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Deciphering the Meanings of the Tarot Suits in Different Types of Readings

By February 15, 2012 May 17th, 2023

Have you ever gone to do a relationship Tarot reading, only to find your spread is full of Pentacles? Or what about a work-related Tarot reading where half the spread is made up of Cups?

It’s not always possible to pull a card, open a Tarot book, and immediately discover the exact answer that applies to your question (although it would make life a lot easier if this were the case!). It can be very frustrating — especially for new Tarot readers!

When we read on a specific topic, we often expect to see Tarot cards that confirm or emphasize certain messages. But what happens when the cards throw a curveball? What happens when we get a bunch of cards that don’t match up with the question we asked?

Rest assured — it isn’t the Universe trying to confuse you! Instead, the appearance of ‘unexpected’ Tarot suits in your reading holds special significance and is something that needs your attention.


One of the first things we learn when we start exploring Tarot is the general meaning for each of the Tarot suits. We learn that:

  • Wands = Motivation, energy, inspiration, and matters of the soul
  • Pentacles = Career, work, finances, and practical matters
  • Swords = The intellect, conversation, truth, and matters of the mind
  • Cups = Emotions, feelings, relationships, and matters of the heart

Need a little help remember the general Tarot card meanings? Grab my FREE Tarot Card Meanings Reference Guide here!

Now, when we do relationship readings, it would make sense to see lots of Cups. And when we do personal development readings, it would make sense to see lots of Wands.

But what if it doesn’t work this way? What happens if we end up with a relationship reading full of Pentacles, or a personal development reading full of Swords?!


The beauty of the Tarot is that it often brings issues or concerns that we aren’t aware of yet to the surface. It illuminates the things hidden in our subconscious minds, so that we can then become more aware of what is influencing us — what’s shaping our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

There are several different ways we can interpret the different suits in different readings. I’ll share some of my favorites — and a free tool you can download today to make your life a lot easier!


The first thing to understand is that the answers we see in our Tarot cards don’t change the question we’ve asked or the spread we’ve used. If you unexpectedly see a lot of a conflicting spread in a reading, ask yourself: how are the themes of this suit impacting this situation?

If you set out to do a reading about a new relationship and the majority of the cards are Pentacles, it doesn’t mean the reading is actually supposed to be about work. If you’ve asked a question about work and pulled a majority of Wands, it doesn’t mean that the reading is actually supposed to be about your spiritual quest.

So when you do see a lot of Pentacles in a relationship reading — stop and consider how money or your career may be impacting your relationship. Is there something you need that you have been missing here? Is money taking precedence over your deeper feelings for one another?

Or, if you see a bunch of Swords in your personal development reading — ask yourself how your intellect and your mind may be affecting your spiritual connection. Are you trying to rationalize and critique your life when you really need to be tapping into your inner psyche? What truths do you need to find as you develop and grow?

Consider how this is impacting that in those unexpected-suit-heavy readings, and your insights will become deeper and deeper.

Deepen your relationship to the cards with my FREE Tarot Card Meanings Reference Guide!


In addition to which suits are appearing in your reading, take note of the numbers themselves too. Basic numerology can tell us a lot about a spread and the underlying messages within it, especially with regard to the progression (or lack of progression!) on a particular issue.

Imagine that you draw one Ace, two Twos, and one Three in a reading. Together, these cards suggest that the energy surrounding the situation is very new, or is in uncharted territory. They may be indicating the beginning stages of a new relationship or a new job offer with details that will need more attention.

Say you were to draw one Eight, three Nines, and two Tens in a relationship reading — do you think this suggests the relationship is new and exciting or drawing to completion? Do you think it might indicate a fulfilling, time-tested partnership, or a flash-in-the-pan spontaneous attraction?

Lastly, let’s consider what it might mean if you were to draw one Two, one Ten, and one Ace. The significant jump forward followed by another significant jump backward could be telling of a tumultuous journey or an unexpected turn of events.

Pay close attention to the numerology of your readings — both for the individual cards and as a separate story within a spread.


One very simple way to work with the suits in different reading scenarios is to ask direct yes or no questions.

Now, full disclosure — this is not my preferred method of reading Tarot. As you know, I prefer to explore the question with detailed spreads that focus on asking open-ended, choice-based questions. That said, I know there are many readers who are perfectly comfortable with asking yes-or-no questions. So hats off to them, and I hope knowing more about this method proves useful to you as well.

One straightforward way to work with this technique is to directly ask a question that has a simple yes or no answer and draw a single card. As a general rule, Cups and Wands are “yes” cards, and Pentacles and Swords are “no” cards.

Or you can include a single yes or no question within your spread. For example, your final position might ask, “Is it likely that my relationship with X will improve?” and pull a single card to close out your reading.

Clarifier cards work the same way. If you draw a particular card within a spread that proves impossible to interpret, you can go ahead and draw an extra card for clarification. In this instance, yes or no questions can be really useful to cut to the chase and get to the bottom of those pesky “I don’t get it!” cards.

For example — consider this spread for a new relationship:

  1. Past — Two of Cups
  2. Present — Nine of Cups
  3. Future — Death

If you were a bit stumped on the Death card, you might choose to draw a clarifier asking, “Is this transformation going to affect our relationship negatively?” or, “Is this transformation going to make our relationship stronger?”

Remember that regardless of what the Tarot tells you, you always have free will and the ability to change your own future. I don’t believe that anything is set in stone. But, if you’re the kind of person who occasionally needs a clear (or blunt!) yes or no answer, give this technique a try.


Of course, Tarot cards are much more than just their suits!

If the Swords in your work reading or Wands in your love reading don’t seem to fit, then forget about the Swords and Wands for a moment. Instead, take note of the symbols and scenes in each of the cards in your deck.

Are there lots of castles? Clouds? Flowers? Are the figures inside or outside? Are the figures in action, or are they seated? Can you see a lot of one or two particular colours in the spread overall? What might the prominent colors tell you about the energy of the reading?

Think of each individual card as its own movie scene. Notice the props, the sets, the actors — all the symbols and colors that come together to form the cards themselves. Together, this can often tell you far more about the reading than a cluster of one particular suit.

The suits and their corresponding meanings are, of course, essential to know. It’s one of the first systems you’ll learn when getting to know your Tarot cards. But don’t forget, your most insightful readings will come from learning to trust your intuition  — from beginning to notice and lean into the things that stand out to you personally in each reading.

That said, I know this takes time and practice — which is why I created my FREE fillable Tarot Card Meanings Reference Guide!

With this template, you can create and lean into your own card meanings, rather than simply relying on your books.

Trusting your intuition and leaning into what you notice in the cards during each individual reading is a skill — it takes time and practice! And that's why I've not only included the general meanings for each card in my FREE Tarot Card Meanings Reference Guide, but you'll also receive an empty fillable copy so you can start building your own meanings too!

CLICK HERE to download your FREE copy of the Tarot Card Meanings Reference Guide, and start building your own deeply personal relationship with all 78 Tarot cards.


Don’t be put off when you see an unexpected suit come up in your Tarot readings. Instead, see it as an opportunity to think differently about your situation. Remember, Tarot rarely shows us brand new information about ourselves or our circumstances. It simply guides the path forward — the path that’s paved with our own choices.

By asking yourself (or your client) some further questions about how these unexpected suits may be impacting your reading, you’ll bring these issues into conscious awareness in new and powerful ways.

Bottom line? Don’t be afraid of unexpected suits in your readings — they’re only here to help you make the changes you most need!

Deepen your relationship to the cards with my FREE Tarot Card Meanings Reference Guide today!


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