Tarot Picture Cards

by Douglas Gibb on May 29, 2009

The Trump or Picture cards number 22 in total. Try to avoid privileging these cards over the Pip or Court cards. In the game of life, their importance fluctuates.

The Fool, The Magus, The Priestess

The Fool
New beginnings, potential, opportunities and so on. Due to the very nature of this cards energy, it’s best to pair it with some other Trump to get a sense of how it ‘plays out’ in human experience. For example, the Fool and the World together might indicate an unexpected opportunity to emigrate to another country.
He wins when he loses!
The Magus
Self-employment and/or the marketing of your business. Skill development and skill acquirement. Some authors suggest mental illness. I’ve found in some cases, that this plays out as paranoia, especially with communications within their close relationships. Combine this card with the Moon and you’ve got some serious confusion on your hands.
A secret; fluctuations; connecting with your inner needs; learning through books; psychic.
The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant
The Empress
The house (either moving, selling or decorating), good feelings within relationships, pregnancy, creativity, or perhaps the desire to do certain things but lacking the energy to start.
The Emperor
The client is either the Manager/boss within his/her working environment or the Manager is affecting the client on some powerful level. Logic, Law, Structure, Authority.
The Hierophant
Institutions; can sometimes indicate a restructuring process within the institution itself; help given via an institution; financial advisor.
The Lovers
A choice; a relationship; love;
The Chariot
A protective relationship; victory; success; individuality.
Adjustment or Justice
Balance; legal proceedings; decision; it can also indicate how ‘just’ the client or the client’s social group are being.
The Hermit, Fortune, Lust
The Hermit
Retreat from public life; a secret love; fear; being covert; concealment
A change.
Lust or Strength
Can relate to body image issues, success, sexual attraction, the magickal will.
Hanged man, Death, Art
Hanged Man or Dying God
Waiting, nothing happening, ‘hanging’ around; traitor; shame; a criminal.
The end; it’s over; it’s changed; it won’t go back to the way it was; they are not coming back.
Art or Temperance
Travel, balance, moderation; success after going down some back-roads.
The Devil, The Tower, The Star
The Devil
Success in business; things taking a long time to happen; options are limited; feeling trapped; ruled by baser desires.
The Tower
A shock, things breaking within the house, a collapse; violent.
The Star
Getting what you wish for. Spiritual healing. Being helped.
The Moon, The Sun, Aeon, Universe
The Moon
Deception; being tricked; not seeing the whole story; trust issues; mother issues.
The Sun
Vanity, arrogance, material success; the father helps the child- or not? Basically ‘father issues’.
Aeon or Judgment
A matter that requires a decision…or…the decisions already been made and cannot be altered, despite any attempts to do so.
The World or Universe
Long cycles, emigration, endings and beginnings.

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23 comments… Let's discuss

Sheri October 18, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I did a four card read, 1. situation, 2. Obstacle, 3. Action recommended, 4. Outcome. I can’t seem to figure out the meaning though. The question is will two people be friends again? 1. King Of Disks, 2. 8 of wands, 3. King of Swords, 4. Priestess…I get the king of D, I think-she loves him and this is how she views him and the arrows indicate that things have moved to fast for both of them?? Or just him? The King of Swords totally throws me unless it means he holds all of the power in their relationship and I have no idea how the Priestess fits into this as the outcome. It’s no secret she loves him so if it’s fluctuations I still don’t get it. No matter how many times I ask this question I can’t seem to find the right answer for the outcome. I had one reading where I don’t recall the situation card but the Obstacle card was the 2 of wands reversed next to the king of Disks who was next to the Queen of Disks. Is this man secretly in love with her and just to proud to say it since they got into a fight? Or am I just way off?


Douglas October 18, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Hi Sheri,

Reading the Tarot cards can be confusing sometimes. The best thing we can do is take a step back and let the cards guide us. I’ll try and provide you with some pointers to help you make sense of this reading.

