In earlier articles, we provided correspondences between the Zodiac and some of the Major Arcana cards. But this isn’t the whole picture, it’s only a simplified version of a larger topic. If you’ve had experience working with the Golden Dawn, or have ever worked with a Thoth tradition deck, you’ll likely also be wondering about the astrological symbols that you see imprinted on the cards. If you take a closer examination of all this, you’ll see that the entire Minor Arcana of the tarot is arranged in a way so that they are connected beautifully with astrological concepts. This article is meant to briefly cover the connection between astrology and tarot in the Minor Arcana only.
A fair word of warning, we’re trying very hard to cover this complex topic in a single article alongside diagrams. Much like our previous series on the Tree of Life and Tarot, there are just some depth that we won’t be able to do. We’re going to assume here that you have an intermediate understanding of both astrology and tarot. If you don’t, you can read a bit more about both astrology and tarot on our free resources section. That area will likely include key concepts that you may see mentioned here.
Astrology and Tarot: The Qualities, Elements and Numbered Cards of the Minor Arcana
We’ll start with looking at some concepts that are more likely to be familiar to those that have prior knowledge of astrology. One key concept used in determining correspondences between tarot and astrology is how each zodiac sign has their own quality (cardinal, fixed, mutable) and their own element. The quality of the zodiac sign determines the numbered cards, while the element, as you may already know, determines the tarot suit.
- Cards 2, 3, 4 - Correlated to cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn). Cardinal signs are considered the initiators or leaders of the zodiac; they represent the start of their respective seasons.
- Cards 5, 6, 7 - Correlated to fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius). Fixed signs are reliable and stable; they are dedicated with strong follow through. They represent the middle of their respective seasons.
- Card 8, 9, 10 - Correlated to mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces). Mutable signs are adaptable and versatile. They represent the end of their respective seasons.
By looking at these correlations, we can start getting a vague picture of which numbered cards are assigned to which zodiac signs. For example, we know that Aries is a cardinal, fire element sign. That means that the zodiac sign Aries corresponds to the 2, 3 and 4 of Wands. You may also notice that the aces are not present in this chart. That is because the aces are the source of power for each of the elements, meaning that aces instead represent the entire element itself, and therefore 3 entire zodiac signs. The Ace of Wands is thought to represent Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.
We’ll summarize these correspondences in this following chart:
Astrology and Tarot: Classical Astrology and the Chaldean Order
So that should take care of the zodiac correspondences within the Minor Arcana. But if you examine a minor arcana pip card from a Thoth tradition tarot deck, you’ll see two astrological symbols each; a zodiac sign and a planet.
Before we get into understanding the planet symbol on each of your cards, we’ll need to make a distinction about is the difference between Classical Astrology and Modern Astrology. Classical Astrology flourished during the Renaissance, before many of the concepts that we’re now so used to talking about in astrology were even discovered. One of the main differences was the number of planets used in astrological calculations; instead of our usual 10 familiar planetary bodies, there were only 7 back then. The outer planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) were not visible with the naked eye.
A key concept when working with the tarot will be something called the Chaldean Order, where each of these 7 planetary bodies are arranged based on their relative geocentric orbital period, or in other words, their speed of movement based on our perspective from earth. Understanding the Chaldean Order will be the basis for how we begin to create correspondences between the Minor Arcana and astrology.
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Astrology and Tarot: Understanding the Decan
Let’s start by looking at the Zodiac Wheel. You may recognize this wheel if you draw your own natal charts or your transits. You’re probably already used to seeing the zodiac signs along the circumference of the wheel, dividing this wheel into 12 sections. Each zodiac sign controls 30 degrees of the wheel.
The 12 signs of the zodiac can be further divided into 3 decans each, for a total of 36 decans. Each decan takes up 10 degrees on the zodiac wheel, which is just about equivalent to 10 days.
Now, remember the Chaldean Order? In Classical astrology, each of these decans are ruled by the 7 planets of the Chaldean Order. They go in sequence, starting from Aries (the first zodiac sign of the year, since in astrology, the year starts with the Spring Equinox) and ending in Pisces.
The first decan of Aries is ruled by Mars, the second by the Sun, and the third by Venus. The order does from slower relative geocentric orbit, to faster. After Aries, we find Taurus, symbolizing the middle of spring. If we continue the Chaldean Order, that means that the next planet and the first decan of Taurus is Mercury. The second decan of Taurus is the Moon, and then we begin the Chaldean Order over, with the third decan of Taurus being ruled by Saturn.
Finally, at the end of it all, the third decan of Pisces is ruled by Mars again.
Now with all the planetary rulers of each decan in place, you can look at your tarot cards again. The planetary symbol corresponds to the decan on the zodiac wheel, giving you its exact location. Putting it all together, you’ll see a pattern emerge; weaving together elements, qualities and zodiac signs to form a picture of the whole year and the entire zodiac wheel.
|Aries Tarot Cards||Taurus Tarot Cards|
2 of Wands - Mars in Aries
3 of Wands - Sun in Aries
4 of Wands - Venus in Aries
5 of Pentacles - Mercury in Taurus
6 of Pentacles - Moon in Taurus
7 of Pentacles - Saturn in Taurus
|Gemini Tarot Cards||Cancer Tarot Cards|
8 of Swords - Jupiter in Gemini
9 of Swords - Mars in Gemini
10 of Swords - Sun in Gemini
2 of Cups - Venus in Cancer
3 of Cups - Mercury in Cancer
4 of Cups - Moon in Cancer
|Leo Tarot Cards||Virgo Tarot Cards|
5 of Wands - Saturn in Leo
6 of Wands - Jupiter in Leo
7 of Wands - Mars in Leo
8 of Pentacles - Sun in Virgo
9 of Pentacles - Venus in Virgo
10 of Pentacles - Mercury in Virgo
|Libra Tarot Cards||Scorpio Tarot Cards|
2 of Swords - Moon in Libra
3 of Swords - Saturn in Libra
4 of Swords - Jupiter in Libra
5 of Cups - Mars in Scorpio
6 of Cups - Sun in Scorpio
7 of Cups - Venus in Scorpio
|Sagittarius Tarot Cards||Capricorn Tarot Cards|
8 of Wands - Mercury in Sagittarius
9 of Wands - Moon in Sagittarius
10 of Wands - Saturn in Sagittarius
2 of Pentacles - Jupiter in Capricorn
3 of Pentacles - Mars in Capricorn
4 of Pentacles - Sun in Capricorn
|Aquarius Tarot Cards||Pisces Tarot Cards|
5 of Swords - Venus in Aquarius
6 of Swords - Mercury in Aquarius
7 of Swords - Moon in Aquarius
8 of Cups - Saturn in Pisces
9 of Cups - Jupiter in Pisces
10 of Cups - Mars in Pisces
Astrology and Tarot Correspondences: The Minor Arcana Infographic