Quick Reference to the Rider-Waite Tarot Meanings
Haven’t got time to look up tarot meanings in a book? Or does your memory need a quick nudge? Here is a quick reference to the meanings of tarot cards. This list covers the Rider-Waite Tarot and all its many offshoots. If your deck has a special system of its own, then you’ll need to refer to the book that came with it.
How to Get the Most Out of a Tarot Card
While it’s simple to look up a list of meanings, you also have to be aware that circumstances play a part. So there may be subtle but telling differences in the meaning of the card. The skill of a reader lies in identifying what aspect of the seeker’s life the card is related to.
For example, let’s say your seeker (or yourself) has asked about a new job. You turn over the Seven of Swords and for the life of you, you can’t connect it to the new job quest. Then you begin to think about the information the client has given you and one of the things she said was that her search has been hampered by her lack of confidence. The meaning of the Seven of Swords can be expanded as advice to claim back that lost confidence because she has an absolute right to feel as worthy as anyone applying for those jobs.
And this is your job as a tarot reader, it’s not only deciphering the mysterious cards, but about giving your clients reassurance. Sometimes, hearing it from a tarot reader gives them a big boost. If the cards say it, it must be true, and so forth.
So be prepared to dig a little, to get the client talking in order to expand on the meanings. Say what comes into your mind in the form of a personal memory, but be careful how you say it. Tarot readers are not generally trained counselors and if you blurt out something without thinking, you can cause damage. People have a way of latching on to one sentence or point, so think before you speak.
This list is for upright card meanings only.
An explanation and quick reference guide for the Rider-Waite Tarot Reversals
The Major Arcana: What They Mean
The Major Arcana cards are not like the Minors. The Minors can be pretty specific, focusing on actual situations, feelings, etcetera. The Majors are more about energy fields and influences. They may reflect a spiritual search, attainment or life lesson. Sometimes they reflect forces beyond our control. They warn us that resistance is futile, and that we need to adjust our perception or increase understanding and acceptance.
The Meanings of the Major Arcana Cards
- 0 Fool -- Taking a risk. Getting outside your comfort zone. Knowing the universe is looking after you.
- 1 Magician -- Feeling confident, assured. Having all the tools and resources at your disposal. Power.
- 2 High Priestess -- Intuition. Going within. Inner knowing.
- 3 Empress -- Growth, fertility, pregnancy, motherhood, new project. Dominant female.
- 4 Emperor -- Structure, organization, rules. Dominant male.
- 5 Hierophant -- Learning path, religion, spirituality, spiritual mentor, guide.
- 6 Lovers -- Life changing choice, turning point. Union with another, two as one.
- 7 Chariot -- Drive and determination. Autonomy. Mediation and negotiation.
- 8 Strength -- Persuasion, gentle strength. Patience, control, compassion.
- 9 Hermit -- Knowing oneself, solitude, understanding humanity, wisdom.
- 10 Wheel of Fortune -- Change, good luck, destiny.
- 11 Justice -- Cause and effect, Karma, fairness, legal issues.
- 12 Hanged Man -- On hold, nothing happening, stuck, letting go of the outcome.
- 13 Death -- Endings and new beginnings, transformation, transition. Death.
- 14 Temperance -- Chemistry, moderation, balance. Getting it right.
- 15 Devil -- Addiction, bad habits, co-dependency, materialism.
- 16 Tower -- Chaos, destruction, upheaval. Unexpected and possibly unwanted change.
- 17 Star -- Renewed optimism, hope, serenity. Spiritual love and joy.
- 18 Moon -- Insecurity, anxiety, illusion, fear, health issues.
- 19 Sun -- Improvement, growth, positivity, love, abundance, joy.
- 20 Judgment -- Rebirth, calling, forgiveness.
- 21 World -- In the right place. Accomplishment, completion. Pause before the next stage.
How to Interpret the Minor Arcana
The Minor Arcana are often considered to be less important than the Major Arcana cards. To me, this isn’t correct. When someone is dealing with a set of circumstances, they are right in the middle of the action. And, while a Major can point out the overall energy, the Minor card is able to pinpoint the details and give the necessary advice—now.
The Meanings of the Minor Arcana Cards
The Suit of Wands/Staves
The Wands are connected to inspiration and action.
Ace of Wands -- Rush of energy, inspiration, passion, creativity.
Two of Wands -- Planning, decisions, delays.
Three of Wands -- Enterprise, entrepreneurial spirit, responsibility, opportunity. New job.
Four of Wands -- Community, celebration, domestic comfort, engagement, wedding, housewarming. A job well done.
Five of Wands -- Arguments, disagreements, tension, competition, strife.
Six of Wands -- Victory, achievement. Good results in exams. Public acknowledgment.
Seven of Wands -- Standing your ground, challenge, not giving up.
Eight of Wands -- Change, getting organized, motivation, travel, possible pregnancy.
Nine of Wands -- Courage, determination, resilience.
Ten of Wands -- Responsibilities, stress, tough times.
Page of Wands -- Explorer, potential, free agent, no ties, messenger (or message arriving swiftly).
Knight of Wands -- Lust, enthusiasm, entrepreneurial spirit, scattered energy.
Queen of Wands -- Warmth, vibrancy, sexual enthusiasm.
King of Wands -- Leader, visionary, role model, temperamental, egotistical.
The Suit of Cups
Cups are connected to emotions, and relationships with others and self.
Ace of Cups -- Overwhelming romantic and spiritual love. New relationship, friendship. Compassion.
Two of Cups -- Attraction, love, commitment.
Three of Cups -- Friendship, fun, community, girls’ night out, celebration.
Four of Cups -- Emotional stability, contemplation, meditation, inward focus.
Five of Cups -- Loss, hurt, disappointment, bereavement, regret, pain. Emotional challenge.
Six of Cups -- Memories of people and places. Childhood, children, grandchildren.
Seven of Cups -- Fantasy, imagination, too many choices.
Eight of Cups -- Parting, leaving home. Emotional choice.
Nine of Cups -- Emotional security. Comfort, satisfaction, happiness.
Ten of Cups -- Family, harmony, fulfillment, peace, love.
Page of Cups -- Explorer of feelings, creative, messenger (or message arriving from overseas).
Knight of Cups -- Romantic beau. Loves to love. Bisexuality.
Queen of Cups -- Intuitive, compassionate woman, good friend.
King of Cups -- Friendly, gentle man. Emotionally supportive.
The Suit of Swords
Swords are connected to the intellect and communication.
Ace of Swords -- Clarity, decision made, insight, understanding, truth revealed.
Two of Swords -- Indecision, not acknowledging the truth, afraid to face reality.
Three of Swords -- Miscommunication, rejection, hurtful words, painful realization.
Four of Swords -- Withdrawal, resting the mind, time-out, meditation.
Five of Swords -- Conflict, tension, mental challenge, bullying.
Six of Swords -- Transition, recovery, moving on, travel.
Seven of Swords -- Stealth, reclaiming something lost, mental trickery, betrayal, theft.
Eight of Swords -- Self-entrapment, perceived imprisonment, isolation.
Nine of Swords -- Anxiety, depression, nightmares, endless negative thought.
Ten of Swords -- Defeat, ending, death. End of life cycle/beginning of the next.
Page of Swords -- Mentally agile, restless, experimenting. Messenger (or message arriving fast).
Knight of Swords -- Incisive, decisive, impulsive, political. Fights for the underdog.
Queen of Swords -- Perceptive, quick thinker, seeker of truth. Tells it like it is.
King of Swords -- Authoritative, intellectually powerful, truthful, direct.
The Suit of Pentacles
Pentacles are connected to the material world, work, health, money.
Ace of Pentacles -- Gift, manifestation, new house or project. Prosperity.
Two of Pentacles -- Making ends meet. Balancing time and resources.
Three of Pentacles -- Collaboration, teamwork, pooling resources and ideas.
