card meanings & reading
Tarot Archetypes 4
The Gods of Olympus. Fresco by Giulio Romano, 1535. Gods of any mythology are clear representatives of different archetypes.
List of Archetypes in the Tarot Card Deck
The Tarot cards of the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana with its four suits represent one archetype each. Here is a list of keywords for those archetypes and their meanings in short.
Archetype KeywordsThe archetypes are symbols to which we all can relate. They represent significant aspects of life - people around us as well as events.
Not even C.G. Jung, who was the one to make new use of the old Greek term, made a complete list of archetypes. He just stated how they work in the human mind as well as in society, and gave a number of examples in his writing.
The Tarot consists of 78 cards - 22 in the Major Arcana and 56 in the Minor Arcana, which is in turn divided into four suits with 14 cards each. Each can be said to represent an archetype. That's quite clear regarding the Major Arcana cards, but not always with the Minor Arcana.
What the cards symbolize depends on how they are illustrated. In some Tarot decks only the Major Arcana and the face cards of the suits are illustrated. Not the pip cards. In others, like the Rider-Waite deck used on this website, every card is illustrated. That makes a difference as to how they should be interpreted, and therefore also what archetype they should be assigned.
In the following list I focus on the Rider-Waite deck, when extracting keywords for the Tarot cards. Still, in some cases I deviate slightly from what the illustrations suggest, when the symbol the card carries points to an archetype that needs to be interpreted differently.
Note that there is no general agreement on the archetypes and meanings I suggest below. Some are less controversial than others, but still trust your own intuition more than this list. Each user of the Tarot needs to be clear about what the cards mean to her or him in a reading, whatever other users claim.
Major Arcana ArchetypesThe 22 cards of the Major Arcana are easy to connect to their respective archetypes, however they are illustrated. To no surprise, these cards are generally regarded as the most important and significant of the Tarot. In a divination spread, Major Arcana cards mark the most important events or circumstances.
Actually, the Major Arcana cards can be described as archetypes in their own right: The archetype of the Magician, the archetype of the High Priestess, and so on. Still, they need to be specified and explained, which is what I have aimed to do with the keywords below.
Here are their archetype keywords, with short explanations of what they can mean in a reading:
Minor Arcana Archetypes
The Four SuitsThe Minor Arcana is divided into four suits, much like regular playing cards although with different names. This foursome is connected to the principle of the four elements in Greek philosophy: fire, earth, air, and water, especially as they are applied to astrology. Like those elements, each suit represents an archetype.
The archetype of a suit influence the meanings of all its 14 cards, giving them sort of a theme. This should be considered when interpreting the cards in a reading, whatever the image of the card seems to imply.
Here are the four suits and their archetypes:
The 14 Cards of Each SuitThe face cards of each suit, from Page to King, represent the same regardless of what Tarot deck is used. Their archetypes don't change depending on the illustration on the card. The same can be said for the Aces, which stand for a sudden burst of the kind the suit generally symbolizes, as mentioned above.
As for the remaining nine pip cards of each suit, though, their symbolic meanings are far from fixed. Then the illustration of each card is what suggests the meaning of the card in divination, as well as how it can be described with an archetype.
It gets complicated with Tarot decks where those cards have no illustrations. But that is not the case with the Rider-Waite, which is the deck I use on this website. My interpretations below are based on the images of the Rider-Waite cards. If you use another illustrated Tarot deck, you may want to alter the archetypes and their keywords, according to your impression of the images.
Here are the archetype keywords of the 14 cards in each suit of the Tarot:
WandsThe suit of materialism, earthly matters.
PentaclesThe suit of thought, things of the mind.
CupsThe suit of emotions, how it feels.
SwordsThe suit of action, the force of intention.
Archetypes - the Themes of Myths
Archetypes of the Tarot
List of Tarot card Archetypes