Learning to live the Tarot – Part 2

by Dru Ann Welch

This is part 2 of a 4 part series on learning to read the tarot intuitively.

Welcome back to Learning to Live the Tarot.  Today we will learn a bit about the difference between tarot and oracle decks and venture into the stories of the tarot suits.

Basic Tarot:

It has been said that the tarot tells its own tale.  The 22 major arcana cards talk of the major shifts and changes we face in life.  The 56 minor arcana cards embellish on the story started by the major arcana.

The tarot itself is a means for guiding us in working through life’s everyday problems using pictorial archetypes that speak to our subconscious mind.  The tarot reassure us that guidance is available; all we have to do is to believe, ask and trust the answers.

The Gypsy Fortune Teller. trade card for Dr Jaynes expectorant.
The Gypsy Fortune Teller. trade card for Dr Jaynes expectorant.

Tarot or Oracle:

A traditional tarot card deck consists of 78 cards, 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana.  The minor arcana cards consist of 4 suits. Each suit has the cards Ace (1) through 10 and the face cards, King, Queen Knight and Page.  Some decks change the names used to describe the face cards but these are the basic 4. The pictures on the card may be in great detail or only show 4 symbols to represent the card.

An oracle deck may consist of any number of cards and does not stick to the major/minor arcana script.  Oracle decks may be geared to the angelic realm or to daily guidance.  Some offer simple affirmations which can be pulled to guide you through the day.  Some oracle decks may be geared to healing, herbs, essential oils or crystals.  There is no specific recipe for an oracle deck.  It is basically a subject offering guidance in card deck form.

How am I going to remember all these cards

First, I suggest you really shop around for your tarot deck.  Look at the cards both the major and minor arcana.  Draw a card and look at it, don’t grab the book, look at the card.  What can you discern from looking at the image you see in front of you?  If you look at the card and it tells you nothing, move to another deck until you find the archetypal images that speak to you.  I believe there is a deck for everyone out there if you just look around.  If you simply want the standard deck to begin reading with I suggest the Rider Waite Tarot.  This is an old deck and the basis of the pictorial key used for most tarot decks.

All standard tarot decks have basically the same make up consisting of 4 themes or suits with cards much like a regular deck of playing cards.  Each suit has a King, Queen, Knight, and a Page which represent people.  There are also 10  number cards ranging from Ace (1) to 10. As you will see when you begin your tarot journey a 2 in one suit will have a very different meaning from a 2 in another suit even though they are both 2’s.

Let’s start with the themes or suits

There are 4 basic tarot suits:  Pentacles/Coins, Cups/Chalices, Swords, and Wands/Staffs.   Each of these suits is associated with one of the 4 elements. Pentacles/Coins are associated with earth.  Cups/Chalices are associated with water. Swords are associated with air.  Wands/Staffs are associated with fire.

Each suit is also associated with the qualities of our lives.  Pentacles/Coins represent the material things in life while Cups/Chalices are associated with our emotions.  Swords represent intellect or more intellectual pursuits and Wands/Staffs teach us about the things that push our buttons, get us fired up or we feel passionate about in life.


From this, we can get a pretty handy chart:


Pentacles/Coins Earth Material pursuits
Cups/Chalices Water Emotional pursuits
Swords Air Intellectual pursuits
Wands/Staffs Fire Passionate pursuits



So what story do the tarot themes or suits tell as you walk through them? Here are the stories I create to understand each suit.

Pentacles tells a tale of prosperity.  Each card in this suit shows people enjoying the finer things in life.  In the Rider deck, there is an abundance of grapes throughout the Pentacle cards.  We see tales of people who are hard-working and reaping the fruits of their labors. There is a story about poverty which warns us that sometimes material things can be deceiving.  Finally we see that there is always balance and in the end, there is a gateway to cross through that may help you to a prosperous future.

In the tale of Cups we see the emotional roller coaster that is life.  There are tales of confidence and joy as well as making those difficult emotional choices.  We also see stories of despair, loneliness and boredom.  These are balanced with sharing and working together for a common goal.

Swords show us how the winds of change affect all that we do.  In this story we see more of the dark side of humanity portrayed.  There is betrayal and anguish.  There are tales of feeling imprisoned by your own beliefs. As well as the road that must be traveled when the battle is over yet there is no clear victor. We are urged to open our minds and see both sides of the story.

The Wands tell a tale of strength and passion in life.  We see a battle that rages within each of us between the will to be right and actually being in the right.  It gives us the perspective that there may actually be no winners in these types of games. The story reminds us that we are always willing to fight passionately for what we believe in and hold dear. It points us to a place to look out into the world and see that there is so much more for us out there.

Now don’t take my word for it, remember there are no books to look at, you are asked to use your own intuition.  So grab your deck, a pen and paper and write your story for each suit.  Set them up in piles from King down to the Ace and just look at the story that you see unfold.

By Andrew Kuznetsov (Flickr: Gypsy series)
By Andrew Kuznetsov (Flickr: Gypsy series)

Next time, we will venture into the story of The Minor Arcana.

Dru Ann Welch is an experienced Intuitive Counselor, Healer and Tarot Reader.  She is a Reiki Master/Teacher and a Certified H.E.A.L. Technique Practitioner and a Crystal Singing Bowl Practitioner. Additionally, she holds a degree in Education and teaches with passion.  Dru Ann is the author of 4 books , creator of 2 oracle decks and the performing artist on 3 cds.  Dru Ann’s musings in the form of quotes, blogs and articles have been featured on The Wellness Universe , Circle Magazine ( Imbolc Issue 119/pg 42) and The Spirit Ezine (May 2015).  Proudly, Dru Ann has been a featured speaker and presenter at the Community Unitarian Universalist Church, the UCSS Spiritual Centre, Autumn Meet, and the Florida Pagan Gathering.

Dru Ann was featured as one of 150+ thought leaders in Tedx Speaker Corey Poirier‘s recent book, Enlightened Becoming the Best Version of You in 5 Easy Steps (enter code bestyouever to get your free copy during the launch) at www.druannwelch.com.

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