Google image search “symbols for tarot cards” and you’ll find an array of charts to pick from. Tarot cards have classic correspondences to astrological signs and Hebrew letters. If those click with you, you can use them to stand in for the card title in your notes. If you’re a numbers person, you can simply write down the card number for the majors and number/letter combos for the minors. For instance, the Wheel of Fortune can be written as “X” or “10,” the two of swords can be written as “2/S,” and the King of Pentacles can be written as “Ki/P.” Nice and simple, and no need to memorize a new system.
As a visual thinker and a proponent of making everything look witchier, I couldn’t rest until I found sufficiently occult-looking glyphs to stand in for my tarot cards. While astrology and alchemy have well established symbols, tarot lags behind with a smattering of personal symbol sets offered by a smattering of graphically inclined tarot nerds. Today, I’ll offer you one more set and teach you how to design your own while we’re at it.
You might recognize these from the graphics on this site. I came up with them when I needed some clean line art to deck the pages of my blog, then realized how useful they are for journaling.
Once you have a symbol in mind, grab some scrap paper and get doodling. Reduce the image or shape to its simplest components or outline. Think, how would I draw this in a stick figure universe? Once you’ve got something pretty simple, ask yourself if there’s anything more you can remove or delete while still capturing the image. Stop once you’ve got the simplest way to draw that picture - an easy and memorable glyph.
Here’s a quick breakdown of which symbols I chose and why:
The Fool - A stick figure. An everyman, everywoman, everyperson. A stand-in for the querent.
The Magician - Two arrows. A mirror of the magician’s arm placement. “As above, so below.”
The High Priestess - A crescent moon. A symbol of intuition and the unconscious. There is usually a crescent at the priestess’s feet, and she’s sometimes seen with a crescent headdress.
The Empress - Female symbol/Venus symbol representing the feminine archetype.
The Emperor - A crown. This card is just as much about worldly power and rule as it is about the masculine archetype. (Because the patriarchy. Sigh.)
The Hierophant - A key with a lemniscate, representing the keys to divine knowledge and secrets, and the connection between the finite and infinite.
The Lovers - A heart. Because lurve.
The Chariot - An arrow. I associate this card with progress, mastery, purpose, and direction.
Strength - A lemniscate. The traditional image is a woman with a lion, often with a lemniscate above the woman’s head.
The Hermit - A candle. The hermit usually holds a lantern or candle, searching for the truth in the dark.
The Wheel of Fortune - A wheel.
Justice - Scales.
The Hanged Man - A cross/inverted 4. The Hanged man is usually shown with a crooked leg, forming the shape of an inverted 4. The cross resonates with the card’s themes of sacrifice, enlightenment, and martyrdom by referencing the world tree and the Christian cross.
Death - An hourglass. A classic memento mori, a symbol of change, and easier to draw than a wee skull and crossbones.
Temperance - A couple wavy lines for water flowing between two cups.
The Devil - A pitchfork.
The Tower - A lightning bolt. This card usually shows a tower struck by lightning. Suddenness and destruction are both major themes.
The Star - A star.
The Moon - A moon.
The Sun - A sun.
Judgement - A spark of light rising from the dark. This one was the hardest to come up with. The card often shows a group of people rising up from a grave.
The World - A compass rose.
What works for me won’t work for everyone, but you’re welcome to use these symbols for your own journal. (If you blog with them, I’d love a link back. No commercial use, please and thank you. And by commercial use I basically mean, don’t sell these or publish them and say you did them. Just ask if you have any questions.) Feel free to start with these and alter them to your liking, too. Send me a link in the comments if you come up with your own set so I can see what you do!
Now go doodle up your tarot books! Besides saving time on shorthand, diagramming spreads with symbols looks badass.