What is Major Arcana and Minor Arcana?

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The Tarot has been around for centuries with origins in both Europe and Asia. The first incarnations of these cards were first only a set of 56-cards which we now know as the Minor Arcana, and then later an additional set of 22 "trump cards" were added which we know as the Major Arcana. The word Arcana is the Latin word for "secrets."

These cards are often used to tap into a different realm to help us understand what we are going through subconsciously. It is an amazing tool to help us gain clarity, perspective, and understanding. 

However, these cards weren't always used as a divination tool. Historically these cards were used simply as a card-playing game, but thankfully, it has evolved way beyond that and is now primarily used as a tool to answer questions, give us divine guidance, or be used as a source of inspiration as we make our way forward.

The answers are usually quite uncanny and can often reveal truths that we may not have recognized and have been hidden deep in our subconscious.

What is Major Arcana? - A Hero's Journey 

The Major Arcana compromises 22 cards that depict 22 different stages in the journey towards spiritual, emotional, and material fulfillment. It is the journey we all need to go on and is etched in our human psyche, from starting as the underdog to finally reaching fulfillment. Each card has a range of different interpretations and meanings and the significance of the cards depends on the situation and the question that has been asked by the querent. 

The Major Arcana is spiritually rich, each card guiding us on our journey to self-actualization and greater fulfillment. Each card can be seen as a step on a ladder, with each step giving a different lesson.

What is Minor Arcana? 

The Minor Arcana is divided into four different suits, mainly the cups, wands, pentacles, and swords. Each suit signifies different energy that encompasses human existence. The cups illustrate emotions and feelings, the wands depict passion, drive, and creativity, while the swords are all about communication and the mind, and then finally the pentacles show our material word and money.

These four suits then get divided into number cards and court cards (Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings). Each number or court card carries a similar theme but it depends on which element it is found in. These cards are more descriptive of the events we all have to go through in our daily lives.

What Are the Differences Between Major and Minor Arcana?

The Major Arcana often symbolizes an energetic overview of a situation, and multiple in a reading indicate one that can significantly impact an individual’s course. The Minor Arcana occupy the smaller events that occur in daily life. The Major Arcana can also be drawn to emphasize and extend upon a certain message.

The Major Arcana can indicate a massive event in one's life that has the power to change and transform the life of the querent. These cards usually indicate a type of karma someone is currently working with. The energy of the Major Arcana may be with a person for quite a long period of time. These cards often show major life events like a marriage, a career change, or even a death. These cards often indicate a shift in consciousness. 

This shift can occur in both an external and internal landscape. The noticeability of this change is not necessarily on par with its significance. Therefore, although the meanings of the cards and what has been written above sound abstract, grand, or even disruptive, this fated direction can simply be as small as a death of a mindset, or as large as a significant change in career.

The Minor Arcana has a much smaller significance in the tarot. These cards show energies on a microcosmic level, picking up on the energies of the current moment. It may show indecision to leave behind a situation, or even nervousness before an exam. What we consider ‘big’ problems at that moment are often reduced in size after a while, and consequently, our energies will constantly shift back and forth.

Although the Minor Arcana is a lot less significant than the Major Arcana, it doesn't make their energy any less potent. There are still many lessons to glean from these cards that can really help to push you in the right direction. The Minor Arcana is a lot more practical and direct in its approach to giving the querent guidance, whereas the Major Arcana can be a bit too symbolic and metaphysical at times. 

The Major Arcana may give the querent the theme to focus on in the reading, whereas the Minor Arcana can give straightforward and practical guidance to help the reader to dig a little deeper and come to the right conclusion. Where the Majors look to the overview of what energies the situation will ultimately address, change, and bring into your life, the Minors detail the thoughts and actions that result in this change.

Think of a timeline, where we may have particular goals that we want to reach. These goals need to be broken up into smaller sub-goals for us to reach them effectively. Thus, the minute shifts in energy that we experience as we build up to that major shift are almost unnoticeable. But we can look back upon where we were a year ago, and affirm the progress that we have made. 

There are therefore distinct differences between the two Arcana, but both are equally important in building the tarot reading experience that we have learned to recognize and appreciate. 

Combining The Major And Minor Arcana

In any given reading there is usually a healthy mix between Major and Minor cards. The cards complement each other to give the most accurate and significant reading possible. There is an interconnectedness between the two types of cards and they wouldn't be nearly as powerful if they didn't have each other. 

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