Photos by Magenta
Learning something new requires committing things to memory, right? Just like learning your times tables because “what if you need to multiply two numbers together without using any of the existing technology you have in your bag”. Tarot isn’t like that, and not because your phone also has access to the Internet for tarot meanings.
Last week we kicked things off with the suit and court cards. Welcome to part two, where we’ll get into it with the major arcana cards.
We mentioned last week that most of the information you’ll find in books and on the Internet come from the Waite-Smith interpretations. We’re going to stick to broadly those interpretations, but with the same caveat as last week that we’re only covering the basic basics. Not all the religious iconography!
We also mentioned last week that the major arcana has similarities to Star Wars. No, the cheese has not slid off our cracker. In fact the major arcana has a lot in common with all adventure stories, including the adventure of your personal story.
The story arc of the major arcana
The major arcana cards are slightly different to the suit and court cards in that, actually all 22 cards can be read together as a kind of story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Every single person is always engaged in some story or another. The major arcana cards therefore reference these ‘bigger’ issues found in our human journey.
Whether our story spans a whole lifetime, with its beginning, middle and end. Or whether it’s just one day. Our human experiences can have peril, can pull on our resources and on other characters, they can offer us something to learn, some battles we win, some we lose. Sometimes we need to overcome the temptation to give up on our dreams after we lose. Our human experiences just want us to triumph in the end, so knowing where each card fits into the human story can be incredibly insightful.
The beginning of the major arcana story
This starts with the Fool card. This card is card zero, and represents a call for adventure, perhaps a fresh start or a new beginning. In any event, this card is all about a leap into the unknown. If we layer the story of Star Wars over the top of this, the Fool card is when Obi Wan invites Luke Skywalker to Alderaan. With the Fool card, you may be about to embark on something unexpected.
The Magician card is card number 1. It is the realisation that you actually have all the skills you need to create what you want to. So just as Luke realises (after he first declines the adventure) he doesn’t need to be held back on Tatooine anymore. This card shows up to nudge you out the door.
The magickal helpers and guides
With any good story, you need some helpers and guides, or someone to fight alongside with. Luke has Obi-Wan, the Force, some Droids, Han and Chewie, Leia and the whole Rebel Alliance. In our story of the major arcana, our magickal helpers and guides show up as The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor and The Hierophant cards. These are cards 2, 3, 4 and 5 respectively.
The High Priestess is your intuition, The Empress is your capacity to empathise and care for others. The Emperor is the masculine energy, thinking and strategising, and The Hierophant is your capacity to follow society’s rules, or the rules of engagement, and play along with others.
When these cards show up, these are your supporting characters. Ask yourself, are these abilities that you have or are these abilities you’ll need from someone who can help? These cards act as an invitation to use these abilities to better help you in your story.
The point of no return in the story
The Lovers card, at card number 6, is a card all about choice. In the story of the major arcana, this card represents the point of no return for the hero, the point in the journey where the hero actually chooses the adventure for themselves. The Chariot card, numbered 7, is the willpower to keep going, and is a card for taking the action after the choice is made. When these cards appear for you, they are asking you to take that leap for yourself now and own the journey you are on. We see this in Star Wars when Luke chooses to rescue Leia and has the willpower and resources to keep going.
Losing the first minor battle in the story
The story of our lives then kicks up a notch, often with a first real test of our character. If we layer the Star Wars story over the top of this, this is often the point in the adventure where a beloved character makes a sacrifice. Like when Obi Wan dies in A New Hope.
Losing the minor battle in the adventure of your life story is required so you can learn a lesson. When these cards show up, you are likely dealing with minor setbacks and you’re being presented with options and a chance to learn something.
In the story of the major arcana, the Strength card shows up as a reminder to overcome fear in order to regain control. However, retreat is also an option, as shown by the The Hermit card. These are cards 8 and 9.
Regroup and rethink to regain ground in the story
After these initial challenges, in any story comes a moment to regroup. While in the story of our lives, we don’t have access to an ice planet to rest and regroup, The Wheel of Fortune is card number 10. It is the first indicator that events are about to turn. It’s a card inviting us to pause because what goes down also goes up and vice versa.
