Individual Characteristics of the Minor Arcana and their Base Personalities

June 8, 2009

What a mouth full! I’m sure there is a simpler title for this aspect of learning to read the Tarot, but I can’t find one! This is the complex part of  Tarot Reading and the hardest part to learn. But once you do, you will see and understand the interactions of each card with each other. The full story of the cards is yours.

This article is a simplification, but serves to introduce how The Minor Arcana reveal the day to day threads of a reading, and form a meaningful pattern woven into the Major Arcana’s narratives which indicate the greater design.

Each card of The Minor Arcana has a “base personality” that is consistent through out all suits.

  • Example Base Personality

Twos connect things

Sevens are unstable

The number 2 represents balance and harmonythis base personalityis the same for all suits.

The number 7 represents instability and changethisbase personalityis the same for all suits.

Each suit of The Minor Arcana has a “characteristic” that is consistent for all the cards in that suit .

  • Example Characteristics

Cups represent emotions

Pentacles represent material things

Cups represent emotions, Emotionsbeing CupsCharacteristic

Pentacles represent material things, Material Thingsbeing PentaclesCharacteristic

  • Final Example

Thus the 2 of Cups mean:

The emotional connection between two people

And the 2 of Pentacles mean:

The material connection between two things

Thus the 7 of Cups mean:

The relationship is/or will be unstable or changed

And the 7 of Pentacles mean:

Your finances are/or will be unstable

Understanding this aspect of the Minor Arcana is confusing at first, but necessary in order to give a complete reading. After all laying the cards without the Minor Arcana will give a distorted view of things. Life is rarely filled with dramatic events every day! Once you get the feel for the suits “Characteristic” and “Base Personality” the story the cards tell will have a time frame for events and details that put an entire reading into focus.

Copyright Statement



  1. This is a very good introduction to understanding the Pip cards. Focusing on the numbers on the Tarot is done often but usually in an overtly numerological way. There’s nothing wrong with using this approach or using different system to explain the Tarot; part of the Tarot’s success is its ability to house many different systems into one comprehensive whole. The only problem I have with this is that its very reductionalist to say the least. Incidentally, I wonder what the study of number, outside of the mystical study of number (numerology) would produce when applying it to the Tarot.

    In a Tarot reading, the Picture, Court, Aces and Pip cards don’t, in my experience, take on any special significance. The hierarchy with which the Tarot is usually presented doesn’t really apply; in fact, if anything, the Pip cards take on special significance because they tell the story of what ‘is’; they point to a reality; not an abstraction.

    Having said that, the Picture cards in a Tarot reading also point to an ‘everydayness’ of meanings. For example, the dramatic imagery of the Tower usually indicates that a household appliance needs replaced, or the serenity of the Star usually indicates a combination of different things – travel, education, creativity or an increased interest in mysticism (also, although this is rare, help and healing). It’s very difficult in a Tarot reading to have any hierarchy at all. Life simply is not like that.

    I found this to be the case shortly after I started reading the cards for a living. The education which the popular books on Tarot provide really doesn’t demystify the process at all. That’s part of the reason I like your post, it’s very clear and informative.

    It wasn’t long after I started reading the cards that I realised that the Hierarchy, which privileges the Picture cards over the Pip cards didn’t fit with the reality of a Tarot reading itself. I often try and think of this subject by comparison with the gods. The gods have both a spiritual and an animal form and it’s only when they are in their animal form (their Pip form) that they directly affect the lives of humans. It is in this sense that I mean the Pip cards take on more significance (of course they don’t really, no card does) than the Picture cards.

    I also liked your linking to the suits themselves. This is a very important part of giving a Tarot reading.

    I really like your blog, and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Thank you Douglas, very much for your comment.
      It was very informative. I just have two questions…

      Submitted on 2009/06/10 at 6:14am Douglas said:

      “The only problem I have with this is that its very reductionalist to say the least.”

      Can you explain further this comment? As I stated in the opening of the article; “This article is a simplification, but serves to introduce how The Minor Arcana reveal the day to day threads of a reading…”

      Are you referring to the article being reductionalist, or the manner in which I say The Tarot Minor Arcana/Pips influence a reading?

