Tarot Cards Meaning: The Major & Minor Arcana Explained – Bustle
June 13, 2022
Whether you’re a seasoned witch or a total mystic newbie, tarot is a powerful tool to strengthen your intuition. Reading tarot is used to gain insight into your most pressing life questions, like when you’re at a crossroads in your career or grappling with friendship troubles. Each card is charged with its own unique energy, which can deliver certain messages or offer a new perspective on your situation. While you don’t need to be an expert to use tarot, knowing all 78 tarot cards’ meanings is important to get the full scope of your reading.
“Tarot cards are interpreted by most readers with a mix of knowledge and intuition coupled with the card’s imagery,” Erin River Sunday, a tarot practitioner and astrologer for Birthdate Co., tells Bustle. Using tarot for divination originated in Romani cultural practices during the Renaissance, but many of the tarot meanings used today come from the illustrations in the Rider-Waite deck, also known as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, published in 1909.
Knowing the basic drift of each card isn’t the only way to decipher its possible meanings — your intuition plays a huge role, too. Pay attention to your emotions and thoughts as you shuffle your cards, and think about the associations you havewith the imagery of each card you pull. The spread, or the manner in which they’re pulled, can be as elaborate as a 10-card Celtic spread or as simple as a three-card or even a single pull. In order to master tarot, Sunday suggests pulling a single card each day and asking questions like, “Where should I pour my focus into today?” or “What is today’s energy like?” Once you get the gist of what symbolism is behind each card, understanding what it’s trying to tell you will become a breeze.
Major Arcana & Minor Arcana Tarot Cards Meaning
Tarot decks are comprised oftwo sections: the major and minor arcana. The 22 major arcana cards represent the character of the fool’s journey through the tarot. They symbolize big picture tropes and life lessons, like being at a turning point in your path or trusting in your own abilities. If you pull the major arcana card the Lovers, for example, you might think about themes of union and balance — but it can also represent having a choice. Whenever a major arcana card makes an appearance in your reading, you’re dealing with a critical message.
The minor arcana set, made up of 56 cards, represents smaller, more quotidian themes in life. There are four suits of 14 cards each, which are structured similarly to an ordinary deck of playing cards. Aces are the first card in each suit, followed by cards two through ten, then four face or court cards: Page, Knight, Queen, and King. Each of the four suits of the minor arcana — Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles — is related to the one of the fourelements in astrology, which can help you understand its vibe. Wands correspond with fire, so you can think of these cards as being focused on action; Cups carry water energy, so they center around emotions and intuition; Swords are associated with air, which asks you to focus on logic and thought; and Pentacles are connected to the earth element, meaning they focus on the material world.
While each tarot card has certain established associations, its analysis can vary depending on the themes coming up for whoever’s reading them. “When you’re pulling cards, you’ll have ideas about what the cards mean, interpretations you love, associations you’ll be eager to amplify,” writes tarot reader Jessica Dore in her book Tarot for Change. “But first, just notice. What are you feeling in your body? What memories are lighting up?” You can use the below tarot card meanings, as explained by professional tarot readers and experts, as a jumping off point to understand what the tarot cards you pull are trying to tell you.
Read on to learn all 78 tarot cards’ meanings.
The Major Arcana
The Fool, the first card in the tarot, is a symbol of naivety and childlike wonder. “This card is eager and ready to take a risk and start a new journey, always with a youthful spirit,” astrologer and tarot practitioner Imani Quinn tells Bustle. It’s also a reminder to proceed with caution.
The Magician reminds you of your ability to design your dream life. “You have all of the tools you need to manifest your desires, be ready to use whichever one is called for at any moment,” says Quinn.
The High Priestess
The High Priestess invites you to follow your gut and accept what your inner knowing is already telling you. “Trust your intuition and see it as your superpower, allow yourself and others to move from an empowered intuitive place,” Quinn explains.
If the Empress has made an appearance, you’re being asked to step into your creative and sexual power. “It’s a perfect card for self-love, but it also might show the need to nurture something very important to you, whether it’s a child, a relationship or a creative project,” Ryan Marquardt, an astrologer and tarot practitioner, tells Bustle.
When the Emperor shows up, it’s highlighting an authoritative power or a tendency to be in control. “There’s often a need to parent yourself when this card shows up. It’s a powerful sign that asks you to lean into your sense of security, stability, and structure,” explains Marquardt.
The Hierophant’s stern and austere energy is about carrying legacy and traditions. “You might be asked to stick to the plan and not skip over any steps,” explains Marquardt. “It also has a lot to do with your belief systems, religious influences, and philosophies on life.”
