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Tarot Major Arcana

Updated on January 6, 2018

The heart of the tarot is the Major Arcana Tarot cards, which are commonly referred to as the ‘trump cards’. They are twenty-two cards in total, which form the foundation of the tarot deck. Twenty-one of these cards are numbered, and one card is unnumbered, which is the Fool card. These cards depict the stages that we go through to search for greater understanding and meaning of life. The Major Arcana cards also stand for a way to spiritual self-awareness, which can mean that they hold deep and meaningful lessons.

These cards illustrate human consciousness, as well as illustrate the different life lessons and the keys to them that have been passed through generations. Wisdom from many different esoteric traditions and cultures’ wisdom are the basis of the Major Arcana’s imagery. These traditions come from various different religions, such as Sufi, Hebrew, Buddhist, Christian and even Egyptian.

When having your tarot reading read, it is key to notice if your reading is made of Major Arcana Tarot cards, if it is then you will be, or may currently be, experiencing some events which will heavily influence your life in the long term for either the better or worse. In order to delve further into your spiritual and personal quest, it is vital that you pay attention to the important lessons being read to you.

However, if the Major Arcana cards are reversed, you could be oblivious or not paying attention to any of your lessons in your life, and should return to the previous card’s lesson before trying to advance forward in life.

If you want to do a reading that only uses the twenty-two Major Arcana cards, then you will have a reading that centers on self-awareness in the spiritual sense, or a reading where you need to have a deep insight from the collective unconscious.

The twenty-two Major Arcana Cards are as of the following:

  • Fool

If the fool card is laid upright, it can mean for innocence, a free spirit, spontaneity and beginnings. However, if the card is reversed, it can mean for recklessness, risk-taking, general foolishness, and naivety.

In the sequence of Tarot cards, the fool is numbered zero, though it does not have a specific place in the cards, which happens to be the number of unlimited potential. This card can come either at the end of the Major Arcana, or at the beginning. The fool does not need a number considering he is ever present in the Major Arcana since it is considered to be the Fool’s journey through life.

  • Magician

The skill, logic, and intellect of the Magician are what it uses to carry the planet Mercury, which is what the Magician is associated with. In the sequence of Major Arcana Tarot cards, the magician is the one, which happens to be the number that represents beginnings. The magician bridges the spirit world and the human world together.

If the card is laid upright, the magician can represent skill, concentration, power, action, and resourcefulness. However, if the card is reversed, it could represent hidden talents, manipulation, and even poor planning.

  • High Priestess

The High Priestess, also called Persephone, Isis, Artemis, and even the Corn Maiden, sits between both the darkness and the light. She is the second card of the Major Arcana Tarot deck. She is the mediator of the passage into the depths of reality by the pillars of Solomon’s temples behind her on the card. This card is usually associated with the card’s reader since it is focused on secrets, either being revealed or kept. This card can also represent a perfect woman being in a man’s life, or, it can represent a woman’s independence without a man.

When the card is upright, it can represent mystery, the subconscious and even higher powers of the mind. Hidden agendas, however, are what the card represents when it is reversed. The person whose fortune is being read needs to possibly start listening to their inner voice.

  • Empress

The empress’ card is ruled by Venus, which happens to be the planet of love, fertility, harmony, art, creativity, grace, and beauty. She is built after the archetypes of Mother Earth, Demeter, the Goddess of Fertility, the Anima, and the Feminine Principal. With this card shown upright, it can stand for beauty, abundance, fertility, femininity and even nature. However, reversed, the card can mean for a creative block and that the person being read their fortune will have a dependence on others.

  • Emperor

Upright, the Emperor Major Arcana Tarot card can stand for solid foundations, authority and even structure and father figures. However, reversed can show for domination, inflexibility, excessive control and even rigidity. The Emperor’s card complements the Empress. He stands for the patriarch and Masculine Principal. This card can also represent power and authority.

  • Hierophant

The religious figure of the Hierophant represents, as an upright card, group identification, tradition, religion, conformity and beliefs, while the card is reversed, it can represent challenging the status quo. The hierophant symbolizes entry to any type of institution that might have a shared group type identity, like school, companies, societies, teams and clubs.

  • Lovers

The two figures of the lovers are protected as well as blessed by the angel that is in the clouds above them. The sign that is associated with this card is Gemini. With this card being read upright, it can mean for the client to have love, choices, unions, relationships and even the fact that they could value alignment. The Lovers card read reversed, however, could mean for misalignment of values, or disharmony or even imbalance in life.

  • Chariot

The Chariot Major Arcana card represents the celestial influences as well as being directly related and connected with the astrological sign of Cancer. With this card placed upright, it represents determination, assertion, will power, and control. When the card is laid reversed, it stands for a lack of control and direction, as well as aggression.

  • Strength

The Strength Card’s astrological sign is Leo, since the card is usually depicted as a woman taming a wild lion with a peaceful essence and smile. When the card is laid upright, it can mean for control, compassion, strength, patience and courage. The card being laid reversed, though, can stand for self-doubt, a lack of self-discipline, as well as weakness.

