Tarot Card Meanings Made Simple: Each Major Arcana Card Explained

Posted on September 10, 2018

It seems there is a growing interest in tarot and tarot card meanings these days as the mysterious underground arts are coming into mainstream society. Before you get a tarot reading, it’s good to understand what the tarot can offer you and how helpful it can be. Learning tarot is almost like learning a new language (but tarot is not as hard as that - thank goodness!).

It can be life-changing to have a tarot card reader look at cards and tell you intimate details about your deepest feelings and wounds. Who wouldn’t be amazed by that, right? What can be even more inspiring is learning the meanings of the cards and developing a relationship with tarot that will allow you to bridge the gap between your mind and soul so that you can always go to the deck to get guidance on the best possible perspectives and actions to take in your life.

Tarot helps us take responsibility for our actions and intentions. It helps unlock our intuition on the best course of action to take to fulfill our hearts desires. It helps us see when we stray off course and helps remind us to call on our spiritual guidance when we feel lost.

Tarot Readings are Fun & Helpful, But What Do The Cards Mean?

The cards use colours, symbols, and archetypes to type in the passcode and unlock your higher state of awareness. Within each card is a special combination that opens up streams of consciousness that can heal different parts of your psyche. Because each person experiences love, growth, change and spiritual realizations, the cards are designed to speak a universal language of the soul. The soul is pure energy and responds to the emotions conjured in the pictures. It opens a dialogue between you and your soul so you can interpret messages that heal you.

Each of the 78 cards in a tarot deck is designed to show us our power whether it’s by exposing a false fear or awakening us to our intuition. They relate to the emotions we are generating in the main areas of our lives and show us where we are wise and where we can use more discipline, intuition or love.

Before We Get To The Meanings, Do You Know The Difference Between Major Arcana & Minor (Lesser) Arcana?

When a major arcana card comes up it represents a major life change or a moment that is a turning point for you. Whether it’s a new way of thinking, a career change, a new relationship, or discovering a spiritual gift, you can see when major shifts are affecting you so you can make sense of intense emotions or at least be at ease with the process. The elements that can help us stay strong in the midst of major change are depicted in the cards to help us hold our power and stay in the light amidst a storm.

The minor arcana are about the smaller day to day life events that reveal the momentum we are creating. We can get glimpses into the direction our subconscious is moving and make sure it’s pointing us towards where we want to go. We can see the arc of the past, present, and future we are creating so we can drop our fear and lower vibration distractions to align our daily habits with our highest calling. This means our words, the way we make money, our emotions, and our creativity, which are the 4 symbols of the minor arcana.

Major Arcana

The major arcana are the key points on a journey, beginning with the Fool and ending with the World, which each person can relate to on an emotional level regardless of what their journey is. It speaks to the development and growth of the soul through our experiences. We can learn how to use both masculine and feminine energy so we can maneuver spiritually while being in the physical world.

Minor (Lesser) Arcana

The 4 symbols or suites also represent the 4 elements. Pentacles represent Earth and Earthly things, so when these cards come up it usually relates to money, how we use it, and how we get it. Swords relate to our fears as well as our words and the power they carry, either negatively or positively, to create. They relate to the element of Air. Wands relate to the element of Fire and represent our creativity. They show us when we are using our gifts or not, starting a new skill, or are really successful with one. Finally, Cups represent the element of Water and reveal our emotional states and how we can use our emotions to generate energy.

What Does It Mean to Draw a Major Arcana?

Each major arcana card represents a new level of awareness in your life that is linked to some type of change. It’s a significant and noticeable change that feels more significant than other things. The major arcana cards are usually the most memorable parts of our lives that shape us and allow us to learn the biggest lessons. They help us extract meaning from major life events in a positive way.

When you draw a major arcana card, the meaning also depends on where it shows up in your spread. While the card meaning stays the same, if it shows up in the future position it means that’s where your energy is projecting, but if it comes up in the past position, it means that’s what you’ve been through or what is affecting your current perspective. There is specific significance for each placement of a card in a spread.

List of All Major Arcana Cards, Their Meanings, & How to Interpret Them

The Fool

The Fool represents the beginning of a new journey where you don’t know how it will turn out but you jump in with enthusiasm and know you’ll figure it out. This represents the beginning of a journey where you will learn a lot and it shows you’re not yet experienced in something but your willingness to try is propelling you.

The Magician

The Magician shows you’ve realized you can harness your creativity to make things happen in the world. Using your emotions, your words, and your creativity, you can manifest what you want. There is also a warning to make sure you use your power for good and not manipulation because all the energy we put out comes back to us.

