Meaning of the Tarot Cards

By S. L. MacGregor Mathers

To prepare the pack for Fortune-telling, write at the top of each card its number and signification when in its proper position, and at the bottom its meaning when reversed. To facilitate this, and to assist in reading them I here append a list of the cards with the meanings, which, I think, will be found to answer all practical purposes R. means Reversed.


 1. The Juggler.—Will, Will-Power, Dexterity; R. Will applied to evil ends, Weakness of Will, Cunning, Knavishness.

2. The High PriestessScience, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education; R. Conceit, Ignorance, Unskillfulness, Superficial Knowledge.

3. The EmpressAction, Plan, Undertaking Movement in a matter, Initiative; R. Inaction, Frittering away of power, Want of Concentration Vacillation.

4. The EmperorRealization, Effect, Development; R. Stoppage, Check, Immature, Unripe.

5. The Hierophant or Pope. Mercy, Beneficence Kindness, Goodness; R. Over-kindness, weakness, Foolish exercise of generosity.

6. The LoversWise Dispositions, Proof, Trials Surmounted; R. Unwise Plans, Failure when put to the test.

7. The ChariotTriumph, Victory, Overcoming obstacles; R. Overthrown, Conquered by Obstacles at the last moment.

8. Themis, or Justice. Equilibrium, Balance, Justice; R. Bigotry, Want of Balance, Abuse of Justice, Over-severity, Inequality, Bias.

9. The HermitPrudence, Caution, Deliberation; R. Over-prudence, Timorousness, Fear.

10. The Wheel of Fortune.— Good Fortune, Success, Unexpected Luck; R. Ill-Fortune, Failure, Unexpected Ill-Luck.

11. Strength, or FortitudePower, Might, Force, Strength, Fortitude; R. Abuse of Power, Overbearingness, Want of Fortitude.

12. The Hanged ManSelf-sacrifice, Sacrifice, Devotion, Bound; R. Selfishness, Unbound, Partial sacrifice.

13. DeathDeath, Change, Transformation, Alteration for the worse; R. Death just escaped, Partial change, Alteration for the better.

14. TemperanceCombination, Conformation, Uniting; R. Ill-advised combinations, Disunion, Clashing interests, &c.

15. The Devil.— Fatality for Good; R. Fatality for Evil.

16. The Lightning-struck Tower. Ruin, Disruption, Over-throw, Loss, Bankruptcy; R. These in a more or less partial degree.

17. The Star.— Hope, Expectation, Bright promises; R. Hopes not fulfilled, Expectations disappointed or fulfilled in a minor degree.

18. The MoonTwilight, Deception, Error; R. Fluctuation, slight Deceptions, Trifling Mistakes.

19. The SunHappiness, Content, Joy; R. These in a minor degree.

20. The Last Judgment.— Renewal, Result, Determination of a Matter; R. Postponement of Result, Delay, Matter re-opened later.

0. The Foolish ManFolly, Expiation, Wavering; R. Hesita­tion, Instability, Trouble arising herefrom.

21. The UniverseCompletion, Good Reward; R. Evil Reward, or Recompense.

22. King of SceptersMan living in the country, Country Gentleman, Knowledge, Education; R. A naturally good but severe man, Counsel, Advice, Deliberation.

23. Queen of SceptersWoman living in the country, Lady of the Manor, Love of Money, Avarice, Usury; R. A good a virtuous Woman, but strict and economical, Obstacles, Resistance, Opposition.

24. Knight of SceptersDeparture, Separation, Disunion; R. Rupture, Discord, Quarrel.

25. Knave of SceptersA Good Stranger, Good News, Pleasure, Satisfaction; R. Ill News, Displeasure, Chagrin, Worry.

26. Ten of SceptersConfidence, Security, Honor, Good Faith; R. Treachery, Subterfuge, Duplicity, Bar.

27. Nine of SceptersOrder, Discipline, Good Arrangement, Disposition; R. Obstacles, Crosses, Delay, Displeasure.

28. Eight of SceptersUnderstanding, Observation, Direction; R. Quarrels, Intestine disputes, Discord.

29. Seven of SceptersSuccess, Gain, Advantage, Profit, Victory; R. Indecision, Doubt, Hesitation, Embarrassment, Anxiety.

30. Six of SceptersAttempt, Hope, Desire, Wish, Expectation; R. Infidelity, Treachery, Disloyalty, Perfidy.

31. Five of SceptersGold, Opulence, Gain, Heritage, Riches, Fortune, Money; R. Legal proceedings, Judgment, Law, Lawyer, Tribunal.

32. Four of SceptersSociety, Union, Association, Concord, Harmony; R. Prosperity, Success, Happiness, Advantage.

33. Three of SceptersEnterprise, Undertaking, Commerce, Trade, Negotiation; R. Hope, Desire, Attempt, Wish.

34. Deuce of SceptersRiches, Fortune, Opulence, Magnificence, Grandeur; R. Surprise, Astonishment, Event, Extraor­dinary Occurrence.

35. Ace of SceptersBirth, Commencement, Beginning, Origin, Source; R. Persecution, Pursuits Violence, Vexation, Cruelty, Tyranny.

