Part of the Tarot structure is the Major Arcana cards. There are twenty-two of these cards. Each card shows an image with a roman number at the top and a text at the bottom. The cards represent universal truths and archetypes. Working with these cards helps us find these deeper meanings when we try to understand situations happening in our lives.
The cards can shed light on the current moment or what happened in the past. They may show you that you have to work through a card to come out stronger on the other side. The life lessons the Major Arcana cards bring are usually not by choice, but they just happen. For us, the most important thing to do is to learn from them. Sometimes we understand the card and the lesson it represents, sometimes we have to become more aware of its meaning.
On my personal spiritual path, I learned that just understanding a life lesson is not the end of it. You get a lesson presented repeatedly until you not just learn what it means but also know how to deal with it elegantly. Then and only then will this be understood, and can you move on. You can split the Major Arcana cards up in a few ways. Let’s start with the easiest one.
The Fool and the rest of the Major Arcana cards
The Fool is the first card in the Major Arcana, and its number is zero (0). As the Hero of the Tarot, he travels through the Tarot to learn and grow personally and spiritually. The other cards are numbered I through XXI (1 through 21). When the Fool travels around, he walks into situations that present themselves to him by the other cards. The Major Arcana cards are the life lessons he walks encounters. These lessons come on his path; he can’t choose to encounter them; they just happen.
Three other sections of the Major Arcana cards
The twenty-one cards that are left when you take the Fool out are split into three parts. These are three sets of seven Major Arcana cards. Each group has an overall meaning, and the cards add their particular meaning to that. Let’s have a look at the first seven cards.
Cards 1 – 7 The Learning process of the child
These cards have images that show us basic life lessons such as the feminine and masculine archetypes. Learning to deal with traditions, how to connect with people and that we know both through experience and understanding the information we get. While doing this, we build faith and get ready to explore the world on our own. I would call the Major Arcana cards in this section the teachers. Below you find them with a short description next to them.
I Magician As above, so below – you can manifest anything you can think of
II High Priestess Learning hidden spiritual meanings through experiencing
III Empress The female archetype – the mother energy
IV Emperor The masculine archetype – the father energy
V Hierophant Learning to find your place in tradition and groups
VI Lovers Connecting with people and entering a work contract
VII Chariot Setting out in the world and learning what is right and wrong
Cards 8 – 14 The Learning process of the young adult
These cards show images that go beyond the essential life lessons. You need to step into the other’s shoes and see things differently. This way, you learn that life is not all about you. This is about finding your way in the world as a teenager would
Below you find the cards with a short description next to them.
VIII Strength Finding your inner strength to deal with situations
IX The Hermit Finding wisdom through introspection
X Wheel of Fortune Change is the one certainty we have in life
XI Justice Making fair decisions
XII The Hanged Man A small sacrifice to gain spiritual insight
XIII Death Slow Change – transition
XIV Temperance Finding balance in your life
Cards 15 – 21 The Learning process of the adult
These cards have archetypal images that offer us a chance to learn and grow as a person. They bring more complex challenges. This group teaches us to go on when things seem rough. This way, our spiritual insights and personal growth deepen.
Below you find the card with a short description next to them.
XV Devil You gave in to materialism-lust, now you need to choose wisely
XVI Tower Sudden insights that change everything
XVII Star There is hope, just keep putting your energy in, and it will work out
XVIII Moon Not all is visible, and this brings uncertainty
XIX Sun Love life and discover innocently like a child
XX Judgment Rising from the ashes like a phoenix
XXI World Accomplishing your goals and start the journey on a higher level
The lessons keep coming
When we reach The World card, we have finished our journey through the Major Arcana. We will start again with The Magician but on a higher level of awareness. This is our continuous growth that lasts our entire life. When we fully engage with these life lessons, we learn them quickly and thoroughly and gain inner peace more and more.
How do you see the Major Arcana?
The Tarot has a general meaning and once you learn that, you will find that you see more and more associations. For instance, you could find that these three groups are associated with the subconscious mind, the conscious mind, and higher awareness. Or that they are representing entirely different values for you.
Please let me know in the comments what you think.
Images used come from:
Illustrations from the Radiant Rider-Waite, art by by Pamela Colman Colman Smith, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. ©2015 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
Illustrations from the Rider-Waite, art by by Pamela Colman Colman Smith, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. ©2017 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.