Wednesday, 10 August 2011

minor cards made easy

When I started playing with my first pack of Tarot cards I was a kid. The major arcana held so much allure for me, as I know it did for most of us in the learning stages. Tarot books always go into so much detail about the major cards and the minor cards always seem like supporting actors and extras in the movie, which can lead us to feel confused or nonplussed about them. In this post I'm going to outline the two important ways to break down the minor arcana and commit its meanings to memory - suits and numbers. Once you've managed to relate the minor cards to their suit and number, you can start to break down their symbolism and back stories, but that is more complex work that usually comes after you've managed to form an overview.

The suits correspond with the four elements, and although that's widely known and accepted amongst Tarot students, we don't tend to spend time thinking of the card meanings in terms of the suit they fall into, therein missing a golden opportunity to make study easier.

Pentacles/Coins - This suit corresponds with earth and relates to the physical and practical of life's concerns - things like money, work and health. Our homes, our bodies and our valuables fall under this suit. The pentacles have just as much to say about our responses to material wealth and good fortune as it does about whether or not we'll receive it. Some of the cards address our level of generosity while others focus on who it would be wise to trust..

Cups/Chalices - This suit corresponds with water and relates to romantic emotion and extreme emotion (as opposed to Wands, which deals more with creative emotion, for example.) It also deals with intuition and close connections to others. Cups address regret at treating people badly, nostalgia for past times, recognition for those who have offered sympathy and focus on the key areas of our romantic links. They also delve into the positives and negatives of emotional extremes. Depression, over-indulgence in substances or harmful behaviours, but also elation, fixation and intense joy.

Swords/Daggers - This suit corresponds with air and relates to the mind and the voice - control, rational thought, choosing our enemies and making our positions known. Problem-solving, debate, factual arguments and a love of wordplay are all represented here. The suit represents an intense love for intelligence but it also addresses the problems that come from disagreements and fighting dirty - slander, backstabbing, lying, gossiping and attempting to manipulate are all unpleasant situations addressed by the suit.

Wands/Rods - This suit corresponds with fire and relates to creativity, passion, ambition and religion or philosophy. Anything you're putting your heart and soul into or that you feel defines you as a person is represented here. It deals with excitement, invention, zeal, but also with frustration and impatience. Competitiveness, hot-headed action, movement and travel all feature in this suit.

(Wands and Swords are often interchangeable which can cause confusion. Some decks describe swords as the fire deck, since swords are forged in fire, and wands as the deck relating to air. I suppose Wiccans particularly might appreciate it this way around, since their athame represents fire and their wand, air. I always think of wands as the fire deck because that's how most decks set it up and also because I feel that creative passion is such a trait of those who fall under a fire sign, as I do, so it makes more sense to me.)

Ok, now on to the numbers. All the aces from the four suits have a general combined meaning. Same with the twos, threes and so on. If you're having difficulty connecting to the minor arcana cards using their meanings alone, seeing the numbers as all corresponding to a set deeper meaning can help.

Ace - Think raw. Raw ambition, raw idea or raw feeling. There's potential there but it's undefined and you don't know where it's going to go yet.

Two - A pause between two choices, an attempt to do two things at once or a duality of thought.

Three - The idea, thought, feeling or project has been taken up. Now it needs to be nurtured, nursed, looked after. We need to turn desires into acts.

Four - The first stage has been completed and established and there is now a time of stability. This can be seen as a positive sign of celebration or as a time when you're unsure what the next move should be or how to evolve.

Five - The number of fear and severity. The fives represent some kind of unexpected chaos or loss of some of what has been built. Strength is required.

Six - Equilibrium after the turbulence of the five. Sixes represent an exchange and a balance in order to achieve harmony. Recognition at finding a solution is part of the meaning.

Seven - Challenges, loss, changing the status quo. The balance of the six has been upset by the inevitable to and fro of life and now creativity and individuality is demanded by the seven to find a better direction.

Eight - Know your limitations and use strength and initiative to transcend them. Eights represent the sticky parts of life that call on you to be your own destiny and show bravery in the face of loss or confusion.

Nine - Realisations of the truth. The ups and downs have finally resulted in a wider knowledge of yourself and your surroundings. Nines are particularly powerful. They encourage us to shine a light on what's been accomplished to see what might be missing but they also celebrate us as the makers of our own magic and recognise that we've done so much to get to this stage.

Ten - The end of a cycle and the beginning of the next phase. The number zero - square one. Wisdom and completion leading to the new and the need to learn something.

I focus intently on each individual meaning and of course most decks offer so much symbolism to help to interpret a spread. However, looking at the numbers as an overall sequence is also an important part of understanding the pattern of Tarot.