What do the major arcana represent?

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Tarot card readings are a popular way to get insight and clarity. What a lot of beginners don’t know is that there are multiple types of layouts and reading for tarot.

So today in this post we’re going to focus on the major arcana. What do these cards represent? What can they tell us about our future? This post will answer all of your questions and provide you with everything you need to know about this specific topic.

The major arcana are considered the 22 cards which represent a stage of life or situation. These stages range from entering into adulthood, to relationships and family. What they all have in common is that there will be trials and tribulations along with happiness and joys.

The order of these cards can vary depending on what type of reading you want to complete.

Consider your tarot deck as a tool

The Rider Waite Smith deck is a standard base tarot deck that is typically used for readings. The first 22 cards, or the major arcana are often considered to be the most powerful of all.

These cards represent the major archetypes and lessons of life. Tarot card meanings for each card vary depending on who is doing the reading, as well as how a deck was designed.

This gives tarot a lot of flexibility, as well as a lot of room for confusion. So in this blog post, I’m going to cover the standard meanings, patterns and stories behind those first 22 cards the majors.

To play along, find the Majors cards from your deck and work through each card in order.

The fool

The fool is either the first or the last card of the major arcana, known as a trump, and it both starts and completes the lifecycle of one’s personal journey through all 52 cards.

In the hero’s journey, the fool represents The ordinary world which begins and ends each cycle. This is where the hero is enjoying his everyday life safe and happy that nothing bad will happen.

This tarot card symbolizes a person on an adventure or journey without knowing what’s in front of them. They are optimistic and self-focused, but blind to the challenges ahead.


The Fool, or number 0 card is the first major arcana on the tarot spread. The magician, or number 1 card follows.

One way to think about the major arcana is that it’s like a story with one protagonist (the fool) and many players who have all influenced him.

The Fool is the first tarot card one encounters upon examining the deck of major arcana. This explains why this card, as well as cards that come before it, are often regarded among beginner tarot readers to be more significant than those in other positions in the pack.

Our hero’s journey in the tarot card reading represents a person calling him or herself to solve something. Something has shaken up that individual and now they have problems to solve.

High Priestess

The High Priestess tarot card represents the inner wisdom deep within all of us. It is a receptive and internally focused card with hints of mystery and deep secrets.

The High Priestess is paired with the active and outwardly focused magician, which precedes it in the major arcana.


The High Priestess, the first mentor our hero meets, is all about “ladders and stairs” as a way to think of it. She gives birth to all desires or dreams. Our journey takes place on planet Earth where we meet people of both sexes in a variety of life stages, which has some continuity with other characters in tarot cards like the empress.

The Empress card represents maternal power, and she is paired with the masculine father figure of the Emperor. One helper on our hero’s journey is the Empress.

The Emperor

The Emperor is the father figure of all tarot readings. Partnering with the Empress, he provides practical advice and guidance to those in need.

The Emperor is the tarot card of discipline and hard work, representing pragmatic clarity to create results for your ambitions. Tarot card readings on are a hero’s journey interpretations influence and give insight into their lives, mentors that surround them or their careers and relationships.


For many people, the Hierophant is their least favorite tarot card. It represents conventional society authority figures and doing things the right way. For wild and unconventional types this is typically something to rebel against.

This card honors tradition and established rules. Often it is better to stick with established rules and traditions, which is what the Hierophant does on our hero’s journey path.

The Lovers

The lovers tarot card suggests a type of partnership. It is not simply for relationships based on love alone, but it signifies the need to find balance and harmony between the personalities that are involved or with the elements in your life, like emotional and physical spaces, where you can feel grounded.

This could mean friendship, business partnership or any other place where two forces meet.

The Lovers is the last of a series of important mentors to the hero on their journey, teaching that two people can be stronger than one.


The chariot quickly enters a reading with the message of action. The chariot after the balanced partnership of the lovers.

When your relationship is thriving, you are finally ready to start tackling some of life’s big issues. The Chariot represents the first step that the hero takes once they cross over into their new environment.


The strength card can also represent the healer taking action. The energy of the chariot and unconditional self love are given more potency by the strength card.

The Strength It card’s reminds us of like the deep qualities in we your need soul to take It you action’s know in like that life you . know it is in you deep’s have down you have the fortitude (the historical card name actually) to persist and overcome any internal or external struggle.

When interpreting a tarot reading, the major arcana represent lessons about trust and betrayal, friends and enemies, facade versus reality.

But you have the courage and inner confidence to conquer whatever comes in your way. Strength represents one of the tests allies and enemies on the hero’s journey.

The Hermit

The Hermit represents that you know in your heart of hearts that you have all the answers you need deep down. Confronting a difficult situation can be intimidating, but it doesn’t mean that we’re meant to face it alone.

When confronting an overwhelming situation or making an important decision, think about what advice the hermit would give to get through it.

Trusting yourself is an important step toward maturity. The Hermit invites you to trust in your own voice so that you may reach this level quickly.

Wheel of fortune

No, not the old school game show, the Wheel of Fortune card in tarot readings can be called the gambler because it deals with luck and fate. Obviously, not all luck is good as there is bad luck.

The meaning of a Tarot card reading can depend on other cards that are read at the same time, but if you pull The Wheel Of Fortune paired with another tarot card, it usually indicates luck is about to change for you.

Control is a lesson for this card. No matter how much you prepare or work, you can’t always get the result you want. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes luck is simply not on your side.


Cards like Justice mark the ills of a situation, but they also provide actionable steps for moving forward.

