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As mentioned previously, the Minor Arcana takes the great life themes explored in the Major Arcana and brings them down to earth, making them relevant to our everyday experiences. Here's another way to describe the difference between the arcanas: a Major Arcana card is like swooping along a highway; a Minor Arcana card is akin to a local road. Both take you somewhere but in different ways.

Because the Major Arcana has twenty-two cards, there are fifty-six Minor Arcana cards. (Remember, a tarot deck is comprised of seventy-eight cards. So 22 + 56 = 78. Got it?) The Minor Arcana bears striking similarity to a playing card deck. For starters, the Minor Arcana is divided into four suits:

1. Cups (or hearts in a playing card deck): affairs of the heart, emotions, intuition.
2. Wands (or clubs): creativity, initiative, action. Some tarot decks call this suit staves instead of wands.
3. Swords (or spades): wisdom, the intellect, limitations.
4. Pentacles (or diamonds): physical manifestation, wealth, the greater world. Some tarot decks call this suit coins instead of pentacles.

tarot suits

The Minor Arcana is also similar to a playing card deck because each suit has ten numbered cards, ace through ten. However, here the differences end: unlike a playing card deck, the Minor Arcana features four court cards instead of three:

Minor Arcana: Page, Knight, Queen, King
Playing cards: Jack, Queen, King

court cards

Each numbered card in the Minor Arcana represents a different stage of growth in the development of the suit—beginning with the ace, or the purist expression of the suit, and cumulating in ten, the highest manifestation of it. Court cards often reveals different views of the same person's psyche at different times of life: young, old, innocent, wise. On a mundane level, court cards can sometimes represent people or situations. 

At this stage, you might be wondering about each of the four Minor Arcana suits. Read on to learn more about the first one, the Suit of Cups!


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The Learn Tarot online course was adapted by permission from The Goddess Tarot Workbook by Kris Waldherr, published by US Games Systems, © 2000, all rights reserved. (The Goddess Tarot is available as an app here.) Permission is granted to print out this lesson for personal use only. Sharing or selling this content in any form is strictly forbidden by law.