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Tarot Tattoo Design Ideas and Meanings: The Minor Arcana (Suit Cards: Swords, Cups, Wands, and Coins)

I am a Fire Horse in Chinese astrology, and my life symbol is the Lovers according to the tarot.

Tarot Tattoos: Swords, Cups, Wands, and Pentacles

Tarot Tattoos: Swords, Cups, Wands, and Pentacles

Ace, one, two....nine, ten of swords, cups, wands, or pentacles: When you draw one of these tarot cards from the deck (or are drawn to one of these cards), it often means that the card's meaning, look, and symbolism fully resonate for you.

If you have a tattoo like this—or if you're thinking of getting one—you probably want to dig deeper into the card's meaning. We'll also brainstorm meaningful design elements and look at photos to help you get the most out of your tarot tattoo design. You will find...

  1. a brief description of each card—Ace through Ten—in each suit,
  2. imagery and symbolism that pairs well with that card, and
  3. how to design a unique tarot card tattoo that suits you and only you.
Tarot suits tattoo by @inocculto Dorćol Platz at InOcculto Tattoo in Belgrade, Serbia.

Tarot suits tattoo by @inocculto Dorćol Platz at InOcculto Tattoo in Belgrade, Serbia.

What the Suits Mean

  • Swords (mental or cerebral)
  • Cups (emotional or inward-turned)
  • Wands (spiritual or upward-turned) (aka batons, rods, or staves)
  • Pentacles (physical or material) (aka disks or coins)

What about the trumps suit?

"Trumps" is just another word for the Major Arcana, those 22 super-symbolic cards that are thought to represent the stages of personal evolution in a journey that starts at 0 trump (the inexperienced "Fool") and ends at 21 (with the expansive "World/Universe"). The Major Arcana's assertive symbols often connect to ancient mythologies—like "Death" and "The Devil," cards whose names declare their meaning loud and clear the way a trumpet might.

If you're interested in those cards, read Tarot Card Tattoo Design Ideas and Meanings: The Major Arcana. If you're looking for the royal cards—King, Queen, Prince, and Princess—read Tarot Card Tattoo Design Ideas and Meanings: The Court Cards or Royalty Symbols.

Three of Swords tattoo by @soulass in Taipei,Taiwan.

Three of Swords tattoo by @soulass in Taipei,Taiwan.

@witchhousetattoo in Hartford, CT

@witchhousetattoo in Hartford, CT

Suit of Swords Tattoo Meanings: Ace Through Ten

Ace of Swords (Initiation)

  • An expanded awareness; the consciousness and courage that is necessary to take that first step.
  • The first step of a journey, trip, pilgrimage, or personal creative evolution.
  • The crown shines in an "Aha!" moment of expansion; the clouds part like curtains to let in the shining rays of the new day in.

Two of Swords (Peace)

  • A mind that has made itself up, come to a decision, determined a choice.
  • The quiet, full, resonant peace of mind that follows a flurry of indecision.
  • Two swords are posed at a balance, truce, or agreement. A choice has been made between two things: two paths, two selves, two people, two beliefs. A mutual understanding has formed, a balance reached, a path decided.

Three of Swords (Sorrow)

  • This card represents sorrow: Sorrow licked like a wound or chewed like an aching bone of regret; a hungry longing for things lost forever.
  • This card is often depicted as a bleeding heart shish-kabobbed by three swords and accompanied by big red drops of blood.
  • It also often includes an image of an open eye and rain or tears falling in the background.

Four of Swords (Truce)

  • This card represents the ability to mediate, negotiate, iron out, and mend.
  • Four swords hanging in symmetrical balance: the epitome of stability and conflict resolution.
  • According to Arrien, to achieve this, "one must: first, show up; second, pay attention; third, tell the truth; and fourth, not be attached to outcome."

Five of Swords (Defeat)

  • This card is not necessarily defeat itself, but fear of it. It might also represent a memory of past failures or an anticipatory fear of future defeats.
  • The swords are bent and dripping with blood to represent old fears and wounds.
  • This card represents one whose psyche is distorted and frozen or a memory of being locked in fear.

