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What is the Major Arcana?

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on November 5, 2013 | Comments (3)

A tarot deck has 78 cards. The cards are divided into sections, which makes learning them easier because the section a card is in shapes its meaning.

The sections are:

Major Arcana (22 cards)

Minor Arcana (40 cards)

Court Cards (16 cards)

This article focuses on the Major Arcana.

The Major Arcana cards are usually titled with a Roman Numeral (0 – XXI) and a name (such as The Fool, The Lovers, Death, or The Sun). These cards represent larger themes, milestones or turning points in someone’s life, or events outside the querent’s control (the querent is the person getting the reading).

The names themselves (along with the images) help reveal the cards’ meanings. The Fool shows a brightly dressed person about to step off a cliff, usually with a little dog barking at his heels. So, this is what might feel like a foolish moment, taking a step (or leap of faith) toward something. Death, arcana XIII, is aptly numbered, is rarely about physical death but rather about endings and transformation. XVII, The Star, showing a naked woman pouring water into a lake and onto the land, is about healing, hope, and guidance (I often think about how we wish upon a star and navigate by the stars). VI, The Lovers, can be about love, but it is more specifically about making choices, choices that reflect the desires of your deepest heart. There are few choices more important than deciding on a life partner, so the picture of lovers is very apt.

It is worth noting that some decks number Justice as XI and Strength as VIII while some decks reverse that.

Most good tarot books include good descriptions of the Major Arcana, but one that I particularly like is Rachel Pollack’s Tarot Wisdom.

Reader Comments

Written By Laura
on November 5th, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

Typo alert! 🙂 Roman numeral 17 not 18 for the Star.

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