Minor Arcana: Understanding the 56 Minor Cards and Their Divisions (Suits)

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The world of Tarot is a captivating one, filled with symbolism, mysticism, and a rich tapestry of cards that have intrigued and inspired people for centuries. At the heart of the Tarot deck, alongside the Major Arcana, lies the Minor Arcana, a collection of 56 cards divided into four distinct suits. These minor cards may not carry the same weight as the Major Arcana, but they play a crucial role in Tarot readings, offering insights into everyday life, emotions, and practical matters. In this exploration, we’ll dive deep into the Minor Arcana, unraveling the secrets of its divisions, symbolism, and significance.

Demystifying the Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana is often considered the “lesser” part of the Tarot deck, but this label doesn’t diminish its importance. These cards provide nuanced details about your life, highlighting the everyday experiences, challenges, and opportunities that shape your journey. While the Major Arcana deals with profound, life-altering forces, the Minor Arcana delves into the finer details of your existence. Let’s break down the Minor Arcana into its essential components.

1. Minor Arcana Structure

The 56 cards in the Minor Arcana are divided into four suits, each containing 14 cards. These suits are:

  • Wands
  • Cups
  • Swords
  • Pentacles (Coins)

Each suit is further divided into ten numbered cards and four court cards, consisting of the Page, Knight, Queen, and King. Together, these suits and their associated cards create a comprehensive framework for understanding the diverse aspects of human life and experience.

2. The Suits of the Minor Arcana

Let’s explore each of these suits in more detail to gain a deeper understanding of their symbolism and representation in Tarot readings.

A. Wands

The Wands, also known as Rods or Staves in some decks, represent the element of Fire. They are associated with inspiration, creativity, ambition, and spirituality. When Wands cards appear in a reading, they often signify action, passion, and the pursuit of goals.

B. Cups

Cups represent the element of Water and are linked to emotions, relationships, and matters of the heart. These cards deal with love, intuition, and the ebb and flow of feelings in our lives. They can reveal insights into your emotional well-being and relationships.

C. Swords

Swords correspond to the element of Air and symbolize thoughts, intellect, and communication. This suit often reflects challenges, conflicts, and the power of mental clarity. Swords cards can indicate the need for mental fortitude and decision-making.

D. Pentacles (Coins)

Pentacles, sometimes referred to as Coins or Disks, align with the element of Earth. They deal with material aspects of life, such as finances, career, and physical well-being. Pentacles cards offer guidance on practical matters and abundance in various forms.

3. Numbered Cards

In each suit of the Minor Arcana, there are ten numbered cards, ranging from Ace (1) to Ten. These cards convey a progression of energy and situations related to their respective suit. For example, the Ace typically represents the beginning or a new opportunity, while the Ten often signifies the culmination or completion of a cycle.

4. Court Cards

The court cards in the Minor Arcana—Page, Knight, Queen, and King—represent different personality traits and roles. They can represent actual people in your life or aspects of yourself. Here’s a brief overview of what each court card typically symbolizes:

  • Page: Represents youthful energy, enthusiasm, and new beginnings.
  • Knight: Signifies action, drive, and a quest for change or adventure.
  • Queen: Represents maturity, nurturing, and a sense of emotional depth.
  • King: Symbolizes authority, leadership, and mastery of the suit’s qualities.

Now that we’ve dissected the structure of the Minor Arcana let’s delve deeper into their symbolism and how they can offer valuable insights into your life.

The Symbolism of the Minor Arcana

The power of the Minor Arcana lies in its symbolism, and understanding these symbols is crucial for interpreting their messages accurately. Let’s explore some common themes and symbols associated with each suit.


  • Wand or Staff: The central symbol of the suit represents power, growth, and creativity. It’s a tool for manifestation and action.
  • Leaves and Shoots: These often appear on Wand cards, signifying the flourishing of ideas and projects.
  • Salamander: A mythical creature associated with Fire, representing transformation and passion.


  • Cup or Chalice: The main symbol in the Cups suit represents emotions, intuition, and receptivity.
  • Water: Depicted inside the cups, symbolizing the flow of emotions and the subconscious mind.
  • Fish: A recurring motif in this suit, denoting fertility, creativity, and the depth of emotions.


  • Sword: The prominent symbol in the Swords suit signifies intellect, clarity, and the power to cut through confusion.
  • Winged Creature: Often seen holding the sword, representing the mind’s ability to rise above challenges and gain perspective.
  • Clouds: Frequently depicted in the background, symbolizing the realm of thoughts and ideas.

Pentacles (Coins)

  • Pentacle or Coin: The central motif in the Pentacles suit represents material wealth, resources, and the physical world.
  • Gardens or Fields: Often found on Pentacles cards, symbolizing the fruits of labor and the abundance of the earth.
  • Trees: Signifying growth, stability, and the connection between the material and spiritual realms.

Interpreting the Minor Arcana

Now that we’ve covered the structure and symbolism of the Minor Arcana, let’s explore how these cards can be interpreted in a Tarot reading.

1. Numerology and Energy

The numbers on each card play a significant role in interpretation. Lower numbers (Aces to Threes) generally represent the beginning stages or potential of a situation, while higher numbers (Fours to Tens) signify progress, challenges, and outcomes. For example, the Ace of Cups may indicate the start of a new emotional journey, while the Seven of Cups might suggest a need to make choices amid various emotional possibilities.

2. Element and Suit

The elemental association of each suit provides additional context to the reading. For instance, drawing a Wand card may indicate a situation that requires passion and creativity, while a Pentacles card may suggest a focus on practical matters, such as finances or career.

3. Court Cards and Personalities

When court cards appear, they often represent individuals or personality traits. The specific card’s characteristics can provide insights into the people involved or aspects of yourself that need attention. For instance, drawing the Knight of Swords may signify someone with a sharp intellect or a need to take decisive action.

4. Card Combinations

One of the strengths of Tarot lies in its ability to tell a story through card combinations. Interpreting multiple cards together can reveal a more nuanced narrative. Consider the relationships between adjacent cards, as they can influence each other’s meanings. For instance, the combination of the Ace of Pentacles and the Queen of Cups might suggest a new opportunity in a nurturing and emotionally fulfilling career.

5. Reversed Cards

In addition to upright cards, Tarot readers often work with reversed cards, which are cards that appear upside down. Reversed cards can indicate blocked energy, delays, or challenges associated with the card’s meaning. However, the interpretation of reversed cards can vary among Tarot practitioners, so it’s essential to develop your understanding based on your intuition and the context of the reading.

Conclusion: The Minor Arcana’s Profound Significance

The Minor Arcana, often overshadowed by its more enigmatic counterpart, the Major Arcana, is a treasure trove of wisdom and guidance. These 56 cards, divided into four suits, offer insights into the intricate tapestry of everyday life, emotions, challenges, and opportunities that we all encounter. By understanding the structure, symbolism, and interpretation of the Minor Arcana, you can unlock the profound messages hidden within these seemingly modest cards.

As you continue your Tarot journey, remember that Tarot reading is both an art and a science. While the symbolism and meanings of the cards provide a framework, your intuition and connection with the cards play an equally vital role in delivering insightful and personalized readings. Whether you’re a seasoned Tarot practitioner or a curious beginner, the Minor Arcana invites you to explore the depths of your own consciousness and the intricacies of the human experience, one card at a time.


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Main photo by Kayla Maurais on Unsplash

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