The Difference Between the Major and Minor Arcana in Tarot

In the traditional Tarot Deck, there are 78 cards in total. Within those 78 cards, there are different aspects of the deck that may be divided into two parts. Having this knowledge is often a great approach to learning tarot because it can minimize the feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of cards. Of course, it is exciting to learn that there are 78 cards, which can be doubled to 156 when including reversals, but not knowing why there are two distinct portions of the tarot can hinder the process of learning.

The tarot deck can be split into two sections we call the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. You may be wondering what on Earth an Arcana could possibly be, considering this isn’t a word used anywhere else that I’ve personally seen. Well, tarot is a form of divination, and divination in general is the art and/or practice of obtaining information that isn’t obvious. Coincidentally, tarot and the word “Arcana” are no different.

Arcanaderives from the Latin word ‘arcanus‘ and refers to hidden or secret knowledge. Arcana often refers to something that is mysterious, elusive, or even supernatural in nature. An ‘arcanum’ idea is information found that was seemingly unexplainable. Now that you understand the meaning of the word Arcana, let’s look at the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana.

When learning tarot, it’s important to identify what we call the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. Despite what you may understandably assume, due to the names, the Major Arcana has much fewer cards than the Minor Arcana. Therefore, the names have nothing to do with the number of cards at all. Instead, they actually refer to major and minor events we may experience in life.

The Major Arcana has 22 cards while the Minor Arcana has 56 cards. Neither one, however, is more important than the other. In fact, they have different purposes entirely and are both needed for different reasons if the tarot deck is to be complete. While the Major Arcana is more about life-altering and transformative experiences, the Minor Arcana points to everyday life, from work to love interests to hobbies and mental conflict.

Many people view the Major Arcana cards as the more spiritual side of our personal journey as individual humans. This could be due to the major Archetypes found within them that humanity can relate to on some level collectively. Meanwhile, various cards clearly depict mystical roles like The Magician and The High Priestess, for example.

Choosing one of the 22 Major Arcana cards in tarot readings generally indicates major life events taking place in a person’s life. Sometimes, these are internal, personal types of transitions, which could totally change the individual. It’s not uncommon for such experiences to alter their personality, identity, belief system, and characteristics.

The Major Arcana cards also include inevitable processes of life, including death, which each one of us is faced with. Similarly, The Devil represents addiction, material attachments, and fleshly desires. The Sun is masculine and logical, while The Moon is the feminine and intuitive counterpart. The World, on the other hand, is completed and has acquired a great amount of life experience.

  • 0 – The Fool
  • 1 – The Magician
  • 2 – The High Priestess
  • 3 – The Empress
  • 4 – The Emperor
  • 5 – The Hierophant
  • 6 – The Lovers
  • 7 – The Chariot
  • 8 – Strength
  • 9 – The Hermit
  • 10 – Wheel of Fortune
  • 11 – Justice
  • 12 – The Hanged Man
  • 13 – Death
  • 14 – Temperance
  • 15 – The Devil
  • 16 – The Tower
  • 17 – The Star
  • 18 – The Moon
  • 19 – The Sun
  • 20 – Judgement
  • 21 – The World

For a more in-depth review of the Major Arcana, click here.

At the top of this post, we discussed how the tarot is split up into two sections known as the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Minor Arcana may seem mundane when compared to the Major Arcana, but they are equally important. The Minor Arcana makes up a greater amount of time in our lives and varies in aspects regarding our lives. Because of that, the Minor Arcana is split up into four subsections known as suites.

These suites, which are all part of the Minor Arcana, are:

The individual suites represent different and important parts of our everyday lives. The Suite of Wands is about creativity and passion. The Suite of Swords is about our thoughts and communication. The Suite of Cups is about our emotions and feelings. The Suite of Pentacles is about our physical and material world.

Each one of these suites contains 14 cards. Because there are four suites, this means that the Minor Arcana has a total of 56 cards. Ten of these fourteen cards in the suites are simply Ace (one) – Ten. The other four cards are what we call court cards and are the Page, Knight, Queen, and King.

For a more in-depth review of the Minor Arcana, click here.

From Within the Labyrinth,


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