36. King of CupsA fair Man, Goodness, Kindness, Liberality, Generosity; R. A Man of good position, but shifty in his Dealings, Distrust, Doubt, Suspicion.

37. Queen of CupsA fair Woman, Success, Happiness, Advantage, Pleasure; R. A Woman in good position, but intermeddling, and to be distrusted; Success, but with some attendant trouble.

38. Knight of CupsArrival, Approach, Advance; R. Duplicity, Abuse of Confidence, Fraud, Cunning.

39. Knave of CupsA fair Youth, Confidence, Probity, Discretion, Integrity; R. A Flatterer, Deception, Artifice.

40. Ten of CupsThe Town wherein one resides, Honor, Consideration, Esteem, Virtue, Glory, Reputation; R. Combat, Strife, Opposition, Differences, Dispute.

41. Nine of Cups.— Victory, Advantage, Success, Triumph, Difficulties surmounted; R. Faults, Errors, Mistakes, Imperfections.

42. Eight of Cups.— A fair Girl, Friendship, Attachment, Tenderness; R. Gaiety, Feasting, Joy, Pleasure.

43. Seven of Cups.— Idea, Sentiment, Reflection, Project; R. Plan, Design, Resolution, Decision.

44. Six of CupsThe Past, passed by, Faded, Vanished, Disappeared; R. The Future, that which is to come, Shortly, Soon.

45. Five of CupsUnion, Junction, Marriage, Inheritance; R. Arrival, Return, News, Surprise, False projects.

46. Four of CupsEnnui, Displeasure, Discontent, Dissatisfaction; R. New Acquaintance, Conjecture, Sign, Presenti­ment.

47. Three of CupsSuccess, Triumph, Victory, Favorable issue; R. Expedition of business, Quickness, Celerity, Vigilance.

48. Deuce of CupsLove, Attachment, Friendship, Sincerity, Affection; R. Crossed desires, Obstacles, Opposition, Hindrance.

49. Ace of CupsFeasting, Banquet, Good Cheer; R. Change, Novelty, Metamorphosis, Inconstancy.

50. King of SwordsA Lawyer, a Man of Law, Power, Command, Superiority, Authority; R. A Wicked Man, Chagrin, Worry, Grief, Fear, Disturbance.

51. Queen of SwordsWidowhood, Loss, Privation, Absence, Separation; R. A Bad Woman, ill-tempered and bigoted, Riches and Discord, Abundance together with Worry, Joy with Grief.

52. Knight of SwordsA Soldier, a man whose profession is arms, Skillfulness, Capacity, Address, Promptitude; R. A conceited fool, Ingenuousness, Simplicity.

53. Knave of SwordsA Spy, Overlooking, Authority; R. That which is unforeseen, Vigilance, Support.

54. Ten of SwordsTears, Affliction, Grief, Sorrow; R. Passing Success, Momentary Advantage.

55. Nine of SwordsAn Ecclesiastic, a Priest, Conscience. Probity, Good Faith, Integrity; R. Wise distrust, Suspicion, Fear, Doubt, Shady character.

56. Eight of SwordsSickness, Calumny, Criticism, Blame;  R.   Treachery in the Past, Event, Accident, Remarkable Incident.

57. Seven of SwordsHope, Confidence, Desire, Attempt, Wish; R. Wise Advice, Good Counsel, Wisdom, Prudence, Circumspection.

58. Six of SwordsEnvoy, Messenger, Voyage, Travel; R. Declaration, Love proposed, Revelation, Surprise.

59. Five of SwordsMourning, Sadness, Affliction; R. Losses Trouble (same signification, whether reversed or not.)

60. Four of SwordsSolitude, Retreat, Abandonment, Solitary, Hermit; R. Economy, Precaution, Regulation of Expenditure.

61. Three of SwordsA Nun, Separation, Removal, Rupture, Quarrel; R. Error, Confusion, Misrule, Disorder.

62. Deuce of SwordsFriendship, Valor, Firmness, Courage; R. False Friends, Treachery, Lies.

63. Ace of SwordsTriumph, Fecundity, Fertility, Prosperity; R. Embarrassment, Foolish and Hopeless Love, Obstacle, Hindrance.

64. King of PentaclesA dark Man, Victory, Bravery, Courage, Success; R. An old and vicious Man, a Dangerous Man, Doubt, Fear, Peril, Danger.

65. Queen of PentaclesA dark Woman, a generous Woman, Liberality, Greatness of Soul, Generosity; R. Certain Evil, a suspicious Woman, a Woman justly regarded with Suspicion, Doubt, Mistrust.

66. Knight of PentaclesA useful Man, Trustworthy, Wisdom, Economy, Order, Regulation; R. A brave Man, but out of Employment, Idle, Unemployed, Negligent.

