Tarot Card Meanings: All 22 Cards of the Major Arcana

Tarot cards originated in the mid-15th century and were originally used as playing cards for games such as French Tarot and Tarocchini. It wasn't until sometime around the 18th century that these cards began being used for divination and cartomancy. The traditional deck used in tarot card readings has 78 cards with the 4 regular suits, an additional suit of trump cards, and a Fool card. The trump suit and the Fool card are known as the Major Arcana, making up a 22-card deck which is used for divination and allegorical representation.

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Anyone who wants to make the most out of tarot card readings should learn the meaning behind these symbolic cards. In truth, if you are gifted, you can even do readings for yourself or others once you have mastered the art of divination and interpreting the meanings behind the card symbols. Below is an in-depth look at each of the Major Arcana cards, along with possible interpretations that they may carry.

1. The Magician Tarot Card Meaning

the magician

The Magician, the first of the Major Arcana cards, speaks of man’s ability to control his own fate via channeling his desires and willpower. The Magician card tells you to push yourself to your limits because, with that kind of determination, you’re bound to succeed. Disregard distractions for a higher purpose, focusing on the task at hand. The reverse of this is recognizing deception when it rears its ugly head. Proceed with caution, weighing your options, and then make the right decisions.

2. The High Priestess Tarot Card Meaning

The high priestess

The High Priestess tarot card is a reassuring card to draw. It tells you to believe in yourself, listen to your inner voice because you have the positive intuition to make the right decisions. The priestess sits between good and evil (black and white pillars), professing your powers of intuition, able to see things that were previously obscured or hidden from view. Be aware of negative influencers who try to derail your self-confidence and let go of your fears.

3. The Empress Tarot Card Meaning

The empress

The Empress represents a deep connection to nature and life. Like the card bearer, she draws energy from the Earth, trees, water, and sun. Make way for your creative, sensual energy to spring forth, and you will see great things come from this.

 

4. The Emperor Tarot Card Meaning

The emperor

The Emperor is a double-sided card that can mean one of two things. On the up side, he stands for order and stability. This can come in the guise of financial independence, discipline in relationships, or other healthy, realistic boundaries in your life. On the flip side, the Emperor could be coming to tell you that you are too rigid, inflexible, and inconsiderate of the needs of people around you. The way you live and organize your life is represented here, so examine your behaviors and see which direction you are leaning toward.

5. The Hierophant Tarot Card Meaning

The hierophant

The Hierophant, literally translated, reveals the sacred. It’s not difficult to see that this card helps us reveal the sacredness within the mundane routines of our lives. When this card appears, it's an invitation to dig deeper, to discover what powerful, godly energies lie beneath our preconceived notions and daily choices. Challenge your beliefs, ask yourself why before simply accepting, and remember that you have the power to shift your deep-seated assumptions for a better life.

 

6. The Lovers Tarot Card Meaning

The lovers

This is an exciting card for anyone to draw. It means you’re standing at a crossroads, about to make a pivotal choice in your life. It represents embracing a new, unchartered path, whether in your current relationships or new ones. It also welcomes us to engage in both sides of our soul, the feminine and the masculine, within proportion. The fire tree that is depicted in the background reminds us we must maintain a balance of these two forces—but not ignore either completely.

 

7. The Chariot Tarot Card Meaning

The chariot

The Chariot card symbolizes movement, naturally, and it is an empowering token that gives strength, encouragement, and confirmation to take the next step in life. This symbol also represents finding the needed balance between limitations and liberation to maximize life’s experiences and tools.

 

8. The Strength Tarot Card Meaning

Strength card

Strength is needed in moderation, for a tree trunk that is too strong and inflexible will surely snap with the winds of change and reality. This Major Arcana symbol shows us the strength in being flexible. It teaches us to bend—but not break—with the storms in our lives, learning to accept our place in life and the causes of uncontrollable aspects. Embracing the unknown, accepting our hidden feelings, appreciating our less than perfect elements frees us from our weaknesses.

*Strength and Justice are sometimes number 8 and sometimes number 11 depending on which system you’re looking at.

9. The Hermit Tarot Card Meaning

The hermit

The Hermit is guiding you towards a new direction in life. He is facing the left, which represents the past, holding a lantern that symbolizes lighting the path to a new future. Ask yourself what is holding you back, what are you holding onto from the past that is blocking your path to the future. The Hermit also holds the 6-pointed star, a message of balanced masculine and feminine energy. He is reminding you that to proceed; you will need to have a healthy balance of the two.

 

10. The Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card Meaning

The wheel of fortune

The Wheel of Fortune represents the life cycles we go through in every area of life. It represents transition and the need for serious consideration of major foundational aspects of our lives. This card needs to be explored more deeply than most, and an expert reader should be consulted.

