The Major Arcana are Tarot’s trump cards. Filled with archetypical symbols, they represent universal truths about human condition. Unlike the Minor Arcana that depict events, thoughts and emotions temporary in nature, Major Arcana deal with important stages in our lives.
Each of the Major Arcana Tarot cards deals with thoughts and events that are meant to enhance our spiritual awareness. Throughout our life journey, we go through stages that teach us about the human nature and existence. This is the theme of what is called the “Fool’s Journey“. We begin with the first card of Major Arcana, the Fool, naive and unaware of what lies ahead. Through many trials, we arrive at the 21st card of the set, the World, which symbolizes the completion of an important phase in our spiritual development.
This is what Major Arcana are all about: the major events, the important life lessons, the necessary moments of our development that are to lead us to higher knowledge.
List of Major Arcana Tarot Cards
Click on each Tarot card below to find out more about its Tarot card meaning.
I am still working on the cards’ descriptions. Check often for new cards meanings.
The tarot card The Fool stands for the curious child in us who knows no boundaries and tries everything. Sometimes we have to be optimistic and overcome our own limits. At court, the court jester was an important authority outside social norms – he was the only one who had jester’s freedom. We sometimes need this naivety and curiosity to free ourselves from overwhelming problems and to gain a different, better view of our life situation.
His magical powers are based on the control of the 4 elements in front of him: staff of fire, water chalice, air sword and the coin of the earth. He makes his will become reality. The magician uses all possibilities of communication, proceeds playfully and dynamically, using his mind, imagination, courage and body. He is full of self-confidence, masculinity, potency and sexuality. In the field of tension between ignorance and knowledge he shows adaptability. But he can also become treacherous and often lead us to dangerous places and hopeless situations.
The High Priestess
The high priestess stands for female intuition, faith, emotionality and willingness to compromise. Negative aspects are mysticism, naivety and too much passivity. The symbols are generally very contradictory. Earthly and heavenly, science and faith, the obvious and the hidden. The card is usually interpreted to remind the questioner to solve problems, tasks and conflicts skilfully despite incomplete information. The high priestess reminds us that there is ALWAYS a way out and a solution in a life situation and to trust in the strength of one’s own intuition.
It symbolizes the maternal principle of becoming and passing away, the eternal and perpetual cycle of life. The 12 stars stand for the 12 constellations of the astrological zodiac, the 7 beads around her neck represent the 7 ancient planets. Thus The Empress also represents the creative power of the entire universe. The universe constantly creates new life somewhere, but also allows old life to die. The Empress is surrounded by full grain, lush forest and a bubbling stream – all symbols of the goodness of Mother Nature.
The Empress challenges us to let our abilities and knowledge grow. We are to integrate ourselves into the cycle of becoming and passing away and to develop ourselves continuously. If we allow room for this growth process, body, mind and soul will reap ripe fruit.
The Emperor bears responsibility for his domain. He protects himself with strong armor, subordinates himself to his task. He is characterized by stability and rigor. He must be incorruptible and must always successfully defend his power and his area of responsibility. The Emperor reminds us that we cannot always blame others for our situation. He who blames others gives power to others. Powerful is only those who take responsibility for their own lives – looking for new ways. This sometimes requires a certain amount of inner discipline, which always pays off. In his left hand The Emperor holds the golden orb as a symbol of his domain. The Ankh in his right hand symbolizes constancy and his spiritual authority.
The Hierophant is spiritual head and mediator between the sacred and the profane. He mediates the meaning of life, the origin of being. As head of the priestly caste, he is also the guardian of knowledge and values. A Hierophant can be a priest, spiritual teacher or shaman. The crosses on his robe symbolize the union of two opposites. Sometimes we have to remember old values or pass them on to others. The Hierophant often sacrifices personal freedom in favor of his calling. The Hierophant in Tarot reminds us that our goals are based on essential beliefs. Thus, this tarot card is also a card of our own self-confidence.
The card stands not only for the love between man and woman. The mountain separates the sexes and emphasizes the mutual differences, which however form two poles of a unity. Behind the woman is the tree of fertility with a snake as a symbol of sin and the problems that occur daily in relationships. In the background of the man you can see a burning bush as a symbol of the male seed for procreation.
The angels are watching over both of them, protecting and blessing them, they are the guardians and keepers of the union of these opposites. Often this tarot card also signals the responsibility in connection with far-reaching decisions, where one has to weigh up between several possibilities. One should fully accept a matter as the natural order and listen to his heart.
