In a traditional Tarot deck, the cards are split into Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. If you are new to the practice, it is helpful to get your head around the difference between the two and learn what they refer to when cropping up in readings. By exploring Major Arcana vs. Minor Arcana, you can deepen your Tarot knowledge and get what you need from your readings.
So, what are the main differences between Major Arcana and Minor Arcana, and what do the different Arcanas mean when appearing in a reading? Let’s dive into it!
- The traditional Tarot deck is split into 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Major Arcana cards.
- The 56 Major Arcana cards are split into four suits: Cups, Wands, Swords, and Pentacles.
- Major Arcana cards represent life lessons and significant changes, whereas Minor Arcana cards represent day-to-day, temporary events and feelings.
- Major Arcana cards have complex meanings that can be personal to you, whereas Minor Arcana cards have general, simple meanings.
- Major Arcana cards hold spiritual messages that affect your life path, whereas Minor Arcana cards hold practical guidance you need to know regarding your current situation.
- Major Arcana cards hold more weight in readings than Minor Arcana cards.
Major Arcana vs. Minor Arcana: What’s the Difference?
There are 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards in a traditional Tarot deck. The 56 Minor Arcana cards are further broken down into suits: Cups, Wands, Swords, and Pentacles. These cards are similar to classic decks of playing cards. We have ten pip cards, Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages in each suit. These four suits have different themes and ideas.
But why is the Tarot divided into the two Arcanas, and what are the spiritual differences regarding Major Arcana vs. Minor Arcana?
Life Lessons vs. Day-To-Day Events
We can understand the difference between Major Arcana and Minor Arcana by looking at what they reflect in a reading. When a Major Arcana card crops up in a reading, it signifies major life lessons and significant changes. They reveal important spiritual influences and development; we know something massive is happening if they appear to us!
Conversely, Minor Arcana cards usually reflect day-to-day lessons and short-term situations. They signify temporary influences in your life and usually reveal what you can do to learn from them. The energy they hold is changeable, depending on the actions you choose to take.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the energy they represent will not significantly affect your life path. For example, you may receive the Eight of Cups in a reading. This card represents letting go and walking away from a situation that does not serve you. Of course, the energy of this card is temporary and will soon change. However, the action of letting go and releasing what the Eight of Cups represents can have a considerable impact on your journey.
You may also be wondering: what if I pick a card a day and receive a Major Arcana card? It means that something significant will happen on that day, and you will be able to learn from it. It also suggests that the day brings you opportunities for spiritual growth and development.
Major Arcana cards represent life lessons and significant changes, whereas Minor Arcana cards represent day-to-day, temporary events and feelings.
Complexity vs. Simplicity
Another key difference between Major Arcana and Minor Arcana is regarding the cards’ meanings. The meanings of the Major Arcana cards are complex, holding different interpretations and ways of understanding. On the other hand, Minor Arcana cards have pretty simple meanings. They are easy to understand and show us exactly where we are and what we need to do in life.
This means that if we receive a Major Arcana card in a reading, we must take our time meditating with the card to really get to know what it represents. Furthermore, Major Arcana cards may mean different things for different people. As we build our Tarot knowledge, we tend to develop a personal connection with each Major Arcana card and discover how it fits into our lives.
For example, when I began to read Tarot, I would receive the Tower card constantly. This card is all about realizations and revelations, and for me at that time, it signified how my attitude towards life was changing through spiritual work. Personally, the Tower represents how I must always be actively seeking knowledge and spiritual expansion. When it crops up in a reading now, I know I need to put more effort into my spiritual path.
Major Arcana cards have complex meanings that can be personal to you, whereas Minor Arcana cards have general, simple meanings.
Spirituality vs. Practicality
The 22 Major Arcana cards tell a story, which is often referred to as the Fool’s Journey. The first Major Arcana is the Fool, and the last is the World. Throughout the 22 cards, we see the Fool exploring his spirituality and gaining enlightenment from his journey. This means that the Major Arcana cards hold profound, spiritual messages.
Like the Fool, we are on our own journey toward fulfillment and spiritual understanding, and these 22 cards help us. From the Devil card asking us to shed materialism and bondage to the Hermit card asking us to take time away from the world to turn inward and tap into our inner knowledge, each card helps us move forward.
The Minor Arcana cards help us on our journey, too, but the help these cards provide is much more practical. They reflect where we are right now and what we need to do to move forward. They show us what is affecting us and what we can do to change things.
Major Arcana cards hold spiritual messages that affect your life path, whereas Minor Arcana cards hold practical guidance you need to know regarding your current situation.
Significance in Readings
Every card you pull in a reading is important. However, if you receive a mix of Major Arcana and Minor Arcana cards in a reading, the Major Arcana cards hold more significance and will often tie everything together.