Sure, the Lovers can indicate a union or a new boo on the horizon, “but it’s really about establishing harmony when faced with a big choice in life,” says Marquardt. Ultimately, this card acknowledges that there’s an important decision that needs to be made.
At a fork in the road? The Chariot card symbolizes the different options you have, but it’s up to you to push through in order to find a solution. “This card shows up when we are ready to move with action and step forward in bravery and confidence,” says Quinn.
While the Strength card symbolizes grit and power, it’s also about generosity. “The Strength card is a very positive one that asks you to stay compassionate with yourself and others, and give where you can, because when you give of yourself you’ll ultimately receive more in return,” Marquardt explains.
The Hermit card can indicate a need for quiet reflection. “You’re asked to seek the truth when The Hermit shows up, indicating that you might not have all the answers you need right now, but they will come when you prioritize your introspection,” explains Marquardt.
The Wheel Of Fortune
One of the more auspicious cards in the deck, the Wheel of Fortune is an omen of good luck, but it also represents fate and karma. “You’re asked to lean into the idea of divine timing with the Wheel of Fortune, so stay on the lookout for signs and synchronicities from the universe,” explains Marquardt.
Diplomacy, fairness, and balance are the main tenets of the Justice card. It can come up to remind you to make a level-headed decision, but it can also be an indication that “you might need to negotiate with someone else to read equilibrium and practice compromising,” explains Marquardt.
The Hanged Man
The Hanged Man is a symbol of patience and release, reminding you to stay the course even in the face of adversity. “It is time to let go and surrender, there is something bigger than you happening now,” says Quinn.
Contrary to what you may assume, the Death card is hardly ever a prophecy ofend of life — instead, it’s a message about metamorphic transformations and completion. “It’s about the transfer of energy and realizing that while you might be facing an ending of some sort, you can transmute that energy into something more powerful than you originally thought,” explains Marquardt.
The Temperance card is about diligence and persevering through obstacles. It’s asking you to take things slow and steady. “When Temperance appears in a reading, you’re probably learning to patiently work on something, whether it’s your health, a job, a relationship, or something else,” says Marquardt.
If the Devil card has shown up, it’s not necessarily something to fear. “It’s really about the feeling of being trapped or pulled down by a lower energy,” says Marquardt. This card is pointing out vices and bad habits that may be hindering your growth.
The Tower card is a powerful message about dismantling structures and rebuilding a new foundation. “It can indicate sudden change and jolting behaviors, but it also relates to epiphanies and striking revelations,” explains Marquardt.
The Star is an emblem of optimism, hope, and self-healing. “It can have to do with self-care in a way, but it’s more about divine healing coming in, which is going to give you more hope and purpose in life,” says Marquardt.
Things aren’t always as they seem. When the Moon makes an appearance in a tarot reading, it’s a sign to engage in shadow work. “Not all has been revealed. Pay attention to your intuition for the signs,” says Quinn.
If you were looking for a confirmation, the Sun comes bearing good news — literally. “The Sun can indicate success coming your way,” explains Marquardt. “It’s also a beautiful card for tapping into your inner child and experiencing life in a more youthful way.”
There’s no escaping karma when the Judgement card shows up. It’s a sign to assess your past decisions that have impacted others for better or worse. “It’s also a card of forgiveness for wrongdoings, whether you’ve wronged someone else or you’ve been wronged by life in a certain way,” says Marquardt. Either way, it’s a good idea to let go and allow the lessons and chain reaction do its thing.
Think of the World card like a SparkNotes of all the lessons, wins, losses, and gains that have culminated so far, turning the page to a new, exciting chapter. “All events in your recent past have led you to this point, and you’re exactly where you need to be,” explains Marquardt. “Rest easy for now, because something has been completed — which also means something new is about to get underway.”
The Minor Arcana
Ace of Cups
The Ace of Cups represents a fresh start and a reminder to follow where your intuition is guiding you. “You are overflowing with opportunities for love and a new way of looking at love in your life,” Quinn says.
Two of Cups
The Two of Cups symbolizes a special union. It’s a call to reflect on the balance and dynamic of that relationship. “There’s potential for new relationships to form, and bonds to be made,” explains Quinn.
Three of Cups
The Three of Cups is about your sense of belonging. “This card is asking you to enjoy the community and friendships around you; they are a great place of joy and fulfillment,” says Quinn.
Four of Cups
When the Four of Cups shows up, you may be experiencing stubbornness or distractions from the bigger picture. You’re being asked to center your focus on what matters. “It can also be a missed opportunity,” explains Marquardt, “so there might be a need to take off your blinders and look around for a different approach.”