The Chariot is a challenge to pursue one’s goals consistently and with discipline – at the end is integration and success. The two draft animals represent the polarities that have to be overcome. The driver’s gaze is always directed straight ahead to his destination. He alone takes responsibility for the company and he is the only one to achieve the expected fame. Sometimes he has to let go of his familiar surroundings and may not look back. There is no time to lose and it is important not to lose time and to take advantage of external help.
The Chariot is also a reminder not to overestimate our own strengths and to prove and improve our skill in holding the reins every day. The driving of our life car requires a willingness to learn. Even minor setbacks and disabilities will not be entirely avoidable in this tightrope act.
The tarot card Kraft represents two opposites – the petite young woman and the wild lion. Two souls dwell within us – a gentle feminine and an animal masculine part.
The card stands for the task of constructively connecting the animal nature from the depths with the acquired civilized mental powers. This is only possible through a reverential recognition of our own wildness. At the same time, the absolute will to lovingly rein in archaic impulses and transform them into maximum pleasure is crucial. The result is an incredible sweetness paired with power and devotion to the moment.
The final success does not result in the victory of one of these opposing forces but in the integration of both. The strength of the feminine side lies in intuition, the strength of the masculine side in the fighting execution. Both sides together give strength. A single aspect would be imperfect and weak.
It follows its inner light and cannot be distracted by external influences. He goes his way and seeks wisdom within. He makes clear to himself what his identity is in his thinking, acting and feeling. This self-reflection helps the hermit to concentrate on his goal. The Hermit determines his goals himself, he makes his own independent decisions – but for this he does not have to isolate himself from his fellow men. He trains himself to follow his inner voice and live his own identity. In a state of seclusion he cannot run away from himself – he confronts his own fears and compulsions. The Hermit stands for the confrontation with his own ego – from this state he draws his strength. This tarot card marks a phase of life or situation in which the application of this philosophy is helpful.
Wheel of Fortune
The Wheel of Fortune keeps on turning – some events we cannot influence. The 4 angels of the apocalypse and the sphinx with the sword of fate influence the dynamics of our life. The jackal-headed creature reminds us of the aegyptian god of death rites: Anubis. His most important task was to supervise the weighing of souls, and his judgment was of crucial importance. The symbols on the wheel stand for the 4 elements that hold our world together. Good times alternate with bad times, time and fate are constantly in rotation. It is about one’s own destiny, one’s attitude towards personal fortune and the question of meaning. The tarot card Wheel of Fortune also reminds us that there is always a chance and solutions that we cannot and need not influence ourselves. In addition we should prove patience and wait sometimes only for the correct moment, until our life situation changes in our favour.
The map of Justice leads us to the examination of the laws of life. It doesn’t matter whether our decisions are good or bad – the important thing is that we are prepared to accept responsibility for all conceivable consequences. Scales and sword, measuring and cutting, weighing and deciding form a unity. Every gain also requires a sacrifice, every reward a small privation.
It does not help us to blame others – whoever blames others gives others the power. Whoever bears the blame and responsibility, whoever is able to bear the consequences, also increases his own power and success. With upcoming decisions it is important to weigh up these aspects. Whoever is out to work with unfair means will fail. Justice means taking responsibility. This also includes independently examining values and norms imposed by others and being prepared at all times to question and possibly discard them in favor of our own sense of Justice.
The Hanged Man
The Hanged Man wants to live, but sees himself bound and powerless. This state will continue until he realizes how useless his resistance is. The card proposes as a solution to surrender to the situation and to be ready to take an obvious solution. An uncomfortable change is necessary – often involuntary. A completely different attitude than the previous one is required. But the Sun of Enlightenment signals a positive change. It warns of an imminent sacrifice, but after you have made it, everything will change for the better. Watching a situation develop without the possibility to intervene can be painful – sometimes this path of conscious passivity is the wisest way. In every crisis there is also an opportunity. The hanged person is not always able to cope with involuntary paralysis – often the impatience and the desire to use force to free oneself from the uncomfortable situation is very strong. To internalize the deep message of the Tarot Card The Hanged Man requires a lot of maturity and a strong personality.
Death stands for a painful farewell. In the end nothing is the same as before. Sometimes the tarot card “Death” also reminds us to strip off a part of ourselves – our old beliefs or imposed values – and just let go. Death in its wholeness does not symbolize the premature end of an affair but the normal process of dying or saying goodbye.
