Tarot cards symbolism is extraordinary. There is a lot of symbolism in the cards deck of the Rider-Waite Tarot. By looking closely at the many symbolic elements on a card, it becomes easier to read/interpret the Tarot cards. The symbols on the list below appear on Rider Waite’s Tarot cards, but the list can also be used for other Tarot cards. List of symbols that you find on the Rider-Waite Tarot cards.
Tarot cards symbolism – list of common symbols:
- Beard: wisdom
- Bergen: overview
- Leaves on the bars: a new beginning
- Flower wreath: fertility with regard to the theme
- Bunches of grapes: fertility with regard to the theme
- Angels: helpers, mediators
- Large coats / wide scarves: built up a lot of inner knowledge
- Harness: protection
- Dog: instinct
- Dog with the fool: companion
- Dog by the moon: fear
- Crown: connected with the higher
- Laurel wreaths: laurels, honoring
- Leo: power
- Lemniscate: eternally continuous life force
- Moon: subconscious
- Horses: processes
- Someone on a horse: movement
- Cat: magic, being able to make/do something
- Red roses: willpower, life
- Snail: patience
- Snake: circle of infinity
- Staff in hand (not “staff”): wisdom
- Star: connecting, radiating cosmic energy
- Pisces: emotion, healing, anointing, water
- Butterflies: transformation
- Birds: communication with higher consciousness
- Fruits: fertility related to the theme
- White dress: spiritual purity
- White lilies: spiritual purity
- Clouds: another dimension
- Sun: awareness
- Sunflowers: awareness
- Pillars/temple: wisdom, respect
Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles
The Tarot deck consists of 78 cards. These cards are divided into two Arcanes (“secrets”):
- The Major Arcana (big secret) consists of 22 cards.
- The Minor Arcana (little secret) consists of 56 cards.
This minor Arcana consists of four sets of 14 cards that represent the four elements.
- Wands (element of fire): willpower
- Swords (element air): the rational mind of man, judgment, conflict(s)
- Cups (element of water): feeling, subconscious, creative ability
- Pentacles (element earth): practical, our ability to become aware of the things around us
The Ace, the Page, the Knight, the King, and the Queen
Within each set of 14 cards you have:
- An Ace (card one); this card symbolizes the beginning of something, a wish, something that is potentially present
- The cards 2 to 10
- A page; this card represents the beginner level, the student
- A knight; this map indicates that a few things have been learned and has the assignment to take this somewhere
- A queen; this card symbolizes the feminine perspective, the intuitive, is full of expectations
- A king; this card represents the male perspective, the responsibility to the outside, the arranging and the rational aspect
How can you use this list with the Tarot deck from Rider-Waite?
Learning to read/interpret the Tarot cards is primarily a matter of doing. For that, you can draw a so-called day card (the name says it all, you draw a card every day and study it) or you can do Tarot cards spread very regularly.
First, look at the spread without the symbol list (you will eventually need it less and less often) and pay attention to the big picture. What do you see, what do you feel? Then zoom in on all sorts of details and look for the symbolism behind this. Depending on previous interests in your life, you can often go a long way without the list. Finally, take the list and combine all the symbols into one story/message. What does this card mean to you (for the day to come and check back in the evening to what extent you saw this back) or what does this card mean in this place in the Tarot cards spread (in most Tarot books one or more Tarot cards spread can be found) and what do I want / can do the message that comes out of these cards spread.
Hope this will help you to better understand the tarot cards symbolism that you often see in the famous and perhaps most popular Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot cards deck.