Five of Cups
The Five of Cups is prompting you to find a silver lining after things have gone in a different direction you’d hope for. “Whatever has resulted is meant to be, and you should reflect on why the outcome wasn’t what you initially wanted,” says Marquardt.
Six of Cups
The Six of Cups is a nostalgic card. It asks you to reflect on the way things used to be. “It shows up when someone from your past might be cycling back around, or it might ask you to reach out to someone who’s been on your mind,” Marquardt says.
Seven of Cups
When you’re at a crossroads, the Seven of Cups reminds you that a decision must be thought out carefully as there might be a misleading force in your orbit. “Pay attention to the choices available to you, sit with them,” says Quinn. “What choices are real and which ones are illusions?”
Eight of Cups
The Eight of Cups is a message to step away from a situation that has caused disappointment and return with fresh eyes. “It’s hard to let go of something that meant a lot to you, but you’re asked to create distance and develop yourself right now in that process,” explains Marquardt.
Nine of Cups
What are your biggest hopes and wishes right now? The Nine of Cups is acknowledging your manifestations, “and now you’re in a receptive place that’s allowing your wishes to come true,” explains Marquardt. It’s also a reminder that even fulfillment and joy are fleeting — so enjoy the moment.
Ten of Cups
Things are coming full circle with the Ten of Cups. You’re being called to open up and accept the good coming your way, especially if you’ve been closed off. “You’re ready for pleasure and joy, but you need to allow it to come in,” says Marquardt.
Page of Cups
The Page of Cups indicates someone is trying to communicate with you subconsciously. “Stay on the lookout for synchronistic events that bring people to you in funny ways, and trust that what they have to offer is guiding you where you need to go,” explains Marquardt. It can also symbolize naivety, and serve as a call to grow and mature your emotional wellbeing.
Knight of Cups
Strong relationship bonds are symbolized by the Knight of Cups. The card asks you to consider your perspective surrounding love in order to thrive in it. “An opportunity that sweeps you off your feet is on its way to you, or maybe you are the one doing the offering, either way, it brings a feeling of cloud nine,” says Quinn.
Queen of Cups
The Queen of Cups is a symbol of compassion and divine guidance. Ultimately, this card is asking you to think intuitively rather than logically. “If you’ve been through a rough time emotionally, this can mean that someone is coming in to relieve your feelings and help you out,” says Marquardt. On the other hand, you could be the help someone in your life needs.
King of Cups
The King of Cups is an altruistic card that’s all about emotional intelligence on a broader scale. Reflect on what you’re invested in outside of your personal life. “Share your heart with other people, because they will learn a lot through hearing about your emotional journeys,” Marquardt explains.
Ace of Wands
It’s a new chapter, and the Ace of Wands is encouraging you to follow your artistic spark. “Use your creative energy as much as possible right now because it’s going to be your biggest catalyst for evolution,” says Marquardt.
Two of Wands
The Two of Wands is all about reinvention and moving forward into a new chapter of your life. “You’ve shed a layer of your identity, and you’re coming into a new version of yourself now,” Marquardt explains.
Three of Wands
After all the hard work you’ve put in, you now have a lot to look forward to. The Three of Wands acknowledges the anticipation — but are you ready to take the plunge? “The true spark of expansion, how far can you take this new journey? You have already planned, don’t be afraid to travel as far as you need to go,” Quinn says.
Four of Wands
Celebrations are in order when the Four of Wands shows up. It indicates a homecoming, and is about creating long-lasting foundations. “You might also be in a new phase of your life, and this card is asking you to make a home wherever you’re at,” says Marquardt.
Five of Wands
A little competition has risen, and the Five of Wands is advising you to decide whether it’s friendly or if there’s serious rivalry afoot. “Where is this conflict arising — is it from jealousy and envy? Pay attention to what conflicts need your attention and which are a distraction,” Quinn explains.
Six of Wands
The Six of Wands reminds you to celebrate your wins, big or small. “This is a card of victory, success, and achievement,” says Marquardt. “It shows up when you’re being acknowledged or awarded for something you’ve done.”
Seven of Wands
Hard work and determination are the central focus of the Seven of Wands. That can take on the form of adversity, but you’re being urged to keep your eyes on your goals. “The work is not quite done. Keep going and don’t give up,” says Quinn. “Your resilience is your superpower.”
Eight of Wands
The Eight of Wands is your sign to take a much-needed vacation, but it’s not always literal. “You might be taking on a new journey of knowledge somehow,” says Marquardt. “It’s also a sign that you’re going to receive a quick message, or that you need to take swift action to get your point across before it’s too late.”
