2 The Major and Minor Arcana
THERE ARE SEVENTY-EIGHT CARDS in the tarot deck, and these
cards are divided into two units. Twenty-two are major arcana
cards, and fifty-six are minor arcana. Arcana means profound
The major arcana is connected to the big events in our lives,
such as graduation, marriage, death, and any life-altering triumphs
and tragedies. These are the most powerful cards in
your deck because they represent life's major turning points,
and as a result, their impact is more profound than that of all
the other cards. When giving a reading, make special note of
the major arcana because they will have the biggest effect on
the overall picture of what lies ahead. The major arcana begins
with the Fool, numbered zero. Some decks place the Fool first
in the deck, and in others you will find that it is the last card in
the major arcana.
The minor arcana is made up of the rest of the cards, and
has to do with our day to day activities and issues such as
work, school, and the like. These cards are divided into four
suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. Each card in the
suit is numbered one to ten. These are followed by the four
court cards: Page, Knight, Queen, and King. By tuning into
the minor arcana's images, we can capture a glimpse into our
everyday lives and the details that help make up the overall
The Major Arcana
Remember, the major arcana cards are the most important
and meaningful part of your deck. These are picture cards
with a name or title at the bottom of each card. The major
arcana is broken down into three groups consisting of seven
The material world: The first group deals with the outside
world and situations connected to it. Think of your relationships,
family, the laws of society, schooling, and the
like. This group also includes possessions, the comforts of
life, and the choices you make that determine how you
live. The cards in this group include the Fool, the High
Priestess, the Empress, the Emperor, the Hierophant, the
Lovers, and the Chariot.
Intuitive nature: The second group of the major arcana concerns
itself with your intuitive mind. It represents faith,
hope, love, and spirituality. This grouping relates to decisions
you make based on feelings rather than logic. For
me, these cards concern themselves with issues that touch
the heart. The cards in this group include Justice, the Hermit,
the Wheel of Fortune, Strength, the Hanged Man,
Death, and Temperance.
Change: The third group contains the most powerful cards
in the entire deck. They combine the issues of the first two
groups and will help or challenge your personal concerns
and life path. These cards reach beyond society's rules and
regulations, for they represent spiritual laws. In this set of
seven, the power of the universe, which creates life-altering
events and situations, is the most evident. The cards in this
group include the Devil, the Tower, the Star, the Moon, the
Sun, Judgment, and the World.
The Minor Arcana
The minor arcana is broken down into four separate suits of
fourteen cards each. Forty of the minor arcana cards are like
a regular deck of playing cards. The four other cards in each
suit are called court cards. Each suit deals with a specific area
of life. You could do a reading with just the major arcana,
but it would be incomplete. The minor arcana reveal important
details, such as people you will come in contact with,
specific events, and so much more.
Cups = love and relationships: Whenever you draw a Cups
card, you will be dealing with love and affairs of the heart.
This suit is also associated with spirituality and intuitive
abilities. When you read this card, allow your intuition to
guide you and let your feelings flow. Think emotions,
intent, and desire. If you draw many cards in the Cups suit,
recognize that situations and upcoming events will tend to
be based on feelings rather than intellect.
Wands = actions, ambitions, activities: When you draw a
Wand, recognize that this suit has to do with immediate
actions taken. It represents a flurry of activity and energy.
Wands also represent people or situations that are exciting
and creative. Wands stand for growth and development. So
if you see a lot of this specific suit in your reading, know
that a situation or an idea is in the beginning stages of
development and ripe for expansion.
Pentacles = money, home and family, career, security: Pentacles
are goldlike discs. When you draw a Pentacle card,
anything that represents security may be an issue. For
some people this suit relates entirely to money, but for
others, the Pentacles represent a sense of belonging.
Think family, church, friendship circles, and work. This
suit can also represent results of actions taken and, oftentimes,
prosperity and payoffs.
Swords = conflicts, problems: The suit of Swords generally
represents arguments, strife, commotion, and conflicts of
all sorts. But not just physical conflict. It can represent
moral and ethical concerns too. These cards link themselves
to any situation or crisis that creates turmoil. If
many swords come up in a reading, there could be several
challenges or difficulties to go through before one can
reach a goal and move past problems.
Notice that the minor arcana cards are numbered one to ten.
In addition, there are four court cards in each suit: Page,
Knight, Queen, and King. Let's discover what these royal
Page: Represents a young person, children, students, and
communications of all sorts, such as e-mails, phone calls,
and letters. In medieval times, pages were young men and
boys who worked for kings, queens, and royal courts.
