Let’s get back to the subject of exercises designed to stimulate the intuitive, subconscious part of the brain. The previous two Right Brain Exercises we’ve discussed have both focused on aspects of the major arcana. As any student of the Tarot knows, much emphasis is placed on the meaning of each individual card in that series. You might say these are the “trump” cards of the deck, and the most significant points in a reading. Today, however, we’ll consider the impact of the minor arcana. The four suits of the Tarot each represent a different aspect of the human experience. All are assigned a natural element and are, in essence, the four tools on the table in front of The Magician. According to Paul Case, the four suits are also related to the ancient Hebrew Kabbala.
Numerology is a much stronger theme in the four suits than is astrology. This is in contrast to the major arcana, where every card has a corresponding astrological sign or ruling planet. The influence of astrology in the four suits is much less specific. Each suit represents the astrological signs that share the same natural element. For example, the suit of Pentacles represents Earth and therefore also represents all three Earth signs, Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo. This can be helpful when interpreting court cards in a reading.
The primary meaning of each minor arcana, however, is found in a combination of the number of the card and the qualities of the suit. Obviously, a basic knowledge of the meanings of numbers 0-9 is important for insight into the four suits. Each number represents a Universal force, as does each suit. The definition of the card is in the intersection of those forces.
When Ace through 10 of any suit are laid out in a row, they tell a generic short story. It’s a tale of a fresh new beginning followed by challenges and successes along the way. The stories come to completion, and then move into transition. Each suit follows this same basic outline, but each has its own unique focus and points of emphasis.
Wands represent the world of pure ideas, and symbolize inspiration and desire. Therefore, all the cards of that suit are about the development of an idea, passion, or motivation. Likewise, in Cups the story is about the emotions and creativity. Swords dwell on mental processes, as well as conflict. In Pentacles we see matters related to material prosperity and physical well-being.
The Left Brain has to set the stage for this exercise with the understanding of numerology and the qualities of the four suits, as discussed earlier. Once that’s in place, use this to help nudge the Right Brain into awareness as well.
Lay out cards Ace through 10 of each suit into four horizontal rows. Place the rows in this order: Wands on top, then Cups, Swords, and Pentacles on the bottom.
First, try to tell the story of each suit in your own mind. Personalize as much as you can. Was there a time when you had a great idea for some type of venture, and then found a good business partner? If so, you’ve experienced the forces expressed in the Ace and 2 of Pentacles. Perhaps you can trace the path of something that has strongly motivated you in the past when contemplating Wands. Let the suits speak to you about their natures.
Next, look at the cards vertically, in groups of four of a kind. Consider how each is similar to the other by virtue of the qualities of its number. For example, all the Aces are about beginnings and initiation, and all the sixes indicate love and equilibrium. Spend some time getting a feel for the likenesses between these cards.
Finally, try to pinpoint how each of them are different. But don’t try too hard, this process will come at its own pace. Do the exercise more than once, if possible, over a period of several weeks.
Understanding of the minor arcana can sometimes seem more elusive than the major arcana. Meanings of the major arcana may be deeper and vaster, but since they’re based on astrology as well as numerology, they are fairly specific. Interpretation of the four suits, however, can vary greatly from person to person. The most important thing, as always, is to find the meaning that resonates for you personally. To that end, then, try this exercise and let us know what you think!