Using the Tarot for Creativity and Empowerment

Tarot 101: Structure of a Tarot Deck Part 2 – The Minor Arcana

This is a post in my Tarot 101 Series

Tarot minor arcana image

In the last post, we looked at the Major Arcana, also referred to as the Trumps or the Keys. The second part of a Tarot deck is the Minor Arcana, also referred to as the Pip cards or simply the Pips. In contrast with the Major Arcana which represents the major events in our lives, the Minor Arcana represents the day to day events in our lives. In many decks, including the Rider-Waite-Smith, these events are depicted as images displaying people in various situations: relationships, family, work, emotions, etc.

Now just because these cards are part of the Minor Arcana doesn’t mean that they cannot provide profound insight, for indeed they can. Often, the smallest event can create the greatest impact in our life.

The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards, divided into four suits, with each suit represents one of the four elements: Fire, Water, Air and Earth. In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck as well as many other modern decks, the suit of Wands is associated with fire, Cups with water, Swords with air, and Pentacles with earth. There are several variations of these suits found in different decks. For instance, in the Voyager Tarot, the traditional Two of Swords becomes the Two of Crystals.

Below are some common deck variations:

Wands: Batons, staves, clubs, scepters, sticks, rods, spears, staffs, fire, air Cups: Chalices, cauldrons, hearts, water Swords: Spades, Daggers, Chivs, Air, Fire Pentacles: Coins, disks, stones, shields, spirals, diamonds, earth

It is also worth noting that in some decks, the element designation of Wands and Swords is reversed from the traditional Waite-Smith deck; that is to say , the suit of Wands is associated with air (rather than fire) and the suit of Swords is associated with fire (rather than air). You will want to verify the proper suit designation if you are reading with a deck other than the RWS.

The structure of the Minor Arcana is similar to a standard deck of playing card with four numbered cards in each suit and four court cards. We will take a look at the Court cards in the next post.

The deck used in this series is the Waite-Smith deck, published by U.S. Games. You can check out the deck HERE:

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