67. Knave of PentaclesA dark Youth, Economy, Order, Rule, Management; R. Prodigality, Profusion, Waste, Dissipation.

68. Ten of PentaclesHouse, Dwelling, Habitation, Family; R. Gambling, Dissipation, Robbery, Loss.

69. Nine of PentaclesDiscretion, Circumspection, Prudence, Discernment; R. Deceit, Bad faith, Artifices, Deception.

70. Eight of PentaclesA dark Girl, Beauty, Candor, Chastity, Innocence, Modesty; R. Flattery, Usury, Hypocrisy, Shifty.

71. Seven of PentaclesMoney, Finance, Treasure, Gain, Profit; R. Disturbance, Worry, Anxiety, Melancholy.

72. Six of PentaclesPresents, Gifts, Gratification: R. Ambition, Desire, Passion, Aim, Longing.

73. Five of PentaclesLover or Mistress, Love, Sweetness, Affection, Pure and Chaste Love; R. Disgraceful Love, Imprudence, License, Profligacy.

74. Four of PentaclesPleasure, Gaiety, Enjoyment, Satisfaction; R. Obstacles, Hindrances.

75. Three of PentaclesNobility, Elevation, Dignity, Rank, Power; R. Children, Sons, Daughters, Youths, Commencement.

76. Deuce of PentaclesEmbarrassment, Worry, Difficulties; R. Letter, Missive, Epistle, Message.

77. Ace of Pentacles.— Perfect Contentment, Felicity, Prosperity, Triumph; R. Purse of Gold, Money, Gain, Help, Profit, Riches.

The following additional remarks may be serviceable to the to the inexperienced Cartomancer. They are chiefly taken from Etteilla.

24. Knight of SceptersThis card is not to be read singly; it means the Departure of the card which follows it. R. Again, notice the card which follows it; if a Woman, Quarrel with a Woman; if Money, then Loss of Money, &c.

25. Knave of SceptersR. Notice between what cards the News falls, which will show whence it comes, and of what nature it is.

34. Deuce of SceptersR. If the cards fall 49 R., 34 R., you will be surprised by a change. If 47, 49 R., 34 R., it will be happy; but the reverse if they fall 54, 49 R., 34 R.

38. The Knight of CupsThis shows the arrival of the card which follows it, as 38, 54, the arrival of affliction or grief; 38, 39, the visit of a fair young man, etc.

43. Seven of CupsExplains the card which follows; thus, 43,

30, 33, The idea of attempting some undertaking. This will again be modified by the following cards.

44. Six of CupsShows either that what precedes it is past, has occurred already; or if R., what is going to happen.

46. Four of CupsThe following cards might show what the displeasure or anxiety was about; the preceding cards, whence it originated.

51. Queen of SwordsThis is not necessarily to be taken by itself; it may signify that the person symbolized by the cards near it has just lost, or is likely soon to lose, wife or husband. In some instances it may merely signify that if two people are married, the one will die some time before the other, but not necessarily that the event will occur immediately.

53. Knave of SwordsR. If 72, 53 R. An unexpected present. If 53 R., 54, unexpected grief, etc.

55. Nine of SwordsR. The card following will show whom or what to distrust, &c..

56. Eight of SwordsR. Shows Treachery or Deceit in the past, and will be explained by the neighboring cards.

57. Seven of SwordsR. The cards which come next will show whether it will be good to follow the advice given or not. Also, the preceding cards will show from whom, and why, the advice comes.

60. Four of SwordsR. The cards near will show whether it is health or money that requires care.

61. Three of SwordsR. May show simply that something is lost, or mislaid for a time.

62. Deuce of SwordsR. If confirmed by the other cards may simply mean that the friends are not of much use to the inquirer in the matter under consideration.

65. Queen of PentaclesR. (If this card does not signify any particular person). If 65 R., 31 R., It is not said that there will be a Lawsuit. If 31 R., 65 R., If you gain your case you won’t be much the better for it.

67. Knave of PentaclesR. Consult the following cards to see in what the person is prodigal. If 67 R., 57 R., it may simply mean that the person is too fond of giving advice, intermed­dles too much with other people’s business.

71. Seven of PentaclesR. The next card will show the reason of the anxiety, and so on.

73. Five of PentaclesShows simply that there is some one whom the person loves.

The Court-Cards, and especially the Kings and Queens, may be taken to represent persons; in this case their additional meaning should not be read. The Swords represent very dark people; Pentacles, those not so dark; Cups, rather fair people; Wands or Scepters, those much fairer, and so on. Many Wands together might signify feasting, many Cups love­making, Swords quarrelling and trouble, Coins or Pentacles money.

Where the mode of reading the cards requires that the person consulting should be represented, he should take one of the Kings to represent himself, according to his comple­xion. If a lady consults the cards, let her take one of the Queens; if she be rather fair, the Queen of Cups; if she be very fair, the Queen of Wands or Scepters. If the inquirer be quite a youth or a boy, let him take one of the Knights; if a very young girl, let her take the Knave, etc. Etteilla’s plan was to take two of the Keys for Significators, that answering to the Pope for a man, that answering to the High Priestess for a woman; but I do not think this is so well. The worst of Etteilla’s system is that he so completely destroys the meanings of the Keys in his attempted rearrangement of them, as to make them practically useless for higher occult purposes.


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Meaning of the Tarot Cards