This means where things haven’t been going your way in your story, or even if they have been going too well for you, things are about to be rebalanced. The Justice card works side by side with change in order to dole out that rebalancing. This eleventh card of rebalance might even bring about a short lived victory moment. So if we layer Star Wars over this, these ‘change of circumstances leading to victory’ moments are seen in the blowing up of the Death Star.
In the story of the major arcana The Hanged Man at card 12, follows the Justice card as a reminder to pause to look at the situation again. In an adventure epic like Star Wars, this could be the point when the characters split up for the greater good. Such as when Luke goes off to Dagobah. He needs to learn how to beat Vader for the greater good. When the Hanged Man shows up, this card is asking you to look at the events in your own story and to ask yourself if changing your approach will achieve your greater goal.
Separation, doubt or defeat
At a pivotal point in any good story, there will be a moment when the hero doubts themselves, wants to give up or accepts defeat. In the story of the major arcana, The Death card is the thirteenth card. It’s not a bad omen, but it is a card that represents the closing of the door on a situation. It doesn’t mean all is lost, it just means something has ended to make way for something new to start. In Star Wars, we see this throughout the events of Empire Strikes Back, and even as the credits roll our heroes are separated, feeling betrayed and lost.
But as one door closes, another opens. You just need patience and Temperance is a request to wait to see what comes next, without walking away or giving up. The end of the events of Empire are the Temperance moments. In our space epic, temperance eventually saves Han from carbonite and reunites the group. So in the story of your life, this card, card 14, shows up to whisper ‘it’ll be ok, just trust and see’.
But in real life, that is always very hard to do in moments of great stress or temptation. Life mirrors art, and oftentimes in an adventure story, our hero is tempted to give up their quest. In the story of the major arcana, The Devil card, card 15, is a card of temptation and a siren call away from your true calling. Just as Vader asks Luke to embrace the dark side in order to beat the Emperor, if you pull the Devil card it is urging you to be mindful of the path you’re on and not to stray despite the lure to give up.
Transformation and atonement
The Tower card in the story of the major arcana is a huge transformation event. Pulling card 16 indicates a moment is coming when you will rise like a phoenix from the ashes. If we draw a parallel with Star Wars, the tower moment shows up here as Leia is captured, followed by Luke and all three of our heroes are about to be fed to the Sarlacc. On the face of it, things might look terrible but these tower moments often mean better things are coming.
After such a huge turn of events, The Star card is a moment in your own story to pause, heal your wounds and renew your sense of purpose after the chaos of The Tower. Card 17 in Star Wars is the moment when our heroes reunite with the Alliance and Luke flies off to finish his training with Yoda.
In the story of the major arcana, The Moon is card 18. It shows up when you’re being asked to look deeper at everything that has gone on before, to reveal anything that is holding you back and resolve all of the issues once and for all. With Star Wars, the moon moment reveals Luke’s sister to him and it shows up when Leia recognises who she is, and her role in the events. Moon moments are opportunities to take new information with us as our own story unfolds.
The hero wins in the end
We are now in the final act of the story of the major arcana. Of course, our heroes always triumph in the end and so it is true for the tarot. When The Sun card, card 19, shows up in a reading this is your clue that you’re winning. You should have the confidence to grab that success and own it. We see this in Star Wars as our band of heroes plan to destroy the second Death Star, and are joined in battle by the inhabitants of Endor. They know now they can win.
In the story of the major arcana, the Judgement card shows up as an invitation to answer the final call. Card 20 is a vital lesson to help you grow and become a better version of yourself. We see this in Star Wars as Luke faces Vader one last time, which leads to Vader’s own judgement moment.
At the end of every epic adventure, The World card seeks to give a sense of closure and accomplishment. The final battle has been won, you have grown as a person and learned so much along the way. This card is card 21. It is the end of a cycle, but it’s also an invitation to start something new. As our space epic ends with the destruction of another Death Star, and the atonement of Vader. We see a new cycle beginning. So in the adventure of our lives, The World card may be the beginning of something, just as much as a signal of the end.
So now you see why we believe the major arcana has similarities to Star Wars. The force will be with you, always and so will tarot. They both work in mysterious ways.
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