How to Read the Major Arcana Tarot Cards - The Simple Tarot

Understanding the Major Arcana Tarot Cards

Your tarot deck is a tool that gives you insight into yourself and the world around you. If you read using a standard Rider-Waite-Smith-based tarot deck, the first twenty two cards are called the Major Arcana, or the Majors.

These cards represent the major archetypes and lessons of life.

Although there are standard tarot meanings for each card, both the designer of your tarot deck and you, the reader, may interpret them in any way you wish. This gives the tarot a lot of flexibility – as well as a lot of room for confusion!

So, this video will cover the standard meanings, patterns, and stories behind those first twenty-two cards, the Majors. You can play along by pulling out the Major Arcana cards from your deck, and following along with each card, one by one.


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The Fool

The Fool Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Fool is either the first or the last card of the Major Arcana, depending on how you order your cards. It’s given the number 0 (zero), and it both starts and completes the life-cycle of one’s personal journey through the major 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, secure and happy that nothing bad will happen.

I look at this card and see a young man setting out for an adventure, and not having a freaking clue what’s in front of him. He’s optimistic, self-focused, and blind to reality. But, he’s also got a cute dog and a nice purse.

The Magician

The Magician Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Magician is the first card along the Fool’s journey through the tarot. The Fool tarot card is numbered 0 (zero), and The Magician is numbered 1 (one). Confusing? It doesn’t have to be.

I like to think of The Fool as being out of space & time. The Fool is the protagonist in our story, and the remaining cards of the Major Arcana are all players or events that happen to The Fool.

The Magician is the first card The Fool “meets.” This is why The Magician is numbered 1 (one), even though this card is not the first card in the deck.

The High Priestess

The High Priestess Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The High Priestess tarot card represents the inner wisdom deep within all of us. It is a receptive and inwardly-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 Empress

The Empress Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Empress is the ‘Earth Mother,’ who gives birth to all wishes and dreams. This card represents all things motherly (from an ideal-mother sense), and she is paired with the masculine father-figure of The Emperor.

The Emperor

The Emperor Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Emperor is the “father figure” of the tarot cards, partnered with the motherly Empress. He’s the man you want in your reading, or in your life, when you are looking for practical, logical, and steady guidance.

There’s nothing wild here – it’s all solid ambition, discipline, and good hard work.

The Hierophant

The Hierophant Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
For many people, The Hierophant is one of their least favorite cards. He represents conventional society, authority figures, and doing things the “right” way. For people – especially the wild & unconventional types who follow the tarot’s path – this pushes buttons.

This card honors tradition and established rules. Not all established rules and traditions are bad, and sometimes it’s better not to rock the boat. Especially when you’re sitting in it.

The Lovers

The Lovers Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
Everyone loves The Lovers tarot card. This is the card for true-love partnerships and long-term happy relationships.

But it’s not just for love. This card suggests a true, soul-level partnership where the personalities or elements are in total, healthy balance. This could be in a friendship, business partnership, or any place where two vibrant forces come together.

The Chariot

The Chariot Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Chariot tarot card speeds into a reading with a message of power through action.

The Chariot rides into the tarot right after the balanced partnership of The Lovers. When you have a wonderful partnership, you’re ready to take action and tackle the big problems.

Strength

The Strength Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Strength card, also known as “The Healer,” takes the action-energy of The Chariot, and gives it more unconditional self-love.

It’s like you know, deep in your soul, you have the inner strength to overcome any obstacle in your path.

Yeah, you’ll be tested, but you don’t even care. You’ve got this.

There might be lessons about trust and betrayal, friends and enemies, facade versus reality. But you have the courage and inner confidence to survive and thrive through them all.

The Hermit

The Hermit Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Hermit card is exactly as named – the card of solitude and withdrawal.

When you are faced with a tough situation, or difficult decision, The Hermit whispers, “You already have all of the answers you need. You just need to go deep within yourself to find them.”

You must trust yourself. Maturity comes when you feel confident in your own voice, and The Hermit wants you to get there.

The Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Wheel of Fortune card is sometimes called “the Gambler,” because this card deals with luck and fate.

Of course, not all luck is good, so the meaning of this card does depend on the other cards that are read with it. Regardless, if you get The Wheel of Fortune in a tarot card reading, your luck is about to change.

