Thursday, January 14, 2016

the role of tarot suit emblems

With all the new tarot decks on the scene, I'm seeing a lot of variations in suit emblems. The emblem is the icon or symbol that defines the suit. For instance, traditional suit emblems are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. But in contemporary decks, you may find emblems like Bones, Knives, Water, and Coins.

The suit emblems are integral to the deck and determine how the pips are interpreted. For instance, a suit of Coins may be telling you about wealth and money while a suit of Stones may be showing degrees of groundedness. A suit of Cups reveals whether your cup is half full or half empty, while a suit of Water may give information about how well you can go with the flow. 

If you're in doubt about how the suit should be interpreted, look at how the emblem is used in the cards. For instance, I have never understood the Swords as a suit related to the mind or intellect. All we need to do is consider the function of a sword. It's for battle and warfare. How is it used?  For swift justice and sometimes with irreparable damage.

Let's take a look at the RWS deck to see how the emblems are used in the pip cards. 

Wands are used to build impermanent shelters; compete with others; celebrate a victory; ward off intruders; build a fortress; and limit sight.

The Classic 1910 Tarot

Cups are shared with others; raised in celebration; ignored; cried over; imagined; and left behind.

The Classic 1910 Tarot

Swords pierce a heart; separate people; are carried with you; restrict; and kill someone.

The Classic 1910 Tarot
Pentacles are juggled; used for decoration; held onto tightly; given to others; grow slowly; and manufactured.

The Classic 1910 Tarot
If you own a deck with unique suit emblems, know that there's a reason the deck creator chose those specific emblems and they add special nuances to interpretation. 
When in doubt about the emblem, ask what is its purpose and how is it used in the deck you're using. What is a Bone or what is a Knife, for example? What purpose does it serve? How is it used? What idioms and symbolic connections can you make to it? Then look at all the cards in that suit. What themes do you see? What kind of progression do you see through the numbers that tie into the suit?


  1. Goodness, I love your website, Kristen. I need a long weekend and an endless supply of tea/coffee and popcorn and I'd read it from cover to cover.
    Colleen x

    1. Thank you so much Colleen and I appreciate you visiting! I'm sure you can read the entire blog cover to cover in about 4 minutes since you're a Manifesting Generator lol! When you do, let me know what you think!!