22 Tarot Cards & Their Meanings

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Tarot has been through a revolution in recent years. Although it’s still seen by a lot of people as a shady fortune practice, more and more, it is becoming known as a trendy and effective self-development tool. It seeks to illustrate all possibilities of human experience in one deck of cards.

Traditionally, the deck is made up of 78 cards divided into two “Arcana” — The Major and Minor. The Minor Arcana is more similar to a deck of regular playing cards (although it contains different "suits" and additional cards). In a reading, these cards tend to reflect the more everyday situations and experiences of a person. The Major Arcana is another beast altogether. It’s a set of 22 cards that paint a picture of a larger journey — from ignorance to union with life. Each card represents a significant leap forward in development. When lots of these cards show up in a reading, you know that a critical psychological turning point has been reached. Think big changes and choices.

An exploration of Tarot is an examination of yourself from every angle. There are profound teachings on passion, action, surrender, and beyond. It can help you become the wild dancing star that you are — or, at the very least, it can help you gracefully come to terms with the inevitable ups and downs of life. Its imagery is often poetic, containing a myriad of potential meanings. Here you will find definitions of each of the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. They are not exhaustive; consider them more like springboards and invite your imagination to the party.

If you’re curious to know more about reading tarot, or about having a reading from me, you can visit my website. Or follow me on Instagram for daily tarot inspiration.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
0 - The Fool

The Fool. A name suggestive of a ridiculous or naive character. A poor decision maker. However, in the context of tarot, The Fool is a representation of something of an ideal attitude towards life’s adventures: carefree, eager, and curious. She is not inexperienced, but she has an open attitude. The Major Arcana represents a journey of self-development that is psychologically challenging to say the least. Therefore the qualities of The Fool are what’s required to face the unmanifest potentials of the present moment. The Fool’s approach helps us to gracefully integrate the lessons to come and get the most out of life that we can.

Keywords: Zen mind/beginner's mind. New beginnings. Spontaneity.

What it means in a reading: It can mean a new start or the beginning of an adventure. Along with that comes a need to approach it all with a fresh attitude. It’s an invitation to be bold when stepping into unknown territory.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
1 - The Magician

The first lesson that we learn is that of our power to create. The Magician recognizes the tools and the power at her disposal and creates her own world in many ways. She makes something real out of the possibilities of everyday life. She is a conduit and a vessel that grounds divine energy into reality. She directs herself, through her will, to wherever she wants to go.

The creative process is a circuit between ourselves and the wider world and involves a currency we can spend. The important thing to remember here is that there is actually no such thing as a non-creative person; there are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. And in order not to become destructive or dangerous, creative energy must be used. If you don’t consider yourself creative in the classical sense, then consider it this way: Ultimately, life itself is your greatest work of art.

Keywords: Creativity, willpower, manifestation. inspiration, resourcefulness, The Muse.

What it can mean in a reading: There is a surging sense of power in your own life. Let it fill you. You are a channel for life itself: receiving inspiration and directing it into all areas of your life.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
2 - The High Priestess

Balancing the creative action implied in The Magician, we have the High Priestess, a model of reflection, receptivity, and the wisdom gained of a passive approach that allows for the inner voice and inner vision to emerge. She guards a temple that hints at mysterious realms of unconscious knowledge — knowledge gained not through logic or reason but through symbol, myth, and dream. She teaches us how to go into ourselves, or at least that it is possible.

Keywords: Intuition, reflection, dreams, non-rational modes of wisdom, unexplained understanding.

What it can mean in a reading: First, it’s important to accept that you have an intuition. Let it guide you; pay attention to hunches and the psychic truths available through the world of dreams, myths, and symbols. Take some time to reflect, chill out, and do some guided meditations. Explore the tarot or dig deeper into astrology than just your Sun sign.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
3 - The Empress

While the High Priestess teaches us intuition and to pay attention to our dreams, the Empress embodies the wisdom gained by total engagement with the emotions and senses. This card emphasizes a passionate approach to life. She teaches that before transcending the emotional realm, we must engage with our feelings completely. As Mother she is nurturing, loving, and encourages you to freely experience your emotions. As Venus she reminds us of the pleasure and satisfaction we can all take from beauty and art and the value of these in more than abstract terms.

