This piece on structure in the tarot is a continuation of what I wrote on August 25 and 26. It’s about structures applied to the Minor Arcana (small mysteries), also known as the suit cards, or the everyday experiences cards. If the Majors are the “what” of life, the Minors are the “how”.
While I’m less concerned about structure when it comes to the Major Arcana, I find it immensely helpful to work with a system when using the Minors. In fully pictorial decks — tarot packs with pictures on the numbered suit cards — people tend to rely on the images; however, in packs whose pip cards show suit emblems and numbers only, it pays off to employ a framework. What are some of these?
Some people connect the Ace through Ten of each suit to the ten sephiroth on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, then place the court/people cards on four of those. When they combine a concept from one of those sephiroth with the quality of a suit, meaning comes forth.
Other practitioners divide each suit into two parts, pips and courts. For them, the ten numbered Minor cards are events and the four court cards are people and/or personality attributes.
There are those who think of each suit as being made up of three sections: Ace, Two through Ten, and Courts. The Ace, for them, is the area of life (tangible, mental, relational/emotional, or spiritual) in which the event (pip card) takes place with a particular person or part of self (court).
I’ve even seen one person who puts the Aces among the courts cards, counting it as the Divinity that rules over each suit’s royal family. Fascinating!
My own way to structure the Minor Arcana is to attribute certain qualities to each suit and to each value, Ace through King. I learned it from Gail Fairfield’s Choice Centered Tarot many years ago. The journey of Ace through King is one of conception through completion, so the courts cards aren’t separated from the rest of the suit. Truth be told, if I were to come out with my own tarot deck, I’d articulate each suit as having Ace through Fourteen. The value/rank plus the quality of the suit (physical-tangible, mental-communicational, emotional-relational, or spiritual-personal) when combined with an intention or question creates meaning. Simple.
The template that I use is also good for evaluating where I am in each area of my life without even pulling a card. I can reflect on my health, finances, learning, networking, feelings, relationships, personal growth, and relatedness with the Sacred, then name each as a value on the scale from Ace to King. “Oh, my work (Pentacles) is at a Six (stability). And, look, my writing ideas (Swords) are at a Seven (diversity and experimentation).” From there, I can decide if what’s happening in each aspect of my life needs to remain the same (stay at the same card value), be changed (move to a different card value), or have something added to it (partner with another card value). “I think I’ll keep the work at the Six stage for now, so I’ll maintain what I’m doing in that department. All of those writing ideas are great, but I think that I’ll take them to an Eight (editing, narrowing down, structuring) in a month or so.” All of that without even doing a tarot reading.
Perhaps I value structure in the Minor Arcana because they’re all about the quotidian where, let’s face it, many of us require some guidelines. The Greater Mysteries can look after Themselves; we, on the other hand, navigate our bodies, jobs, feelings, relationships, thoughts, information, and identities in the world with more grace when we have a map. The Minor Arcana can be that map, or at least a part of it.