The Suits

There are 4 suits commonly found in Tarot decks: Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.
While they sometimes have different names, the idea behind them is usually the same. If you understand the meanings of the suits and have some knowledge of numbers, you can read the Minor Arcana of any deck of Tarot cards, or even playing cards for that matter.

I have included some basic astrological descriptions as the two systems, Astrology and Tarot seem to complement each other.
I have also noticed that many Tarot readers incorporate their knowledge of astrology into their interpretations and readings and that many people who are interested in one are also interested in the other.
Since a great many people have some knowledge of Astrology, I thought the descriptions might be helpful in understanding the ideas behind the suits.

Wands can be described as the suit having to do with energy, creativity, communication, action, passion, self improvement/self development, spirituality and enterprise. If you look at the suit of Wands in most decks you notice that most of the cards show some type of action in progress, or someone who appears to be reviewing or enjoying the results obtained from a recently completed action. Action and energy are two key words to this suit.
Wands are usually associated with the element of fire. If you know a little of astrology, think of the personality attributes of the fire signs, the forceful Aries, the flamboyant Leo and the honest and enthusiastic Sagittarius.
Additional attributes include:
Direction - South
Season - Spring (Vernal Equinox)
Masculine/Feminine - Masculine

Cups are associated with the emotions, the subconscious, relationships and intuitive or psychic abilities. Most decks try to convey emotions in this suit; happiness, love, boredom, disappointment and dejection are usually represented and easily identified.
This suit is associated with the element of water and like water can be calm and serene, or turbulent and rough. Astrologically, the nurturing Cancer personality, the depth of the Scorpio and the intuitive, dreamy Pisces could be applied.
Additional attributes:
Direction - East
Season - Summer (Summer Solstice)
Masculine/Feminine - Feminine

Swords are the suit of mental activity, rational thinking, decisions, and intellectual pursuit. Because much of the turmoil in our lives can be attributed to our thoughts, this suit often depicts conflict and struggle as well. Looking at this suit in most decks, one finds some of the more negative cards depicting nightmares, craftiness, pain and restriction.
Swords are usually associated with the element of air. Astrologically one can think of the Libran desire for balance, the contradictions inherent in the Aquarian personality, and the Gemini's thirst for intellectual stimulation.
Additional attributes:
Direction - West
Season - Autumn (Autumnal Equinox)
Masculine/Feminine - Masculine

Pentacles are the suit associated with work, money, crafts, the home, the physical body. Looking at this suit, one sees craftsman at work, business being conducted, the physical comfort and security of having material things and the physical discomfort and pain of not having them.
Pentacles are associated with the element earth. Astrologically one can think of Taurean practicality and love of home, the Capricorn's financial and business prowess and the Virgo's industry, skill and productivity.
Additional attributes:
Direction - South
Season - Winter (Winter Solstice)
Masculine/Feminine - Feminine

Swords and Wands are usually associated with Air and Fire respectively, however some writers have reversed these attributions assigning Fire to Swords and Air to Wands.
Emily Peach does this in "The Tarot Workbook" and Ellen Cannon Reed does as well in her deck ,"The Witches Tarot" and her two books "The Goddess and the Tree" and "The Witches Tarot".
Arguments can be made for both points of view and you should chose whichever attributions seems to fit best to you.
The same is true of the directions assigned. An alternative system for directions taken from Astrology is:
Wands - East,
Cups - North,
Swords - West and
Earth - South.

Tarot Notebook

Now is the time to make yourself a Tarot Notebook.
Any notebook will do. Personally, I like a 3 ring binder, which allows me to expand as needed. As we go through the course, write down what you have learned. For instance in today's lesson we went over the suits, Set aside a page in your notebook for each of the suits and write a brief synopsis of what we covered here for each.
Add any thoughts you might have or any insights from Tarot books you are using. Should additional ideas or information come to you in the future, go back and add them as well.
Over time, this notebook will become a valuable resource. It will document your progress over time and be a source and record of interpretations.