The Aces really set the tone for the properties of each suit, so I found this lesson in my Tarot course really valuable. These impressions are from the Universal Waite, a recolored version of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Although this deck type is a very popular inspiration and its symbolism considered traditional in a way, it is not the oldest version of the Tarot, and in a lot of newer decks the standard symbolism here has moved around or been altered. This version does form a nice basis for distinguishing the properties of the Minor Arcana suits, though. So here are my impressions:
Wands—To me this is a masculine/extroverted force. Wand is a long stick, made to be swung or tapped into the ground or otherwise used for creating a result in a visible way. One of my favorite things about Pamela Colman-Smith’s wands are the leaves sprouting out of them. Reminds me of the creative force itself and links it in a way to the Earth and the Pentacles suit. I like making connections…:) I also associate Wands with the element of Fire, which helps me remember the aspects of enthusiasm and the chemistry of swift change that can come with creative effort. The Context: However, there is no fire symbolism in the Universal Waite version of the card. A mixed landscape with a castle, mountains, river valley. Not seeing a specific connection with my vision of the Wands suit, except for the castle representing a human-created structure. So, I’ve obviously been influenced by other theme decks where the element of fire itself is more prominent. Although in the Universal Waite, we do see the predominance of red and orange colors.
Cups—To me this is a feminine/introverted force. Its power is in the ability to accept, to mix emotional elements and assess feelings accurately through intuition. Also, I get a sense of, well, plumbing, as in making connections, in this case with hearts/emotions. Water, the element associated with Cups, is a conduit for connection, particularly between Earth and Air (as emotions are for human beings). The Context: I think it’s interesting that this energy of the Ace of Cups is blessed by the Eucharistic dove (Holy Spirit) with the host from Christian communion being dipped into the receptive power of the chalice. Also, three little bells attached to the cup all call to mind the connection of Heaven and Earth in church rituals (bells were rung at the raising of the host to alert everyone of the miracle of transubstantiation). Again the connection between Air (Heaven) and Earth that is the cycle of water in the weather system as well. Connection, connection, connection.
Swords—To me this is a masculine force that can be extroverted or introverted (active in the world or internalized).
**Please note: When I characterize these forces as masculine or feminine, I am not placing any value judgment on their worth or applying them to a particular gender of person, just reflecting traditional archetypal categories. These categories give me a mental/intuitive structure for remembering and applying to connections among the cards.**
Mental clarity comes to mind with the Ace of Swords; slicing through the Air with a sharp, steely intellect to work through challenges presented and make clear-headed decisions. Air and Earth in particular are connected here, with our Earth-based lives presenting the obstacles our minds often face. This card can also be a card of contemplation: mental contemplation prior to making a judgment. Depending on the individual card in the suit, I can get a sense of action in the world or contemplation of the situation in stillness. The Context: The Ace of Swords is suspended above purple mountains, which may represent the challenges that Earth provides during our lifetimes. But we can be in charge, since the sword is also topped by a golden crown, symbol of authority and power, along with what look like six golden…leaves? near the hilt. A connection to Earth drapes from the crown in the form of what I’m told were meant to be olive and palm leaves. So, although the sword can be seen as a weapon, the leaves play to the idea of diplomacy as well, which is often used in the meaning of the Two of Swords.
Pentacles—To me this is a feminine, introverted force primarily, although growth itself can be seen as acting out in the world. In this case, though, in a much more methodical and calmer way than with the Wands. I always get a sense of a plump woman in a comfy chair with this card (Empress, anyone?). Or grandpa surrounded by grandchildren as in the Ten of Pentacles. That’s the ultimate goal here at the Ace level, and the contents of the seed, that relaxed sense of being comfy with the world because, yes, there is plenty and I can trust the Earth to work with me. The Context: Lovely green hedge, nice lawn, lilies and roses, I think, a green archway looking out on mountains; all reinforce this Ace’s Earth energy and sense of material abundance.
Most folks have a suit/Ace that they resonate with. For me it’s the Ace of Cups, because that’s where my essence is. Although astrologically, I am supposed to be the Queen of Wands, and I see that part of me (as I see all the suits in my personality) as well. I do resonate most with the power of intuition and emotional connectedness to bring about deep transformation, though. Loneliness is anathema to me; positive emotional connection is everything. 🙂
So, let me know in the comments which Ace/suit you feel most at home in, and why.