Understanding Tarot: The Fours of the Minor Arcana

minor arcana fours
Cards Pictured are from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck

The Understanding Tarot series is written by Claire Chilvers. If you would like to read more of Claire’s articles or book a tarot reading, please visit www.clairechilvers.com or follow her at – @ClaireChilversTarot

Taking a Pause with the Fours

We are all entitled to take a break every now and then and, in their own way, each of these number four cards allow us the chance to do just that.

If these Minor Arcana adventures were compared to road trips, the fours are the Tarot equivalent to a stop at a roadside diner, which is imperative to ensure we rest our body, refresh our mind, regroup and refocus. Plus any good pit stop is a chance to reflect on how far we have come and what we have learned or experienced along the way.

In numerology, the number four is a symbol of stability, and when these cards appear in a reading, they can certainly be a welcome change to the stresses, challenges, dramas, and excitement that we often face as we walk along our life path.

Of course, sometimes the stable and safe environment of the fours can be a little too welcoming, and one of the warnings they all share is a reminder that this is a pause, not a permanent stop. We should not lose sight of where we are heading and the reason why we chose this journey in the first place.

The Four of Swords

The Four of Swords is a welcome respite for those who are moving through the sword’s path. The Three of Swords was a tough place to be which revealed difficult truths, painful experiences, and raw, agonizing upset as well. What better place to seek sanctuary than this peaceful church? A stained glass window depicting a serene scene is displayed above in this quiet haven. 

If you remember, in the last card the three swords were piercing a heart. These three swords have now been extracted from the body and are placed on the wall– out of harm’s way.

The fourth sword is lying underneath the man whilst he lay still, his hands held together in prayer. This would seem to highlight the message of meditation and guidance that is advocated in this card.

At this point in the swords journey, reflection is important, but, so is time; time to allow the awakening that has ignited within the mind.

If you recall when the Ace of Swords appeared in the sky it was giving the gift of mental clarity – a chance to gain a higher consciousness and live a life free from mental stress or oppression.

In order to do this the swords have literally gone straight to the heart of the matter, which may seem cruel, but, with every harsh experience is an opportunity to overcome adversity, grow stronger and learn lessons. We may need a little time to get over hurt, disappointment, grief, or illness but we do have the capacity to get over it – which is why humans are so resilient. 

The Four of Swords reminds us that we should all allow ourselves time to come to terms with a new mind-set. It may feel unwelcome or forced upon us, but it is for the greater good which will become clearer as we distance ourselves from the trauma of the past.

Eventually, the dormant fourth sword will need to be picked up and life will need to continue. The stability that this fourth sword card brings is the chance to put your mind in order, which is incredibly important for the road ahead.

Four of Cups

And now to the cups, which seemed to have had a bit of a come down since their exciting, happy, joyous experiences in the last three cards. It reminds me of the episode of Friends when Monica is fed up on the day after her wedding (“Yesterday I was a bride”, she moaned. “Now I’m just a wife!”).

The Four of Cups teaches us that there are highs and lows on any journey, and this man seems to have been bought down to earth with a bit of a bump.

He is sitting under a tree and, in line with the theme of regrouping and refocusing, it would seem that he too is contemplating his options. However, with his arms and legs crossed, this implies more in a sulk than in meditation. 

The Four of Cups often indicates boredom or dissatisfaction. And when these feelings are present we can often miss the obvious.

As he stares at the three cups he has accumulated, he seems oblivious to a fourth being offered out of nowhere. It wasn’t long ago that the Ace of Cups appeared in this way, which bought excitement and adventure, so, what has changed to create this apathy? Answering this question could well be the secret to moving away from these stifling feelings.

However, boredom is often seen as a negative emotion and one that people seem very reluctant to experience in their lives.

In these modern tech days where we are being constantly forced to have our attention on one device or another, we can often overlook the benefits of boredom. But it can be the spark that ignites our imagination and inspiration. Perhaps this is the true meaning of the extra cup magically appearing?

We have all sat feeling dissatisfied and a little sorry for ourselves and there are two directions our emotions can spiral from this point.

We can continue feeling fed up and allow our mood to continue getting more and more despondent. Or, we can take time to examine our feelings and explore options to lift our mood from its present position.

Examining the reason for the current impasse is being suggested within this card. Asking questions such as, ‘What has happened to change the mood?’, ‘Is it something I can take responsibility for?’ and ‘What needs to change to improve this situation?’ could be the catalyst needed to move on.

