Tarot Cards and Their Meanings

The Tarot is a great tool for guidance and advice, as well as solving problems. Each of the cards has a meaning of its own, and as you learn the cards and get to know them better, you'll become a more effective reader. Anyone can learn to read Tarot cards, but it does take some practice. It’s a highly intuitive process, so while books and charts come in handy, the best way to actually learn what your cards mean is to handle them, hold them, and feel what they are telling you. Let's look at the Major Arcana, and the four different suits of Tarot cards found in every deck.
 

1
The Major Arcana

Image by Patti Wigington 2014

There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana, each showing some aspect of the human experience. The cards of the Major Arcana are focused on three themes: the realm of the material world, the realm of the intuitive mind, and the realm of change. Depending on which deck you're using, you may find that your cards are not in the order presented. Don't worry about that -- go by the meaning of the card, not by the numeric order. The illustrations on these pages depict cards from the Rider Waite deck, which is one of the most popular Tarot decks available today, and one typically used by new readers as a way to "get to know" Tarot.
 

2
The Suit of Cups

The Ace of Cups represents new beginnings. Rider Waite cards by US Gaming Systems; Photo © Patti Wigington 2010

The suit of Cups is associated with matters of relationships and emotions. As you may expect, it's also connected to the element of water, and subsequently, the direction of West. In some Tarot decks, you may find the Cups referred to as Goblets, Chalices, Cauldrons, or something else. It's where you'll find cards that relate to love and heartbreak, choices and decisions related to emotion, family situations, and anything else that connects to how we interact with the people in our lives.
 

3
What Do the Sword Cards Mean?

The Ace of Swords is a sign of new beginnings. Rider Waite cards by US Gaming Systems; Photo © Patti Wigington 2013; Licensed to About.com

The suit of Swords is associated with matters of conflict, both physical and moral. It's also connected to the element of air, and subsequently, the direction of East. This suit is where you'll find cards that relate to conflict and discord, moral choices and ethical quandaries.
 

4
The Suit of Pentacles or Coins

Rider Waite Deck by US Games Systems, Photo by Patti Wigington

In the Tarot, the suit of Pentacles (often portrayed as Coins) is associated with matters of security, stability and wealth. It's also connected to the element of earth, and subsequently, the direction of North. This suit is where you'll find cards that relate to job security, educational growth, investments, home, money and wealth.
 

5
The Suit of Wands

The Ace of Wands indicates new beginnings, and new opportunities. Rider Waite cards by US Gaming Systems; Photo © Patti Wigington 2013; Licensed to About.com

In the Tarot, the suit of Wands is associated with matters of intuition, wit, and thought processes. It's also connected to the element of fire, and subsequently, the direction of South. This suit is where you'll find cards that relate to creativity, communication with others, and physical activity.

6
Learn All About the Tarot

Tarot Reader
Image by nullplus/E+/Getty Images

Ready to start learning even more about Tarot Cards? They've been a popular method of divination for centuries, and cards are available with artwork for just about any theme or interest. Here's your chance to find out how they work, what they mean, and the best way to lay them out.

Take our free e-class! Six weeks of lessons delivered right to your inbox will get you started with the basics of Tarot!

7
More Divination Methods

Pendulum_1500.jpg
Use your pendulum to get Yes or No answers. Image © Patti Wigington; Licensed to About.com

There are many different methods of divination that you may choose to use in your magical practice, and it goes far beyond the use of Tarot cards. Some people opt to try many different types, but you may find that you’re more gifted in one method than others. Take a look at some of the different types of divination methods, and see which one - or more! - works best for you and your abilities. And remember, just like with any other skill set, practice makes perfect!