Major Arcana Tarot Explained

The Major Arcana Tarot Explained: Cards and Meanings

The Major Arcana starts with the Fool’s Journey (card 1) and traverses through multiple archetypal energies until reaching The World (card 22). Let’s take a look at each card and see how we can learn from them.

Before we have the Major Arcana Tarot explained, here’s a list of what the Major Arcana, also known as the Greater Arcana consists of:

  1. The Magician
  2. The High Priestess
  3. The Empress
  4. The Emperor
  5. The Hierophant
  6. The Lovers
  7. The Chariot
  8. Strength
  9. The Hermit
  10. Wheel of Fortune
  11. Justice
  12. The Hanged Man
  13. Death
  14. Temperance
  15. The Devil
  16. The Tower
  17. The Star
  18. The Moon
  19. The Sun
  20. Judgement
  21. The Fool
  22. The World

The Meanings Of the Major Arcana Tarot Cards

1. The Magician

Keywords

  • Upright: Manifestation, Intelligence, Power, Resourceful, Inspiring
  • Reversed: Wasted talents and resources, manipulation

The Magician is a symbol of the resources you have at hand, specifically the internal resources such as your talents and capabilities. The appearance of the magician is often to remind you to take a look at these resources because they are at your beck and call!

All you have to do is to acknowledge and remember them and use them to achieve your goals. Most of the time, this card appears when you are at a crossroads and are faced with the prospect of great change. But it does not change outside of yourself- it’s a transformation you are directly involved in, and it might even be up to you to conduct this transformation.

2. The High Priestess

Keywords

  • Upright: Divine feminine, sacred feminine, intuition, subconscious, dreams, sacred knowledge, patience, subtle power
  • Reversed: Dishonesty, blocked intuition, secrecy, lack of communication

The High Priestess tarot card is suggesting that we need to cultivate patience and trust for the intuition. Now is the time to draw on honesty- honesty with ourselves and with the people around us. Delve into your subconscious mind, therein lies sacred knowledge.

The High Priestess is telling us to honor traditions, but most importantly- to honor our innate wisdom that lies in our intuition. In a relationship context or love reading, the arrival of the High Priestess indicased a higher level of intimacy and vulnerability.

3. The Empress

Keywords

  • Upright: Femininity, Nurturer, Mother Nature, Divine Mother, Abundance, Beauty
  • Reversed: Writers block (creative block in general), blocked expression, overly dependant on others, no trusting self, lack of self care

The Empress card is a symbol for the ultimate mother energy. She is the nurturer, the creator, and the tarot epitome of mother earth. As you can imagine, her energy is strong yet gentle. There are several interpretations for this card, most predominantly the birth of new life.

This can be understood as new ideas, fresh starts, and is typically one of those feel-good cards to receive in a tarot reading. Dig a little deeper, and the empress is asking you to be open and willing to embrace change.

4. The Emperor

Keywords

  • Upright: authority, structure, leadership, father figures, establishment
  • Reversed: too much control, undisciplined, domineering, inflexible

The Emperor is the father figure of the Tarot and when you draw this card the energy is a clear masculine energy. When you draw this card it could indicate you are adopting the father figure role in your environment, you are a protector and a defender. Stability and security are two key components of The Emperor card.

5. The Hierophant

Keywords

  • Upright: religion, wisdom, spiritual study, enlightenment, tradition, conformity
  • Reversed: freedom, challenging tradition, personal study, and introspection

The Hierophant tarot card symbolises order and the hierarchy that comes with spiritual study and religious beliefs. This card is the card of doctrine and represents the set course of study many of us make when we set out to understand more about ourselves and our spiritual lives.

The Hierophant is our reminder that foundations are important- none more so than when we are on a course of spiritual discovery. Foundations are essential, and we need the infrastructure given by formal doctrines before we can successfully set out on our own course of beliefs and resulting choices. But rather than blind belief, the Hierophant encourages you to lean on a wise mentor, and in some cases even encourages you to become the mentor if that is what resonants.

