Lesson 1


The Major Arcana

Major Arcana

 Welcome to the Class

After completing our study of the preceding 56 cards of The Minor Arcana, including the Court Cards, we now move onto the remaining 22 cards which make up The Major Arcana . We move away from the structure of the Four Elements and their distinctive qualities, to a somewhat different approach when divining the meaning of Major Arcana cards in a spread.  As we have already covered in Part I, The Major Arcana (big mysteries), are the more intense and fixed cards in the Tarot .  Each card in the Tarot has their own unique value, but whereas The Minor Arcana give us information on what is happening in our everyday life, The Major Arcana tells us why.

In The Minor Arcana we experience the flux and flow of energy as we move through our daily life.  The energy The Minor Arcana brings with it is transient.  The ups and downs of life are highlighted along with the people who are influential in each situation.  Some of this energy may seem more than transient to us at times as we endure hardship, loss or sadness.  Other times the energy rushes through and is gone all too soon such as happy times, summer days, romance, holidays and special occasions. The Minor Arcana tells us what is going on at any one point or time in our life.  We all experience the highs and lows of such energy as represented by The Minor Arcana and we all have been temporarily altered as a result of it.  If we are honest with ourselves we will all admit that our personalities have reversed at times due to our circumstances, leaving us negative or nasty.  Hopefully, after a period of time we have righted ourselves and got on with life once more.

When The Minor Arcana appear in a reading their energy is not fixed. Therefore if it all looks a bit negative or gloomy, with a bit of effort on our part we can change the course of direction to a more positive outcome.  Their energy at the end of the day is not that powerful if we can potentially alter it or rework it to suit our situation.

The energy The Major Arcana brings into a reading is not so flexible.  The Major Arcana are often looked upon as our Destiny, Fate or Karmic cards.  Their energy brings strong spiritual messages and often reflect the karmic lessons we carry from life to life as we strive to overcome and master them for our spiritually growth.  The energy of The Major Arcana follows us around throughout our whole life; shadowing us, challenging us, supporting us and sometimes overpowering us.  When a Major Arcana card appears in a reading we must give it proper attention for it is giving us strong reasons and explanations for the situations The Minor Arcana are depicting.  They give us a ‘behind the scenes’ version of the events.  They tell us the deep and often powerful force that is driving the situation.

When the Outcome or Answer positions in a reading are Minor Arcana then we generally can alter the outcome if it is not in our favour.  We can do this in many ways such as changing our attitude, behaviour, method of communication or by forgiving, releasing and letting go.  When the Outcome or Answer positions are Major cards then the outcome is pretty fixed and considerable effort would need to be put in on the querant’s behalf to overturn it. Karma is definitely an issue.

It is through The Major Arcana that we will discover the underlying, or root cause behind our behaviour, or our pattern of living. The Major Arcana  will give us deep insight into who we really are and will expose our shadow side whether we try to hide it or not.

The Major Arcana are developed around archetypal characters, situations and symbolism which we all connect with.  As we move through the cards, you will also connect with certain cards more than others. You will recognise your friends, partners, family, work colleagues and even your neighbours, in the stories and scenarios that unfold throughout the journey.  You will identify certain cards with certain episodes in your life, and may gain valuable insight as to how they came to be, and how better you may have handled the situation.

The Major Arcana is often referred to as a journey. This journey represents the evolution of mankind from the dawn of time, but it also represents our personal journey from birth to death, on both a physical and spiritual path. We may liken the journey through The Major Arcana as that of a new baby in The Fool card as he finds his feet; amazed at everything in life being new and fresh, and for the moment, untainted.  The innocence of The Fool in his youth, as in real life, is not destined to last, and whether the baby wants to grow up or not, that is what happens. That is his destiny and how the Universe works.  The baby must eventually take his first steps, and as he gets older, rely less and less on Mother and Father as he seeks independence and responsibility for his own life.  It is how The Fool handles his independence and how responsible he is on his journey that determines whether his path flows smoothly or is pitted with obstacles and disasters.

The Universe and his Higher Self will always try to influence and guide him.  However, The Fool does have a Free Will and so will make his own decisions for better or worse.  The Universe will stand by and observe his actions and behaviour as he journeys, interfering only when things get totally out of hand or static.  It is better for The Fool to act before this happens for when the Universe or Mother Nature steps in, their impact can be quite disconcerting, and at times, shocking.

The Fool like each and every one of us has incarnated into the physical with a specific life plan or soul-purpose which he must work hard at to realise.  Whether he gets lost or disoriented along the way, confused or forgetful, he must fight hard to complete his journey as planned and arrive at his predetermined destination.  Along with his life-plan and soul-purpose are specific karmic lessons that he has been working on for several lifetimes.  On entering into the physical he leaves behind the memory of what these lessons are but anytime he comes across a challenge or setback on his journey he can be assured that he is encountering one of them.  These karmic lessons are there for his spiritual growth.  Should he fail to learn the lesson or overcome the challenge at any stage of his journey, then he may get stuck where he is and progress will be stunted.

