The Meanings of the 22 Major Arcana Tarot Cards

The 22 Major Arcana tarot cards represent life lessons, archetypal characters, and major themes at play in your life or the situation.

Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings

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The Major Arcana are the 22 tarot cards that begin at 0 with The Fool and end with the World. These cards represent the major themes and events within your life.

By understanding the Major Arcana meanings, you’ll have a stronger grasp on what life lessons may be coming your way. These tarot cards can indicate what you might want to prepare for or what areas you might need to do some personal growth work on.

Here you’ll find a brief overview of the tarot card meanings for all the cards in the Major Arcana.

What Is the Fool’s Journey of the Major Arcana?

This set of tarot cards tells the story of the Fool’s journey. As the Fool progresses through the Major Arcana cards towards enlightenment, they meet many archetypal characters along the way who all provide their wisdom and guidance.

The Fool also encounters themes of hope, despair, frustration, joy, karmic justice, and everything else we all face within our lives. In this way, sitting and meditating with these cards and diving deeper into their symbols and hidden meanings may help you process your own challenges.

Within a reading, the cards of the Major Arcana tend not to be things you can avoid. They’re either moments that change your life or a situation in a profound way or they’re indicators of an aspect of your self that needs attention.

The 22 Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings

0. The Fool

Upright: Beginning something new, leap of faith, potential, free spirited
Reversed: Fear of moving forward, refusal to take the first step, naivety, recklessness

The Fool suggests that you’re beginning your journey, or starting something new in at least one aspect of your life. It can also indicate it’s a good time to take a leap of faith.

Read more about the Fool card.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Fool

1. The Magician

Upright: Mastery, the ability to call what is needed forward, creation, willpower, desire
Reversed: Manipulation, trickery, narcissism

The Magician indicates that you have all the tools you need to manifest your potential. Harness your willpower and take action to make your desire into reality.

Read more about the Magician card.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Magician

2. The High Priestess

Upright: Intuition, unconscious or subconscious, guidance from above, inner knowing, mystery
Reversed: Blocked intuition, internal compass set in the wrong direction, hidden agendas, secrets

The High Priestess is a tarot card about inner knowing. If it shows up in a reading, tap into your subconscious and trust your intuition to guide you.

Read more about the High Priestess card.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The High Priestess

3. The Empress

Upright: Fertility, abundance, beauty, nature, creativity, sensuality, femininity, new opportunities
Reversed: Overbearing, dependence, creative blockages

The Empress is the card of the mother. It encourages you to tap into your feminine side and explore your nurturing, creative, nature. She is also connected with abundance and fertility, which can be literal, or it can mean giving birth to creative ideas or projects.

Read more about the Empress card.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Empress

4. The Emperor

Upright: Structure, discipline, authority, organization, divine masculine energy, father figure
Reversed: Chaos, tyranny, toxic masculine energy, inflexibility

When The Emperor shows up, it may mean you need more structure in your life, or that you’ll find what you’re looking for within a structured environment, or you’ll need a more disciplined approach to achieve what you desire. It can also represent a literal person who embodies these qualities.

Read more about The Emperor.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Emperor

5. The Hierophant

Upright: Tradition, faith, institutions, religion, seeking guidance from spiritual teachers
Reversed: Blind faith, hypocrisy, challenging the status quo

The Hierophant can appear when you need to follow a more traditional approach or when you need to rely on conventional beliefs rather than rocking the boat. It sometimes can also be the card that indicates marriage is in your future.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Hierophant

6. The Lovers

Upright: Love, harmony, relationships, choices, union, partnerships
Reversed: Breakup, discord, unbalanced relationship or partnership

This card represents both love and choice. It can indicate that you’ll be in a romantic relationship soon, or might suggest that you or someone else will need to make an important choice.

Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings
Illustration by Yoshi Yoshitani

7. The Chariot

Upright: Movement, forward progression, focus, self control
Reversed: Feeling stuck, heading in wrong direction, stagnation, pulled in two directions to the point where you can’t make a decision

In a tarot reading, the Chariot indicates forward movement of something. Major obstacles are no longer in the way. And, if you were feeling pulled in two or more directions, you’ve now made a decision and are going after it with great, controlled speed.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Chariot

8. Strength

Upright: Control over the lower self, fortitude, courage, compassion, maturity
Reversed: Self-doubt, pride, weakness, cowardice, raw emotion

The Strength card might appear when you will face a situation where you need to show great internal strength and emotional maturity. If your lower self or fear brain is running the show, this indicates its time for your higher self to gently take charge and proverbially close its jaws.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - Strength

9. The Hermit

Upright: Introspection, wisdom, solitude, going within, contemplation
Reversed: Avoidance, withdrawal, loneliness

The Hermit is the card of going within. It suggests it’s a good time to take a pause to work on yourself and develop your inner wisdom. If you’ve been busy socializing, its telling you it might be time to slow down, quiet the mind, and take some time to yourself.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Hermit

