The Minor Arcana Explained

Out of the two arcanum, most people gravitate toward the Major Arcana. It's only 22 cards, with a consecutive story and easily-remembered themes. The Minor Arcana on the other hand is 56 cards that cover A LOT more detail, making it a much more intimidating study. Let's see if I can help make it a little easier for you.


Over the course of many years and many decks, I've devised my own method of understanding and connecting to the Tarot. I call this the "4,3,2,1 Funnel-Down Method." In my opinion, this is the easiest way to digest the complexity of the Minor Arcana.


Queen of prentacles rider waite deck minor arcana
The Minor Arcana Explained

Four Suits & Their Elements

Four is the number of elements associated with each suit. As you get a feel for each element, you'll begin to see patterns emerge.


Earth:

The element of Earth is usually represented in the Tarot by coins (sometimes represented as pentacles or diamonds). When we think of this suit, we think of the material world: Wealth, hard work, stability, and groundedness.


Water:

The element of Water is usually represented by cups, though you may also sometimes see it as hearts. This suit is associated with the emotional & spiritual worlds. It connects to concepts of femininity, love, family, intuition, healing, and spirituality or religion.


Air:

The element of Air is usually represented by swords (sometimes shown as arrows or spades). This suit is associated with the world of the mind. The detailed themes of this suit include masculinity, logic, discipline, morality, and action.


Fire:

The element of Fire is usually represented by wands (sometimes also called staves, batons, rods, or scepters) and clubs. When we think of this suit, we think of pure energy and the raw power of the human will. The detailed themes of this suit include desire and creativity - wild, volatile, and uncontrollable forces that can be bent towards the user's will.


minor arcana suits elements associations
Minor Arcana Suits

Three Sections of Every Suit

Next in our funnel-down journey through the Minor Arcana are the three sections of each suit: the Aces, the Pips, and the Courts.


Aces:

First up are the Aces. They represent pure potentiality - that state where the world is your oyster and you're fully in control of your story. Aces are seeds that must be nourished, representing a new beginning. Let's take a closer look at how the Aces relate to each suit and element:

  • Ace of Coins - This is the Ace of new beginnings of a material nature. Things like new jobs, a pregnancy, or a new financial investment are some of the areas governed by the Ace of Coins.

  • Ace of Cups - The Ace of Cups brings forth new emotional and spiritual beginnings. Seeing this card indicates a spiritual awakening, a creative epiphany, or a new relationship may be on the horizon.

  • Ace of Swords - Let the Ace of Swords serve as a guide towards new intellectual endeavors. A new point of view, a moment of clarity, a major breakthrough - these are all things to expect when the Ace of Swords appears.

  • Ace of Wands - Wands carry the energy of desire, passion, instinct, and willpower. Therefore, the Ace of Wands is often an indicator of a new opportunity to find your voice and role in the cosmic plan. Step forth with newfound inspiration to create your own vision, for the Ace of Wands has blessed your endeavor.

Pips:

After the Aces, we move on to the Pips. These are the numbered cards in a deck and fall directly between the Aces and the Courts. Their numbers, 2-10, correspond directly to associations with numerology:

  • Two (2) - Think of the number two as a partnership. Ideally, couples strive to be in a balanced and cooperative exchange. In some instances, it may mean a polarity that requires diplomacy.

  • Three (3) - When two become one, they often become three. Threes can represent major events and cause for celebration like a pregnancy, but they are also associated with other new beginnings.

  • Four (4) - The number four represents stability and structure, much like the four walls of a home. Just as that home protects you and provides space to be organized, the energy of four guides you towards discipline, realism, and pragmatic decision-making.

  • Five (5) - The number five breaks away from the stability established by four - it's like that free-spirited black sheep of the family who craves constant adventure and change. Five carries the energy of being adaptive, innovative, and resourceful.

  • Six (6) - Six seeks connection and beauty. It's all about union! Union in love, union in sexuality, and even union within the community.

  • Seven (7) - Seven is the number that carries great spiritual depth. Driven by intellect and purpose, Seven calls upon you to reflect and introspect to find the answers hidden within.

  • Eight (8) - Consider the number eight, With its twin orbs gravitating a central point, it carries the energy of balance and harmony. On one side of eight is the hard work and discipline necessary to succeed, and on the other is the ability to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

  • Nine (9) - The number nine is associated with death and loss, carrying with it the full gravitas of those concepts. It carries mournful energy, but death can also be a great teacher, and nine also holds a lot of wisdom and mysticism. It signifies an ending, often gradual and fading until there's not much left.

  • Ten (10) - As night gives way to dawn, the mournfulness of nine evolves into the transcendent energy represented by ten. This is where our cycles of transformation come to their natural end. It's a moment to celebrate what it's like to be whole, before shifting into rebirth.

minor arcana pips numerology meanings
Minor Arcana Pips

Court:

Finally, we arrive at the Minor Arcana's Court cards (also known as the royals or the face cards). They are expressed as a King, Queen, Knight, and Page. They represent actual people in your life, their personalities, and their behaviors.

  • Kings - Kings are the embodiment of mature, masculine energy. The appearance of a King represents the cards before and after being set into motion. Kings are masters of external forces and facilitate change over their dominion.

  • Queens - Queens represent the feminine counterpart to the King's matured energy. Queens help to inspire self-development, and the appearance of a Queen generally means the cards before and after her are part of your path towards that.

  • Knights - Knights can be both male and female warriors, and represent an immature expression of the action-oriented masculine energy. Knights seek to facilitate change as well, but lack the wisdom of Kings, leading to preventable mistakes.

  • Pages - Pages are the youthful counterpart to the Queen's inspiring energy. They are eager to attain internal mastery, and are associated with hubris and overzealous pursuit.

minor arcana courts royals faces elements associations
The Courts of The Minor Arcana

Two Sides of the Same Deck

The "Two" in the funnel-down method is a way of breaking down the Minor Arcana in half. This is another way of understanding the deck by converting it into a simple duality. The Minor Arcana has two ways of helping you answer dual questions.


Odds and Evens

The first way is to assign meaning to even and odd numbers:

Even numbers = Yes/good/right/male

Odd numbers = No/bad/left/female (sadly, it's a patriarchal system. Damn the man!)


Two Suits

The second way is to assign meaning to two sets of suits:

Swords & Wands= Yes/good/right/male

Coins & Cups = No/bad/left/female

These are just the most commonly-used associations, but feel free to assign your own meanings as you see fit. In fact, I'd even encourage it as it helps you create an even more personal relationship with your Tarot deck.

minor arcana suits opposites duality
Opposite Suits of The Minor Arcana

One Card at a Time

Finally, the last step in the funnel-down method is all about you! You're one in a million, and how you perceive the imagery of your chosen Tarot deck is too.


Consider the artwork on your deck carefully. Artists of both traditional and modern decks painstakingly create each individual card to include symbols, scenery, colors, and interactions that best fit the meaning of that card. While the included guidebook is helpful, letting the images speak to your intuition can be a powerful thing.


Take each card, one at a time, and contemplate its intricacies. Reflect on its meaning, and what that means to you specifically. Take the time to connect to your cards, and you'll soon find yourself referencing the guidebook less and less as the cards begin to speak to you directly.

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