King of Disks/ 8 of Wands/ King of Swords/ Priestess

The Priestess would suggest “secrets” to be revealed…in due course…and that the future isn’t going to be a predictable outcome for a while. This card might also hint at uncertainty and confusion.

What can we say about the Priestess? She represents an idealised woman. This is a good sign of how he feels – a sense of idealisation.

The Eight of Wands as an obstacle – communication?

The two Kings – two aspects of him that don’t cooperate well together – a war against himself? Possibly two men – politics.

Now we need to tie these cards together to make a story. This is where our intuition comes in. In some senses, this is the limitation of positional based spreads – the limitation it places upon the Tarot reader. Step outside the box to see how this forms a story.

Quick ideas that might help:

Does the King of Swords suggest that someone needs to take control of this situation?
Does the Eight of Wands suggest that things will go nowhere unless something gives?
Where is the action in these cards?
Whats the outcome? Look to the Priestess – she holds secrets.
What holds this relationship back from progressing?

You asked if he holds all the power – this is possible. Nothing moves forward unless he wants it to. Yet, this type of thinking ignores the influence of the Priestess – she is a very powerful and influential woman. However, she is also aloof. Is this woman holding back?

In essence the 8 of Wands is the obstacle. This is a strange card to get in this position because the 8 of Wands removes obstacles, or at the very least, creates opportunity. Why then is this an obstacle? Probably because the two people in question are not fighting for this relationship. Both hold back in their own ways – a sort of relationship dynamic.

Hope this helps :)


Sheri October 19, 2009 at 11:10 am

This is so very helpful!!! Thank you so much! I’m struggling so hard to read these cards because I’m so new at it. I never would have thought the 8 of wands was an obstacle. I kept thinking it was helping to push things through faster. It’s such a positive card I couldn’t find the negative. As far as I can see there is no action in these cards unless he uses his power over her and moves first. But, if she moves first, then what? I also thought the Priestess was his dead fiance and the secret was he’s not over her. Which is no secret because all of their friends know this.

I know they are both holding back now because they got into a very big fight. She did make the first move and apologized for her part in the fight so now she holds back waiting for him to approach her because she believes it’s his turn. I don’t know why he won’t approach her. Is he afraid of her? Done with her? I keep looking at this reading and I don’t see that. It’s like he’s waiting for her to make a move toward him, but she’s afraid of rejection.

Here’s something else, he finds her very, very beautiful. She is kind and would never hurt anyone. He is extremely attracted to her sexually. Is this the power she holds over him? She will hug everyone else at the party, but holds herself away from him. Is she so in love with him she is afraid if he knows he’ll leave her? I wonder if that is a secret? But if she is his ideal woman then what is his fear there?

I’ve watched them at parties and they won’t be together as a couple until it’s time to leave. They even leave separately. Their relationship is/was very quiet. All their friends know about them, but they kept their time together secret…hmm…more secrets of the Priestess?

They are both afraid of commitment and abandonment so they hold back their true feelings from the other person and lie if the other person gets close to figuring it out. His fiance died 2 yrs ago and her now ex-husband cheated on her throughout the marriage. They are both very afraid of getting hurt.

Since the reading was for the woman, what would I suggest to her a course of action she should take to recover her friendship?
If the King of Disks is in control how can the Priestess take control of the relationship as the King of Swords suggests someone do?
There is no communication at all and she won’t make another move to communicate with him since the apology.
Can I tie their birth signs in this to help? He is a Taurus and she is a Scorpio. He’s stubborn and she was born aloof…lol…or should I have done this at the beginning of the reading? Since there are only four cards I didn’t think I needed significators.

There’s only four cards. I’m making this so difficult for myself. Something isn’t clicking for me.

