‘Arcana’ is the plural of ‘arcanum’, which is derived from the Latin word ‘arcanus’, meaning ‘secret’. Major Arcana cards in a tarot deck represent life themes and lessons that reflect your worldly and spiritual realities. The use of Major Arcana cards in tarot readings is linked to a desire to be more deeply attuned to the patterning unfolding in life, in the belief that all experiences are meaningful, related and correct.
How many Arcanas are there?
Major Arcana cards are the trump cards of a classic Raider-Waite-inspired deck comprising 78 cards. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, starting with the Fool at zero and 21 numbered cards ending on ‘The World’. The remaining 56 cards constitute the Minor Arcana, which are concerned with the day-to-day aspects of your daily life as opposed to the long-term situations you may experience.
Tarot cards are a tool for introspection. You can use only the 22 Major Arcana cards for a Tarot spread of your choice as yet another means to unravel the physical and spiritual essence of life. If the cards come up during tarot reading, it could be a sign to reflect on the major themes unfolding in your life and the meaning they hold in the large scheme of things.
What do the Major Arcana cards represent?
- 0 - The Fool: New beginnings, leap of faith, free spirit
- 1 - The Magician: Unique gifts, creation, fulfilment
- 2 - The High Priestess: Intuition, inner voice, sub-conscious
- 3 - The Empress: Fertility, creativity, connecting with nature
- 4 - The Emperor: Exercising influence, authority and control
- 5 - The Hierophant: Giving thought to ethics and morality
- 6 - The Lovers: Paying attention to your love life and close relationships
- 7 - The Chariot: Using your determination to steer to victory
- 8 - Strength: Your inner strength will help you surmount challenges
- 9 - The Hermit: You will do well to withdraw from the noise and engage in quiet contemplation
- 10 - Wheel of Fortune: Change is a constant, so accept the ups and downs
- 11 - Justice: Every action has a consequence; you get what you deserve
- 12 - The Hanged Man: Make small sacrifices and release yourself from things that don’t matter anymore
- 13 - Death: Aim for change and new beginnings, let go of the past
- 14 - Temperance: Moderation, flexibility and balance are advised
- 15 - The Devil: Emerge from a situation you don’t want to be in
- 16 - The Tower: Your world may be falling apart and resisting it may be useless
- 17 - The Star: Hope, healing and renewal
- 18 - The Moon: Banish self-doubt and don’t fall prey to illusion
- 19 - The Sun: Positive things are afoot
- 20 - Judgment: Review your life and work towards building a positive future
- 21 - The World: You are in touch with your true self and ready for what lies ahead
As you engage more frequently with Major Arcana cards, their meanings and messages will become easily perceptible to you, hopefully enhancing your appreciation of tarot.
Major Arcana represents a spiritual journey
The Major Arcana are the most important cards in the deck and represent the spiritual journey. All of the deck is filled with archetypal significance, but this is most pronounced within the Major Arcana. These cards follow a storyline that tells of the spiritual travels taken from the innocent wonder of The Fool to the oneness and fulfillment of The World. They are the first and most significant stage of the tarot reading, as the cards provide a foundation for the rest of the spread.