The tarot consists of 78 cards in total. Twenty-two of which are known as the Major Arcana and fifty-six are known as the Minor Arcana. The difference between the two is that the Major Arcana represents the bigger life lessons. Potential life-altering experiences, karma, destiny and things that are more set in stone.
The Minor Arcana with the Swords, Pentacles, Cups and Wands suits can also represent these things on a smaller, more everyday scale. Although they are more changeable and not so set in stone. So you should pay attention when a Major Arcana card comes up in a reading. It can show that the situation in question is one that is pivotal, important and may have a destined feel.
Sometimes you may have a lot of Major Arcana cards show up in a reading. This can indicate that making a decision in the matter will have a profound effect. Moreover, they can sometimes even be life-changing effects in your life. They can show that certain things about your situation can’t really be changed. You may need to go through the process and learn the lesson in order to move beyond it.
The Fool’s Journey
The cards in the Major Arcana are referred to as “The Fool’s Journey”, as the first card in the Major Arcana is the Fool, and each card thereafter represents a stage on his journey. The final card of the Major Arcana is the World, which represents the final achievement and culmination of this journey and the profound wisdom that comes with that.
The Fool represents the first initial realization of an idea, or an opportunity, and the optimistic view about the potential of that idea. The reason this card is referred to as “The Fool” is that a level of naive optimism is required to motivate someone to take this journey. There is also a level of bravery needed in order to be courageous enough to take a risk and pursue a dream.
The thing with the Fool is that he’s inexperienced and does not have the wisdom about the journey he’s embarking on. This means that he’s likely to make some mistakes and foolish choices along the way, and this is why he’s called the Fool.
Although without a certain level of naive optimism and fearlessness, one may never take chances or risks in life. Which means that little growth and development will occur in their life. The Fool is overly confident in his dream and this allows him to step boldly out into the unknown and pursue the calling of his heart.
The Hero’s Journey
The Fool’s Journey can also be connected to the myth of the Hero’s Journey. Which is a template for various myths involving a “hero” who goes on an adventure to pursue an important mission. On this journey, the hero encounters situations that are both challenging and enlightening, and by the end of the journey, the hero returns home as a transformed person.
An unseen force “calls” the hero in the story to embark on a potentially dangerous and perilous adventure. The hero cannot ignore this call, as it compels them to take action and step into the unknown, regardless of the consequences.
Supernatural forces lead this spiritual calling, aligning it with the individual’s soul and fate. As such, The Hero’s Journey offers a rare opportunity for the person to find themselves amidst life’s chaos and discover their true potential.
In a similar vein, the Major Arcana can be seen as a version of the Hero’s Journey with the Fool representing the beginning and the World representing the final transformation of the hero. Consequently, all the cards in between can be viewed as the various experiences, obstacles, and challenges that come up throughout the journey.
Numerology of the Major Arcana
Each card in the Major Arcana comes with a number and each number carries its own vibration which affects the energy of the card. Although the Fool is the first card in the Major Arcana it’s numbered zero, as it represents infinite possibilities and potentials.
The last card is The World, which is numbered twenty-one, which means that there are twenty-two cards total in the Major Arcana. The number of each card has a definite correlation with the energy and esoteric meaning of the card. Which adds more depth to their spiritual meanings.
The first ten cards in the Major Arcana are represented by single-digit numbers which are 0 – 9 and then move onto double-digit numbers, which are 10 – 21. The numbers zero – nine can be seen as the root numbers for the rest of the numbers in the Major Arcana.
The double-digit numbers can be seen as more advanced or built-upon versions of the numbers they reduce down to. For example, the World Card is number 21. This number when added together reduces down to 3, which is the number of the Empress.
This means that the energies of the Empress can also be found in the energy of the World. It will just manifest in a different way. Having a good understanding of basic numerology zero – nine, it can give you a nice foundation for understanding higher numbers.
Astrology of the Major Arcana
Each card in the Major Arcana has an astrological association as well, such as a zodiac sign and planet. This adds more depth and intrigue to the meanings of the cards, which can also help your interpretations.
Here I will briefly go over the energies and meanings of each zodiac sign, along with the ruling planet. This will give you a basic understanding of what the signs stand for and how they blend with the energies of the cards. If you want to go a bit deeper into astrology, we have a great beginners astrology guide.
Certain cards have multiple planets ruling over it. This is because the zodiac sign associated with it has two ruling planets. The last two cards of the Major Arcana, Judgment and The World, only have a ruling planet, no zodiac sign.
Mars rules Aries, connecting it to leadership, passion, ambition and taking charge as well as anger and enthusiasm.
Venus rules Taurus, connecting it to stability, traditions, beauty, creativity, abundance, and stubbornness.
Mercury rules Gemini, connecting it to socializing, communication, curiosity, learning, wittiness, and gossip.
The Moon rules Cancer, connecting it to intuition, emotions, sensitivity, nurturing, empathy, and moodiness.
The Sun rules Leo, connecting it to courage, bravery, leadership, pride, being in the spotlight, and vibrancy.
Mercury rules Virgo, connecting it to analytical thinking, problem-solving, detail-oriented thinking, and being critical.
Venus rules Libra, connecting it to beauty, fairness, diplomacy, harmony, relationships, art, and indecisiveness.
Mars and Pluto rule Scorpio, connecting it to intensity, power, intuition, instincts, strategy, and control.
Jupiter rules Sagittarius, connecting it to growth, expansion, travel, open-mindedness, philosophy, and wisdom.