They waited on their lords and ladies hand and foot.
Oftentimes, they were used to deliver messages and town
notices. Many a youngster wanted to be a page, for it was
the education they needed to assure them a good position
when they grew up. Their ultimate goal was to become a
knight. In the tarot, a Page doesn't always represent a
male figure. Such a card may also refer to a girl or young
Knight: Represents people who take action and are goal setters.
Sometimes related to challenges, life's responsibilities,
and self-discovery. Hundreds of years ago, knights were
men that served the king and his court. They were very well
respected. It was an honor to be a knight. These men had a
variety of duties, such as discovering new lands and territories
as well as competing in contests that tested their skills
and abilities. In your deck, Knights represent men and
women who take up quests. They are goal-oriented and
Queen: Feminine power. In the tarot, Queens represent emotions,
the important women in your life, home, family,
and intuition. The Queen is not a ruler like the King. Her
role is that of a positive partner to his majesty. Yet, she is
also considered a strong symbol of feminine power.
Young married women, mothers, and even older matronly
ladies are associated with the Queen card. However, in a
few instances, this card can represent a man if he has
maternal, emotional, and caring qualities.
King: Powerful men or men in positions of authority. Masculine
energy. Decision-making. The King is the symbol of
masculine power in the tarot. Usually, Kings represent men.
However, women who exert much power and authority in
the outside world can also be considered Kings. Since his
majesty was the ruler of his land and people, his primary
duty was to preserve the well-being of his kingdom. King
qualities include self-assertion and leadership abilities.
Every card in your tarot deck, except for the court cards, is
linked to a certain number. Based on numerology principles,
each number has a unique meaning. Let's look further, but
first I'd like to highlight a few very important cards.
Aces: Aces are the most potent card in any suit. They are
number one! They offer help in difficult situations. The
ace is mostly positive. When you draw one, you will usually
find that help or luck is on its way.
Eights: Eights are special because they represent infinity. If
you draw an eight anywhere in your spread, take extra
notice because eights represent major changes that may
come about in your life.
The Fool: The Fool's number is zero, and it doesn't fit in any
of the arcana's three sections mentioned earlier. Therefore,
it doesn't have as much strength and power as the major
arcana cards. However, it is considered more potent than
the minor arcana. Some readers place the Fool at the
beginning of the major arcana group, and others put it at
the end. Both ways are fine, but I prefer to place it at the
beginning. The Fool represents a new adventure, and every
time I do a reading, I look at the session as an adventure
to unlock some exciting news and information. When you
draw the Fool, think of yourself as ready to embark on a
new adventure. Know that change is inevitable.
Now let's look at some key words to consider regarding individual
Aces: Luck, new beginnings. A plan, situation, or condition
is about to take off. Something is in the beginning stages
of development. It could be positive or negative depending
on the position of the card.
Twos: Commitments and choices. Two represents a stagnant
or waiting period. Expect more to be revealed as time progresses.
Twos mean a reunion or a coming together. Sometimes
a surprise of some sort is revealed.
Threes: Plans, communication. Friends, group activities, new
places, and new faces are all related to the number three.
Threes will, sometimes, suggest delay. But not to worry,
they usually indicate that future achievements will come
Fours: Creation, action. Fours mean that something is happening.
They represent the manifestation of an idea or a
foundation on which something new can be built.
Fives: Challenges, problems. Expect changes, either lucky or
unlucky. If you are greeted with many five cards, try to
keep a balance in your life.
Six: Happiness, contentment. You can overcome many obstacles
with the help of a six. Sixes bring adjustments and
opportunities to create more harmony.
Sevens: Options, choices. Through experiences, the sevens will
help you gain much wisdom and understanding. Sometimes
this number represents a period of solitude. Unexpected
opportunities could present themselves as well.
Eights: Experience, commitment. Eights mean you will be
able to accomplish what you set out to do. Eights are usually
beneficial, even if they fall in a challenging or negative
Nines: Working it out, contentment. Nine means completion,
the final stage to something, or fulfillment.
Tens: Resistance, caution. You may have to come to terms
with issues from the past that you had hoped to avoid.
The past may come back to help or haunt you. In some
circumstances, you may be asked to exert more caution
(Note: If there is an abundance of one suit in your overall
reading, the main theme of the reading may very well jump
out at you. Say you have a lot of Cups; you can expect much
news about love and relationships. If there are several Pentacles,
know that security or money will be the main theme.)
Now that we've covered the basics of the tarot, let's examine
some other principles before we get into the layout and
These next two chapters are just as important to a good
reading as knowing the meaning of the cards.