Whilst the Major Arcana illustrates the ‘big themes’ in our lives – collective experiences and universal forces, the Minor Arcana are much more down to earth.
Where the Majors showed us archetypes (for example Death, the cyclical nature of our world, with its continuous endings and beginnings), the Minors depict real-life expressions of that energy (the Six of Swords for ‘moving on’, for example, or the Ace of Pentacles for an exciting new start).
These cards look like life. The Minor Arcana cards represent the ‘stuff’ that makes up our lives and often show human figures engaged in daily activities. Interactions with other people, thoughts, feelings, ideas, projects. The things that surround us, our work, our relationships, our environment…everything is here.
The four suits
The Minor Arcana is arranged in four suits: Pentacles, Swords, Cups and Wands – though your deck may use different names for these suits. Each of the four suits represents a different sphere within our life, corresponding with one of the four elements:
Pentacles are the element of earth. This is our physical world, sensuality, work, craft, our bodies, food and resources, home, environment, structures and foundations.
Swords are the element of air. This is our intellectual world, the thoughts in our heads – including fear, insecurity, self-doubt – and our principles, our sense of right and wrong, of justice.
Cups are the element of water. These cards deal with feelings and emotion, intuition, love, relationships, loss, spirituality – everything that is the realm of the heart.
Wands are the element of fire. These cards deal with the flame that burns within each of us – the desires and beliefs we hold in our core and that drives the things we do. These cards are very active, dealing with projects and battles, creativity and destruction.
If your deck uses different names for the four suits, that’s fine! The meanings will remain the same. You may find it helpful to make a note of which suit corresponds to which, so you don’t get confused.
Each suit begins with an Ace.
The Ace represents the very essence of the suit itself, so each Ace page also contains an overview of the suit, with its the key themes and energies, and some keywords and symbols.
For cards Two through to Ten, I have described the card in terms of how you would interpret it in a reading.