The Fool should recognise these challenges as flags for his karmic lessons, be determined to overcome them and not allow himself to get stuck at any stage.  He must understand that he has probably encountered something similar in a previous lifetime and if he is unsuccessful in his attempt this time round, he will undoubtedly return once more to face it.  Failure is not an option.   The Major Arcana highlight our Karmic Lessons.  

As he progresses through the cards, we can sometimes become frustrated with The Fool for taking the wrong turn, or worse, been lured off his true path by others.  It is quite simple for us looking on to pass judgement on The Fool as he proceeds on his journey.  We must remember that we are merely observers and it is very easy to be wise at a distance.   If any one of us were to step into his shoes and face what he is facing, caught in the moment, confused and emotionally entwined, then we may easily fall foul in the same manner as The Fool.

It is often difficult to see the wood for the trees, and The Fool experiences this many times. As a result he makes many mistakes.  The Fool has a lot to learn as he matures or grows up.  He has to learn that not all bright lights in the distance lead to places of sanctuary and beauty.  Many are illusions, and on close examination, have no brilliance at all but are just faerie glamour and disappointment.  He must learn that not everyone speaks the truth to him or has his best interests at heart.  However, The Fool must not fail in his quest no matter how trying and traumatic life becomes.  From the moment of his birth in The Fool, his challenge is to find his way home to the World card, which is his Spiritual destiny and Soul Purpose.

His successes and failures are equally important, as spiritually an easy life does not make for spiritual growth.  The Fool must experience life with all its ups and downs, and in doing so will learn many valuable spiritual lessons along the way. What doesn’t break him will strengthen him. At the end of his journey he will be held accountable for how he conducted himself on his journey, and he must be brutally honest with himself for when that time comes, there will be no hiding and no blaming.

The Fool is no different from you or I and you may well identify with his mistakes, poor decisions or clarity of judgement. You may laugh and congratulate yourself when you see his successes as yours, but you may also hang your head in shame when you see your mirror image in his coldness, cruelty and disregard for others.  At the end of the day or his life, The Fool can only hold himself responsible for where he is and how he got there, and, like The Fool, so too will we, for these are the laws of Karma, the laws of Cause and Effect.

The Zodiac – Profiles

Zodiac Symbols

Along with the Major Arcana Cards we will be having a closer look at the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac which are broken down into four groups of three i.e. The Fire signs, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. The Water signs, Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. The Air signs Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. The Earth signs Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.  It is not essential to have an in-depth knowledge of Astrology when reading the Tarot but a certain amount is beneficial.  What we will be concentrating on are the personalities and characters of each Sign; their behaviour, characteristics and natural traits.  This is not only interesting, but is also a great asset when describing a person to a client when Court Cards representing a Zodiac Sign appear in a reading.  It is also wonderfully reassuring for the reader, when their client’s head keeps nodding vigorously in agreement as you describe the person you see in the cards before you.  You may feel drawn to studying Astrology in greater details after completing this course and there are some wonderful books on the subject.

Before We Get Started

The Major Arcana are powerful cards indeed, and if four or more appear in a normal spread, then it is best to add an extra card to each to expand the reading. If the majority of cards in a spread are Major, then the querant better prepare for a deeply spiritual reading. The very fact that the cards came out in the first place would indicate that the querant is ready to hear what this information may be. It can be quite common for an additional card to be pulled for each Major present in a reading.

I do hope you enjoy this journey through The Major Arcana and learn some valuable lessons along the way.  The role of the Tarot is first and foremost a tool for self-development and personal guidance.  Once you become adept at effectively applying its meaning to your own lives then you can easily do so for others.

As with The Minor Arcana and Court Cards you have already covered, you will not be expected to remember the meanings of each of The Major Arcana cards as we proceed.  To attempt to do this would completely overwhelm you and more than likely turn you away from the Tarot .

Learning to read the Tarot  correctly is a slow process and should not be rushed.  The more you use the cards and re-read your notes, the more their details and information will naturally be assimilated.  As discussed before, the divinatory meanings and concepts given for each card are based on both the traditional interpretations and associations along with my own personal versions and views. They are by no means absolute or complete.   Therefore I would advise you to allow your intuition to guide and accompany you in your interpretations.  If your gut feeling is telling you another meaning other than those detailed in the notes, than you should not ignore it.

