The Tarot Suits Explained + Practical Exercises for Each Suit

 

Swords

 

Ace of Swords Rider Waite Tarot

Swords are, as a suit, associated with the element of air. They are therefore representative of our mental patterns, thoughts, beliefs, and intellect. The Swords cards (1 thru 10) sometimes tell a bleak story of what can happen to us if we allow negative or self-limiting or catastrophizing thought patterns to overcome us. The 9 and 10 of Swords in particular are warnings against negative thinking, excessive worry, and anxious mental activity.

The challenge: Swords challenge us to release and transform these negative thought patterns, to examine our faulty beliefs, and to find the silence and stillness behind our mental chatter.

The lesson: if we work successfully with the Swords cards and heed their messages for us, we’re able to become more centered, to interrupt and re-direct unhelpful avenues of thought, to stay mentally focused on the task at hand, and to transmute any limiting beliefs into empowering ones.

Practical work: to work with your Swords cards, remove them from your Tarot deck to create a separate pile. (Including the Swords Ace and court cards.) You can ask the Swords cards the following questions to determine where you currently stand in terms of your beliefs and thought patterns.

Questions:

  1. What is my current state of mind?
  2. How are my current beliefs affecting me?
  3. How can I release unhelpful thought patterns and ideas?
  4. How can I clear my mind and access a place of silence and wisdom?

 

Cups

 

Ace of Cups Rider Waite Tarot

Cups are, as a suit, associated with the element of water. They speak of our inner emotional landscapes, feelings, relationships, friendships, and love. Cups are relational — not only in terms of our relationships with other people, but our relationships with ourselves (and Source energy). If we look at the Cups cards in order (1 thru 10), a generally happy and harmonious story emerges. It’s a story of connection, love, harmony, and self-acceptance. Cups are therefore typically perceived as quite positive cards.

The challenge: Cups challenge us to look deep within ourselves and recognize our own inherent value and worthiness (we can’t really love anyone else until we love ourselves in this unconditional way). They also challenge us to set healthy, clear boundaries in relationships and to fully acknowledge and express our feelings.

The lesson: if we work successfully with the Cups cards, we’re able to open our hearts, to become more accepting of ourselves and others, to identify and express our emotions without fear, and to use our relationships as spiritual classrooms for growth and transformation.

Practical work: to work with your Cups cards, remove them from your Tarot deck to create a separate pile. (Including the Cups Ace and court cards.) You can ask the Cups cards the following questions to determine where you currently stand in terms of your emotional landscape, feelings, and relationships.

Questions:

  1. What is my current emotional state?
  2. How is my relationship between me and me right now?
  3. How can I cultivate more self-acceptance and unconditional love?
  4. Where do I need to set clear, healthy boundaries in my relationships?

 

Wands

 

Ace of Wands Rider Waite TarotWands are, as a suit, associated with the element of fire. They are perhaps the most abstract and hard-to-pin-down cards in the whole deck (at least for me!). This is because they symbolize and speak of primordial energies; that creative spark of fire and light that ignites a new project or inspires us to move towards something (or AWAY from something). Wands are ideal cards for artists, musicians, poets, actors, and other artistic creators. They help us connect to that powerful inspiration that comes down directly from Source. Wands are like lightning bolts, surging through our bodies to move us in certain directions and to activate the energy we need to move forward.

The challenge: Wands challenge us to stay open and receptive to the spark of creativity and inspiration, and to allow new (semi-formed) ideas to flow without censoring them. Wands also challenge us to follow our gut and intuition spontaneously, without questioning ourselves all the time.

The lesson: if we work successfully with the Wands cards, we’re able to unlock powerful waves of creativity and inspiration. Wands can burst through writer’s or artist’s block and fill that page or canvas with resonant creations. Another Wands lesson is to be able to act according to your intuitive insights without second-guessing or overanalyzing.

Practical work: to work with your Wands cards, remove them from your Tarot deck to create a separate pile. (Including the Wands Ace and court cards.) You can ask the Wands cards the following questions to determine where you currently stand in terms of your inspiration, creativity, and ability to receive new ideas and follow through with them.

Questions:

  1. What is my current state of creativity/inspiration?
  2. How am I blocking creative inspiration or flow right now?
  3. How can I become more receptive to the spark of new ideas?
  4. How can I follow my intuition without second-guessing myself?

 

Pentacles

 

Ace of Pentacles Rider Waite Tarot Pentacles are, as a suit, associated with the element of earth. They represent all of the material concerns of this three-dimensional reality: finances, career, work, physical health, the home. The Pentacles cards (1 thru 10) tell a mostly uplifting story of financial liberation, encouraging us to unleash our true abundance. Pentacles also speak of the things we inherit from our families of origin — not only the material inheritances, but the unspoken, abstract, conceptual inheritances (including beliefs, value systems, ideas, limitations, and strengths).

The challenge: Pentacles challenge us to release any beliefs that keep us away from our own abundance, especially a poverty or lack mindset. Pentacles challenge us to remember that we are infinitely resourceful beings with the help of the entire Universe right at our fingertips.

The lesson: if we work successfully with the Pentacles cards, we’re able to witness and experience increased abundance in all areas of our lives. More money flows in, new opportunities pop up, and we feel generally happier. The lesson with Pentacles is to recognize our inherent worth and to believe in our own magic and infinite power of manifestation.

Practical work: to work with your Pentacles cards, remove them from your Tarot deck to create a separate pile. (Including the Pentacles Ace and court cards.) You can ask the Pentacles cards the following questions to determine where you currently stand in terms of your beliefs and thought patterns.

Questions:

  1. What do I currently believe about my own ability to meet my earthly needs?
  2. How am I blocking or slowing down the flow of abundance?
  3. How am I defining my inherent worth right now?
  4. What can I do to release unhelpful inherited ideas about money and work?

Happy shuffling!


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*Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, known also as the Rider Tarot and the Waite Tarot, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. The Rider-Waite Tarot deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

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