List of symbols for Rider Waite’s Tarot cards

There is a lot of symbolism in the Tarot card games. By looking carefully at the many symbolic elements on a card, it becomes easier to read/interpret the Tarot cards. The symbols on the list below appear on Rider Waite’s Tarot cards, but the list can also be used for other Tarot cards.

List of symbols found on Rider Waite’s Tarot cards

  • Beard: wisdom
  • Bergen: overview
  • Leaves on the sticks: new beginnings
  • Flower wreath: fertility related to the theme
  • Bunches of grapes: fertility related to the theme
  • Angels: helpers, mediators
  • Large coats/wide scarves: built up a lot of inner knowledge
  • Armor: protection
  • Dog: instinct
  • Dog with the fool: companion
  • Dog by the moon: fear
  • Crown: connected to the higher
  • Laurel wreaths: laurels, honor
  • Leo: strength
  • Lemniscate: eternally continuous life force
  • Moon: subconscious
  • Horses: processes
  • Someone on a horse: movement
  • Poes: magic, being able to make/do something
  • Red roses: willpower, life
  • Snail: patience
  • Snake: circle of infinity
  • Staff in hand (not staffs): wisdom
  • Star: connecting, rays of cosmic energy
  • Pisces: emotion, healing, anointing, water
  • Butterflies: transformation
  • Birds: communication with higher consciousness
  • Fruits: fertility related to the theme
  • White dress: spiritual purity
  • White lilies: spiritual purity
  • Clouds: another dimension
  • Sun: awareness
  • Sunflowers: awareness
  • Columns/temple: wisdom, reverence


Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles

The Tarot deck consists of 78 cards. These cards are divided into two arcans (secrets).

  • The major arcana (big secret) consists of 22 cards.
  • The minor arcana (little secret) consists of 56 cards.

This minor arcana consists of four suits of 14 cards representing the four elements.

  • Wands (fire element): willpower
  • Swords (air element): man’s rational thinking, judgment, conflict(s)
  • Cups (water element): feeling, subconscious, creative ability
  • Pentacles (earth element): practical, our ability to become aware of things around us


The Ace, the Squire, the Knight, the King and the Queen

Within each set of 14 cards you have:

  • An Ace (card one); this card symbolizes the beginning of something, a wish, something that is potentially present
  • Cards 2 to 10
  • A Squire; this card represents the beginner level, the student
  • A knight; this card indicates that some things have already been learned and has the task of taking this somewhere
  • A Queen; this card symbolizes the feminine angle, the intuitive, is expectant
  • A king; this card represents the masculine angle, external responsibility, regulation and rational aspect


How can you use this list in Rider Waite’s Tarot deck?

Learning to read/interpret the Tarot cards is mainly a matter of doing it. For this you can draw a so-called daily card (the name says it all, every day you draw a card and study it) or you can do a reading very regularly.
First look at the map without the symbol list (over time you will need it less and less often) and pay attention to the big picture. What do you see, what do you feel? Then zoom in on all kinds of details and look for the symbolism behind this. Depending on previous interests in your life, you can often get a long way without the list. Finally, take the list and combine all the symbols into one story/message. What does this card mean to you (for the day to come and look back in the evening to see how much you saw this) or what does this card mean at this place in the reading (one or more readings can be found in most Tarot books) and what do I want/can do with the message that emerges from this explanation.

read more

  • The Tarot (the Rider Waite card game)
  • What do Rider Waite’s major arcana Tarot cards mean?
  • What do Rider Waite’s minor arcana Tarot cards mean?
  • Different types of readings with Tarot cards
  • Chakras and the Tarot
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