6. The Lovers

Keywords

  • Upright: Love, harmony, relationships, values alignment, choices
  • Reversed: Self-love, disharmony, imbalance, misalignment of values

The Lovers is the card of belief and personal choice. It also represents conscious connections and forming relationships that go beyond the superficial. If you get The Lovers card in a tarot reading, it could call your attention to several things.

If this card shows up, it almost always directs our attention to the relationships in our lives, whether romantic or platonic. Sometimes, The Lovers card can imply that we are questioning whether or not a person is a soulmate.

The person in mind feels like a soulmate, and you are serious about this connection being a lifelong commitment. There is a strong connection, both sexual and spiritual.

The Lovers card is often associated with making choices that honour yourself and your spiritual progress.

Make decisions from a place of compassion, and rest easy knowing that the arrival of an upright The Lovers card is a good omen for the relationship or person you are thinking about.

Aside from relating to a relationship or another person, The Lovers card can also encourage us to get real about our own set of values and belief systems.

This is important along the journey to self-awareness. What is important to you? What are your values and beliefs? Get clear on these and you will find your path in life.

7. The Chariot

Keywords

  • Upright: determination, strong-headed/strong-willed, control (taking the reins) action, a successful outcome
  • Reversed: feeling lost, no drive, lack of support, opposing sides, self-discipline

The Chariot centers around strength of will and determination. How strong is your will once you have set your sights on something? Do you take control and follow through with your choices?

The chariot comes after The Lovers, and typically this is the card symbolizing that you know how to make personal choices that are in line with your spiritual values and beliefs. And now with The chariot, it might just be time to take action after making those crucial choices.

Nothing in life comes around without some challenges. Your resolve, willpower, and inner strength will be put to the test. This card encourages you to stand tall through the fire and stay true to what is important to you.

8. Strength

Keywords

  • Upright: compassion, personal power, strength, influence, courage
  • Reversed: self-esteem or doubt, raw, and unfiltered (honest) emotion, inner resolve

One of my personal favorites, The Strength card reminds us that we are strong, powerful, and can do anything we put our minds to. While The Chariot, the previous card, symbolizes outer strength, this Strength card symbolizes inner strength and the resolve within us all to get through anything.

You might need to draw on stamina and keep forging ahead. The Strength card is here to remind you that you can triumph over any obstacle. But through this process, remember to remain calm and to act with compassion.

When you get The Strength card in a tarot reading, it often points to your inner strength and courage. But it also tells you to get ahead simply by staying true to your raw and honest self. Stay humble, but be brave.

9. The Hermit

Keywords

  • Upright: alone, introspection, inner wisdom, soul search
  • Reversed: loneliness, withdrawing from society or friends, isolating yourself, fear

The Hermit tarot card signifies that you are checking out from society and everyday life, and checking in to the inner hotel. Your energy needs a break. If you’re feeling drained and uninspired, it’s time to replenish those inner resources.

If you’re seeking answers and feel exhausted by looking, then have you tried looking within? As cliche as it sounds, The Hermit card tells us that we will find our answers by taking a look within ourselves.

Are you letting outside factors influence you too much? Where is your mind? Are you focused on replenishing your own energy? The Hermit card is not a common favorite, but it is one of mine. It has a quiet power, a card that reminds us that it’s okay to be a recluse sometimes, especially if we are feeling drained and in need of answers.

When you draw The Hermit card, you are most likely on the precipice of a new part of your self-discovery journey. This part will involve more introspection and time alone. Maybe you need to take a weekend off from work and all social obligations.

Tune out the outside world for a bit and tune into yourself. It’s time to meditate on your self-beliefs, motivations, and the things that propel you to be your truest self.

