Overview of The Major Arcana

Here is a quick introduction to some of the meanings of the Major Arcana. 

major arcana

The Fool (0) – The Fool represents pure spirit, unassociated with the material. He represents beginnings, optimism, innocence, and a child like care free attitude.

The Magician (I) – The Magician the first true card in the Major Arcana, since The Fool represented zero. He is the first action, the first cause that sets things into motion. He represents action, confidence, skill and talent. He is a source for manifestation, he is someone who creates and builds.

The High Priestess (II) – The counter balance to The Magician is The High Priestess. She is passive while he is active. She stands still while he is in motion. She is the unconscious, while he was the conscious (ego). The High Priestess is associated with intuition, the unconscious mind, psychic forces, quietness, observation and recording. She holds occult and esoteric knowledge.

The Empress (III) – The Empress embodies the great earth goddesses of many cultures; she is a source of creative creations, birth (of all sorts of things), and abundances in many aspects in life. The Empress is the authority or power over the vegetation cycle she represents fertility and growth. She has a motherly nature to herself, offering support and nurturing others.

The Emperor (IV) – The counter part to The Empress is The Emperor, the father figure. He represents authority of any kind, your actual father, the police, the military, and the government anything that has power over you. The Emperor represents stability, order and organization.

The Hierophant (V) – While The Emperor was the earthly authority The Hierophant is the spiritual authority. He holds within him exoteric (outer) knowledge and order. He is opposite The High Priestess who holds esoteric (inner) knowledge.  The Hierophant deals with rules, dogma, the established order and way of things. He represents groups, societies and organizations of all sorts, any body of people who unite together and calm a common identity amongst each other.

The Lovers (VI) – The Lovers focuses on the individual who must determine their own values outside of the society or group they are in which The Hierophant represents. The Lovers represent choices between desires. Issues about unions and relationships.

The Chariot (VII) – The Chariot represents movement, taking action, being determined in your goals. He embodies pure will power, the conquering of desires and oppositions, which we encountered in The Lovers.

Strength (VIII) – Strength can represent psychical strength but mostly symbolizes inner strengths like patience, courage and compassion. The Chariot conquered through force, Strength conquers with gentleness. Strength is not always about who has the biggest stick, it who has the stronger inner foundations.

The Hermit (IX) – The Hermit represents withdrawal, solitude and introspection. He is a deeper thinking; he is very wise and full of insights. He acts as a guide or teacher to others. He looks within himself for answers through thoughtful contemplation. He is seeking meaning and purpose to something, be it his life or just a dilemma. He rejects the outside world, the material and develops his inner world, his spirituality.

The Wheel of Fortune (X) – The Wheel of Fortune represents Fortuna, fate and fortune. It is a force beyond our control and power to understand. This is why it comes right after The Hermit; it is beyond our human contemplation and thinking. It is random and blind to whom it effects. It represents cycles of change, up and down, highs and lows. One moment you are the King and the next you are peasant. The Wheel of Fortune indicates a changing point.

Justice (XI) – Justice represents an opposite aspect to the Wheel of Fortune. While the Wheel was random in it’s dealing Justice is not, it deals out reward or punishment because you deserver it from past actions. Justice is linked with the concept of Karma of this reason. Justice represents responsibility, understanding cause and effect and being truthful and honest. Justice can represent legal matters.

The Hanged Man (XII) – The Hanged Man represents a time out, life suspended and in waiting. It represents needing to let go of the need to act and do something and simply go with the flow of things. Let a higher power take care of it right now. It is not time for you to act. Sacrifice is an important concept in this card, mostly self-sacrifice for another, giving something up to gain something greater.

Death (XIII) – Do not fear the Death card, it is actually good card in many ways. For one it does not represent actual bodily death, it represents a metaphorical death. Death represents change through the ending of something. It symbolizes removal of what is no longer useful to us and holds us back. It is a transition card, between on stage to another.

Temperance (XIV) – Temperance means moderation, this card embodies all things relating to moderation. It is the golden mean according to Aristotle and the middle way, which is taught in Buddhism. Temperance represents balance, harmony, cooperation, and synthesis between two opposites.

The Devil (XV) – The Devil does not represent nor is it associated with the Devil in Christian theology, it take the name Devil to express certain qualities. The Devil is associated with attachments, bondage, addiction, materialism, lust and ignorance.

The Tower (XVI) – The Tower is a card of destruction and sudden unexpected change. The kind of destruction it brings can either be positive or negative. Not all destruction is bad. The Tower follows after The Devil, which represented ignorance; The Tower destroys this and brings a ground shaking revelation. The Tower represents that old ideas, false beliefs, which we invested ourselves, that are now revealed are false, weak or disserving. This can be a painful experience because it changes all that we believed in.

The Star (XVII) – The Star represents healing. She is naked to express her vulnerability and exposure, which was experienced in The Tower. It is a time to heal and recover from past wounds. The Star symbolizes hope and faith. There is a time now for peace and a moments rest. The Star indicates things are getting better from now on.

The Moon (XVIII) – The Moon is a mysterious card; The moon represents illusions, dreams, imagination and how these things can play with our perceptions. The Moon indicates that not all is known, only parts are revealed and the rest is filled in my your mind to get a complete picture. The Moon indicates outside influences or forces at work. The Moon can be a great source for creativity. The Moon can be irrational and instinctual.

The Sun (XIX) – The Sun is the opposite and counterbalance to The Moon. The Moon was irrational while The Sun is rational. The Sun’s light is warm and safe it provides vital life energy. It symbolizes happiness and success.

Judgment (XX) – Judgment represents a renewal, becoming reenergized and feeling brought back to life. It indicates that a change is at hand, one that is profound and with purpose. It shows that you are being called to something. It can also represent a decision (judgment), which needs to be made. You are awakened to some new knowledge or some new insights, an epiphany.

The World (XXI) – The last card in the Major Arcana, The World signals completion, closure, endings, success, reaching your goals, feeling satisfied, fulfilled and accomplished. On the same token The World also symbolizes a new start or new cycles is going to start because you have reached the end of the current cycle.





The recipient of Tarosophist of the Year 2011, Angelo Nasios is a rising voice in the tarot community. Angelo is known for his popular YouTube channel in which he produces educational tarot videos. Tarot: Unlocking the Arcana, Angelo’s first book will be released by Schiffer Publishing.

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  • Felicia

    I really loved reading this. You really have a way of making learning tarot simple even though it is very complex. Thank you so very much. Have you done the minor arcana as well? I looked and could not find a similar list. Please keep up the WONDERFUL work. I have really enjoyed your YouTube channel as well.