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Beginners Guide To Tarot Part 1- The Major Arcana

Updated on October 14, 2013

The cards of the major arcana represent a complete life cycle, beginning with the Fool, a newborn babe, and ending with the World, the successful completion of a happy life. This does not mean that if you draw the World, you are about to die. Most of us go through many of these life cycles in a lifetime, physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, etc. When the cycle ends, we go through it again and learn a new lesson. Therefore, if you draw a major arcana card, the tarot is telling you that you either just learned, are learning, or are ready to learn, that particular life lesson, depending upon the placement of the card.
Another thing to note, the more major arcana cards that show up in a reading, the less control the querent has over the outcome of the question. If more than half the cards in a reading are major arcana cards, the outcome of the question is out of the querent’s control.
Following are the most common meanings of the major arcana cards. The meanings will very according to the question, the placement, and the supporting cards. Most of the time, if a card is reversed, the meaning is altered, so I have included the reverse meanings, represented by the letter R.

I have chosen not to include pictures because each tarot deck has a personality of it's own. I use an uncommon deck that works for me and have found meanings that coincide with pictures of a different deck can cause confusion.

The Meanings

0-The Fool
Gullibility, impulsivity, folly, possibly a new adventure
R-caution against reckless acts

1-The Magician
New projects, beginning training or renewed focus on a goal
R- blocked or disrupted energy or corrupt use of power

2-The High Priestess
An inner religious experience or mystery solved by intuition. Withdraw, be still and contemplate New things may be happening at work. Finances begin to look better.She may represent a person in the querent's life, a secret lover, a secret admirer, the perfect woman, or someone the querent trusts. She may represent the querent.

R- Withdrawal ends, social activities, possibly revelation of a long buried secret

3-The Empress
abundance, fertility, sensuality, femininity, motherhood, something waited on comes to fruition.
R- infertility or a mother’s rejection


4-The Emperor
Rules, structure, an authority figure, a father or father figure, or a need to seek wise council
Mental chaos, unclear thoughts, indecision

5-The Hierophant
Religious teachings, social conformity or restrictions, moral judgment, possibly a moral man or a man of God
R-unorthodoxy, freedom from social restrictions


6-The Lovers
Love, sexuality, attraction, relationship
R-relationship problems

7-The Chariot
Strong will, possibly travel, a conflict at work is resolved or a leader may emerge,
R-rumors abound, watch finances, weakness

8-Strngth
Confidence, balance, strength, fair play, a test is passed, a challenge conquered
R-wavering confidence

9-The Hermit
Isolation, seclusion for the purpose of personal growth or introspection, a loner who can still lead the way
R- return to socialization

10- The Wheel of Fortune
Unexpected turn of events, change in luck
R- trouble adapting to change

11- Justice
Fairness, honesty to self, possibly legal issues that will work out
R-injustice

12-The Hanged Man
Reversal of previous attitudes, a difficult decision, or sacrifice for the better, consider trying something different at work, changes in money management
R- social pressure, make better plans at work or devise a safety net

13-Death
An ending to promote change, the loss of something to gain something, changes shake up the workplace for the good, a relationship may end
R- resistance to change

14-Temperance
Timing, connectedness, inner beauty, balance, employ new strategies at work, turn a hobby into a money making venture
R- chaos

15- The Devil
Oppression, addiction, abuse, bondage, possibly a love triangle or infidelity (if combined with the 3 of swords, the 9 of swords or the Lovers)
R- beginning of freedom from oppression

16- The Tower
Unexpected upheaval, a revelation, chaos, conflict that may end a bad situation
R- refusal to let go of a bad situation

17- The Star
Calm after a storm, hope, optimism, an opportunity may suddenly become available
R- doubt, insecurity, the need to let go of a bad situation

18- The Moon
Psychic awakening, intuition, dreams, a difficult emotional journey, possibly nighttime activities
R- a need for introspection, ignoring what is already known, suppression

19-The Sun
Happiness, contentment, victory, achievement, joy
R- the same but “cloudy”


20- Judgment
Freedom, renewal, or judgement based on the past
R- refusal to accept or acknowledge change

21-The World
Success, abundance, fulfillment
R- a need to take action


Some of the meanings in a reading may repeat themselves. The tarot is stressing a point. Some of the less common meanings, if repeated, should be noted. For example, if the Fool and the seven of swords both show up in a spread, the querent is about to make a big, impulsive mistake. If the Chariot appears with the 6 of swords, travel is likely.


The word "arcana" is derived from the latin word "arcanus" which means secret or mystery. The major arcana cards reveal the big secrets. If you want to learn to read the tarot, start by learning the meanings of the major arcana. Eventually the mysteries can be revealed.

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