The minor arcana show the details of everyday life, based on the classic alchemical elements of earth, air, fire, and water. They all have their positive and negative aspects, and a great deal of flexible meaning. A wealth of creativity can be found in exploring each of these elements, even without having tarot involved. In fact, many photography and writing classes have you do so.
Alchemy is more than the medieval pursuit turning lead into gold to make rich kings richer. Lead and gold are symbols, lead being the base physical form, and gold being the refined spiritual creature within.
Alchemical practices experiment with both meditation and medicines (refine the body to refine the spirit, and vice versa). These practices led to chemistry, and some modern medicines, but they also lead to the development of a wealth of symbolism used in meditative practices. Symbolism that guided the development of the tarot.
Just like the major arcana, your deck might be a little different than this. You might have drums for earth, or your deck might switch wands with swords for what represents fire and air. Your booklet should make it clear what suit represents what element. If the intro isn’t polite enough to tell you (and with some creative booklets, the intrusion of such information would ruin the flow), the meanings will give you an idea.
The suit of pentacles or coins symbolizes the earth element. Seeds that we plant grow into resources that we use to live and heal, therefore earth represents money and health. We come from the earth, and we return to it, so it is both life and death. It can represent sensual pleasures, lush fruit and the perfumed air of a garden.
It is Gaia, and all her nurturing, drums and the beat of nature’s primal heart in the jungle of life. Life feeds on death, so it is also the frigid north in the winter at midnight, deep caverns, and the underworld. Fun stuff, all of it. But too much makes you fat, sluggish, depressed, or bored due to the earth’s slow movement feeling like being stuck in a rut to us fast paced humans.
Air, or swords, is the suit of intellect, conversation and the sharing of information. We use air to speak. A deep breath clears our wits. It is cunning, and a sharp tongue. It is the bright idea of the sun that rises in the east at dawn. Springtime with flutes and ribbons in the breeze, bubbles and butterflies and babies. And the knife that stabs you in the back, finally revealing the strategy behind your betrayal. Conversations and thoughts can inspire, teach, and express. They can also keep you awake in agony.
Wands represent fire, the passions that burn in our heart. Lust, rage, ecstasy, the primal drives of the bonfire dance. The King of Fire is the rockstar lead guitarist in the prime of his life, and his love burns with ever consuming desire. But oh, his temper. Fire is the dessert in the south at noon, in the sweltering heat. It is the height of summer, the roar of the lion and the drake. Madness or brilliance; lust, passion, and rage.
Water, or cups, represents soft and nurturing emotions. It is tears, it is the cleansing and refreshment of a long drink. The depths of the ocean also reflect the depths of our psyche, our inner mysteries clouded in mist. As such, it is the unknown, the heart of intuition. It is also font of love, the ringing of bells that bring forth resonance in our hearts.
Water nurtures, but it also drowns. Water is sitting on your porch in your autumn years, watching the sunset over the ocean, enjoying companionship with your family, sometimes mourning the ones no longer there. It heals, but sometimes we are lost to its depths, and sometimes it rages in a storm.
The elements express a broad range of meaning through their suits, but each card is made more specific when it interacts with a number, leading us to numerology.
Tarot For Writers And Skeptics * Why Tarot Speaks To Us * Grab A Deck * The Fool’s Journey * Elements And Alchemy * Numerology And The Tarot * Court Cards * Seeds For Stories* Tarot Story List