Tarot Card Symbolism: Imagery, Suits, Hidden Symbols
You may know the four suits in the Tarot deck (like Pentacles). But other common Tarot card symbols include zodiac signs, planetary glyphs, and more.
With 78 cards in the Tarot deck, learning all the Tarot meanings plus remembering to consider symbolism throughout can be a tough feat. We asked Luna Celeste, Tarot reader for @lunacelestetarot, to cover some of the basics regarding Tarot symbolism.
There are four suits in the Tarot deck: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. According to Celeste, these are the meanings of each:
- Wands: fire and fire signs, action, creativity, drive
- Cups: water and water signs, emotions, consciousness, relationships
- Swords: air and air signs, logic, power, conflict
- Pentacles: earth and earth signs, physicality, stability, wealth
Symbols for Wands
Since Wands represent fire and fire signs, often the imagery in the cards show desert-like or arid landscapes. With that said, symbols include animals, plants, or natural objects that occur within a landscape like this. Here are a few symbols found in Wands cards:
- Blue skies
- Open plains
Symbols for Cups
Cups represent water and water signs. So, the imagery in the cards usually portrays large or small beds of water and beachy landscapes. That said, symbols usually include animals, plants, or natural objects that are found near water. Here are a few symbols found in Cups cards:
- The moon
- Lobsters or crabs
Symbols for Swords
Swords represent air and air signs. Imagery on these signs usually shows landscapes that have a lot of wind or vast open-air spaces. Symbols on these cards include animals, plants, and natural objects that withstand pressure (such as wind). Here are a few symbols found in Swords cards:
Symbols for Pentacles
Pentacles signify earth and earth signs. So, the landscapes found on these Tarot cards are either green and lush, or they represent the materialist side of Pentacles: city and urban. The symbols found in these cards are animals, plants, and natural objects that thrive in forest or urban landscapes. Here are a few symbols found in the Pentacles cards:
Court Cards Symbolism
The court cards include Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings. According to Celeste, “Court cards often represent people in our lives. They can also be strong symbols of their associated suit.”
She gives some keywords for each of the court cards:
- Page: learning, growth, knowledge
- Knight: action, movement, change
- Queen: compassion, intuition, wisdom
- King: power, solutions, dominance
Numerology in Tarot
Every card automatically has a symbol associated with it, whether you recognize it or not. Each number means something! So, for the Two of Cups for example, that “two” gives that card a little extra meaning. For The Wheel of Fortune, the tenth card in the Major Arcana, that “ten” means something.
Here’s what Celeste has to say about the numerology meanings in Tarot:
- 1: New beginnings, opportunities
- 2: Choices, partnerships
- 3: Community, creative growth
- 4: Building stability, manifestation of dreams
- 5: Change, uncertainty
- 6: Reconciliation, cooperation
- 7: Learning, growth, self-reflection
- 8: Action, control, mastery
- 9: Success, goals coming into reality, push forward
- 10: Completion, final success, renewal
Imagery & Color in Tarot
Color and imagery are very important to the Tarot deck. Celeste goes as far to say as the colors in Tarot represent the elements of the suits. That would make the color red for Fire/Wands, yellow for Air/Swords, green and brown for Earth/Pentacles, and blue for Water/Cups.
One other thing Celeste notes about the imagery is that you often see the metaphysical world interacting quite closely with the physical world. For example, the Queen of Cups has small mermaids embedded in her throne. “This contrast really highlights the blend of the physical and spiritual that exists within Tarot,” she says.
“As far as imagery across other decks, the great thing about modern Tarot is that it has evolved so much beyond Rider-Waite,” she goes on. “There are decks that stay traditional in imagery, but include important developments such as racial diversity and greater gender expression.”
One way to find hidden symbols in Tarot is to look at the bottom of the card, around the corners, or within the etches of the thrones in the court cards. There are small details that we can easily overlook.
What do Tarot cards do?
Tarot cards don’t necessarily tell the future. They simply give us a physical way to visualize the thoughts in our heads. They help us make decisions, prepare for what’s coming, or change the outcome for the better.
How many cards are in a Tarot deck?
There are 78 cards in a Tarot deck.
How do you learn the Tarot card meanings?
Tarot meanings can be a process to learn on your own. But never fear, there are many options out there for you! You can search for meanings online, read them in books, or talk with friends who are learning.
Another way to learn quickly is to get a professional Tarot reading done! This will help you recognize the interpretations and see how others interpret certain cards.