A Sample Tarot Key
Updated January 2016

It's a good idea to have a general outline or 'key' Tarot associations that correspond with your own concepts of the cards. Below is a brief sampling of mine & some borrowed concepts, archetypes and symbols from respected sources which I've collected over the years.

The Four Suits
are the 4 elements: Fire, Water Air and Earth (the Major Arcana is the fifth element of Spirit and discussed in another essay).

Wands: (ruled by the Sun) and associated with Fire - creativity, passion, inspiration, enthusiasm. Male, 'yang' energy. Wand personalities are the Intuitive type yet are extroverted. Their relation to time is future oriented.
Symbolic Images: The playing card suit of: Clubs, candles, flames, sunflowers, magic wands, tree branches, rods and other 'phallic looking objects'.

Cups: (ruled by the Moon) are associated with Water - relationships, love, healing, nurturance, inner depths, dreams, the astral world, fantasy and illusion. They are creative but tend to be more internally expressive, like poets and painters. They are yin/female energy. And are the Feeling type. The orientation to time is focused on the past.
Images: the suit of: Hearts, Shells, chalices, containers, wombs, water, mirrors, dolphins, mermaids, sea horses, fish/water creatures.

Swords: (ruled by Mercury) are associated with Air - the intellect, and a quick wit/dry humor, clarity, challenges and mental distortions of reality. They are masculine energy. And represent the logical, objective functions as well as communication through ideas. They are the Thinking type and their orientation to time is linear.
Images: the suit of Spades, clouds, wind, sky, swords & knives, feathers, incense and birds.

Coins (Pentacles or Disks): (Ruled by Earth) are also naturally associated with the Earth element- security, protection, money, the home, nature, handmade crafts, harvest, and the 5 senses. They are feminine energy. And associated with traditions, foundation, growth and whatever 'grounds' you. Coins are about our sense of self worth and values and our more natural, practical side. They are the Sensate type and are oriented to the present time.
Images: the suit of Diamonds, coins, money, pentacles, mother earth and symbols of nature, fruits, veggies, machinery, bulls, cows and goats.

Basic Numerology 0-10

0 (the Fool) no-thing = nothing, zero, zilch; open space, boundlessness, freedom, pure conscious energy, potential, the cosmic egg.

1 (Ace) The beginning, primordial, spark, initiative, inspiration, originality, single-mindedness, unitary consciousness.

2 Polarity, duality, opposing forces or a balance of energies, relationships, mirroring, reflection (symbol: yin/yang sign).

3 Foundation of body, mind & spirit (feminine energy), healing, growth fertility, creativity, development communication, nurturance (symbol: triangle).

4 Structure, order with definite boundaries, 4 square reality (male energy), measurement, leadership, control, stability, logical thinking, classification, communication, (symbol: square).

5 Change, generation & amplification, conflict, chaos, uncertainty, complexity, humanity (the five senses, five fingers & toes, the five human appendages attached to the body), adjustment & adaptation, (symbol: five pointed star or human with outstretched arms & legs - like Leonardo da Vinci's 'Vitruvian Man' drawing).

6 Harmony, balance beauty, equilibrium, integration, peace, personal values formed & defended (symbol: 6 pointed star- as above-so below).

7 Inner work, imagination, expansion & resistance, challenge, experimentation, communication, completion of one cycle and the evaluation of the next (7 days in the week, 7 Chakras, 7 colors of the rainbow).

8 Infinity & self reflection, cycles of involution & evolution, rhythm, balance & justice, a turning point of either distraction or commitment (energy: infinity sign).

9 Completion, fulfillment, inner peace, passivity, going with the flow.

10 Perfection, mastery, release, regeneration, transition, taking responsibility. The last act before the next stage. 10 has both the number 1 - which means a new beginning + the Zero, which translates to nothingness as well as representing the full circle of life. So 10, which is the final stage that the previous numbers led up to, contains the full spectrum of experiences of any one suit.

Court Cards

Princesses (more traditionally known as Pages): are messages or messengers and signal a new aspect of ourselves emerging and are a sign to be open to fresh ideas. They act as a catalysts for change and are open to new possibilities and potential. The represent a child, student, apprentice or your inner child; innocent, naive, curious and open to learn and experience the qualities and energies of the suit (mentioned above).

Princes, or Knights: act on and are committed to the things indicated by their suit. They indicate where we are putting our energies. Active and focused, they depict courage, purpose, challenge and adventure. They can be rash and headstrong. They represent someone on on a personal quest who is not afraid to take risks. Young, rebellious, fearless energy.

Queens represent inner strength, personal power, rather than worldly control. They have the ability to nurture, heal, intuit and develop/create things indicated by their suit. They tend to channel power and rule from the heart. They can represent a creator, mother, guide or the anima in a man, or sense of self in a woman.

Kings show mastery, ability and authority in the field or energy of their suit. They represent experience, confidence and status. They can appear secure but are also limited by the rules they've established. The king can represent a boss, father or some other authority figure, or indicate a time for one to take on more responsibility. They can present the animus in a woman or a sense of self in a man.

Arnell Ando