The 22 Major Arcana Cards of the Tarot

Fate shuffles the cards, but we play them out ourselves.

Love, Work, Health, Money .... The four great centres of interest of mankind.
Where? When? How? With whom? Existential questions... Everything to everyone. 
So many questions that you can get answers to, just by learning the Tarot cards.

A big thank you to Jasmin for sharing her divinatory knowledge with us, with a detailed description of the 22 major arcana cards. According to her, these remain one of the key symbols of knowledge, to open up the doors of cartomancy.

The Tarot Pack or The Tarot Deck  is composed of a total of 78 cards. The first 22 cards are the Major Arcana, the spiritual messages and meanings. The other 56 cards are the Minor Arcana, with 10 cards across 4 suits and 16 royal cards comprising of knights, queens, kings and pages, in each of the 4 suits.

Let us now take a look at the meanings of the 22 Major Arcana Cards in the Traditional Tarot Deck. We also tell you the names of the original cards in the Tarot of Marseille, one of the oldest Tarot decks in the world.

  • The Magician, Major Arcana card 1: In the French pack it is called Le Bateleur, which has also an acrobatic sense to it. This card represents an innocent and energetic young person, equipped with mental intellect, embarking on a new venture, or beginning a new period of their life where they can exercise their free will. It is the first card of the pack and therefore symbolises your desire for new beginnings using your skill and initiative. He who dares wins, and he who thinks of a new idea, builds a strategy and follows it in a committed manner, trusting in himself, is likely to succeed. In a reading, this card can mean a new start or a new approach to a situation.
  •  The High Priestess, Major Arcana card 2: In the French Pack, it is known as the La Papesse, which is the equivalent of a kind of female Pope. This card is sometimes thought to be a representation of Isis, the Egyptian divinity. The High Priestess is a mature woman and/or has a lot of experience in life, which often makes reference to a situation that needs reflection and careful decision making before action is taken. This pause for reflection can then lead to success, thanks to the natural human and inner spiritual knowledge of the High Priestess 
  •  The Empress, Major Arcana card 3: L'Impératrice in the Marseille pack, the Empress represents an influential woman around you, or among the people in your environment. In a reading the meaning often represents a connection with your feminine strengths, a rich, fruitful or fertile development that resonates with nature. It points to the promise of success and strength. It can signify abundance. It can also announce the arrival of some kind of positive news. It can also announce the underlying motives of someone, a position of motherly strength, a shoulder to cry on, and some advice from female intuition being given to you, or by you to someone else.
  • The Emperor, Major Arcana card 4: This major Arcana card illustrates a protective male presence of strong character.  It is a card of power and authority. It reveals or confirms a sustainable position, a solid outcome of an event, a truth or a feeling.  It can signify that you need to focus your attention to your goal in a truly committed manner, fixing on your goal without having weakness or self-doubt. 
  • The Hierophant, Major Arcana card 5: Known in the Tarot de Marseille as Le Pape or the Pope, this card symbolises a mature man who has a high-profile position such as a judge, doctor, or a lawyer. His views and advice give an illuminating and practical solution. We consult with him if we need a recommendation or advice on a situation. This card also has representations about you being part of a group, where your personal individuality needs to fit in to a larger framework of people or invites you to follow a new belief system. The Hierophant is powerful, knowledgeable and is a strong spiritual leader, with many people under his care and control. He can bring wisdom and enlightenment whilst maintaining structure. 
  • The Lovers, Major Arcana card 6: The presence of l'Amoureux in French, or The Lovers card, does not necessarily always signify one’s love life, although it can signify relationships, union, values and choices. It can signify the need to make a choice, the need to use one’s free will, to listen and act on one’s inner voice.  In a love reading, this card can reveal an attraction between two people and the possibility of a Union.
  • The Chariot, Major Arcana card 7: This card announces a situation which is progressing in the right direction. It strengthens your mind and give you the courage and determination to reach your goals with certainty. You are on the road and the right path, have the courage to continue and succeed. This card can also sometimes mean a change, a journey or some forthcoming news about a situation.
  • Justice, Major Arcana card 8: This card designates balance. It offers you a focus in order to find the right balance between the various conflicting elements of a situation. It represents discipline, integrity and adherence to your cause. It is the weighing up, the tipping of the scales of justice in a situation. It can also represent the intervention of the law and justice. 
  • The Hermit, Major Arcana card 9: This card announces a specific factor of which you should be aware. This card also indicates the secret of withdrawal, a possible step back from the events or people around you to reveal clarity in your situation. It often represents a period of soul searching, to come up with the right answer for you to continue on your path.
  • The Wheel of Fortune, Major Arcana card 10: Known in the Tarot of Marseille pack as the Roue de la Fortune, in any situation, this card makes us aware of our share of active responsibility, conscious or not, in the situations or circumstances that we face. It is the arcana card of evolution, of vision, the discovery of patterns and cycles and using what chances are offered to us.
  • Strength, Major Arcana card 11: Called La Force in the French tarot, this card instructs you to have confidence in yourself and to be strong. It can tell you that you are on the right path and to continue with conviction.  It can tell you also to be sympathetic and show patience, these are elements of strength also.