So, let’s say you pull three cards and receive the Hanged Man, the Four of Cups, and the Seven of Pentacles. The Minor Arcana cards represent boredom and apathy (the Four of Cups) and perseverance and patience (the Seven of Pentacles). Here, we can see that you are bored or dissatisfied with something to do with work and growth.
Now, we turn to the Hanged Man to tie everything together. The message of the spread asks you to pause and look at things from a different perspective to overcome the energy that the Minor Arcana cards bring. The teachings within the Hanged Man is the most important one within this spread.
Major Arcana cards hold more weight in readings than Minor Arcana cards.
Now we understand the main differences between the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana, we can explore both to gain an understanding of Tarot and how we can understand the different cards.
The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, showing us a journey that begins with the Fool and ends with the World. Each card provides us with spiritual guidance and karmic life lessons that mold our path. When receiving a Major Arcana card, it may take time for us to really understand what it is telling us. The influence of these cards may be hard to decipher at first, but soon, they become apparent.
The energy that the Major Arcana cards bring us is life-changing and significant. These cards allow us to move forward on our true spiritual path, learning from the universe and our innate wisdom.
Here are the 22 Major Arcana cards and their general meanings. But remember, each card is complex and can mean many things, depending on how you connect with them!
- The Fool: New Beginnings, Risk-Taking, A Leap of Faith
- The Magician: Manifestation, Resourcefulness, Action
- The High Priestess: Innate Wisdom, Intuition, The Subconsciousness
- The Empress: Nurture, Abundance, Femininity
- The Emperor: Structure, Authority, Leadership
- The Hierophant: Tradition, Religion, Institutions
- The Lovers: Harmony, Relationships, Choices
- The Chariot: Willpower, Determination, Action
- Strength: Courage, Compassion, Grace
- The Hermit: Introspection, Solitude, Soul-Searching
- Wheel of Fortune: Karma, Fate, Life Cycles
- Justice: Fairness, Cause and Effect, Consequence
- The Hanged Man: Perspective, Pause, Surrender
- Death: Change, Transition, Rebirth
- Temperance: Balance, Patience, Moderation
- The Devil: Temptation, Bondage, Restriction
- The Tower: Sudden Change, Revelations, Realizations
- The Star: Hope, Creativity, Renewal
- The Moon: Anxiety, Illusion, Fear
- The Sun: Optimism, Warmth, Success
- Judgment: Resolution, Forgiveness, Soul’s Purpose
- The World: Fulfilment, Completion, Accomplishment
We know the difference between the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana, but what about the different suits within the Minor Arcana? When learning Tarot, it is helpful to explore the energy and meanings of the different suits as a whole to really get to grips with their meanings.
The messages within the Minor Arcana cards represent changeable, day-to-day energy and short-term situations. The four suits represent four aspects of life:
- The Suit of Cups: Emotions, Relationships, Connections
- The Suit of Wands: Passion, Action, Inspiration
- The Suit of Swords: Intellect, Decision-Making, Communication
- The Suit of Pentacles: Material Possesions, Work, Security
These 56 cards give us advice and guidance in a practical and easy-to-achieve way. Let’s take a look at each suit and how it can help us in life.
The Suit of Cups
The Suit of Cups is ruled by the element of Water and is associated with relationships and feelings. These cards provide us with guidance regarding our connections with others and ourselves. They represent family and romantic life and how we are feeling in this current moment.
Here are the cards in the Suit of Cups and their meanings:
- Ace of Cups: New Relationships, Flowing Emotions, Creativity
- Two of Cups: Harmony, Soulmates, Unity
- Three of Cups: Friendships, Support, Celebrations
- Four of Cups: Boredom, Apathy, Dissatisfaction
- Five of Cups: Disappointment, Regret, Failure
- Six of Cups: Childhood, Optimism, Generosity
- Seven of Cups: Choices, Opportunites, Illusion
- Eight of Cups: Walking Away, Letting Go, Abandonment
- Nine of Cups: Satisfaction, Fulfilment, Pride
- Ten of Cups: Family, Harmony, Alignment
- Page of Cups: Curiosity, Inner Child, Intuition
- Knight of Cups: Romance, Creativity, Idealism
- Queen of Cups: Compassion, Care, Trust
- King of Cups: Emotional Maturity, Balance, Diplomacy
The Suit of Wands
The element of Fire rules the Suit of Wands and reflects our burning passions and desires. It is the suit of action and motivation, revealing our primal energy and gut instincts. I always think of the Suit of Wands as representing that burning fire we have within us – our drive and willpower that pushes us forward.
