There are so many tarot decks around (and books that teach how to use those decks) that it can be difficult to know which meanings to apply to tarot cards. So many “gurus” give conflicting meanings – which one should you use?

While there are lots of books out there that give you the meaning of tarot cards, one of the best and most personal ways to develop meanings for the cards is to actually study the cards themselves. The cards were developed with symbols and pictures that represent the concept being expressed.

For instance, in the Waite-Rider deck, the Four of Swords depicts a man lying on a bier, on which is pictured a horizontal sword. The meaning of the card is “to bury the hatchet” or let past conflicts come to resolution or rest. The man is literally resting on top of the sword (swords are the fire element, which includes conflicts or fighting) – he is resting on old issues and allowing them to come to rest. He’s “buried the hatchet!”

Similarly, in the eight of wands you can see flying wands coming down to land. Because wands are the air element, and stand for ideas, inspiration, thoughts and communication, the eight of wands represents new ideas or inspirations. Once you know the element associated with each suit and look at the card for the concept being expressed, you will begin to intuit the meaning for tarot cards easily. This approach is both more reliable and more intuitive than relying on someone else’s interpretation (although you may want to use someone else’s definition as a starting point).

A great way to learn the meaning for tarot cards is by taking one card a day, intuiting the meaning, then looking for examples of that meaning or concept in everyday life. For instance, the in the seven of swords card, a thief is stealing 7 swords. Swords are fire, which is also power, therefore the seven of swords is the loss of power. Here’s a quick guideline to help you with the elements and their meanings:

Wands (Air) – Ideas, communication, thoughts, enlightenment, concepts
Swords (Fire) – Power, motivation, action, force, conflict
Cups (Water) – Emotions, feeling, compassion, language of Spirit
Discs or Plate (Earth) – Manifestation, physical expression in the world, physical creation

Once you intuit this meaning, looking for places in your life or in everyday life where you or someone else is losing power. When the concept is translated into everyday life, the meaning becomes real and you will never forget it.