Thank you so much, Douglas! I’m going to look at this from another angle. :)


Sheri October 19, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Hi Douglas,

Your pointers were great! I realized I know too much about the couple so I asked a new question, same one, twice – Is he secretly in love with her? The first read I got Situation-Emperor/Obstacle-10 wands/Action-7 Disks/Outcome-Empress (R). The second read I got Situation-Justice/Obstacles-Sun/Action-King Cups (R)/Outcome-Lovers.

I have to say that on both of these I got excited by the cards. They all look on the surface like he loves her, but they are both with holding something from the relationship.

Using your pointers and just looking at the cards I think I actually might have the right answers.

In the 1st reading I see the Emperor following the Empress around. She’s beautiful. He wants her. But, then there are issues (10 of Wands) that come into the relationship and neither one will put them aside so they can move forward unburdened. The 7 of Disks suggests that neither one or maybe only the male isn’t making any effort to work on the relationship because it would take time and work – hard work to get past all of the issues.

In the 2nd reading I pulled the Justice card – Since the question is to find out the truth of whether or not he secretly loves her I kinda got a laugh out of this card because this lady seeks the truth in every matter. A decision needs to be made – this couple needs to bring peace between them and this lady brings peace with the truth.

The Sun in the Obstacles threw me. How can happiness be an obstacle? But for these two it is. Are they afraid they don’t deserve to be happy? I think he doesn’t believe he deserves happiness in his life. (I know this because I know he feels guilty for living when his fiance died.)

The King Of Cups (R) as the action card- Since the King of Cups brings emotional stability, structure and focus to all that comes from the heart, I believe that (R) this man is the opposites of all of that. He’s not bringing any of that to this relationship. I believe that this King’s in emotional turmoil. He wants to be happy (Sun card), but doesn’t know how to attain it to get to the Lovers card and be with this woman. The action he must take is to find a balance for his emotions so that the harmony between this couple can be restored and they can be lovers again.

So for the outcome I have to say when he changes they will be lovers again…

Am I right? Am I close in this reading? I had so much fun with this one. I really loved your pointers Douglas because it made it so much easier for me to see the cards differently.

Thanks so much!!! Sheri :)


Douglas October 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Hi Sheri,

I really like the way you interpreted those cards. I got the sense you had opened yourself up more to the process and allowed things to flow. :)

In terms of your question, “Am I right?”

I would say, yes. The reading does suggest holding back, and the 10 of Wands suggests hiding behind responsibility (perhaps prior commitments).

Overall I agree with your assessment of the cards. Great job :D


Sheri October 21, 2009 at 4:45 am

Hi Douglas,

Thank you! If it weren’t for your pointers I would never have understood. I used your pointers as a template to help me with these two readings above.

Bittersweet news for my friend, but at least she knows there has to be change from both of them. Individual counseling might help them both.

I’m still having problems with some cards though. I don’t understand what it means when I read that depending on the way the King of Wands is facing in a spread will have a bearing on the reading. I have the R. Waite cards and he sits sideways on his throne. My books don’t give examples of this, so it leaves me hanging :(

Thanks again!!! I’m learning so much from you!!! Sheri


Sheri April 24, 2010 at 5:54 am

Hi Douglas,

I have a question about the Priestess…would you say she seeks to be alone sometimes like the Hermit? We talked about her before, but she still confuses me.


Sheri :)


Douglas Gibb April 24, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Hi Sheri,

Yes, the Priestess is not a card of doing, more a card of non-doing. In this sense, the Priestess does not get involved in a proactive way. I suppose this does indicate a need for contemplation, but it’s not in the same as the Hermit. The Priestess already has Wisdom whereas the Hermit seeks it.

I think a key concept with the Priestess is being at peace with self. If this card comes up in a Tarot reading, ask yourself, does the client accept who they are? Perhaps knowing and accepting Self is one of the greatest strengths attributed to this card.

I hope that helps :)


Sheri April 27, 2010 at 1:08 am

Hi Douglas,

What you write makes complete sense to me. I wonder then if she is me in a reading? I can never tell what cards are me and what cards are others in readings I do for myself. I try to journal all of my readings so I can look back at them. I’ve learned alot from doing this.

