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.
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
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 – 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.
Copyright © 2006-2013 Vivien Ní Dhuinn