Below you will find all 22 cards of the Major Arcana. Below each Tarot card, you will find short bullet points that will give you a quick overview of the meaning of the upright or reversed position.
If you click directly on a Tarot card of the Major Arcana, it leads you to the detailed description with the sections General Interpretation, Love and much more.
Finally, you can go on the Fool’s journey and follow his development.
Description of the Major Arcana
A Tarot deck contains 56 cards assigned to the Minor Arcana and 22 cards to the Major Arcana. The numbering of the latter begins with zero for the Fool and ends with 21 for the World. The Major Arcana are also considered trumps or trump cards in the Tarot.
Originally, the word “arcana” meant deep-lying secret. Early scholars understood it to mean the secrets of the mind and nature. These secrets are often encoded in our subconscious. The Tarot cards are the key to unlocking these secrets and making them meaningful to our lives.
The Major Arcana are special in this sense, because in them the various aspects of human action, thinking and feeling are essentially reflected.
The cards of the Major Arcana symbolically represent the journey of each person from birth to death.
Or the spiritual or moral development from the child, the first awareness of the self, to the adult who has found inner peace and fulfillment (see the “Fool’s Journey” later in this chapter).
Our life’s path is not always straight and complaint-free, as we often wish, but has many ups and downs, some shortcuts, or winding paths. In the end, however, the circle closes and we arrive back at the starting point of our journey.
The Major Arcana Tarot cards can help us to master our cycle well and point out opportunities and barriers. The cards not only reveal unconscious secrets but also show us how our own behavior affects our lives, both positively and negatively.
In this chapter, you will first learn how to use and interpret Major Arcana cards during a Tarot session.
Furthermore, the “Fool’s Journey” is described. A story to better internalize the inherent cycle of the Tarot cards and learn the meaning of the cards.
Overview of the Major Arcana
0 The Fool
Upright: Free, Beginning, Childlike, Spontaneous
Reversed: Impulsive, Risky, Naive, Cocky
1 The Magician
Upright: Power, Attentive, Drive, Concentration
Reversed: Overeagerness, Hesitation, Planless, Manipulation
2 The High Priestess
Upright: Unconscious, Passive, Intuition, Mysterious
Reversed: Dreamy, Withdrawal, Material, Secretive
3 The Empress
Upright: Fullness, Feminine, Nature, Sensual
Reversed: Dependent, Envious, Cold, Blocked
4 The Emperor
Upright: Authority, Masculine, Structure, Rule-conscious
Reversed: Inflexible, Control, Unbridled, Dominance
5 The Hierophant
Upright: Education, Faith, Conform, Tradition
Reversed: Rebel, Lonely, Individual, Freedom
6 The Lovers
Upright: Love, Loyalty, Relationships, Values
Reversed: Egoism, Impetuous, Unattached, Vice
7 The Chariot
Upright: Success, Courage, Devotion, Control
Reversed: Aimless, Arrogance, Compulsion, Insecure
8 The Strength
Upright: Power, Courage, Influence, Merciful
Reversed: Powerless, Doubt, Failure, Crudeness
9 The Hermit
Upright: Seeking, Lonely, Silent, Teacher
Reversed: Aimless, Isolation, Turning away, Disappointment
10 The Wheel of Fortune
Upright: Chance, Fate, Turn, Change
Reversed: Misfortune, Rigidity, Impotence, Outbreak
11 The Justice
Upright: Responsibility, Fairness, Truth, Causality
Reversed: One-sided, Injustice, Lie, Betrayal
12 The Hanged Man
Upright: Pause, Let go, Abandonment, Reversal
Reversed: Delayed, Resistance, Stalling, Crisis
13 The Death
Upright: End, Transition, Change, Acceptance
Reversed: Fear, Loss, Rigidity, Erasure
14 The Temperance
Upright: Balance, Health, Harmony, Peace
Reversed: Imbalance, Exhaustion, Disturbance, Excess
15 The Devil
Upright: Materialism, Sin, Dependence, Will
Reversed: Superstition, Detachment, Doubt, Distance
16 The Tower
Upright: Redemption, Chaos, Change, Awakening
Reversed: Compulsion, Fear, Destruction, Rigidity
17 The Star
Upright: Faith, Hope, Happiness, Serenity
Reversed: Misbelief, Separation, Despair, Confused
18 The Moon
Upright: Fear, Illusion, Imagination, Premonition
Reversed: Courage, Clarity, Peace, Suppression
19 The Sun
Upright: Enlightenment, Vital, Success, Positive
Reversed: Exuberance, Depressed, Tired, Confused
20 The Judgement
Upright: Awakened, Redemption, Decision, Inner call
Reversed: Criticism, Guilt, Doubt, Ignorance
21 The World
Upright: Integration, Completion, Journey, Unity
Reversed: Delay, Dispersed, Rigidity, Isolation
Meaning of the Major Arcana
When a Major Arcana card is drawn, it indicates an important, deeper message that you should give special weight to in your Tarot Dialogue. Because of their prominent position in the Tarot deck, they generally have a higher significance than the Minor Arcana cards.
