The Minor Arcana

Most scholars agree that the Minor Arcana were added to the Major Arcana sometime in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. It is believed that this portion of the Tarot was originally used for fortune-telling, and that in earlier times, it was considered safe for nonadepts to have access to this part of the Tarot. The Minor Arcana consists of four suits of fourteen cards each: Wands, Pentacles, Swords, and Cups. In medieval times the four suits represented the four main classes of people—the nobility, the clergy, the merchant class, and the working class. In today’s society, there are correspondences—an elite, or old money, class is the nobility; today’s version of the clergy has expanded to include the professions and academia; the merchant class includes businesses and people employed by corporate institutions; and those in blue-collar or service positions are the working class. These suits help us pinpoint the areas of life that need our attention, because each of the suits represents a distinct realm of activity, experience, and personal growth. When many cards of the same suit appear in a reading, it’s a clear indication that the person consulting the Tarot is concerned about a particular area of life—or should be.

Each suit contains four Court cards (King, Queen, Knight, and Page) and ten number cards from Ace through Ten, also called pip cards.

King: A king is a powerful ruler who exercises absolute authority over the territory he rules. Thus, the King of any suit represents a completion point: There’s no higher position to attain. The level of the King is where you release and let go, complete old tasks, and prepare for a new and more fulfilling way of life.

Queen: The Queen may portray a mature, capable woman, an authority figure who is nurturing and understanding, or a mother image, sometimes the querent’s real mother. With the Queen, you achieve a level of maturity and self-confidence.

Knight: At the level of the Knight, you are fully aware of your path, and your aims are clear. You feel an intense sense of dedication—to a project, an idea, a person. You’ve taken risks and gotten yourself together for the task at hand, and you are focusing your energies totally toward accomplishing your goal, in order to make the risk worthwhile.

Page: The Page represents preparing yourself in order to succeed at something. It involves being willing to assume a subordinate role—as younger people often are—and to learn about commitment. The Page is about challenging yourself, developing your inner resources, and taking something to a greater stage of accomplishment. You may experience some hesitancy, or feel that you are not fully prepared for the task, but you still hope the situation will turn out as you anticipate.

The Numbered Cards: Each suit also includes an Ace, which is considered to be the One card, followed by cards numbered Two through Ten. Also known as pip cards, these combine the qualities of the suit with those of the number. In many decks, the pip cards do not display any scenarios to suggest the card’s meaning, but merely show the corresponding number of the suit symbol. For example, the Three of Cups may simply depict three cups, without any storytelling imagery.

Generally speaking, the cards of the Minor Arcana represent lesser, or mundane, lessons. They show the everyday concerns, situations, challenges, and achievements you experience in your personal life. As such, they also present advice and describe conditions and possibilities related to the subject of a reading. When many (or all) of the cards in a reading come from the Minor Arcana, it’s safe to say your future is in your own hands. Your decisions and actions will produce your future. You have the ability to control your destiny.