Know Before You Go: The Pagan Symbols on Tarot Cards and What They Mean

Though the Tarot can be used by anyone at any time for any reason, it’s widely known that these cards are Pagan in origin. Placing their roots in old religions from a variety of cultures, all of those traditions blend together in this new age collection of cards that predate the Wiccan religion by centuries. The proof of this is in the symbols you see in the decks, all with Pagan origins that are obvious once you know a little more about them. The symbolism is especially obvious when you look at the minor arcana and the various suits they’re sorted into. Each is closely tied to an essential element and altar item in the world of Paganism, and very often the meanings are identical.

Cups

"The suit of cups represents love, feelings, relationships and connections"

“The suit of cups represents love, feelings, relationships and connections”


One of the minor arcana suits is called the cups, though they’re also occasionally referred to as chalices. They represent emotions, and they’re a key item in Pagan practices. A cup is often placed on a Pagan alter to represent the Great Goddess, the mother of the universe and the element of water. Many rituals open and close with the cup or chalice, and its contents can play just as important of a role in any ceremony.

Swords

Another minor arcana suit is known as the swords, or sometimes athames in more Wiccan centered decks. The ritual knife or sword is a basic Pagan alter tool that’s traditionally black handled and serves many ritualistic and symbolic purposes. It represents the east and the element of fire or air, depending on the practice followed. In the tarot deck the suit of swords is a suit of action and courage, a trait embodied by the flames and wind. In rituals it’s frequently used to open and close circles, indicating its protective abilities as well.

Wands

"The suit of wands is associated with primal energy, strength and spirituality"

“The suit of wands is associated with primal energy, strength and spirituality”


The suit of wands is universally considered the suit of fire and courage, an easy connection for any Pagan to make. Often times in ritual wands or staves are used in place of athames for things like calling down the quarters or drawing your circles, and on a symbolic level they’re used to help us tap into the strength of our spirituality and intuition. In tarot the suit of wands is associated with all of these things, addressing what our motivations are and helps keep us focused on what’s important in life.

Pentacles

The pentacle is the ultimate earth symbol and the one that’s universally representative of nearly every Pagan faith. It’s a five pointed star within a circle, and each of the five points represent the four elements in addition to the Pagan element of the spirit. It’s the symbol of protection and unity, representing the fact that all things on earth are ultimately connected. This is a core tenant of every Pagan faith and one of its only unifying beliefs across all of its various denominations. Similarly in tarot we see the suit of pentacles as representing all that we have here on earth from physical possessions to what we actually do.

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