How to Remember the Meanings of the Major Arcana in Tarot
The toughest thing about getting into tarot reading has to be learning the meanings of the cards themselves.
Not only are there 78 cards in the deck, each with their own unique meanings and nuances, but the cards can also appear reversed (upside-down) in a reading—essentially doubling that number. Even if you pull cards daily, you might still struggle to recall their significance and have to look at a guide to help you–and we don't think there's anything wrong with that.
Of course, actually learning what every card means doesn't just speed up your readings—it also makes them more fun, and more meaningful. If you're just getting started, we recommend beginning with the major arcana—the 22 cards in the deck that don't belong to a suit. Below, you'll find some helpful tips to help you easily memorize what each card means, both upright and reversed.
0: The Fool
The tarot begins with The Fool. Think of him not as a dolt, but as someone who's naive and inexperienced, yet ready to face the challenges of the world with everything they've got. This card represents new beginnings and a change that's about to take place, and can mean some big adventures are ahead.
The Fool Reversed
Reversed, The Fool is more likely to symbolize foolishness. Maybe you're not thinking before you act or are being too idealistic, and you need to take another look at the situation before you start making decisions.
I: The Magician
The Magician is a creator in tarot, using his magic to make things from scratch. This card is a sign that you have what you need to make all of your goals a reality—you just have to act on them to make that happen. It's telling you to move forward with your ambitions, and use the momentum you have before it's gone.
The Magician Reversed
While The Magician speaks of creation, the reversed Magician implies a self-made roadblock. You might be sabotaging yourself because you're afraid of failure—or maybe even success. It's a sign to stop standing around, and do something with the natural talent you're squandering.
II: The High Priestess
The High Priestess is a spiritually enlightened figure, and when she appears in a reading, she symbolizes looking inward and understanding your true self. She calls us to be honest with our feelings and to use our hearts as well as our heads to make the right choices for ourselves.
The High Priestess Reversed
Reversed, the High Priestess is telling you that you're ignoring the enlightenment that's already within you. Maybe, you're acting based on logic and ignoring your heart. You might have to deal with something you've been shoving aside. It'll be tough, but worth it.
Also read about: Writual Planner's Tarot Journal Is an Accessible Guide to Self-Care and Personal Reflection
III: The Empress
The Empress is the motherly figure of the tarot, representing a nurturing matriarch who's in touch with nature and beauty. She's also a reminder to practice gratitude for all that you have in life, and to be gentle with others, as well as with yourself.
The Empress Reversed
When The Empress appears in a reversed position, it's a reminder to believe in your own power and ability. If you've been acting like the child in all of your relationships, it's time to step up and realize the power of being independent.
IV: The Emperor
While The Empress is the mother of the tarot, The Emperor is a symbol of fatherly rule and discipline. This one represents the importance of structure and logic, and when it appears in a reading, it may be time to listen to reason over emotion.
The Emperor Reversed
In a reversed position, The Emperor may be telling you that you need to organize your life to get it under control. Perhaps your life has been chaotic, or you haven't been focusing as well as you should, and this card is calling upon you to enact some structure in order to find success.
V: The Hierophant
A Hierophant is a religious figure who interprets sacred texts, and in tarot, the card represents hierarchies, communities and the importance of belonging. If you're struggling, this can be a sign to turn to friends and loved ones for guidance.
The Hierophant Reversed
Reversed, The Hierophant may be telling you that, while you want to rebel and do things on your own terms, there's safety in numbers within the community. Through effective communication, you may find that your troubles can be resolved amicably.
VI: The Lovers
It should come as no surprise that The Lovers can indicate a new relationship—but it doesn't always have to be something romantic. It can suggest a new partnership or friendship of any kind—and can also mean you're leaving behind some other relationship to make room for this new one.
The Lovers Reversed
Reversed, The Lovers hint at trouble in paradise. You're not in sync with someone who was once important to you, and in order to restore balance, it might take work from both parties. Or, maybe you'll find out that it was never meant to be in the first place.
VII: The Chariot
Tarot's Chariot is a symbol of battle, and in the tarot, it means you're on a forward path to success—but that you're not there quite yet. Like a chariot making the final turn in a race, victory is just around the corner—you just have to keep going for it to obtain it.
The Chariot Reversed
While The Chariot can tell you that you have the reigns and that success is within your reach, the reversed Chariot can symbolize that you feel like you have no control at all in your situation. When it shows up, take another look at your life to rediscover the things that are in your power to make lasting changes.
The Strength card represents power—but it doesn't have to be brutish power. It has more to do with willpower and strength of character—the type that shows you that you can survive whatever perils life throws at you, without sacrificing what you stand for.
Reversed, the Strength card represents weakness, but again, it's not saying you're physically weak. Instead, there's a good chance that you're limiting your own strength with negative self-talk and doubt. Remember what you're capable of, and you'll be reaching your potential in no time.
Also read about: The Best Easy 3-Card Tarot Spreads for Beginners
IX: The Hermit
The Hermit card shows up when you deserve to be a bit of a hermit yourself. It means that you've been giving too much of yourself lately, and it might be time to retreat, recharge and come back to the situation feeling brand new after indulging in a little self-care.
The Hermit Reversed
On the other hand, The Hermit reversed appears when you've been isolating yourself too much. It's a sign to reach out to those close to you to bring you out of your shell, and get back out into the world.
X: The Wheel of Fortune
The Wheel of Fortune in tarot is a reminder of the cyclical nature of all things in life. Just as the wheel turns, so does fate—so if things have been boring lately, prepare for something to show up and mix life up, and if things haven't been so great, something wonderful might be just around the corner.
