July 21, 2024
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The Journey Through the Major Arcana

The Journey Through the Major Arcana

Tarot cards are powerful tools for exploring your inner development, getting an insight about people and situations in your life, and critical thinking.  Each card tells a story as an archetype; the cards are part of five journeys: the major arcana (22 cards in the deck) and the four suits of the minor arcana (14 cards in each suit).  This article is part of a five-article series that will take a journey through each of these five groups of cards, starting here, with the major arcana. The deck I have chosen to use is something fun, the Happy Tarot, which based on the most commonly known tarot deck, the Rider-Waite Tarot.

The Fool’s Journey Through the Major Arcana

The first and last card of the entire deck is the Fool.  Represented by the number zero, it is a “leap of faith” into life when we are born and a “leap of faith” into death when we die.  The Fool “trumps” all the other cards in the deck and represents all of us, fundamentally.  We may, in our life journey and our work with the cards, discover that one or a few cards represent us best. You can read my article on how to find your card(s) in a tarot deck to learn how to determine your card(s) beyond the Fool.

The Fool must become and encounter all of the other major cards, beginning with the 2nd card of the deck that is actually numbered 1, the Magician.  The Magician represents choices and the tools we will need to use to navigate life successfully. After the Magician, the Fool experiences the High Priestess and the knowledge she attains from hardship, that she has to transmute into wisdom.  Following her is the Empress, the feminine divine and the feminine in all of us.  After her, the Fool connects with the Emperor, the masculine divine and the masculine in all of us.

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Happy Tarot Major Arcana 1

With card number 5, the Fool becomes the Hierophant, the teacher or learned scholar.  After the Hierophant is the Lovers, the Fool’s connection with another and the responsibility of intimate partnership. The Chariot follows the Lovers and the Fool learns how to use power to control outcomes. Then s/he can be ready to embrace Strength, the 8th card, and the power that comes with calm self-confidence before taking time to disconnect and do significant inner work as the Hermit, traveling alone to find his/her authentic truth.

Happy Tarot Major Arcana 2

The work of the Hermit helps the Fool understand that sometimes Fate is stronger than Free Will, which is the lesson of the Wheel of Fortune.  The outer world continues to impact the Fool’s journey as s/he encounters Justice, card 11, and the detached truth that exists beyond human perception and hubris.  The next lesson is the Hanged Man, knowing sacrifice when the Fool learns that long-range goals sometimes require short-term pain and difficulty.  Appropriately the next card, number 13, is Death, which shows the Fool the lesson of significant transformation and the profound cycle of change in life. Next, Temperance, the energy of balance, teaches the Fool that life seeks equilibrium; and thus, the calm spirit can weather any storm.

Happy Tarot Major Arcana 3

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After Temperance, the Fool gets to learn the lessons of the Devil – rebellion, consequences, and selfish action. Following the work of the Devil is the Tower, a card representing an unexpected, dramatic change that reduces beliefs and circumstances to ashes suddenly and completely.  From the Tower, the Fool moves on to the Star, hope, and vision, a long-term dream he or she needs and wants to attain.  After the Star, the Fool encounters the Moon, his or her personal mystery and the cycles of human emotions.  Following the Moon is the Sun, revelation, seeing life for what it truly is, clarity under the shining light of the Sun.

Happy Tarot Major Arcana 4

After the revelation and truth of the Sun, the Fool encounters Judgment and must learn the lesson of being judged for the quality of life he or she has lived as well as learning how to judge himself or herself based on the choices made in the life journey.  Finally, the last card is The World, the culmination of the entire journey, for assessment and as the foundation for the next large cycle.  Imagine finishing grade school and leaving that “world” to enter the world of college or the world of work.  Each new world is built upon the completion of the previous cycle.

Happy Tarot Major Arcana 5

Back to the Fool Lesson Over and Over Again

We return to the Fool whenever we need to start something new or we need to make “leap of faith”.  The Fool, or the court jester the card was based upon, was the one figure that could challenge the rulers because they were seen as “foolish” and no threat to the leadership, so they could speak truths no one else in court could speak.  We encounter the Fool in each new relationship and each new job.  We return to the infancy of the Fool’s energy at the end of our lives, which is why it is the most powerful card in the deck.

The 21 Archetypes

Each card of the major arcana is part of the archetype experiences we all encounter on our life journey.  When we draw tarot cards, whether as a single card or part of a spread, we invite ourselves to become aware of the archetype of that card.  The archetypical energy of each card will work in every situation, which is what makes an archetype an archetype.  Whether you ask about career, love, family, or personal development, you are in the flow of all the cards.  The drawing of a specific card invites you to address that lesson in the area of your concern.

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If you draw the Hanged Man and you have asked about your career, then you may have to make a knowing sacrifice with regard to pay or advancement or your workload in order to reach a long-term goal that cannot be achieved without the sacrifice.  Perhaps you have to tolerate an unpleasant employer or help a struggling employee who needs some kind of emotional support that is necessary to help them weather a difficult time that is affecting their performance.

The journey through the major arcana is one of profound meaning, as we attempt to understand and master each lesson in each card.  We may find some cards “make more sense” to us than others and we may find certain lessons harder or more frequent.  No matter which cards you draw on your “foolish” journey, they offer certain kinds of guidance that will teach you valuable lessons.