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Life's Little Secrets: the Minor Arcana

The minor arcana is all the cards which are marked by suits. These are the elemental cards, the cards which represent occurrences in our relationships with the world. Each card is assigned a meaning corresponding to a state of being or an event in life. These indications concern worldly matters - the individual and other, the individual in action.

In most books on the tarot the minor arcana is secondary, a minor subject beside the major arcana which is supposed to contain so-called occult secrets. A survey of available tarot books will reveal many different views regarding these alleged occult attributions, seldom do two authors agree on anything other than the few things they virtually all agree on. Membership in several mystery schools which use the tarot will also reveal the same divergence of opinion and will also reveal belief systems which are nothing short of fantastic. Such beliefs are ignored in articles on this site.

In early, and a few contemporary, decks the minor arcana do not have images. Like a common pack of playing cards, the numbered cards have only pips for each suit. When using such a deck the reader must rely on keywords for indications of the meaning of a card. While still useful this limits the range of possible indications and makes for a longer, steeper learning curve for the beginning reader.

The minor arcana provides for a set of images or keywords concerning events common to human experience. Divided by the suits into themes, the images suggest and evoke personal memory regarding experiences in life. Randomized in a reading, and viewed in consideration of position in a spread and the concern of the reading, the images on the cards create a means of guiding thought in new directions.

The card images or keywords are used in a reading to trigger thought on elements of personal history or future expectations. By calling up these memories and expectations the reader can compose a story relevant to the life of the querant. The terms are vague and broad enough to allow anyone to interpret the meanings with reference to their own experience. Because of this the minor arcana is anything but minor in the practice of tarot reading.

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This page last updated 9 November, 1997 by Bev Thornton

Copyright © 1997 Bev Thornton, All Rights Reserved.