tarot cards symbology
Check each Card Symbology
- 0 - The Fool | Chaos
- I - The Magician | The Juggler
- II - The High Priestess
- III - The Empress
- IV - Emperor
- V - The Hierophant
- VI - Lovers
- VII - The Chariot
- VIII - The Justice
- IX - The Hermit
- X - The Wheel of Fortune
- XI - The Strength
- XII - The Hanged Man | Prudence
- XIII - The Death | Rebirth
- XIV - Temperance
- XV - The Devil | Temptation
- XVI - The Tower
- XVII - The Star
- XVIII - The Moon
- XIX - The Sun
- XX - The Last Judgment
- XXI - The World
The Fool expresses the condition of Man on earth, like the chaos; developing and building the cosmos. The zero represents the origin and at the same time the total freedom. The Fool’s card is a “tabula rasa” and, being open to new experiences, we can watch the strong influence from the following arcanes. They represent the external and internal factors, such as the Empress who is connected with the emotional part and the Emperor with the political context.
He is portrayed with a war garment, however it is noted that he is fleeing and following his own way, walking aimlessly, often denouncing his irrational nature – he does not look where he is going. He is distracted by the planes in the sky that symbolize his dreams.
This way of living, following his own path, may lead him into the abyss, as we can see below your feet, moments before his fall. We do not know, however, how deep this abyss is and how difficult it is to rise up after the fall.
The weapon at his shore, as it lies, represents its passive position. The white swan means, according to alchemy, superficial spirituality while the black crow is the death and change, accompanying by the natural cycle of the cosmos. His youth and inexperience are accented by his haircut and soft mustache.
Chaos is the zero, it’s the point from we start building the cosmos. For many cultures, the universe started with the chaos.
In this card we can see a celestial sphere diverging into two, like Eve was created from the body of Adam. This moment represents an act of creation, the understanding of self and the personal evolution.
The Magician (The Society)
The magician reveals the Truth and shows the action of the Man of Earth.
In this version of Magician we see Aleister Crowley (the Grand Magus) dressed as an Egyptian pharaoh with leopard cape representing his wealthiness and status, while the headdress with the eye of Horus is the link with transcendence. We also see the infinity symbol over his head.
The Juggler (The Influence)
The Juggler represents the occult Truth or the Lie and it is represented as a man with manipulator aspect, false smile and sarcastic look in his eyes. We can see an active agent from a cult or religion. On both cards (number I) we see a roaster which represents the light of morning, the capability of thinking and exhibit his own ideas.
At the wood table we can watch a plate of food (gluttony or the sense of taste) and couple of bones exhibiting the death of living bodies, both are related with the element of earth. The police hat represents the law of the men which is ruled by the element of fire. The nails are connected with the passion of Christ, blood, suffering and faith, we can find a relation with the element of air.
The jawbone is a symbol of communication and the eggs a little above show us a metaphor for the reproduction, these two “objects” are associated with the element of the Water.
This Magician/Juggler makes the bond between the earthly world and the transcendent and is related to the god Hermes/Mercurius (in some decks we can see the Magician with scepter of Hermes – the caduceus).
This card is the social influence and is also the word and will of the Man.
The High Priestess (The Faith)
This woman dressed as a pope with papal tiara (Triregnum) represents a maternal figure, showing his neck and shoulders affirming his femininity.
The triple moon over his crown is associated with his intuition. Her posture holds a sensual firmness, showing at the same time her experience and wisdom, while the baby at the left is related with her maternal nature.
Behind her, there are two pillars, one black and one white, symbolizing balance and structure, the force active and passive. The main character is strictly connected with the life of Pope Joan, the antipope John VIII.
In her scroll we can see the Whore Babylon which appears riding a great beast of the apocalypse. Both characters, the Priestess and the Whore represent adult women, mothers in ceremonial dresses and both create a bond between the emotions that transcend the body.
The High Priestess is also related with the Faith and is closely linked with the goddess Hera/Juno and Isis.
The Empress (The Emotions)
The Empress represents a younger woman, linked directly with the springtime and fertility and for that reason we decided to portrait her as pregnant with a flowered hat.
She is also strongly related to emotions and feelings, and we can consider her relation with Mother – Nature, as she stands in lower position and her kind gesture. Sheʼs a young mother gently protecting her child with a shield, having the group of Laocoon engraved on it.
The snake she holds represents the nature and the earth; for some cultures is also a symbol of fertility and abundance. This character has a special bond with Venus/Aphrodite, goddess of Love and can be seen as a allegory of Spring.