The accumulative meanings behind each card of the Tarot originally came about by individuals applying their intuition when interpreting their meanings.  As readers, we continue to do so.  Each reader will work with both the traditional meanings and their own tried and tested personal ones.  For example, one reader may, the moment a Page of Swords appears in a reading, know that it means trouble and bad news.  For some reason or another they never associate the Page of Swords with a child, new ideas or plans.  That Page of Swords has always meant trouble and they have never been wrong about it.  They recognise children in the other Pages though.  That’s the way it works for them.

From the very first lesson you have been encouraged to appoint your own meanings to the cards and to then blend them into your reading interpretations.   There are hundreds of books written about the Tarot and no doubt you probably own several of them.  You probably have also realised that each book seems to contradict the other when it comes to interpretation or allocation of elements.  It can all get very confusing.  I would suggest that for the duration of this course, and until you have a good grasp of the cards, you endeavour to stay away from reading other Tarot books or trying to apply alternative styles of reading.  Stay consistent with the methods in this course and once you are finished there will be plenty of time to expand and add to your knowledge.

The meanings of 78 cards both upright and reversed is a lot to handle, so don’t be hard on yourself if you find you are struggling while a fellow student seems to be flying along. Every student will work at his or her own pace.  Some students will already have some prior knowledge of the Tarot while others will be viewing the cards for the first time.  I see students who beat themselves up all the time about how they are never going to get to grips with “all these cards” yet when I observe them doing a reading for a fellow student I am amazed at their level of comprehension and ability.  They just don’t see it in themselves.

Tarot can be a terrible leveler at times and leave you feeling flat as a pancake and useless to all when you experience the dreaded ‘terrible reading’. These are the readings that you just cannot interpret; the readings when you can’t remember even one single solitary keyword that will give you the remotest idea of what is going on.  You have someone sitting across the table from you waiting anxiously for you to speak but all you can do is freeze and feel the sweat run down your back.  You mutter and grasp at a few mumbled half made-up interpretations and flee at the earliest opportunity.  You vow never to read again and throw your cards into a corner.  It happens to all readers, even seasoned ones, and worse still, it will happen more than once.

Personal Experience

About two years ago, I had two clients booked in for readings. They were sisters.  The first one came in and sat down, shuffled the deck and the cards were drawn.  I launched into my reading but absolutely everything I said or suggested came up with a very definite and very firm denial.  I tried again but to no avail.  I panicked.  The harder I tried to find my way back into the reading the more I got lost.  I couldn’t see anything in the cards and their meanings just blurred.  I eventually told her that the reading was not working and that it was best to bring it to a close.  I did not charge her and apologised on the basis that maybe it was not the right time for her to have a reading.

Her sister came in next and guess what?  The very same thing happened and I felt like crying.  I couldn’t believe it, what a disaster!  They both left and I wondered for a long time after what they had said about me and how they must have ridiculed me.  However, when I eventually calmed down I had to ask myself what had really happened.  Was it my inability to read the cards or was it something to do with the two women? Had other readers or psychics experienced the same when attempting to interpret their cards or energy?  I never found out and thankfully never heard from them again.  My reading confidence certainly took a nosedive for a while after that but eventually I got over it.  I share this experience with you as a form of reassurance and acceptance for those times ahead when your readings will go pear-shaped.  Deal with it, forget it and move on.

Let’s Get Started

I have provided detailed information and background for the following 22 Cards.  You will notice that along with the description of each card I have gone quite in-depth into the Spiritual and Karmic Lessons of each card.  You will also notice as you progress that I have less to write about some cards then other.  This does not mean that they are less important.  You see, some of the Major Arcana Cards are extremely multi-layered with Spiritual and Esoteric Meanings and therefore need more attention given to them.  Other cards are more straight-forward and so less needs to be said about them in order for the Student to understand.

Let us now travel with The Fool as he sets out on his journey in life.  Let us calibrate our energy field to the vibration of his so that we may be like him; walk in his shoes, go where he goes, see what he sees, hear his thoughts and words, access his feelings and do what he does.

Time to Introduce The Fool

(Please Click on The Images Below Upright and Reversed to go Directly to The Fool’s Pages)

The Fool (0) Upright   The Fool (0) Reversed

The Kabbalah       The Tree of Life & Tarot

Lesson 1   Lesson  2    Lesson 3    Lesson 4     Lesson 5    Lesson 6   Lesson 7   Lesson 8

The Fool   The Magician    The High Priestess   The Empress   The Emperor   The Heirophant   The Lovers   The Chariot

Strength    The Hermit    The Wheel of Fortune   Justice   The Hanged Man    Death   Temperance   The Devil   The Tower

The Star   The Moon    The Sun    Judgement   The World

Part I    Part II     Part III  Home

Copyright © 2006-2013 Vivien Ní Dhuinn

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