The High Priestess

The High Priestess is a clear message that you have knowledge from the unseen realms. This allows you to coast above the drama of the world because you have a higher spiritual power and knowledge of the forces of the planets which are represented by the nine stars on her head. It shows you are able to live with an ease above the sways of emotions because of your spiritual awareness.

The Empress

The Empress is a card that represents fertility in all its forms. You may be birthing something, like a project or idea. It also means you have seductive attributes. It’s the moment in life when you realize you can create with your emotional energy. This card reveals you’re drawing on the divine feminine energy which is full of intuition and creativity.

The Emperor

The Emperor card represents the divine masculine and when it shows up, it’s a sign that you need to add more discipline to your routine in order to accomplish something. However, it can also mean that you are relying too much on your logical mind, which can be fear-based and make you feel limited. This card is a reminder that you need to remember you are a spiritual being that can create using your passion and emotional energy. Use your words as a leader and an authority well.

The Hierophant

The Hierophant shows up to remind you there are existing systems and bodies of knowledge that you can be a part of and learn from. It can mean that you do not need to reinvent the wheel, but perhaps instead join an institution that already has a strong foundation. It is a message that there may be a mentor coming into your life or that it’s time to study in a specific area. It’s a masculine energy card that can help you see groups to join. It also may reveal an outdated system of patriarchy that is influencing your thoughts and asks you to use your wisdom or seek counsel on this mentalities impact in your life.

The Lovers

The Lovers card can represent very simply the coming together of lovers in a passionate sense and shows you it may be time to open to your more sensual nature. It can also mean that you will triumph and get what you want. Because it’s related to passion and desire and it shows the masculine and feminine are balanced, you are able to accomplish something significant. It could mean a potential love interest or a coming together in another sense.

The Chariot

The Chariot shows you are able to use your intuition to see the meaning of a riddle. It means you’re able to see why things are happening or easily read between the lines. You know someone’s intentions or you see why events are taking place. The Sun represents victory and personal power on the card as you are carried in the chariot to celebrate your success which came from your ability to see beyond the illusions.

Strength

The Strength card shows you have tamed your inner anger into a source of power. You are able to be strong yet graceful. You can always use your strength, but you choose to use it with a gentle power that is loving and calm. It shows a wisdom has been developed and a maturity that allows you to feel peaceful even when you encounter lower vibration experiences. People respect your authority and see your strength and kindness.

The Hermit

The Hermit represents a time to go within and seek the answers. It may be a time of study on your own or deep spiritual seeking. It means it’s time to pull away from others and rearrange the puzzle of emotions within you to find wisdom before going back to the world. This is a valuable natural state people often feel bad about, but in this light, feeling ‘depressed’ can actually be your body telling you to slow down and listen. It can also mean you are now ready to share the wisdom you’ve gleaned in deep personal exploration.

Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune card usually means a big change is coming and it’s already in motion. Usually, this refers to luck and prosperity. It could mean a move, a job change or something unexpected. This is usually a positive and major thing that will be impossible not to notice. It also means things are working behind the scenes for you so you can trust the process is bringing you something good.

Justice

The Justice card means you’ll get what you’ve given - whether that’s good or bad. It means that what is showing up in your life is a direct reflection of past actions and intentions. It also means you are reflecting on the morality of a certain path, person or decision. For those you are pure of heart, take it as an omen that good things come to good people. This card is one that shows it’s important to focus on what is right and moral above all else.

The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man represents having been through a difficult experience and now you’re wiser for the wear. The man hanging upside down shows his life was turned upside through an experience but it’s a reminder that you don’t have to go through it again because you know more now. It shows there is a blessing to be gleaned in each challenge and marks a new level of wisdom in your development.

Death

The Death card is not a card to fear. Quite the opposite! It means there is a purity of intention which is allowing a psychological part of yourself to be released which is in a way, a death. You’re letting go of a part of yourself you no longer need. This represents the cycle of death and rebirth which shows us that there is a necessary ending for each new beginning. This is a huge step in the hero’s journey.

Temperance

The Temperance card shows a blending of different viewpoints. It shows your loving attitude allows you to respect multiple opinions, cultures or lifestyles or helps get along with different types of people. Perhaps in your own mind, you’re accepting all parts of who you are. It shows your heart allows you to tolerate people and reminds us to be accepting of different viewpoints that may not be our own at this moment.

