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What Tarot Suits Are: A Total Beginner’s Guide

    When I started learning the Tarot, I had no clue what a suit was. A bit embarrassed, I looked for the answer online to find information about something called the Minor Arcana. I was left even more confused. What was all this?

    The Tarot suits consist of four groupings of cards that together make the Minor Arcana (minor life secrets). The suits are; Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and Wands. Cups represent emotions, Pentacles earthly wealth, Swords communication and truth, and Wands passion.   

    The Tarot is divided into two main sections, the Major Arcana (major life secrets) and the Minor Arcana (minor life secrets). You find the four suits in the Minor arcana. The suits are; Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and Wands. Each suit represents different virtues of life. Let’s take a closer look.


    To better understand what a suit is and stands for, we need to learn the basic system of the Tarot. It’s not hard; follow along.

    One tip is to have a regular playing card structure at the top of the mind. Think of the pip cards (clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades) as the Minor Arcana, The court cards (Jack, Queen, and King). They mimic each other as the Tarot originally came from playing cards. 

    The two major sections of the deck are the Major Arcana (major life secrets) and the Minor Arcana (minor life secrets). The Major Arcana consists of cards with names and numbers, like the Emperor, Fool, Sun, and Moon. The Major Arcana has 22 cards in total.

    The Major Arcana do not have suits, so we leave it for now. 

    The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards. The depict major life events

    The Minor Arcana, on the other hand, is divided into four main sections called suits. In total, the Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards. 

    The suits are; Cups (also Coins), Pentacles, Swords, and Wands. The suits represent different elements or virtues, which helps the reader understand the energy behind the cards. 

    • Cups
    • Pentacles or Coins
    • Swords
    • Wands

    In short, Cups represent emotions, Pentacles earthly wealth, swords communication and truth, and wands passion. This is what the different suits look like in the Rider Waite Tarot deck. 

    • Cups = emotions
    • Pentacles | Coins = Earthly wealth
    • Swords = Communication, and truth
    • Wands = Passion, and energy

    Below you find a picture of all the Suits. In the Rider Waite deck, they are easy to recognize. The Wands are often depicted with small leaves, the Pentacles as a coin, the cups as a chalice, and the Swords as plain swords.

    The four suits represent the Minor Arcana. The arrow point at the symbol for each suit.
    The four suits represent the Minor Arcana. The arrow point at the symbol for each suit.


    With knowledge about the virtues of the suit, it is much easier to understand the meaning of the cards. In the table below, you get an overview on how what the suits represent. The suits have different seasons, elements, and characteristics.

    The suits can be divided into seasons, which might help the reader understand the suit’s meaning. For example; Swords represent the element of Air. The truth can be as harsh and challenging as the winter. The Pentacles, on the other hand, represent earthly wealth and are represented by the lush summer. 

    Note, though, that different systems categorize the seasons differently. There are no wrongs or rights. Some systems organize wands as spring and so forth. As you grow as a reader, you will find a system that corresponds with your intuitive mind. Tarot is no definite science.Show 5102550100 entriesSearch:

    PentaclesEarthTangible realmSummer
    WandsFireEnergy and PassionFall
    SwordsAirRational mindWinter

    If you want to learn more about reading the suits, look at my article on pip-decks. This article gives you in-depth knowledge of how to decode the Minor arcana and the different suits. Note, though, the Court cards are not included in this article. 


    Learn how to read pip cards with ease.


    The Minor Arcana consists of the four suits, including the Court cards. The Court cards are the Page, Knight, Queen, and King cards. The Court cards are often referred to as indicators of different personality traits. 

    The Minor Arcana refers to minor life secrets or everyday challenges and wins. A Minor Arcana card doesn’t indicate life-changing happenings as the case with Major Arcana.

    • Minor Arcana (the four suits including the Court cards): Minor life events + personality traits
    • Major Arcana: Major life events
    The Court cards of the Tarot symbolize different personality types within the virtue of the suit.

    The Court cards represent different kinds of personality traits. 

    • Page = immature, childish energy
    • Knight = young adult with lots of passion and energy
    • Queen = Feminine, mature energy
    • King= Masculine mature energy

    A big misconception about the Minor Arcana is that it’s not as crucial as the Major Arcana. This is far from the truth. The Minor Arcana might impact a person emotionally as much as a Major Arcana card. The time window is narrower, though, and the lesson is learned more quickly and with less impact. But the heartache can be devastating at the time, as the joy might be euphoric.

    This is an important thing to remember when delivering answers to a client, or yourself for that matter. Our minor life experiences will build a web that leads to significant shifts in the future. It’s all in our everyday choices. The most insignificant decision might, in the end, be the most important decision we have ever made. 


    When you understand the meanings and virtues of the four suits, you unlock a big part of the mystery of the Tarot. The suits give the reading depth and add a layer of information that Major Arcana can’t. 

    The Minor Arcana, along with the suits, are as significant as the Major Arcana. The magic often lies in our everyday life. And the choices we make on a whim might have a more significant impact than a decision we thoroughly considered. 

    As you grow as a reader, your experience will make the understanding even deeper. Adding numerology to the virtue of the cards will give even a deeper understanding. But as always, start at the beginning and do not rush the learning experience. Learning the Tarot is a marathon, not a sprint. 

    Sandra Törnroth

    Intuitive multi-modal tarot reader with a love for crystals and everything esoteric


    Snatch the tools a professional tarot reader is using


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