Saturn rules Capricorn, connecting it to responsibility, hard work, determination, leadership, discipline, and control.
Saturn and Uranus rule Aquarius, connecting it to individualism, innovation, intelligence, and humanitarianism.
Jupiter and Neptune rule Pisces, connecting it to spirituality, imagination, artistry, creativity, compassion, and fantasy.
The Archetypes of the Major Arcana
The Major Arcana cards each represent a specific archetype or symbol of a rite of passage during this journey. People easily recognize archetypes such as the Emperor and Empress because history and mythology frequently feature them.
You can also easily understand other archetypes like the Devil, the Hierophant (high priest), and the High Priestess. You can form a very basic foundation of the archetype each card represents without delving into their meanings.
So if the Emperor comes up in a reading, you can see that a person of power is in question or you are embodying the energy of this archetype. Knowing the archetypes can help you to form a stronger foundation and understanding of the cards.
A Brief Intro Into the Major Arcana
Here we will briefly cover the basics of the Major Arcana which will give you a good place to begin your studies.
The Fool – Number 0
The Fool, ruled by Uranus, represents new beginnings, optimism, courage, inspiration and stepping out into the unknown.
The Magician – Number 1
The Magician, ruled by Mercury, represents manifestation, initiation, creation, taking action, resourcefulness and power.
The High Priestess – Number 2
The High Priestess, ruled by the Moon, represents intuition, the subconscious mind, mystery, secrets, divine wisdom, divine feminine and spiritual awareness.
The Empress – Number 3
The Empress, ruled by Venus, represents abundance, feminine energy, nurturing, Mother Earth, creation, fertility, beauty and sensuality.
The Emperor – Number 4
The Emperor, ruled by Mars, represents stability, authority, masculine energy, structure, building foundations, professionalism and fatherly energy.
The Hierophant – Number 5
The Hierophant, ruled by Venus, represents traditions, spiritual wisdom, a higher level of commitment, beliefs, conforming and a spiritual teacher.
The Lovers – Number 6
The Lovers, ruled by Mercury, represent a choice of the heart, harmony, love, relationships, alignment of values and a soul connection.
The Chariot – Number 7
The Chariot, ruled by the Moon, represents forward momentum, moving towards a goal, travel, success, willpower, determination and duality.
Strength – Number 8
Strength, ruled by the Sun, represents courage, bravery, inner strength, taming one’s ego, personal power, resilience and endurance.
The Hermit – Number 9
The Hermit, ruled by Mercury, represents solitude, inner wisdom, isolation, soul-searching, self-discovery, introspection and spiritual growth.
The Wheel of Fortune – Number 10
The Wheel of Fortune, ruled by Jupiter, represents destiny, a turning point, change, fate, karma, fortune, good luck and universal laws.
Justice – Number 11
Justice, ruled by Venus, represents truth, fairness, justice, balancing out the scales, karma, diplomacy, law and the consequences of your actions.
The Hanged Man – Number 12
The Hanged Man, ruled by Neptune, represents coming into a state of enlightenment, a pregnant pause, surrender, waiting and metamorphosis.
Death – Number 13
Death, ruled by Mars & Pluto, represents transformation, change, endings and beginnings, letting go, finality, completion and transition.
Temperance – Number 14
Temperance, ruled by Jupiter, represents balance, moderation, patience, authenticity, staying true to your purpose and alchemy.
The Devil – Number 15
The Devil, ruled by Saturn, represents temptation, control, manipulation, addiction and abuse of power. Also something that has power over you and sexuality.
The Tower – Number 16
The Tower, ruled by Mars, represents sudden change, unexpected challenges, revelations, epiphanies, chaos and destruction.
The Star – Number 17
The Star, ruled by Uranus, represents faith, hope, peace, serenity, sanctuary, abundance, divine blessings, divine alignment, meaning and purpose.
The Moon – Number 18
The Moon, ruled by Jupiter & Neptune, represents the subconscious mind, instincts, intuition, illusion, fear, emotions, dreams and the unconscious.
The Sun – Number 19
The Sun, ruled by the Sun, represents happiness, joy, success, warmth, illumination, vitality, positivity, optimism and enthusiasm.
Judgment – Number 20
Judgment, ruled by Pluto, represents spiritual awakening, an inner calling, rebirth, destiny, life purpose and making a final judgment.
The World – Number 21
The World, ruled by Saturn, represents achievement, completion, closure, the end of a cycle, the end of a journey, accomplishment and travel.
Hopefully, this can set you up for a deeper understanding of what the Major Arcana represents and what they symbolize in readings.
The best way to work on your understanding of the individual cards, and how they interact is to do readings. Start for yourself or do a reading for a friend.
Learn the Tarot with Online Flash Cards
Are you looking to dive into the world of tarot and master the meaning of each card? You should check out our post, “Learn The Tarot Cards – Online Flash Cards” by our own Tarot expert Ersa Fay. With interactive flash cards covering all 78 cards in the tarot, both the Minor and Major Arcana, you will learn key facts and the symbolism and meanings associated with each card.
By using these flash cards, you’ll become more comfortable with performing your own readings and enhance your journey into the world of tarot.
In the post, Ersa focuses on the iconic Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, known for its rich imagery and profound symbolism. The captivating illustrations in this deck draw from various sources such as mythology, astrology, alchemy, and the Kabbalah, creating a visual language that resonates deeply with the human psyche. So, if you’re ready to start learning, don’t miss out on this fantastic resource. We hope you find it useful and remember to have fun with it!