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Tarot Reading: An Introduction To The Major Arcana

As we discussed, Tarot cards have been around since the 15th century in Europe. Although originally designed for playing card games, mystics soon realized the intricate decks held a divinatory power far exceeding their initial intended purpose. While there are many variations of the original deck out there, a standard deck is comprised of 78 cards with the same essential elements.

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The Fundamentals

Each deck has four suits, although the names vary by deck: coins (pentacles/diamonds), wands (staves/rods/clubs), cups (goblets/hearts), and swords (spades). These suits are broken down into numbered pip cards ranging from 1-10 and four face cards: Jack/Knave, Knight, Queen, and King. In total, these cards amount to 56 cards, which are collectively known as the Minor Arcana.

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Each deck also has 22 cards that depict a prophetic symbol or scene that occur outside of the suits. These 22 cards, known as the Major Arcana, create significant shifts and pulls within a reading, and are considered to have extensive meaning when they enter one’s spread. As with anything allegorical, the Major Arcana can be interpreted in a number of ways by your psychic, depending on the: layout, surrounding cards, and particular intention of one’s reading. However, each of 22 Major Arcana have a general symbolism attached.


The Major Arcana: Fundamental Meanings

To get you better acquainted with the Major Arcana, here are some key terms that exemplify some different interpretations of each of these deeply powerful cards:

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0. The Fool—purity, naivety, fresh start, faith

I. The Magician—improvement, knowledge, insight, motivation

II. The High Priestess—intuition, lust, subconscious intent

III. The Empress—fertility, feminine power, passion, wisdom

IV. The Emperor—masculinity, logic, experience, maturity

V. The Hierophant—morality, tradition, spirituality, ritual

VI. The Lovers—romance, duality, partnership, relationship

VII. The Chariot—goal-oriented, bold, dedication, energy, willpower

VIII. Strength—mindfulness, steadfastness, concentration

IX. The Hermit—authenticity, spirituality, meditation

X. The Wheel of Fortune—change, karma

XI. Justice—integrity, balance, karma

XII. The Hanged Man—moratorium, reflection, letting go

XIII. Death—metamorphosis, transition, renewal

XIV. Temperance—diligence, relationships, balance, fortitude

XV. The Devil—deceit, subjugation, loss of control

XVI. The Tower—change, cutting ties, tumult

XVII. The Star—confidence, positivity, hopefulness, spirituality

XVIII. The Moon—confusion, intuition, communication

XIX. The Sun—freedom, creativity, liveliness, bliss

XX. Judgement—imprudence, recklessness

XXI. The World—stress, accomplishment, closure, payoff

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Now that you have a basic sense of the 22 Major Arcana, look out for the cards and their possible meanings in your next reading. But keep in mind, while some have rather ominous titles like Death and The Devil, it’s important to know that these cards don’t necessarily connote bad omens. And remember, any of these cards can be altered within a reading depending on what they’re paired with!


In case you missed it, check out our Tips For Your Tarot Card Reading post to help you prepare for your experience with these mystical portents.