Keywords: Beauty, creativity, abundance, sensuality, sexuality, emotion, passion, instinct, nurturing, Mother, Venus, Gaia.

What it can mean in a reading: It’s time to find what fuels a sense of abundance and passion in your life and express it. Do all the things that make you feel beautiful and connected to the richness of your senses: Stop and smell the roses, look at any kind of artwork that inspires you, cook a colorful meal for friends or lovers with lots of natural ingredients, indulge in a mini-makeover, write erotic poetry about the glory of Nature.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
4 - The Emperor

The Emperor is the flip side and partner to The Empress. She shows the bounty of nature; he shows the benefits of the social framework. This is an archetypal force that represents the enforcement of authority through the creation of boundaries and the defense of territory. In other words, it’s being the boss. It’s about provision, security, and “success” according to convention. It’s doing all the things that solid father-figure types would insist to you are common sense. It’s sticking to the plan and getting what you want thanks to hard work and commitment. It’s wisdom gained from life experience — the type you get when you play by the rules of your family or society at large. It’s not oppressive or lacking in creativity necessarily. New life springs from this approach as much as any other.

Keywords: Empowerment, authority, boundaries, The System, “daddy issues,” maintenance, stability as a foundation for creativity, sticking to a plan, law and order, rules and regulations,

What it can mean in a reading: Where do you feel the sense of personal authority in your life? Are you giving away too much of your power? It’s time to define your boundaries clearly and launch your prospects from there. Also, it’s worth assessing your personal code of conduct and seeing if anything needs to be tweaked.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
5 - The Hierophant

Not exactly a title in common usage, a hierophant is classically a person who interprets or reveals spiritual doctrines — hence the Pope-like outfit. By this point, we’ve received lessons on channeling creative power, accepting intuition, embracing the emotions, and developing personal authority. Now, we are invited to assess our moral and spiritual values. It’s important to know where the ideas you hold about the world come from rather than just taking things at face value. But the accepted paradigms of the day aren’t always just about spirituality, especially in modern times. They're also about whatever intellectual traditions and gurus are in vogue. The more that a value system creates a sense of personal autonomy, the better it is, so make sure yours has something built into it that allows you to make your own rules.

Keywords: Autonomy, eclectic spirituality, dogma, the secret mysteries of the occult, indoctrination, value systems, counselor, priest, mentor, cult leader, guru.

What it can mean in a reading: It’s time to integrity-check your beliefs and make sure you’re not just going along with the status quo for no good reason. If it turns out that the traditions in your life are in alignment with your values, then find extra ways to honor them. If not, then start some new ones. You can be your own guru.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
6 - The Lovers

The Hierophant asked us to check in with our beliefs and ideas in terms of the society we function within. The Lovers now teach you about the choices you make at an interpersonal level. This card can be explicitly about romantic relationships and their importance in life. It can also be about the lessons that can be gained from other people. A relationship usually involves two parties attempting to unify. At a deeper level, we are invited to reconcile separate aspects of our own identities to create an inner union. The importance of communication is emphasized as we navigate our choices. We’re seeking harmony within ourselves and our relationships.

Keywords: Yin-Yang, synthesis, relationship, union, the power of love, dilemmas, choices, desire, diplomacy.

What it can mean in a reading: What important decisions and choices are you facing? Time to weigh the pros and cons of a situation. A decision made here can reconcile something that seems to be polarized. It could be explicitly about a particular relationship and the balance of give and take.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
7 - The Chariot

Ego. Almost a swear word in contemporary Western spirituality. It’s the root of all modern problems, isn’t it? Since there doesn’t seem to be a limit to the devastation that an unchecked human personality can unleash on its environment, the righteous crusade is probably somewhat deserved. So ego can get a little big for its boots. And Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, et al. have done a fine job putting ego in the naughty corner. We’ve been encouraged to treat it as the number-one enemy of the personal state.

Ego is where instinct, the self (beyond all constructs), and the outside world all converge. So developing mastery here is very important. We run into problems when the instincts dominate the personality — for example, when we refuse to grow a backbone and let others control us out of fear. The Chariot represents a super-important developmental stage; a robust personality and character is exactly what’s needed in order to deal effectively with life. The bottom line? Let’s try not to bust ego’s balls too much (yet).