In the context of the cards the cause for the end of a situation is usually found, including the necessary personal confrontation. The tarot card encourages to accept the necessary process, to endure the pain and the finality, because this can also result in positive aspects that start after the change.
Body, mind and soul have to be mixed and weighed up again and again in our everyday life. The guardian angel symbolizes our spiritual power, which leads our self into the light. We must always weigh up how much we are willing to give or take. The right mixture is important – every day is different. The balanced mental balance requires a lot of flexibility from us. We always have to find a mixture that we feel comfortable with – otherwise we poison our soul. Those who have understood this message of moderation will be crowned with success at the end of their journey.
He is a master of seduction. No one can completely escape the charm of evil. But sometimes it is necessary to break imposed chains and to cross new boundaries. Often the card also symbolizes the inner pig dog, hidden enmity and chaos. But we can free ourselves from these fetters. The map inevitably reminds us of the Fall of Man, the expulsion from paradise. Humanity as a victim of its own desires. It reminds us that not only the pursuit of purity defines our human life, but also the seduction by darkness.
We must also face our own shadow side and sometimes subordinate ourselves to purer values and morality. Otherwise we will wither away to chained diabolic and will-less tools of our own dark side. The Devil here does not embody the typically bad and unholy. Often it is just the supposedly holy with very diabolical and life-denying qualities. The Devil often likes to take the shape of an angel of light to be able to seduce his victims even better.
The Tower symbolizes restrictive principles of our faith. First the walls grow up to an imposing royal Tower. As with the Tower of Babel, dogmatic opinions and views solidify. The Tower no longer has a door to leave the Tower. At some point, the lightning of objective truth strikes the piled-up prison and causes it to collapse. At first, a world collapses when the illusion collapses in on itself. But the divine sparks accompany the falling people as they fall to freedom. The Tower reminds us that the numerous fairy tales and dogmas that affect us daily will collapse unexpectedly at some point.
The Star inspires creativity and creative urge. We draw from the source of life. We feel strengthened, pulsating with heart energy, and it seems as if we are bathing in a refreshing source of our soul world. The Star shows us the fountain of youth. The tarot card brings luck and encourages optimism and hope. The Star promises healing and success, or a positive turn.
With it a new consciousness process is meant in particular. The seeds sown in the past have germinated and it is time to harvest – it was worth the effort. The map shows us that it is time to enjoy the fruits of our work and to give free rein to our present feelings.
Dog (the tamed part in us) and wolf (the wild part in us) howl longingly at The Moon. We experience a longing for fulfillment, merge into our dreams and longings. Only The Moon illuminates the shadowy night, only indistinct contours of things are visible. The Tarot Card The Moon invites us to give in to our inner feelings and to give in to our longing. There is another truth behind the familiar reality. Our subconscious has already recognized it, it just has not reached our consciousness. Perhaps one must first go through a mental crisis to become conscious, there is at least still uncertainty in a matter. The Moon asks us to let go of our fears and allow our deep longings to illuminate the way in the darkness.
The Sun provides clarity, drives away the longings of the night and brings us back to reality. It gives warmth and energy, a symbol for happiness, joy and success. The child sits carefree and playfully on the mold and enjoys the warmth, enjoys the blossoms and feels the pleasant Sunrays on the skin. This carefree attitude will also come to an end when the night takes over again. At the moment, however, happiness, light and clarity prevail. The dark is defeated for now and joy returns.
Follow your inner call. Follow your intuition and surrender yourself. The Judgment is not about punishment but about the revival of (unborn) life. Many possibilities and abilities are hidden within us and are waiting to be awakened. The angel of Judgment calls for renewal with his golden trumpet. This is about the alignment to the universal principle of life. Often we also have to give up our old life and prejudices or let them die in order to be renewed. Every end already bears the seed for a new beginning. The card calls us to awaken our hidden aspects of our soul and to free ourselves from death. Perhaps an inner voice within us is calling for a decisive change, but we have not yet had the courage to follow its call.
The dancing World dancer unites the 4 ends of the earth, connects the opposites of the cosmos and creates universal balance. The two white sticks in her hand symbolize the united poles, the unity of the great whole. The World challenges us to use our freedom wisely. Sometimes the attainment of freedom requires us to go beyond the limits, to break through external limitations. In this way we regain our mental balance and can in turn pass this harmony on to our environment. The World stands for the achievement of a goal, the final realization of our dreams and wishes – the final completion. If we have not yet reached our goal, this card signals us that we are on the right path and that the reward is not far away.