List of Meanings for Tarot Cards

Natalia Ivend (Natalie Winter), © 1977-2016

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This article forms an adjunct to the main Tarot Reading & Cartomancy article: the main article introduced the principles, history and background of Tarot and described a number of spreads, while this article consists of a list of key phrases that I have compiled as a learning aid and aide-mémoire to help you get to grips with the meanings of all 78 cards, based on a long experience of reading Tarot myself as well as knowledge passed down by older Chovahània in my family.

Please be aware that such a list of key phrases is a starting-point, and to become a proficient reader it is necessary to spend a great deal of time with your Tarot deck(s), meditating upon the meanings of each card until you fully appreciate the nuances of meaning of each card in your particular deck(s) and how the cards (or more accurately, your own ability in prognostics) speaks to you personally. I have done my best to arrange the key phrases roughly in order of how commonly a given meaning occurs, and rarer meanings are shown in brackets. Please also be aware that I did not learn my Tarot skills in English and although I have done my best to translate accurately, some finely-nuanced meanings may have been changed slightly in translation -- so don't be afraid to fine-tune your own significances for each card.

You'll find the basic descriptions of the following in the Cards section of the main article:

  • Difference between Major and Minor Arcana.
  • Differences between Pagan-tradition and Christianized decks.
  • The four Suits and what factors each one generally signifies.
  • How the Court cards can denote specific people as well as abstracts, and how to interpret them as people (for abstracts, see list below).

The Major Arcana

0: The Fool
  • An open choice that can go in any direction -- good, bad or indifferent.
  • Foolhardiness, recklessness or naiveté
  • (The "trousers of time", i.e. an irrevocable decision point on life's path.)
  • (Adventure.)
I: The Magician
  • Magic.
  • Willpower.
  • Control (especially of the spiritual world).
  • (Turning thought into action.)
  • (Skill, confidence or sometimes creativity.)
II: The High Priestess
  • Wise (woman) or positive (spiritual) guiding force.
  • In tune with the power of nature.
  • (Intuitive, magical or sometimes artistic.)
  • (May occasionally be vindictive, e.g. hexing.)
III: The Empress
  • Motherly or protective.
  • Fertility or fruitfulness.
  • Success or female power.
  • (Female wiles, perhaps manipulation.)
IV: The Emperor
  • The head ruling the heart, logic ruling the emotions.
  • Material success or wealth.
  • Leadership or male power/authority.
  • (Overcoming problems or reaching goals.)
V: The High Priest
  • Spiritual revelation, explanation or enlightenment.
  • Compassion or sympathy.
  • (Bridging the gap between the physical and spiritual worlds. )
VI: The Lovers
  • Love or romance.
  • Loyalty.
  • (Trials overcome or a relationship tested by problems.)
  • (Equality, usually between the sexes.)
VII: Mastery
  • Success after a struggle or conflict.
  • Conquest, victory.
  • Control: achievement is possible but only with hard work and the right mental attitude.
  • (Occasionally, travel.)
VIII: Strength
  • Strength (spiritual or physical).
  • Willpower or courage.
  • Overcoming obstacles.
  • (Love overcoming hate.)
IX: The Wise One
  • Searching for truth, wisdom or enlightenment.
  • Keeping wise counsel (may be your own).
  • Discretion.
  • Soul-searching.
  • (Good judgement.)
X: The Wheel of fortune
  • Destiny, what goes around comes around.
  • A good or bad sign.
  • Karma.
  • Inevitability.
XI: Justice
  • Fairness or justice.
  • Getting a just reward.
  • Balance or harmony.
  • (A fair person.)
XII: The Lone Man
  • Material loss (or standstill) leading to spiritual gain.
  • Self-sacrifice for a higher purpose.
  • (Happy despite privations.)
  • (Overcoming temptations.)
XIII: The Close
  • Major changes in life, or the end of a relationship.
  • Serious illness.
  • Destruction.
  • The old giving way to the new.
  • Actual death and reincarnation.
XIV: The Guide
  • Positive influence.
  • A strong spirit (through balance).
  • Balance and moderation, self-control.
  • (Compatibility, strength.)
XV: Temptation
  • Evil thoughts or deeds -- lust, anger, greed, materialism, temptation.
  • The left-hand path.
  • (self-)destruction.
  • (Perversion).
XVI: The Tower
  • Traumatic change that generally leads to eventual improvement.
  • Escape from a situation but at great cost to self.
  • Ruination or downfall.
  • (Relationship breakdown.)

