Meaning of the Major Arcana in the Tarot Deck
Tarot cards are a powerful tool for an individual to focus their psychic skills and call on guidance from the spiritual plane.
Learning to read the Tarot deck can be complex and requires a combination of understanding the meanings of the cards in the deck as divined by those who have come before, and engaging one’s own intuition. It also requires an honest look at the circumstances of the person who is receiving the reading, to understand how the information revealed relates to their life and circumstances.
Although many different types of decks are available, a traditional Tarot deck has 78 cards including 56 Minor Arcana linked to four suits (swords, wands, pentacles and cups), and 22 Major Arcana Cards. In general, the Major Arcana cards reflect the broader context of a person’s life and often refer to major life events, while the Minor Arcana offer more detailed information about specific events and questions.
Below you will find a general overview of the Major Arcana and what they might mean if they appear in your reading. However, interpreting what their appearance may mean depends on your individual circumstances where it sits in relation to the other cards that have been drawn.
0 – The Fool
Upright: innocence, new beginning and freedom
Reversed: recklessness, being take advantage of
The Fool is often drawn if you have not yet experienced the major ups and downs of life and understand how challenging life can be, or your individual potential. It is often a sign to embrace what life is offering without worrying, and to accumulate life experience.
1 – The Magician
Upright: willpower, desire and manifestation
Reversed: trickery, illusion, being out of touch
The Magician is often a reminder that you are a unique person with unique skills, and not to waste time comparing yourself to others. It often indicates that you are ready and should go after the things that you want.
2 – The High Priestess
Upright – intuition and inner voice
Reversed – loss of intuition and repression
The High Priestess is a symbol of awareness and is often a sign to listen to your inner voice and follow your intuition. It also suggests that you should stop looking for fulfilment outside yourself and focus on what you have.
3 – The Empress
Upright: motherhood, fertility and nature
Reversed: dependence, emptiness
The Empress encourages compassion and love and is deeply connected with the natural world. Drawing this card is often a sign that you need to reconnect with nature, or perhaps focus on your health.
4 – The Emperor
Upright: authority, structure, control, fatherhood
Reversed: tyranny, rigidity, coldness
Though not quite the opposite of the Fool, the Emperor is a card of power and leadership, and usually represents a person who has experienced a lot in life and has come out the other end stronger. The card is often a reminder that we are all in control of our own lives.
5 – The Hierophant
Upright: tradition, conformity, ethics and morals
Reversed: rebellion and subversiveness
The Hierophant is a divine messenger and the appearance of this card is often a signal to look for divine signs or work on your own spirituality.
6 – The Lovers
Upright: partnerships, duality, union, self-love
Reversed: disharmony and imbalance
While the Lovers can represent a close relationship in a person’s life, it also represents self love, and can often be a sign that you needs to work on being happy within yourself before you can form a meaningful connection with another person.
7 – The Chariot
Upright: direction, control and willpower
Reversed: lack of control and aggression
The Chariot can be a very positive card in a reading and often represents an upcoming victory. It can also be a call to focus your energies more squarely on your goals in order to gain your desired outcome.
8 – Strength
Upright: inner strength, bravery, focus and compassion
Reversed: self-doubt, weakness, insecurity and isolation
Strength most definitely carries a message about strength and often calls for fortitude in the face of adversity. It is a reminder that no one is sent challenges greater than they can handle.
9 – The Hermit
Upright: contemplation, search for truth and guidance
Reversed: Loneliness, isolation and loss
The Hermit card often indicates the need to spend time on one’s self, and to step back from some of the distractions and noise of day to day life which might be negatively influencing you.
10 – The Wheel of Fortune
Upright: change, cycles and fate
Reversed: loss of control and bad luck
The Wheel of Fortune is a reminder that life is not constant, and that just as you cannot always be at the top of the wheel, if you are at the bottom, you will not stay there, and that new opportunities may be just around the corner.
11 – Justice
Upright: cause and effect, clarity and truth
Reversed: dishonestly and unaccountability
The Justice card can be a firm reminder that karma is real and that your actions have consequences. It often signals that whatever struggle you are currently facing is the result of your own actions, and that only you can bring yourself out the other end. It is also often a message to maintain your integrity, even in difficult circumstances.
12 – The Hanged Man
Upright: sacrifice and release
Reversed: needless sacrifice, fear of doing what is right
The Hanged Man often appears when a person is in a state of limbo, and suggests that a difficult decision is on the horizon and sacrifices may need to be made. Find out more about the Hanged Man.
13 – Death
Upright: end of a cycle, new beginnings and metamorphosis
Reversed: fear of change, holding on to things
Rarely referring to physical death, the Death card refers to cycles and new beginnings and is often a sign that you need to let go of something in order to make room for something new in your life. The card can offer comfort when something is lost.
14 – Temperance
Upright: middle path, balance and finding meaning
Reversed: extremes, excess and lack of balance
The Temperance card is often a call for patience and a reminder that all things come in their own time.
15 – The Devil
Upright: addition, materialism and playfulness
Reversed: freedom, release and control
When the Devil appears in a reading, it is often a sign that a person feels out of control. The card is a reminder that you are indeed in control of your own destiny and you have options to choose from, even though they may be difficult. It is often a reminder that the only thing holding you back is you.
16 – The Tower
Upright: sudden upheaval, broken pride and disaster
Reversed: disaster avoided and fear
The Tower card is often a harbinger of disaster and can indicate that bad things will happen and that you cannot stop them. It can often indicate that a weak part of your life must be torn down or torn away, and a reminder that while you cannot control everything that happens around you, you can control how you respond.
17 – The Star
Upright: hope, faith and rejuvenation
Reverse: faithlessness, discouragement and insecurity
The Star card often carries a message of hope, healing and renewal. This card indicates that you are on the right track and to have faith and stay the path.
18 – The Moon
Upright: visions and intuition
Reversed: confusion, fear and misinterpretation
The Moon often arises in a person’s reading when they are feeling anxious, doubting themselves, or worrying about the past. It is often a sign to take steps to deal with these fears and feelings in order to prepare yourself for the future.
19 – The Sun
Upright: joy, success and celebration
Reversed: negativity, depression and sadness
The Sun card is another indicator that you are on the right path and that things are working in your favour. It is often a sign to take advantage of this moment and take risks and put yourself out there.
20 – Judgement
Upright: reflection, reckoning and awakening
Reversed: lack of self-awareness and self-doubt
The Judgement card often represents the past and future colliding and important decisions which will influence your future direction. It is a reminder that the future is not set in stone and your life is what you make of it.
21 – The World
Upright: fulfilment, harmony and completion
Reversed: incompletion and lack of closure
The World represents completion, success and fulfilment and is usually a sign that you are exactly where you need to be and that you are comfortable in your own skin.