Emperor (The Materialism)
He is clearly the masculine power (animus) and heʼs presented as monarch applying his political power/influence over the Man. We can see him seated in his throne with rigid posture. At his feet there are skulls and a kneeling person, these elements are linked with his authority and some cruelty, that is emphasized by the color red in the background.
He also has a ram head in his lap representing his masculine power; the rifle, on the other hand, is related to the power and the politics. The figure itself has long beard and scars so he is wise and experienced and his economical power is evident. He is connected with the material powers and goods. It is possible to relate him with the god of war Ares/Mars.
The Hierophant (The Church)
This character, visually similar to a pope, is straightly linked with the stablished religious institution and its influence over humankind. The position of his hands suggests a kind of blessing, a divine protection or an instruction associated to his leadership and guidance. In the left hand we can watch an eye inside his palm, reinforcing his spiritual condition.
The reason that we see rubber gloves covering his hands refer us to the words of Friedrich Nietzsche “One does well to put on gloves when reading the New Testament. The proximity of so much uncleanliness almost compels one to do so.” But this detail is just a note it is not directly related to the meaning of the card.
The Hierophantʼs testicles within a plate symbolize his emancipation from the earthly world and the reaching of transcendental sphere. The two columns on the background mean the structure and solidity of the power of the Church, the spiritual manipulation and morality. The cross at his chest is covered in blood related to the centuries of violence in history of christianity.
The central figure of the Hierophant is shown with some fragility, he looks wounded and for that reason there are two bodyguards protecting him. These two creatures are portrayed with pig heads and mirror the power of materialism and physical sensations. The Hierophant could be related with the god Zeus / Jupiter.
Lovers (The Decision)
This card is meant to represent decisions and choices. An adult man is sitting between two brides as if he have to make a choice between them.
In the canvas in left side we see a painting of Eros/Cupid, god of passion and his strong impact over human decisions.
The two women represent the power of reason and the power of emotion, the active and passive. There are also several elements influencing this decision, such as the two heads on the table and couch, representing the memories; the apple is related to the temptation and the impulses; the book represents wisdom and reason; the snake is the passion and carnal love.
We can also see a hidden hearth on the left side with is related to the feelings. This card is strongly related to the myth of Hercules at the crossroads.
The Chariot (The Action)
For this card of Chariot we decided to switch the emperor/king and his chariot (pulled by horses) to a modern vision of a politician, holding a gun, symbol of power on earth, and his motorcade. This scene reminds us a little the death of president Kennedy.
The central figure is spreading his arms as signal of confidence, balance and determination. We can also define this gesture as a pose of victory and success. His false hand represents the incomplete control over the active forces and somehow depending on external factors.
The car where he stands is the element that makes possible his evolution and helps him to move forward. This element symbolizes the action after the time of decision (the card of Lovers).
We can read ICHTHUS (Christ) at the carʼs plate. The face of the “rider” is inspired in the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
The Justice (The Consequence)
The card of Justice portrays one the four cardinal virtues, it usually shows the allegory of Justice with sword and scales, as the most common elements displayed. This version adapt those elements to the modern world. The gun instead the sword represents the consequence (follows the action from the Chariot card) and it is a symbol of power in Manʼs world so is shown pointing down.
The scales are presented as a market scales and they are inspired by the Egyptian mythological way to weight the hearth by Thoth. In this particular case we see the weighting of a brain, where the capital sins
live. The reason is the punishment for the emotions.
The Justice is blind, deaf and speechless because it canʼt take sides. The person behind tries to manipulate him but his feet were removed so it stands still, static and stiff. His suit represents his status, and his words reaches all the rational creatures on earth. On the background the curtains are closed so we canʼt see what is coming next.
The Hermit (The Reflection)
This card portrays the temptations of saint Anthony and we can see him walking in dark forest, seduced by demons. This monk walks alone searching for self-knowledge through the isolation, restriction or departure.
He is commonly related to the Time and god Chronos. This “Time” is the internal quest for reflection and enlightenment (as we see his golden aura). We can see the crucifix is down which means the searching is personal and deep and transcends spirituality or reason. The demons are his personal conflicts, blocking the horizon and the distinctness of his vision. The dark and thick forest is the mirror of his own subconscious mind.
The Wheel of Fortune (The Result)
The Wheel of Fortune is a concept popularized during the Middle Ages and refers to the capricious nature of destiny. This Wheel spins randomly and it can give us good or bad results, today you can be king and tomorrow
can be a beggar.