10. Wheel of Fortune

Upright: Change, chance, good luck, fate, turning point
Reversed: Out of control, bad luck, setbacks

The Wheel of Fortune indicates your luck is about to change. If things have been going well, the wheel is turning and they might not go so well for some time. However, if things have been going badly, you may shortly find your luck has changed for the better. It can also indicate divine timing.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Wheel of Fortune

11. Justice

Upright: Justice, legal matters, truth, fair outcome, cause and effect, law
Reversed: Unfair ruling, injustice, dishonesty

The Justice card represents justice and truth coming to light. It can suggest that whatever will occur in regards to the situation will be fair and the scales will be put back in balance. It can also mean that you may have to deal with the law in some way.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - Justice

12. The Hanged Man

Upright: Surrender, letting go, different perspective
Reversed: Stagnation, time to move forward, fear of surrender, resistance

When the Hanged Man appears, it’s time to wait. The situation isn’t moving forward at the moment or you need to stop trying to move it forward. Now is the time for surrender and looking at the situation from a different perspective.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Hanged Man

13. Death

Upright: Death, end of a cycle, grief, change, transformation
Reversed: Refusal to let go, prolonged grief, decay, repeating unhealthy patterns

The Death card doesn’t always mean death. But, it can. It can also indicate transformation or the end of one cycle so that another can begin. It’s the time for letting go, for grief, and for putting things to rest.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - Death

14. Temperance

Upright: Balance, spiritual alchemy, moderation, middle path
Reversed: Imbalance, excess, extremes

The Temperance card represents the need to balance energies. It’s also the card of spiritual alchemy guiding you towards personal transformation and following the middle path.

It can arise when its important for you to do inner work or when you’ve been overdoing things to the point of excess. It beckons you back towards moderation. It can also indicate a situation that is balanced.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - Temperance

15. The Devil

Upright: Shadow self, addiction, trickster energy, unhealthy attachment, material things, physical world
Reversed: Signs you’ve done the work to release yourself from unhealthy attachments, breaking free from old ways

The Devil represents physical matters and the need to work with the shadow self. The chains suggest you’re locked into an unhealthy situation or you’re attached in an unhealthy way to a person, path, or object.

It can also indicate trickster energy, or healthy rebelliousness depending on the reading.

Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - the Devil
Illustration by Yoshi Yoshitani

16. The Tower

Upright: Transformation, major change, destruction, upheaval, tragedy
Reversed: Restlessness, avoiding the inevitable, fear of change

The Tower is the card no one wants to see. It signifies that a major change is coming that will shake up everything. The event usually is fast, destructive, and unavoidable. It will level whatever it was that you were working towards.

If this comes up in a reading, it’s a good time to work with the Strength or Hermit cards to harness your inner strength and peace.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Tower

17. The Star

Upright: Hope, inspiration, renewal
Reversed: Lost hope, lack of faith, despair

After the fall of the Tower, comes the light of the Star. The Star represents hope, possibility, and a reminder that everything is going to be ok.

Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - the Star
Illustration by Yoshi Yoshitani

18. The Moon

Upright: Illusion, self-deception, mystery, dreams, hidden knowledge, intuition, subconscious, fear, anxiety
Reversed: Overcoming confusion, confronting fears

Like all cards in the tarot deck, the Moon card has a few different meanings. It can suggest that things are an illusion and not what they seem. Or, it can indicate that you’re not supposed to know what is coming just yet and you need to trust your intuition.

It can also suggest that you may want to keep a dream journal or look to your dreams for guidance. Finally, it may mean that your fears and anxiety are currently getting the best of you.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The Moon

19. The Sun

Upright: Happiness, joy, play, excitement, success, celebration, clarity, summer
Reversed: Depression, dark times, sadness

The Sun card represents happiness and joyful times. If this comes up, it often indicates a time for celebration and that your outcome will be successful. However, it can also mean that things are now coming to light that were hidden in darkness.

Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - the Sun
Illustration by Yoshi Yoshitani

20. Judgement

Upright: Judgment, karmic evaluation, rebirth, awakening,
Reversed: Destruction, doubt, punishment, self-doubt

This is the card of the final judgment. When the Judgement card comes up in a reading, it’s an indication that either the Universe or those involved will make a decision regarding the situation and it will not be changed.

It also indicates a time of spiritual awakening and rebirth or the need to make sure your way of being in the world is in alignment with your goals.

Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - Judgment
Illustration by Yoshi Yoshitani

21. The World

Upright: Completion, fulfillment, end of a cycle, travel, success
Reversed: Lack of closure, holding on after a cycle has ended, emptiness, delays

The World represents the end of a cycle and one that generally ends with a feeling of completion and success. It may mean that you will get everything you were hoping for regarding the situation. It can also indicate travel.
Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings - The World