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.
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.
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:
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
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.