Tarot deck : Minor arcana, devlog 1

Designing the minor arcana cards : drawing each suit, from Ace to Four!

alpha_rats - 2020-11-27

After some preliminary research, I started designing the cards for the minor arcana of my tarot deck!

Here are the four first cards of each suit. For the general meaning of the cards, I drew heavy inspiration from the Raider-Waite and Thoth tarot decks with their fully illustrated arcanas.
However, I tried to come up with original illustrations based on my own perception of each card, to avoid generating yet another clone of the existing decks.

For all the four suits, the first four cards have a similar framing to their meaning :

Card Ace Two Three Four
General meaning Beginning Duality Creation Concretisation

And here is an outline of the general meaning of the four suits :

Suit of Disks Suit of Wands Suit of Swords Suit of Cups
Spring Autumn Summer Winter
Earth Fire Air Water
Material, Potential Projects, Action Intellect, Motivation Affect, Emotions

This progress update includes the first four cards from each suit.


Suit of Coins

General meaning : Spring, earth, material realm, finances, potential.

☀️ Ace of coins - Beginning

All Aces symbolises beginning, and in this case potential, growth, maturation, and a pointer towards the ressources available around us. This egg is similar to the primordial egg present in numerous mythologies from which worlds can emerge, and the painted egg used to celebrate easter and the coming of a new spring. The bells visible in this design reference the swiss and german name of this suit, Schellen, meaning hawk bells.

☀️ Two of coins : Change - Duality

A snake is coiled around the creature which just emerged from the egg.
The tides, and the changing weather make this card very dynamic : it's influenced by cyclic changes, linear evolutions, and chaotic phenomena, to which the siren/androgyne constantly adapts. We can see the creature has human, fish-like, and reptile qualities to it, and webbed hands similar to sea bids. It is versatile and not afraid of change, and habits liminal spaces.
We can see the creature holding the two halves of the open egg, showing the evolution of an insect from larva to pupa.

☀️ Three of coins : Collaboration - Creation

All the ants in the colony are alike, but they all have their specialisations and their role to play. We can see the small ants using their force together not only to carry some very large berries, but also to build a full underground ant city. Craft, tradition, collaboration and inventivity all come together to make the total more than the sum of the parts. Ants are also silent and pervasive : everywhere we look, we can notice them if we pay attention. They are masters of taking advantage of, adapting to, and modifing their environment to suit their needs.
They are working at dawn and hidden in the shade of tree leaves, but the mounds they built are visible from very far away.

☀️ Four of coins : Power / Status Quo - Concretisation

In this card we can see a very strong figure, which is also so static that it could as well be a statue. They are sitting in the middle of a moat similar to the ones surrounding castles, and they are holding four large spheres symbolising their accumulated wealth. We can see stability and time allowed moss to grow over the stones. They are safe, they are stable, but they are also stiffened by the responsabilities to hold on their acquired assets, and fear their demise. They can be a symbol people look up to for motivation and reassurance.
It is the authority confered to things ancient and proven.

Suit of Swords

General meaning : Summer, air, mental realm, ideas, concepts.

⚔️ Ace of Swords - Beginning

The beginning of the Swords expressed new ideas, new inspiration, and imagination springing free, put in motion by a strong initial energy. The wings of the butterfly reflect light in a prismatic way, and the insect appears different depending from which vantage point you look at it. It's fluid, mobile and changing just like our minds.
We can see the plant stems growing up towards the light, and the high mountains in the background facing the open sky. It allows new combinations of ideas, like the tissues of the worm are melted and recombined in the cocoon into a different organism.

⚔️ Two of Swords : Stalemate - Duality

After the initial energy of the ace, this card is a standstill : no wind is moving the flags, the clouds are immobile, and the sea is still. We can even see the crescent moon regressing, drawing energy away as this situation persists. The chimera presents bird-like and mammal features : but it can't really fly, and it can't really walk, for this two headed creature doesn't seem to have a plan for action, staring at the floor in opposite directions. The snake has grown a second head, and none of the heads seem to agree about which direction to take.

⚔️ Three of Swords : Adversity - Creation

Two hawks are attacking a third bird, overpowering it. This card is a card of conflict and obstacles. It can signify the trial caused by unfair situations where our mind and hopes are challenged. It's a card of sorrow and emotional pain. However, the birds are swift and fighting in mid-air, and might disperse as fast as they ran into each other : there might be pieces to pick up and wounds to mend, but emotions are only temporary.