The wheel represents the cycle of life and is suspended in an environment with the four elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Those elements are linked with the four figures on it. The camel, the lion and the child are related to the three metamorphosis of the human spirit : The first is
the phase of the camel, in which people submit to the laws and do what they are told to do.
In the second phase, the lion, the man rebels, and releases all his aggression against the established order. The last stage, the child is the supreme stage and nothing seems to affect his confidence and status, so it plays like a child with nothing to worry about.
These three stages affect the way we react to the obstacles in life. So the Wheel keeps spinning and life goes on and luck will not always be in your favor, it will not always be against you. The universe has its own reasons and paths and there is nothing you can do to change it.
The Strength (The Self-control)
The Strength is the second cardinal virtue present in the Tarot. It usually portrays a man or a woman dominating the lion, symbol of the strength and power. The lion is also a symbol of our impulses (or passions), the inner beast fighting for his releasing, so the goal of this card should be the self-control, the internal fight with yourself to find a balance.
In our version we can see a naked man carrying his own cross. The cross symbolizes the struggle and the sacrifice and the naked body exposes the true self. The three beasts are related with the Divine Comedy and the Lion means the Pride; the Leopard means the Lust and the she-Wolf represents the Avarice. The knife on character’s genitals is linked with chastity.
In the spiritual walk, the Strength represents the moment when we must learn to master our inner strength, making it an important ally in this evolutionary journey.
The Hanged Man (The Sacrifice)
The keyword for this card is the sacrifice and for that reason we converted the typical hanged man into a figure that looks like a crucified Christ. The cross is doubtlessly a symbol of sacrifice and the crucified man is shown bald, that means that the sacrifice transcends the body and physical factors and is also spiritual.
At the bottom of the cross we can see gold and money and they represent the materialism and the ladder is connect to the idea of ascent, releasing the superfluous elements in our lives so we can grow up and rise.
The halo tell us that the figure is already seeing the light and moving forward. This card is also the destruction of the selfishness (which is a necessary sacrifice), turning ourselves into stronger people, opening the door to the next stage, the change.
Prudence (The Awareness)
The Prudence is the third cardinal virtue in this tarot deck, is generally associated to introspection and advise us to move on cautiously, rethinking our decisions and watch our steps carefully.
The figure has two faces, the past and the future and also the watchful sight; the mirror suggests self-knowledge and self-awareness (conscience) and reflects the inverted reality or what we believe as the truth.
The snake usually represents wisdom and somehow the survival instincts. In some point of views the snake is also a personification of vice and sin.
The Prudence should tell us how important is to reflect our decisions before we enter the next door: the change.
The Death (The Change)
When this card appears, it means a major transformation in life, this change is not always negative. Change can be considered as an active event which reforms our patterns.
Sometimes this drastic movement can affect our lives forever, breaking our routines. The card of Death shows that involuntary changes will occur and that we should not try to stop them; instead, we must accept them.
It is the card of transformation, detachment and the end of cycles. From now we will be different persons. The figure on the card is dressed like and androgyne with fancy dresses and glamorous hat; the two faces
represent the both sides of change and the way we deal with them.
At its feet there are elements related to the past and we can watch a butterfly (close to the left head) and a cocoon hanged on the scythe, these two represent one of the most beautiful (and deep) transformations on nature.
On the background we see the sun rising as a symbol of hope. The horse at the left is also a symbol of hope, linked and representing the coming of Christ to the earth.
This card of Rebirth also represents change. From a dying body we see plants growing up, completing the cycle of life. The alpha on top is the first letter of greek alphabet and means the beginning, a new beginning in this case.
Temperance (The Balance)
The main figure of this card is a two headed angel visually related to the alchemical Androgyne – The oneness, completeness, the unity of the physical and spiritual of totally opposite worlds.
That is the main message of androgyny. This primordial completion and perfection is found in the core which is the balance point between the two poles. The hands of the Temperance are holding at the same time an heart and a brain, suggesting the eternal struggle between the rational and the emotional, seeking harmony.
This Temperance wears a pink dress (earth) symbol of respect and gratitude and is linked with his/her human condition. The crown and spread wings (air) invoke his majesty and spiritual ascendence.
The beast Cerberos (fire) at the left is a symbol of gluttony and excess and is the opposite of the amphora (water) at the right side which means measure and control.
The Devil (The Obsession)
The central character in this card is exposing himself/herself in a very explicit way, showing the penis symbol of carnality and sexuality and showing his breasts tied, assuming an extreme fetichism.
This Devil is strongly related with temptation and carnal impulses, such as addiction, defending his earthly connection. This card manifests the power of seduction, blind impulses, temptation, obsession, uncontrolled carnal
passions and excess of materialism. The Devilʼs wings are made of flesh and along with the swan (left), is a symbol of lust.
We can see two figures at his/her feet, they are symbol of bondage and submission and represent the way we feel under the Devilʼs influence.
Temptation (The Attraction)
In Temptation card we see a silhouette of o woman. Her features are unrecognizable, but she captivates us with her sensual pose. She represents the seduction of the materialism and the obsession.
The skulls of apes and men at her feet are related to the primordial impulses and instinct of procreation. Her goat head is a reference to the most common portraits of the devil in art. It is generally a symbol of virility and reproduction linked with satyrs and their appetite for lust and
The Tower (The Falling)
The Tower is shown in flames, representing the destruction and the fall. This condition is a reflex of our own feelings. The high tower is a symbol of our ambitions and a result of our obsessions and impulses. “The Higher
They Rise, The Harder They Fall”.
At both sides of the tower we can see two angels falling, with their burning wings – a reference of Icarus with his wings of wax. He flew too close to the sun, the heat melted the wax and he fell into the river and
drowned. Icarus represents the consequence of personal over-ambition.
The other character is Lucifer, symbol of hubris, adversary of God and fallen from heaven. The tower itself is directly linked with the Tower of Babel. The story from the Genesis tells that the Men tried to build a tower so high that could reach the heaven. That tower also represented the uncontrolled ambition of men and for that reason was destroyed by the
wrath of God.
The Star (The Inspiration)
The Star follows the falling from the tower and represents the rising and new beginning. The angel with flowers crown is a symbol of hope and inspiration. Her amphora is full of water so itʼs related to cure and help.
The chalice at the right side is symbol of motivation and inspiration and it is straightly connected to the Holy Grail.
The donkey is an allusion to the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem riding this animal. The business man on mystic canvas symbolizes his success and also illumination / clarification.
The Moon (The Illusion)
The central scene on this card shows the murder of Abel by his own brother Cain. This act of violence has a mystical and personal meaning, Cain killed part of himself killing his brother, blinded by the uncontrolled passion and illusion of inferiority. This behavior of Cain can be seen as a distorting and building an exaggeration of reality.
Not everything is as it seems. The illusion is stablished and we do not know anymore which path do we follow. The over-inspiration leaded and blind us and we can be walking in the wrong direction, deprived of the
light that guide us, just like Cain in the Land of Nod. This is the moment to re-evaluate the direction and the search for the return to the source.
The Sun (The Joy)
In the card of the Sun we represent the three Graces. They generally symbolize the beauty, the mirth and the elegance and thatʼs all related to the meaning of this card.
The card of Sun is like an explosion of joy, an image of optimism and vitality. As the source of all life on earth, the Sun represents the source of life itself. All the three graces are portrayed in nude bodies symbol of their purity and the scene itself resembles the bath of the muses in the heat of summer.
All the yellow background is also related to joy and happiness, emphasizing the global essence of the card.
The Last Judgment (The Deliverance)
The last judgment present us the Lamb of the apocalypse (“Lamb having seven horns and seven eyes”) as Jesus Christ, like we see in the sacred paintings. Accompanying this main character we can see and archangel, probably Gabriel, announcing the end of times.
At his feet we see the scripture, the written knowledge and the prophecy.
At the lower level we can see a frenetic crowd with their hands raised to the skies and asking for salvation. The fire around the bodies affirm the beginning of the Apocalypse and destruction of all living beings. This fire is also considered as purification for the bodies.
The Judgment card points to freedom from inner conflicts and offer us a fortunate perspective, allowing us to grow and ascend.
The World (The Success)
The World is the last card of the Major Arcana and concludes the path initiated by The Fool. This Fool crossed all the way thought the major arcana, experiencing different stages and arrives here, where he finally finds the truth of himself.
The central figure is vibrant, full of light and coronated with gold crown, affirming her majesty. She is also represented fearless and self- sufficient, following her own rules.
For some tarot experts, this figure represents the mature Fool. The figure is also involved in a very intimate and cozy light which represents the sun and joy of living. Her body is tattooed with all the zodiac signs in respective position in body as a projection of our destinies.
In the background we can distinguish a temple-like shape, or similar to a vesica piscis, common in Virgin Mary portraits. The two figures on the bottom represent the masculine principle (Animus) and the feminine principle (Anima).