Nine of Wands
Things are getting overwhelming and your resilience is wearing thin, but the Nine of Wands is trying to motivate you to keep going. “You might be running into a roadblock, but if you persevere you can finish strong,” Marquardt explains. “You’re in the home stretch and you have the stamina it takes to see something through.”
Ten of Wands
You have a ton of responsibilities right now, and the Ten of Wands is warning you about being on the verge of burnout. “When is working harder not smarter? Work hard in the ways that allow you to expand in abundance, and not in ways that tire you to exhaustion,” explains Quinn.
Page of Wands
The Page of Wands is inspiring you to set off on those travel plans you keep pushing back — but cautioning you not to make impulsive decisions. “You are ready to set out on a new journey, or a messenger has come to tell you of an opportunity to do so,” says Quinn. “Be mindful of your work ethic and rest in your eagerness to move forward.”
Knight of Wands
The Knight of Wands recognizes the leap of faith you’ve taken on your goals. It’s a sign that your gutsy behavior will be rewarded with abundance. “You are ready to take action and risk, you will be acknowledged for your efforts,” says Quinn. “Make sure that when this action is taken you can back it up without falling into restlessness.”
Queen of Wands
Think of the Queen of Wands as the divine teacher helping you along your creative journey. “She shows up when you’re stepping into your authenticity and you’re doing it in a lively, dynamic way,” says Marquardt. “You’re not ashamed of who you are and you’re living life with inspired action.”
King of Wands
The King of Wands is a card of leadership and authority. It’s giving you the green light to lead the way and pursue that which defines your legacy. “Try to not act selfishly right now,” Marquardt says. “Instead, look at the innate gifts and talents you possess and find a way to put them to use so that others can benefit from them as well.”
Ace of Pentacles
New material blessings are on their way to you — and the Ace of Pentacles is here to remind you to seize any opportunity that will help you access them. “There’s an energy of abundance here and you’re asked to say ‘yes’ to any new offers that are coming in,” Marquardt says.
Two of Pentacles
The Two of Pentacles is letting you know you have a lot going on. It invites you to make changes to focus on one task at a time to avoid spreading yourself too thin. “Learn how to prioritize by establishing better routines and creating to-do lists,” Marquardt explains. “Avoid multitasking so you can be more sustainable in your approach.”
Three of Pentacles
The Three of Pentacles reminds you that it’s OK to ask for help and to use the resources around you. “This card asks you to focus on teamwork and collaboration. You don’t have to do everything by yourself right now,” says Marquardt.
Four of Pentacles
Things have been imbalanced in the material world, and the Four of Pentacles is telling you to be conscious of your finances. “In a more general sense, it’s about taking a conservative approach in whatever situation you’re dealing with,” Marquardt explains. “Focusing on your own stability is vital right now, but you shouldn’t let it get the best of you either.”
Five of Pentacles
The Five of Pentacles senses a loss and highlights feelings of disappointment or distress. “But there is always hope, and you should lean on faith in your darker times,” Marquardt explains. “There’s usually at least one resource available to you that you’re not considering right now, so you have to keep trying.”
Six of Pentacles
The Six of Pentacles is about generosity and supporting others, specifically when it comes to your own resources or money — but be sure to do so consciously. “If one person gives and the other person takes, the giver will eventually get drained,” says Marquardt.
Seven of Pentacles
Feelings of eagerness and anticipation are rampant right now, but the Seven of Pentacles reminds you to be patient. “Your hard work is paying off, but you need to trust in your investments a little bit more,” Marquardt says. “Let your goals age a little bit longer, then you’ll be relishing in the fruits of your labor soon.”
Eight of Pentacles
The Eight of Pentacles is urging you to minimize distractions around you and get to work. “This card is about honing your skills with endurance, repetition, and an impeccable work ethic,” Marquardt explains.
Nine of Pentacles
The Nine of Pentacles is a reminder to appreciate what you have while you have it and to celebrate how far you’ve come. “You have finally received the recognition you deserve for all of your efforts, allow yourself to embrace the praise and acknowledgment,” says Quinn.
Ten of Pentacles
The Ten of Pentacles is asking you: How do you want to be remembered? Take note of your values and reflect on what kind of legacy you want to leave behind. “It’s a lucky card that shows you have community support, incoming wealth and clear purpose,” Marquardt says.
Page of Pentacles
Having high hopes and dreams is a great thing, but the Page of Pentacles is signaling a guide who will teach you how to dream realistically. “This card is a messenger of good news, and opportunity being near,” explains Quinn. “Also, a person that is eager to help in a practical way.”