  • Hermit

The Hermit Major Arcana card symbolizes a man who reached his spiritual height and wants to continue on to share his knowledge with all others. The hermit is committed to going forward on the one path they have chosen for their life, wanting nothing more than to reach their ultimate goal of sharing all awareness. With this card laid upright, it can stand for being alone, soul-searching and normal searching, as well as inner guidance and introspection; however, when the card is reversed, it can mean for withdrawals in the client’s life, loneliness and even isolation.

  • Wheel of Fortune

As usual symbols are, The Wheel of Fortune is extremely well known and extremely symbolic for its own card. It represents, while being laid upright, karma, destiny, a turning point either to come or happening currently, life cycles, and of course, good luck. Back luck, not having control, and negative external forces are the result of the card being laid down reversed.

  • Justice

Libra is the Justice card’s astrological affiliated sign, while the card number is number eleven. Justice usually is depicted as holding a sword in her right hand and scales in her left hand. Since the card is about justice, it’s almost extremely necessary that the upright placement of the card can stand for cause and effect, law, fairness, truth and justice (like the card’s title). When the card is placed reversed it can stand for dishonesty, unfairness and lack of accountability.

  • Hanged Man

The hanged man’s symbolism comes from the fact that the card is depicted as a man hanging upside down from a tree, which is usually stated as the World tree which is deeply rooted into the underworld and supports the heavens above it. This represents divinity. The card can be placed upright, which can thus mean letting go, sacrifice, and restriction. Though, reversed, the card stands for martyrdom, delaying and even indecision.

  • Death

The Scorpio astrological sign rules Death since it’s the sign of taxes, death and taxes. It’s also quite important to note that the card sequence is number thirteen, which is quite sacred since there are a total of thirteen moons in one year. This card can stand for beginnings and endings, change, a transition in life, and even in general change while placed upright. When it’s placed reversed it can mean that the client is unable to move on from a certain situation and is possibly resisting change.

  • Temperance

The winged angel of the Temperance card is the child of Hermes and Aphrodite, commonly known as a hermaphrodite. This angel represents the balance between all genders. Sagittarius’ truth, tolerance and beauty rules the astrological sign of this card. Moderation, patience, meaning and purpose can all be the meanings of the card when it’s placed down upright. On the contrary, when the card is reversed, it can mean for imbalance, lack of long term vision and even excess in general.

  • Devil

The half-man-half-goat Satyr of the Devil Card is ruled by the astrological sign of Capricorn, the goat. This card’s chronological order is fifteen, which equals six in numerology, which directly corresponds to the lovers. When this card is laid upright, bondage, sexuality, materialism and addiction are something the person being read needs to pay attention to. When the card is reversed, the card can mean for power reclaimed, detachment and even breaking free.

  • Tower

The sixteenth card of the Major Arcana cards is the Tower card, which is usually depicted as an extremely tall tower onto of a rocky and unstable mountain. This tower represents various ambitions which have been built on premises that are actually false. The lightning bolt usually shown on the card breaks the false premises so that there can be room to make new ambitions. This card can be read as a sudden change in the client’s life, disaster, and revelation. Fear of change and even avoiding disaster can be what the card means when it is reversed, however.

  • Star

Since the Star sign is chronologically the number seventeen in the Tarot deck, it is usually associated with the eighth card of strength (since 1+7 equals 8), since you need to have strength in order to accept yourself and love yourself, even with your faults. Inspiration, spirituality, hope, and serenity can all be read when the card is laid upright. When the card is reversed, there can be discouragement in the client being read’s life, as well as despair and general lack of faith.

  • Moon

The unconscious, dreams, and intuition of the moon card provides light which reflects the sun. This light, however, is uncertain and can only illuminate our path in our journey vaguely. The moon can be meant as receptive, mysterious and even psychic, like its counterpart astrological sign Pisces. The card being laid upright can sense for fear, anxiety, the subconscious and personal insecurities. When the card is reversed, it can only mean for unhappiness, confusion and even the release of fear.

  • Sun

Of course the Sun card’s astrological sign is the sun, which is the true image of the dawn of a new day after the worst and darkest night. This card represents all that is the source of life and optimism. When the card is read upright, it can be meant as positivity, success, upcoming fun and warmth. If the card is reversed, beware of lack of success and even temporary depression.

  • Judgment

The Major Arcana card of Judgment shows a large sum of children, men and women rising from their graves while the archangel Gabriel hovers above the crowd. The ruler of this card, in planetary terms, is Pluto who is the ruler of the underworld. Rebirth, judgment, absolution and inner callings can all be brought to light with this card when it is upright. When the card is placed reversed, there can be a refusal of self-examination as well as self-doubt in the receiver of the reading’s life.

  • World

The final card of the Major Arcana Tarot Card deck is the World, which is usually portrayed as a dancing figure, which celebrates the finishing of the journey, and even the new beginnings that has been promised. This card being laid upright stands for integration, traveling, accomplishment and, of course, completion. The card reversed can be a lack of closure and completion.

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