Pentacles, Coins, Disks, Worlds

The Suit of Pentacles is often thought to come to the Tarot from the playing card suit of Diamonds.  The Pentacle suit also sometimes goes by Pentagrams, Worlds, Coins, Disks, or Rainbows, depending on the Tarot Deck and the ideas of its artist.  By whatever name, the cards in this suit all carry the same associations.

Autumn is the season associated with Pentacles, and Earth is its element.  Most Tarot decks illustrate the Pentacle cards with a heavy influence on greens and browns.  The Pentacles, Coins, or Disks are often pictured as shiny and golden, which is a good clue about the themes within the cards of this suit.

The Suit of Pentacles deals with the physical world and all that’s within it.  From gardens and trees to homes and possessions, all things of the world can be found within the fourteen Pentacle cards.

Pentacles also speak to us about our goals in the physical world, our health, and how we view and care for our bodies, homes, and material possessions.  Often, Tarot cards in the Pentacle suit point to our work, and the goals related to our career ambitions.

If you draw a majority of Pentacle cards in a reading, you absolutely want to take a look at your outside world and you work.  If the question asked was one of timing, look to autumn.

Swords, Blades, Knives, Daggers

The Tarot Suit of Swords comes to us from the playing card suit of Spades.  The suit of swords is called by many names across the various Tarot decks.  I’ve seen swords in some decks called daggers, blades or knives, and even clouds in the Osho Zen Tarot.

Tarot Swords point to issues and concerns of the mind and intellect and are linked with the element of Air.  Some decks use the element Fire, but we’re going with Air here.

Flipping through all the swords in a Tarot deck, you might think all the swords are negative cards.  There are some distinct and troubling images within the Swords suit, for sure, but it’s not all bad.

Mostly, the Swords are a reflection of the wide scope of ideas and thoughts that go on in our heads.  And while Swords are about intellectual matters and the mind, don’t forget that the mind also creates our emotions, and so the Suit of Swords is very linked with the Cups Suit.

In your readings, pay special attention when you draw a majority of Swords cards in comparison to the other Tarot cards in your layout.  Something is going on inside your head, whether you want to admit it or not, and the Swords cards are reminding you how important your thoughts really are.


The Suit of Wands is believed to come to the Tarot from the playing card suit of Clubs.  In some decks, Wands are alternately called staves, clubs, rods, staffs, and even batons, but they all carry the same origin and meanings.

Some Tarot decks illustrate Wands as being connected with fire, and some with the element air.  I’m going with fire in this article.  Wands are also linked with the season of spring, though sometimes summer.  I prefer spring.

Wands are the passionate, energetic suit; the suit of missions to be accomplished and goals that become the driving forces of our lives.  This is the suit that embodies the ideas of vigor and renewed growth, as well as passion and creativity.  If nothing else, Wands are active.

Often Wands are drawn with elements of fire in the artwork, and that relates back to the passion of this suit.  But another important thing to remember about fire is that it moves.  Fire is always in motion, moving from one area to the next, spending its energy as fast as it can.

In readings, Wands come up in connection with a person’s life’s work, their career goals, or the values and ideas a person is willing to fight for with determination.  Wands cards give people direction and advice concerning the work they spend their lives doing.

Tarot Reversals

When a reversed Tarot card comes up in a reading, everyone seems to have a different opinion of how, and if, they should be read.  Some people see reversed cards as bad luck, and some refuse to read reversed Tarot cards at all.

Whether or not I read a Tarot card reversed in a reading depends upon how the person shuffled the deck.  If the person shuffled hand-over-hand and I know the cards began upright, I will read reversed.  If a person shuffles each half of the Tarot pack into each other, as with a regular deck of playing cards, I turn the reversed card right side up.

As for reversed card interpretations, that varies as well.    Some Tarot readers interpret the meaning of a reversed card as the direct opposite of its inverse meaning.  I think with 78 cards in the Tarot deck, the opposite meaning is likely somewhere else in the deck, and so I do not read this way.

A reversed Tarot card, to me, means the same as the upright card, just to a lesser degree.  For example, if a reversed Empress were drawn, I’d read that as lesser prosperity, or not gaining as much from a project as you’d hoped, while still gaining something from it.

I would read a reversed Tower card as small changes rather than huge upheavals, and a reversed Death card as breaking bad habits rather than a larger change in your way of life.

But every reader, and every reading, is different.  I’ve been known to right a reversed card in a reading if it seems more appropriate, or if its state of being reversed upsets the person for whom I’m reading.

Whether to read a Tarot card reversed is a matter of judgment on the part of the Tarot reader, as well as how to interpret its meaning.  If you’re not sure how to proceed, do a few test readings, using the same one card upright them reversed, and let your intuition guide you.