Knight of Pentacles
The Knight of Pentacles highlights your dedication and ambition. It’s a confirmation that your goals will be met but only if you keep the same endurance. “This card is also about being of service to others in a realistic manner and being ready and confident to come in and help,” Quinn says.
Queen of Pentacles
You’re focused on expanding your net worth, and the Queen of Pentacles is cheering you on while also reminding you to stay grounded. “This card shows maturity when it comes to material matters, and that you don’t have to work yourself to death in order to find success,” explains Marquardt.
King of Pentacles
The King of Pentacles symbolizes a major milestone is on the horizon in terms of money or knowledge. “This is a card of leadership, and you can inspire other people by sharing your journey of success,” says Marquardt.
Ace of Swords
The Ace of Swords is a confirmation from the universe and can indicate major news is headed your way. “There’s a lot of mental clarity provided by this card, offering breakthroughs when you feel stuck on a decision,” explains Marquardt.
Two of Swords
The Two of Swords hints at different types of blockages, specifically your need to burn bridges or cut people out of your life. “It shows up when you’re uninterested in having a conversation, and you might have blocked someone out of your life or indicating a standstill when it comes to an important decision,” says Marquardt.
Three of Swords
When the Three of Swords shows up, you’re looking at some kind of rejection or heartbreak, and you’re being asked to assess the disappointment. “You might have made a sacrifice for someone you loved, but they could have betrayed you,” Marquardt explains.
Four of Swords
You’re in need of serious rest, and the Four of Swords is a reminder to take a day off for a proper reset. “You have to recharge your mind somehow or you’ll be burnt out,” explains Marquardt. “It can also indicate messages coming through in your dreams, so pay attention to your dreams if you remember them when you wake up.” Best to keep a dream journal!
Five of Swords
The Five of Swords comes up when you’ve come out on top, but not necessarily in a fair fight — now, you should consider how your methods impact others. “Even though you’ve conquered your opponent somehow, you might have resorted to low-ball tactics,” says Marquardt. “Be careful of your inflated self-interest right now and acknowledge the other people in the situation.”
Six of Swords
The Six of Swords is about being in a huge transitional period, but it comes at the cost of leaving things and people behind. “But ultimately, you have forward movement taking place,” says Marquardt. “Change is difficult, but it’s something to embrace here.”
Seven of Swords
There’s a negative force in your orbit. The Seven of Swords is warning you to check your surroundings for suspicious activity. “You should also be careful of people who you’re already wary of because chances are there’s something going on that you’re not going to be happy about,” explains Marquardt. “Be judicious about what information you share at this time, and with whom.”
Eight of Swords
The Eight of Swords highlights the limitations that are keeping you from accessing your full potential, including the ones you impose on yourself. “You’ll usually realize that even though you feel confined, you have everything you need to break free,” says Marquardt.
Nine of Swords
The Nine of Swords reflects the feelings of anxiety and hesitation that have been keeping you up at night. “You’re worried about something when this card appears,” says Marquardt. “Do what you can to get your mind off the subject or else you’re going to spiral out of control.”
Ten of Swords
Regardless of doing your part, it hasn’t yielded the results you’d hoped for. The Ten of Swords is a reminder that you can’t change the outcome, only your perception. “You are being asked to let go. It is the ultimate act of surrender and release,” says Quinn. “Sometimes problems can not be solved, they need to be removed from our worry.”
Page of Swords
The Page of Swords recognizes the big ideas you have. It’s telling you to follow your curiosity in order to actualize them. “Once you have a new exciting idea, there comes a time to act on it. This is that time,” explains Quinn. “Also, pay attention to messengers of great ideas that come to you as well.”
Knight of Swords
You may be thinking outside of the box. The Knight of Swords senses the need for earnest effort in order for these radical ideas to live on. “Once you are settled on a new idea, you must be resilient in your endeavor to move forward with it, and that is what the Knight is here to do,” says Quinn.
Queen of Swords
The Queen of Swords asks you to think logically rather than to follow your heart. It’s best to use the resources at your disposal to develop a practical explanation or solution. “The Queen of Swords is the ultimate detacher, able to look at any situation objectively to gain a holistic understanding of whatever is going on,” explains Marquardt.
King of Swords
The King of Swords reflects your inner genius. It’s advising you to let your intellect and logic be your guide. “You’re discerning with your thought, logical in your final decisions, and you’re content with taking all the time you need to assess the facts laid out before you,” Marquardt explains.