The Major Arcana (Greater Mysteries) represent Universal Cosmic Forces – where the small cards show actions taken, the details, the persons involved in a given situation. The Major Arcana represent Archetypical forces. ‘Arcana’ means ‘Mysteries’; also known as the Trump cards, the Keys or Atu (Golden Dawn tradition) express The Greater Mysteries of the Tarot. The only Major Arcana that appears in the playing card deck is the Joker – in the Tarot he is the Fool.
0 – The Fool I – The Magician II – The Priestess III – The Empress
IV- The Emperor V – The High Priest VI – The Lovers VII – The Chariot
VIII – Strength IX – The Hermit X – The Wheel of Fortune XI – The Hanged Man
XII – Justice XIII – Death XIV – Temperance XV – The Devil XVI – The Tower
XVII – The Star XVIII – The Moon XIX – The Sun XX – The Last judgement
XXI – The Universe
When the Major Arcana appear we are dealing with a powerful force crossing our path. The Major cards can also show big personalities – The Magician is a changeable lover, Strength shows passions leaping up! These cards speak of matters of great import that we must attend to, even limits or tendencies within ourselves that are dominating and warping the path to a solution of out situation – overweening ambition (The Devil), martyrdom and passivity (The Hanged Man), living in dreamland (The Moon).
Considering and meditating on the symbols, constantly working with the cards helps develop a more complete understanding than the booklet that comes with the deck will ever provide. Divination is just one of the uses the Tarot is intended for. Meditation, particularly upon the Major Arcana is an enlightening practise within itself.
The Major Arcana of the Tarot represent universal ideas – Gods, Goddesses, Saints, Virtues, Worldly Powers and Spiritual Powers. Because the images are so many layered each should be explored and understood by the light of your own stories, tradition and meanings. Begin with the accepted meanings and then begin to weave in your own.
Each card is far more detailed in image and meaning than the cards of the Minor Arcana. The images incorporate symbols from several Western European religious and spiritual traditions, Near East and Mediterranean philosophy. Freud and Jung and many who came after have explored these mysteries further in their work on early psychology, archetypes and universal myths.
These greater mysteries move us on a deep level and as you learn their meanings you may be fascinated to see how many of these archetypes are still at play within our culture – you can still see the Empress in advertising, narrative themes in movies – they are the characters that never leave, just change form.
In keeping with the Hermetic philosophy the Major Arcana reflect the Minor Arcana and vice versa. One can pair expressions of the same force between the 2 levels to arrive at a deeper understanding of their meaning. Pick up your deck and start to build relationships between the images and get to know the Lords of the Tarot – the Major Arcana.
0 The Fool – 2 of Wands,
I The Magician – 8 Wands, Ace Swords
II The Priestess – 7 of Cups, The 6 of Pentacles
III The Empress – 9 of Pentacles, 3 of Cups, The 4 Queens
IV The Emperor – 3 of Wands, 6 of Wands, The 4 Kings
V The Hierophant/Pope – 3 of Pentacles, 4 of Swords
VI The Lovers – 6 of Swords, 2 of Cups
VII The Chariot – The 4 Knights/Princes,
VIII Strength – 3 of Wands, 9 of Wands,
IX The Hermit – 5 of Pentacles, 4 of Swords
X The Wheel of Fortune – 9 of Cups, Ace of Pentacles
XI The Hanged Man – 9 of Swords, 3 of Swords
XII Justice – 10 of Swords, 2 of Swords
XIII Death – 10 of Swords, 5 of Cups
XIV Temperance – 6 of Swords, 4 of Wands, 2 of Pentacles
XV The Devil – 4 Disks, 9 Swords
XVI The Tower – 5 of Swords, 5 Wands
XVII The Star – 3 of Cups, 10 of Cups, 2 of Pentacles
XVIII The Moon – 7 of Cups, 4 of Cups
XIX The Sun – 10 of Cups, Ace of Wands, 4 of Wands
XX The Last Judgement – 10 of Cups, 10 of Pentacles,
XXI The Universe – The 4 Aces