 

11. The Justice Tarot Card Meaning

Justice tarot card

Justice is about weighing life as it is currently and seeing if it’s going in the right direction. Often, your inner soul has had enough, but your subconscious is too afraid to make a change. While you crave deeper meaning through a more satisfying job, loving relationship, or life situation, the changes that need to be made are difficult and frightening. The karmic balance of the scales of Justice is the universe's way of telling you to take a long, hard look at your present situation, and reassess with honesty.

*Strength and Justice are sometimes number 8 and sometimes number 11 depending on which system you’re looking at.

12. The Hanged Man Tarot Card Meaning

hanged man tarot card

The Hanged Man has an interesting message for us: surrender. Often in life, we fight tooth and nail only to find out that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. This card shows us that it’s alright to let go of the fight, let go of old habits that are restricting you. Meditation and acceptance can lead to deliverance and renewed fervor for life.

 

13. The Death Tarot Card Meaning

Death tarot card

Ironically, Death is one of the most empowering cards in the Major Arcana. Death, in fact, symbolizes an end and retrospectively, a new start. The astute reader will notice the sun rising in the backdrop of the card, a symbol that light, hope, and new beginnings are coming soon.

Death usually symbolizes the end of a bad habit (hence the skeleton in armor). This could be smoking, loveless relationships, or a dead-end job. The 5-petaled flower in the card represents newness and spirit. Commit to this new spirit, and you can expect great things to follow.

14. The Temperance Tarot Card Meaning

The temperance

The Temperance tarot card is all about bringing your inner 4 elements back into their proper balance. Earth (your body - meeting your needs), water (your heart - do you love yourself?), fire (your passions - what motivates you?), and air (your mind - are you embracing your thoughts?) need to be in harmony to achieve serenity. Delve deep to see if you are confident in each of these areas.

 

15. The Devil Tarot Card Meaning

Devil tarot card

The Devil tarot card represents the side of ourselves that we've hidden away from even our own conscious mind. At some point in life, we need to make a choice and define ourselves, and that automatically requires dismissing other choices of who we could be (and are). The Devil challenges us to unlock those inner selves and be true to them. The chains hang loosely around the partners’ necks to symbolize that we aren’t completely tied to our current selves, and we have room to become the whole us—if we have the courage.

16. The Tower Tarot Card Meaning

The tower card

The Tower is a foreboding card for many readers, though it doesn’t have to contain ominous messaging. In its basic form, the Tower represents change. It symbolizes the consequences of our actions, whether positive or negative. The underlying message is that while change can be unpleasant or difficult to deal with in the moment, often this very consequence will lead to our salvation. So, while change may not be easy, it can have important ramifications and positive outpourings in the future. The Tower tells you to proceed cautiously when making decisions after a change and not to be too drastic in your choices.

17. The Star Tarot Card Meaning

The star card

The Star is a beautiful, reassuring, and welcomed symbol. It tells the reader that they have arrived at peace. Whatever hardships have been plaguing their lives until now have come to a close, and they can expect calmer waters from here on in. This could symbolize finding the right life partner, a satisfying job, or health.

 

18. The Moon Tarot Card Meaning

The moon card

The Moon tarot card has a clear message for us all. Soften. Be lighter. Be gentler. Don't be afraid to add a little femininity into your life, whether you are a man or a woman because that is what your inner self is craving right now. Listen to your dreams, return to your roots, and give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling.

 

19. The Sun Tarot Card Meaning

The sun card

As one might expect, the Sun card represents optimism, the dawn that follows even the darkest nights. The child in the card shows us innocence, purity. This card symbolizes success and abundance. Take action now because all will be well.

 

20. The Judgement Tarot Card Meaning

The judgement card

There is no escaping Judgement, and this card tells us so. All the imagery points to this fate, and when a reader draws this card, it tells him to reflect and evaluate his choices and actions in life. Possibly in response to a recent awakening or epiphany, Judgement tells us to be true to ourselves and to examine the choices carefully but to move on them.

 

21. The World Tarot Card Meaning

The world card

The World, the final Major Arcana card, suitably conveys satisfaction that comes from completion. With all 4 elements present, the maiden in the card shows us that whatever you are currently struggling with is not for naught, and will soon come to a successful conclusion. Hang in there. The reverse of this card is expressing the need to make a positive commitment to something, which will culminate in satisfaction.

 

22. The Fool Tarot Card Meaning

The fool card

The Fool is the first or last tarot card, and it is certainly the most fun for many people. It means live in the moment, take chances, live life to its fullest. The Fool tells us to believe in ourselves, take charge, forge new beginnings, and don’t be afraid to be spontaneous.

 

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