What are the meanings of animals on Tarot cards? What’s the significance behind the animal symbolism of the Tarot? What are the Tarot card animal symbols and their meanings? I often get asked these questions by people who are first learning to read Tarot.
These diviners are smart. They know that learning the meanings of the symbols on Tarot cards (in particular, the Rider-Waite deck) is one of the fastest ways they can go from beginner to pro reader.
And let me tell you, if you’re learning symbolism, there’s no better place to invest your time than in animals. Animals are the most common groups of symbols you’ll see in any method of divination. That is true whether that’s Tarot cards, dreams, tea leaves, everything!
Meanings of Animals on Tarot Cards
|Bull||King of Pentacles||Earthly Pleasure|
|Cat||Queen of Wands||Femininity|
|Dog||The Fool, Ten of Pentacles & The Moon||Growth, animal instinct & financial status.|
|Fish||Page of Cups & King of Cups||Emotions|
|Horse||Knights, The Sun, Death & Six of Wands||Initiative, hard work, loyalty & achievement|
|Lion||Strength||Mastery, honor & strength|
|Lizard||King of Wands||Element of fire|
|Rabbit||Queen of Pentacles||Sexuality, fertility, financial success, good luck|
|Snake||The Lovers & Seven of Cups||Temptation & sexuality|
|Tortoise||King of Pentacles||Achievements, wisdom, and expertise|
|Wolf||The Moon||Animal Instinct|
Bull Meaning: King of Pentacles
On the throne of The King of Pentacles, there are bull symbols that probably represent the sign of Taurus. These reflect the fact that this King is determined, indulgent, and a lover of all things beautiful, just like your typical Taurian.
Other than the sign of Taurus, bulls are associated with sexuality. References to Greek myths are common in Tarot, and the idea that bulls are symbols of sexual desire comes from the Greek myth of the minotaur.
The legend goes that King Minos asked for a sign of approval from the god Poseidon and was sent a white bull. Because the bull was so beautiful, he did not sacrifice it to the god, which angered Poseidon. As punishment, Poseidon made the king’s wife, Pasiphaë, fall in love with the bull. She mated with the bull, got pregnant, and eventually gave birth to the minotaur, who was born half-man and half-bull.
Therefore, because of the minotaur myth, bulls symbolize earthly pleasures. In Tarot, the King of Pentacles is the ultimate earth-grounded Court, hence why there’s a bull on this card.
Cat Meaning: Queen of Wands
The cat on the Queen of Wands has always been a bit of a mystery. Cats are obviously associated with intuition and psychic ability, so you would probably be much more likely to see one on the Queen of Cups, not the Queen of Wands.
However, think of it this way. All the other grades in the Wands suit (Page, Knight, and King) have the same attributes as the Queen. They are all energetic, enjoy hobbies, easily influence others, etc. The difference is that the Queen has a feminine touch. Femininity is often linked with felines, hence the cat.
Crayfish Meaning: The Moon
The crayfish, a type of crustacean, only pops up on The Moon Tarot card. Like all crustaceans, they are associated with emotions, rivers, and women, and is therefore is a standard feature on moon-related art.
Dog Meaning: The Fool, The Ten of Pentacles & The Moon
Dogs are read differently depending on where you come from. For example, because I’m a Romany Gypsy, I read dogs to symbolize work. However, in the West, dogs are read to represent friends, followers, and confidants.
However, in the Tarot, dog symbolism is completely different again. These dogs are used to reflect growth, animal instinct, and even financial status.
Take the dog on The Fool as an example. Much like The Fool, his dog appears wild, unkempt, and not very tame. The lack of grooming on The Fool’s dog can also signal The Fool’s state of poverty; he doesn’t have much and is just starting out. The Fool’s dog is an extension of The Fool’s meaning.
By the time we make our way to the Ten of Pentacles, the white dog again makes an appearance (this time, there are two instead of one). However, in this instance, the dogs are controlled, tame, and well-trimmed. The owners of these dogs can clearly afford to take their pets to the groomers! The white dog has now become a symbol of the Ten of Pentacles’ meaning.
(Note: there is another dog on The Moon card – see below under ‘wolf’ for its meaning.)
Fish Meaning: The Page of Cups & The King of Cups
In Lenormand divination, fish can represent money, business, and commerce. They also symbolize emotions and feelings, and this is especially true when fish appear in Tarot.
Any animal that swims can usually be interpreted to represent emotions and feelings because this is what water is generally aligned with. Therefore, as a general rule, you can say that water creatures usually signal some type of emotion, and you can generalize this to all water animals.
In Tarot, it’s common for the progression of a Court card suit to signal development in maturity. The Pages come first because they are the most emotionally unstable and insecure. The Kings, however, while emotional, find a way to handle their feelings and don’t let them take over.
You’ll notice how the fish on the Page of Cups is at the forefront; this represents the fact that the Page is very upfront, almost uncontrolled with their emotions. By contrast, the King of Cups’ fish is swimming about in the background; the King is able to hide his emotions, and yet they are still there, bubbling under the surface.
Horse Meaning: Knights & Death
Of all the animals on Tarot cards, horses make the most frequent appearance. In divination, horses have very rich and detailed symbolic associations; the Tarot is no exception.
