What is the Significance of the Traditional Tarot Suits?

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Answered by: Alexandria, An Expert in the The Occult Category
Modern Tarot decks are rich in symbolism, from numbers, to figures, to flaura and fauna. But perhaps the most pervasive symbols are those depicted in the traditional Tarot Suits. There are four suits in modern Tarot decks. They go by many names, but as a whole they represent the four elements of the world--Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

In the Tarot suits we find aspects of our lives and personalities; they also serve as indicators of within what realm the events they depict are happening. Modern Tarot decks are divided into three sections. Major Arcana cards depict archetypal figures like the Magician, Death, the Sun and the World; as a whole they do not belong to an elemental suit. Minor Arcana cards are divided into two groups; Pip cards (numbered Ace through Ten) and Court Cards (containing Page, Knight, Queen and King).

Pip cards represent specific events while Court Cards represent different aspects of our own or others' personalities. There are Court and Pip cards for every suit--Ace through King of Fire, Ace through King of Cups, and so on. The first element, Fire, is typically associated with the suit of Wands (also represented as Staves, Batons or Rods). In Fire we find our creativity, passion, initiative, and it can indicate our professional endeavors.

The Ace of the Wands often signifies a project (work-related or otherwise) that we take joy in pursuing. Conversely, the Ten of Wands can point to a person feeling overwhelmed by their projects, unable to handle them all. Fire is an active element that encourages us to grow and pursue our ambitions. Water is the second element; it is usually ascribed to the suit of Cups (or Hearts) which represents emotions and intuition, as well as our relationships with other people.

Water encourages us to explore emotions and discover what is potentially holding us back--an aspect of a relationship, a narrow perspective clouding our judgement. A reading with numerous cups indicates our minds are focused on our emotional lives. Air is a lofty element associated in many decks with the suit of Swords. Swords embody our intellect, governed by reason and prone to conflict. The Two of Swords indicates a duality in thought that must be resolved before moving forward; the Queen of Swords is a figure who uses her eye for detail and facts to find the naked truth.

Advice presented by Swords is to act with clear incisiveness to cut through the excess. The final suit, that of Pentacles (also Coins, Denari or Disks), is most often associated with Earth. Earth represents the physical realm of finance, health and stability. It represents all things real and tangible, included sensations and fertility. The Queen of Cups is often depicted as a goddess figure ruling over the domain of hearth and home--creature comforts.

When we are grounded in this element, we manage our money well and are conscious of our body's needs. The traditional Tarot suits are complementary--Fire begins, Water nurtures, Air refines and Earth sustains. By combining the lessons of the four elements, we better understand the personalities and events around us.

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