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A Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Major Arcana in Tarot

The Major Arcana is a suit of tarot cards separate from the four suits of the Minor Arcana.

It consists of 22 cards, each with its own unique symbolism and meaning. In this blog, we will explore the Major Arcana in-depth, focusing on its history, symbolism, and significance in tarot reading.

History of the Major Arcana

The Major Arcana is believed to have originated in Italy in the 15th century. The earliest known deck of tarot cards was the Visconti-Sforza deck, which featured a set of 22 cards with allegorical illustrations.

These cards were not used for divination at the time; rather, they were used as a game similar to bridge or poker.

It wasn't until the 18th century that the Major Arcana began to be used for divination. At this time, tarot readers began to develop a system for interpreting the cards, assigning meanings to each of the 22 cards.

The Symbolism of the Major Arcana

The Major Arcana is a suit of cards rich in symbolism and archetypal imagery. Each card represents a particular stage or aspect of the individual's journey through life, from the beginning of the journey with The Fool to the end of the journey with The World.

The Fool is the first card in the Major Arcana and represents the beginning of the individual's journey. The card is often depicted as a figure walking off a cliff, suggesting the idea of taking a leap of faith into the unknown.

Other cards in the Major Arcana include The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgment, and The World.

You can find each tarot card's meaning for the major arcana cards here.

Each of these cards has its own unique symbolism and meaning. For example, The Magician represents mastery over one's own will and creative power, while The High Priestess represents intuition and the mysteries of the unconscious mind.

Significance of the Major Arcana in Tarot Reading

The Major Arcana is a powerful tool for tarot readers, providing insight and guidance into the individual's journey through life.

When performing a tarot reading, the Major Arcana cards are often used to provide a big-picture perspective on the individual's life, highlighting major themes and lessons that are being learned.

On the other hand, the Minor Arcana cards represent the everyday experiences and challenges of the individual's life.

The Minor Arcana is divided into four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. Each suit represents a particular element (fire, water, air, and earth) and has its own set of meanings and interpretations.

The easiest way to view the major arcana cards as different from the minor arcana cards is to imagine your life in the form of a library.

The Major Arcana cards are each of the books in the library, representing a different story or part of your life journey. The minor arcana are the chapters in the books that represent the finer details.

In a tarot reading, the Major Arcana cards can be read individually or in combination with other cards. When read together, the cards can provide a more complex and nuanced interpretation of the individual's situation and path.

When performing tarot readings, the Major Arcana tarot cards will usually indicate life circumstances that take longer to overcome.

They may represent challenges or situations that will be in your life for some time until you have learnt the lesson of that Major Arcana card.

As an Example:

You have asked about the next steps in your current relationship. It's going well, but you are wondering what the next 'big thing' will be.

You have pulled the Two of Cups, The Lovers and The Tower, in the positions of past, present and future.

The Two of Cups suggests in the past position, you and your partner have had a strong friendship and loving relationship. You are ready for the next big thing.

The Lovers in the present position suggests that there is strong love between the two of you, but there is a difficult choice you must make from the heart. You may take some time to decide on this choice, and it may be a choice made by both you and your partner.

The Tower in the future position can indicate abrupt chaos as a result of the choice that has been made. This could predict a chaotic breakup, or seriously bad news that shakes the foundation of your relationship.

In conclusion, you must overcome these lessons by talking to your partner more, and if any choices appear, take time to consider them together and their consequences. Your relationship will likely be tested to see how strong it can hold together.

When Major Arcana cards appear in any reading, it can be a sign that there are spiritual lessons taking place.

If there are lots of Major Arcana cards in a spread, this means that are big choices and events taking place in your life.

If you find yourself having little or no Major Arcana cards in a tarot spread, this can sometimes indicate that you don't have many deep spiritual lessons to overcome but are instead preoccupied with day-to-day experiences.


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