What is the Major Arcana? - A Simple Card Overview
What are the Major Arcana cards?
The Major Arcana are 22 picture cards, each with their own special meaning. They lead the other 56 cards in a traditional 78 card Tarot deck and are widely thought to be the most powerful. The Major Arcana cards can be used on their own to give a reading, or in combination with the other cards.
In their own right, the Major Arcana cards tell a story, from the Fool card through to the World Card. This is the story of an individual, initially setting out on a journey which will lead them on the paths of learning, experience and spiritual enlightenment. Along the way, this individual will come across many people, situations and circumstances. They will face challenges that they will need to overcome, as well as encounter joy and sadness. Each step they take will be a lesson to learn and each further step is taken with the experience drawn from the last.
The Fool Card; the Journey begins
The Major Arcana journey usually begins starting with number 0, the Fool card and shows a young person setting out to seek adventure and experiences. The Fool is willing to put themselves forward to encounter new people, goals and to seek their fortune. With it, the Fool card has a certain ring of innocence and open spirit. The Fool does not usually suggest someone stupid or foolish, but rather a kind of youthful wandering minstrel or jester type of character. This person with a free spirit who is open to ideas, would travel from town to town to seek their fortune in the middle ages. Clearly along the way, this person would meet many unforeseen circumstances, both good and bad and meet a string of people along the way. This card represents the start of a journey, a new path, or the willingness to begin a new venture. There is a certain excitement and usually some degree of uncertainty as to what exactly will happen next. We feel the frisson of a new experience.
The First Step; The Magician Card
The Magician, card number 1 of the Major Arcana, can be seen at a table, with his tools laid out, and often is holding a wand, which is pointing at the sky. His other hand pointed towards the earth. He is therefore the connection between the heavens and the earth and connected to both energies quite consciously. In the Rider Waite Tarot pack, the Magician is shown with the infinity symbol above his head and an oroboros belt at his waist (a symbol of a snake swallowing its own tail). Both of these symbols traditionally represent the endless circle of life, and eternity. On the table, we can see a symbol for each of the suits of the Tarot pack; a cup, a sword, a wand, and a pentacle or coin. These in turn represent the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. This card is the first card of progress, the Fool has already developed a skill! More importantly he has a gained a spiritual consciousness. He often stands in a garden of flowers, representing the ability for growth and fruition. This is the card of creativity and of the ability to succeed. You have the tools at hand and just need to learn how to use them to their best effect.
The Major Arcana- the story continues
The Major Arcana cards continue to tell their story in the following order. You will see that some of the cards embody a type of person you might meet along the way, but also can dictate certain circumstances. The context depends on the position and type of reading you have,
1. The High Priestess: The High Priestess is an older experienced lady with spiritual wisdom. This card can suggest a situation that needs reflection and careful decision making before action is taken on the path of progress.
2.The Empress: A connection with feminine strengths, female intuition being given to you or by you. The arrival of some positive news. The seeds are planted and are growing!
3. The Emperor: This major Arcana card shows us a protective male of strong character. It shows a sustainable position, a solid outcome of an event or the positive outcome of a hope or ideal.
4.The Hierophant; The male version of the High Priestess, the Hierophant gives illumination and insight. We would consult with him if we needed a recommendation on a situation. There is also a sense of belonging to a group under a spiritual or educational leader.
5. The Lovers : This card can signify the need to make a carefully considered choice. In a love reading this can reveal an attraction between two people. The card of yin and yang.
6. The Chariot: This card can show that a situation seems to be moving in the right direction, or indicate a victory. It may also signify a journey or some forthcoming news on a situation.
7. Justice: This card indicates balance, resolving conflicts in a fair manner. It can also represent the intervention of the law and justice.
8. The Hermit: When one is alone, and reflects on a situation, one can sometimes come up with the answer. The Hermit can suggest that applying ourselves to studying or reflecting on the situation at hand will give us guidance.
9. The Wheel of Fortune The Major arcana card of evolution, of vision, the discovery of patterns and cycles and using what chance offers us.
10. Strength. This can tell you that you are on the right path and to continue with conviction. Be brave and carry on! Patience is also a strength, so it can be an indicator that patience is needed too.
11. The Hanged Man: A situation on hold or in the balance, no activity for now or a waiting period. A pause may be needed.
12. Death: This card may indicate the ending of a situation. Like any situation that ends, a new one begins. A card of change.
13. Temperance: An opportunity may arise. There is hope. Temperance also suggests restraint, self-healing or waiting before taking the next step.
14. The Devil; This card questions which obstacles are restraining you from progress. Is there anything you can do about this yourself to overcome the issue? Seduction with the material world and its pleasures.
15. The Tower: A situation of sudden and sometimes unexpected change, this is often a necessary step for progress. Situations based on fantasy may also fall down like the Tower, allowing us a fresh and realistic start.
16. The Star: A positive card of hope and good fortune.
17. The Moon: A hidden element that may not yet be known to you. An illusion or subconscious feeling.
18. The Sun: A positive card with the sun shining upon the situation.
19. Judgement: This is a card that asks you to look into yourself and to be honest with yourself and others. The time to assess what is needed to self- heal, or to heal a situation.
20. Le Monde A sense of joy and wholeness.
21 or 22 The Fool card: In some packs the last card and in some the first card, this indicates the start of a new adventure.