Six of Swords (Science)

  • Objectivity, fairness, and rational thought.
  • This card represents a bird's-eye-view, omniscience, fair-witnessing, and disinterested observation: The ability to see the whole picture and balance multiple perspectives all at once.
  • A reminder to look at things as they are rather than allow them to be clouded by our ideas, emotions, and past.

Seven of Swords (Futility)

  • Traditionally, this card represented deception, theft, and betrayal of oneself or of others.
  • It also might represent a defeatist mentality of helplessness, hopelessness, and negative, self-sabotaging thoughts, a broken record of boo-hoo and woe-is-me.
  • This card might be the perfect a souvenir for a person who feels betrayed by others or by oneself.

Eight of Swords (Interference)

  • A doubting, nay-saying, skeptical, and over-analytical way of looking at the world that gets in your way.
  • The inability to choose, take a stand, or make a decision. Dithering, second-guessing, hemming and hawing.
  • A reminder of the self-sabotaging results of being overly critical.

Nine of Swords (Cruelty)

  • Being down on yourself, punishing yourself, hurting yourself.
  • Self-harm and self-inflicted pain.
  • This card can also represent the end of negative thoughts like these and the resolution to be kinder to oneself.

Ten of Swords (Endings)

  • This card represents a looming ending or the fear of it: fear of ruin, fear of change, fear of painful or messy endings.
  • Often depicted with a heart pierced by a sword or a body riddled with swords.
  • This card represents and draws our attention to old fears and fear-patterns we inherited from others.
By Chris Dapkus @dapkusc sinksorswimtats.com

By Chris Dapkus @dapkusc sinksorswimtats.com

By Archibaldt à Volonté @tarot_tattoo in Eindhoven, the Netherlands

By Archibaldt à Volonté @tarot_tattoo in Eindhoven, the Netherlands

Suit of Cups Tattoo Meanings: Ace Through Ten

Ace of Cups (Open Heart)

  • This card represents a heart that is open, trusting, and alive.
  • The ability to express emotions from a place of trust and openness rather than fear and control.
  • This is when love is fully felt and expressed to the world...and is met with an equal outpouring of love.

Two of Cups (Love)

  • Balanced, integrated, fulfilled, and unified love.
  • Love that is fully felt internally, in the self and experienced externally, in the world.
  • Two cups fill and overflow with love to represent both giving and receiving, a balanced give-and-take of positive energy.

Three of Cups (Abundance)

  • Love that is fully expressed and communicated. Nothing is held back.
  • The cups overflow in a celebration of friendship, collaborations, and creative teamwork.
  • A trinity or triangle of love.

Four of Cups (Fullness)

  • An utter satisfaction and fulfillment of the emotions: Love that is wholly experienced, without fear or reservation.
  • Love that withholds nothing, that does not owe and is no longer indebted.
  • Love that no longer needs anything from the outside—no external validation, no external subject or source.

Five of Cups (Disappointment)

  • A breakable or broken glass cup represents fragilities and failures in relationships, disappointments in love, and old emotional scars and scabs.
  • A sudden or profound awareness of a deep lack of love.
  • Also a newfound recognition of old and disappointing love patterns.

Six of Cups (Pleasure)

  • Emotional pleasure that heals, makes whole, brings one back to life.
  • Regeneration, renewal, and new life that is inspired by love.
  • This card always reminds me of Marvin Gay's song "Sexual Healing."

Seven of Cups (Indulgence)

  • These seven cups represent what we reach for to sate our needs: our emotional addictions and over-indulgences, whatever they might be.
  • In some decks, each cup is filled with something different—some positive, some negative. The person who draws this card must drink them all in a destructive pattern of intemperance.
  • Emotions that are addictive, possessive, grabby, and all-consuming.

Eight of Cups (Inertia)

  • The water in these eight cups is stagnant and not flowing.
  • As a result of giving too much for too long, all emotions have frozen and stopped
  • An opportunity to break old patterns of one-sided or lopsided relationships.

Nine of Cups (Happiness)

  • This card represents every kind of happiness: financial, spiritual, physical, creative, professional, interpersonal, romantic, etc. All the cups are overflowing!
  • Happiness and fulfillment in body, mind, and spirit.
  • All your wishes have come true.

