Understanding the Major Arcana

"Major arcana - A suit of twenty-two cards in the tarot deck"

“Major arcana – A suit of twenty-two cards in the tarot deck”


The Tarot is a very complex tool used to divine a number of things. To the casual observer a tarot deck is just a number of cards with different names and numbers. However, in order to be able to understand every level of meaning, someone proficient in reading the Tarot must be able to understand and appreciate what every single card signifies both as a normal presentation and when reversed. Being able to use a tarot deck to the utmost also means that you must have a thorough understanding of all 78 cards. The cards are divided into two parts: there are 56 known as the Minor Arcana and 22 known as the Major Arcana. In popular culture, it is almost always the Major Arcana that is portrayed. The reason for this is that the Major Arcana are more easily recognizable, as are the meanings attached to them. If you’re looking to become more familiar with the Tarot, a good place to start is to start by learning about the Major Arcana.

Learn to Recognize the Cards

While there is far more to learning the Major Arcana than simply learning the names and order of the cards, this is where most people start. In order, ranging from numbers zero to 22, the cards are: The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, The Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgement, and The World.

See Beyond the Images

The cards of the Major Arcana are all important. Some represent authority. Some represent transition. Others represent spiritual values and growth. Many people judge the cards based on the image they carry. The 13th card of the Major Arcana, for example, is Death. This card commonly believed to carry an extremely negative meaning. However, this is not the case. This card can represent stagnation and depression. It can also represent changes in the cycle of life and regrowth, however. This is why you should not interpret meanings simply by judging the image the cards present you with.

Recognize the Relations

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While each card of the Major Arcana has its own respective meaning, there will also be something unique in how it applies to you. For example, the 17th card in the Major Arcana, The Star, seems at first glance to be a symbol of hope and faith. However, The Star seen in reversal can also represent a loss of faith or resignation in certain situations. Once you learn the Major Arcana it will be easy to see how they connect to certain events happening in your life or that of someone you are reading for.

Learn Through Application

An easy way of becoming familiar with the Major Arcana is to use them in readings you do for yourself. Draw a card at random and discern what it means for you. If you draw The Hermit, you’ll find that it may be cautioning you against making a certain decision in haste. You can then reverse the card to apply that meaning as well, which in this case would warn against recklessness. You can see how the two meanings come together as one this way and can interpret it to mean that you need to be wary of acting without thinking.

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