Four of Pentacles -- Stability, security, isolation, holding on to resources.
Five of Pentacles -- Material loss, destitution, poverty, financial or material challenge.
Six of Pentacles -- Generosity, giving and receiving support, charity, donation of resources.
Seven of Pentacles -- Slight dissatisfaction, underlying discontent, doing well but could do better. Wondering at missed opportunities.
Eight of Pentacles -- Education, training/retraining, change of career, focus on the job in hand.
Nine of Pentacles -- Independence, happy with own company. Self sufficiency, appreciation.
Ten of Pentacles -- Family structure, wealth, business, planning, inter-generational co-operation.
Page of Pentacles -- Student, curiosity, focus. Messenger, or message arriving by post.
Knight of Pentacles -- Hard worker, loyal, reliable, quiet man with hidden depths.
Queen of Pentacles -- Comforting, practical, efficient woman. Motherhood, career woman.
King of Pentacles -- Businessman, magnanimous, proud, self-educated, self-made.
Any Questions About Interpreting Tarot Cards?
Hope this list of tarot card meanings is useful to you. You can print them out by pressing Ctrl P. Or by copying them into a Word docx and deleting the images.
Feel free to ask any questions below, but, please, no requests for free readings.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
I have purchased the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. What would be the best book to go with it? Do you have any advice for the beginners in terms of where to start?
I would suggest Brigit Esselmont's Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Meanings. I have the original PDF version and it's great for little nudges about all the variations of a card's meaning, even for someone like me who has been reading for years and years. You might know the author better as the owner of Biddy Tarot. It's expensive but worth it. I'm not sure if the PDF version is still available, you'd have to check the website. The paperback is on Amazon but, as I say, horrendously expensive.
One excellent free resource is Joan Bunning's Learning the Tarot. It's an old site and not easily navigable. It is her whole book, though, free of charge. http://www.learntarot.com/
As far as where to start... I have several articles that may help:Helpful 9
I pulled out a card for best way to deal with a relationship situation. The relationship is, I feel, one-sided and about to end in a disastrous way. The card I pulled out was the World. It's difficult to understand in this context. Does it mean to wait and see what happens? Or would it be that one person needs to take the initiative to end the relationship or try to sort it out?
As the World is the final card in the Major Arcana, it means that you have learned a valuable life lesson from this relationship, but you are ready to undertake the next chapter of your life. I'm not saying it has to end, but it looks likely. Take what you can from it, experience-wise, try to keep it amicable and simply move on.
Incidentally, I would recommend you read all single cards as upright.Helpful 8
What are Pentacles connected to?
Pentacles are connected to the material world; everything you can touch. Money, health, home, work, etc.Helpful 6
I read all the tarot cards upright only. Whether single or in a spread. Please guide me if I am it doing right?
It's perfectly fine to read the cards upright all the time. In fact, I do too. However, you have to know that you can also read the reversal meanings into an upright card. It works like this: imagine that each card is actually a pole or a stick. At each end you have the extreme meaning of the card; positive and negative. The correct degree of meaning for your reading is somewhere along that 'stick'. It's your talent, as a reader, to use your intuition to determine where on that scale the meaning lies.
To help you, have a look online at images for the Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong. He has built the reversals right into the image. So it's all contained within the card.Helpful 4
I have the Rider-Waite tarot deck, and it came with a booklet which says you are connected to a certain suit based on some physical characteristics and you do readings using just that suit and the Major Arcana. Yet the way it's explained here, you're using the full deck for a reading and the suits are representing various challenges etc. Is this simply a difference in style or the intent of the reader? I'm curious as to your opinion on this?
Normally, the whole deck is used for a reading, otherwise you'd be excluding a lot of potential information. What you are describing is a special spread based on the seeker's dominant element. So, mine is Earth/Pentacles, so if I wanted to do a reading only based on that element, then I could use the spread you describe. However, I don't know why you'd want to unless it was for a birthday reading or something. If you read the booklet again, I'm sure you will see other suggested spreads there.Helpful 1
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