Sacred Texts  Tarot  Tarot Reading  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A.E. Waite, ill. by Pamela Colman Smith [1911], at


Such are the intimations of the Lesser Arcana in respect of divinatory art, the veridic nature of which seems to depend on an alternative that it may be serviceable to express briefly. The records of the art are ex hypothesi the records of findings in the past based upon experience; as such, they are a guide to memory, and those who can master the elements may--still ex hypothesi--give interpretations on their basis. It is an official and automatic working. On the other hand, those who have gifts of intuition, of second sight, of clairvoyance--call it as we choose and may--will supplement the experience of the past by the findings of their own faculty, and will speak of that which they have seen in the pretexts of the oracles. It remains to give, also briefly, the divinatory significance allocated by the same art to the Trumps Major.

1. THE MAGICIAN.--Skill, diplomacy, address, subtlety; sickness, pain, loss, disaster, snares of enemies; self-confidence, will; the Querent, if male. Reversed: Physician, Magus, mental disease, disgrace, disquiet.

2. THE HIGH PRIESTESS.--Secrets, mystery, the future as yet unrevealed; the woman who interests the Querent, if male; the Querent herself, if female; silence, tenacity; mystery, wisdom, science. Reversed: Passion, moral or physical ardour, conceit, surface knowledge.

3. THE EMPRESS.--Fruitfulness, action, initiative, length of days; the unknown, clandestine; also difficulty, doubt, ignorance. Reversed: Light, truth, the unravelling of involved matters, public rejoicings; according to another reading, vacillation.

4. THE EMPEROR.--Stability, power, protection, realization; a great person; aid, reason, conviction; also authority and will. Reversed: Benevolence, compassion, credit; also confusion to enemies, obstruction, immaturity.

5. THE HIEROPHANT.--Marriage, alliance, captivity, servitude; by another account, mercy and goodness; inspiration; the man to whom the Querent has recourse. Reversed: Society, good understanding, concord, overkindness, weakness.

6. THE LOVERS.--Attraction, love, beauty, trials overcome. Reversed: Failure, foolish designs. Another account speaks of marriage frustrated and contrarieties of all kinds.

7. THE CHARIOT.--Succour, providence also war, triumph, presumption, vengeance, trouble. Reversed: Riot, quarrel, dispute, litigation, defeat.

8. FORTITUDE.--Power, energy, action, courage, magnanimity; also complete success and honours. Reversed: Despotism, abuse if power, weakness, discord, sometimes even disgrace.

9. THE HERMIT.--Prudence, circumspection; also and especially treason, dissimulation, roguery, corruption. Reversed: Concealment, disguise, policy, fear, unreasoned caution.

10. WHEEL OF FORTUNE.-Destiny, fortune, success, elevation, luck, felicity. Reversed: Increase, abundance, superfluity.

11. JUSTICE.--Equity, rightness, probity, executive; triumph of the deserving side in law. Reversed: Law in all its departments, legal complications, bigotry, bias, excessive severity.

12. THE HANGED MAN.--Wisdom, circumspection, discernment, trials, sacrifice, intuition, divination, prophecy. Reversed: Selfishness, the crowd, body politic.

13. DEATH.--End, mortality, destruction, corruption also, for a man, the loss of a benefactor for a woman, many contrarieties; for a maid, failure of marriage projects. Reversed: Inertia, sleep, lethargy, petrifaction, somnambulism; hope destroyed.

14. TEMPERANCE.--Economy, moderation, frugality, management, accommodation. Reversed: Things connected with churches, religions, sects, the priesthood, sometimes even the priest who will marry the Querent; also disunion, unfortunate combinations, competing interests.

15. THE DEVIL.--Ravage, violence, vehemence, extraordinary efforts, force, fatality; that which is predestined but is not for this reason evil. Reversed: Evil fatality, weakness, pettiness, blindness.

16. THE TOWER.--Misery, distress, indigence, adversity, calamity, disgrace, deception, ruin. It is a card in particular of unforeseen catastrophe. Reversed: According to one account, the same in a lesser degree also oppression, imprisonment, tyranny.

17. THE STAR.--Loss, theft, privation, abandonment; another reading says-hope and bright prospects, Reversed: Arrogance, haughtiness, impotence.

18. THE MOON.--Hidden enemies, danger, calumny, darkness, terror, deception, occult forces, error. Reversed: Instability, inconstancy, silence, lesser degrees of deception and error.

19. THE SUN.--Material happiness, fortunate marriage, contentment. Reversed: The same in a lesser sense.

20. THE LAST JUDGMENT.--Change of position, renewal, outcome. Another account specifies total loss though lawsuit. Reversed: Weakness, pusillanimity, simplicity; also deliberation, decision, sentence.

ZERO. THE FOOL.--Folly, mania, extravagance, intoxication, delirium, frenzy, bewrayment. Reversed: Negligence, absence, distribution, carelessness, apathy, nullity, vanity.

21. THE WORLD.--Assured success, recompense, voyage, route, emigration, flight, change of place. Reversed: Inertia, fixity, stagnation, permanence.

It will be seen that, except where there is an irresistible suggestion conveyed by the surface meaning, that which is extracted from the Trumps Major by the divinatory art is at once artificial and arbitrary, as it seems to me, in the highest degree. But of one order are the mysteries of light and of another are those of fantasy. The allocation of a fortune-telling aspect to these cards is the story of a prolonged impertinence.

Next: Section 4: Some Additional Meanings of the Lesser Arcana