By experiencing low moods we can learn a lot about ourselves and what causes them. The Ace of Cups gave us the opportunity to understand and be in control of all emotions. The beauty of this card is that it is showing us we do have a choice of how we feel and we have the capacity to change our emotions when we are ready to do so.

The Four of Wands

The Four of Wands, belonging to the most active of the suits, chooses to have a rest by organising a party! Although, our wand adventurer has every right to celebrate as he has finished stage one of his perilous journey.

There are no more mountains to climb or terrifying rivers to cross. He has reached a village and there are people waiting to greet him with flowers raised above their heads.

There are garlands balanced on the four wands, reminiscent of a finish line and as anyone who has ever crossed one will know, it is a chance to be incredibly proud of your achievements and to reflect on how hard it was to reach that point. 

A finish line can be in a metaphorical sense too; finishing an assignment can give the same feeling, or coming to the end of a personal project or a career enhancing presentation will all feel very ‘Four of Wands’.

This card serves as a good reminder that we should allow ourselves to take a moment to reflect on our achievements – and we have these every day be they big or small.

One of the downsides to human nature is that we hardly ever do congratulate ourselves on our successes. It is so much easier for us to focus on our failures or what we could do better.

When was the last time that you said ‘Well Done’ to yourself? If you do not resonate with this card and the message it brings, perhaps, today would be a good day to give it a try?

The stability in this number four card is asking us to recognise our skills and creativeness. By identifying our strengths we can put them to good use as we continue on our journey. With confidence in ourselves, we can achieve anything.

The Four of Wands is urging us to see our strengths and power, and, also giving us a momentary pause whilst we get ready to put those very characteristics into action.

The Four of Pentacles

The Four of Pentacles is our last example of a pause and stillness. Our hardworking pentacle man is having a well-earned sit down after his exhausting juggling act in the twos, and his carefully planned presentation of his ambitions in the threes. It would seem a ‘well done’ is in order here too, as all four pentacles have been obtained by him. 

But, is this man holding on too tightly to what he has? How comfortable would you feel in the position that he finds himself in?

If he moves either of his feet, one or two of the pentacles may roll away. If he moves his arms then he could drop the third, and the fourth is balanced precariously on his head so he could lose both his treasures and his crown should he make the slightest nod.

Finding stability in the pentacles may be a welcome relief for a short while, but, to stay there indefinitely would seem a little restrictive and possibly cause a bit of cramp!

Finding safety in the material world is something that we all strive for. Being able to make ends meet, managing to keep a roof over our heads, avoiding redundancy in an uncertain market place or finally receiving money owed to us by others are all times when we feel very grateful for what we have. But clinging on to what we have out of fear of losing it can be self-limiting. 

The Four of Pentacles is giving the opportunity to pause and see what has been gained so far, but, it is also reminding us that nothing can be gained by lying dormant.

If he put down the coins and looked behind him, he would see the bustle and excitement of city life that is going on in the background. The foreground and sky look quite grey and boring in comparison.

As your mind focuses on this aspect of the card are you urging the man to stay where he is and keep safe? Or are you willing him to go and see what opportunities await him there?

Remember the pentacles are slow cards, and some of us find it incredibly difficult to move on from this place – especially when our financial stability or material status is threatened. However, this man looks a little resigned to his fate. Perhaps he has stayed there too long? But, he has a choice. We all do. 

At the beginning of this article, I likened the fours to a roadside diner visited during an exciting trip. Have you ever known anyone to go on a road trip and only get as far as the diner? Me neither! 

So, when a four appears in your reading, allow yourself to take the time to absorb the messages and nourish your mind, body, and soul on this much-needed intermission. Because there is much more to do on these Minor Arcana Tarot journeys, and as we approach the fives we will need to have gathered up as much strength as possible as there are challenging times ahead for everyone. 

If you would like to read more of Claire’s articles or book a tarot reading, please visit her website

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About the author

Claire Chilvers

Claire Chilvers is a writer and tarot reader and lives in Essex, UK. She offers tarot readings to clients in the UK and around the world via video calls (Skype usually), if you would like a reading please contact her at clairechilverstarot@yahoo.com. Claire also has a Youtube Channel where she shares daily readings- https://www.youtube.com/@dailytarotwithclaire