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The Major Arcana

22 Cards in the Keys of Life


The Major Arcana

Tarot reading is a popular form of divination.

Image © Thos Robinson/Getty Images

There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana, and each represents some aspect of the human experience. These cards are special, and always take precedence in a Tarot spread. The cards of the Major Arcana are focused on three themes: the realm of the material world, the realm of the intuitive mind, and the combination of the material and the intuitive, which is considered the realm of change.

In A Complete Guide to the Tarot, Eden Gray points out that the Tarot represents the spokes of a huge wheel upon which we each travel throughout our lives. The different events and emotions and experiences we have are reflected in the cards as laid down by a reader. Ultimately the Fool is at the center of it all, an innocent about to embark on a journey which will include many trials and tribulations.

Depending on which deck you're using, you may find that your cards are not in the order presented. Don't worry about that -- go by the meaning of the card, not by the numeric order. The illustrations on these pages depict cards from the Rider Waite deck, which is one of the most popular Tarot decks available today, and one typically used by new readers as a way to "get to know" Tarot.

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