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Tarot Cards and Their Meanings

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The Tarot is a great tool for guidance and advice, as well as solving problems. Each of the cards has a meaning of its own, and as you learn the cards and get to know them better, you'll become a more effective reader. Anyone can learn to read Tarot cards, but it does take some practice. It’s a highly intuitive process, so while books and charts come in handy, the best way to actually learn what your cards mean is to handle them, hold them, and feel what they are telling you. Let's look at the Major Arcana, and the four different suits of Tarot cards found in every deck.

The Major Arcana

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There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana, each showing some aspect of the human experience. The cards of the Major Arcana are focused on three themes: the realm of the material world, the realm of the intuitive mind, and the realm of change. Depending on which deck you're using, you may find that your cards are not in the order presented. Don't worry about that -- go by the meaning of the card, not by the numeric order. The illustrations on these pages depict cards from the Rider Waite deck, which is one of the most popular Tarot decks available today, and one typically used by new readers as a way to "get to know" Tarot.

The Suit of Cups

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The suit of Cups is associated with matters of relationships and emotions. As you may expect, it's also connected to the element of water, and subsequently, the direction of West. In some Tarot decks, you may find the Cups referred to as Goblets, Chalices, Cauldrons, or something else. It's where you'll find cards that relate to love and heartbreak, choices and decisions related to emotion, family situations, and anything else that connects to how we interact with the people in our lives.

The Suit of Swords

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The suit of Swords is associated with matters of conflict, both physical and moral. It's also connected to the element of air, and subsequently, the direction of East. This suit is where you'll find cards that relate to conflict and discord, moral choices and ethical quandaries.

The Suit of Pentacles or Coins

Image © Patti Wigington 2008

In the Tarot, the suit of Pentacles (often portrayed as Coins) is associated with matters of security, stability and wealth. It's also connected to the element of earth, and subsequently, the direction of North. This suit is where you'll find cards that relate to job security, educational growth, investments, home, money and wealth.

The Suit of Wands

Image (c) Vincent Besnault/Getty Images

In the Tarot, the suit of Wands is associated with matters of intuition, wit, and thought processes. It's also connected to the element of fire, and subsequently, the direction of South. This suit is where you'll find cards that relate to creativity, communication with others, and physical activity.

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