Justice tends to arrive when we’re out of balance or cutting corners proverbially. Like every tarot card, the Justice card also has a meaning. It tells you to pay attention to an important lesson of cause and effect. If things seem off balance, it may be time for this card’s message.

The universe is playing fair always, fair. You may not like the outcome but it will be based on harmony and fairness for the greater good.

In the most literal sense, this card anticipates a legal situation or a judgment.

The hanged man

The Hanged Man is at ease with his situation- he’s content, even serene. His position exemplifies letting go.

This major arcana when used in a tarot card reading can represent ideas or the situation. You need to release your grip on your thoughts and circumstances, but this won’t work anymore. Sacrifice this idea to become the agent of change by making a sacrifice.

For tarot readings, the major arcana represent what it means to be a “better man” in various situations. Sometimes a bruised ego is better than the alternative consequences.

The drawing on this card represents courage and fear.

This is understandable, as it is the card that elicits the most gasps and cringes when drawn in a reading; but, for those who give tarot a chance, they will see that it doesn’t always involve what they first believe.

This card has little to do with physical death and is more symbolic of rebirth. Like the mythical phoenix, the old weak parts of you must die off in order for something new to emerge in its place.

Unlike the numbered cards, which represent a person and their specific circumstances, this card represents a deep spiritual lesson. This card can also refer to the personal sacrifice needed for evolution.

The major arcana is often called the trump cards, because s/he are so powerful they trump over any other suit in your hand. You must let go of your hopes and expectations and accept what happens next.


The Death card represents the moment when a hero is forced to make an impossible choice. In response, they face their internal and external struggles before enduring death itself.


While the devil and death cards are about intensity, Temperance keeps things in balance.

The card Temperance serves as a reminder to stay patient and go with the flow. You can’t always control the situation, but you can wait it out.

This card is a reminder that change and rejuvenation are coming. So don’t go too far or try to force something to happen. Use self control and keep your emotions in check.

In the journey of the hero the temperance card represents the reward, or seizing the moment to take up arms against your antagonist.


The devil card usually symbolizes temptation. For example, it may take the form of a craving or addiction.

When we focus only on material possessions and the physical world, we can become slaves to our desires. It is easy for this mindset to turn towards greed, exploitation, and oppression.

This isn’t always a negative card. You’ll need to read around it, in the cards nearby, to feel out what’s happening in your situation. So start enjoying life and allow yourself to be spontaneous and playful.

Explore your deepest desires, but be careful to do what the hero does in tarot readings: stay away from temptation.

The Devil card represents the road back when the hero will be tempted along a way of excess.


The Tower stands for an important change that will bring improvement in life, but first you have to deal with the incoming turmoil for your life.

There’s nothing you can do. It’s an unexpected attack to so you won’t see it coming and you can’t really prepare for it. The tower in tarot is symbolic of resurrection.

At first, the major arcana seems to represent anything good that can happen when reading tarot cards. They feel like a sign of hope for the puzzle one has been trying to solve.

However, these cards do not alleviate any problems but instead build up towards an inevitable conclusion so that you must work through them in order to get out of your current predicament.


Sometimes called a fairy godmother card, the star means that everything will be just fine. This is great news after an upheaval the tower represents.

So have faith and believe things are going to turn out fine. Unexpected help will arrive when you need it, and you have the mental clarity about the truth that lets you solve this problem.

The first star card in the three tarot card cycle (star, moon, sun) symbolizes renewal hope coming from turmoil.


The moon symbolizes the unknown, as it reflects what is hidden in darkness. It follows behind the most visible aspects of life and points out worthwhile truths.

Proceed with caution and prudence. But let your intuition be your guide. This card is a strong call to follow what you know in your heart of hearts, despite what other people say.

On the hero’s journey, the moon represents the hero’s return because its light has illuminated his face and revealed a different person from what he had been when he had left, and the worry that those he knew may not recognize him.


The sun is the final card in the first, crisis-filled half of a tarot reading. The star and moon follow the tower as doomsday symbols but these are followed by planets that represent light, illumination or hope.

The sun follows three other cards: Tower (which spells turmoil), Star, Moon (whose spiritual meanings are not all negative) and people may feel as if they have achieved enlightenment after receiving this card because it can symbolize internal peace.

The major arcana is an active card. It asks you to celebrate and honor your personal growth.


The all-seeing eye on the Judgment card holds a big message for you. You can no longer hide or pretend or ignore the truths of your life. Now that you are seeing clearly, it is time to take appropriate action to remove what doesn’t work and head in the right direction toward what does.

The judgment card is a card of the return, representing one of the cards in tarot that shows signs of renewal.

It should also be noted that this card is representative for many things, it is a hero transforming and renewing on their journey, capable to put those lessons learned back into action in their ordinary world.


The world card of the major arcana is directly related to closure. The hero has reached the end of his/her journey and is about to begin another phase in life. It’s symbolic for marking an ending for life lessons that have been learned.

The major arcana of a tarot card map for understanding life’s lessons and taking on new challenges.

Major Arcana Conclusion

Tarot readings often rely on the 22 Major Arcana cards to get a sense of an individual’s life and future. These cards generally represent major events, people, or changes that happen over a lifetime.

The reading can provide insight about what is going on for you at this time and how best to move forward with your intentions. Thanks for reading, what’s your favorite tarot card?

By Alisha Taylor

Hey everyone! I started Zen2D as a place dedicated to spreading love, peace and kindness through conscious raising content. Love is what connects and binds us.