In Romany Gypsy culture, it’s common for horses to represent friends, similar to how dogs do in gorger culture. Therefore, for me, it makes sense that Knights are riding horses, as I often interpret them as someone with whom you may have a friendship. However, in the case of Tarot, the Knights’ horses are supposed to symbolize initiative and hard work – another common interpretation of the horse.
Sometimes, horses can signal royalty and achievement. To own a horse is to have some level of wealth and status, and this is probably the reasoning behind the horses on The Sun and Six of Wands cards.
Finally, there is a horse on the Death card. In contrast to the other horses, this one does not have a positive meaning; it’s meant to represent one of the four horses of the apocalypse, and is therefore symbolic of death and destruction.
Lion Meaning: Strength
The symbol of the lion on the Strength card is pretty obvious, as lions symbolize mastery, honor, and strength. Sometimes, lions also signal important people. The fact that the woman on the card is taming the lion and opening its mouth is a sign of control and the ability to conquer animal instincts – a common theme in Tarot.
(Note: there are also lions on The World and The Wheel of Fortune, but these represent a tetramorph, which has a different meaning.)
Lizard Meaning: King of Wands
Many diviners mistake the creature on the King of Wands for being a generic lizard. However, it’s actually a salamander, and these creatures represent the element of fire. This one on the King of Wands is a nod to the fact that Wands are associated with the element of fire in the Rider-Waite Tarot tradition. Salamanders are associated with fire because it used to be believed that they could firewalk.
Rabbit Meaning: Queen of Pentacles
I’m in two minds about the symbolism behind the Queen of Pentacles. It’s possible that the furry creature could represent a rabbit, but it’s also possible that it’s a hare.
It is a popular European superstition that rabbits are good luck (especially their feet). Rabbits are especially associated with financial windfalls. In some ways, the Queen of Pentacles is very fortunate and lives a rather privileged life, so little wonder there’s a rabbit drawn on her card (if that’s what this animal is).
In divination and fortune-telling, rabbits are also linked with sexuality and fertility. One interpretation of the Queen of Pentacles is that she represents motherhood and the female aspects of the physical world, hence the rabbit.
Although the animal on the Queen of Pentacles is probably a rabbit, there’s a chance that it’s a hare, which I will explain more about under ‘tortoise.’
Ram Meaning: The Emperor
The ram head appears on the throne of The Emperor, symbolizing the fact that this card is associated with the sign of Aries.
Snake Meaning: The Lovers & Seven of Cups
It’s pretty obvious that snakes represent temptation and sexuality, as most people are familiar with the story of the snake tempting Adam and Eve. In fact, both individuals and the snake make an appearance on the Lovers card. In the case of The Lovers Tarot card, the symbolism is self-explanatory.
Many Tarot readers are confused, however, as to what the snake represents in one of the cups of the Seven of Cups. In this case, the snake symbolizes the same thing as it does in the Lovers card. The snake is in the cup because sexuality and earthly pleasures are one of the choices the figure can make, the others being money, beauty, spirituality, and so on.
Tortoise Meaning: King of Pentacles
A lot of readers have never noticed this, but there appears to be something the King of Pentacles has his foot on. Many people have speculated as to what this thing is, but I suspect it might be a tortoise. Like the tortoise, the King of Pentacles is associated with achievements, wisdom, and expertise.
It’s interesting to think that if the King of Pentacles features a tortoise, then what if the animal on the Queen of Pentacles is actually a hare? How do the card’s meanings change in that respect?
If these animals really are a tortoise and hare, this can mean that the Queen symbolizes the quick-thinking, opportunistic aspects of the suit. The Queen is more aggressive in going for what she wants – a stark contrast to the other Tarot Queens when compared to their King counterparts. If the King is standing on a tortoise, this means he is the slow-moving, wise, and cunning Court of the Pentacles suit – an interpretation that fits in nicely with this card.
Wolf Meaning: The Moon
Finally, we have a wolf figure on The Moon card. This wolf appears with its dog counterpart.
The wolf and the dog on the Moon Tarot card are supposed to symbolize both human restraint and animal instinct. The dog is tamed, but the wolf is the wild, natural, intuitive thoughts and feelings we all have, buried deep beneath the surface.
The dog and the wolf on these cards are there to remind the seeker to use both intuition and common sense when making decisions. There is no clear-cut way with The Moon, no this or that. All choices must be made on their own merit and dealt with individually at that particular time. There cannot be too much listening to the spirit or too much following of the mind. Both must work in harmony if the seeker wishes to achieve the best outcome.
Closing Thoughts on the Meanings of Animals on Tarot Cards
That’s all for the meanings of animals on Tarot cards! I hope my outline of animal symbolism helped you to better interpret your Tarot cards.
Are you surprised by this list? Was there anything included which you did not expect? How to you feel about the meanings of animals on Tarot cards? Let me know in the comments section!
Posts Related to the Meanings of Animals on Tarot Cards
There are a lot of animals on the Rider-Waite Tarot deck – too many to put into one post. Therefore, I’ve created the ‘Animals of the Rider-Waite’ series, including: