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Minor Arcana

Minor Arcana

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The Minor Arcana of occult or divinatory tarot refers to the portion of a Tarot deck that consists of 56 cards. The Minor Arcana are roughly similar to the cards found in a common deck of playing cards. They are distinguished from the Major Arcana
Major Arcana
The Major Arcana or trumps are a suit of twenty-two cards in the tarot deck. They serve as a permanent trump suit in games played with the tarot deck, and are distinguished from the four standard suits collectively known as the Minor Arcana...

(or Greater Arcana) of a Tarot deck which consists of 22 cards. The Major Arcana and Minor Arcana cards in combination form a complete Tarot deck and consist of 78 cards in total.

The Minor Arcana are divided into four suits
Suit (cards)
In playing cards, a suit is one of several categories into which the cards of a deck are divided. Most often, each card bears one of several symbols showing to which suit it belongs; the suit may alternatively or in addition be indicated by the color printed on the card...

, derived from the older Latin playing card suits most commonly named Wands or Batons, Cups, Swords, and Coins (also called Pentacles or Disks), although there are a wide variety of different names and suit symbols used. The cards can be used for divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

 by occultists. The Minor Arcana is related to the deck of 52 playing card
Playing card
A playing card is a piece of specially prepared heavy paper, thin cardboard, plastic-coated paper, cotton-paper blend, or thin plastic, marked with distinguishing motifs and used as one of a set for playing card games...

s used in most modern card games.

Within the Minor Arcana there is another subdivision referred to commonly as The Courts or the Court Cards. This consists of the four character or personage cards that are in each suit of the deck; the Page, the Knight, the Queen, and the King. Contemporary playing cards do not include a Knight card, which accounts for why there are only 52 cards in a playing card deck. In some way the Page and Knight cards were merged to form the Jack in playing cards. Each suit of the Minor Arcana has ten cards numbered one through ten with the first card commonly referred to as an Ace. In addition to the ten cards there are the four court cards which make a total of 14 cards for each suit of the deck. The four suits in combination make up the Minor Arcana with 56 cards.

The reason for the distinction of Major Arcana and Minor Arcana in a Tarot
The tarot |trionfi]] and later as tarocchi, tarock, and others) is a pack of cards , used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play a group of card games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot...

 deck stems from the perceived meanings that cards in each group have when used for divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

. The Minor Arcana are said to represent more mundane aspects of life, including the people we meet which are represented by the Court Cards. Minor Arcana cards in contemporary Tarot decks are usually fully illustrated, a tradition that began with the Rider-Waite Tarot deck.


Often, the suits are associated with one of the four classical element
Classical element
Many philosophies and worldviews have a set of classical elements believed to reflect the simplest essential parts and principles of which anything consists or upon which the constitution and fundamental powers of anything are based. Most frequently, classical elements refer to ancient beliefs...

s, with a common set of associations being Wands with fire (or air), Cups with water, Swords with air (or fire), and Coins with earth. Other associations are possible.
Latin suit Element Class Faculty
Wands (Staves or Batons)
Suit of wands
In tarot, the suit of wands or batons can be used like one of the suits of playing cards or as a divination tool. It corresponds to the suit of clubs in conventional playing cards....

Fire (classical element)
Fire has been an important part of all cultures and religions from pre-history to modern day and was vital to the development of civilization. It has been regarded in many different contexts throughout history, but especially as a metaphysical constant of the world.-Greek and Roman tradition:Fire...

Peasantry Creativity and will
Coins (Pentacles)
Suit of coins
The Suit of Coins or Pentacles is used in Latin suited playing cards, including tarot decks, and corresponds to the suit of diamonds in conventional playing cards. In divinatory and occult tarot it is part of what is called the "Minor Arcana"...

Earth (classical element)
Earth, home and origin of humanity, has often been worshipped in its own right with its own unique spiritual tradition.-European tradition:Earth is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. It was commonly associated with qualities of heaviness, matter and the...

Merchants Material body or possessions
Cups (Chalices)
Suit of cups
The suit of cups is one of the four suits of Latin-suited playing cards, such as tarot. The suit of hearts is derived from the suit of cups. These are sometimes referred to as chalices as well as cups. The element of cups is water, and the suit of cups pertains to situations and events of an...

Water (classical element)
Water is one of the elements in ancient Greek philosophy, in the Asian Indian system Panchamahabhuta, and in the Chinese cosmological and physiological system Wu Xing...

Clergy Emotions and love
Suit of swords
The Suit of Swords is a suit found in playing cards using the Italian and Spanish suits. It is also found in Latin Suited Tarot Cards. It's equivalent to Spades in Anglo-American playing cards.The suit represents the Second Estate ....

Air (classical element)
Air is often seen as a universal power or pure substance. Its supposed fundamental importance to life can be seen in words such as aspire, inspire, perspire and spirit, all derived from the Latin spirare.-Greek and Roman tradition:...

Nobility and military Reason

Each suit has 14 cards, being Ace
An ace is a playing card. In the standard French deck, an ace has a single suit symbol located in the middle of the card, sometimes large and decorated, especially in the case of the Ace of Spades...

 (One), two through ten, Page, Knight, Queen, and King. The last four are called court cards, and may have different names in different decks. One common variation is the replacement of the page and knight with a prince and princess. There are Italian playing card decks which have a page, maid, knight, mounted lady, king, and queen.

Modern minor arcana decks often have the numbered minor arcana cards (Ace to 10 of each suit) named and numbered, although many resemble early decks in that there are no titles or numbers on those cards. The numbered minor arcana cards usually have the appropriate number of symbols for the suit depicted, and the court cards usually have the corresponding person depicted holding the symbol of their suit.

Modern divination decks, especially if based on the Rider-Waite tarot deck
Rider-Waite tarot deck
The Rider-Waite tarot deck is the most popular Tarot deck in use today in the English-speaking world . Other suggested names for this include the Rider-Waite-Smith, Waite-Smith, Waite-Colman Smith or simply the Rider deck...

(circa 1910), will have a symbolic scene depicted on the numbered minors, although this was generally not the case before the Rider-Waite deck was published. Before this, with the exception of a handful of decks, the numbered cards of the minors showed a geometric arrangement of the suit symbols.

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