The major arcana tarot cards can be thought of as the trump cards of the Tarot. They carry more weight than the minor arcana, and they describe more significant events in our future. It has been suggested that they are based on the Roman festival of Saturnalia (celebrated on December 25th) where people dressed up and rode their chariots through the city. No matter what their origins, they describe major situations, and they can be used alone in spreads without the minor arcana (which is especially helpful when first learning to read the cards).
0 The Fool – The Fool is an innocent traveler symbolizing new beginnings and risks. The image shows him blissfully ignorant of the dangerous cliff he is about to step from. Even the dog in the image is trying to warn him of the peril. The Fool represents potential, ground zero for new adventures, but he doesn’t have the experience to understand what lies ahead.
When the Fool is pulled in a spread, it represents a calculated risk, but not without danger. But, he can also signify that it is time to take a leap of faith. He offers optimism and a fresh perspective. He can represent a person leaving home for the first time, or the arrival of younger guests to your home. In a relationship reading, he can be telling us that it’s time to go with the flow. If the Fool appears in a financial reading, he can symbolize opportunities ahead, but it will be important to prioritize your workload. If the Fool appears reversed in a spread, he shows our irresponsible side and irrational behavior. The Fool in reverse could be a warning that decisions are not wise.
I The Magician – The Magician is a step up from the Fool. He has finished his travels and is now ready to manifest his desires. The Magician represents the conduit between heaven and earth, and he stands for decisions and creativity. In the image, the Magician has the symbols of the four suits, pentacles, cups, swords, and wands, on the table before him. He plans to transform these four elements into a fifth element, possibly ether, also considered the breath of the gods.
The Magician represents action and communication when pulled in a spread. He is the traveler, the inventor, and the entrepreneur beckoning us to broaden our horizons. It is time to let go of procrastination and transform whatever we choose. The Magician can symbolize a move or a time to remodel when in reference to home, and he can represent new love or renewed love in a relationship reading. In a career reading, the Magician can fortel new employment or a new direction in existing work. But, when the Magician is reversed in a spread, he can show us the trickster and the manipulator. The reversed Magician could also be warning us of hidden information, miscommunications, and ulterior motives.
II The High Priestess – She stands in a chamber between two pillars that represent the Roman number two. One pillar is marked with the letter B and the other with the letter J, which refer to Boaz and Jachin in the temple of Solomon. She holds a scroll that refers to the Jewish sacred text the Torah, and the pomegranates on her veil symbolize fertility. The symbol of a crescent moon lies at her feet meaning the emotions that lie beneath the external persona. Her blue and white robes represent purity (white) and truth (blue). She is the female Pope or a virgin priestess, and she has the wisdom of the gods. Ultimately, she represents the psychic energy within each of us.
The meaning of the High Priestess in a spread can be intuition, hidden knowledge, and the psychic. She suggests you trust your internal knowing, and if you have a secret, it is best to keep it confidential a bit longer. If she appears in a spread asking about home, she probably represents a quiet time in the family, but lives may be somewhat separated at this time. In a relationship reading, she can signal a time to be single, or secrets between partners. If you are asking about money, she can symbolize the need to take time and nurture a new project and patience.
III The Empress – The Empress is the mother of the Tarot cards symbolizing creativity and abundance. She shows the symbol of Venus on her shield relating to the Roman goddess of love. She wears a crown of twelve stars and they may signify the Christian crown of Mary or the twelve tribes of Israel. The wreath she wears shows peace, and the pomegranates on her dress denote fertility, death, and rebirth. Her pearl necklace represents wisdom, and her scepter shows she is the ruler of her land. The wheat growing beneath her symbolizes rewards, fertility, and abundance.
In a reading, the Empress’ gifts are abundance and material comfort. She symbolizes harmony at home and the possibility of children and fertility in the future. She can also represent a mother or nurturing mother-type figure. In a reading about one’s home she can signify renovation and home improvements, a possible move to a larger home, or a garden. She represents happiness and harmony in relationship readings, and she shows security and money flowing in a financial reading. When the Empress appears reversed in a reading, she can warn of financial issues or domestic strife. There is also the possibility that the Empress in reverse will show a creative block or an overdependence on someone. And, of course, if the Empress appears in reverse in a fertility reading, she can represent problems with conception.
IV The Emperor – He represents the father, male power, and virility. His beard represents maturity, yet he still has vigor. And, looking at his feet, we can see that he wears his battle armor under his robe. The mountains behind him protect his kingdom, and the tiny river running at the foot of the mountains is a sign of growth and the agricultural fertility of his land. The number IV represents the four directions, north, east, south, and west, and he is an Aries represented by the rams’ heads on his throne.
The meaning of the Emperor when pulled in a reading can represent a father and a powerful man. He can also represent a husband or intimate partner who is dependable and trustworthy. If the question for the reading is about home he can show order, but also boundaries. It may be important to protect what is yours. In a relationship reading he represents a loyal partner, and in finances, he is the banker. He will get finances ordered and bring the books into balance. When in reversed, he can represent a controlling and abusive man who may use force to get what he wants.
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