  • The Hanged Man, Major Arcana card 12: The Hanged Man, or Le Pendu in the Marseille Tarot, indicates a situation on hold, a state of suspension, or a lack of movement for now. It also signifies impotence, the inability to move forwards in a fruitful manner. Everything seems frozen in your situation, and you are unable to take action. You may be suffering in your life. It is time to draw lessons from this and then wait until the time is right to progress. Often this is a card that says Stop! Think about what you are doing before moving ahead.
  • Death, Major Arcana card 13: 13, unlucky for some? Known as La Lame sans Nom, or the arcana card without a name in the Marseille deck, this card is known as The Death card in the English versions. This card is symbolic as the ending of something, the turning of a page and moving onto new pastures. It can mean the ending of a relationship or a conflict or the death of a situation. It is known as the card of change.
  • Temperance, Major Arcana card 14: This card, with the same name in the French pack, traditionally represented a message, some information that is due to arrive. This is also the arcana card of communication and of hope, that eventually, everything goes around and turns in the right direction, as life does. It represents an opportunity that is about to arise. It is also the card of balance, of waiting and of self-restraint, as well as self-healing, before taking the next step in your adventure.
  • The Devil, Major Arcana card 15: This card known as Le Diable in the Tarot de Marseille could appear to be pretty scary according to some beliefs, however its true meaning is a call to action for you to question the use of your energies and how you are using them in your life.  Sometimes an indicator of a seemingly perplexing situation where one cannot achieve one’s own goals, the Devil asks you to look into yourself and liberate yourself from the obstacles which you yourself may be creating that restrain you from progress.
  • The Tower, Major Arcana card 16: La Maison-Dieu or the House of God in the French Pack of the Tarot of Marseille, this card is usually known as the Tower in its English versions and usually signifies upheaval, or a situation about to turn around, sometimes in a sudden or shocking manner. This is a necessary step for progress. For liberation of a situation, a letting go, like a build-up of energy with an explosion at the end. After this, the dust settles and a new step begins, resulting with rare reconstruction, brick for brick. Once this event has passed, you will feel relief and deliverance, a necessary step in facing change and progress. The French version is thought to represent the inner consciousness,”The House of God”; the card is thought to represent the damage we can do to ourselves by inaction, the destruction of our bad habits, as the Tower crumbles and falls, it leads to a new and better life and allows us to reconstruct as we need.
  • The Star, Major Arcana card 17: The Star or “l’Etoile” in the French version, is the symbol of creation, faith and hope and is always a positive card.  It represents the power of the imagination when exerted upon your thoughts. Projects are realised and you are at one with nature and your own being.
  • The Moon, Major Arcana card 18: Called “La Lune” in the Tarot de Marseille, the Moon announces a temporary difficulty that you may not yet be aware of, or some element that is hidden from you. The Moon card has links with the past, the family, feelings and the unconscious. In the past position, this card can indicate confusion that has a bearing on your current situation. In the current situation, it can mean you seek some clarity or something remains hidden from you or that you may fear some kind of deception, it is as if the moon is covered by clouds in your night sky. In the future position, this may contain a warning to stay on your path and not to meander in your thoughts or drown your sorrows, but to seek the path of clarity.
  • The Sun, Major Arcana card 19: Known as “Le Soleil” in the French tarot deck of Marseille. The Sun card signifies joy and satisfaction, the achievement of being happy by just being who you are. The Sun card shines its warm glow and light on every situation, even those that you may feel are impossible at the present time. This is not just a ray of hope, it’s a full bolt of positive energy! Have faith in yourself, this card says, the outcome will work out just fine.
  • Judgement, Major Arcana card 20: The name of this card could be a little bit scary, taking it at face value. No action is needed at the present time. This is a card that encourages looking into yourself and to be honest with yourself and with others. This is the time for inner healing and making peace with yourself. Often it comes after an important event and designates a period of self-assessment to make progress. It can represent a judgement of the self where priorities are already being reassessed. Socially, it can also mean a proposal, promotion, and dedication.
  • The World, Major Arcana card 21: The World card, or in French “Le Monde”, is the card of total and complete happiness. Joy is waiting for you and your connection with the world, with others and with yourself. It is an accomplishment that goes beyond your expectations. The presence of this card in your reading symbolizes joy and peace, a sensation of wholeness of your entire situation at a given moment of your life.
  • The Fool, Major Arcana card number 0 or 22: Known as Le Mat in the Tarot de Marseille Deck, the Fool card is the only one that does not have a specific number. Depending on the spread and the situation in which this card falls, the meanings can differ. It signifies a brusque change of direction and sometimes, the start of a new adventure. A departure, a journey, a moment of folly, or a need to return to basics before starting a new phase of life.  

Now you know a little more about the meaning of the 22 Arcana of the Tarot and the Tarot Marseille packs. Don’t forget that all these interpretations are of a symbolic nature, and there are professionals that can read the cards for you who are very powerful and capable with their interpretations.