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Introduction to the Major Arcana

The standard tarot deck consists of 78 cards divided into two sections, the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcanas. The word arcana is the plural of arcanum which means “profound secret.” To the alchemists of the Middle Ages, the arcanum was the secret of nature. The tarot cards are therefore a collection of the “secrets” that underlie and explain our universe.
The Major Arcana is the heart of the Tarot. It represents the whole spectrum of human experience. It represents the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of what it means to be a human. The cards are archetypal reflections that illustrate our hopes, fears, weaknesses and virtues. It covers our most divine aspects and our darkest self.
The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards and usually addresses the big picture events of our lives.
Each of these cards symbolizes some universal aspect of human experience. They represent the archetypes – consistent, directing patterns of influence that are an inherent part of human nature.
A major arcana card is always given extra weight in a reading. When one of these cards appears, you know the issues at stake are not mundane or temporary. They represent your most basic concerns – your major feelings and motivations. In later lessons, I show in more detail how you can recognize and interpret the themes of the major arcana in a reading.
The major arcana is often considered as a complete, discrete part of the tarot. Different systems have been developed to show how the cards form patterns that cast light on the human condition. Numerology, astrology and other esoteric sciences often play a role in these schemes.
Many interpreters view the major arcana as showing the different stages on an individual’s journey of inner growth – what is commonly called the Fool’s Journey. In these systems, each card represents some unique quality or experience that we must develop as part of our ‘individuation’ process before we can realize our wholeness.
We all travel this road from conception, self awareness and eventually onto self-actualization. As in all human experience, our journey filled with detours, obstacles, trials and learning experiences. Each of our  paths are unique, but our milestones are universal. The 22 major arcana cards are the milestones, markers and ‘level ups’  on this path of inner development.
 

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