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Major and Minor Arcana

The major arcana consists of 22 symbol cards, the minor arcana of a total of 56 symbol cards
. Published . Last updated
Major Arcana and Minor Arcana in Tarot Interpretation
Photo: © Verlag Franz

The structure of a Tarot deck

A Tarot deck usually consists of 78 cards. Of these, 22 cards belong to the major arcana and 56 cards to the minor arcana .
The cards of the minor arcana are comparable in structure to a normal rummy hand. They can be divided into four different series, each consisting of 14 cards. These are the ten number cards (numbers 1-10) and the four court cards , consisting of Jack, Knight, Queen and King. The number 1 is also the ace.

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The minor arcana

The number cards

The four series of the minor arcana consist of the number and court cards with the cups , coins , swords and staffs respectively. Each of these four signs stands for an element and addresses different areas of life and levels of meaning.

Overall, the cards of the minor arcana in the Tarot interpretation indicate rather everyday concerns, questions and problems. They do not show dramatic turns, but rather tendencies in our lives. Some tarot readers even omit them completely from their interpretations, but they can also provide us with important clues. We therefore recommend that you always take the minor arcana into account and play with all 78 cards.

In some tarot decks, the number cards not only show the number of individual symbols, but also scenes and people are shown to emphasise the meaning of the card (see Rider-Waite Tarot ). Others, such as the Crowley Tarot , give captions to the minor arcana cards in a similar way to the major arcana cards, to illustrate the particular theme of the card.

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The Cups :

  • stand for the element water
  • symbolise our emotional world , our interpersonal relationships, the instinct, the soul
  • in a normal pack of cards they are represented by the heart symbol
  • In the favourable case they mean love, feeling, relaxation, peace
  • Negative meanings would be exaggerated sensuality or flattery
    Cups in the Tarot of Fate

The coins

  • are associated with the element earth
  • address matters concerning our financial world, material wealth and our practical talents and present tasks
  • stand for body and talents, constancy, traditions, enjoyment, sensuality and stability
  • in the bad case they stand for materialism, immoderateness, pleasure-seeking
  • in a pack of cards they are represented by the cards of diamonds
    Coins in the Tarot of Fate

The swords

  • symbolise the element air
  • represent themes such as rationality, logic, intellect and understanding
  • stand for rationality, knowledge, concentration, search for truth
  • In the negative case they show exaggerated ambition, strictness, know-it-all attitude or the need for control
  • are represented by the spade
    Swords in the Tarot of Fate

The Wands:

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  • show the element of fire
  • refer to the level of creativity and strength
  • stand for joie de vivre, temperament, assertiveness, courage, fighting spirit
  • Shadow side: restlessness, egocentricity
  • in a common pack of cards they are represented by the cross
    Wands in the Tarot of Fate

The Ace in the Tarot:

  • they are assigned the number 1
  • like the Jacks, the Ace symbolises a chance
  • this chance lies in the personal abilities and talents of the person asking the question

The Court Cards

The 16 court cards , consisting of Jack , Knight , Queen and King , have been interpreted very differently in the course of Tarot history. If one or more of these cards appeared in the reading, they were often interpreted in the past as actual persons who will enter our lives or play an important role. Today, the interpretation is usually more abstract and represents how the respective card reader deals with situations and acts according to the respective element. However, actual persons with the characteristics of the card can also be meant, who play or will play a role in our lives. Jacks, like aces, are often interpreted as opportunities. This is offered by an impulse from outside.

The Jack:

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  • in a tarot reading they mean an impulse from outside, for example through a person coming towards us, an opportunity is offered
  • but they can also symbolise a young person who is in a learning phase

The knight:

  • the knights can represent an emotion, depending on the quality of the element
  • or they show a person who, depending on the element, can already control his abilities very well and knows how to use and appreciate them

The Queen:

  • she can either stand for a certain behaviour or, like all other court cards, for a person. This can be either the questioner himself or a person in his environment (mostly women are meant with this card)

The King

  • like the Queen, the King can stand for a certain behaviour or for a person (man) in the manner of the respective element

The Major Arcana

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The 22 cards of the great arcana are the so-called symbol cards . They show us major events and important periods in life. They can draw our attention to upheavals and indicate themes that are of great concern to us. They are images of our soul that speak to our subconscious.

Their numbering begins with the number 0, the Fool (or in the Fate Tarot with the Child) or with 1, the Magician (in the Fate Tarot The Inventor). The Fool or Child can also be placed at the end of the Tarot, symbolising the number 22.
In more recent times, the sequence of the major arcana is also called the hero's journey . Accordingly, it symbolises a spiritual journey that every human being goes through in the course of his or her life.

>>> Cards of the Major Arcana in the Schickals Tarot

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