10. Wheel of Fortune

Keywords

  • Upright: karma, cycles, turning point, destiny, fate, luck, fortune
  • Reversed: breaking free of cycles, bad luck, resistance, fighting change

The Wheel of Fortune is a fortuitous card when it appears upright in a reading. It also draws our attention to the fact that the wheel of life is always turning. So if you are struggling right now, the tide will turn. And if you are wondering if lady luck is on your side, the upright Wheel of Fortune is here to tell you that your stars are aligned. The Wheel of Fortune reminds us that everything in life is cyclic- both good and bad. So, hold the good moments close to your heart. And appreciate them.

One of the most important themes of this card is karma- a subject we sometimes love, and at other times fear. So, if this card pops up in a reading remember that what goes around comes around. If you are looking for love and joy, then embody that energy within yourself and exude it- The Wheel of Fortune is telling you that it will come back to you in due course.

11. Justice

Keywords

  • Upright: cause and effect, consequences, law, fair, truth, justice
  • Reversed: injustice, dishonesty, no accountability or lack of responsibility for actions

The Justice Tarot card encourages ideas of fair play and reminds us that our actions will always have consequences. This tarot card is asking us to take stock of our actions and be accountable to them. It reminds us to also act in alignment with our Higher-self. If you know that your actions may have led you astray, then you will most likely feel fear at this card.

But the Justice card is not here to dish out punishment, it is merely asking us to take accountability for our actions. And to be compassionate with our review of our past mistakes.

Even if you are feeling remorse and regret over a past action, the Justice card is reminding you to be gentle with yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Just accept responsibility for those actions and learn from them for the future.

12. The Hanged Man

Keywords

  • Upright: surrender, shifted perspective, letting go, release, a pause
  • Reversed: indecisiveness, delay, prolonged stalling, resistance

When The Hanged Man appears in a reading it is often telling us to take a breath and put things on hold for a little while. For whatever reason, it is advisable to sit tight and wait before the next move. The Hanged Man is also asking us to release and shed ideas, people, things, or concepts that are holding us back.

There might be mental programming that won’t help you move forward in your journey. It is for reasons like this The Hanged Man asks us to pause and do some shedding before we move on. Only then will you be truly able to embrace a new way of seeing things. This new perspective will help you to embrace new opportunities with your arms wide open.

13. Death

Keywords

  • Upright: transformation, change, endings, transition, a rite of passage
  • Reversed: fighting change, purging within, personal transitions, transmutation of personal pain

One of the most feared but another one of my favorites, The Death card often leaves most people trembling. But what is there to fear?

Nothing. The Death card certainly brings a strong message, but isn’t that what you ask for when you consult the tarot cards? You are looking for guidance and messages, and boy does The Death card deliver.

Often misunderstood, the death card is more symbolic of transformation and change the physical death. But in many spiritual traditions, teachers often tell you that you need to go through a little death on your path to spiritual fulfillment.

In shamanic societies, experiencing an inner death (sometimes multiple times) is rather common. But the question is, do you have what it takes to rise like a phoenix? Because whenever there is an ending, you best be prepared for a new beginning.

The Death card symbolizes the end and the closing of a cycle. It also symbolizes that you need to leave the past behind you as you embrace the new situations and opportunities arising.

14. Temperance

Keywords

  • Upright: moderation, balance, patience, kindness
  • Reversed: excessive behaviors or thought patterns, imbalances, realignment, inner healing

If ever there was a card to calm the fires and bring a sense of calming peace, it is The Temperance card. If you receive this card in a reading then you should bring balance into your life.

How is your working schedule? Are you making enough time for self-care? Do you need to balance work with play? Or perhaps you’re playing a little too much- in this case, The Temperance may not be what you want to hear.

Either way, Temperance is reminding you to bring a sense of moderation to your life. Stabilize your life by calming your energy. Let go of resistance, or let go of force- and allow your spirit to settle. This is how your flow can be restored and your life can become a calm sense of purpose and order.

15. The Devil

Keywords

  • Upright shadow work, sexuality, addiction, excess, restriction
  • Reversed: exploring our shadow nature, detachment, releasing limiting thought patterns and beliefs

Another highly misunderstood card, The Devil calls us to take notice of our shadow side. We all have one- there’s nothing to be ashamed of. And no, The Devil card is nothing to fear either.

