Tuesday, July 8, 2014


By Judy Jennings © Copyright 2014

Tarot is an extremely practical oracle with an affinity for getting down and dirty in your personal business.  This is no stuffy, stand-offish medium stuck out in the ether.  Tarot is an oracle that dives into the trenches of your daily life to act like a compass, constantly shifting according to your situation and pointing continually in the best direction for moving forward.

The cards of the four suits play a major role in giving Tarot that ability.  While the major arcana may speak in metaphysical tones, the intricacies of the everyday are the life-blood of the four suits. 

To understand the meanings of cards Ace through ten of the four suits, one must first gain a basic knowledge of two subjects; the occult meanings of numbers 1-10, and the qualities of the four elements of astrology.  Fire, Earth, Air and Water are each associated with one of the four suits of Tarot, and the nature of its element is reflected in the story told by each suit.  In this group of cards, designed to address the realities of everyday life, interpretation is found in the combination of the number and the suit. 

Try this simple exercise for a better understanding of the elemental nature of the suits:  Close your eyes and clear your mind for a moment.  When you are relaxed, imagine a flame burning brightly right in front of you.  Let this fire-associated with the suit of wands- take any form it wants, whether a single flame or a raging bonfire.  Hold this image in your mind for about 30 seconds.

How did you feel as you looked over that flame?  What kind of qualities made an impression on you?  Did it seem impulsive, excited, impatient?  This intuitive, emotional connection with these elements will teach you much of what you need to know about the potential of each suit.  Try this exercise with all four.  The element associated with a suit divulges the aspects of daily life that suit will address in a reading.  Suits and elements are aligned as follows:  Wands/Fire, Pentacles/Earth, Swords/Air, Cups/Water.

While learning about the elements is in great part an intuitive process, learning the meanings of numbers is not.  Rote memorization is called for, but in the meantime, there’s a cheat sheet at the end of this article that can serve as a handy reference.  That’s not really cheating.
          The quality of the suit and the meaning of the number of the card are two ways in which cards deliver information.  Intuition, often stimulated by artwork, is the other major player.  With hundreds, maybe thousands, of decks in circulation these days that’s what the selection of a Tarot pack most often narrows down to:  You choose the deck with the artwork that best stimulates your imagination and intuition.  It’s a matter of resonance.

That’s also a very personal choice, and not our subject for today.  Let’s get back to suits and numbers.  Better yet, let’s move on to a different technique altogether.  Storytelling is another wonderful way to get to know this group.

The tricky part about Tarot storytelling is avoiding the temptation to revert to interpretation.  Storytelling is not the same thing as doing a reading.  Tarot storytelling is fictional.  The purpose of this exercise is engage the creative capacity of your right brain in order to create an intuitive bond with the cards in the story.  

For this exercise, lay out cards Ace through 10 of one suit, and make up a story about what is happening to the character as you put down each card.  Use two guidelines for your stories:  Give your character a name right away, and end on a positive note.  You can use what you’ve learned about the meaning of numbers and the qualities of the suits to give direction to your story, but it is your emotional connection with the cards that will breathe life into it.  It’s probably best to start with a suit other than Swords, which can really test your ability to come up with that happy ending.  Cups are nice.

Have fun with this exercise!  Remember, the purpose is to develop a feel for the “personality” of the cards, so to speak, not to do a reading.  You can also play this as a group, with a different person adding to the story as each card is set down.  Look for details in the cards to add to your story:  Backgrounds, animals, weather, and facial expressions are clues to the energy being expressed in each one.  The meanings of the numbers of the cards and the qualities of the suits should define the general direction of your tale, but the details added from your imagination will offer the most intimate understanding of the cards!





0.                Infinity, superconsciousness, unlimited potential.

1.                  Conscious self-awareness. 

2.                Duality, reflection, alternation.

3.                Growth, development, expression.  Networking of  1 and 2.

4.                Calculating intelligence, order, measurement, classification, beneficence.

5.                 Adaptation, versatility.  Midpoint between beginning and completion.

6.                Harmony of opposites, reciprocity, equilibrium, love.

7.                 Synthesis of preceding numbers.  In relation to Tarot specifically, 7 represents the unfinished Great Work.

8.                Like 0, 8 can be written continuously without lifting pen from paper, suggesting infinity.  Double circles indicate alternating cycles and the idea that opposites are actually the effect of the same cause.

9.                Completion, attainment, fulfillment.  The end of a cycle.

10.            A balance of self-awareness and universal consciousness.  10 is the number of transition.





WANDS:  The suit of Fire.  Wands represent the world of Spirit and the realm of pure ideas.  Wands have everything to do with motivation, inspiration and passion.


CUPS:  The suit of Water.  Cups hold all of the meanings of the High Priestess herself.  This is the suit of creativity and emotional depth.  The subconscious mind and hidden wisdom are represented here.


SWORDS:  The suit of Air.  Mental and psychological activity is shown in Swords.  Matters involving communication and/or conflict are strong aspects of this suit.  Issues that can arise throughout the process of making a decision are emphasized.  Swords also represent the realm where the ideas generated in Wands are actually pressed into reality.


PENTACLES:  The suit of Earth.  Pentacles have to do with all matters of health and well-being in the material world.  Career, residence, and a connecton to the natural world are all demonstrated in Pentacles.

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