When you look at any Tarot deck, you will find many symbols, no matter the deck’s theme. Some will feel familiar to you, and others you may not recognize straight away. Tarot artists use symbols from various spiritual, cultural and historical, and Magical and psychological traditions. This sends information directly to your subconscious.
Regardless of what design the artist chooses to put in their deck, the basic concepts will be there. The four suits, for example, are fundamental to the structure and composition of the Tarot. The four suits correspond to the Four elements: the building blocks of life and the universe’s primal force.
These elements are around you all the time., Not just in a physical sense but also as vibrations or energies you will also notice that many decks use the traditional name for the suites.
Symbols represent the essence of whatever they stand for, and they are not merely a form of shorthand. That’s why I find they hold so much power and why they appear in different and widely separated cultures.
Like your dreams, the symbols on Tarot cards are designed to speak to us on a genuine level and trigger insights in a way that words often can not.
They resonate on different levels with your psyche. I have found that an excellent way to connect with the symbols is to observe and reflect upon the significant ones. How a card speaks to you and how you feel about the symbols it presents is important.
Regardless of whether you consciously understand what these symbols or pictures mean, your subconscious will respond to them. You might find that this changes when you look at a card. You might notice something different. each time you look. Your eyes might be drawn to a different color or symbol each time.
Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Symbols and pictures offer benefits over words because you can understand the true meaning of images without the dogma when you explore them.
They give you an honest look into the true meaning of the card. They encourage you to think without telling you what or how to think.
They can bypass your accurate analytic left brain and allow you to have a conversation with your imagination and flexible right brain. I find that symbols and pictures can offer you more than just words. They can inspire you to think for yourself.
In The Major Arcana, the cards, in particular, are rich with meaningful imagery. And in the Minor Arcana cards, you will also find vivid symbols. Some of these symbols are common to many decks.
In nature, you would find them in different religions, countries, and periods.
Other symbols you will find are personal to the artist’s own beliefs.
I find that symbols can represent the essence of whatever they stand for. They aren’t just a lazy way to convey a message. That’s why I believe that they can hold such power.
Symbols turn up repeatedly, and they necessarily mean the same thing to everyone regardless of age, race, religion, or nationality. People all around the World recognize the large Yellow M sign, and they atomically think of Mc Donalds without ever having to see the word.
Symbols appear all around us, especially on the road signs with just a symbol that lets you know that a bend is coming up or a person is crossing the road.
Often people see symbols in their dreams, and when you confront these symbols, you find that they awaken you to parts of yourself that you might have ignored when you are awake.
For me, the Tarot works in the same way.
When you’re looking at symbols in Tarot decks, remember that it’s your own response. Your personal interpretations are what really count.
Every Tarot deck is entirely different, and they contain their creator’s personal symbols. These symbols may not mean the same to you as they do to the artist that designed them. Or even to someone else that’s reading the same deck.
I find that flexibility is part of what makes the Tarot so interesting to me.
All decks come with their own booklet. These little books contain meanings and show the significance of the colors and symbols, as seen by the artist.
When you study the Tarot’s symbolism, remember that its own responses and interpretations are what count the most.
Use your own intuition. It doesn’t matter if what you see and feel disagrees with the artist.
Here is a list of common, universally understood symbols and their meanings. I found these helpful and combined another layer to my understanding of the cards.
Circle: Wholeness, unity, protection, continuity.
Square: Stability, equality, structure.
Triangle: Trinity, three-dimensional existence, movement.
Downward Triangle: Divine feminine, earth, or water elements.
Upward Triangle: Divine masculine, fire, or air elements.
Star: Hope, promise
Five-Pointed Star: Protection, the human body, physical incarnation.
Six-Pointed Star: Union of male& female, manifestation.
Vertical Line: Movement, heaven, sky, masculine energy.
Horizontal Line: Stability, earth, feminine energy.
Cross: Union of male and female or earth and sky,, manifestation.
Spiral: Life energy, renewal, the movement towards the center.
Wreath: Victory, success.
Sun: Clarity, vitality, optimism, contentment.
Sunrise/Sunset: Endings and beginnings
Moon: Secrets, intuition, emotions, female energy.
Night: Anxiety, Chaos, Something Hidden
Clouds: Doubt, possible battle, disruption.
Sun and Moon: Decisions and change.
Dove: Peace, reconciliation, promise.
Fruit: Abundance, celebration.
Mountains: Challenge, vision, achievement.
Fields: Growth, settling down.
Stream/river: Negotiations, travel
Pond: Emotions, consciousness.
Buds: new beginnings, potential
Garden: home life
Ocean / Water: Emotions, the union, unknown depths of the psyche.
Boat: Risk, luck.
Pillars: Balance, Protection.
Snakes: transformation, hidden knowledge.
Egg: Birth, fertility.
Rainbow: Hope, renewal, happiness, luck.
Lantern: Guidance, harmony, overcoming difficulty.
Bridge: Connection, harmony, overcoming problems.
Tree: Knowledge, growth, protection, strength, Wisdom.
Butterfly: Transformation, change.
Cat: Power, protection
Dog/Wolf: Loyalty and instinct.
Snake: Wisdom and Fate.
House: Determination, Freedom
Lion: Leo, Fire Element
When you see a color, its meaning will resonate with you intuitively.
I found that color can hold cultural or personal significances. Which can vary due to your individual traditions, nationality, or even belief system.
For example, in China, the brides wear red – this is a color of good luck. In India, people wear white for funerals.
In early Christian artwork, you will often find Mary painted in blue robes, suggesting serenity and peace. Small children will draw a round orange ball in the sky to represent the sun and warmth.
Many studies show that people react psychologically and even physically to colors. For example, red tends to make you feel stimulated and warm and raise your pulse and body temperature. Whereas black can leave you feeling depressed and gloomy. The color Blue can give you a feeling of calm and relaxation.
While in some countries, green is often seen to represent growth, nature, health, and money.
It doesn’t matter what Tarot deck you use or what theme it is. You will be able to recognize the, Four suits within those decks.
Wands with fire.
Cups with water
Pentacles with the earth.
Swords with air.
I have noticed in my own ever-growing collection of decks that many tarot artists emphasize
Wands with Red
Cups with Blue
Pentacles with Green
Swords with Yellow
When you start looking at different Tarot decks, you will notice how the artist who has drawn them has used color to express other features.
Red: Passion, Vitality, courage
Orange: Warmth, Energy, Activity, Drive, Confidence
Yellow: Creativity, Optimism, Enthusiasm
Green: Healing, Growth, Fertility, Prosperity
Light Blue: Purity, Serenity, Mental Clarity, Compassion
Royal Blue: Loyalty, Insight, Inspiration, Independence
Indigo: Intuition, Focus, Stability
Purple: Wisdom, Spirituality, Power
White: Purity, Wholeness, Protection
Black: Power, The Unconscious, banishing, Wisdom
Pink: Love, Friendship, Affection, Joy, Self-esteem
Brown: Grounding, Permanence, Practicality
Silver: illumination, clarity, awareness