They often point to deeper and long-term connections and messages. Note, however, that depending on the spread and the question, the trump cards have different influences on your Tarot knowledge.
If you draw several cards of the Major Arcana category during a tarot session, special attention is required when interpreting the entire cards. Several trumps symbolize an important turning point in life and should not be ignored.
If we close our minds to such an important message, it often happens that the cards want to make themselves heard through other questions or spreads. Thus they influence subsequent tarot sessions unfavorably. So take your time and carefully note down the drawn cards.
Let your intuition guide you in your dialogue with the cards and allow your subconscious to reveal itself.
Reversed cards of the Major Arcana are special. They point out current blockages in our lives. Without overcoming these blockages, we will not be able to continue to grow and experience spiritual fulfillment.
In a Tarot reading, the cards show us what we can do ourselves to take advantage of opportunities and overcome obstacles. Many people have respect or even fear the Major Arcana cards, especially when they appear reversed.
Think of the cards as a teacher who takes you by the hand to guide you on your own spiritual journey.
The Fool’s Journey
To gain a deeper understanding of the Major Arcana cards, there is the story of the “Fool’s Journey”. It takes the reader through the beginnings of spiritual development to the perfection of the human spirit.
The journey begins with the Fool (0). This card symbolically represents the beginning of the spiritual and ethical development that every human being goes through. The Fool, with his impartiality and simplicity, embarks on the difficult and burdensome journey of life without looking too closely at the hurdles that await him.
Through his curiosity, openness and spontaneity, the Fool brings all the prerequisites to gather valuable life experiences and integrate them into himself. A special feature of the Fool card is the numbering with the number 0.
The zero is numerically seen neither to the positive nor to the negative numbers to assign but forms quasi the starting point or balance point of these two poles. The Fool is also not yet caught in an extreme but free in his thinking and working.
First, the Fool meets the Magician (1) and the High Priestess (2). These two Tarot cards represent the striving for balance in our world.
They are two sides of the same coin and cannot exist without each other. The Magician represents masculine, conscious energies. The high priestess for feminine, unconscious currents.
Such opposites belong to the nature of the Tarot and elude the simple division into “good” and “bad” characteristics of cards.
The cards allow us to regain balance in our lives by sending us important messages through our subconscious.
As his journey progresses, the Fool becomes more and more aware of his environment. He recognizes his mother, who nurtures and raises him, as well as Mother Earth, who in the broadest sense also cares for him and takes care of him. The Empress (3) stands as a card for the mother, as she symbolically stands for nature and perception.
After the Fool begins to break away from his mother, he meets his father, who is represented by the Emperor card (4). The Emperor symbolizes structure and authority.
Through this, the Fool experiences a new level of security and orientation in the world. He also learns through the father that although rules also mean restrictions, in the same way, they are important to orient himself in the world.
Next, the Fool begins to break away from his parents and wander into the wider world. There he learns what it means to be part of a group or faith community. The Hierophant (5) stands here as an organized teaching system that introduces the adolescent to the world of social interaction.
The Fool thus learns to become part of a community and to adapt to it. The Hierophant’s card shows a blessing of two adepts, which seems primarily religious, but can be applied to any social initiation rites.
The next experience of the Fool is the desire for an intimate and physical relationship with a fellow human being. Until now he was sufficient for himself, but now he wants to experience True Love, represented by the card of the Lovers (6).
After some time, the Fool becomes an adult, with a strong sense of self-confidence and a high degree of self-control. At this stage, the Chariot (7) represents the Fool’s achievements and successes so far, both mental and worldly.
However, life holds burdens and stresses in store for the Fool, which he can only overcome with perseverance and willpower. Strength (8) in this case symbolizes qualities such as resilience, perseverance and tolerance, which are necessary to get back up after failures and continue his journey.
