Water Symbolism In The Tarot

Water Symbolism In The Tarot March 31, 2020

Water, the element of emotion, empathic abilities, visions and second sight plays an important role in the Tarot system. The Tarot system is a complex divination system that includes cards depicting images and scenes with various esoteric and spiritual correspondences. Being of a watery nature, I often drawn to the more watery cards. Did you know that the Tarot system has a strong presence of water, even beyond the Cups/Chalice suit?

The Tarot system comprises of 78 individual cards that have their own symbolism and esoteric meaning. These cards are then classified into two main categories the Major and Minor Arcana. You may wish to pick up a book and learn more about the tarot. However, I wanted to take a deeper look at how water shows its presence with the Tarot system; as The Major and Minor Arcana both include imagery and correspondences with water.

Morgan-Greer Tarot – Image by Annwyn

The Major Arcana

The Major Arcana contains 22 cards. These cards tell a story and teach us spiritual lessons. The Major arcana also has many cards with water as a prominent element. Coincidently, they are some of my favorite cards… These include The Star and Temperance among several others. Both cards have figures pouring water from sacred vessels. Both cards also feature these figures dipping their left foot into the water. To me, the left has always been associated with the Goddess and all things feminine. Both cards also feature imagery that connects us to the stars. In the Temperance card, it is an angel, who is often associated with flight (wings) and the higher realms. In the star card, stars connect us with the realms of space and the cosmos. The number 7 is featured here, most likely the Seven Sisters often called the Pleiades star cluster. This can also connect with the Seven Seas deepening the connection with the sacred feminine, water (which is often associated with the softer feminine aspects) and Ancient Water Priestess traditions, who held the numbers 3 and 9 as sacred. (fun fact the Pleiades brightest stars are actually a total of 9 not 7). There is also a connection to the astrological sign Aquarius, the water bearer present in this card.

The Empress and The High Priestess both feature bits of water in their imagery. The water in these cards is represented by the moon.  The moon is deeply connected with water which rules our emotions and the tides. Here both powerful feminine archetypes have their feet (or foot) on the crescent moon. To me this represents mastery over emotions. I always felt these crescents looked a little like boats, and can, therefore, represent riding the ups and downs of life and our emotions, riding the current and exploration of the unknown realms.

The Moon, another favorite card of mine, deeply connects with water. Not just because of the moon imagery. In this card we see the lobster, life of the ocean creeping up out of the water to embark on the path towards the unknown. A pool of water in this card can represent a mirror, a way to reflect the unknown, the subconscious and the hidden nature of magic to us. It can also represent hidden knowledge or the esoteric mysteries of water which are unknown to so many.

Judgment is traditionally associated with Fire, however in many cards water is featured, and the figures are often in a boat or coffin. I wanted to mention the water in this card, as it connects back to the western gate and the land of the ancestors. This card is often associated with the judgment that happens after death. Is the heart as light as a feather? Have you risen from the grave to be judged? The water here can be a representation of this death, but it is also the great equalizer. It gives and takes life and it represents the balance that is required to judge. It also reflects back to us the images of our past, like a mirror playing out the suppressed image of our lives.  What plays on your screen? Will the waters of judgment find balance, or will you be judged harshly in your next phase?

Morgan-Greer Tarot – Image by Annwyn

The Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana includes 56 cards that are then subdivided into 4 suits which align with the elements earth, air, fire and water. There are many resources on the web, in books and in-person classes that can give you an in-depth introduction into Tarot. Water has a stronger presence in the Minor Arcana, being featured as one of the four the element represented in the tarot, the suit of cups. True to its nature, water leaks out of the formal constraints and bleeds over into to some of the other elemental suits as well. The minor arcana is split into 4 sections. Each section representing a direction, element and having a particular symbol associated with them. They are:

  • Swords- Air- East
  • Wands/Rods -Fire- South
  • Pentacle/Coins- Earth – North
  • Cups/Chalice – Water- West

The cups or chalice as many decks represent this suit, are connected with water of course, but also the direction of the west. The direction of the west is connected with the Celtic western gate, which is the gateway to the ancestral realms. Another interesting correlation with water is that it acts as a liminal place, a hedge, or a boundary. Water is the boundary between this world and the realms of other. Most often the spirits that I work with are either of a Watery Fae nature or are from the Ancestral realms. They often speak to me using these cards.

