The major cards symbolise large issues in life, turning points and inner change. With the major cards either the external world changes which means that our internal world is forced to change, or our internal world changes and as a result we change our external world. This results in constructive, but often painful, phases of life.
Alongside the major cards the minor cards will describe how the individual reacts to any given set of circumstances due to their own personal nature, background, upbringing and current life style.
Let me give you a very simple example.
The death card symbolises endings. A friend of mine knew that he was due to be made redundant and went into work prepared for the bad news. He is single and has other income to fall back on. Once he had his official letter he phoned me in the evening and explained how he had walked proudly out of the building, accepting that his job was gone. He said that on the steps outside he had seen a female colleague crying because she too had been laid off. He said that when he tried to comfort her she simply yowled and said “How am I going to tell my husband, how will we pay the mortgage?”
Both my friend and his colleague experienced the death of their job, yet due to their different situations they reacted very differently. Also my friend had been warned of his pending redundancy and his work mate had not. The company had initially put out that they would be laying four workers off and had ended up making seven people redundant. Hence his female colleague also experienced shock as she had been given no warning.
In a tarot reading both people would have had the death card symbolising the end of their job, and the surrounding cards, especially the minor cards, would have explained how they would potentially react to the situation.
Here is a brief overview of the minor cards and their symbolism.Swords rule air.
Air at a physical level is the quality of air we breath and our ability to breath.
Air rules our mental state. Swords therefore describe our capacity for logical thoughts and our personal thought processes.
The sword is our discrimination. The Ace of swords has a dark and light side showing its ability to attack or defend.
Swords rule truth, honesty and integrity. Batons rule fire.
Fire at a physical level is how hot or cold our body or climate is.
Fire rules our ability to experience, joy and passion, including sexuality.
Fire rules our personal nature, creativity, physical activity, colour and our connection to the plant and animal kingdoms. Cups rule water.
Water at a physical level keeps us hydrated.
Water rules the emotions. It is our ability to emotionally bond with others and form warm, meaningful relationships at many levels. Coins rule earth.
Earth at a physical level is our physical body and all things required to keep us alive.
Coins symbolise wisdom and wealth. We use our wisdom to gain our wealth which then provides for our physical needs such as food, shelter, and clothing.
Without maintaining our physical world we cannot enjoy all of the other qualities in life.
During a tarot reading emphasis on a particular suit will symbolise the questioner’s “type” and the overall pattern of their current situation.
Sword types are very mentally based and ruled by logic and analysis. The negative side of Swords is spite and aggression.
Batons types are bouncy and jolly with a love of sports or the arts and nature. The negative side of batons is recklessness and apathy.
Cups types are caring and sensitive. The negative side of cups is dreaminess and self delusion.
Coins types are good workers and interested in the quality of everything in life. The negative side of coins is greed and avarice.
During a tarot reading it is also vitally important to observe which suit has NOT shown up in the spread. This will tell you as much about the questioner as the cards which are on the table.
Lack of Swords symbolises an inability to be assertive. Often these people are down-trodden and ineffective in standing up for themselves. They are easily bullied and led astray by stronger individuals.
Lack of batons symbolises a lack of energy. Always look to the questioners health when there are no batons on the table. Batons give us the spark of life and our very desire to live. Often when people are unwell this is the first thing that gets “switched off”. Lack of batons also symbolises frustration and an inability to get things started.
Lack of cups symbolises damaged emotions and a blocked heart chakra. Often such people have experienced loss and grief. Shock can also knock out the heart chakra so these issues need to be explored.
Lack of coins symbolises destitution. It is most unusual in the UK to find anyone with a total lack of coins because over here it is possible for people to obtain state benefit and assistance. I have only ever seen a total lack of coins when someone has been going through a divorce and consequently they do not know what resources they have because everything is tied up in litigation.
Swords are ruled by Air. Air is the breath of life.
Swords rule the mental faculties and discrimination as described in The Lovers. Swords rule the mind and the individual’s personal way of thinking. The suit of swords in tarot correlates to Mercury in astrology.
A sword is double edged. It has a light side and a dark side, it attacks and defends, pierces and slices.
In tarot the Ace of Swords depicts the individual’s ability to choose the correct way forward at any given time, especially where communication is concerned. This is one’s ability to speak one’s truth openly and honestly. One’s truth is not an opinion, it is a fact. Let me give you an example.
One day, several years ago, I was in a car with two female friend’s and one of their daughters. We drove past Stonehenge and the three of us who were not driving all saw a man walking near the stones with a “something”. I saw a man with a metal detector, my friend saw a man walking a dog and the girl saw a man mowing the grass. We all agreed that the man had a pole or long something going out from his hand but what exactly was on the end of it was in dispute. The friend who was driving, who hadn’t even seen the man, said, “I have no intention of turning back in order to resolve this. You all saw what you saw, no-one is lying, so there isn’t any need to go back and see what he was doing.”
