A Guide to Tarot Card Meanings of the Major Arcana

A Guide to Tarot Card Meanings of the Major Arcana , Deck of Tarot cards on a table with main card of three of swords, love and relationship top view broken heart
Photo: Adobe Stock - Design: Alex Sandoval

Here's your guide to the 22 cards in every tarot deck that deal with major life lessons and milestones.

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Tarot Card Meanings

A Guide to Tarot Card Meanings of the Major Arcana , Deck of Tarot cards on a table with main card of three of swords, love and relationship top view broken heart
Adobe Stock - Design: Alex Sandoval

I'll admit, whenever tarot readings show up on my TikTok feed, I'm convinced they're being shown to me by some sort of divine intervention and I take notes as to what they're saying to me. To some that might sound ridiculous, but I also believe in all things spiritual, spooky, witchy, magical, and mystifying. If nothing else, it's definitely fun, and practicing tarot can be a great way to get to know yourself and unwind at the end of a stressful day.

Tarot has been used for divination since the 18th century. A deck includes 78 different cards, each with multiple possible interpretations. If you're new to the practice, a great place to start is to learn about the major arcana. "The major arcana are 22 cards that trump the minor arcana as these cards tend to be the pinnacle of any reading," explains Liz Simmons, an astrologer and tarot reader who goes by @the_crone on Instagram. "These cards are easy to spot as they have arguably the most intricate art and meaning, making them highly valued in a tarot reading. Since they pull the most weight in the 78-card deck, the major arcana represents major lessons, milestones, and details."

For Simmons, tarot is an extension of the psyche. "I believe that tarot, as well as other forms of divination, are part magic, part metaphysical," she says. "Tarot often represents what we consciously or subconsciously know to be true. I consider tarot as a valuable tool for understanding the hidden aspects of ourselves, our situations, and our relationships."

Whether you want to start using tarot to gain insight into your own subconscious or just want some background for the next time a reading pops up on your own TikTok feed, here are the tarot card meanings of the major arcana.

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The Fool Tarot Card Meaning

The Fool Tarot Card

Ever heard the saying "only fools rush in?" With this card, it doesn't have such a negative connotation. "The Fool represents a blank slate, the opportunity to take a leap of faith and see where life takes you," says Simmons.

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The Magician Tarot Card Meaning

magician tarot card

"When the Magician pops up, it tells me that all the tools and opportunities are present, but require a little strategizing to make the most of [them]," says Simmons. This card indicates that you are magic — you just need to tap into your resources.

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The High Priestess Tarot Card Meaning

High Priestess Tarot Card

Everyone has intuition, but some are more adept at paying attention to it. "The High Priestess infers that it is time to listen to your intuition, especially if you are already subconsciously picking up on something," says Simmons.

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The Empress Tarot Card Meaning

The Empress Tarot Card

"Abundance and manifestation are yours to have when the Empress pops up in the spread," says Simmons. "It can refer to the Divine Feminine energy as well, especially in a love reading." The Divine Feminine energy exists in every person, and is characterized by nurturing, devotional, compassionate, loving, intuitive, or reflective qualities, according to Deepak Chopra.

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The Emperor Tarot Card Meaning

The Emperor Tarot Card

"It's time to tap into your inner authoritative leader and Divine Masculine energy when the Emperor makes an appearance in your spread," says Simmons. Maybe you need to take charge at work or in your relationship. Either way, drawing this card will let you know that energy is yours for the taking.

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The Hierophant Tarot Card Meaning

Hierophant Tarot Card

"No matter the context of the spread or reading, the Hierophant often indicates that you feel aligned to something or someone, be it an institution, a belief system, a partnership, or even an agreement," says Simmons. You may take this card as a sign that you should reflect on the rules you subscribe to or the beliefs you hold tightest.

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The Lovers Tarot Card Meaning

The Lovers Tarot Card

"The Lovers does not only indicate a divine coupling or romance, but it can also refer to choices," says Simmons. "The Lovers can exude more than love — it can be a card that calls for you to make a decision that is in alignment with your path."

