In this article Tarot Card Symbols, we will discuss the symbols depicted in the Rider Waite Tarot deck.
Glance through the Major Arcana and you will quickly discover symbols drawn from astrology, alchemy, mythology and religious text.
The more you study the Rider Waite, the more you will discover. Few Tarot deck creators were as esoterically well-informed as Arthur Waite as to the multidimensional aspects of symbols. As an influential member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he was versed in a wide range of occult sciences, including cartomancy, shamanism, Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, divination and scrying and Enochian ceremonial magic.
Why Are Symbols Important in Tarot?
The symbols and imagery used in the Rider Waite deck were influenced by the 19th-century magician and occultist Eliphas Levi, as well as by the teachings of the Golden Dawn.
When you study the symbols in these Tarot cards, you are learning the inner meaning of the cards, and by that, I refer to the occult, mystical and hidden meaning, as opposed to the ordinary divination or fortune telling meaning.
As Eliphas Levi wrote, “an imprisoned person, with no other book than the Tarot, if he knew how to use it could in a few years acquire universal knowledge.”
Understanding the inner meaning, will help you connect with the universal source of knowledge, sometimes called the Akashic Records or universal conscious.
The teachings of the Tarot are, essentially teachings about Godliness, and about how we can manifest God and His power in our lives. Each symbol in a card contains advice, at some level, on how to either handle change, embrace change or drive change.
What Are The Most Popular Symbols in Tarot?
In the Rider Waite deck, you will notice that certain symbols appear more frequently, and therefore deserve special attention. Those symbols include:
10 Most Common Tarot Card Symbols
- Angels (guides and helpers)
- Animals, such as horses, lion, cat and dog
- Crown (achievement)
- Infinity (lemniscate, symbol of eternity)
- Red roses (love)
- Moon (subconscious)
- Mountains (obstacles to overcome)
- Sun (God)
- Star (hope)
- Water (memory and deep-rooted feelings)
Complete List of Tarot Card Symbols
Amulet: Charm carried to ward off evil
Anchor cross: Christian cross symbolic of salvation and hope
Angels: Four archangels appear in the Rider Waite: Raphael, angel of air (The Lovers); Michael, angel of fire (Temperance); Gabriel, angel of water (Judgement); and Uriel, angel of earth (The Devil)
Ankh cross: Ancient Egyptian cross and symbol of life
Anubis: Ancient Egyptian god with the head of a jackal, represents the evolution of consciousness
Bird: Message from the spirit world, also symbol of the soul
Bridge: Symbolizes a way forward, from one state to another, like an ascension process
Blindfold: Turning a blind eye
Caduceus: Winged wand entwined by two serpents, symbol of Mercury, messenger of the gods
Castle: Represents home and safety
Cat: Witch’s familiar, magic and luck
Child: Innocence, the future
Cliff: Obstacles to overcome
Clouds: The spirit world, and all that is mysterious and sacred
Crab: Symbol of the astrological sign Cancer
Crescent Moon: Symbol of Isis, the ancient Egyptian Queen of Heaven
Crown: Achievement and mastery
Devil: Subconscious desires, and materialism
Desert: Clarity of thought, a landscape void of distraction
Dog: Faithful companion, messengers of spirit
Dolphin: The need for playtime, take a break
Door: New opportunity, barrier through which only initiates in the Golden Dawn or Masons may unlock
Dove: Peace, holy spirit
Eye of Horus: Symbol of the watchful Egyptian lord of the skies
Feather: Angel sign, spirit message. See also: Meaning of Feathers
Fleur-de-lis: Royalty; the trinity of body, mind and spirit
Garden: Cultivation of the human soul
Globe: The world is your oyster, expansion
Goat: Symbol of the astrological sign Capricorn
Grapes: Abundance and celebration
Halo: Glowing sphere around the head chakra, to signify saints, holy people and enlightenment
Hammer: In the Freemasons, the Hammer symbolizes willpower and a person’s willingness to obtain
Hexagram: 6-pointed star; combination of material and spiritual
Horse: Symbol of forward momentum
Ibis: Ancient Egyptian bird, symbolic of thought and inspiration
IHVH: Hebrew initials of the holy name of God; also symbolic of the four Minor Arcana suits
Ice: Isolation and separation
Infinity sign: Eternity
Jewels: Spiritual truths
Key: New opening, change
King: Expresses the highest qualities of the Tarot suit
Knight: Events start moving, picking up pace
Lemniscate: Infinity sign, eternity
Lightning: Flash of illumination; a bolt from the blue
Lily flower: Virgin Mary, purity of thought, afterlife
Lion: Symbol of the astrological sign Leo, ego, pride and courage
Lotus flower: Spiritual awakening
Moon: Inner world, intuition, subconsciousness, passage of time, cycles of life
Mountain: Obstacles to overcome, meeting of heaven and earth, ascension
Nimbus: A halo or aura, sign of spiritual enlightenment
Ocean: Reflects emotions and how you feel at the time of a Tarot reading
Page: Messages and news; and young people related to the Tarot suit
Pentacle: Money, earthly values, materialism
Pentagram: Symbol of perfection and wholeness. Each point symbolizes the four elements plus ether
Phallus: Power, life force and propagation
Pyramids: Symbolize ancient magic, in particular forms of divination like prophecy and selenomancy
Pillars: Duality, choice, balance
Queen: Expression of the highest feminine qualities of the Tarot suit
Rain: Cleansing, healing
Rainbow: Good luck, God’s protection
Ram: Symbol of the astrological sign Aries
Ribbons: immortality, victory, fulfillment
River: Change, passage of time
Rock: What is stable in your life
Rose: Love, appreciation
Rota: Latin for wheel, anagram of tarot
Salamander: Favorite symbol of alchemists and was used to represent the element Fire
Scales: Justice, balance and symbol of the astrological sign Libra
Scarab: Renewal and regeneration
Scorpion: Symbol of the astrological sign Scorpio
Scrolls: Hidden mysteries, divine and universal law
Ship: Represents a journey of education, faith, business or personal development
Sphinx: Combination of four creatures – human head, a bull’s body, lion’s feet, and eagle’s wings. Represents all four elements and symbolizes the riddle of human existence
Star: Cosmic order and radiant energy of life.