XVII: The Star

  • Spirituality, illumination, hope or truth.
  • Science and nature working together.
  • (Health, harmony, or opportunity.)
XVIII: Illusion
  • Illusory situation, often preventing progress.
  • Being trapped or cheated.
  • Hidden enemies.
  • (Solitude.)
  • (Sometimes, leading to development of a psychic gift.)
XIX: The Sun
  • Success, achievement, or material wealth.
  • Emotional happiness.
  • (Love.)
XX: Karma
  • Karma (the law of).
  • Consequences, reaping what you sow, result of past actions.
  • A second chance.
  • Reincarnation.
  • (Conscience.)
  • (Spiritual progress or liberation.)
XXI: The World
  • Success, completion, achievement.
  • Achieving spiritual consciousness.
  • (Liberation.)

The Minor Arcana

Rods (or Wands)

Ace of Rods
  • Beginning, new energy or inspiration.
  • Birth.
  • Invention, or new project.
2 of Rods
  • Success.
  • Dominance or influence.
  • (Strong personality.)
3 of Rods
  • Help needed for success.
  • (Business skills.)
  • (Negotiations with someone else.)
4 of Rods
  • Good family, home life, marriage/partnership.
  • Harmony.
  • (Financial success.)
5 of Rods
  • Conflict, often in business or a project.
  • A struggle to achieve something.
  • Desires/objectives are not clear.
6 of Rods
  • Success following a struggle.
  • Success achieved by negotiating or diplomacy.
  • (Good news.)
7 of Rods
  • Hard work and courage will overcome difficulties.
  • Overcoming challenges.
8 of Rods
  • Rapid change of surroundings.
  • Quick response to circumstances.
  • (Travel.)
9 of Rods
  • Preparedness, anticipating difficulties.
  • Being on guard.
  • (Strength in reserve, hidden strength.)
10 of Rods
  • Under pressure but determined to succeed.
  • Succeeding despite the obstacles in the way.
Page of Rods
  • Trustworthy, reliable, well-intentioned.
  • Loyal.
  • A messenger.
Knight of Rods
  • An opportunist, not trustworthy.
  • Change, leaving, absence.
Queen of Rods
  • Friendly, warm personality.
  • Loyal.
  • Practical person.
King of Rods
  • Father figure, probably an older married man.
  • Wise, educated.
  • Noble.

Cauldrons (or Cups)

Ace of Cauldrons
  • New love, new happiness, new joy. Possibly, birth.
  • A new spiritual awareness or understanding.
  • (Fertility, family, sometimes friendship.)
2 of Cauldrons
  • Love or understanding, usually between male and female.
  • Friendship or platonic love.
  • A coming together.
3 of Cauldrons
  • Celebration, happiness, feeling good.
  • Healing, or a problem solved.
  • Fulfilment or a positive result.
4 of Cauldrons
  • Help from an outside source (possibly magical).
  • A new approach to a problem.
  • Something becomes possible that wasn't before.
5 of Cauldrons
  • Stuck in regret or pity.
  • Disappointed.
  • An empty or bad relationship.
6 of Cauldrons
  • Innocent childlike love.
  • Memories, nostalgia.
  • (Meeting old friends.)
7 of Cauldrons
  • Many good options makes a decision difficult.
  • Being determined and decisive will get you through.
  • Stick with the choice you have made.
8 of Cauldrons
  • Short-term pleasure at the price of disrupting a relationship.
  • Concentrating on the mundane distracts from higher things.
  • Throw out the old and unsatisfying and embrace the new.
9 of Cauldrons
  • Enjoyment, prosperity, good times.
  • Material well-being.
10 of Cauldrons
  • Being constant in love despite hard times brings happiness.
  • Happiness in home life.
  • All that is most desired is achieved.
Page of Cauldrons
  • Serious, academic or studious person.
  • Someone spiritual, meditative or creative.
  • A messenger or an offer of help.
Knight of Cauldrons
  • An invitation, opportunity or proposal.
  • A person with imagination, or an artistic person.
  • Perhaps a poet or writer.
Queen of Cauldrons
  • Kind-hearted, generous, caring, quite likely a mother.
  • Imaginative, perhaps magical abilities.
  • May be artistic or creative.
King of Cauldrons
  • An authority figure, responsible, trustworthy.
  • Perhaps ambitious.
  • May be a professional man.


