The Minors are separated into four suits. These suits represent certain things:
Also known as staffs, spears, rods.
Element: FIRE (though some decks have it as Air). If FIRE then it represents passion. As such, in a reading it usually stands for ambition, career, creative endeavors, religion and/or philosophy. Anything a person might put their energy and soul into. This is something you have to do, whether you are recompensed for it or not. It is something that burns inside of you and you need to act on it.
This is the suit of adventurers and inventors, inspirational speakers, and those with religious or patriotic zeal. It is the suit of excitement and impatience, hot pursuits, grand ideals and gestures, and the desire to make one's mark on the world.
Wands also indicate hot tempers, passionate desires, enthusiasm, charisma, competitiveness, athletics, and restlessness that usually translates to travel and movement.
Also known as chalices, bowls, cauldrons.
Represents the emotions. Special Note: When readers see that Cups represent "emotions" they erroneously think that the other suits are unemotional. "Emotions" is an imprecise designation for cups because all suits relate to emotions. Wands are passionate emotions, while Swords often indicate anxieties and Pentacles are more practical feelings. What would be more precise is to say that Cups are about romantic or poetic emotions, the ones we identify as relating to "the heart." Sorrow, bliss, nostalgia, melancholy.
These are feelings that you surrender to, that you flow or sink into. Best known for representing our romantic love life, cup cards are often about our feelings toward one another. The warm connections we have with family or friends, our recognition of someone who is sympathetic to us, or regret when we hurt or wrong others, or lose them. Loneliness.
Cups can also stands for emotional extremes such as elation or depression, and the negatives that come with such emotions, like over-indulgence in food, drink, drugs. Likewise the positives we can create from such emotions like poetry, art, music or dance. As compared to the passionate spiritualism of Wands, which tends to want to spread its zeal, Cups relates to more solitary or humble spiritualism. The search for beauty and divine love.
For this reason, Cups are very much linked to psychic powers, visions, illusions. As the sensitive emotions of cups allow us contact with each other, they also open us up to the esoteric.
Also known as knives, daggers, blades.
Element: AIR. Some decks have it as Fire. If AIR then Swords represent the mind and the voice. Here is the suit of sharp ideas and sharp tongues, of thinking things through or thinking/saying too much. Swords are cleverness and a love of facts, they are "swordplay" in the sense of solving problems, performing calculations, discussing and debating.
The suit is also, however, about braggarts and gossips, liars and slanderers. Which, not surprisingly, also makes Swords the suit of anxieties, worries, problems and troubles. A sword is a weapon with a cutting edge and sharp point. Every time we use our mind and express our thoughts we run the risk of getting into a swordfight. And in this day of global communications, there are a great many ways to get into such fights.
In the tarot, the Sword is that mightier "pen" standing for writing, research, television, radio and the internet. It is all forms of information and so the card of science, mathematics and medicine as well as debate, analysis and journalism.
Thoughts breeze into your mind. They are made into words and those words are given breath or are written up. Messages fly through the air, and bring back responses. Sometimes this may result in a swordfight, other times in swords crossing together in unity, an agreement reached.
Also known as disks or coins.
This is the suit of health, money, luck and work, the suit of the physical. It relates to our body, our home, our valuables. All that we consider solid, real and of this world. For this reason, Pentacles represent the pragmatic, common sense side of life like the job/work we do to put food on the table and the money we save up to pay the bills. Not surprisingly, however, Pentacles can also indicate indulging in luxuries, those things that money can buy.
Pentacles is the slow-growth, long-term suit, the suit about creating something real rather than seeking excitement like Wands, or theorizing like Swords or dreaming of romance like Cups. Hence, Pentacles stands for the bankers and business owners, the craftsmen, farmers, shopkeepers and laborers. Those who see their worth in something they have built, be it a corporation or a bakery.
This is also a suit about social interaction and responsibilities. Which is why, in regards to feelings, it is a suit about greed vs. generosity, about doing what is enriches ourselves vs. what enriches others. Also what one has or doesn't have and how that affects how others view us. Thus it is as much a suit about how we respond to being lucky or wealthy as it is about luck and wealth.
Learn the Minor Arcana meaning in reversal in our reversed card meanings.