Now that we’ve studied the 22 keys of the Major Arcana, we’re ready to explore the four suits of the Minor Arcana. These suits are Cups, Wands, Swords and Pentacles, with a total of 56 cards. Each suit is composed of Ace – 10, and four Court cards – Page, Knight, Queen and King. Some Tarot scholars believe the Minor Arcana is older than the Major Arcana, but this really can’t be proven.
The four suits became our modern playing cards (with the deletion of the Page, the Knight becoming the Jack and the Fool becoming the Joker): Cups to Hearts, Wands to Clubs, Swords to Spades and Pentacles to Diamonds.
Some scholars ascribe the following relationships to the four suits: Cups to Water and the West, Wands to Fire and the South, Swords to Earth and the North, and Pentacles to Air and the East. However, in my more than 30 years of working with Tarot, I have found these associations for Swords and Pentacles not to be accurate. Instead, my work has led me to believe that Swords are related to Air and the East and Pentacles related to Earth and the North.
Cups are connected to emotions, love and happiness. Because Water and the West symbolize the unconscious and introspection, cups are related to unconscious emotions as well. Fertility and beauty also are associated with this suit. The animal associated with Cups is the undine – a mythical female water spirit.
Wands are connected to action and work. Because Fire and the South symbolize movement and action, Wands are related to making and acting on choices. The animal associated with Wands is the salamander – an animal that can live through fire.
Swords are connected to both strife and spirit, and often denotes an internal spiritual conflict. Because Air and East are related to thought and inspiration, Swords are related to clear thought and intuition. The animal associated with Swords is the eagle.
Pentacles are connected to material goods and feelings of safety. The points on the Pentacle inscribed on these cards represent the five elements of Nature – Fire, Air, Earth, Water and Spirit. Because Earth and the North are related to connectedness and being grounded, Pentacles are related to feeling safe and connected to solid ground. The animal associated with Pentacles is the lion.
Next week we will begin our journey through the suit of Cups.