The Tarot consist of 78 cards - 22 of the Major
Arcana and 56 of the Minor Arcana. The word "arcana" is derived from the Latin
word "akanum" meaning secret. Therefore, the cards of the Major Arcana are those
that deal with the "Big Secrets" and those of the Minor Arcana are those that
deal with the "Smaller Secrets."
The Major Arcana cards are recognizable as individual models or archetypes, such as The
Fool, The Magician, or The Devil. These cards seem to represent the different stages in
life we all experience in our own unique ways. The Minor Arcana cards are divided into
four suits much like modern playing cards. However, the suits have different names - the
Cups, the Wands, the Swords, and the Pentacles. One other difference is that each suit has
an extra court card - the Page.
Each of the four elements of the Earth is commonly assigned to the four suits of the
Wands represent the element of fire. They stand for action, creativity, and growth.
Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are the astrological signs assigned to the suit of Wands and
the element of fire.
Cups represent the element of water. They stand for feelings, spiritual experiences,
and the unconscious. Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are the astrological signs assigned to
the Cups and water.
Swords represent the element of air. They stand for the mind, knowledge, and the
intellect. Libra, Aquarius, and Gemini are the astrological signs assigned to the Swords
and the element of air.
Pentacles represent the element of earth. They stand for the body, physical
experiences, and practical skills. Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo are the astrological signs
assigned to the Pentacles and the element of earth.
The Minor Arcana cards are in no way inferior to the Major Arcana cards, but rather add
detail to the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana give information and guidance to an
individuals psychological state of mind and inner life. The Minor Arcana gives
details of relationships, creative ventures, and adversities and successes. The Major
cards are thought to be more spiritual, and the Minor cards are seen as more earthly, with
the Court cards acting as a bridge between them.