Symbols Used in the Tarot

The Tarot is filled with symbols. Symbols are like icons. They each have a meaning that will guide you to a fuller understanding of the Tarot. For instance, there are symbols for the planets and the zodiac, each conveying a concept or idea. Numbers are also symbols. Because most symbols are universal they are used as the language of the Tarot. Let’s cover some of the really basic symbols so you can get an idea of how they work.


  • The Dot: The meaning is that of a seed. It’s the central point of a circle. The central point is the Archetype of any idea.
  • The Circle: This always represented the Creator, God without beginning or end, enclosing His universe.
  • The Crescent: The crescent symbolizes a cup which receives all that life pours into it. It is the reflecting principle, or Not-I, in which the I Am sees an image of itself.
  • The Straight Line: The line is an extension from the central point, the manifestation of the Archetype. The horizontal line represents the rod and matter. The vertical line represents the spirit in action, as well as the staff, the upright body of man and the spinal column of man. The wavy or zig-zag line indicates vibratory action. Two of these lines together are the symbol for dissolving, the return to an original state.


  • The Cross: Here is combined both horizontal and vertical lines. The rod and the staff. It shows the material world as the horizontal line influenced by spirit, the vertical line. It is sometimes called the cross of matter. It also refers to the four elements, fire, air, earth and water. A cross implies vital action and union. When held to matter, the spirit must manifest its creative forces in material ways.
  • The Square: This represents the cube and the four elements. It is the most solid of figures and therefore implies foundation and base. Measurement and the establishment of order, the taking on of responsibility are its attributes.
  • The Triangle: This is considered a perfect figure, implying completion. It represents spirit in three modes of expression – will, wisdom and activity. It is also a symbol of the Law used in prayer. In Egypt it symbolized the Holy Family Osiris, Isis and Horus. The Christian and Hindu counterparts are God the Father and Brahma the creator, the Son as the Savior and Vishnu as the preserver, and finally the Holy Spirit and Shiva the transformer. In essence, in the study of the Tarot, we begin with the idea that the One Thing is “the power which knows”. So all of these triads and trinities must refer to three aspects of consciousness. These are superconsciousness, selfconsciousness, and subconsciousness. In the Tarot we really don’t accept the term unconsciousness since there is no such place outside of the One Thing.  From the smallest crystal of sand to the largest organism there is consciousness.

Let’s take the above a little further and see how these symbols are used for the names of the seven heavenly bodies familiar to the ancients.  Interestingly enough the seven symbols are constituted from the use of only three of the symbols above: the circle, the cross and the crescent. The circle represents superconsciousness, the cross represents selfconsciousness and the crescent represents subconsciousness. Note that the seven heavenly bodies also refer to the seven chakras of the Kundalini.

  • The Sun: A circle with a dot in the middle. Heart – cardiac plexus.
  • The Moon: A crescent. Pituitary body.
  • Mercury: Combines all three elements with a crescent (subconsciousness) facing up (receiving) on top of a circle (superconsciousness), which is then above a cross imgres(selfconsciousness). Thus it represents the equilibration of all three. Subconsciousness has been purified and is raised to becomes the Grail to receive the inspiration of spiritual wisdom. Pineal body.
  • Mars: A circle combined with the cross, which slants to one side, on the ascendant (on the right side). Prostatic ganglion – sympathetic nervous system.
  • Venus: A circle above a cross. Pharyngeal plexus – thyroid.
  • Saturn: A cross above a crescent facing left, or back. Sacral plexus – excretion.
  • Jupiter: A crescent facing left, or back, above a cross. Solar plexus – abdominal brain.

As you can see, the heavenly bodies represent nerve centers in the body, plus the pituitary and pineal glands.