cards off by heart. However once one begins to know intimately the meanings and symbology of the cards, they will begin to open up in a new and much more powerful way. Here are a couple of ways of working to improve your understanding and memory of the card meanings. First an exercise for the minor arcana.

Take a large sheet of paper, and rule it into six equal columns. Then rule across to make a table with 12 rows. Leave the first row blank for now. In the second row, leave the first two cells blank, then write “swords” in the third cell, “wands” in the fourth, “cups” in the fifth, and “pentacles” in the sixth.

In the second column, starting in the third row, write the numbers from 1 to 10. In the cell above “swords”, now write down the attributes of the swords suit. For example, you may write “conflict”, “intellect”, “air”. In the cell above “wands”, write down the attributes of the wands suit. For example, you may write “creativity”, “action”, and “fire”. Carry on with filling the cells above “cups” and “pentacles”. Of course, use your own understanding of the suits, but if you are just starting out, and are unsure about the attributes of the suits, do some investigating first, in your favourite Tarot books, on the net, and in your own mediations. Of course, the suits correspond to the four elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth, so the attributes of these elements may also be used as the attributes of the corresponding suits.

In the cells to the left of each number, write down the meaning of each number. Use your own knowledge of numerology, or knowledge of the cards. However if you are just starting, it may be difficult to find the meaning of each number, apart from in combination with a particular suit. The basic meanings I work with are as follows:
1: beginnings
2: relationship
3: creative offspring
4: Materiality
5: Limitation
6: Harmony – as above, so below
7: Underworld – dreams, shadow
8: Abundance
9: Completion
10: New beginnings

If you have been a previous reader of these pages, you will see that these meanings resonate with previous explanations of the numerology system that I work with, and correspond reasonably well with the standard meanings given in the tarot. You may care to work with these meanings, or to work with your own, based on your own studies and insights.

Having reached this point, now go through each card, looking at the meaning attached to the number, and the meaning attached to the suit. How do these two qualities interact to create a new and specific meaning? When the answer suggests itself to you, write it in the corresponding cell, and go on to the next card, until all the cards have been done.

This may be done in one sitting, or over several days, according to how easily the answers flow for you. In either case, it doesn’t matter, because it is simply the way that you are working in this moment.

When all the cells have been filled with a meaning or key, pick up your favourite tarot book, and read the meaning giving for the first card. Compare it to your meaning, and look for the similarities and differences between what you have written, and what you found in the book. Resolve any differences between the two meanings by adding to your understanding or deepening your interpretation, or perhaps re-thinking your viewpoint. When you are satisfied any differences are resolved, do the same with the next card.

Once again, you may do this in one sitting, or over many days – it doesn’t matter – just work at the pace that is right for you at this time.

At the end of this exercise, you will have a much deeper appreciation of the meanings of the minor arcana, and will find that the juxtaposition of number and suit leads you directly to the cards meaning, without having to memorise anything at all.

Robyn Wood