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The Chariot Tarot Card Meaning

The Chariot Tarot Card

Are you ready to take a leap? Drawing this card may indicate that you're ready to move forward in some way. "The Chariot indicates the determination and willpower to act, make an effort, or move forward," says Simmons.

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Strength Tarot Card Meaning

Strength Tarot Card

"Strength is fairly self-explanatory, as it refers to showing up in your life (and spread) with confidence, courage, and influence," says Simmons. "It's like a tarot indicator of having a backbone."

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The Hermit Tarot Card Meaning

The Hermit

"Like the lantern showing the way, the Hermit is the card that implies it's time for introverted, soul-searching reflection," explains Simmons. "It often comes up when it's time to pull back from relying on what others think to focus on what you think."

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Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card Meaning

Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card

"The first thing I consider with the Wheel of Fortune is divine timing as it indicates that we are all operating on a universal clock, which means that sometimes things will unfold the way they need to in their own time," says Simmons. "Aside from timing, the Wheel of Fortune implies that luck is on your side as life continues to change."

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Justice Tarot Card Meaning

Justice Tarot Card

"Justice strikes me as the 'come correct or don't come at all' card, as well as the indication that truth may be revealed as a result of divine justice," says Simmons. "It can also indicate legal affairs and the law."

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The Hanged Man Tarot Card Meaning

The Hanged Man

This card may sound scary, but it's actually really helpful to draw upon during a reading. "When the Hanged Man shows up, it's the call to take a step back to consider a new, if different, perspective while surrendering to your situation at hand," says Simmons.

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Death Tarot Card Meaning

Death tarot card

Death is another tarot card that's not necessarily as bad as it sounds. "Like its name, Death refers to a massive change, ending, or transition period in life and the spread," says Simmons. "Keep in mind that the sun tends to be rising (or setting) in the background of the card, indicating the rise and fall of chapters in one's life."

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Temperance Tarot Card Meaning

Temperance tarot card

"Generally speaking, Temperance is often the tarot reminder to keep everything in check by remaining balanced and moderate," says Simmons. "In love readings, Temperance can refer to a spiritually and sexually reciprocal bond."

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The Devil Tarot Card Meaning

The Devil Tarot Card

"'Ball and chain' is the first thing that comes to mind, as the Devil often represents an unhealthy restriction, karmic bond, toxic habits, and other addictions," says Simmons. "In love readings, the Devil can represent obsessiveness and wild sexuality." When seeing The Devil, you may want to reflect on behaviors that aren't serving you or that may be toxic.

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The Tower Tarot Card Meaning

The Tower

"When the Tower pops up, usually it revolves around a wild, 'my life is crashing down before my eyes' moment," says Simmons. "The Tower creates chaos to reveal what needs to be let go of and worked on."

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The Star Tarot Card Meaning

Star Tarot Card

This card may indicate that the stars are aligning for you. "The phrase, 'faith, trust, and pixie dust' always comes to mind with the Star as it represents a wish fulfilled, renewed hope, and even a positive milestone in a spiritual journey," says Simmons.

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The Moon Tarot Card Meaning

The Moon

"The Moon often implies that there is something unknown going on behind closed doors, likely concealed by deception, illusion, and confusion," explains Simmons.

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The Sun Tarot Card Meaning

The Sun Tarot Card

"The Sun implies warmth and joy, usually an indication to honor the inner child, find something to smile about, and look forward to success," says Simmons.

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Judgment Tarot Card Meaning

Judgment Tarot Card

"Rebirth and absolution are indicated by Judgment as this major arcana indicates making the right call," says Simmons. Consider it a sign that you should take a major decision in your life seriously.

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The World Tarot Card Meaning

The World

"When the World comes out, it represents the completion of a cycle or chapter in one's life," explains Simmons. "The completion can look like a door closing, a peak, an accomplishment, or even leaving one thing for the next."

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