Here are the cards in the Suit of Wands and their meanings:
- Ace of Wands: Growth, Opportunities, Potential
- Two of Wands: Forward Planning, Decisions, First Steps
- Three of Wands: Expansion, Progression, Confidence
- Four of Wands: Celebration, Harmony, Homecoming
- Five of Wands: Disagreements, Conflict, Competition
- Six of Wands: Victory, Success, Public Recognition
- Seven of Wands: Challenge, Defense, Protectiveness
- Eight of Wands: Progression, Momentum, Alignment
- Nine of Wands: Courage, Perseverance, Adversity
- Ten of Wands: Burden, Stress, Struggles
- Page of Wands: Ideas, Inspiration, Discovery
- Knight of Wands: Drive, Passion, Action
- Queen of Wands: Confidence, Passion, Sociable
- King of Wands: Vision, Leadership, Entrepreneurship
The Suit of Swords
The Suit of Swords is governed by the element of Air and is associated with the mind and intellect. These cards often appear in a reading to represent decisions and power, but there is always another edge to the energy within them. These cards hold conflict, both in the mind and our communication with others. They ask us to tap into our logic and rational minds to overcome the struggles we are facing.
Here are the cards in the Suit of Swords and their meanings:
- Ace of Swords: Clarity, Breakthrough, New Ideas
- Two of Swords: Stalemate, Difficult Decisions, Avoidance
- Three of Swords: Heartbreak, Suffering, Hurt
- Four of Swords: Rest, Recuperation, Contemplation
- Five of Swords: Disagreements, Conflict, Winning at all Costs
- Six of Swords: Moving On, Transition, Release
- Seven of Swords: Deception, Betrayal, Trickery
- Eight of Swords: Entrapment, Victim Mentality, Negative Thinking
- Nine of Swords: Anxiety, Worry, Nightmares
- Ten of Swords: Defeat, Failure, Loss
- Page of Swords: Curiosity, Ideas, Communication
- Knight of Swords: Breakthroughs, Action, Ambition
- Queen of Swords: Intelligent Thought, Objectiveness, Perception
- King of Swords: Truth, Authority, Integrity
The Suit of Pentacles
The Suit of Pentacles is ruled by the element of Earth and reflects work and the material world. It often represents our finances or career and the responsibilities we have. These cards appear in a reading to connect us to the external aspects of our lives.
Here are the cards in the Suit of Pentacles and their meanings:
- Ace of Pentacles: Opportunity, Manifestation, Growth
- Two of Pentacles: Balance, Adaptability, Responsibility
- Three of Pentacles: Collaboration, Teamwork, Sharing Responsibility
- Four of Pentacles: Security, Control, Frugality
- Five of Pentacles: Scarcity, Poverty, Insecurity
- Six of Pentacles: Sharing, Charity, Help
- Seven of Pentacles: Diligence, Long-Term Goals, Perseverance
- Eight of Pentacles: Apprenticeship, Dedication, Skill Development
- Nine of Pentacles: Rewards, Abundance, Luxury
- Ten of Pentacles: Financial Security, Wealth, Contribution
- Page of Pentacles: Desire, Ambition, Skills
- Knight of Pentacles: Productivity, Hard Work, Responsibility
- Queen of Pentacles: Financial Security, Support, Generosity
- King of Pentacles: Prosperity, Leadership, Reliability
Question: What Does It Mean if a Tarot Reading Is All Major Arcana Cards?
Answer: If your Tarot reading is all Major Arcana cards, it reveals that you are currently going through an important phase in your life that is allowing you to grow spiritually. Your current situation is providing you with a lot of valuable lessons.
Question: What Does It Mean if a Tarot Reading Is All Minor Arcana Cards?
Answer: If your Tarot reading is all Minor Arcana cards, the Tarot is telling you that certain aspects of your current life need resolving. These things may be regarding your relationships with others, your work, or other elements that need your attention, depending on what cards you receive.
Question: What Is the Difference Between Major and Minor Arcana In Tarot Reading?
Answer: The Major Arcana cards reveal important spiritual life lessons, whereas the Minor Arcana cards represent day-to-day issues with practical solutions and advice.
Question: Do You Separate Major and Minor Arcana?
Answer: No, you don’t need to separate Major and Minor Arcana for most Tarot readings, but some spreads may involve splitting the deck. If you are new to Tarot, separating the Major and Minor Arcana and focusing on the Major Arcana to begin with can help you learn the cards.
Question: Does the Major Arcana Tell a Story?
Answer: Yes, the Major Arcana tells a story of spiritual growth and awakening. This story is often referred to as the Fool’s Journey.
Question: What Are the Minor Arcana in Tarot?
Answer: In Tarot, the Minor Arcana are 56 cards split into four suits: Pentacles, Wands, Swords, and Cups. These cards provide us with guidance and understanding regarding day-to-day events.
Major Arcana vs. Minor Arcana: Test Your Skills Today!
I hope my Major Arcana vs. Minor Arcana guide has helped you get to grips with how the traditional Tarot deck is broken down and understood. All the 78 cards in a Tarot deck are important for your spiritual growth, and learning their differences helps you on your Tarot journey.
Get your deck, pull out a few cards, and explore the magical world of the Major and Minor Arcana today!