The Major Arcana Tarot Cards Explained

The Major Arcana is the group of cards in a tarot deck that most people think of when they hear the word “tarot”. They are also called the “trump” cards.

There are 22 Major Arcana cards and they are numbered from 0 to 21, beginning with “The Fool” and ending with “The World”. Each card has a name and a picture representing the theme. For instance, on the “The Chariot” is a picture of a chariot. On “The Tower” is a picture of a tower. Each card is highly symbolic and represents the major (see the relation to Major Arcana?) events we will all go through in life.

The Fool's Journey

The Fool Tarot Card From The Rider Wait Tarot Deck.

When you're reading about tarot cards you may come across the term “The Fool's Journey”. This is a metaphor for our, a human's, life cycle. We all start our lives young, with energy, with hope, with great expectations.

You can see that reflected in the card. The upturned face, the look of joy, the character is embarking on a journey with his faithful companion and all the world lies at his feet. When you're starting out life is full of possibilities.

As he makes his way through life he'll encounter many, if not all, of the other cards in the Major Arcana. Each of these cards represents a specific life event or circumstance. For example, let's focus on “The Hanged Man” because this card makes people very uncomfortable but shouldn't be taken at face value.

The Hanged Man Tarot Card From The Rider Wait Tarot Deck.

In general, all The Hanged Man means is that you are at a crossroads. You are experiencing an internal tug-of-war about making a decision. It may be because the decision itself doesn't have any clear answers. It may be because one option requires a lot of sacrifice but has a bigger payout. It may be because you'll have to rebel against a long-held belief or ideal.

Whatever the case, we all have times in our lives where we struggle to choose a path.

And so it goes for every card in the Major Arcana, each card representing a major life event. The Fool's Journey culminates with The World. This card represents a sense of contentment that everything has come full-circle. The journey is over. You are at your destination. The goal has been met. Of course, receiving The World in a reading doesn't mean your life is at an end, just that symbolically you have reached the final point for this particular period of your life. It's a great feeling of accomplishment to receive this card because it represents success.

I like to think in the bigger picture that's how we'll all look back on our lives at the end; with contentment and pleasure at all we did and experienced. A life well lived.

 The Major Arcana Card Meanings

Let's delve a little deeper into the meanings of each card, shall we? Part of interpreting a tarot card is understanding its symbolism and general meaning. Click on any card to read a more in-depth description.

0. The Fool

The Fool begins our journey, numbered at 0. Key meanings include new beginnings, youthful exuberance, excitement, innocence, spontaneity, and its namesake of foolishness. It's a happy and optimistic card but with some lack of fear. Read more about The Fool here.

1. The Magician

The Magician represents the potential of all things. This is where you'll be making something from nothing. Willpower and perseverance, logic, ability, intellect all will play a roll in the manifestation of one's goals. Read more about The Magician here.

2. The High Priestess

The High Priestess illuminates the quest for knowledge. She embodies deep secrets and ancient wisdom. She speaks strongly to intuition and trusting your gut. She will help you see through the facade and discern reality. Read more about The High Priestess here.

3. The Empress

The Empress identifies with femininity almost exclusively. She signals fertility, motherhood, strength in the home, fondness for family, and nurturing. She's also a particularly positive card in regards to prosperity and abundance. Read more about The Empress here.

4. The Emperor

The Emperor signifies patriarchal strength, stability, and dependability. This is a strong male figure who is in control, and sometimes maintains that control by extremely regimented means. Protection is evident, also. Definitely a symbol of strength. Read more about The Emperor here.

5. The Hierophant

The Hierophant is also known as “The High Priest” card and emphasizes tradition. Here's where you will see traditional beliefs, traditional values, traditional gender roles, and traditional behaviors come up. There is emphasis on conformity and living a strict lifestyle or by a strict moral code. Read more about The Hierophant here.

6. The Lovers

The Lovers focuses on strong relationships, and not just romantic ones. The theme of unity and being united against a mutual danger, or force, is in full effect with this card. There is also the romantic and sexual aspect which bodes well for those looking for partner. Read more about The Lovers here.

