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Master the Major Arcana cards with this beginner friendly guide to all 22 of the major cards.

The Major Arcana refers to the first 22 cards in a traditional Tarot deck. It runs from The Fool all the way to The World and represents the major themes all humans have to move through within the cycle of life.

WORDS: Cat Crawford

IMAGE: CA Creative

 

If you are new the world of Tarot cards and Tarot reading, then you may be wondering what exactly the Major Arcana is and what makes it so special? 

These 22 cards are some of the most widely recognised cards out of the 78 card deck. They are frequently used in the media when representing the Tarot. We all know the cards Death, The Tower and The Devil. These are all part of the Major Arcana.

So what makes these cards so special in a deck of 78 cards? The Major Arcana hold a lot more weight than they’re Minor Arcana counterparts.

They represent the major life lessons and themes and the major archetypes we all come across in the cycle of life. They set the overall tone for a reading and provide an anchor as we move through the other cards in a Tarot reading spread.

What does the Major Arcana represent?

The Major Arcana is called as such because ‘Arcana’ means lessons or knowledge. These cards represent the ‘major’ knowledge and lessons we as humans need to move through life. The other 56 cards in a traditional Tarot deck are called the Minor Arcana cards, because they represent the ‘minor’ life lessons and knowledge. 

Another way to think of these two sections of a Tarot deck is that the Major Arcana is the umbrella and the Minor Arcana is everything that sits underneath.

These 22 cards are also seen as archetypes. If you’re not familiar with what archetypes are, they are a term used within psychology to refer to the universally understood symbology of a pattern of behaviour. 

Something we go back to time and time again in Tarot is psychologist Carl Jung’s breakdown of archetypes. Particularly the four main categories of; The Self, the Persona, the Shadow and the Anima/Animus. 

 

What are the 21 Major Arcana?

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The Major Arcana is numbered from 0 to 21, meaning that in total there are 22 cards within the Majors. These cards all run from The Fool – which is given the number of Zero – and ends with the final card, The World – which is given the number of 21. 

One way of seeing the Majors is in a table of three rows. This is often referred to as ‘The Fool’s Journey’ and positions The Fool as the hero of the Major Arcana cycle. He then goes on a journey where he encounters each of the archetypes locked within the 21 other Major Arcana cards. 

With each meeting he is faced with a new challenge. When we read the Major Arcana cards, it can be helpful to put ourselves in the position of The Fool in this respect. It can help us better understand why a Major card has made an appearance in our readings. 

The Major Arcana, like all of the Tarot, is a cycle. Once you reach the card numbered 21, you then circle back and start a brand new cycle with The Fool back at position Zero.

This represents our natural life cycles. We are never stagnant, life is always moving, throwing ups and downs our way. This is what we face within the journey of the Major Arcana. 

The Major arcana therefore tells the story of the self. If we apply those four archetype’s from Jung’s work then we can see this a little more clearly. 

Going back to that Fool’s Journey, the first line of the Majors represent the self, the second could represent the persona and the final representing the shadow with the animus and anima sprinkled throughout to add dimension. 

 

 

 

The Major Arcana Cards

0 The Fool

The very first card in the Major Arcana. This represents new beginnings and freedom.

1 The Magician

The second card representing creation and manifestation.

2 The High Priestess

The third card which represents spiritual exploration and mystery.

3 The Empress

The fourth card which represents fertility, nurturing and self-love.

4 The Emperor

The fifth card which represents our personal power and authority.

5 The Hierophant

The sixth card which represents our beliefs, habits and traditions.

6 The Lovers

The seventh card which represents our duality and our unconscious and conscious.

7 The Chariot

The eight card and the card of independence and exploration.

8 Strength

The ninth card representing inner strength and self control.

9 The Hermit

The tenth card meaning isolation and introspection.

10 Wheel of Fortune

The eleventh card representing fate and destiny, the things out of our control.

11 Justice

The twelfth card meaning our subjectivity vs objectivity and truth. 

12 The Hanged Man

The thirteenth card which represents stress, perspective and suspension.

13 Death

The fourteenth card representing change, transition and transformation.

14 Temperance

The fifteenth card representing balance, willpower and moderation.

15 The Devil

The sixteenth card representing our vices, addictions and materialism.

16 The Tower

The seventeenth card in Majors representing chaos, destruction and fresh starts.

17 The Star

The eighteenth card referring to our hope, direction and optimism.

18 The Moon

The nineteenth card representing our subconscious, dreams and shadow self.

19 The Sun

The twentieth card representing joy, success and abundance.

20 Judgement

The twenty-first card referring to thresholds and make or break moments.

21 The World

The final card of the Majors, the card of completion and ascension.

Learning the meanings of the Major Arcana

To help you learn the core meanings of all of the Major Arcana cards, here is a little infographic that acts as a quick and handy cheat sheet. These are the traditional meanings of the Tarot cards and meanings can vary depending on what deck you are using. These are ideal for any Rider Waite deck or a deck based on the Rider Waite meanings. 

If you’ve got a taste of the Tarot and you’re looking to see if Tarot reading is something you want to dive into a little more, then make sure you sign-up for my free self-led workshop below. 

 

The Major Arcana Infographic