The Meaning of Tarot Cards and Spreads

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Understanding the Tarot Cards

Article about the meaning of tarot cards by Craig Hamilton-Parker. There are 78 Tarot Cards divided into two main groups. These are 22 Major Arcana numbered 0 to 21 and 56 Minor Arcana divided into 4 suits. (Arcana means secret.)

The Major Arcana take dominance over the Minor Arcana in a reading. Some novices prefer to begin using only the Major Arcana cards, get to know these, and then introduce the rest of the pack later. But for now let’s start by learning about the meaning of tarot cards and spreads.

Meaning of Tarot Cards


The Tarot Cards is shuffled so that they are upright or reversed and the Tarot Cards meaning then changes. My feeling is that the Tarot Cards contain an equal balance of positive and negative imagery anyway and that reversing Tarot Cards adds little to the overall reading.

I rarely use reversed cards and for a beginner it over complicates the meanings. The meaning of tarot cards change when the card is reversed.


Here are the traditional meaning of tarot cards for the Major Arcana Cards:

  • 0. THE FOOL: Youthful folly, innocence, blinded by ignorance, listen to warnings, the novice.
  • 1. THE MAGICIAN. Self-control, skill, action, taking charge.
  • 2. THE HIGH PRIESTESS. Intuition, wisdom, mysteries, secrets, tenacity.
  • 3. THE EMPRESS: Fertility, abundance, mother, health, kindliness.
  • 4. THE EMPEROR: Willpower, ambition, stability, father, benefactor.
  • 5. THE HIEROPHANT. Marriage, good advice, religion. The higher self and mercy.
  • 6. THE LOVERS: Love, sexual union, beauty, emotional success, trials overcome.
  • 7. THE CHARIOT: The driving force, triumph, war, vengeance, providence.
  • 8. STRENGTH: Fortitude, courage, energy, success, self-discipline.
  • 9. THE HERMIT: Prudence, a lonely spiritual quest, treason, caution, inertia.
  • 10. WHEEL OF FORTUNE: The hand of fate, a turn for the better. Luck, destiny and abundance.

Major Arcana continued

  • 11. JUSTICE: The law, truth, balance, control, a contract.
  • 12. THE HANGED MAN: Wisdom in difficulties, self-sacrifice, intuition, initiation, prophesy.
  • 13. DEATH: Transformation, events beyond your control. Shows ending corruption. A new but difficult start because of inevitable major changes. (The tarot will not predict an actual death.)
  • 14. TEMPERANCE: Management and economy. Spirit transcending matter, moderation because of wise counsel
  • 15 THE DEVIL: Anger, violence, jealousy, greed, deceit, instinct, sexual passion.
  • 16. THE TOWER: Catastrophe, repossession, ruin, adversity, calamity.
  • 17. THE STAR: Hope, goals, expectations, guiding force,enlightenment, bright prospects.
  • 18. THE MOON: Dark forces, nightmares, illusion, hidden fears, danger overcome through intuition.
  • 19. THE SUN: Happiness, joy, rebirth, freedom, happy marriage, success.
  • 20. THE LAST JUDGEMENT: A major decision and outcome. Final result, rebirth, problems overcome.
  • 21. THE WORLD: Successful completion, assured success, recognition, long distance travel, harmony.



These are the meaning of tarot cards for the  minor arcana. They divide into four suits:

  • WANDS: This suit covers intellectual activities and career.
  • CUPS: Represents emotions, love, pleasure and sensitivity.
  • SWORDS: Involves struggles, difficulties and illness.
  • COINS: Deal with material world, finances and property.

There are four court Tarot Cards to each suit. These are King, Queen, Knight, and Page. These can represent people in the querant life or aspects of personality. Pages and Knights  represent children or young people of either sex. The aces show the beginning of a new activity. Tarot Cards from two to ten represent aspects of the querant’s life, past, present and future.

Here’s the basic meaning of the tarot cards for the minor cards:


  • ACE: A new job or enterprise. Initiative, ideas and invention.
  • 2 . Dissatisfaction with material things. Restlessness, thinking about events because of what’s happening elsewhere.
  • 3. Overseas trade, planned travel, commerce, established strength.
  • 4. Celebration, country life, socializing, prosperity, peace and concord.
  • 5. Petty arguments between groups of people. A sham fight. Squabbles.
  • 6. Victory achieved. Good news. The support of others. Recognition.
  • 7.- Valour. Winning against the odds. Overcoming opposition. Getting on top of your troubles.
  • 8. Communication. A message or letter. Swiftness. A speedy conclusion.
  • 9. An uncomfortable wait. Gathering strength. Problems still to be dealt with.
  • 10. Oppression. A burden that’s hard to carry. Overwork. Emotional pressure. Unpleasant news.
  • KING. A cleaver, honest, man who gives good advice.
  • QUEEN. An astute woman with a good business sense.
  • KNIGHT. Change of residence. An enterprising young person.
  • PAGE. Good news announced. Faithful young person or child.


  • ACE. The beginnings of emotional happiness. A new love or re-kindling of marriage. Joy, contentment because of fertility.
  • 2.- Emotional and spiritual love. Love blessed by heaven.
  • 3.- Celebration, merriment, good friends.
  • 4.- Discontentment or depression may cause the loss of a golden opportunity. Weariness.
  • 5.- Crying over spilt milk. Opportunity is at hand because there’s new bridges to cross.
  • 6.- Childhood memories or friends bring happiness. Happy childhood.
  • 7.- Fantasy and illusion distract the seeker.
  • 8.- Putting the past behind you. A brave but difficult decision.
  • 9.- Satisfaction guaranteed but beware of complacency.
  • 10.- Ecstatic personal and family happiness.
  • KING. Sensitive and creative fatherly man.
  • QUEEN. Sensitive, visionary woman. Can sometimes get depressed.
  • KNIGHT. The grail knight. Romantic, artistic, imaginative. A message of love.
  • PAGE. A sensitive youngster. A bright idea. News.