Keywords: Personality formation, ego, maturity, control of the animal nature, willpower, good character, persona, confidence, “Know thyself.”

What it can mean in a reading: Who’s the boss? Check in with your friend ego and make sure that side of yourself has your best interests at heart. It's a good time to assert yourself. Get a good handle on what you want and need, and then claim it. You’ve got everything you need to get your way.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
8 - Strength

By passing through The Chariot stage, we’ve achieved a measure of success. Now that we’ve built up a robust persona for ourselves, we don’t need to go any further, right? Ego would love it if things were that easy! But life keeps going and emotions keep flowing so we need to be ready to keep leveling up. Often feelings, fears, and desires can become suppressed when we try to civilize ourselves. If we are too afraid to release our passions because we might shake up the status quo, then we can learn something from the Strength card. She says we need our personalities to be flexible enough to cope with our emotional surges. We need to be courageous and trust ourselves to allow spontaneous flow of passion to arise.

Keywords: Power, lust, primal energy, forcefulness, grace, compassion, stamina, persistence, the joy of expression.

What it can mean in a reading: Trust yourself! You have it in you to confront yourself and the world fearlessly. Don’t repress — express! There is nothing wrong with having a passionate wild side, and it can be managed with dignity. Having a little loving faith in both your inner animal and your divine side can help prevent the energy released from becoming destructive.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
9 - The Hermit

Before we get completely carried away with our emotions, The Hermit says it’s time to remember what The High Priestess taught you about the richness of the inner landscapes. Sometimes, this card can mean you’ve found a guru or mentor who can help you find your way to the light. It might not be your yoga teacher or Deepak Chopra. Maybe it’s your therapist or your best friend. It could be an artist or musician or long-dead poet-philosopher whose works transform you. Maybe it’s just your own trusted intuition. It’s not about finding somebody to worship; this is about the timeless tradition of teacher and student.

Keywords: Guiding light, solitude, reflection, the power of silence and retreat, therapy, dreams, spirit guides, meditation, the yogi, discipleship to the higher self, soul searching and truth seeking.

What it can mean in a reading: Through meditation and reflection the hidden parts of the psyche begin to speak. It’s time to switch off distractions, look within and find the light. This is the start of a new process of maturing. Look carefully for teachers. Is it you?
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10 - Wheel of Fortune

So much of what has been talked about until this point has been about taking life into your own hands. But now, we’re reaching the midpoint of the Major Arcana, and it’s time to acknowledge how much of life simply isn’t about the choices you make. Getting comfortable with concepts such as karma or luck isn’t about giving your power away. It’s about accepting our place within much larger narratives that can be beyond both our control and our complete understanding.

Spiritual traditions and divination systems that are grounded in principles of cycles and constant change (eg. tarot, astrology, or the I Ching) can help us comprehend some of these patterns and find our place within them. But you don’t need to go that far. It can just be a matter of learning to accept that you’ve been dealt a hand — and being willing to keep playing the game without struggling.

Keywords: Karma. Cycles of transformation. Luck (good or bad). Fate and Fortune. Shit happens.

What it can mean in a reading: The bad news is that the good times don’t last. The good news is the bad times don’t last, either. Accept life’s ups and downs. It’s important to roll with things and not feel like everything is against you if you’re going through a patch of “bad luck.” Find the blessing and develop a perspective that enables to you let go and adapt to changes.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
11 - Justice

The Wheel of Fortune showed Tarot’s position on Fate. But in a paradoxical plot twist, Justice immediately confirms our free will and its importance.

We’re more used to seeing our Lady Justice blindfolded, but in the past, a blindfold was considered to represent deception or confusion. Our lady Justice sees clearly through illusion. She is not just a passive observer, either; that sword is ready to take action to cut through any lies that are keeping you trapped in the past. Her scales weigh and balance action and understanding and demand personal accountability. Justice says that our present choices are always governed by past actions. So if we want to be truly free of the past, then we must see it clearly, accept the consequences of what is already in motion, and take active steps to right any imbalances before moving on.

Keywords: Truth, fairness, right action, just decisions, law, balance, choices, decisions that can’t be unmade, personal responsibility, acceptance.

