The Major Arcana

The word ‘arcana’ is the plural of ‘arcanum’, which means ‘profound secret’. To the alchemists of the Middle Ages, the ‘arcanum’ was the ‘secret of nature’. Therefore, the Tarot is a collection of the ‘secrets’ that underlie and explain our complex Universe.

The Major Arcana alone can interpret their messages regarding the soul’s journey through life, and the archetypal aspects of your character. The Major Arcana symbolizes the aspects of the Universal human experiences. They represent the archetypes and patterns of influence that are an inherent part of human nature.

The symbols of the Major Arcana represent every experience and underlying influences that man can encounter on the Earthplane. These are circumstances which are out of human control and are more commonly referred to as ‘destiny’ and ‘fate’. They also represent things which are not apparent in day-to-day life, but which are hidden from view in the subconscious.

The Major Arcana is considered the ‘journey of life’, from the innocence and wonder of childhood, through the tests, trials and tribulations to maturity, and then onto old age, death and spiritual transcendence. The Major Arcana reflects the path in life by using Universal symbolism.

The twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana are considered to hold in-depth knowledge and relate to a higher plane:  that is, they often signify a spiritual aspect of our lives, or an important trend in our life’s journey. Most aspects of human experience are found in the Major Arcana cards.

Each card of the Major Arcana has a name and a number. Some names of the Major Arcana cards convey a direct meaning, such as Strength, Justice and Judgment, whilst others personify individuals who portray a particular approach to life, such as The Hermit, The Magician and The Fool.  Astronomical names and attributes are also given to some cards of the Major Arcana, such as The Star, The Moon and The Sun. These cards represent the forces and/or attributes associated with these heavenly bodies.

The Major Arcana shows different stages of an individual’s journey of inner-growth. Each card stands for a quality (or qualities) or experiences that must be incorporated into our soul’s journey during our lifetimes before we can fully realize our ‘wholeness’ and ‘oneness’. Our specific paths are unique, but or milestones are Universal. The 22 Major Arcana cards are markers along the path of inner-development, leading from our earliest awareness through to experience, integration and ultimately, fulfilment. The Major Arcana contains many levels and models of experience and hold all the patterns of growth throughout our lives.

There is an intimate relationship between the 22 Major Arcana cards and the Cabalistic Tree of Life. Cabalistic lore is intricate and complex. It is not necessary to have a sound knowledge of its workings to successfully read the Tarot.

The Major Arcana deals only with the spiritual aspects and the eternal soul or spirit of man, whilst the Minor Arcana cards chart the ‘ups and downs’ of daily life, and they register changes in feelings and thoughts. Using both the Major and Minor Arcana gives an in-depth perspective and an overall view of what is happening in your life.

There are three sets of seven cards that express the stages of the process of life:

the basic challenges of life and the formation of an ego, the inner journey to an independent self, and the confrontation with Universal forces and the creative experience of the world.

All of the Major Arcana cards are associated with astrological and numerological meanings and letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Joanne Walmsley           Sacred Scribes

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