learn the tarot

LESSON TWO: What is the Minor Arcana?

In the Tarot, the Minor Arcana consists of fifty-six cards bearing similarity to a playing card deck. Like a playing card deck, the Minor Arcana is divided into four suits:

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

tarot suits

Another way the Minor Arcana is similar to a playing card deck: each suit has ten cards numbered 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 of the Tarot represents a different stage of growth in the development of the suit. It begins with the ace, which is the purist expression of the suit, and cumulates in ten, the highest manifestation of it. 

Court cards can be read two ways. They often reveal different aspects of the querent (or person who is the subject of the tarot reading) at different times of their life: young, old, innocent, wise. Alternately, court cards can represent people or situations surrounding the querent. 

The Minor Arcana takes the major life themes presented in the Major Arcana and brings them down to earth, making them relevant to our everyday life. In other words, if a Major Arcana card is like rushing along a highway, a Minor Arcana card is akin to a local road. Both take you somewhere but in different ways.

At this stage, you're probably wanting to know more about each of the Minor Arcana suits. Read on to learn about 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.