Ten of Cups (Satisfaction)

  • A contentment that is so utter, so deep, so complete that it just is.
  • After all the conflict, struggles, and lesson-learning, one can just relax and breathe.
  • Deep satisfaction that radiates from within, illuminating all aspects of one's life.
Temperance or cups tattoo by @yespleasetattoos Sai Meloche in Toronto, ON

Temperance or cups tattoo by @yespleasetattoos Sai Meloche in Toronto, ON

By Catherine Hénault @pinpointtatt

By Catherine Hénault @pinpointtatt

Suit of Wands Wands Meaning: Ace Through Ten

Ace of Wands (Awakening)

  • A major aha moment, epiphany, or lifting of the veil: Suddenly you can see into the central truth of the matter.
  • Some part, facet, aspect, or possibility inside you has just opened its eyes for the first time.
  • Your basic nature is awakened. No more faking it, no more pretending.

Two of Wands (Symbiosis)

  • Balance and integration knowing your proper place (in the sense of the perfect role for you or shoes to fill) and filling it fully.
  • Feeling fully comfortable in your domain—in your body, house, community, culture, and world.
  • You stand there with your world in your hands, ready for anything.

Three of Wands (Integrity)

  • Mind, heart, and action are unified. You have attained the inner integrity and resolve needed to move forward.
  • The reminder to only move forward with integrity. Don't take the next step if your heart and mind are not aligned.
  • You have left the safety and comfort of your old reality and stand overlooking the vista beyond.

Four of Wands (Completion)

  • This card is symmetrical and balanced—four pillars, four walls, or four spokes on a wheel—indicating firm foundations, a solid base to build on, a wheel completion.
  • A reminder that before you take the next step, you need to clean up old messes and complete unfinished tasks.
  • Finish what you've started in order to set up a new pattern of completion.

Five of Wands (Conflict)

  • This card represents the state of feeling limited, constrained, blocked, or held back.
  • Five wands fight each other, signifying the inner or outer opponents that challenge your progress
  • Being frustrated, anxious, cagey, and tense as a result of those obstacles and blockages.

Six of Wands (Victory)

  • Victory not just in the material world but a deep, internal, spiritual victory.
  • The kind of unoppressive victory where nobody loses and everyone wins.
  • You don a wreath of victory and ride through a cheering crowd.

Seven of Wands (Courage)

  • You stand atop a hill holding a flaming wand in each hand, ready to protect what you have attained.
  • The courage to trust your own experience and stay true to yourself and to your own inner moral compass.
  • A reminder to remain faithful to your inner truth.

Eight of Wands (Speed)

  • Beyond blocks, beyond obstacles, you are free to move with energy and vigor.
  • Seven winged wands fly like arrows, straight and true toward their unified goal.
  • A reminder of the importance of taking swift and decisive action.

Nine of Wands (Strength)

  • The attainment of spiritual strength and intuitive insight.
  • Conscious and unconscious clarity and vision.
  • It is time to manifest your visions and implement the spiritual strength you have achieved.

Ten of Wands (Oppression)

  • You carry a load of wands on your back, bending under the weight of what you hold.
  • When you are oppressed or when you oppress yourself (by doubting, holding back, or obsessing).
  • Soon, you will release this heavy load.
By Jax @jackieparanoia at 7 Souls Tattoo

By Jax @jackieparanoia at 7 Souls Tattoo

Swords and Wands: The Wild Unknown Wildlings has a library of fabulous tarot card tattoos in the style of Kim Krans' deck.

Swords and Wands: The Wild Unknown Wildlings has a library of fabulous tarot card tattoos in the style of Kim Krans' deck.

Suit of Pentacles or Disks Meaning: Ace Through Ten

Ace of Disks (Success)

  • Internal and external success—success that is (or can be) fully embodied and manifested in the physical world.
  • "When you pull this card, it is an indication that you are no longer willing to support the dichotomy of experiencing internal success and not external success, or [...] external success but not internal success." (Arrien)
  • You are ready to make it all come true and real in the physical world.

Two of Disks (Change)

  • You juggle two coins. You handle the movement, mass, time, and gravity required to effect change on your physical reality.
  • An opportunity to effect real change in the material world.
  • The infinity symbol (∞) and ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail, remind us that change is constant, cyclic, and never-ending.