Tarot Suits: Cups

The Suit of Cups is often thought to be derived from the playing card suit of Hearts.  In Tarot, traditional decks and those based on Rider-Waite imagery often use Cups and Chalices interchangeably.  In art and other non-traditional decks, the suit of Cups can be called anything from Bowls to Urns, Vessels or Hearts.  I’ve even seen the Cups suit called Blossoms in some Tarot decks.

All the different suit names work though, because they all speak to the basic associations of the Cups suit.

The Suit of Cups almost always deals with emotion and concerns of the heart and spirit.  Cups are linked to the element of water, and the season of summer, although some decks use spring.

While Cups cards deal with all emotions, in readings they often deal with the love life, probably because romance and relationships are common concerns dealt with in Tarot readings.  Emotions don’t only occur in connection to love, though.  We have emotions about every aspect of our lives, from our careers to our families to our possessions.

Don’t let the association of love and relationships limit how you read Cups cards.  Fear, sadness, joy, hope, anxiety and every other emotion in the human spectrum live within the Cups suit, and shouldn’t be ignored as possible meanings for a Cup card.

Merry Day Tarot

I’ve owned the Merry Day deck for years, but honestly, I’ve never been able to read with it.  I think it’s because the imagery is so varied and there’s so much detail packed into each card’s drawing.  But so many people love the Merry Day Tarot that I’m sure I’m in the minority.

Above all else, the Merry Day Tarot is a nature themed deck, drawn with heavy fantasy elements.  Merry Day is also a multi-cultural deck, with figures of all races pictured and a definite Native American influence.

Numerological values are also assigned to each card, and if you’re not familiar with the system, the numbers become a bit confusing.  Keywords are also written on the bottom of each card, which is a personal gripe of mine.  For beginners, though, keywords might be useful and welcome.

The symbolism is drawn from Rider-Waite, but there are changes in the naming and interpretations of the cards in both the Major and Minor Arcana.

Seasonal and elemental/alchemical correspondences are assigned to some cards as well: The King of Pentacles is the Winter King, while the King of Swords is the King of Air.  The Knight of Cups is the Water Warrior; the Knight of Wands is the Summer Warrior.

Aces are replaced with elemental/alchemical Dragons and Pages have become Elementals, as in a mermaid or a unicorn.

Changes in the Major Arcana include one I love, Death into Metamorphosis, pictured as an eagle flying with a phoenix.  Trump 10, the Wheel of Fortune is drawn as Lady Destiny with the keywords ‘Karmic Activator,’ but the interpretation remains nearly the same as a traditional deck.

The artist’s style complements the fantasy/nature theme well, with bold colors and figures that often appear elven.  The cardstock itself is rather thin, but after several years of occasional use have not deteriorated much.

If you love extra information in your Tarot decks and art that overflows with symbolism, chances are you’ll love the Merry Day.  If you’re coming to Tarot from another occult background, such as astrology, numerology or Quabbala studies, the correspondences on the cards might prove more helpful than not.

Artist: Louisa Poole

Publisher: Mill House McCabe, Inc. Salem, MA.

Favorite Tarot Decks

Most people, once they learn to use the Tarot, end up with lots of Tarot decks.  And like most people, I learned to read cards using a deck with more traditional symbolism and imagery–actually, I learned with two decks.  The Renaissance Tarot and one of my still favorites, the Robin Wood Tarot.  I’ve long since given away that first deck, as it just wasn’t working very well for me, but I still have the Robin Wood.

Now, though, I mostly read cards using a deck of a very different style:  The Osho Zen Tarot.   When I want to use a deck with classic symbols, I use the Robin Wood or the Morgan-Greer, and most recently I’ve started using the Transparent Tarot.   I have a few others that haven’t worked out or that I like using for study, but here’s a little more about each deck I read with:

