Learn Tarot Card Meanings

Learn Tarot Card Meanings

These tarot card meanings are the result of intensive research into ancient esoteric wisdom and communicating those truths in practical, modern language to get the most accurate and reliable readings. Scroll down the page or click here for further explanation of this research.


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Major Arcana
Minor Arcana
The Suit of Wands
The Suit of Pentacles
The Suit of Cups
The Suit of Swords


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The major arcana – tarot cards 0 through 21 – is symbolic of The Fool’s Journey, or the evolution of the soul through human life cycles.

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Wands: Insight, Higher Intelligence, Intuition, Messages, Communications, Connections, Plans and Ideas, Magic, Change, Alterations

In the earliest playing cards, wands were portrayed as polo sticks and later evolved into wands. 

Playing Card Suit: Clubs

Element: Air

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Pentacles: Love, Goodness, Passion, Purpose, Will, Power of Intention, Force of Spirit, Force of Evolution

In the earliest playing cards, pentacles were sometimes portrayed as disks or suns, but most often they were coins. 

Playing Card Suit: Hearts

Element: Fire

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Cups: Emotions, Senses, Sensuality, Cycle of Events, Growth and Death, Rise and Decline, Wave-like Motion

In the earliest playing cards, cups were called myriads. They evolved into cups at a later date. 

Playing Card Suit: Diamonds

Element: Water

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Swords: Hard Work, Suffering, Pain and Affliction, Achievements and Failures, Good Fortune and Misfortune, The World of Matter, Material Forms

In the earliest playing cards, swords were almost always portrayed as swords. 

Playing Card Suit: Spades

Element: Earth

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How I Determined These Tarot Card Meanings

When I was learning tarot, modern card meanings generally seemed confusing, contradictory and in some cases, outright oppressive – not to mention trendy and commercialized!

I had endless questions. Does tarot belong to a basic structure or even a moral set of ethics? What were the original meanings and intention of the cards? Is tarot reading even a legitimate practice?

Not to disregard the brilliant and highly intuitive tarot historians, experts and debates out there, but virtually no one seems to have a convincing argument.

What Did The First Tarot Decks Look Like?

Sometime before the year 1425, tarot became a playing card game with suits and trumps. Many claim the game is how tarot originated. The playing cards are assumed to be used for cartomancy and divination after that fact.

Digging into basic tarot history, however, we discover the game of Tarot didn’t originate in Egypt as many erroneously believe, but came from the East as Chinese money-suited cards in the 1st century, or possibly earlier as Korean fighting arrow cards.

Then we have the Mulûk Wa-Nawwâb or Mamluk Turkish playing cards. These cards – dated at the late 12th-century by Dr. Edmond de Unger, a collector of Islamic art – are the link between western Asia and eastern Europe.

So Tarot playing cards seem to have originated in the East before it migrated to Egypt and Italy, possibly through Romani gypsies. Then tarot was Europeanized, as was the Islamic world when it fell under European control.

Then we have the Moorish tarot cards before the Visconti-Sforza tarot decks from the mid-15th century showed up on the scene. Ercole I d’Este and Sola Busca are also included in my research.

Divinatory decks such as by Court de Gébelin, Etteilla’s Egyptian Tarot and A.E. Waite’s were derived from the Tarot de Marseilles pattern at a later date.

Does Tarot Reading Have A Legitimate Basis?

Many believe tarot was derived from playing cards, but the argument is that playing cards evolved from divinatory cards and methods such as the throwing of dice, or casting lots.

The interesting factor about Mamluk playing cards is that its court cards contain inscriptions of encouragement, exhortation or warnings. When was the last time you played a game of Gin Rummy for the purpose of being inspired by ancient wisdom?

For example:

“Rejoice in the happiness that returns as a bird sings it joys.”

“Pleasures for the soul and agreeable things, in my colours there are all kinds”

“As for the present that rejoices, thy heart will soon open up“’

“Rejoice in the pleasant things and the success of the objects”

It’s quite possible that tarot as a game was a disguise to protect its hidden wisdom from being annihilated especially within the Christian populace – just like mystics live incognito to (hopefully) safeguard from religious persecution.

This explains why tarot card meanings have ended up so distorted, aside from malefic infiltration of disinformation as well as your everyday psychic and marketing scam.