What it can mean in a reading: This card is a sign that things are as they should be, although maybe not as you’d like them to be. It also indicates important decisions that need to be made that will have an impact on the future and shows the need to look at things as objectively as possible before taking action.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
12 - The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man is a card with a clear message about the necessity of surrender to experience. To the ego, surrender is death. To the deeper self, this is a step towards liberation and peace. It flies in the face of convention, but relaxing and letting things just do their thing can be one way of moving towards greater freedom and independence — from both our personal attitudes and the pressures of our culture. It certainly does wonders for our tension and stress levels.

Keywords: Surrender, patience, allowing, the peace of acceptance and understanding.

What it can mean in a reading: Relax and relinquish your need for control. When life feels like everything has turned upside down, often the best thing you can do is nothing. Sometimes, this card can appear when a sacrifice of some kind needs to be made for the greater good. You may need to give up some ideal and take part in the world around you for a while.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
13 - Death

This is the first of three cards that generally raises eyebrows when it lands on the card table. Rather than predicting the moment of your inevitable physical demise, Death asks us to consider her in broader experiential terms. Creation and destruction are part of the same continuum, and we need to work with them in order to truly transform. Death is here to clear out the skeletons, cut away old identities, and make way for new things to come into your life.

The journey through the Major Arcana could be seen as an extended initiation into the mysteries of life itself. Spiritual initiates often subject themselves to some kind of ritual to impress upon their deeper self and trick the ego into thinking that the old identity no longer exists — to make space for a fresh, new one.

Keywords: Confrontation of fears, transformation, catalysts, metamorphosis, change, creation/destruction, rebirth.

What it can mean in a reading: It’s probably time to close a chapter of your life. Don’t resist. Make the best of an ending; accept it and find the silver lining. New possibilities are yours for the imagining. Keep breathing. “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
14 - Temperance

Temperance means moderation and restraint, which sounds boring. But in her realm, good behavior is really about living life more artfully than ever. She teaches you the importance of flow and optimism. She seeks to aid in harmonizing fantasy and reality as well as the active and passive. After our recent trials, we have the opportunity to practice bringing the elements of ourselves back together again. Temperance is the taste of grace we need before we meet the next set of heavy challenges on our journey.

Keywords: Moderation, self-control, artistry, the middle path, right action, alchemy, synergy.

What it can mean in a reading: Treat your personal development and psychology as an art form. It’s time for calm and considered action. Give the wild child a break and get yourself together. You can adapt and bring together different influences in your life through a creative approach. This card is also about working in harmony with others.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
15 - The Devil

Here’s the second of our three cards that are likely to provoke a reaction from an unsuspecting tarot client. The Devil highlights the dark side of personal and collective consciousness. She points out that we can become trapped in materialism, addicted to power, and enslaved by our impulses. It’s a reminder that we can sabotage ourselves and be tempted to indulge in destructive behavior. The Devil also teaches about the powerful creative potential of sexual energy (which we have also been culturally indoctrinated to be terrified of). There are ways to free yourself, but before you can slip off your chains, you’ve got to realize you’re wearing them in the first place.

Keywords: Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll; desire (for money, power, other people); freedom; kundalini; sexual liberation as well as the power of celibacy; (breaking) addictions and obsessions of all kinds; temptation; shame.

What it can mean in a reading: It’s time to face your demons and free up some of that life energy. Obsessions, relationships, and habits need to be assessed to make sure they are not oppressive or destructive. Sometimes, blindly accepting circumstances is easier, so you need to be prepared for the challenges of breaking certain habits — otherwise, you might just slip back into those comfy chains.
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16 - The Tower

This is the last of the big, bad three. The Tower is the reason it’s so important to come to grips with our underlying drives and face our challenges before they blow up in our faces. We can repress things, fearing the messiness of conflict and confrontation — but the truth will emerge, one way or another. If we do not take active steps to free ourselves, then the forces of nature will just go ahead and make it happen. We can do our best to build and maintain our towers of perceived security, but any moment, a lightning bolt can shatter reality as we know it.

Keywords: Sudden upheavals, shock, fear, truth as a catalyst, lightning bolt, earthquake, arguments, nightmares.

