The “Major Arcana” are considered the heart of a tarot deck. Also known as the “Trump cards” there are 22 of them. They do not have suits attached to them like the rest of the tarot deck. It is human life and experience from birth through death that is represented in the Major Arcana portion of the tarot deck. It symbolizes the physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional aspects related to man and the universe.
The trumps includes archetypes of people in its 22 cards. For example some of the aspects of the cards in the major arcana may relate to warmth and nurturing as with a mother figure or strong and commanding as an authoritative figure as is a traditional religious figure or a mystical personality; these are just some of the types of people it can represent. The archetypes in the Major Arcana are however indicative of real people whether figuratively or actually in someone’s life.
Each card of the 22 Major Arcana depict a scene which contains symbolic elements in it. In many decks each card is numbered from 0 to 22 in Roman numerals with a word describing each card. There are some decks however with no numbers or word on top to describe the card. Some decks only have pictures. The earliest decks had no numbers or words as well; probably because most people were illiterate. In the early days the cards were not in a standard numbered order as they are today.
The pictures on the major arcana are steeped with symbolism. Major Arcana cards are related to thing regarding one’s higher purpose or a deep significance affecting one’s life. They depict a person’s journey in life particularly in relation to personal development. As their numbers start at 0 to 22 it is the journey from innocence to wisdom. Some tarot scholars believe the sequence depicts the enlightenment one attains in one’s lifetime. It is also intended to be a path of enlightenment for one to take as well as learning the meaning of one’s true self. We see the first card the fool starting out in life with decisions and directions to make where he meets the magician who gives him an idea (card #1) and then we meet the high priestess etc. and so on down the line to 22. The Major Arcana focuses on our spiritual self but also gives us answers to things concerning our day to day lives like family, social relationships, jobs, finances and more.
The Major Arcana represents some aspect of the human experience we go through in our lives. It also looks at our spiritual journey here in our life, our hopes, dreams, fears, joys and sadness. When one starts their learning of how to use the tarot it is always suggested to familiarise yourself with the Major Arcana first. When you are comfortable with them they can help unlock the intuition you use for the divination of the Tarot.
When doing readings with the tarot deck you look at the card in the upright position and the reversed position. Depending on how the cards falls indicates if it is in a positive or negative aspect. Just because a card in itself is reversed does not make it negative. It depends on the cards imagery, its meaning and it relationship to the other cards in the spread. Like I said earlier in the book; people also use their own interpretations of the symbolism once they get an idea what the card represents as well.
There are other decks you can work with and choose, but I find Rider Waite Deck is the best for introducing someone with how to read the tarot. This is because there is so much information available for this particular tarot deck. The Major Arcana have been referred to as the 22 keys to life.