Sun: God, illumination, in astrology, the self and ego
Sunrise: New beginnings, initiation
Sunflower: Happiness and attraction
Three: Body, mind and spirit; birth, life and death; past, present and future; holy trinity
Throne: Monarchy, divinity and wisdom
Tomb: Gateway to another life
Tower: Man’s creation
Trees: Symbolize growth and prosperity
Veil: Hidden emotions, actions, thoughts and ideas
Wand: Channel for spirit, creative powers
Wolf: Sign of the Devil, violence
Wheat: Abundance, growth and harvest
Yod: Hebrew letter; the hand of God, represents the world to come and completeness
Tarot Card Symbols in The Major Arcana
Here is a list of all 22 cards in the Major Arcana, and their symbolism:
0 The Fool Symbols
Mountains, cliff edge, tunic, red feather, white dog, white flower, bag
1 The Magician Symbols
Wand, infinity symbol, serpent belt, red gown, white robe and flowers
2 The High Priestess Symbols
Tora scroll, moon crown, white cross, veil, black and white pillar, B and J and blue robe
3 The Empress Symbols
Crown, wreath, scepter, gown, pearl necklace, heart shield, wheat, trees, waterfall, yellow sky
4 The Emperor Symbols
Rams heads, crown, infinity sign, armor, ankh cross, globe, orange sky, mountains, river
5 Hierophant Symbols
Crown, letter W, blue scarf, scepter, benediction, crossed keys, monks, pillars
6 The Lovers Symbols
Angel Raphael, sun, couple, trees, apple, snake, mountain
7 The Chariot Symbols
Moon sign, star crown, victory wreath, skirt, belt, amulet, wand, chariot, angel wings, town, moat
8 Strength Symbols
Woman, lion, flower belt, white dress, infinity sign, blue mountain, yellow sky
9 The Hermit Symbols
Old man, gray cloak, lamp, star, gold wand, snow, mountain top
10 Wheel of Fortune Symbols
ROTA, alchemy symbols, angel, eagle, bull, lion, sphinx, snake, orange jackal
11 Justice Symbols
Sword, scales, pillars, veil, crown, white shoe, yellow background, blue square, brooch
12 The Hanged Man Symbols
Tree, crossed legs, Tau cross, halo, right foot, crooked elbows
13 Death Card Symbols
Grim reaper, black horse, white rose banner, red feather, bishop, king, child, woman, rising sun, towers, river, boat
14 Temperance Symbols
Angel, golden disk, square, red triangle, cups, water, path, mountains, sun, irises
15 The Devil Symbols
Bat wings, horns, donkey ears, inverted pentacles, man and woman, tails, chains
16 The Tower Symbols
Tower, 3 windows, falling man and woman, lightning, yods, crown
17 The Star Symbols
Maiden, stars, jugs, tree, bird, mountain, pool, rivulets, meditation
18 The Moon Symbols
Moon, moon-rays, moon-face, crayfish, dog, wolf, pillars, blue land, green fields, pool
19 The Sun Symbols
Sun, sun-face, child, sunflowers, banner, red feather, horse, brick wall
20 Judgement Symbols
The occult symbolism of the angel, red angel wings, trumpet, flag, people, coffins, sea, mountains, trees
21 The World Symbols
Dancer, purple sash, wands, laurel wreath, man, lion, eagle, bull
Tarot Card Symbols in The Minor Arcana
Ace of Cups Symbols: Chalice, 5 streams of water, yods, dove, hand and cloud
Two of Cups Symbols: Chalice, Caduceus of Hermes, snakes, wings, Yin and Yang
Three of Cups Symbols: Dancing maidens, flowers, grapes, apples and blue sky
Four of Cups Symbols: Hand of God, tree, mountains and blue sky
Five of Cups Symbols: Spilled wine, river, bridge, castle, cloak, gray sky symbolism
Six of Cups Symbols: Children, white flower, village, inscription X on pillar
Seven of Cups Symbols: Human face, laurel wreath, ghost, snake, castle, jewels, dragon and swirling clouds
Eight of Cups Symbols: Mountains, moon eclipse, river and darkness symbolism
Nine of Cups Symbols: Man in red hat, cups on display, curtain, bench, yellow color
Ten of Cups Symbols: Family, rainbow, cottage, trees and river symbols
Page of Cups Symbols: Cup, blue fish, ocean, lotus flowers, blue feather symbolism
Knight of Cups Symbols: Armor, horse, wings, fish, river, mountain and trees.