The Devil

The Devil card often scares people but it is actually one of the most helpful cards in the deck and not to be feared at all. It shows that someone or something is not in your best interest in your life. Either there is an addiction to a way of thinking, a use of time, a substance or a person and it’s pulling you away from your highest good. Recognizing this allows you to let it go and you will feel more peaceful and happy.

The Tower

The Tower card represents a change in your life that comes from letting go of set ways of thinking. Change can feel scary but it’s a natural part of the evolution of our soul. As we remove the layers of conditioning of the mind we ultimately become more empowered and as we let go of old plans we make room for better uses of our energy. Sometimes we need a storm to shake things up and remove debris from our lives. Trust the process.

The Star

The Star is a feminine card that shows you are able to use your intuition to blend energy in a harmonious way. It shows you are peaceful and in touch with spirit - both radiant and shining like a star so much that others notice there’s something different about you. You can effectively transmute your emotions to fulfill your vision.

The Moon

The Moon shows you are very in tune with your spiritual side and getting information from your intuition. It’s a time to listen to your emotions or start something new. The time is fertile for a new beginning because the Moon represents our feminine side. You may feel withdrawn and sensitive and easily get messages at this time.

The Sun

The Sun means everything is coming together in perfect timing. You are in your power and things are working out. This is a moment when the planets align and you feel optimistic, confident and capable. This is the masculine sun energy that allows us to get things done and take action. This shows you are successful and attracting more of it with your bright positive energy.

Judgement

Judgement is an exciting card because it means you’re hearing the calling to your life purpose and are heeding the call. It shows you’re aligning your life to your highest potential because you feel called to do something for the greater good. You may have seen signs or felt the calling strongly and you’re correct in sensing this is your path. It is a sign to trust your instincts. Even if it means change, your path will be blessed.

The World

The World card shows you’ve reached your goal and you are now able to stand in your power, balanced in your masculine and feminine energy. You are both spiritually and physically balanced, able to move with power, skill, and wisdom. You have been through the Fool’s journey and are now strong and flexible in mind, body, and spirit. It shows all your hard work has paid off and you’re ready to expand.

Should You Read Your Card Upright or Reversed? What’s the Difference?

Each card has both light and shadow elements. Reading reversals means you pay attention to when a card shows up upside down and take that into account to highlight where you may be thinking negatively so you can take responsibility for the energy you are creating. Working with shadow is an important part of our development and if we don’t, we often blame others for our circumstances and feelings when they are reflecting an energy we need to transmute in our own subconscious.

Upright Tarot Card Reading

When a card shows up upright, we can take the optimistic reading of it and its face value instead of its shadow side. Sometimes a reader will use their own intuition to determine which take on the card is appropriate. Not all readers choose to pay attention to reversals. However, for those who like to really work on themselves through tarot readings and so they can see areas they can infuse with more love, a reversal could come in handy.

Reversed Tarot Card Reading

Reversals have a bad reputation, but that’s more about the level of development of the reader than anything else. A moment to peer into our own shadow can help us heal our deepest wounds, our fears, and our own hidden agendas so we can bring even more light into our world and to those around us. If you read the reversal as an intention that is inverted or needs attention, it can guide you to redirect your focus. This often shows us our triggers, ego, and childhood wounds so we can heal them and so we don’t have to hold onto their vibration or the fears they create in our lives.

How to Decide Which Was Way to Read The Cards:

Start by reading every card as if it were upright. Once you get more used to the cards, you may want to add the layer of reading reversals. If you feel it heightens your ability to grow with the cards, then use them! But if reversals only make you feel you negatively, then don’t. Tarot allows you to feel out what resonates with you and apply that truth.

Conclusion

Just like astrology, learning the meaning of tarot cards takes time and comes in layers. Allow yourself to have fun in the process and to trust that each day you work with the tarot, it will strengthen your connection to your spiritual gifts. Do not fear the tarot as some people do. It is not working with dark energy, but helping you make your energy more loving and connected to purposeful living.

If you find yourself trying to predict things a lot, that can feel like you’re giving your power away. Remember the future is not written in stone and at any given moment there is only a projection of our current energy which leads to a potential outcome. Therefore you can use the cards to help you build positive energy for the best possible outcome. Keep your vibration up with the use of tarot and it can be a tool to help you become the best version of yourself.

Check out our articles on using tarot and use them as a free guides on your journey.

Learn more about tarot and tarot cards - click here!

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Shannon Yrizarry has taught metaphysical subjects since 2013 including the deeply esoteric lineage of kundalini yoga. She has worked as a healer, clairvoyant and card reader and be… Read More »

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