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The Tarot is a fascinating and enigmatic system of divination that has captivated individuals for centuries. Central to this system is the Major Arcana, a collection of 22 cards that hold profound symbolic meanings and spiritual insights. These cards, also known as the “Greater Trumps” or “Great Arcana,” form an integral part of Tarot readings and are often considered the heart and soul of the Tarot deck. In this article, we will explore the significance, history, and symbolism behind the Major Arcana, uncovering the rich tapestry of wisdom they offer.

Origins and evolution

The origins of the Tarot are shrouded in mystery, with various theories suggesting its roots trace back to ancient Egypt, China, or the Romani people. However, the Tarot as we know it today began to take shape in medieval Europe during the 15th century. Originally, Tarot decks were used for card games, but their symbolism and esoteric associations gradually gained prominence. The Major Arcana, comprising 22 cards, stands out within the Tarot deck due to its distinct symbolism and numerology. Each card represents a unique archetype and holds a specific meaning that contributes to the overall narrative of a reading. The cards are often arranged in a sequence, symbolizing a journey of personal transformation, spiritual growth, and the cycles of life.

Archetypes and symbolism

At the heart of the Major Arcana are archetypes—universal, cross-cultural symbols that tap into the collective unconscious. These archetypes represent fundamental human experiences, emotions, and stages of life, making the Tarot a powerful tool for self-reflection and understanding. The Major Arcana cards encompass a diverse range of symbols, such as The Fool, 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, Judgement, and The World. Each card embodies a unique concept and offers insights into various aspects of existence.

The Fool’s journey

A common framework for interpreting the Major Arcana is “The Fool’s Journey.” This narrative follows a character, often symbolized by The Fool card, as they navigate through life’s challenges and experiences, as depicted by the other cards. The journey begins with the innocence and spontaneity of The Fool and progresses through stages of self-discovery, facing trials, making choices, and ultimately achieving enlightenment and integration represented by The World card.

Numerology and sequence

Numerology plays a crucial role in the Major Arcana, as each card is assigned a numerical value from 0 to 21. These numbers hold significance and contribute to the card’s interpretation. For instance, The Magician is card number 1, symbolizing new beginnings and the power of conscious creation. The Death card, number 13, signifies transformation and rebirth. The sequence of the cards also tells a story. The Fool’s Journey follows a logical progression that mirrors the cycles of life and the human psyche. Some readers view the sequence as a spiral, suggesting that as one completes a cycle, they ascend to a higher level of understanding and awareness, akin to a spiral moving upward.

Personal growth and spiritual insight

The Major Arcana serves as a powerful tool for personal growth and introspection. Tarot readings involving these cards delve deep into the subconscious, illuminating hidden aspects of the self and offering guidance on how to navigate life’s challenges. The cards can help individuals gain clarity, make informed decisions, and better understand their life’s purpose. While the Tarot is not inherently predictive, it can provide insights into the energies surrounding a situation and the potential outcomes based on current choices and paths. The Major Arcana encourages individuals to take responsibility for their lives and make conscious decisions that align with their true selves.

Art and imagery

The imagery on Major Arcana cards is diverse and evocative, with each card containing a wealth of symbols and visual cues. Tarot decks are available in various artistic styles, each capturing the essence of the cards in a unique way. Artists often infuse their decks with cultural, mythological, and personal influences, contributing to the richness and depth of interpretation.


The Major Arcana in Tarot holds a mystical and timeless allure. Its archetypal symbolism, narrative journey, and spiritual insights have intrigued individuals for centuries. As a tool for self-discovery, guidance, and reflection, the Major Arcana invites us to explore the depths of our consciousness, understand the patterns of our lives, and make choices that align with our true selves. Whether approached as a divinatory practice or a tool for personal growth, the wisdom of the Major Arcana continues to resonate with seekers, offering a path to greater self-awareness and connection to the universal forces that shape our existence.