How to Interpret Tarot Cards

How to Interpret Tarot Cards

One of the most important aspects of Tarot is understanding the meaning of the cards and being able to read them for your clients. Although most Tarot decks come with a guidebook that lists the meanings that the author ascribed to the cards, ultimately a card’s meaning is up to the reader to determine. No card has just one meaning. Different readers may see different messages in the cards. Also, certain meanings may not be appropriate in certain situations. For example pulling a card up in a love reading would have one interpretation while pulling that same card for a career reading would yield different results.

Tarot guidebooks are just guides to get you thinking about the card in a certain way. They are by no means the only “right” answer to interpreting the cards. It’s always best to go with your intuition even if what it’s telling you is different from what the guide book is saying.

A thing to note about Tarot card interpretation is that some people like to read the cards differently depending on their orientation. Cards can appear upright or reversed. Though it’s not necessary to read upright and reversed cards differently, many people do.

Different decks will have different meanings attached to the cards, but in general each card has a specific theme. The following is just a general guideline with common meanings of each of the 78 cards in a traditional Tarot deck.

The Major Arcana or Trump Cards

  • The Fool no. 0
    • This card depicts a man with a fool’s cap dressed as a jester.
    • Common Upright Meanings: folly, delirium, frenzy, intoxication, extravagance, mania
    • Common Reversed Meanings: negligence, absence, apathy, hesitation, instability
  • The Magician no. 1
    • This card depicts a young man in magician’s robe with an upraised hand holding a wand.
    • Common Upright Meanings: dexterity, will-power, skill, diplomacy, subtlety
    • Common Reversed Meanings: mental disease, disgrace, cunning, knavishness
  • The High Priestess no. 2
    • This card depicts a woman with a horned diadem, a crescent moon at her feet, and a solar cross on her chest.
    • Common Upright Meanings: science, mystery, wisdom, secrets, tenacity
    • Common Reversed Meanings: passion, conceit, ignorance, superficial knowledge
  • The Empress no. 3
    • This card depicts a crowned and winged woman sitting on a throne.
    • Common Upright Meanings: fruitfulness, initiative, action, plan
    • Common Reversed Meanings: truth, vacillation, loss of power, light
  • The Emperor no. 4
    • This card depicts the spouse of The Empress; he is a crowned man upon a throne usually depicted with scepter.
    • Common Upright Meanings: effect, development, realization, stability, power
    • Common Reversed Meanings: compassion, benevolence, immature, unripe
  • The Hierophant no. 5
    • This card depicts a man crowned with the papal tiara and holding a scepter with the triple cross in his left hand and making the sign of esoterism with his right.
    • Common Upright Meanings: mercy, kindness, alliance, captivity, servitude
    • Common Reversed Meanings: concord, over-kindness, weakness, foolish generosity
  • The Lovers no. 6
    • This card depicts a man and woman with Cupid above and between them.
    • Common Upright Meanings: attraction, love, trials overcome, beauty
    • Common Reversed Meanings: failure, foolish designs, unwise plans
  • The Chariot no. 7
    • This card depicts a conqueror wearing a crown, holding a scepter, and riding in a chariot being pulled by two horses.
    • Common Upright Meanings: overcoming obstacles, triumph, succor, providence
    • Common Reversed Meanings: quarrel, dispute, overthrown, defeat
  • Strength no. 8
    • This card depicts a crowned woman calmly closing the mouth of a lion.
    • Common Upright Meanings: power, strength, fortitude, energy, courage
    • Common Reversed Meanings: weakness, discord, abuse of power
  • The Hermit no. 9
    • This card depicts an old bearded man bearing in his right hand the lantern of occult science and a magic wand in his left hand.
    • Common Upright Meanings: prudence, caution, circumspection, roguery
    • Common Reversed Meanings: disguise, fear, concealment, unreasoned caution
  • Wheel of Fortune no. 10
    • This card depicts a rotating wheel with seven spokes. At the summit of the wheel is a Sphinx holding a sword and a crown.
    • Common Upright Meanings: good fortune, unexpected luck, destiny, felicity
    • Common Reversed Meanings: increase, abundance, failure, ill-fortune
  • Justice no. 11
    • This card depicts a crowned woman upon a throne between two pillars, holding in her right hand an upright sword and scales in her left.
    • Common Upright Meanings: justice, equilibrium, balance, equity, rightness
    • Common Reversed Meanings: bigotry, bias, abuse of justice, inequality
  • The Hanged Man no. 12
    • This card depicts a man hanged upside down by one foot and his hands are bound behind his back.
    • Common Upright Meanings: sacrifice, devotion, discernment, trials, prophecy
    • Common Reversed Meanings: selfishness, the crowd, unbound
  • Death no. 13
    • This card depicts a skeleton armed with a scythe.
    • Common Upright Meanings: death, change, transformation, destruction, endings
    • Common Reversed Meanings: lethargy, inertia, sleep, hope destroyed
  • Temperance no. 14
    • This card depicts an Angel with a symbol of the Sun on her forward. She is pouring liquid from one vessel into another.
    • Common Upright Meanings: combination, uniting, economy, frugality, management
    • Common Reversed Meanings: disunion, competing interests, ill-advised combinations
  • The Devil no. 15
    • This card depicts a horned and winged demon sitting atop an altar with two smaller devils below chained and bound.
    • Common Upright Meanings: ravage, violence, vehemence, fatality, force
    • Common Reversed Meanings: weakness, pettiness, blindness
  • The Tower no. 16
    • This card depicts a tower whose top resembles a crown, which is being struck by lightning.
    • Common Upright Meanings: misery, distress, ruin, loss, disgrace
    • Common Reversed Meanings: imprisonment, tyranny, oppression
  • The Star no. 17
    • This card depicts a nude female figure pouring upon the Earth from two vases. The sky is full of stars and the Blazing Star of the Magi.
    • Common Upright Meanings: hope, expectation, bright promises, loss, theft
    • Common Reversed Meanings: arrogance, impotence, disappointment
  • The Moon no. 18
    • This card depicts a wolf and dog howling at the shining heavenly Moon.
    • Common Upright Meanings: twilight, deception, hidden enemies, error
    • Common Reversed Meanings: instability, silence, fluctuation, slight deceptions
  • The Sun no. 19
    • This card depicts the Sun sending down his rays on a naked child mounted on a white horse.
    • Common Upright Meanings: material happiness, joy, contentment, fortunate marriage
    • Common Reversed Meanings: the same as upright meanings only to a lesser degree
  • Judgment no. 20
    • This card depicts an Angel blowing his trumpet in the heavens while the dead rise from their tombs.
    • Common Upright Meanings: renewal, change of position, outcome
    • Common Reversed Meanings: weakness, simplicity, delay, deliberation
  • The World no. 21
    • This card depicts a naked woman floating within a flowery wreath. In each corner of the card is the four cherubic animals of the apocalypse: Man, Eagle, Lion, and the Bull.
    • Common Upright Meanings: completion, good reward, voyage, flight, assured success
    • Common Reversed Meanings: stagnation, permanence, recompense

The Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards across 4 suits. Each suit has 14 cards; cards numbered 1-10 with a King, Queen, Knight, and Page. The four suits are Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and Wands. Each suit represents a different element and different aspect of our daily lives. While each suit represents certain elements, each specific card in the suit has a different meaning related to the overall theme of the suit.


This suit deals with our beliefs and our ability to understand. Swords represent battles and warfare, thus making it the most dangerous and powerful suit. This suit is associated with the mind and our intellect. Some of the positive aspects of Swords are ambition, courage, a call to action, and change.


This suit deals with our innermost feelings and our emotions. Cups are associated with innovation, creativity, love, feelings, relationships, and connections. Drawing this suit means you are thinking with your heart and feeling impulsive


This suit deals with our intuition, primal energies, and original thought. Wands represent our internal and external energies; they also represent our egos. This card predicts our day-to-day life and shows us our motivations and inspirations.

Pentacles (Coins or Disks)

This suit deals with the material aspects of life. Drawing this suit represents your livelihood, financial status, and calling in life. Pentacles represent our physical being and reflect our outer situations. Some of the positives of drawing Pentacles include prosperity, realization, and manifestation.

Remember that this is just a general guide for the meanings of the Tarot cards. The interpretation of the cards is ultimately up to the Tarot reader, who must rely on their intuition to tell them what they need to know.

With my 37 years of experience reading Tarot, I’ve come to develop my own interpretation of the cards. Request a complimentary, no strings attached 3-card reading from me today, so that I may interpret the cards for you. Your personal reading will reveal insights into your past, present, and future.

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