Three of Disks (Work)

  • This card represents the persistence, commitment, tenacity, and stick-to-it-ness required to get the job done.
  • You stand there, holding your tools, surrounded by a team of like-minded workers, in the structure you are all in the process of erecting.
  • A reminder of the individual effort and teamwork that's necessary to manifest what you truly want to see in the world.

Four of Disks (Power)

  • This card often shows a castle surrounded by a moat, representing the power of boundaries and the four strong walls that delineate the boundaries of your power.
  • You are the self-contained master of your domain.
  • A reminder not to be selfish or greedy with your power, because true power is "the ability to empower oneself and to empower others." (Arrien)

Five of Disks (Worry)

  • The process of ruminating, obsessing, and chewing the cud of worries.
  • A "poverty mindset" that keeps you worrying about risk, finances, and losing control.
  • An opportunity to release old worries, negative attitudes, and unhealthy patterns about money and finances that no longer serve you.

Six of Disks (Success)

  • The deep sense of satisfaction that success brings.
  • You have attained a level of physical security that allows you to feel physically safe, secure, and invulnerable.
  • A karmic reminder that you get what you give. If you have success, it is your responsibility to share it or to help others attain it.

Seven of Disks (Failure)

  • Being frozen or incapacitated by fear—both the fear of failure and the fear of success.
  • A fear of failure that constricts you, reduces you, and saps your power.
  • An opportunity to release old patterns of fears of failure.

Eight of Disks (Harvest)

  • A tree loaded with fruits; a money tree, ripe for the picking.
  • The tenacity, hard work, and vigilance required to sow, tend, and reap your dreams in the physical world.
  • The prudence and discipline required for a successful manifestation.

Nine of Disks (Gain)

  • The attainment of financial independence and self-sufficiency.
  • A reminder that "if we follow what has heart and meaning for us [...] the results are gain—tangible gain, giving one the feeling of having hit the mark, or the bulls eye." (Arrien)
  • You are surrounded luxuriously by the fruits of your labor and the rewards for all your efforts.

Ten of Disks (Wealth)

  • This card represents wealth that is so secure and stable that not only can it be shared, but it can be passed on as a legacy to uplift future generations.
  • Abundance that is vast enough to benefit the world.
  • A reminder that this is the goal of material wealth: to benefit and enrich not just one individual but the whole world.
Tattoo by Amanda Marie  @amanda_marie_tattooer at aceofwandstattoo.com in Los Angeles, CA

Tattoo by Amanda Marie @amanda_marie_tattooer at aceofwandstattoo.com in Los Angeles, CA

Micah Ulrich, artist (see micahulrich.com)

Micah Ulrich, artist (see micahulrich.com)

Imagery and Symbols That Pair Well With Court Cards

Swords CupsWandsPentacles/Coins

Anything that represents the mind: brains, heads, eyes

Anything that represents love: hearts, lips, holding hands, flowers, chains

Anything that represents magic or spirituality: mirrors, water, pentagram, lotus flowers, crystals, white rabbit

Anything that represents the physical or material world: money, jewels, gold, property

Things that cut through old patterns or ideas: rays of light, arrows, scissors

Things that hold emotion: nests, wombs, eggs, hands, houses

Magical symbols or paraphernalia; tools of divination

Things that represent physical structures: buildings, architecture, architectural elements, blueprints

Any type of blade: dagger, boxcutter, switchblade, exacto, etc.

Any type of vessel: goblet, chalice, glass, skull, shells

Anything astrological: the moon, stars, planets

Physical tools: hammers, nails, saws, scythes

Sources of light: suns, lanterns, torches

Liquid or bodies of water: wine, blood, tears, rivers, pools, oceans, lakes

Walking sticks, branches, rods, torches, lanterns

Things that represent physical labor (and the fruits of it): oxen, yolk, agriculture, harvests

Chrystals or Wands tattoo by Andrea Barreda @andreabarreda in Miraflores, Lima

Chrystals or Wands tattoo by Andrea Barreda @andreabarreda in Miraflores, Lima

Which Suit Suits You?