7. The Chariot

The Chariot is an example of victory and triumph. This eighth Major Arcana card shows you've overcome some obstacles, often through hard work and your own ambition. It reminds you to keep your focus and persevere and you will win. Read more about The Chariot here.

8. Strength

As evidenced by its name this is a pretty straightforward card. It means mental fortitude to keep going when the going gets tough. It means passion to continue driving yourself to be better and stronger. It means emotional strength to endure the process. It also points to good overcoming evil. Read more about Strength here.

9. The Hermit

The Hermit is a card of self-reflection and introspection. It outlines thoughtful contemplation of one's spirituality and morality. It is a highly spiritual and inner-being perspective. Enlightenment is the goal of this card. Read more about The Hermit here.

The Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card From The Rider Wait Tarot Deck.

10. The Wheel of Fortune

Fate has to come into our lives at some point. This card reflects that dynamic in our world. Call it luck, fortune, or karma -it is that force bigger than ourselves. These events are out of our control.

Sometimes we just have to accept it and the circumstances it leaves us with.

Read more about The Wheel Of Fortune here.

11. Justice

Everybody likes the Justice card because it means the scales will be balanced. People who do good will receive rewards and people who do evil will receive punishment. It's a good lesson in cause and effect and gives hope to those struggling with circumstances beyond their control. Read more about Justice here.

12. The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man is famously known for its embodiment of being at a crossroads in life. When one feels trapped it generally requires letting go of the past in order to move into the future. However, this is easier said than done. Uncertainty is usually evident, too. Read more about The Hanged Man here.

13. Death

The Death card is probably the most feared in the whole tarot deck. This Major Arcana card virtually never means physical death. It does mean big changes, though, and often they are sudden and unexpected. This card can leave you feeling a great sense of upheaval. Read more about Death here.

14. Temperance

Temperance reminds us that patience is a virtue. While big changes can take time, it is to our benefit that we proceed with patience and inner peace. By doing so we can maintain balance in our lives and live a harmonious existence even as circumstances may be difficult. Read more about Temperance here.

15. The Devil

The Devil is basically the counterbalance to Temperance. It represents temptation, materialism, addiction, and obsession (and the sense of helplessness that occurs with those feelings). It reminds us that all things in life have a cost, and for some the price is quite great. Read more about The Devil here.

16. The Tower

This card is actually more “doom and gloom” than the Death card. This is truly the most negatively foreboding card in the deck. The Tower foreshadows great calamities, great upheavals in live that are usually spurned by traumatic events, and, basically, the breaking down of your current situation. You have no choice but to try and survive the fallout. Read more about The Tower here.

17. The Star

On the other side of every tragedy is hope and renewal and The Star card promises this. It is the card of optimism and hope and possibilities. In it you will find encouragement to recommit yourself to your spiritual and creative projects and life will look good again. Read more about The Star here.

18. The Moon

An air of mystery and magic surrounds the moon, and this Major Arcana card symbolizes that experience. It is the card of dreams. It is the card of illusion. And to your benefit, it is also the card of intuition. Be careful when you receive this card because things are not as they seem. Read more about The Moon here.

19. The Sun

Another highly positive card in the tarot deck is The Sun. It highlights personal success, good luck and good fortune, and a general joyful atmosphere. The sun's rays warm and cheer the soul and receiving this card will do the same. Read more about The Sun here.

20. Judgement

Judgement can be an internal or external force and The Judgement card allows for both possibilities. You may be doing some introspection or others may be judging you. It's also got positive aspects, such as offering or receiving forgiveness, coming to a resolution, and rebirth. Read more about Judgement here.

The World Tarot Card From The Rider Wait Tarot Deck.

21. The World

Finally, the last card of the Major Arcana: The World. It represents a sense of accomplishment stemming from completion of some big event or period in your life. You glow with the feeling of achievement and fulfillment.

Bask in the glory of a job well done, for you've earned it! Read more about The World here.