Queen of Cups Symbols: Ornate chalice, crown, throne, angels, cherubs, cliffs, stones and sea
King of Cups Symbols: Throne in the sea, scepter, chalice, dolphin, fish, red ship and stormy sea
Ace of Wands Symbols: Wand, hand, clouds, leave, yods, river, trees, mountains and castle.
Two of Wands Symbols: Castle, globe, flowers, sea, forest and mountains.
Three of Wands Symbols: Chalice, Caduceus of Hermes, snakes, wings, Yin and Yang.
Four of Wands Symbols: Archway, flowers, grapevine, castle, moat, bridge and yellow sky.
Five of Wands Symbols: Battle, blue sky and barren landscape.
Six of Wands Symbols: Horseman, laurel wreaths, horse, gauntlet gloves and ribbon.
Seven of Wands Symbols: Attackers, mismatched shoes, green tunic, mountain summit.
Eight of Wands Symbols: Why are there no people in this card? Plus meaning of hills, river and castle.
Nine of Wands Symbols: Upright wands, hills, white bandage and yellow boots.
Ten of Wands Symbols: Why is the man bent over? Symbolism of the trees and castle.
Page of Wands Symbols: Egyptian symbolism of the pyramids, red feather, explorer’s hat and salamanders.
Knight of Wands Symbols: Armor, gloves, yellow cloak, salamanders, red horse, pyramids and arid desert.
Queen of Wands Symbols: Symbolism of the lion, sunflowers, black cat, wand, crown, throne, pyramids, red shoe and yellow dress.
King of Wands Symbols: Crown, posture, facing right, yellow throne, red gown, salamanders and lions.
Ace of Pentacles Symbols: Clouds, hand of God, garden, rose, lily of the valley, archway, path, mountains.
Two of Pentacles Symbols: Infinity symbol, juggler, raised left foot, sea, ships and tall hat.
Three of Pentacles Symbols: Sculptor, dark interior, apron, bench, tools, arches and engravings.
Four of Pentacles Symbols: Pentacles, city/village, crown, tetragrammaton, untied shoes.
Five of Pentacles Symbols: Church window, cripple, crutches and snow.
Six of Pentacles Symbols: Scales, red cloak, 4 coins, castle, benediction, bandage, red ticket.
Seven of Pentacles Symbols: Hoe, gray sky and grapevine.
Eight of Pentacles Symbols: Hammer, chisel, apron, bench, castle.
Nine of Pentacles Symbols: Estate, snail, falcon, yellow glove, Venus symbol, two trees.
Ten of Pentacles Symbols: Old man, child, couple, Tree of Life, scales, tower, dogs.
Page of Pentacles Symbols: Talisman, red hat, plowed fields, yellow sky, trees and mountains.
Knight of Pentacles Symbols: Horse, farmland, field, mountains, trees, armor, glove, green plume.
Queen of Pentacles Symbols: Pentacle, throne, cherubs, ram, flora, crown, veil, rabbit, roses.
King of Pentacles Symbols: Face of Edith Craig, battlement, bulls, armor, crown, scepter and grapes.
Ace of Swords Symbols: Hand of God, crown, yods, olive branch, barren landscape, crown chakra.
Two of Swords Symbols: Crossed swords, blindfold, crescent moon, sea, rocks and bench.
Three of Swords Symbols: Pierced heart, no people, thunder, rain, clouds
Four of Swords Symbols: Tomb, stained-glass window, armor, hanging swords
Five of Swords Symbols: Smiling champion, stormy sky, clouds, mountains, sea
Six of Swords Symbols: Ferryman, upright swords, boat, sea and trees
Eight of Swords Symbols: Ropes, blindfold, upright swords, cliff, castle and sea
Nine of Swords Symbols: Hanging swords, hands over eyes, bedspread, roses, bed carvings
Ten of Swords Symbols: Chakra alignment, hand gesture, sky, sea, mountains
Page of Swords Symbols: Sword in left hand, foreground, storm clouds, mountains, tree, birds, green feather
Knight of Swords Symbols: White horse, heart, yellow butterflies, falcon, birds, gloves, red glove, trees, sky
Queen of Swords Symbols: Sword in right hand, yellow butterflies, cherub, crown, red veil and storm clouds
King of Swords Symbols: Throne, cherub, butterflies, moon cycle, nymphs, cherub and bird
History of Tarot, from ancient India to China and Egypt. What is the story of Tarot?
Share This Article
Complete List: Tarot Card Symbolism
Karina, author of Tarot in 5 Minutes.
The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Symbols