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Messages from the Tarot Major Arcana - part 1

Updated on May 1, 2016
Wendy Getchell profile image

Wendy is a retired Registered Nurse who now researches and writes about nursing, Tarot, Meditation, energy healing, and spirit communication

Major Arcana of the Tarot
Major Arcana of the Tarot

From birth to death and everything in-between

The Major Arcana of the Tarot cards represent the significant milestones that occur in our lives; from birth, marriage, education, and even death.

There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana; they are:

  • The Fool
  • The Magician
  • The High Priestess
  • The Empress
  • The Emperor
  • The Hierophant
  • The Lovers
  • The Chariot
  • Strength
  • The Hermit
  • The Wheel of Fortune
  • Justice
  • The Hanged Man
  • Death
  • Temperance
  • The Devil
  • The Tower
  • The Star
  • The Moon
  • The Sun
  • Judgement
  • The World

If you see one of these cards (or perhaps more) in your Tarot reading it indicates that you are dealing with, or will be facing, issues around more than the mundane activities of daily life.

This article will give you a brief look in to what each card has to teach you, to tell you, so that you may better understand your own Tarot reading, and of course, your life path.

The First 11 of the 22 Major Arcana Cards of the Tarot

This article is broken down in to two parts for the sake of easier reading.

There are, as mentioned previously, 22 cards of the Major Arcana. Each represents a milestone or major occurrence that happens in nearly every human beings life while here on this earth. The short explanations given for each card are merely a brief summary of the message they carry regarding certain periods in your life. Their deeper meanings depend upon where they fall in your reading.

The Fool

The Fool represents innocence and a trusting nature. This young person is represented by the numerical value of "0". The shape of the "0", as in the shape of the sun behind him, has no real beginning or end; it is a never ending circle of being.

In the Rider Waite Tarot deck the Fool is wearing a brightly colored shirt and carries a white rose in his left hand. He carries in his other hand a small sack which contains all his material worldly possessions. Though he seemingly has little, he has great faith, and is unafraid to step off the edge of the cliff we see in front of him. With no idea of what lies over the edge he trusts that he will be guided forward.

In your Tarot reading the appearance of the Fool likely means that you have before you an opportunity to explore some new venture (or adventure) in your life. The universe is encouraging you to take your own leap of faith and to not be afraid to go ahead and explore this opportunity presented to you.

The Magician

The Magician stands before a table which contains all the elements of life; fire, air, water, and earth. He holds the numerical value of "1"; he is the beginning and in control of self. With the ability to command all the elements he points his right hand toward the heavens and his left toward the earth; indicating "as above, so below".

You will see this card appear in your Tarot reading as a message from the universe that you have, or will have, this same ability in your own life. No, it does not mean you can conjure a rabbit out of a tall hat, but that if you listen to your own intuitive abilities you are more than capable of creating for yourself all that you desire.

The High Priestess

Sitting on a throne between two pillars the High Priestess holds in her lap the book of all knowledge. Behind her is a closed curtain which hides these universal "secrets" from view of the casual observer. The number "2" indicates choice, and yet, all in life is not just black or white.

When the High Priestess appears in a Tarot reading it indicates an opportunity for you to explore beyond the simple "yes" or "no" choices in life. You are being invited to explore what lies behind the curtain, beyond the veil. Only you can decide if you want to know more about the real mysteries of life, death, and everything in-between. Are you ready?

The Empress

The Empress is the mother of all creation; she is love and life itself. In the Rider Waite deck she is pictured as a pregnant woman dressed in a long flowing gown, decorated with beautiful red roses. She holds a small staff in her right hand which has a ball on top; The earth? Her crown is decorated with twelve white stars. She sits on a heart shaped bench with red and orange cushions and she is surrounded by living trees and a gently trickling stream.

The Empress holds the numerical number of "3", a very spiritual number for many.

This is a very happy card to appear in any Tarot reading, indicating pregnancy, birth (though not necessarily meaning a baby), new life and spiritual fulfillment.

The Emperor

The Emperor is a man of power whose only intentions are to fight for what is right and just. He has gained his throne position by fighting along side friends and family; fighting for what he believes in, and for things in his life worth preserving.

Holding the numerical value of "4" The Emperor provides for a stable foundation.

In a Tarot reading this card can either represent you (male or female since we all have both feminine and masculine qualities), or someone in your life you see as such a strong force for good. It is a sign of strength, leadership, just cause, and true stability.

The Hierophant

The Hierophant is a religious leader. Religion, no matter how you practice it, is meant to create direction and calm to all its' followers. We human beings need some belief system to help us deal with and understand "why" we are here, and what our life purpose may be.

The number "5" is a rather unstable number. Just think for a moment how unstable the world can be; generally speaking it is belief systems that also create the turmoil between peoples and countries.

When the Hierophant appears in your Tarot reading it is because you may be seeking, or are being advised to seek out, the guidance of someone who may have answers to questions you have yet to ask.

The Lovers

The Lovers are a pair of souls brought together under some divine guidance. As in any relationship (personal or business) decisions must be made.The card does not necessarily represent physical lovers, but more the same sense of confusion ans uncertainty we feel in an intimate relationship.

The number "6" represents a mastery of a crisis or situation (remember the number "5" is chaotic, unstable).

So in a Tarot reading this card reveals that a decision has been, or will need to be made, and that you must do so in order to gain "mastery" over whatever situation you are dealing with.

The Chariot

Drawn by two creatures, each a partial reflection of the other, they carry forward the person who has mastered a task and is now ready to move on in to new territory.

The Chariot holds the numerical value of "7", representing just that, mastery and control.

This card can represent travel, or even someone who wears a uniform (police,military, etc)


In the Rider Waite deck the Strength is represented by a woman dressed in a long white robe, with red flowers encircling her waist. With gentle hands she pries open the mouth of a fierce lion.

The number "8" represents karma, intuition, strength, and unity.

When this card appears in a reading it is showing you the inner strength you possess and where, and how, you may best use it in your life.

The Hermit

The Hermit is a solitary figure who stands with head bowed. He holds a walking staff in his left hand and a lit lantern in his right.

The number "9" represents completion and readiness to face a new beginning.

When the Hermit appears in a reading it indicates a time where solitude, or withdrawl from a current situation, is necessary in order for you to get a clearer view point on where your future direction may lay.

Wheel of Fortune

There is a lot of reference, in pictures, to Greek myth and folklore in the Wheel of Fortune card but truly it simply shows the many aspects of the circle of life.

The card has the numerical value of "10" which is the end, and also the beginning.

In a Tarot reading the card indicates that where your future lies very much depends upon how hard you spin that wheel, or if you spin it at all. Are you going to repeat the same patterns in your life, or are you going to take a chance and try something new?

These are the first 11 of the 22 Major Arcana cards of the Tarot. The second part of this article covers the messages of "Justice" (XI) to "The World" (XXI).


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