  • Osho Zen Tarot: The Transcendental Game Of Zen Not your traditional Tarot images at all, but each card still speaks to the heart of its classic meaning, just in a more modern way.  And a Zen way, which surprisingly makes sense to me.  The colors are intense, and the images are stripped down of extraneous clutter, letting you quickly get to the essence of card’s meaning.  The suits are Cups, Fire, Clouds, and Rainbows.  This is my absolute favorite deck to read with.  It would be perfect if there weren’t card descriptions noted at the bottom of each card.
  • The Robin Wood Tarot A much-loved deck in the Tarot community, the Robin Wood uses somewhat classic symbolism and just gorgeous art.  The cards have some pagan themes, and genders get swapped once in awhile, but it’s a solid deck for both beginner and advanced readers.  The suits are Cups, Wands, Swords, and Pentacles.  The symbolism seems rooted in classic Rider-Waite, so I do think of it as a traditional deck even with the gender swaps and fire-wands/swords-air associations.  The best trait of this deck is how clearly the meanings of the cards shine through the art.  She’s recently published a book to go with the cards, but I can’t comment as I haven’t read it.
  • Morgan Greer Tarot Deck This is a deck from the 1970s and you can tell with just one look at the art.  This deck sticks with classic Tarot symbols, making it a great choice for beginners, if you can deal with the art style.  Suits are the classic Cups, Wands, Swords, Pentacles.  The drawings come completely to the edge of the cards, which is great, and there’s minimal fussy details in the images, also great.  My once caveat with this deck is the Devil card, because it’s damn scary looking.
  • The Transparent Tarot This Tarot deck is fairly new (2008) and the artist boils down each card into its core image, leaving the rest of the plastic card transparent.  Novel idea, at first, but this technique allows the cards to be stacked atop one another so the images blend together, creating a new picture.  The Transparent Tarot also uses the classic Tarot suits.  I’m still playing around with this deck, and the art is quite simplistic, but the ability to stack cards and add layers of meanings to tarot readings–it’s a brilliant concept.

Major Arcana: 21 The World

And with the World card, we come to the end of the journey through the Tarot’s Major Arcana.  If you’ve not thought of the Trumps this way before, think about this: each card represents a major and important element of human experience.

The first twenty-one cards of the Tarot take us though periods of learning and growth, times of teaching and achieving, and reveal our darkest, and brightest, natures.

And we end with the World, masters of what?  Ourselves, you might say, or our concept of our experiences.  The World card is about knowing yourself: what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve lost.

Some of us are masters of our experiences, and some of us step ahead blindly.  In the World card, we’re being told to honestly see who we are, good and bad.

The World is also a card of mastery.  It encompasses the imagery of mastering the human experience, which some would say is the whole point of life, after all. It’s also a card about tying up loose ends and following through with our intentions.

When you draw this card in a reading, think about how much distance is between who you are and who you want to be.  What can you do to get there?  What projects have you left hanging, always meaning to complete but never finishing?  The less unfinished business we hang onto in our lives, the more free we are to move on and create the new adventures that keep life interesting.

Image from The Vampire Tarot

Major Arcana: 20 Judgment

Most people see the Judgment card and think about what they’ll say at the gates of heaven.  Judgment is the second to last card in the Tarot’s Major Arcana, and it is a card of completion.

The Judgment card is about what happens inside each of us when we finish a project or complete a circle.  It’s less about external forms of judgment, what other people think, than it is about what we think of ourselves.

Like the Fool and his journey through the Major Arcana, we too are on journeys, and the cards we draw reflect how far we have, or haven’t, come.

Sometimes the Judgment card is depicted with a trumpeting angel, sometimes as a woman bursting from a fiery pit.  In most Tarot decks, Judgment is drawn with lots of oranges and yellows, reminding us that it is an active card: us judging ourselves, not someone judging us from the outside.

If you draw this card, think about what cycles or adventures you’ve just completed in your life.  Take stock of your experiences, and think about what you’ve taken from them.

How did you grow and what did you accomplish on your journey?  Did you learn things about yourself that make you happy with who you are, or is there room for improvement?

Image from The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck

Major Arcana: 13 Death

At Major Arcana Tarot card number 13, the Death card, we’re definitely getting into heavier stuff.  In readings, when people draw this card, they visibly react.  Some people suck their breath in, other sit straighter in their chairs, and almost everyone starts to avoid eye contact.

They’re scared, but they shouldn’t be.  Death sounds bad, but in the Tarot, it refers to change rather than physical death, ninety-nine percent of the time.  And while change is scary, it’s not as bad as the image of death makes it seem.

The Death card most often points to the death of a situation or circumstance, and often, it’s a change that’s long overdue.  We get stuck in situations, like we saw in the Hanged Man card, which steal our vibrant energies and cause us to flounder.

Tarot cards are useful when they point out problems in our lives that we’re better off fixing, and the Death card is a rather blunt message that we need a change.  Could be a change of jobs, of partners, or of residence.

The Death card can point to the completion of a cycle, such as a graduation, or the finalization of a divorce.  It can also mean that we need to shed old habits and traditions that no longer serve us.  When we shed the old patterns of our lives, we make room for new, positive patterns to emerge.

If we can cause or accept changes, we can get to the next step, the positive aspect of the Death card: Rebirth.

Image from the Cosmic Tarot Deck (78 Tarot Cards/Cs78)