The Wheel of Fortune Reversed
While the reversed Wheel of Fortune can indicate a bout of bad luck around the corner, don't fret, because it also symbolizes that things will return, as the circle always does. It can also be a sign to put yourself in motion and attract some positivity yourself.
The Justice card in the tarot represents truth, balance and fairness. It calls upon you to put aside your emotions for a moment to make a decision based on what's truly best and fair for all parties involved, and asks you to consider all perspectives before making a move.
When the Justice card shows up in a reversed position, it can mean you're struggling to balance your life. Often, it can be your emotions pulling you in illogical directions—or reason forcing you to make hurtful decisions. Take another look and see if you can find the middle ground.
XII: The Hanged Man
On The Hanged Man card, the man dangles upside-down, suddenly seeing the world from a very different perspective. This card asks you to do the same, considering new perspectives and thinking outside the box. It may even appear when your thinking has shifted in a significant way, and you've started seeing things in a new way.
The Hanged Man Reversed
Reversed, The Hanged Man can reveal that your perspective has gone topsy-turvy. It can mean that you're seeing yourself incorrectly—either with a huge, undeserved ego or underestimating yourself. It may also symbolize that, despite all evidence, you're refusing to see the truth in front of you.
The Death card may sound scary, but in tarot, it's really nothing to worry about. Typically, it's a symbol of change and transformation—often to something that's much better than it is right now. Sometimes, things have to end before this change can take place. That can be scary, but it'll be worth it in the end.
In a reversed position, the Death card shows that, while a big, positive change is on the horizon for you, you refuse to take that next step toward it. This is understandable, as transformation can be scary, but the sooner you get out of your own way, the happier you'll be.
Temperance means balance and moderation, and that's precisely what this card symbolizes. It's telling you to stay the course, keep your head on your shoulders and weigh any decisions carefully before leaping into something new.
When Temperance is reversed, it warns you not to overindulge. It's okay to goof off a little every now and then, but when this card appears, it's showing you that you need to balance work and play, and not forgo your responsibilities in exchange for temporary fun.
XV: The Devil
The Devil is another card that seems scary, but when it appears, it's just a reminder to look at your behavior and see where you've been getting carried away. Are there any bad habits you've been indulging in a little too much lately? Reel it back to restore that much-needed balance in your life.
The Devil Reversed
While The Devil warns of excess, the same card reversed suggests that you've overcome that period of bad behavior. It's a pat on the back for doing what's right for you—and a reminder not to fall back into old patterns.
XVI: The Tower
The Tower might be the most frightening card of them all, representing not just a tower, but one that's falling apart after a disaster. It represents sudden destruction out of nowhere and can appear when tough or traumatic events occur. But, like all things, this hardship will pass, so don't fear the card too much.
The Tower Reversed
Reversed, The Tower can represent something that has fallen apart, and yet you're refusing to let it go. Maybe that's a relationship with someone, an opportunity that didn't work out or even a belief you once held. It's time to accept it, grieve and move on. The longer you hold on, the harder it will be.
XVII: The Star
In tarot, The Star is like a shooting star bringing renewed hope. After the crashing of The Tower, The Star is all about picking up the pieces, remembering the things that give you joy and imagining a future that can offer you everything. When you're at your lowest, the only way to go is up.
The Star Reversed
When The Star appears in a reversed position, it can mean that no matter how much you've invested in something, it doesn't seem to be paying off. It may be time to step back, evaluate what really matters to you, and see if there isn't a better approach to the things that are truly important.
XVIII: The Moon
The Moon is a celestial body associated with intuition and shadows, and in tarot, it can represent fear, and feeling like things are out of your control. It's true that the phases of the moon aren't within your grasp, but that doesn't mean you have to worry about them. Instead, you should focus on what you can control, and find your own power in those things.
The Moon Reversed
Reversed, The Moon card reveals that you've worked on your feelings of insecurity, fear and powerlessness and have been able to move forward. There's freedom in this kind of growth—and once you've learned it, you can apply it to other aspects of life as well.
XIX: The Sun
In tarot, The Sun is a symbol of joy, vibrance and warmth, reminding us to make the most of the good times. It can show you that a tough period has come to an end and that it's time to feel good about everything you've manifested.
The Sun Reversed
Reversed, The Sun can mean that even though you've gotten what you've wanted and everything is as it should be, you're still not happy. Try to search deeper to find that joy within yourself, and allow your inner child to enjoy the things that used to bring you joy.
In many tarot decks, the Judgment card features a horn, and it comes with a message of discovering a higher level of consciousness. If you're religious or spiritual, it can be a sign to pay attention to the messages you receive from the universe. If not, you may want to simply pay attention to your intuition and what feels right for guidance.
When Judgment is reversed, it can mean you're not allowing yourself to attune to a higher level. Maybe you're stuck in your old ways, or it feels too hard to listen to the messages living in your heart and your head. It's not always as simple as it sounds, but try going easy on yourself to find that balance you need.
Also read about: Don't Have a Tarot Deck? Here's How You Can Use Regular Playing Cards to Tell Your Fortune
XXI: The World
As the last major arcana card in the tarot deck, The World represents everything—and all of the pieces are falling exactly as they should. Your hard work is finally paying off, and everything you've learned up until now can be shared with others to help them learn and grow as well.
The World Reversed
In the reversed position, The World can show you that even though things are working out and you're making your dreams happen, it hasn't brought you the fulfillment you thought it would. This card asks you to have patience. The rewards will come—even if it takes a moment.
Now that you've learned the meaning of all of these cards, click HERE to discover how to memorize the meanings of the minor arcana.