Ace of Swords
  • Start of a struggle in a good cause.
  • Success, power or wealth.
  • (Sometimes, fertility.)
2 of Swords
  • Deadlock, stale-mate.
  • Powers in equal balance.
3 of Swords
  • Loss or absence.
  • Sorrow.
  • Being apart, or delayed.
4 of Swords
  • Pulling away from the outside world gives spiritual (sometimes physical) renewal.
  • A refuge or retreat, often for healing (spiritual or physical).
  • (A period of recovery after illness or injury.)
5 of Swords
  • A brief win by use of force or guile, but likely to rebound on you.
  • Being dishonoured or humiliated.
  • Losing a conflict.
6 of Swords
  • Travel, probably across water, to better things or a better place.
  • A barrier or obstacle is removed.
  • Plain sailing to success after trouble or worry.
  • (Sometimes, a search for something spiritual.)
7 of Swords
  • Shameless and brazen theft.
  • Overconfidence or greed leading to disaster.
  • (Scheming or plotting.)
8 of Swords
  • Trapped by one's own lack of confidence.
  • Caught up by external restrictions.
  • Having a crisis, don't know where to turn.
9 of Swords
  • Worried, desperate, anxious.
  • Suffering, emotionally or physically.
  • Trials and tribulations of life.
10 of Swords
  • Doing what others want leads to disaster or loss.
  • Sadness, disappointment, defeat.
  • (Possibly, signifies jealousy.)
Page of Swords
  • Being alert, perceptive, aware.
  • On guard, vigilant.
  • A messenger.
Knight of Swords
  • Strong or good person.
  • Fearless, confident, brave.
Queen of Swords
  • On guard. Expect trouble?
  • Separation or loss.
  • Sadness.
King of Swords
  • Powerful, forceful, determined.
  • An authority figure.
  • (May be military, government, etc type.)

Pentacles (or Coins)

Ace of Pentacles
  • Spiritual gifts lead to material wealth.
  • Riches, material success, reaching your (material) goals.
  • Bliss.
2 of Pentacles
  • Be careful to use your time and energy well, don't waste it.
  • A new project could be having trouble getting started.
  • (Troubles, worries, difficulties.)
3 of Pentacles
  • Learning, study, training.
  • Apprentice-ship, learning a trade, a craft or a skill.
  • Attaining mastery.
4 of Pentacles
  • Miserliness or excessive concentration on money, leading to neglect of other areas of life.
  • Materialism, neglecting spirituality.
5 of Pentacles
  • Poverty, destitution, hardship.
  • A broken marriage or relationship.
  • (Lonely, seeking guidance or help.)
6 of Pentacles
  • Generosity combined with good financial sense.
  • Caring for others, philanthropy.
7 of Pentacles
  • Hard work pays off.
  • Perseverance.
  • Wealth or success attainable, but at a price.
8 of Pentacles
  • Skill or craftsmanship brings rewards.
  • Modesty combined with ability succeeds.
  • Work pays off.
9 of Pentacles
  • Material wealth, luxury, prosperity.
  • Fulfilment and comfort (material).
  • (Love of nature.)
10 of Pentacles
  • Happy, secure family life and home.
  • Prosperous, successful work life.
  • (Possibly, inheritance.)
Page of Pentacles
  • Serious, scholarly person who wants to learn.
  • May be ambitious or opinionated.
Knight of Pentacles
  • Dependable, able, responsible, careful.
  • Well-trained, expert, attention to detail.
  • May be materialistic rather than spiritual.
Queen of Pentacles
  • Intelligent, cultured, educated, calm.
  • A benefactor.
  • Appreciates elegance and the arts, sometimes politics.
King of Pentacles
  • Intellectual, shrewd, a loyal supporter or friend.
  • Successful in business or a profession.

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