Some symbols on the cards tend to go deeper then others. In the case of the arches, you (may) find that they are more than just a pile of rocks in the background. If you really think about them, you’ll find that they add appropriate meanings and help build depth in the cards that they appear on.
If you look up the definition of an arch, you’ll find that it’s defined as a curved symmetrical structure that spans an opening that typically supports a roof or bridge platform. If you search Google Images, you’ll find hundreds of examples of structures that date back over a thousand years. Many bridges that used this construction technique are still standing and functioning perfectly.
One of the coolest principles of this design is that the weight of what is being carried is channeled down through the stones (material) of the arch itself. If the blocks that make up the arch are carved out of granite, the arch takes on the strength of a mountain!
Another amazing feature is that this design uses very little material. With a small number of blocks, you can create a structure that can hold a roof many stories overhead or elevate a bridge deck well above a river over a canyon.
Now that we have a little background regarding what an arch is, take a moment to think about where arches appear naturally. What types of plants grow or make use of arches? What types of animals use arches? Where do they appear in nature? If you haven’t already guessed, they don’t really appear in nature. Arches are inherently human. Man creates arches. Man figured out that he can use a small amount of what is found in nature in order to get a big effect.
One of the properties of an arch is that it can be so strong and stable that it will last for years or centuries as long as the material that it’s built out of doesn’t break down. If you build an arch bridge out of stone (and on top of bedrock) it could function safely and expertly for tens of generations. Thus, the effort that is put into building an arch bridge today will continue to ‘pay off’ for many generations of people that use it in the future. The arch bridge becomes a legacy item, it becomes something that gets passed down from generation to generation.
Because the arch is so strong from so little material, it became the perfect architectural design consideration for very tall buildings. Medieval churches and political structures employed them in order to create awe inspiring masterpieces of construction. When engineered correctly, roofs could be built spanning large areas in reasonable amounts of time.
Now that we understand the concept of arches, how do they help out with our interpretation of the Tarot cards that they appear on?
Classically, looking at the RWS deck or inspired decks, we find that they commonly show up on the 3 and 10 of Pentacles. On my deck, you’ll find them in a few more locations.
10 of Coins (Pentacles)
On this card, the arch is set as a predominate feature on the card. It is unmistakable.
Now, we already know that because it’s the Ten of Coins, we’re at the end of the financial cycle or the point where the person would be most secure. This card is about wealth, abundance and retiring in style. Yet if you’ve studied the keywords, you’d also know that this is the card for legacy, withstanding the test of time, inheritance and legacy.
If you reflect on what we’ve just realized about arches, you’d know where the ‘withstanding the test of time” and “legacy” associations come from. The arch is strategically positioned to bring those characteristics to the conversation.
Arches are made by man. Showing an arch on this card is going to remind us that what has been build was done so strategically. It was engineered in a specific way to be stronger than everything around it. It was designed to make an impression and serve a specific purpose. Whatever that purpose is, it will most likely outlive the person or have great impacts on people for generations to come.
3 of Coins (Pentacles)
Stepping back in the suit, the classic RWS card has the hint of an arch in the architecture of the background or doorway. This is actually a good use of the symbol.
Knowing that the 3 of Coins represents the energy of first completion or realizing what it is that needs to be done, it is appropriate to have arch here. Keywords that go along with this card include teamwork, collaboration, learning and realizing that your talents can bring rewards.
With this in mind, the 3 of Coins really is that first card in the suit where you would expect to find the realization that you can actually create something that could be long lasting and take care of you when you get old. It’s as if the card is pointing out that you’ve just realized that what you’re developing could be your personal ‘arch’. You could be seeing the potential in what you’re doing that can lead to something significantly tangible or real.
Yet, it’s the façade rather than your personal arch. The wealth and legacy are not there, but what is being done could get you there.
Reflecting on my 3 of Coins, I can see that I’ll want to incorporate the idea of an arch somewhere. On the classic cards, the people have to go out of there way to reach up to them. I’ll see what I can imagine and make it happen.
The Hanged Man
When you look back in history, the classic place arches have been used include bridges and cathedrals. And, even though one person could build an arch, the places that stand out logically suggest that people got together to create the structures so the results could be used by everyone.
Consider a bridge over a river. By building this bridge, you’ve created a structure that functions for the entire society. Everyone’s life is improved now that they can safely cross the bridge rather then ford the river. A small group of people, with a low sum of money and time can create something that significantly helps everyone.
The same holds true with large gathering halls. The creation of the building provides a location where lots of people can gather for social events.
Now, if you look at the moral/ethical aspects of The Hanged Man, you’ll see that it’s the principle that we are all connected and that we need to work collectively together, as a society, in order to help each other in order to survive. At the most basic level, a baby is completely dependent upon its mother to survive. Every person instinctively experiences this concept for they wouldn’t be here if someone didn’t take the time to nurture them.
The arch is here to remind us that if we create something that benefits society and outlives us, our work will make it easier for everyone else for years to come.
4 of Swords
When you view the 4 of Swords, which is about rest, recuperation and the act of balancing your thoughts, you’ll also find arches.
Arches are engineered. Arches are a creation of man. Arches are found in cathedrals. These three things came together to manifest on this card.
The concept that stood out to me the most was that of meditation or the calming of your thoughts so that you can receive the answers. The setting is church or cathedral like, thus there should be a sense of awe or importance to this process. As spirit, we live within the temple of the human body and by getting control of our thoughts, we lay the foundation for building amazing things. We just need to be able to listen to our inner Being in order to get there.
You’ll also notice that combined with the columns on my Justice card there is the impression of arches overhead.
One of the key ideas associated with this card is truth (along with balance, justice, wisdom and fairness). Fighting for truth and striving to adhere to the principle of truth is something that goes to the start of any society. You can’t have a society without coming together on the concept of truth.
The arches are here to remind us that regardless to our current situation, those before us and those to follow will only be able to do so, as a collective, if they honor the strive for the truth.
I’m sure you might be able to find other locations that have arches or could use them in the cards, yet I find the concepts that the arch exposes really do make sense in these placements.
Feel free to share your opinion or design your own cards with or without arches. To me, it’s just another tool to get to deeper understandings when performing a reading.