General Symbolism within The Tarot

Below is a list of regular and recurring symbols found in the imagery of the Tarot Cards.  You will not encounter all these symbols in this Part of the Course as some will only appear when we move onto the Court Cards and Major Arcana.  Familiarise yourself as best as possible with their associated and generic meanings  as they will enhance your story telling and interpretive abilities when reading.

This list is by no means complete and will be added to over time.  When we progress on to the individual cards we will be discussing the symbolism contained in each so you will get used to them as we go along.

The Elements

Fire Element – Upright Triangle –   Fire Symbol

Water Element – Reversed Triangle –  Water Symbol

Air Element – Upright Triangle with Horizontal Line –  Air Symbol

Earth Element – Reversed Triangle with Horizontal Line  Earth Element Symbol

Pentagram – Combination of all Elements. Balance –      Pentagram


Angels – Messsengers, Spirit Guide, Guardian Angel, Divine Influence, Higher Self, Healing, Reassurance, Support

Blindfold – Can’t/Won’t See, Blind to Facts,  Focusing Inwards, Hiding, Turning a Blind Eye, Limited Vision

Infinity Symbol/Lemniscate (figure of 8 loop) – Infiinity,  Circulation, What Goes Around Comes Aaround, Cycles

Cadeceus (Two snakes intertwing the Rod of Hermes) – Balance, Integration, Health, Sexuality, Union

Wreath – Victory/Success

Globe – Personal World, Outer World, – note the size of globe as this will determine how small their world is and also whether they have a broad/narrow global view of the situation


Wands – Fire Element/Masculine, Phallic Symbol, Action, Movement, Enthusiasm, Inspiration, Power, Magic, Spring

Cups – Water Element/Feminine Womb, Emotions, Spirituality, Psychic, Artistic, Creative, Moods, Summer

Swords Air Element/Masculine, Law, Justice, Authority, Intellect, Communication, Conflict, Violence,  Autumn

Pentacles Earth Element/Feminine, Physical Body, Four Compass Points, Protection, Magic, Money, Career, Finance, Property, Material Aspects, Health, Winter

Buildings, Structures, Land

Walls – Security and Safety, Protection, Obstacles, Restrictions, Cutting off from the outside or outside influences

Church – Spirituality, Spiritual Growth or Renewal, Sanctuary, Repression, Morals, Vocations, Charity

Towns and Villages – Centres of Trade and Commerce/Socialising,  Community, Home and Property

Castles – Security, Protection, Stability, Home, Sanctuary, Strongholds, Possessions, Wealth

Bridges – A means of moving forward and leaving the past behind, Transition, A way out of a situation

Towers (with path running between) – Gateways to a new life or stage of life. Generally a daunting process to make it through the gateway. One life must be left behind in order to pass through. Transformation. Much courage is needed to complete the journey. Generally seen in the Major Cards

Pillars – Masculine/Feminine, Conscious/Subconscious, Will/Emotions, Strong Foundations

Gateways/Arches – Opennings, Opportunities, Admission, Entrance, Transition, Initiations

Hills – Minor obstacles or challenges

Mountains – Obstacles or Challenges ahead or overcome. Steep Mountains indicate more serious obstacles or challenges.

Pathways between Mountains, Cliff or Towers – Gateways to advancement or your goal. Depending on how distant and straight the pathway is will indicate how long and hard a road you must tread in order to realise your goal.

Cliffs – Danger or Challenges ahead or overcome

Water/Rivers/Streams/Oceans – The Water Element, Subconscious, Emotions. Note if the Water is calm, choppy or turbulent, fast flowing or trickling. This will give an insight into the state of emotion surrounding the issue. Flowing Water is often linked to memory, past, present and future.

Waterfall – Powerful Force or Emotions.  Maybe out of control or overwhelming. Speed and Urgency.

Ships and Boats – Trade, Commerce, Travel over Water, The condition of the Water they sail on is a clue as to their meaning. Your Ship is coming in, Your Ship has sailed. Emotional Baggage

Crypts/Tombs and Coffins – Peace, Rest, Illness, Renewal, Rebirth, Death, Feeling Dead

Thrones – Royalty, Leadership, Power, Maturity, Authority

Seasons, Weather, Planets

Seasons Wands/Spring, Cups/Summer, Swords/Autumn, Pentacles/Winter

Sky – The state of mind. Clear skies indicate a clear mind, rational thinking, logic and Mental Balance. Cloudy skies indicate Confusion and trouble ahead.  Stormy Skies indicate Stress, Conflict, Arguments, Mental Imbalance

Weather – Clear skies/Clarity of Judgement, Cloudy skies/Confusion/Trouble Ahead

Stormy Skies/Stress/Conflict

Rain – Misery, Tears, Upset, Emotional Distress

Snow – Misery, Cold, Spiritual Emptiness, Ill Health

Sun – Masculine Energy, Conscious, Heat, Warmth, Creative Expression, Joy, Fun, Freedom, Rebirth, Illumination

Moon – Female Energy, Subconscious, Mystery, Intrigue, Concealment, Inner Worlds, Reflection, Illusions, Emotional Balance or Imbalance, Female Cycles, Memory

Stars – Celestial, Illuminating, Hope, Faith, Light, Inspiration, Divine

Clothing, Demeanour

Clothing – Note the colour of the clothing and whether simply dressed, impeccably dressed or overdressed. Do the clothes look expensive?  Do they look comfortable in their clothes?  Are they every-day wear or party clothes?

Body Language – Who’s looking at who? Who appears in charge? What are they looking at? What is their posture like and why?  What expression do they hold?  Are they friendly looking or fearsome?  Do they look happy or sad?


Birds – Freedom, Inspiration, Messenger, Intellect Soaring

Bull – Taurus, Strength, Stability, Stubbornness

Bat – The Shadow Side, Underworld, Occult

Butterfly Air Element, Transformation, Freedom

Cat – Intuition, Mystery, Sensuality, Sexuality

Dog – Friend, Primordial Instincts or Fears

Dove – Spiritual Blessing, Peace, Love

Falcon – Sharpness, Speed, Freedom

Fish Water Element

Goat – Capricorn, Pan, Magic

Ram – Force, Aries

Horse – The Elements Harnessed, Transport

Salamander Fire Element


Apple – Knowledge, Abundance

Grapes – Abundance, Celebration, Prosperity

Laurel – Victory

Lilly – Innocence, Feminine Principle

Oak Leaves – Strength, Earth Element, Wisdom, Magic

Red Rose – The Masculine Principle, Passion/

White Rose – Transformation

Rose with Thorns – Beauty/Pain, Finding the Beauty within

Vegetables Earth Element, Harvest

Sunflower – Sun, Vitality, Energy

Flowers  – Beauty, Blossoming/Unfolding

The list above lists is by no means complete and I will be constantly updating them.  However, they act as a suitable introduction to symbolism and as a source of reference for you during your journey throughout the Tarot.  When you get to Lesson 5 you will begin to explore the individual cards.  You will find a detailed description of each card including symbolism, colours and numerical influences.

In Part II and III we will explore in-depth the symbolism behind each card and by that stage you should feel very comfortable with the process.   Most of the interpretations or meanings given above are self-explanatory.  Before long you will be quite adept at tuning into the language of Symbolism within the Tarot.

Numerology   Colour Meaning   Elements & Astrology

Back to Lesson 3

Copyright © 2006-2013 Vivien Ní Dhuinn

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