Revisiting Tarot Card Meanings

Revisiting Tarot Card Meanings

I have been feeling…not great about some of my readings recently, and would like to revisit the meanings of the major and minor arcana cards. Most of these will be pulled from Holistic Tarot (Benebell Wen), but not all.

:sparkles: This is an overview the bits that I forgot, overlooked, or hadn’t considered. Not all of the basics will be covered.

Major Arcana

Minor Arcana

  • Ace of Wands
  • Two of Wands
  • Three of Wands
  • Four of Wands
  • Five of Wands
  • Six of Wands
  • Seven of Wands
  • Eight of Wands
  • Nine of Wands
  • Ten of Wands
  • Page of Wands
  • Knight of Wands
  • Queen of Wands
  • King of Wands




Comments and discussions are most welcome! :flower_playing_cards:


The Fool

  • Yang, Air, Uranus
  • clear conscience
  • next step is sink or swim
  • critical choices & proposals
  • trickster
  • disregard for the rules
  • relevance of the number 8
  • external forces at play

The Fool Reversed

  • turn back while you can

I usually think of the Fool as new adventures, new beginnings, “leap of faith”, “jumping into the void”, or acting foolishly. I had no awareness of the elemental or planetary correspondences. I would have associated the Fool with Mercury, if asked.


The Magician

  • Yin, Earth, Mercury
  • construction
  • mastery
  • greatness
  • relevance of numbers one or four
  • first law of motion: an object at rest / in motion will stay in rest / in motion, unless an external force is applied

The Magician Reversed

  • breaking taboos
  • untapped potential
  • personal anarchism

I associate the Magician with manifestation, acting from a place of empowerment, and ritual magick. The association with yin instead of yang threw me, as did the association with earth. I always thought of the Magician as a fiery and dynamic card, full of creativity and personal power; one who harnesses their power to manifest their will into reality.

I wasn’t aware that the Magician is linked to Strength, via the red and white robes, red roses, and lemniscate. I also was not aware (or forgot) that Magician’s belt is an orobous, representing his affinity with the universal unconscious.


The High Priestess

  • gown changes into water at the feet
  • J: Jachin: he shall establish
  • B: Boaz: in it is strength
  • TORA: spiritual and physical laws
  • memory
  • encoding, storing, and retrieving experiences
  • duality
  • secrecy advised
  • intriguing beauty
  • Pope Joan
  • accomplished woman in a male-dominated institution

The High Priestess Reversed

  • deceit
  • detachment from collective unconscious
  • sexual or psychic exploitation
  • untapped potential for sexual attraction or intuition
  • banished spirituality

I tend to focus on the liminal and intuitive associations, forgoing the associations with secrecy and deceit. The pomegranates behind the High Priestess are also present in the Empress Card, reminding me of Persephone and Demeter (although Demeter is more associated with poppies). Wen attributes them to the passion of Christ and to fertility, love, marriage, and wisdom.


On the first two cards, interesting attributions. The 22 Trump cards are in a way the building blocks of the universe, matching the 22 Paths of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. So, there is one card for each of the 7 classical Planets, 3 cards attributed singly to 3 of the 4 elements (there is one card that has assigned to it both a Planet and an element, completing it), 12 cards for each of 12 Zodiac Signs.

The Fool represents that primal state of the universe, where there was emptiness, but things started springing forth into being. With that, The Fool is all the cards, representing that divine state of unity, before everything starting descending down to the different spheres. Primal unity, in a sense.

For The Magus, I understand why the author attributed Earth to it, because Mercury’s own nature is Cold and Dry (And so, Earthly), according to William Lilly. Although, among elements, he rules over Water.

But the Elemental Trump of Earth is The World/The Universe.


The Empress

  • realization of personal projects
  • comfort
  • St. Adelaide of Italy
  • Joan I of Navarre
  • unintended repercussions of plans coming to fruition
  • external forces at play
  • relevance of numbers 3 and 6

The Empress Reversed

  • bareness or difficulties conceiving / birthing
  • must be resourceful to succeed
  • missing earth element

I tend to view the Empress more as a figure of empowerment, and in reverse, a woman disempowered. I do not really take the earth association into account.


Wen notes:

“The Magician’s correspondence to the planet Mercury, which, per Western astrological associations, is governed by the element Earth, is what grounds the card in yin. Moreover, per Eastern astrological associations, Mercury is associated with the element Water which is yin.”

She also writes that the Empress’s association with Venus gives her governance over Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. Which confused me greatly. But I am limited to a modern astrological perspective.


Very fascinating regarding the Eastern astrological association. As I said, in traditional Western astrology, Mercury’s Nature is Earthly, but he rules over Water. So, there is an interesting similarity there!

Regarding the reference, if she means that Mercury is traditionally governed by Earth, that is wrong. It is traditionally the Planets who rule over the Elements, not the other way around.

That is extremely confusing, but I think the author may have mistaken Venus’ Triplicity (She rules over the Earthly and Watery Triplicity by Day, according to the Dorothean Triplicity, otherwise only the Earthly Triplicity by Day, according to William Lilly) for Sign Rulership.

Triplicity is different from Sign Rulership. Venus rules over Libra and Taurus as her Signs. Libra being her Day House, while Taurus is her Night House, and Pisces her Exaltation. But otherwise Venus rules over the Earthly Triplicity, which consists of Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn, but Virgo and Capricorn belong to other Planets, and Virgo is actually Venus’ fall, so she is weakened therein.