When The Devil card appears, you are called to take a look at your darker, or shadow, side. Are there any negative elements holding you back? Where are you self-sabotaging? These areas need to be explored so you can embrace the fullness of who you are.

The Devil card can also indicate that you are being trapped by your own short-sighted desires. Are you seeking short-term pleasure at the cost of long-term peace?

Perhaps you are more focused on instant gratification. If this is the case then this is your reminder to stay focused on your well-being and to put that at the heart of all your decisions.

16. The Tower

Keywords

  • Upright: chaos, change, awakening, revelation, upheaval, an unexpected turn of events
  • Reversed: avoiding disaster, inner transformation, fear, or resistance to change

Have you drawn The Tower card? Buckle up sweetheart, you’re in for a wild ride. Does this have to be a bad thing? Depends on how much you resist it. Look when The Tower arrives, it’s best to just accept the fact that things are about to get a little messy, and probably chaotic.

Change is coming, whether you like it or not. But the thing is, whether it’s divorce or an upheaval, you have what it takes to get through this. This change will likely shake your very bones- and no, I’m not using scare tactics, I’m just helping you be prepared.

Because that is strength, accepting change. It takes courage to accept that chaos sometimes needs to manifest. But here’s the thing; it’s pretty much always leading you down the path towards your highest good and ultimate fulfillment.

Everything you think you know could very well be about to go up in smoke. Are you ready? What illusions have you been relying on? While this can be a disorienting and upsetting time, just remember that this chaos will pass. You will be able to emerge victoriously, just surrender to the process.

17. The Star

Keywords

  • Upright: celestial guidance, renewed faith, spiritual mindset, hope
  • Reversed: lack of spiritual direction, no faith, self-trust issues, no connection

The Star card carries a beautiful message of celestial support and guidance. And after the tumultuous Tower, it is a welcome reprieve. The Star is our reminder that no matter what happens, we are always guided.

If you receive The Star, you have likely come out of an intense period of pain or chaos. And you are now in an almost child-like, raw state. This is a beautiful time, and you must appreciate the beauty of the journey.

This gratitude is what sustains us when the journey gets tough.

The Star is here to bring us hope, and a sense of faith. The arrival of The Star is a beautiful welcome into a new phase of peace and deep understanding. You might feel like your personal growth is skyrocketing and you are reaching new heights with your spiritual development.

The Star reminds us of the magic in the seemingly mundane and tells us to open our hearts to it. You might be on the precipice of taking action towards a dream, and receiving The Star is a good omen for new developments.

18. The Moon

Keywords

  • Upright intuition, subconscious, anxiousness, fear.
  • Reversed: repressed gut feeling, repressed emotion, inner turmoil, releasing self-limiting fears

The Moon tarot card is the symbol of our deep-seated fears as well as our emotions and most importantly our intuition. But when The Moon appears in a reading it can also provide juicy insight, the question is are you ready to face your fears and accept the insight?
The Moon tarot card illuminates fears that are rooted deep in the subconscious. Are there any repressed emotions rearing their head? How can you deal with these? If you’re feeling emotional stress but unsure why The Moon tarot card is here to tell you that repressed emotions need to be sorted out. Because if they aren’t, they’ll get worse every time they pop back into your awareness.

Although most of us love the moon, The Moon tarot card can often instigate a time of illusion. If you are feeling uncertain about something, The Moon card is telling you to listen to your intuition- this is the most important message brought to us by The Moon tarot card.

19. The Sun

Keywords

  • Upright: vitality, energy, warmth, positive, joy, enthusiastic
  • Reversed: feeling sad, low energy, inner child hurt, overly enthusiastic

The Sun tarot card, as you can imagine, represents all of the vitality, success, optimism, and joy available in life. The sun itself is a radiant ball of fire, but here on earth, we feel it as a comforting warmth that can lighten the mood and comfort us with its warmth. The Sun Tarot card is giving you the thumbs up, you are a light to others and are in a place in life where you can help others simply by being true to yourself and doing things that fills your own cup.