What it can mean in a reading: a period of literal and/or psychological upheaval, the breakup of situations or relationships, revelations that shatter the status quo. These types of events can easily trigger Big Fear. This can keep you holding on too tightly to circumstances, unable to ride the lightning of sudden change. It’s hard when you’re in it, but try to consider the long game as well as the potential for new beginnings.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
17- The Star

Hooray! We’re back to wonderful, positive, and hopeful energy. After any “Tower”-like experience, this is exactly what we need. The Star is a rainbow after a thunderstorm. She reinforces a sense of purpose, healing, and wholeness after emotional turbulence and turmoil. After upheaval, we can feel emotionally drained, and The Star encourages maintenance of a divine connection, despite the challenges to faith and resolve. Drink deeply. Nothing can ever really exhaust your inspiration as long as you remain connected to your guiding light. The Star’s cups are never empty, and she knows that there is always more where that came from. Scarcity is not a word that exists in her vocabulary.

Keywords: Trust, faith, peace, guiding light, guardian angels, recovery, hope, serenity, freedom, self-esteem.

What it can mean in a reading: It’s all going to work out. This is a card of inner calm that signals the use of creative energy from a place of peace. Forget about the demands of the journey; everything is as it should be. The Star wants you to trust life and have faith in it as well as in yourself.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
18 - The Moon

After the welcome reprieve of The Star, it’s back into the shadows we go. The Moon is the card of the imagination, which molds emotion and instinct into images we can comprehend. Lunar experiences often require mindfulness rather than action, since we can’t control the rising visions. Nightmares are what happens when the psyche can’t deal with what’s coming up for examination. The crayfish represents primal, universal fears in the collective consciousness: monsters in the deep.

Keywords: Dreams, nightmares, secrets, confusion, emotion, moods, hallucinations, the mysteries of the menstrual cycle, lunacy.

What it can mean in a reading: strange, dreamy days. You’re likely to be more imaginative, emotional, or psychic. Hidden things of all kinds are coming to the surface, but you are possibly prone to illusion. Best not to fight against your fears, or you may end up projecting them onto others. Pay attention, stay mindful, and try and go with the flow.
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19 - The Sun

Another beautiful and positive card that is always a welcome sight in a reading. The Sun’s vibration is pure, wholehearted joy and connection. The reward for fearlessly facing your shadow side and integrating the lessons of the previous cards so far is the ability to manifest light within yourself at will and walk in it. The Sun is life.

Keywords: Hope, creativity, joy, happiness, faith, energy, manifestation, unity, summer, simplicity, lucidity, optimism, wonder, confidence.

What it can mean in a reading: Life is good. You are whole and Holy. Life is full to overflowing with potential for happiness and creative satisfaction. Have no fear; the Sun shines on you and your path.
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20 - Judgement

So, what comes after enlightenment? Well, you still have to live in the world, but now you have a choice to make. At this point on the journey, we have learned so much. But now that we know what we know, there is a call from within to start living this new perspective and walking the walk. This is about finding and living your real purpose — no excuses. There is nothing to fear, nothing worth harboring guilt over, and no need for shame. Judgement offers a cleansing in order to refresh you and keep you ready to face life confidently.

Keywords: Paradigm shift. Accepting the call. Rising to the challenge. Absolution. The final test. Crossroads.

What it can mean in a reading: A call from deep inside or from the outer world that must be responded to. A chance to rise to a more meaningful life. A turning point. The phoenix rises from the ashes. The old Queen is dead; long live the new Queen.
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21 - The World

We’ve come to the end of the road. But actually, we’re coming full circle. The World signals the fulfilment of a process of unfolding of a major life cycle, and all of the satisfaction and wisdom gained from it. With this in mind, it also suggests a new beginning. It’s almost time to embrace The Fool again, but with significantly more strength, insight, and lust for life. When you are in alignment with The World, you are aligned with the dance of reality itself.

Keywords: Accomplishment, success, achievement, satisfaction, flow, passion, spontaneity. A global consciousness. The whole nine yards.

What it can mean in a reading: You’ve come a long way, baby. This card indicates the completion of a chapter of life. The fruition of projects. World travel. A sense of the big picture. Everything is starting to fall into place. You can be one with life and everything in it.
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