      Submitted on 2009/06/10 at 6:14am Douglas said:

      “If anything, the Pip cards take on special significance because they tell the story of what ‘is’; they point to a reality; not an abstraction.”

      If I understand this comment correctly, instead of the Minor Arcana/Pips representing day to day issues, the Minor Arcana/Pips refer more to reality, not abstraction “over the entire reading?”

      Thank you again. I hope to hear back from you.

  2. I think your post is a great introduction to the Pip cards and with regards to my first comment I was indicating a general, perhaps philosophical trend when thinking of the Tarot.
    I apologise if it read differently, this is the kind of post I would have liked to have read when I was first starting out. I do not mean to imply that you had simplified things; in fact, that was the very reason I liked your post because it removes a lot of the clutter that goes hand in hand with the difficult task of explaining good ways of thinking about Tarot. I will do my best to try and clarify what I was meaning further into this comment and also, hopefully, indicate why I think it’s important to consider some philosophical musings when it comes to Tarot.

    Part of the success with Tarot is its ability to integrate different ‘ordering systems’ (astrology, numerology, Qabbalh and so on) and I think it does a good job of this. My reservation with this is that it can ignore the differences within the systems themselves. I’ve found recently that this has become an important part of my own study. Rather than concentrate on similarity, I’m more interested in the difference between systems.
    For instance, I used to read with the Thoth deck, but as an experiment I changed to the Tarot de Marseille as a way to remove the layering of different ordering systems that the Thoth deck uses – and to try and get to the route (although I’m not convinced this is entirely possible) of the Tarot symbols – no longer being filtered through differing systems. I would actually like to try the Visconti Tarot deck to try and get as close as I can.
    Also, in a very general way, the Tarot has a hierarchical structure to it. The Picture cards are seen as more important than the Pips for example. In my earlier comment I was trying to illustrate that in my experience this does not reflect how a reading actually develops. A large part of the reason for this embedded hierarchy is the historical context in which the Tarot developed and the card game that it was originally used for.
    When I read for other people I find it useful to see the Minor/ Pip cards as the reality in which the client is living; but not only the Pips, I also see the Major/Picture cards as being the same.

    It’s difficult to explain exactly how I see or use the cards but I think the best way would be to imagine a process of reinterpretation taking place continuously. I also never read cards in isolation so I tend to jump around a reading, finding information as I require helping tell the story. I certainly, as a general rule, start by viewing every card as a real life event, I then, depending on how the story is developing, look to the other cards to balance the story out on a psychological, spiritual and emotional level.

    Perhaps the one criticism I would make of my reading style is its privileging of the outer world (perhaps not empowering for a client) over the inner world. However, I just can’t see the cards as representing inner psychological states to the extent that it has more power than the outside world in which the client lives.

    Naturally, there is a relationship between the two and in a reading I start with the outside world and near the end of the reading make my way to the client’s inner psychology to see if I can’t assist them in looking at different ways to use their free will. I think it comes down to the importance that we place on the concept of free will and in my experience, although there are always wonderful exceptions, the outside world is stronger than an abstract concept of free will.

    • Douglas
      Submitted on 2009/06/10 at 11:39am

      “…and to try and get to the route (although I’m not convinced this is entirely possible) of the Tarot symbols – no longer being filtered through differing systems. I would actually like to try the Visconti Tarot deck to try and get as close as I can.”

      I understand your desire to no longer see the Tarot symbols “being filtered through differing systems”.

      This has been a very important goal of mine through out my entire learning experience concerning the Tarot.

      Because Tarot historically started as a card game, I felt learning the Tarot from that starting point was the best way to SEE the Tarot at its birth, before all the “differing systems” added their individual theology/flavor.

      One of my favorite decks for this has been “Modiano Tarocco Piemontese”. The clean uncluttered art work leaves me unencumbered with “systems” developed after the Tarot became a divining tool.

      When I am especially confused or unable to focus, and need some personal council, I use this deck.

      My favorite decks are on my next post, you can see pictures of the Modiano, there.

      “Some of My Favorite Tarot Decks”

      If you get a chance, look in to it and let me know what you think!

      Thank you for your response,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: