Exploring the Minor Arcana: The Fours

In this series we'll be diving into the world of the Minor Arcana. Each segment will group the cards by number where we can engage in their themes and differences. For all the posts in the installment, click here.

The fours in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck are all about stability and structure. From the creative dynamism of the threes we now need context and constraints to orient ourselves. Think of the four cardinal directions or the four walls of a home. The fours represent the forces, places, and mindsets that make up our world, asking us how and where we contain different aspects of our lives.

So how do each of the suits reflect these themes? Some, like the wands, embrace them wholeheartedly and without conflict. The action of the wands, with its boundless optimism and confidence, responds well to an open and airy type of structure. Others, like the four of cups, grow listless and bored by the constraint. Being a suit ruled by water, cups require fluid and flowing boundaries. 

Let's look at each of the fours in more detail below:

Explore In-Depth Minor Arcana Meanings

The  Four of Wands shows how creativity flourishes when channeled into an open structure.  It can't reach its full potential when floating around in the air as plans and dreams. Instead, it needs to be enacted and put to work, and doing so brings great harmony and satisfaction, not to mention room for growth. We see a happy pair or people standing before a walled city, raising boquets before a beautiful arbor of four wands. Moving away from the predictability and structure of the city and towards a life based around their ideas and actions has brought them joy and freedom. Quite lovely stuff, indeed!

For the Four of Swords, structure is a welcome balm.  All the careening thoughts of the swords suite need to come to rest. Here we see a figure reclining within a peaceful stone structure. All their swords are hung in place around him, unable to cause any harm. This shows us how putting down our thoughts and allowing our minds to rest is healing and leaves room for growth. What's more, the glow from the stained glass window represents the unexpected messages that can come to us when our minds are clear and receptive. 

The Four of Cups is interestingly restless. Cups, in all their watery glory, need to flow and bend around obtacles. Being contained is against their nature and can result in stagnation. Here the figure in the card appears bored and listless, focused on his three cups and unable to see the fourth being offered to them. The fourth cup, however, shows how water always finds away around blockage. Emotion and connection are always around the corner (and boredom is impossible to keep for long).

Finally, the Four of Pentacles shows both the pleasant safety and ultimate limitation of material security and comforts. Hanging onto what we have is all well and good, but it prevents us from reaching out for more or receiving new gifts. The body language of the figure in this card is closed off and fearful. Ultimately, they must choose to relinquish the illusion of safety and control if they wish to go somewhere different in life. 

In the fours we see how structure and boundaries can be welcome respites, helpful homes, or stagnant stops along our journeys of life. How do you view the fours in your tarot readings? Share in the comments below and stay tuned for our next installation on the mischievous and pivotal fives!