⚔️ Four of Swords : Respite - Concretisation

A hunted animal lays hidden in the forest near a water pond. It is now safe but looks like it went through a fight, and the blades have been pulled out of the wounds as the beast is healing. One of the swords acts as a protective ward, and the orchids are watching over the animal. Mountains are visible in the distance.

Suit of Cups

General meaning : winter, water, emotional realm, relationships, intuition.

💦 Ace of Cups - Beginning

The Beginning of Cups hints at a very deep, ancient past : we are crawling on the ocean bed with a primitive and pre-historic crustacean creature. We can see numerous hidden treasures littering the ocean floor, and sources of hot gas and water pouring from the depth of the earth. This card is a card of deep uncouscious thoughts and emotions, and symbolises our past as well as the past of all living creatures.

💦 Two of Cups - Partnership - Duality

Two creatures are having a date under the full moon.
The most obvious meaning of this card is a love relationship, but can also represent a platonic dynamic. The key here is the sense of connection and the creative energy at play : both creatures dip in the same stream which comes out stronger from the fountain and turns into a waterfall as it's streaming down the rocks. It's a card of intimacy and emotional bond and fusion. What both parties infuse into the stream comes out tenfold.This bond allows for secrecy and intimate spaces : a refuge or a prison.

💦 Three of Cups - Celebration - Creation

Three creatures are arriving at the party. They are curious and elated to share an experience together, and are seizing the view of all the exciting moments ahead. This is a card of leisure, community, emotional connection, hedonism and sharing, where one can explore and experience new things or enjoy what they love. It's a space where someone can make kin with others, be themselves, or dissolve in the moment. It's downside is excess, addiction, recklessness, or excessive hedonism.

💦 Four of Cups - Reflexion - Concretisation

This card follows the celebration : the creature is now alone, looking at a distant river and standing by the balcony. Behind them, we can see a vase with four flowers, but they don't seem to care or pay attention to them. Their attention is focused inwards or towards future prospects. This card can associated with necessary reflexion and self-care, but also rumination and inaction.

Suit of Wands

General meaning : autumn, fire, projects, action, motivation, professional sphere.

🌿 Ace of Wands - Beginning

The salamander is not affacted by the fire pit it's thrown into, as is one with the fire. We can see in the background the red sky heated by the smoke of the volcanos fulminating with energy. The Ace of wands is an industrious and courageous card, tied to projects, hard work, perseverance and action. The beginning this card expresses is born in the forge : it's the potential ideas we make flesh by putting ourselves to work.

🌿 Two of Wands - Dominion - Duality

A salamander is flying over the sea : it belongs to the realm of dragons and can see all it's dominion from far above. This card is a card of control, foresight and ambition. It can be a sign of arrogance and self-importance. It's a card of internal power, expressing the will to control : it also displays self-possession and discipline, as the two headed snake has full control of it's contrary impulses and steers it's flying towards a very precise goal.

🌿 Three of Wands - Planning - Creation

The little spider is skilled in it's craft, careful in it's planning, and steady in execution.
This is a card of method, oragnisation, and execution of our plans necessary for success. From it's vantage point the spider can look far away into the horizon towards the rising sun.
This card can also be a sign of hybris or a failure to see that even the best plans can be torn apart by forces we have no control over. In it's downside, it can be seen as a failure to follow up on our ideas or disorganisation.

🌿 Four of Wands - Homecoming - Concretisation

Sometimes one has to come back to their roots to heal or to grow. This card symbolises a safe space one can call home, home-making, nesting, and care provided to and by our loved ones. It's a card of beginning but as a return to it rather than a fresh start. In it's positive aspect it respresents the best sides of tradition, community, home and family.
In it's downside, it can symbolise regression, a refusal to grow, immaturity, or toxic dynamics at work stemming from our upbringing.


That is all for now ✨
Stay in touch for more updates on the following cards!

Thank you for reading!

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related articles : work on the deck

📄 Research : the minor arcana [11.2020]
📄 Design : minor arcana : from Ace to Four [11.2020]
📄 Design : minor arcana : from Five to Eight [12.2020]
Tarot deck : Minor arcana, devlog 1
date : 2020-11-27 / alpharats.com/blog
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