Decoding the Tarot: A Beginner's Guide to the Deck's Structure

Decoding the Tarot: A Beginner's Guide to the Deck's Structure

Embarking on the journey of tarot reading can be both exciting and somewhat daunting. The intricate symbols, myriad of interpretations, and the sheer depth of the tarot deck's structure offer a rich tapestry of insight and guidance. For those new to tarot, understanding the anatomy of a tarot deck is essential. This beginner's guide aims to demystify the deck's structure, providing a foundation upon which to build your tarot reading skills.

The Two Arcanas: Major and Minor

The tarot deck is divided into two main sections: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana, each serving a unique purpose in a reading.

The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, each representing significant life events, lessons, or archetypes. Starting with The Fool (card 0) and concluding with The World (card 21), the Major Arcana takes us through the journey of life, encapsulating the spiritual lessons and challenges we encounter. These cards often signify major turning points or insights when they appear in a reading.

The Minor Arcana resembles a traditional deck of playing cards but is imbued with deeper symbolic meanings. Comprising 56 cards, it is divided into four suits: Cups, Wands, Swords, and Pentacles, each representing a different aspect of human experience. The Minor Arcana deals with the day-to-day aspects of life, reflecting current situations, thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Understanding the Suits

Each suit in the Minor Arcana focuses on a specific theme:

  • Cups: Emotions, relationships, and connection
  • Wands: Creativity, action, and passion
  • Swords: Thoughts, words, and conflicts
  • Pentacles: Material aspects, work, and finances

The suits guide the interpretation of the cards, offering insights into the context of a reading.

The Significance of Numbers

Each suit of the Minor Arcana contains cards numbered from Ace to Ten, followed by four Court Cards. The numbered cards represent different stages or aspects of their respective themes:

  • Aces symbolize new beginnings or pure energy of their suit.
  • Cards 2 through 10 depict various situations and experiences, with the number often indicating the level of complexity or intensity.
  • Tens generally represent completion or culmination of the suit's journey.

Understanding the numerological aspects of the cards adds depth to readings, helping to pinpoint where you or a querent might be in the process of growth, conflict, or transformation.

The Court Cards: Personalities and Influences

The Court Cards — Page, Knight, Queen, and King — represent different personalities or influences within each suit. They can signify actual people in your life, aspects of yourself, or the energy you need to embrace:

  • Pages often symbolize youthfulness, learning, or messages.
  • Knights represent action, movement, and pursuit.
  • Queens embody mastery of the suit's energy, reflecting introspection and understanding.
  • Kings signify leadership, control, and the overarching power of the suit.

Interpreting Court Cards in a reading involves understanding their inherent qualities and how they interact with other cards.

The Journey of The Fool

The Fool's journey through the Major Arcana is a metaphor for our own path through life. Each card represents a stage of that journey, offering lessons and insights we encounter along the way. Understanding The Fool's journey helps to contextualize the Major Arcana's role in readings, illustrating the evolutionary process we all go through.


The tarot deck is a complex and layered tool for introspection and guidance. By understanding its basic structure — the Major and Minor Arcana, the four suits, the significance of numbers, and the roles of the Court Cards — beginners can start to decode the profound messages the tarot has to offer. This guide serves as your starting point, a foundation upon which to build a deeper understanding and connection with the tarot. As you delve into readings and practice, you'll discover the tarot is not only a mirror reflecting your innermost thoughts and feelings but also a guide, offering paths to growth, healing, and self-discovery.

If you're curious to dive deeper into the differences and unique insights of 'Tarot VS Oracle,' watch our informative YouTube video on the topic now. Or, for a more comprehensive understanding, download our Free Tarot Guidebook for Beginners on our website.