The Major Arcana are the picture cards of a tarot deck. Major arcana cards represent forces beyond the mundane. When these cards appear in the spread, it can be easy to take them solely at face value. For example you may see "The Lovers" appear and straight away read your future playing out as a 1990s romance film with love at first sight and living happily ever after. But instead when you find a Major Arcana, you’re being invited to see the bigger picture and reconsider the issues in your life from a grander perspective. Perhaps you need to be looking again at some of your fundamental attitudes and underlying philosophies.

How many Major Arcana cards are there?

There are usually 22 of these trump cards found in a 78-card deck. The cards start at zero with "The Fool" and are numbered up to 21. The last Major Arcana card is "The World". Each card looks different, has unique symbolism and story.

What is Major Arcana in Tarot?

What is Major Arcana in Tarot?

When to use major arcana

One of the common ways of consulting tarot is to only use Major Arcana (22 cards). As with many things in life, it is purely personal choice, there is not right or wrong way.

In fact, no one knows for certain what the original way to read tarot is. The methods that are currently followed are merely traditions that have been developed over a relatively brief period of time, and therefore cannot constitute mandatory rules that must be adhered to.

The decision always lies with the person who performs the tarot card reading. With that in mind, however, there are a few factors that can influence this decision:

  • The skills of the tarot card reader. The symbolism and stories of the Major Arcana is somewhat easier to interpret as opposed to the Minor Arcana. This might be appealing to less experienced tarot card readers, who are just starting out.
  • The type of tarot card spread. There are at least 5-6 common spreads or layouts. Each has it's own application and purpose.
  • Personal choice. Once again, personal preferences of the tarot card reader can swing the decision on the way to consult the tarot. It's even possible to use normal playing cards to perform tarot reading (I know, it's bonkers 😮).

So, what do Major Arcana cards mean?

Major Arcana cards show us that it’s important to be honest with ourselves and realistically evaluate our choices and expectations. These expectations can regularly change throughout our lives and often we can think there’s something we want to then feel completely different later. And that’s all fine, because life is about trying new things in order to gain knowledge and experience and eventually greater happiness. Therefore a Major Arcana card in your reading tells you that now is the moment to be reflective, so you don’t waste time going along with what you think you ‘‘should’’ want. As part of that you will have some choices to make, which could involve being firm and admitting you need to fight harder for what you want, or to decide whether it’s time to say goodbye to a chapter in your life and move on. Or likely a mixture of both.

So if you experience a lot of negativity in your life, or keep repeatedly making the same mistakes time and again, or regularly fight to change people or things well beyond your control, then a Major Arcana card could be telling you that you need to be honest with yourself and make big re-evaluations on your expectations. To use an analogy, I can put a lead on a cat and take it to the park for a walk but it’s never going to be a dog. Can I learn to appreciate my cat and be happy with them as they are, or should I go visit a dog shelter at the weekend?

A lot of people don’t enjoy this kind of thinking, because it can be scary to think of moving away from a mentality or way of life we’re connected to and familiar with. Taking a jump into the unknown is taking a risk, and there’s no guarantee we will find success. But Major Arcana cards remind us that change means an opportunity for growth. And remember, there’s no right way to live your life – but there are certainly a few wrong ways. And not being honest with yourself is always a disservice to you and to others. 

Therefore if you were to realistically imagine your best self, at their happiest and most fulfilled, how do you see them living their life? 

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