It would actually be a huge help if there was a book out there that had every aspect of each tarot card. I’m talking different cards, too. The Rider-Waite has different meanings than the Thoth deck, but at the same time I’m finding the meanings you have posted here apply to both decks. I need more info on reversed cards and simply put their meanings or personalities, both up-right and reversed. I need a lot more court card info, too.

You might think of taking the questions here and grabbing the books that are out there and seeing what is missing and writing your own ;) A huge effort, but I’d bet it would be totally worth it for you. I’d buy it.

Thanks! you are awesome as always! :D



Sheri April 27, 2010 at 2:11 am

Hi Douglas,

Another quick question for you…how do I interpret the Universe card as an “action recommended” card to get to the Outcome card of 9 Cups? Would you say the Universe is in control or that your spirit guides are helping you in this situation? I know the card is about endings and beginnings, success in all endeavors is assured but that doesn’t give me an action.

My book says, “This is a time of supreme self-confidence and victory. You have put your trust where it belongs-in a higher power- and you will reap the rewards. At this time, many possibilities and opportunities are available to you, and you are completely free to choose what pleases you.” I see how I might apply this, but I’m still uncertain because the 9 of Cups is also a card of completion, but it’s also a wish card. I would read these two cards together as getting everything you are wishing for (in the World)!

I don’t know where I found this little note that I wrote in my book, but it says that the World or universe card is even better with the 9 of Cups and or the 10 of Cups in the reading.

Thanks so much! Write that book would you!!! Lol!!!



Sara May 10, 2010 at 8:30 pm

I just wanted to share, probably one of the most interesting little tidbits I had happen for a reading I started learning the tarot….Did a general reading for a friend of mine over the internet last night. Just for practice. And as I laid out the Celtic Cross spread, the card that crowned her was The World reversed. At first I thought it meant she would be taking a long trip, but when I mentioned it to her, she responded. I had forgotten! She has a tattoo of the Earth upside down on the back of her neck! So bizarre and it helped reassure me of the fact that our instincts tell us some important things, but the best we can do is communicate. You never know how close to home you may hit!


Douglas Gibb May 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Hi Sara,

Thanks for stopping by and sharing some excellent advice. So much of reading Tarot for others is communication. In fact, I would place that skill equal to knowledge of the cards. With communication (as you pointed out) comes risk taking and saying what you see.

It sounds to me that your intuition and connection with Tarot will become very strong indeed :)


Debbie June 30, 2010 at 5:15 am

Hi Douglas,

You are a great writer.

I have a comment/question (as a beginner). Your interpretation for The Sun seems very different than everything else I have read so far. Other sources say The Sun is all about optimism, energy, radiance, etc…, not about vanity, arrogance, and father issues. Is there a special reason for why you feel like this about The Sun?

Also, sometimes I feel like the Emperor and the Hierophant are redundant. How do you differentiate between the two cards beyond the brief descriptions you gave here?

I would love to hear your thoughts!



Douglas Gibb June 30, 2010 at 11:50 am

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for dropping by, and for your kind words :)

Good questions!

My reasons for interpreting the Sun in this way are based on experience (it is reliable) and mythology. The Sun can be thought of as representing the Masculine gods (under certain pantheons). It also represents the logical mind and rationality (the moon, in contrast, represents the Feminine and the Irrational). The Sun is also harsh – the Sun that I experience in Scotland is not the same as the Sun that is experienced in Egypt. This distinction is important because, under certain conditions (Scotland) it is a welcomed sight, but under other conditions, its glare can be damaging. In this sense then, the Sun can bring a welcomed amount of productivity (farming), hence material success), but its glare can also be so strong as to destroy it. Without the Sun there would be no life, hence the Father (I see the Moon as the Mother for similar reasons); and in astrology the Sun represents the Ego – hence Vanity etc.

I’ve written a post that discusses the differences between the Emperor and the Hierophant, called Tarot Card Confusion It might be what you’re looking for. If not, then the way I differentiate between these two cards is simple, the Emperor is a person who controls everything that exists under their domain (except that which is represented by the Hierophant.) The Hierophant symbolically represents an institution, such as the Church, Schools, or Financial institutes etc. Under these specific types of institutes, the Hierophant also represent a person who acts as a figure head for that institute. In this sense, the Hierophant can represent the institute known as the Church … but also the Priest that acts on the authority of that Church. If the Hierophant represented a School, then it is both School and Teacher. In contrast, the Emperor rules everything else!

I hope that helps :)

Let me know if you have any other questions :)


Sheri November 13, 2010 at 7:51 pm

In my readings I have found that the Emperor definitely represents a person who is controlling and desires security above all things. That person is a dangerous person in my readings to the point of wanting to put people in jail. The Hierophant in my readings usually represents a counselor or judge. Someone that is mediating for two people or two groups, etc. If you were to get the 8 Swords then I would see a judge and jail. This is from a reading where my friend got these cards and got arrested, went to jail, and had to see the judge because there is a person involved who is very paranoid about his personal security. He has bipolar disorder and other mental issues. I saw the jail/arrest, unfortunately, this person ignored the reading and these events did happen. Because I am such a novice I didn’t see in a reading I did over a year ago that this person was going to do what they did to my friend. I remember the cards very clearly though and feel bad that I didn’t catch this back then.


Sheen July 12, 2010 at 10:26 pm

hey Douglas,

I am a newbee at this and your site has been helping me plenty. I bought my mythic tarot deck about a month back and it is my first one. I have been practicing for about a good 2 weeks and have realized that the cards provide exquisite detail in terms of the images depicted by them. I have 3 questions here.

1) Does the interpretation of each card differ with the kind of deck you use?
2) How important is it for me to consider the reversals of the cards? I mean these cards get reversed because I don’t sent them straight after my previous reading right? So why should something I do effect someone else’s reading?
3) While doing a reading for a love triangle ( lets suppose 2 girls and a guy), how to differentiate between which card is for which lady?
Eg: I was doing a 3 cards reading for this girl (say A) who is already dating someone and is also involved with another guy(say B) who is dating another girl. The question was what is the future of their relationship (of A and B).

The cards I got were Lovers, Queen of swords and emperor.

Normally a 3 card spread would be Past, present and future but since this was prediction for future, I assumed all three cards to be future cards. (Right??? )

So clearly, Lovers card depicted the extra love affair, Queen of swords could be either of the two girls (can’t figure) and emperor is somebody dominating so I am assuming its the other guy ie B. But what do these cards indicate???

I am really confused with this one. Your help would be really really appreciated.

Thanks :)


Douglas Gibb July 13, 2010 at 10:11 am

Hi Sheen,

Some of the questions you’ve asked don’t have a straight answer. A lot of it depends on other factors, but I’ll do my best to answer as clearly as possible.

1) Does the interpretation of each card differ with the kind of deck you use?

This is an interesting question. I would say yes, they differ. This is one of those cases where it does actually depend on the deck. Some differences can be small variations, others can be vast. It does all depend. Every deck creator emphasis a different aspect of the Tarot which in turn gives them a different interpretation. Does that mean that interpretations found in other Tarot decks are not valid? No, if the deck you’re using implies those meanings then they are still valid.

2) How important is it for me to consider the reversals of the cards? I mean these cards get reversed because I don’t sent them straight after my previous reading right? So why should something I do effect someone else’s reading?

Some people use them. Other people don’t. It’s not essential. You have given a reason why you don’t like using reversals and that’s fine. Go with you’re intuition because that is the right answer. However, it could be argued that Tarot works because it mirrors the random chance that life itself uses – reversals being an aspect of that. It all depends on what your personal perspective is. If they fit into your world view, then use them. But if they don’t, not using them will still produce powerful Tarot readings.