If times are a little tough at the moment, the Sun tarot card is reminding you that the tide will turn and the dawn is about to break. Stay true to yourself, and do things that make you beam with radiance.
Overall the Sun’s message to us is that life is good.

20. Judgement

Keywords

  • Upright: judgement, absolution, resolution
  • Reversed: being overly critical, ignoring your intuition, doubting yourself

The Judgement tarot card asks us to rise above our pettiness and embrace our spiritual conscious connection. It’s time to level up, and whatever is happening around you is bringing you down the path of your true calling.

You might be going through an awakening of sorts, and feel a strong pull towards a calling. Now is the time to release limiting beliefs.

The arrival of this card in a reading is indicative that you are on the brink of making a life-altering decision. Now, that’s a lot of pressure. This card is telling you to merge both your intellect and your intuition to make this call.

If you are feeling lost, The Judgement card tells us that looking to past mistakes and learning from them can help clear the way forward.

21. The Fool

Keywords

  • Upright: innocence, child-like sense of wonder, taking risks, new beginnings, spontaneous, free-spirited
  • Reversed: taking unnecessary risks, being too reckless, holding yourself back from new opportunities, fear of starting something new

The Fool is one of the most pivotal cards in the Tarot. It tells us that new beginnings are on the horizon. It also encourages us to realize our potential and makes the most of new opportunities.

You could draw this card before you set forth on a new journey. Or, you could be hesitant about taking that leap of faith.

This card is here to let you know that it’s okay to start over and it’s okay to be joyful about it too.

The Fool is a card about trusting the Universe, life, or God’s plan- whatever you prefer. Set forth with a curious mind and an open heart. You are likely to benefit from new opportunities, personality development, and experience. Adventure awaits!

22. The World

Keywords

  • Upright: completion, travel, successful goals
  • Reversed: delays, easy route, seeking closure

What message does the final major arcana card have for us? The World appears in a reading with you bursting with fulfillment and are on the precipice of closure.

If not, then this is your sign to find out what you need to do to achieve that personal closure. Are there any outstanding goals, dreams, or even issues that need your attention?

The arrival of this card can also indicate that you might welcome something significant, like a marriage, a child, completing studies, or just smashing your goals.

The World tarot card asks us to reflect on our journey and appreciate how far we’ve come. What spiritual progress have you made? It’s time to acknowledge how far you’ve come, celebrate your success.

This card is also telling us to take stock of our achievements and appreciate them before rushing off to achieve the next goal (Capricorns, here’s looking at you).

Live your life right now with appreciation and gratitude for the goals you have achieved. This gently sets you up for success for the next goal. But don’t rush it, okay?

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What Does A Major Arcana Card Mean In A Tarot Reading?

Answer: When you see a Major Arcana card in a Tarot reading, you are being called to reflect on the life lessons and themes that are currently being experienced at this time.

Question: What Does It Mean When A Tarot Reading Is Mostly Major Arcana Tarot Cards?

Answer: Firstly, don’t panic. You are likely in the midst of a pivotal time in your life. Things are changing and these effects could be long-term. Now is the time to breathe deeply and gather the advice from your cards.

Question: What does it mean if a Major Arcana card is reversed?

Answer: If any of the Major Arcana Tarot cards are reversed, however, it may be a sign that you are not paying enough attention to these important life lessons. Master the lesson that keeps showing up, and only then can you move forward.

Conclusion

All twenty-two Major Arcana Tarot cards are highly symbolic. They represent the key milestones each of us go through in our life. whether they manifest as karma or a life lesson, they all hold archetype themes that we can use to understand life and our path.

The tarot cards represent complex meanings that can have a beautiful significance for us when we are moving through a deep issue in life. use these cards to better your understanding of the soul’s journey. They are keys to the lessons we all have to traverse through in some form or another throughout life.

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