  • ACE. Triumph of the will. The start of a forceful attitude.
  • 2. A decision that requires an unprejudiced attitude .Intuitive understanding. Amnesty.
  • 3. Heartache. Rupture. Division. Delay.
  • 4. Rest, retreat and solitude. A time of recovery.
  • 5. Dishonor and loss. Betrayal by friend.
  • 6. Travel or holiday. Escaping difficulties.
  • 7. Theft, deceit, trickery. Beware of impostor.
  • 8. Frustration, imprisonment. Criticism and sickness.
  • 9. Worry, despair and neurosis. Bad dreams and pressing problems.
  • 10- Failure, tears,sadness or illness. But the worst is over and a new dawn comes.
  • KING- Critical man in authority.His decision is final.
  • QUEEN- Sorrowful woman in authority. She understands pain and sadness.
  • KNIGHT- A ruthless person. Acts quickly and will try to twist the law to their advantage.
  • PAGE- An untrustworthy younger person. A spy who will stab you in the back.


  • ACE- A golden opportunity. Abundance and improved financial prospects.
  • 2.- Emotional ups and downs. Juggling the finances.
  • 3.- Skills appreciated. Esteem, honour and reward.
  • 4.- Saving money. Caution with money. Covetousness. Wealth invested wisely.
  • 5.- Poverty and hardship. Material troubles. Entangled relationship. Spiritual poverty.
  • 6. Gifts, presents, help at hand and generosity. Don’t let money pass through your fingers.
  • 7. Impatience. Things will come in the fullness of time. Anxiety about money.
  • 8. Success achieved by hard work. Skills in craft and business. Job improvements.
  • 9. A legacy, unearned money, material contentment, rewards. pleasure.
  • 10.- Stable home, riches, family life, success achieved.
  • KING. Wealthy intelligent man. Valor, stability.
  • QUEEN. Serious, intelligent, motherly woman. Opulence, security, generosity.
  • KNIGHT. Dependable, responsible man. A bank manager or investor. Hard work, perseverance.
  • PAGE. An ambitious young person. Success in study and career. Management skills, materialist.

Tarot Card Spread and the meaning of tarot cards


The list of meaning of tarot cards here is only a guide. Some Tarot Card packs may emphasize different symbols, to the Waite Tarot pack. Other writers may have different opinions to mine. In the end, it’s up to you to establish your own meanings for the cards. They are a flexible symbolic focus for your intuition.

Lastly, it is almost impossible to read the tarot for yourself because you are biased. Wishful thinking and inner fears get in the way. Again, like all psychic gifts, it is given to you to share with others.


The illustration shows the most commonly used spread called ‘The Celtic Cross’. Each position of the cards represents an aspect of the querant’s life. If there’s a particular question to be asked select a card that most represents the problem. Lay it in the significator position under card 1. A person is represented by one of the court cards. If it’s a general reading I tend to omit the significator card.

Ask your sitter to shuffle the cards and concentrate on the problem they want guidance for. Lay the cards out face upwards as shown in the illustration.

Card Meanings

The meaning of tarot cards in the spreads and positions are interpreted as follows:

  • Card 1. “This covers him.” This card represents the influences on the inquirer or the theme of the problem.
  • Card 2. “This crosses him.” These are the obstacle in the way. A positive card will show that there is little opposition- but even the favourable cards have some minor negative symbolism.
  • Card 3. “This crowns him.” This represents the conscious plans and intentions.
  • Card 4. “This is beneath him.” This card indicates the persons inner feelings, subconscious desires and state of mind.
  • Card 5. “This is behind him.” These are influences that are passing away. Interestingly sometimes this card represents the nature of the persons life history.
  • Card 6. “This is before him.” This represents the immediate future events.
  • Card 7.”This is himself.” This represents the inquirer’s attitude.
  • Card 8. “This is his environment.” This represents other peoples attitude to the inquirer and home and work influences.
  • Card 9. “These are his hopes and fears.” This card is influenced by card three to the left. It shows how his hopes and fears influence his intended goals.
  • Card 10. “This is the outcome.” Or rather the potential outcome if the trends indicated by the cards are adhered to.

Getting a Reading

References and Works Cited:

Craig’s books about the  meaning of tarot cards:

The meaning of tarot cards books.

Useful On-Site Resources:

  • TAROT CARD READINGS BY PHONE Why not try a tarot reading with one of our professional phone readers. They are experts who understand the meaning of tarot cards. As you enjoy your reading you can also ask for instruction and guidance about the meanings of the tarot cards. Get to know how tarot card readings by phone work.
  • LEARN TO READ THE CARDS ON LINE – We offer on line courses for novice students who want to know the meaning of tarot cards.

Other Resources

  • The American Tarot Association – promote the study and appreciation of Tarot by supporting a variety of educational programs.
  • Tarot Therapy – Weekly Spiritual Development Group. It’s good because it is easy to follow.

About Post Author

Craig Hamilton-Parker

Craig is a TV medium, author and mystical teacher. I will approve and respond to comments that are short, well-written and on topic. For personal questions and experiences please post on our forums.
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