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The Meaning of Major Arcana
The Path of the Fool from Folly to Enlightenment
There are many stories that are associated with the major arcana for the tarot and a number of stories that accompany the journey within the tarot itself.
I like to think of the Fool’s journey as the representation of man’s existence from childhood to old age and the various aspects that are represented along the path of humanity.
When reading the tarot, it is important to realize that there is no true ending to the journey and the major arcana cards while sometimes simplistic or on the opposite end of the spectrum: dire; are not tools that give cause for dire concern. They are designed to be like street signs along the road to life.
The major arcana itself is the beating heart of the tarot. The cards have a weight to them that offer direct clarity and give strong emphasis on your path much like a detour or stop sign does on a roundtrip. When you see a major arcana card in a reading it is a good time to take pause and listen to exactly what the universe is trying to convey to you.
The best way to understand these signals from the divine are to understand the secret story which is unfolded within the major arcane to give you an appropriate amount of context.
Understanding the aspects of each card as being relatable to periods in one’s life can often bring added insight that could otherwise be missed in a reading. Follow not only the keyword you see on the major arcana card but the number, astrological data, and symbolism in the card as well.
Major Arcana list of quick tarot meanings: Tarot At a Glance - Major Arcana Meanings
The major arcana are the 22 trump cards in the deck that represent important and specific events in a person’s life. They relate to important life or spiritual lessons that will influence the querant specifically. While you want to learn about the in depth traits of the cards, sometimes you just need a quick way to remember. Below we’ve cut to the basic meanings of each of the major arcana.
MAJOR ARCANA QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE
0 The Fool – The Adventure Begins: Represents a new beginning, innocence, adventure and changes ahead. Can also represent future follies, bouts of intoxication or troubles with extravagance.
1 The Magician – Go Forth and Explore the World: Manifestation in action, effective communication and swift changes bring abundance. It can also mean that diplomacy, subtlety, or eloquence will be a factor in the resolution of the question.
2 The High Priestess – True Power Lies Within You: Linked to hidden mysteries, revelations occur through intuition, insight and faith of self. It also means that wisdom, science, or other gained knowledge may be key to the resolution.
3 The Empress – A Strong Woman with Creative Solutions: Motherly nurturing encourages growth. Girl power, feminine issues and dreams fulfilled. It can also represent clandestine actions, the patience needed to fulfill goals, and other subtle influences going on in the background.
4 The Emperor – Rules with an Iron Fist but a Good Heart: Strong masculine forces provide structure, guidance and security. Bosses or authority lead the way. It can also represent stability, great or powerful people, or conviction are needed in the coming days.
5 The Hierophant – Seek and Ye Shall Find: Institutions of learning, spiritual guidance or occult training will provide the needed support or wise counsel. It can also describe alliances, such as marriage or partnerships, or negative ones including captivity or servitude depending on interpretation.
6 The Lovers – To Honor and Cherish: Coming together for love, whether just falling or a new commitment. True romance becomes bound by honor. It can also be seen to represent attraction of any kind as well as the trials overcome to attain it.
7 The Chariot – The Cost of Victory: Movement forward through perseverance. Travel in all forms, physically and metaphorically. Rely on yourself for success. It can also be interpreted to mean presumptive behavior or revenge.
8 Strength – Power Comes from Strength Used Wisely: Bravery and self-confidence lead to new adventures, heroic acts and possibly some heated passion. It can also describe great success or honor gained by using ones power wisely.
9 The Hermit – Step Away in Order to See Things Clearly: Serving the self through contemplation and meditation can bring enlightenment and personal understanding. Be patient with yourself. In other lights the hermit can mean isolation, or overly prudent action.
10 Wheel of Fortune – A Chance for Change is Around the Corner: Money, love and all positive opportunities are knocking. The wheel turns, repaying past actions in kind. Destiny comes around for everyone eventually, and this is the sign it could be your turn.