The Fool, over time, begins to ask himself questions about the why and the meaning of life. This search for answers from a deep urge for spiritual perfection symbolizes the card of the Hermit (9). The Fool is looking more for a retreat to practice contemplation in silence.
As a result of his search, the Fool realizes how everything in the world is interconnected. The Wheel of Fortune (10) symbolizes the mystical mysteries of our world and the cycles to which we are subject in our lives.
Through this experience, the inner longing for answers is satisfied for the time being. The Fool begins a new departure into the world, to apply his new won realizations and points of view.
By the newly won realizations, the Fool lets his past life pass again in review. He takes responsibility for past deeds and recognizes the principle of cause and effect concerning his deeds.
This is symbolized by the card of Justice (11). The Fool has to decide whether to continue following his path of knowledge or to go back and follow the path of impartiality and naivety.
Soon the Fool will inevitably experience the difficulties and hardships of life. This challenge gradually becomes an excessive demand, which the Fool can no longer oppose, but must accept.
The believed sense of control proves to be an illusion that can only be overcome as the Fool begins to let go. The Fool is now the Hanged Man (12), who on the one hand is tormented by his hopeless situation, but on the other hand, learns to accept things as they are. From this, he experiences a kind of peace for himself.
The Fool now begins another transformation, leaving behind old habits and stripping away what is not necessary for himself to concentrate on the essential aspects of life.
However, this process of death (13) of the old self is at the same time a new beginning for the emergence of a new concept of self. Through this experience, the Fool learns that death is not a rigid concept, but can be both an end and a new beginning.
In the Fool matures the realization, that wandering between extremes in life can help find one’s own balance. Temperance (14) represented as an angel shows the ease and tranquility that comes when we have found our inner center. The integration of positive and negative aspects into one’s self is the path to inner harmony for the Fool.
After the Fool has reached a state of inner balance, his urge to explore leads him to the deep dark sides of the human mind. He comes face to face with the Devil (15).
The Devil card describes our inner mental poisons, being the source of ignorance and despair inherent in every human being. The fixations on material desires blind our vision to such an extent that we do not realize how much they shackle us and we let ourselves be enslaved by them.
This is well expressed on the Devil’s card by the human couple. They are indeed chained to each other, but only so loosely that it would be easy for them to free themselves. Instead, they remain in their bondage and suffer torment.
The confrontation with the Devil within is difficult to overcome. The Fool accomplishes this through a sudden change, symbolized by the Tower (16). The Tower card shows how a lightning bolt causes the mighty erected monument to totter.
It is similar to self-erected spiritual walls, which need a strong external force to be torn down. As with death, this demolition is at the same time a new beginning, so that previously walled-in feelings or thoughts can again create new space.
The Fool experiences a new balance and calm, represented by the Star (17). The woman on the star is naked and her innermost being unveiled.
The clear night and the bright stars symbolize hope and inspiration. The Fool has overcome the negative energies of the devil and draws new strength from within himself. He feels free and opens his heart to the world to share his love with it.
But the Fool has not yet reached the end of his journey. His feelings of peace and nobleness are only snapshots and do not yet reflect his inner self. He is prone to illusions and wishful thinking at this stage, represented by the card of the Moon (18).
The Moon encourages a vivid imagination and allows both the most beautiful feelings and thoughts and our most terrible fears to spring forth from our subconscious. The Fool must be on guard to distinguish truth from illusion.
The Sun (19) brings light into the fog of confusion through its rays and clarity. The Fool can now better distinguish the right path from the wrong one and fears and worries gradually fade away.
Thus strengthened with new enthusiasm and energy, the Fool can continue his journey. The Sun card represents this optimism by the naked child on the white horse.
The Fool’s redemption is at hand. He realizes that forgiveness both of himself and other people is the path to perfect purity. Past mistakes are reinterpreted and valued as important experiences on the path to spiritual perfection.
The Fool can now judge (20) himself about his past life. He decides which values and qualities he will continue cultivating and which he will leave behind. Gradually he recognizes his true destiny, and doubts and fears disappear completely.
The Fool enters the world (21) anew, with a deeper understanding of its essence. He now integrates all parts of himself into his own personality and perceives himself as holistic. This new fulfillment gives the Fool a previously unknown sense of inner happiness.
The Fool now begins to share his experiences with his environment so that all beings can enjoy his experienced deep fulfillment.
The cycle ends as it began with the same open unselfconsciousness of the Fool to share his knowledge with the world. Soon he will set out on a new journey to gain an even deeper understanding of himself and the universe.