Now, had we been in a court of law a judge or jury might have decided that someone was lying (the Ace of Swords reversed), yet no-one was, we had all stated what we had seen. The fact. You might well say that what we saw was merely our personal perception of the situation, yet we all do this all of the time, we all perceive our own reality through the illusion of life. Yet it is our truth, by which we al live.
You can begin to see from this true life example how speaking ones truth has the potential to start arguments and conflict, subjects closely associated with the suit of swords in tarot. When somebody defies us or accuses us of lying, or says our opinion is wrong, then be defend with ardour. We also attack back to protect our position.
Words cut and shred our mental balance, yet if we maintain our integrity then nothing can harm us.
The Ace of Swords rules our ability to be assertive, our ability to be honest, our ability not to be easily swayed by others…and also our ability to judge precisely when to pull our car out into traffic or where to slice open a body if we’re operating.
All human life is affected by our dual nature, our knowledge of good and evil. The entire suit of swords epitomises this and our constant human struggle to find the fine point of light that glints down the sword and shines towards truth. Many symbolic artworks depict people using the sword to cut through to the truth. In Sandro Botticelli’s La Primavera we see Mercury depicted on the left hand side using his caduceus instead of a sword to pierce through the clouds which symbolise all thoughts which would literally cloud our judgement.
In tarot the suit of cups symbolises all of the emotional bonds which the individual creates throughout this lifetime as well as the residue, and often inaccessible memories, of emotional attachments from previous incarnations.
Throughout history water has been used as a symbolic form of binding in many religious ceremonies, especially during the Piscean age and Christianity. If you look at a traditional Marseille tarot deck Ace of Cups you will notice how similar it is to a baptism font. The ceremony of pouring water over the babies head, or submersion of the body into water, symbolises the individual’s bond into the church and its doctrine.
There are many myths and legends which use the cup to symbolise love and pure emotion. Probably the most famous of these is the story of King Arthur and the search for the Holy Grail. Although many knights go on the quest to find the grail it is only Galahad who is eventually found to be worthy of it due to his purity of heart.
In tarot the Aces are the pure form of the energy symbolised. Hence the ace of cups symbolises the bonding quality of love and our ability to make and sustain positive emotional contact with people, animals, places and things. This is, however, the type of love which anticipates something in return. It is the “I will love you if you love me, or feed me, or whatever.” Unconditional love, in which nothing is expected, or anticipated, by return comes under the realm of the Sun card.
The ace of cups therefore represents the heart chakra and when the card is upright we are able to experience positive emotional connection and when the ace of cups is reversed the heart chakra is damaged or blocked.
In practice the ace of cups will show that the individual is receptive and open to loving emotions and has a caring nature. It does not necessarily mean that the questioner is “in love”, or even has a personal relationship in their life. Sometimes it can refer to the desire, or readiness, to explore a new personal relationship.
In a tarot reading the ace of cups reversed indicates that the emotions have been damaged, that the heart is blocked and that the individual has difficulties connecting to other people. Often a client will express it to me as an inability to feel anything or a numbness. It is, what we might commonly call, a broken heart.
There are several reasons why the ace of cups might be seen reversed. Shock, as depicted by The Tower, knocks out the heart chakra, and if the cards are close together then this needs to be considered. Depending on how long ago the shock was will emphasise the degree of severity. If the shock was last week then a healing is still naturally taking place, however, if the shock was years ago then the entire body will have become debilitated and the questioner may require various forms of help in order to bring about a healing. Many people feel numb, or “not right” and have no idea why, so the ace of cups reversed is an extremely good indicator to start exploring the possibility of long term residue from shock. When I saw this for one client we eventually discovered that it was the shock she had experienced in the womb when her father had died. She had experienced the trauma through her mother and therefore never considered his death the reason why she had felt “empty” all of her life.
Some people choose to consciously “switch off” their heart chakra after broken relationships. They go around saying “I will never love again” and that is the signal which permeates through their entire consciousness. They end up having no desire to love, or “open up”, even though others might passionately love them. The water in their cup has become stale and stagnant, and until they can release the stuck emotion they will remain trapped and in the negative side of bonds which is bondage.
The ace of cups reversed also comes up frequently when people remain in loveless relationships, or when they are heart broken through a partners infidelity. To heal the broken heart one needs to go through a positive process of release as depicted by the Star card, or walk away from a situation, as symbolised by the Moon.