Classic suits


On my final day with the Tarot Classic, I decided to do some actual study again. I’m closely following the suggestions to look at the suits that were given by Sherryl E. Smith on her website “Tarot Heritage”. I hope she doesn’t mind me paraphrasing or quoting some of her prompts – they are just so good (and the post makes more sense with them than without them)!

First, I picked four cards of each suit, always including the Ace, and laid them out in a row each. Then I looked at the actual suit symbols and wondered who would use them, where, when, and for what purpose.

Ceremonial maceWands

The Ace shows a cut off piece of wood with two cut-off branches. The rest of the wands are green staffs with decorations on both ends. They all have red “knobs” at each third. I actually have no idea who would use these kinds of staffs. They don’t seem to work well as (defensive) weapons due to these knobs (I imagine that would hinder other staffs from sliding off). They are arranged in straight lines that form a weave pattern. The many leaves in several of the cards and the green color make the wands feel very alive and earthy.

After I’ve looked around on Wikipedia a bit, I can now say that the wands of the Tarot Classic are most similar to ceremonial maces – a symbol of political, clerical, and/or royal authority (derived from what used to be weapons earlier).

The Ace of Wands feels alive, like a freshly cut branch, which is underlined by the fruits and flowers surrounding it. The hand holding the club seems disembodied, which I take to mean that this energy isn’t very grounded, yet (despite my initial impression of the Wands as the suit of earth). It is clearly only a part of the whole we get to see here. The beams of light emanating from the cloud also feel very dynamic, which fits well with the association of Wands with fire (then again, earth and what grows in/from it also is pretty dynamic). The way the flowers and fruit fall from the sky makes me think of ideas “falling” into one’s head, which finally makes me understand why Wands are often associated with inspiration. Either way, we are clearly getting some gifts here.


The coins look like golden disks with a stylized floral pattern stamped onto them. The one on the Ace is a lot bigger and decorated in much more detail. It also has blue added as a second color. The flowers on them almost seem like little pinwheels, and the spiked circles around them make me think of cogwheels. The idea of cycles is definitely emphasized, although my association with industrial work is a bit a-chronological. I would not be surprised to see these coins associated with air instead of earth (I have no idea if there are any elemental associations attached to this deck’s suits). I’m also noticing that the coins have a lot of ornamentation going on which seems only vaguely plant-like compared to what can be seen in the wands.

The Ace of Coins has me thinking of jewelry, more specifically a bracelet of which we see the central decoration. It could also be a clockwork. The blue and yellow decorations feel heraldic to me, official, and rather solid. Even the flowers come with thick stems and are well-attached to the arrangement. The energy is rather slow. I’m not quite sure where there is up or down with this image because there is no ground or direction to this image. Despite all the cycles, that makes it feel rather timeless.


The swords are red and black, with yellow accents. Definitely fiery colors to me. Some of them (the Ace and a few of the “extra” ones in the other cards) look like antique but functional swords (weapons). The other ones are more stylized, bent, and much, much longer than would be practical to use. They always make a sort of frame that is woven together at each of the ends. These frames seem to both open a space and contain it.

The Ace of Swords also has a crown with a branch of laurel (for victory) and olive (for peace) each (I had to look up the latter one). Another piece of an olive branch is falling down, which I take to mean that some peace has been lost, some injury occured. The sword is a double-edged one (like all of the functional swords here), which underlines the message of war and peace, of victory and injury, winning and losing. The hand holding the sword seems to come out of the cloud (which could also be a very puffy sleeve). To me, that means that we have a choice what to do with the sword, and that our actions are tied to a larger scope than we might currently see.

Chalice + ciboriumCups

The cups confuse me a bit because none of them seems to be open. They all appear to have some kind of lid (unless someone was really, really bad at drawing shadows). Their colors are blue and gold and they are all decorated with patterns and ornaments. The biggest one is the one on the Ace, which is also the one with the most detail. The only element left over by now is water, and I think it’s a good fit for these cups.

Another explorational tour through Wikipedia tells me that there are indeed chalices (for holding wine) without a lid and ciboriums (for holding bread/hosts) with a lid (can you tell by the way I have to look these things up that I haven’t been exposed to much Christian ritual in my life?). However, a ciborium always seems to have a cross on top of its lid (for easier lifting, I suppose) and the ones in my tarot deck don’t. Curious.

The Ace of Cups depicts a huge cup, or make that ciborium (because this lid has a grip). The two upper corners of the card show waves of red and yellow, which makes me think of fire and also of a curtain. The patterns on the cup could also be a mouth with big yellow teeth. And what happens if we don’t keep a lid on it? This is the most msyterious of suits to me, the one revealing the least about itself.

There are more questions about the suits but I will save those for another day. Nevertheless I heartily recommend these exercises for any deck with non-scenic pips. I’m already looking forward to coming back to them in greater depth!


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