The Beginner’s Guide For Understanding Tarot Cards

Learning tarot can be one of the most exciting spiritual endeavors one can pursue, but where do you begin? “I have a couple of decks, but the meanings aren’t very clear, and the stories of the art overshadow the card,” you say. “I wish I just had a simple explanation to grow off of.” If you’ve ever felt this way, please know that you are not alone! I’ve had many a student come to me and ask for these resources, and as such, I have created the following guide!

Important things to know before you begin: Much like playing cards, tarot has four suits called the minor arcana, each aligned with an element. Pentacles, Disks, or Coins are aligned with earth and the north quarter, typically focusing on hearth, home, and finances. Swords are aligned with air and the east quarter, generally focusing on areas of the mind such as thoughts, decisions, and logical consideration. Wands are aligned with fire and the southern quarter, and focus on areas of passion, vigor, and life force. And lastly, Cups or Chalices align with water and the west quarter, focusing on emotions, maternal love and feelings, dreams, and all matters of the heart. 

Unlike regular playing cards, however, tarot also includes a fifth suit of sorts, the major arcana, whose card alignments vary. The major arcana is often seen as aligned with the spiritual element Spirit, bringing messages from ascended powers and the universe itself. Each major arcana card aligns elementally and numerically with specific areas of focus, though the aforementioned can vary depending on the deck. That being said, the list below was compiled by working with many tarot decks and readers and finding and documenting the common and overlapping elements therein. So let’s get started! 

Major Arcana

0 the Fool: Trust, new beginnings, blind faith, journeys.

I the Magician: Skill, study, reverence, power, study.

II the High Priestess: Wisdom, female leadership, mystery, potential.

III the Empress: Motherhood, connections, abundance, nature. 

IV the Emperor: Logic, fatherhood, authority figure, male energy.

V the Hierophant: Tradition, education, priesthood, group identity. 

VI the Lovers: Soulmates, love, passion, sexual connection, partnership.

VII the Chariot: Direction, self-confidence, decision making, power of will.

VIII Strength: Inner strength, self-control, self-confidence. 

IX the Hermit: Solitude, connection, introspection, self-study. 

X Wheel of Fortune: External changes, new beginnings, personal growth. 

XI Justice: Fair treatment, results, important decisions, cause, and effect. 

XII Hanged Man: Sacrifice, alternate perspectives, letting go. 

XIII Death: Sudden changes, endings, death of concept. 

XIV Temperance: Patience, temperance, balance. 

XV the Devil: Inner demons, deep dark secrets, bondage to negative energy.

XVI the Tower: Upheaval, drastic path changes, downfall, collapse. 

XVII the Star: Hope, serene energy, divine beginnings, giving. 

XVIII the Moon: Divine feminine, emotional turmoil, grandiose visions. 

XIX the Sun: Joy, vitality, rebirth, enlightenment, potential.  

XX Judgment: Evolution, judgment, divine calling, personal beliefs. 

XXI the World: Success, integrating ideals, feelings of fulfillment. 

Minor Arcana

Pentacles

Ace: New money, prosperity, opportunity. 

Two: Making ends meet, balance, priorities. 

Three: Working with others, building, teamwork. 

Four: Solidarity, conservation, frugality. 

Five: Luck, need, poverty, insecurity. 

Six: Generosity, charity, sharing. 

Seven: Building, perseverance, diligence. 

Eight: Hard work, passion, high standards. 

Nine: Refinement, fruit of labor, rewards. 

Ten: Satisfaction, legacy, culmination. 

Princess/Page: Sensibility, ambition, influence. 

Prince/Knight: Caution, efficiency, hard work. 

Queen: shrewdness, security, practicality. 

King: Responsibility, abundance, provider, hunter. 

Swords

Ace: New focus, clarity, sharp minded thinking.

Two: Decisions, stalemate, difficulties.

Three: Sorrow, heartbreak, suffering, grief.

Four: Rest, restoration, contemplation.

Five: Deception, unbridled ambition, shrewdness. 

Six: Escape, transition, moving on, recovery.

Seven: Worries, deception, trickery, strategy.

Eight: Restriction, imprisonment, entrapment. 

Nine: Sleepless nights, anxieties, trauma.

Ten: Exhaustion, failure, defeat, backstabbing. 

Princess/Page: Talent, curiosity, mental energy.

Prince/Knight: Restlessness, action, impulsiveness. 

Queen: Independence, clear mind, perception. 

King: Invention, head over heart, truth, discipline. 

Wands

Ace: New energy, creation, desire.

Two: Contemplation, leaving home, journeys.

Three: Seeking direction, looking ahead, planning.

Four: Happy home life, community, togetherness. 

Five: Arguments, conflicts, reality. 

Six: Success, victory, public reward.

Seven: Completion, perseverance, control. 

Eight: Quick thinking, developments, movement. 

Nine: Defense, resistance, grit, last stand. 

Ten: Burdens, accomplishments, responsibility. 

Princess/Page: Charisma, exploration, freedom. 

Prince/Knight: Daring, action, adventure. 

Queen: Strength, courage, determination. 

King: Creation, leadership, big picture.

Cups

Ace: New feelings, spirituality, intuition, new emotions.

Two: Unity, partnership, connections.

Three: Friendships, community, happiness. 

Four: Apathy, contemplation, disconnection, separation. 

Five: Loss, grief, disappointment, mourning. 

Six: Familiarity, soulmates, memories, healing, restoration, rejuvenation. 

Seven: Searching for purpose, choices, daydreaming.

Eight: Walking away, disillusionment, leaving, ends. 

Nine: Satisfaction, luxury, emotional stability. 

Ten: Inner happiness, fulfillment, dreams coming true. 

Princess/Page: Happy surprises, dreaming, sensitivity. 

Prince/Knight: Idealistic nature, romanticism, following your heart. 

Queen: Motherhood, compassion, calmness, psychic abilities, comfort.

King: Emotional control, balancing between heart and head, jolliness.