Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings

If you want to read about the meaning of the Minor Arcana Cards, click HERE

The Tarot consists of two parts, the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana is comprised of 22 cards, and it is the only arcana to always show images (the minor often only shows the number of symbols corresponding to its place in the suite). It is generally agreed that the Major Arcana illustrates the soul’s journey to enlightenment. The journey begins with the innocent Fool and reaches its completion with the last card of the Major Arcana - The World. Some of the cards are named after notions or ideas, such as Strength or Justice. Other cards might be described as job descriptions, and ask us to imagine what kind of skills and character a person with that occupation might need to possess (or avoid). Thus, The Emperor might suggest the qualities of leadership and authority but warn against irresponsibility and rebelliousness. The most esoteric cards in the Major Arcana are those connected with the heavens, such as The Moon and The Star.

Major Arcana Tarot Cards

Below is the list of Major Arcana cards. Please click on the image of the card you're interested in to read about the meanings of that card.

The Fool
Eternal optimist, exploration, adventure, immaturity, passion, unpredictability, a quest.
The Magician
Confidence, skill, good communication, dishonesty, focus, knowledge.
The High Priestess
Good Judgement, self-reliance, intuition, psychic ability, secrets revealed, wasted potential.
The Empress
Maternal instincts, motherhood, creativity, domestic well-being, luxury, sensuality.
The Emperor
Paternal influences, fatherhood, institutions, organisation, stability, promotion, rules.
The Hierophant
Good advice, conformity, orthodoxy, formal learning, traditional values.
The Lovers
Love, relationships, a choice, seeking love, partnership, conflicting options.
The Chariot
Hard work, self-control, being pulled in two directions, ambition, journeys, victory.
Fair treatment, karma, winning a judgement, balance, taking responsibility, cause and effect.
The Hermit
Solitude, detachment, discretion, seeking the truth, going on retreat, introvert, meditative.
The Wheel of Fortune
Cyclical change, endings and beginnings, opportunities, inevitability, a turning point.
The Strength
Good health, willpower, confronting problems, overcoming difficulties, compassion, courage.
The Hanged Man
Willing sacrifice, attainment, progress, boredom, changing priorities, a new approach.
Change, outgrowing a situation, new beginnings, release, parting, accepting the inevitable.
Patience, control, harmony, reason, moderation, healing.
The Devil
Lust, temptation, anger, weakness of character, greed, entrapment, addictive behaviour.
The Tower
Sudden change, unexpected events, revelations, learning to adapt, a shock.
The Star
Good fortune, happiness, acceptance, health, resolution, love, trust, self-expression.
The Moon
Secrets, the subconscious, delusion, introspection, unrealistic, psychic abilities, exaggeration.
The Sun
Education, learning, wisdom, success, achievement, self-confidence, new friendships.
Natural change, making the right choice, progression, new ideas, achievement, decisions, re-evaluating.
The World
Completion, reward, satisfaction, celebration, travel, accomplishing goals.

So far so good, but now the consensus regarding the Major Arcana seems to break down, and it is really up to the individual to decide which interpretation of the Major Arcana appeals to them. Some people associate the cards with the Cabala, and the pathways which can be found described on the Tree of Life. Alternatively, it has been claimed that The Magician represents the Egyptian God Thoth and the High Priestess represents the Goddess Isis. Yet, others see the cards as representing the male and female principles or deities. To add to the confusion, the names of the cards vary somewhat from pack to pack. So, The Magician can be called the Juggler. Other Major Arcana cards which change their names are The High Priestess who can be called the Papess or Female Pope, the Hierophant who is sometimes known as The Pope and Death which can be called The Close (actually a much more accurate name). Since tarot cards are often used by Pagans, some of the more obviously Christian influenced cards have also been renamed in some decks, thus The Devil becomes Temptation and The Hermit becomes The Wise One. It is not only the name of the cards which can vary from pack to pack, the numbers ascribed to the cards are also variable. The Fool is usually the first card with the numerical value of 0, but he can be found dragging his feet as the last card in some packs. Justice and Strength also tend to be fidgety, and they can seem to swop places, but they are usually at position 8 and 11 respectively. Historically, the Major Arcana, as the name suggests, are seen as more important in a reading than the Minor Arcana.

And whilst most tarot readers use both the Major and Minor Arcana, there are a few who solely use the Major Arcana. Many Tarot readers claim Major Arcana gained its high status because it is primarily concerned with the most important energies in our lives - the subconscious motivations that underlie our actions. Thus, these cards can be understood as reflecting the most powerful influences in the world and in our lives. Others claim that the Major Arcana are connected to actual events that will play a major part in a person’s life, and it is this which makes the appearance of these cards in a spread so important. In reality, the distinctions between the Arcana are less defined, and in a successful reading the two sets of cards should complement each other.

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