This card represents a lesson about control – no matter how much you prepare or how hard you work, you can’t always control the outcome. Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes luck is not on your side.

Justice

The Justice Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
If you’ve been naughty or cutting corners, the Justice card will call you out. This card arrives when things are out of balance, and highlights the consequences of your behavior.

This card represents the lesson of the ultimate law – the law of cause and effect.
If things seem out of whack, the Justice card has a message for you: the Universe is playing fair. You may not like the outcome, but it will be based on harmony and fairness for the greater good.

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

The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Hanged Man is at peace with his situation. He’s not struggling or sad – in fact, he appears very serene and accepting of this fate. It’s the ultimate in letting go.

You need to release the tight grip you hold on your ideas and the situation at hand. That won’t work anymore, so become the agent of change by making a sacrifice (i.e. being the ‘better man’) to break the old patterns.

When you feel betrayed, like a victim, or ashamed of your own actions, look at things from a different point of view. You need perspective.

Death

The Death Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Death card scares people. It’s the card that elicits the most gasps and cringes when it comes up in a reading.

But it doesn’t mean what people think it means. This card rarely has anything to do with actual, physical death. Instead, it’s a card of rebirth.

Like the mythical Phoenix that rises from the ashes, one cycle is ending and another is beginning. There is a major transition happening where you must leave your old life, and start something new.

Temperance

The Temperance Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
Temperance seems boring, especially sandwiched between the Death card and The Devil card. But this card is about boring things – the peace and comfort that exists when things are in balance.

The Temperance card serves as a reminder to remain patient, and go with the flow. You can’t always (or, really, ever) control a situation, but you can wait it out. I hate that, but it’s the truth.

This card is a reminder that renewal and rejuvenation are coming, so don’t go to extremes or force something to happen. Exercise self-control, and keep your emotions in check.

The Devil

The Devil Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Devil card is all about temptation. You know it’s bad for you, but it feels so very good.

This card is usually seen as a warning against obsessions, compulsions, and addictions. It is so easy to become a slave to the material and physical world. It can quickly turn towards greed, exploitation, and oppression.

This isn’t always a negative card, though. You’ll have to read the other cards around it to get a feel for the situation.

Start enjoying the pleasures of life and let yourself become spontaneous and playful. Start exploring your deepest desires – but explore them without fear, shame, or excess.

The Tower

The Tower Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Tower arrives when things are about to drastically change in your life.

The change is ultimately for the better, but some shit is about to go down. You are under attack from forces beyond your control or understanding. There’s nothing you can do. It’s an unexpected attack, too, so you won’t see it coming, and you can’t really prepare for it.

The Star

The Star Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Star is sometimes called ‘the fairy godmother’ card, because it arrives to let you know everything is going to work out just fine. This is very good news, especially after the upheaval of The Tower.

Have faith and believe things are going to be okay – even better than okay.

The Star card is the first in the 3-card cycle of The Star, The Moon, and The Sun. It takes the turmoil of The Tower that precedes it, and turns that energy into renewal, hope, and peace.

The Moon

The Moon Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Moon follows the hope of The Star, and points out that things may not be as they seem.

Be on the lookout for unseen problems, deceptions, and haters.

You could easily let your imagination and intuition take you to dark and unfriendly places, so keep your anxiety in check.

Proceed with caution and prudence, but let your intuition be your guide. This card is a very strong call to follow your intuition.

The Sun

The Sun Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Sun is the last of the three cards that follow the crisis of The Tower. This is the most positive and joyous of the three.

This is an active card, asking you to celebrate and honor your growth.

Judgment

The Judgment Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The Judgment card has a big message for you. You can no longer hide or pretend or ignore the truths of your life. You see clearly, and must take action to remove what no longer fits, and move towards what does.

The World

The World Tarot Card from The Simple Tarot Deck Starter Kit. Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.
The World is the last card of the Major Arcana. The hero has reached the end of his journey and is ready to begin another.

It’s a card of closure for the life lessons the hero has learned.

If you want to go deeper

Learning the tarot card meanings takes time, patience, and practice. If you want the full Tarot Card Meanings for each individual card we covered here today, check out the Tarot Card Meanings Index or the Simple Tarot Card Meanings book, which is available everywhere fine books are sold.

Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.

Learn how to read the first 22 cards of the tarot, otherwise known as the Major Arcana, step-by-step from The Simple Tarot.

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