11 Justice – Balanced and Fair Behavior: Legal issues, accountability, balance and fairness are the goal here. You may need sound counsel that knows the situation at hand or the rules. It can also represent a basic fairness in the universe.
12 The Hanged Man – Winning Through Sacrifice: Give and get. Wisdom, peace and understanding will come to those that take the time to understand. Use your head to get ahead. It can represent both literal and figurative trials, as well as wisdom or intuition.
13 Death – The End is Near (and it’s probably for the best…) The end of something, change, the impermeability of all things. Learn to let go. Love yourself and choose a better path. Can also represent destruction or corruption of plans, places, or people, or the loss of prospects.
14 Temperance – Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Balance, moderation, being sensible are needed right now. It can also represent churches, priests or other religious elements depending on its placement in a reading.
15 The Devil – Temptation is the First Step Toward Failure: Destructive patterns, addiction, jealousy are all acts of giving away your power to another person or thing. It also represents violence or aggressive action, both mental and physical.
16 The Tower – The End is Near, Have No Fear : Collapse of stable structures, release, sudden insight are all on the horizon. The sky is falling and times are tough but cool heads of faith and reason will rise again. Some also define the tower as representing distress, ruin, or some other unforeseen calamity that is coming.
17 The Star – All Things Are Possible: Have hope for the future and witness the joy, beauty and possibilities that are all around you. Blessings are upon you right now. The card can also be seen to mean both cherishing what you consider precious and the loss of what is precious, depending on the cards placement.
18 The Moon – Veiled Truths and Secrecy: Mystery, the subconscious, dreams and psychic connections. You don’t know everything and secrets abound. Sometimes it’s best not to know. Can also be seen to mean hidden dangers or deception as well as the dangers of curiosity.
19 The Sun – The Shiny Happy Tarot Card: Success, happiness, and true contentment is on the rise. All will be well and things are going your way. Excellent omen for family, birth and harmony in community.
20 Judgment – What Goes Around, Comes Around: Now is the time to be accountable, by your own accord or someone else’s. Forgive and be forgiven. Allow for personal growth through responsible acts, fairness and repentance. It can also represent changes in career or home life as well as the renewal that comes with it.
21 The World – Life is Good: What you want is at your fingertips, but you need to reach out and grab it. Completion, wholeness, attainment, celebration and good times of all kinds. Can represent the reward that comes at the end of a long task, or the strides taken to achieve it.
- The Fool: the start in life. Something beginning.
- The Magician: a magic psychic person. Good news.
- The High Priestess: travelling to astral planes. Spiritual development.
- The Empress: child, marriage, mother, nurture and changes.
- The Emperor: controlling male, dominating, dependable and a father figure.
- The Hierophant: religion, spiritual completion, enlightenment and papers or letters.
- The Lovers: passion, love, marriage, relationship, delayed emotions.
- The Chariot: a journey, bringing in a new start, travel and new residence.
- Strength: power, strength, beginnings, boldness and good fortune.
- The Hermit: recluse, taking an inward journey, peace, meditation and time away.
- Wheel of Fortune: out of control, for good or bad, ill news and good news, ups and downs.
- Justice: time to forgive, taking on board actions, conclusion, law and order and a just result.
- The Hanged Man: boredom, enlightenment, perplexities in some areas.
- Death: change, the end, obstacles, worries and losses, dishonest and litigation.
- Temperance: balancing emotions, money, harmony, pleasure in daily life.
- The Devil: bondage, giving away the power, dishonesty, slight troubles, jealousy and uncertainty.
- The Tower: collapse of a stable situation, estrangement, events come crashing down and delay.
- The Star: hope, legacy, good luck, money and love.
- The Moon: dark forces at work, worry, mystery and removal in a situation.
- The Sun: inner contentment, love, family life, good luck, bringing in money and good news.
- Judgment: time to repent and forgive, taking account of actions, journey and good luck.
- The World: final, happiness, a resolution, life is good, final conclusion that is positive.