I believe she is referring to the metallic element Mercury, not the planet (after checking her index notes). But she also definitely associates the Magician with the planet Mercury as well.

I need to learn more about traditional astrology. I can’t really wrap my head around this :scream:
Sadly she provides no reference for this statement.
It is specifically triplicties that I need to learn about. I understand the rest of what you wrote.


That still doesn’t make sense since the Elements don’t actively rule over things, and Earth wouldn’t make sense for Liquid Mercury since among the metals (Liquid Mercury is traditionally considered part of the metals) it is the metal that is most like Water. But, the author may have used “governs” synonymously with “associated with”.


“The attributions for Mercury the planet should not be confused with the attribution for mercury, the metallic element. Vedic astrology most often corresponds Mercury the planet with the element Earth, while Western alchemy corresponds mercury the metallic element with Air.”


Her astrological framework: Introduction to Western Astrology – benebell wen


Alright I take it the author did mean correspond instead of govern in that case, which is a common practice in modern works I have found. But of course the traditional perspective is that rulership goes beyond correspondence, which is important when considering traditional texts.

The author may have mistaken Alchemical Mercury with the element Mercury here. Agrippa in Book I Chapter 7 of Three Books of Occult Philosophy says that Quicksilver (older term for the element Mercury) is watery.

Alchemical Mercury is different from Quicksilver, however. Alchemical Mercury is not simply Quicksilver, but it is the interactive principle in things. For example, plant sap is the “Mercury” of the plants. Alcohol, then, is the perfection of plant Mercury.
Alchemical Sulfur is the energetic, volatile principle in things, and Alchemical Salt is the stable solid principle in things. These concepts are important to understanding the Tarot as Crowley explains it.

So, Alchemical Mercury as the fluid and interactive principle in things has a link to Air.


You are such a wizard. I have so much respect for your knowledge. Thank you for sharing it :dizzy:


The Emperor

  • Aries, Mars
  • government
  • justified cause
  • King Phillip IV
  • King Midas
  • impoverished kingdom
  • scorched earth tactics
  • domination of mind over heart
  • March 21 - April 19

The Emperor Reversed

  • need to place mind over heart
  • dominate the domineering
  • strong prejudices leading to injustice

I usually think of the Emperor as a rigid and Saturnian figure; more Capricorn than Aries. It never struck me as a passionate or impulsive card.


The Hierophant

  • Earth, Venus, Taurus
  • concealment (with good intentions)
  • distortion of truth (with good intentions)
  • Pope Clement V

The Hierophant Reversed

  • self-determination

Taurus surprises me. Taurus reminds of down-to-earth people and agriculture, not divine representatives. Venus surprises me. Venus reminds me of pleasure and sensuality, not the pressures and restrictions of religious institutions. I would have guessed Leo (self-importance), Virgo (rules and micromanagement), Capricorn (restriction and severity), or Pisces (dogma and religion). But I see that we’re “going in order” and Taurus follows Aries.


The Lovers

  • Air, Mercury, Gemini
  • Ethics
  • Moral choices
  • Choosing between pleasuring the senses and spiritual ascension
  • Choosing between the mind and the heart
  • Love versus lust
  • Vice versus virtue
  • Indecision
  • Bliss can become tragedy

The Lovers Reversed

  • choosing your own morals and ethics
  • veering from your own morals and ethics

I did not realize that the woman stood in front of the Tree of Knowledge and the Man in front of the Tree of Life. I associate the Lovers with affinity and have never connected it with morality (unless it reversed; unfaithfulness). I read it more interpersonal and less existential. Perhaps this is why the Air association throws me.


The Chariot

  • Water, Moon, Cancer
  • Urim and Thummin (divination)
  • Control over willpower
  • Jurisdiction
  • Willpower from the Divine
  • Acquisition
  • Mechanics, movement & motion of conquest
  • Tough exterior, sensitive interior
  • Subduing aggressively instead of confronting maturely
  • Appearing in control but evading problems
  • Lingam and Yoni (Shiva & Shakti)
  • Discipline & audacity
  • Templars returning from the East
  • Eight-pointed star of Ishtar
  • Divine knowledge
  • June 21- July 22

The Chariot Reversed

  • Stagnant energy

Again, my understanding of this card is more superficial. I associate it with victory, momentum, and enthusiasm (not so controlled; more reckless). I most certainly did not connect it with Water and Cancer, but can see it with movement and armor. I had no awareness of the lingam, yoni, or Ishtar symbolism.



  • Security
  • Triumph of love over hate
  • Virtue is strength
  • Overcoming fear
  • Strength to master the self (*Chariot, strength to master the environment)
  • Divine knowledge of the self
  • Application of divine knowledge acquired by the Chariot
  • Kill them with kindness

Strength Reversed

  • harness the energies of Fire to overcome obstacles

A more spiritual interpretation than my own. But that makes sense; this is a key of the Major Arcana. My reading of this card has been a bit mundane and shallow.


The Hermit

  • Yin, Earth, Mercury, Virgo
  • Accept the advice that has been offered
  • Peter the Hermit
  • St. Francis of Paola & the Hermits of St. Francis
  • Path of nonviolence & compassion

The Hermit Reversed

  • Needing to ask for guidance, but not asking
  • Learning the hard way
  • Thinking you know best
  • Disrespecting elders

Looking towards any neighboring cards that the Hermit’s lantern “shines” on for context and clarity is a fantastic tip that had not occurred to me.


I really love the image of this card in the Thoth Deck