3) While doing a reading for a love triangle ( lets suppose 2 girls and a guy), how to differentiate between which card is for which lady?

It all depends. Sometimes the Tarot wouldn’t discuss the second person. Sometimes the Tarot ignores the question all together. It really does depend. That is why it’s important to practice. You need to build up an experience base that you can rely on when the cards get confusing.

The cards I got were Lovers, Queen of swords and emperor.

If this is a relationship reading, who is being bullied and who is doing the bullying? The Lovers would question if things have got worse lately?

Normally a 3 card spread would be Past, present and future but since this was prediction for future, I assumed all three cards to be future cards. (Right??? )

Again, that depends. Only you will know what was intended as you were the one who shuffled.

I know some Tarot readers who work with three card readings exactly the way you described, I also know Tarot readers who will only read them strictly as a past, present, future spread. This is one of this situations were your relationship with Tarot determines what the three cards mean. If you intended all three to be future cards, then they were.

So clearly, Lovers card depicted the extra love affair, Queen of swords could be either of the two girls (can’t figure) and emperor is somebody dominating so I am assuming its the other guy ie B.

Good interpretation.

Learning to trust your own readings is very important.

I hope that helped,

I wish you all the best with your Tarot journey :D


Douglas Gibb July 13, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Hi Sheen,

I forgot to mention the actual prediction. Basically, all I would ever say if I got cards like yours is that the future relationships will be about controlling each other. This isn’t just one person doing it to another. Although, it does look like the QSwords would start the ball rolling. This is about all four people wanting to take control. The result, lots of changes – but nothing stable. Expect all concerned to be in contact with each other for some time – September will see a lot of activity.


Sheen July 14, 2010 at 12:16 am

Thanks a lot doug!

I know learning anything new takes a lot of time. I guess I’ll have to begin with learning to trust my intuitions. I realize this is not a days task.. or for that matter not even a week, a month or a few months. So I am willing to take my time with it. I trust and love my cards with all my heart. For me that is quite a great beginning.

Thanks again for the new perspective. Really appreciate it. :)


JB November 10, 2010 at 8:06 pm

I was surprised by your attributions for the Sun card, and was about to ask you about it when I saw someone else already had and you had answered. Even so, while personal experience must inform meanings, how do you know you have captured the whole sense of the card, got the core I mean as opposed to one particular ray of meaning in that particular experience? For instance, ‘vanity’ could be a sidelight of the great confidence of the Sun, but surely it is ‘blotted out’ by the overall exuberance of this card. As for ‘father issues’, that’s an interesting one, but I can’t agree. My question here is, if you see father issues with this card, how can you NOT see father issues when the card crops up again? I’m sure you have your reasons for seeing the Sun this way, but have you considered that the Sun may sometimes be eclipsed by other prevalent issues at the time?


Douglas Gibb November 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Hi JB,

Good question!

Yes, the Sun cards meaning is dictated by the circumstances in which is appears.

Hold on lightly, let go tightly.

That quote best describes my approach to Tarot card readings. I’m not influenced by the definitions I’ve outlined here. I’m much more influenced by the surrounding cards, but when I was writing this post, I challenged myself to keep the definitions terse. I personally find this useful when it comes to learning – it brings out more creativity, focusing the mind on a single point.

But getting back to the question, I’m greatly influenced by the surrounding cards, and it’s the surrounding cards which ultimately inform how I tell the story.

Hope that helped :D


cheri December 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm

I am a newbie when it comes to tarot. I have been reading and playing around with the cards for a few weeks, and I happened to pick up the box/book the cards came in and found 3 cards that had been hidden.. The king of cups, the hanged man, and the fool. I dont know if it is coincidence, but I wondered what your take on those 3 cards together would mean?

THank you :)


Wendy April 24, 2011 at 3:08 am

Excellent interpretations!


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