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The King of Batons

The Four Suits

Now that you’ve had some time with the trumps, let’s look at the other four suits. The numbered cards may not have the large mythical characters like the trumps do, but each suit can be a fun opportunity to dive deep into an idea or theme.

Famous Foursomes

The four main suits started out as simple playing cards, but over the years people have overlaid many famous quartets onto them, such as the four classical elements.

The twos from the Grand Etteilla deck link each suit to a classical element (Earth, Water, Air, and Fire).
Image source: Bibliothèque nationale de France (National library of France).

A few different associations with the suits are summarized here. You can find even more in Matthews, Greer, and Huson.

Ace of Batons, in Tarot of Marseille style

Also known as Wands, Staves

  • French Suit: Diamonds (Etteilla) or Clubs
  • Element: Earth (Etteilla) or Fire (Golden Dawn)
  • Season: Spring
  • Part of the Individual: Energy or creative impulse
  • Part of Life: Work
  • Temper: Choleric
  • Cardinal Virtue: Fortitude
Ace of Cups, in Tarot of Marseille style
  • French Suit: Hearts
  • Element: Water
  • Season: Summer
  • Part of the Individual: Emotions
  • Part of Life: Family and community
  • Temper: Phlegmatic
  • Cardinal Virtue: Temperance
Ace of Swords, in Tarot of Marseille style
  • French Suit: Spades
  • Element: Air
  • Season: Winter
  • Part of the Individual: Intellect
  • Part of Life: Challenge or struggles
  • Temper: Sanguine
  • Cardinal Virtue: Justice
Ace of Coins, in Tarot of Marseille style

Also known as Pentacles, Disks

  • French Suit: Clubs (Etteilla) or Diamonds
  • Element: Fire (Etteilla) or Earth (Golden Dawn)
  • Season: Autumn
  • Part of the Individual: Body
  • Part of Life: Finances and other resources
  • Temper: Melancholic
  • Cardinal Virtue: Prudence

Picking a quartet or two for the suits in your own deck can be valuable, both for planning within a single suit and for making sure that the four stand out from each other. For example, I’ve used them for color palettes, costumes, and scenes.

Batons: Fire, Summer, bright red, yellow-orange, cerulean, and bright green. Cups: Water, Spring, dark red, puce, jade green, and sky blue. Coins: Earth, Autumn, dark red, forest green, dark brown, burnt ocher. Swords: Air, Winter, pale gold, blush pink, sky blue, cool light gray.

In my Anecdotes Tarot deck, I used elemental and seasonal associations to choose a color palette for each suit, and a costume style for the court cards.

Choosing Your Suits

In the activity below, you can start planning out your suits by dragging and dropping the associations that you connect with.

The “score” is based on whether you match up with the most popular interpretations, but judging from the plethora of conflicting pairings (cf. Matthews, 2018; Greer, 2007), there is no true right answer.

When you are finished, you can take a screenshot for reference.