Being so deeply connected to water of course Cups are my favorite! Actually, if I had to pick a single card that I deeply connected within the tarot it would be the Queen of Cups. Whenever I begin to look through a brand-new tarot deck, I flip right through and check out the queen of cups. It doesn’t matter the artist, the deck or my mood. I always deeply resonate with this card. She is the queen of emotions, a healer, and one who is knowledgeable about the esoteric nature of water. She is the great mother, the sacred feminine, the nourishing Goddess of Water.

The suit of cups being the designated water suit can be looked at in-depth as well. Of course, each of the cups cards have a connection with water. However, I have found some have a deeper meaning of watery esoteric knowledge than what is found on the surface. I could go through and give you meanings for each of these watery cards, but I would rather share my favorite cards and some of the symbolism I have uncovered in these cards. Perhaps you already know, or perhaps you will find this information new and exciting.

The Ace of Cups- This card usually is full of beautiful imagery of a hand holding a cup or chalice. This card represents newness, new emotions, new way of process things, the results of transformation, and even spiritual awakening, or new love. However, when I look at this card it reminds me to drink water, that only a single drop can make a huge difference rippling out into the world. It reminds us that sacred action no matter how small can nourish and cleanse. It also reminds me that I am the sacred chalice, that sometimes is in need of tending, and other times is ready to raise a glass in gratitude or revelry.

The Tree of Cups- Since I was little, I’ve been obsessed with groups of women who appear in groups of 3 or 9. Coincidentally I am one of three biological sisters. Beyond that I’ve been driven to research them for some time. No surprise, that I found there are groups of mysterious sisters, goddesses, nymphs and priestess that occur through time and space in these numbers.

The 7 of Cups – is another favorite of mine, I love the chalices overflowing with ideas, creativity and opportunity. It teaches us about trial and error, about choosing what is nourishing and throwing that which does not serve right out the window.

There are other cards in the minor arcana that resonate with the element of water but do not belong to the cups suit. One of these is the 6 of Swords, this card to me is deeply connected with travel, major shifts in life, and self-transformation. The travel is often over water, and in my own readings may hold the nature of the tower card or that of the Imrama or wonder voyage. It can represent the death of oneself and those things that no longer serve us. It reminds me of the boatman, picking up Priestess of Avalon and rowing her to the sacred shores of healing in the otherworld. So, it also holds an energy of journeying to the otherworld, sometimes to face shadow. Other times it can represent the depressing loneliness of self -isolation or of healing in solitude.

Other watery cards that are found in other elemental suits include the Two of Swords. Traditionally this card is about decision making, avoiding conflict and stalemate. Water features in this card in the background, it represents the emotional burdens, the waxing and waning of decision making and about the consequences of our actions. Which could be positive or negative depending on which path we take.

Not surprising, there is another two card from the minor arcana that features water. This is the Two of Coins or Pentacles. Here it represents the emotional side of this card. You can see the ship riding the ups and downs of the waves, much like we can often ride the emotional waves of indecision. The Two of Pentacles is another card about decision making, choosing what to keep and prioritize over what to throw away or put on the backburner. No wonder why water plays such an important part in this card!

If you are a lover of water or follow a watery path, you may find other correspondence throughout the tarot system that correlate or correspond with water. In fact, you may have a mermaid deck or other watery themed tarot deck; in which case you should be able to find water present in every card. However, if you have just a regular or more traditional deck, perhaps these water correspondences will help you dive deeper into the symbolism of water in the tarot system. I hope you enjoy my interpretations with a watery twist! Which watery card is your favorite?


The Morgan-Greer Deck was used to explore and describe the imagery above. Cards may vary deck to deck.

About Annwyn Avalon
Annwyn Avalon is a Water Witch, Water Priestess, and the founder of Triskele Rose Witchcraft, an Avalonian witchcraft tradition. She has devoted her life to the study of art, witchcraft, and magic. She is an initiated Witch and Priestess, Reiki Master Teacher, award-winning Dancer, published author and has a BFA in sculpture, BA in Anthropology with emphasis on plant and human interactions and has received an apprentice certificate in Herbalism. She writes for the Magical Times Magazine in the UK and has contributed to other published works such as The New Aradia a Witches handbook for resistance. She is the author of Water Witchcraft: Magic and Lore from the Celtic Tradition and forthcoming Weiser book The Way of the Water Priestess Winter 2020/2021. Visit her at www.WaterWitchcraft.com, www.WaterPriestess.com and www.TriskeleRose.com You can read more about the author here. You can read more about the author here.

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