Perhaps it was necessary to deliberately hide and scramble tarot’s truths in order to preserve them for the yet to be awakened souls. Only the true seeker with an “unlocked inner code” – unlocked after learning self-predestined Earth lessons – could discover them.

Did Someone Say Adventure?

Being tempted with the thrill of hidden codes, mysteries and adventure, I set out to explore the sea of overwhelming information, hoping to find some clues to the ancient meanings of tarot cards. My tarot exploration has been challenging, dangerous and fun.

Esoteric truths are lost if we rely primarily on theoretical “head knowledge.” We must go through initiation before we can experientially know these truths. Otherwise, it inevitably ends up as misinformation.

The fun part occurs when I seemingly by chance stumble upon an ancient tarot source which leads to other sources – an esoteric jackpot. It’s also well worth the battle when discovering a very different card meaning from a common confusing, out-of-place, or tyrannical meaning such as The Emperor.

Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards
Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards

How Does One Discover The Ancient Esoteric Meaning Of A Tarot Card?

I’m probably drawn to A.E. Thierens’ General Book of the Tarot more than others because of his esoteric astrological influence. I also rely on Hermeticism, The Kabbalah, Neoplatonism, and Pythagorean Numerology as well as honest intuitive truths from the depths of my own soul.

But all known sources deserve consideration, including but not limited to the works of S.L. MacGregor Mathers, PD. Ouspensky, Papus’ Tarot of the Bohemians and The Divinatory Tarot, as well as P.R.S. Foli and of course A.E. Waite.

As valuable as these sources are, one authority doesn’t seem to have all the answers. Still, considering multiple trusted sources increases the chance of “seeing” the overall picture, and thereby the hidden truth, confirming the accuracy of the puzzle pieces thereof. Isn’t this how we read tarot anyway with more than one card?

The Overall Picture

The original intention and basic structure of tarot is what unpopular or silenced tarot readers have been claiming for centuries: It’s a broad or overall picture of the evolutionary path of the Soul – a life map.

Tarot includes every day life struggles and successes, yet simultaneously takes us beyond illusions of the 3-dimensional physical realm. Tarot isn’t only an indispensable tool for life guidance, it’s a series of portals to our inherent and timeless multidimensionality.

Tarot Suits And Cosmic Elements

Nearly everyone agrees the four cosmic elements form a basis for tarot and astrology. In modern day tarot, the suits are commonly assigned with the elements as follows:

Wands = Fire

Swords = Air

Cups = Water

Pentacles/Coins = Earth

Not only do tarot forefathers disagree with each other on these comparisons; in my opinion, they simply don’t make sense – except for cups and water, which is clear enough.

A.E. Thierens convinced me with his explanation of which is which in his General Book of Tarot:

Wands {Clubs} = Air

Pentacles {Hearts} = Fire

Cups {Diamonds} = Water or the Soul

Swords {Spades} = Earth

It’s understandable how and why the suit of Hearts evolved into the concept of Coins or money in a hierarchical society hyper-focused on capitalism – just as we’ve all found ourselves trading in our passions for profit – although ancient mysticism teaches no such thing.

We can also envision tools used to farm the land {Spades} becoming weapons of war {Swords}.

Either way, you can see just by looking at this more logical comparison of the suits and elements that it makes much more sense, is easier to remember, and it immediately resolves a plethora of unanswered questions and controversies within tarot, especially as it involves the commonly dreaded suit of Swords.

“In a general way the cups will relate to water, as the hearts to fire, the wands to air, and the spades to earth in the practice of daily life as well as in a philosophical sense.” – A. E. Thierens

Tarot Is Subject To Universal Laws

The above database of tarot card meanings is my modern translation of what I’ve discovered from the ancient mysteries, confirmed through my own practical experiences, as well as others’ in my tarot readings.

These card meanings have absolutely increased the quality, helpfulness and pure enjoyment of tarot reading, at least for myself.

While tarot can evolve and branch out into all kinds of creative art, complex eras, and beautiful cultures, its foundation is still subject to universal laws and higher wisdom preserved for us through our ancestors. That is what I seek to rediscover, and protect. Thank you for joining me on my tarot adventures.