Tarot cards are a true art form. The imagery on each card (like Thiago Corrêa’s cat-inspired tarot card art featured below) can draw you to a deck and play a role in the cards you resonate with.
Originating in 15th-century Europe, the tarot is a deck of 78 cards that is still widely used in readings today. But what do all those cards mean, and how do you connect with them?
Tarot cards are less about fortune telling and more about spirituality, self-reflection, and intuition. Today, many people use tarot readings to think deeply about challenges or situations they face and use the cards as inspiration for self-improvement and growth.
Tarot card readings are complicated and take lots of time to master, but this beginner’s guide will introduce the meanings of the major cards to help you find the ones you connect with most and get you started on your tarot journey. We’ll start with the Major Arcana cards, touch on the Minor Arcana, and then share a couple of simple, introspective exercises to help you match the Court Cards with personality types. Read all our explanations or jump to a specific section below.
- The Major Arcana
- The Minor Arcana
- Court Cards and Personality Types
- Tarot Card FAQs
- Tarot Spread Printables
Meanings of the Major Arcana
The 22 Major Arcana cards are some of the most important tarot cards. They represent life lessons and large themes. Drawing a Major Arcana card invites you to reflect on big changes or challenges you may be experiencing, and they set the tone for the entire reading. Some people interpret that the cards tend to have a positive meaning when pulled from the deck upright, and a more negative meaning when reversed.
Read through the meaning of each Major Arcana card below.
1. The Fool
The fool is numbered 0 and therefore can be placed at the beginning or the end of the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana can be thought of as the Fool’s journey through major life events. He represents beginnings, embarking on a journey, and taking first steps toward something new.
2. The Magician
Meaning: Resourcefulness, Action
Numbered 1 in the deck, the Magician represents action, power, and skillful resourcefulness. He is a problem-solver and uses multiple tools at his disposal to achieve his goals.
3. The High Priestess
The High Priestess is a symbol of intuition, dreams, and a connection with the inner world. She can be seen as a counterpart to the Magician. While the Magician is involved with the tangible world, the High Priestess is master of the subconscious mind. Drawing this card may be a sign to turn to your inner thoughts and trust your intuition.
4. The Empress
The Empress represents abundance, comfort, and femininity. She may be a signifier to express gratitude for the nurturing powers in your life, or may serve as a reminder to foster abundance and embrace nature. She can also be a sign that you need to prioritize self-care.
5. The Emperor
The Emperor card demonstrates order and authority. A counterpart to the Empress, he may sometimes represent inflexible behavior and too much control, he is not always negative. For example, he can suggest that you are protective of those you love and a source of stability in the lives of others.
6. The Hierophant
Meaning: Wisdom, Tradition
Often connected with organized religion, the Hierophant signifies convention, tradition, formal study, and set spiritual beliefs. Drawing this card may suggest that you find comfort within an institution, need the advice of a mentor or teacher, or that it could be time to break with tradition.
7. The Lovers
The Lovers are a symbol for meaningful relationships, whether between romantic partners, family members, or close friends. They can signify mutual respect, compassion, and close bonds in one’s life.
8. The Chariot
Meaning: Success, Control
The Chariot is a symbol of success achieved through willpower, discipline, control, and strength. A sign of determination, drawing the Chariot may tell you that now is the time to tackle challenges head-on, or that something is getting in the way of you achieving your goals.
Meaning: Courage, Inner Strength
Just like it sounds, the Strength card is about courage and achievement. However, while the Chariot is more about outer strength, this card deals with inner strength. It can signify patience and resilience. In a reading, it invites you to think about balancing your inner strength to persevere and succeed.
10. The Hermit
The Hermit is all about looking inward. It shows introspection, contemplation, and unique wisdom that can only come from self-reflection. The card can tell you that you may be in need of some introspective alone time away from the hustle and bustle, or it may be an indication that you are too isolated from others.
11. Wheel of Fortune
Meaning: Destiny, Luck
The Wheel of Fortune card represents the constant movement of external forces. It is a reminder that everything is always changing and that both good and bad luck come and go. There are things we can’t control, but we can control how we react, learn, and grow.
Justice represents the law, fairness, and truth. Often portrayed as a woman holding a scale, the Justice card is about taking responsibility and owning up to your actions. It can also remind you about how your actions affect others before making a big decision.
13. The Hanged Man
Meaning: Different Perspectives
Showing a figure hanging contentedly upside down, the Hanged Man represents taking a pause to see a new perspective or gain new insight. It can mean that you may need to take a break from something in your life that is wearing you down or that it’s time to reevaluate. It can also signify that you’re putting off something important.
The Death card isn’t as dark as it sounds—rather than signifying real death, it stands for transitions, endings, and transformations. It signals that a new beginning of some kind is approaching, and that major life events can change you for the better.
Temperance is about finding center and keeping balance, even in a rocky situation. This card can show you that you may be in need of moderation or patience, or it can remind you to keep calm and composed in stressful situations.
16. The Devil
Meaning: Darker Self, Attachment
The Devil card can mean many things, like a negative habit, unproductive tendency, or unhealthy attachments. It represents the things that may be holding you back from being your best self, the things it’s best to let go of so that you can grow into a better, more positive person.
17. The Tower
The Tower tells us that big changes are happening. This card traditionally shows a tower being hit by a bolt of lightning, and the ensuing chaos is often what a major life change feels like. Whatever the sudden change is, it can cause doubt and fear, but can also spark a revelation of sorts.
18. The Star
After the chaos of the Tower card, the Star brings renewed hope and purpose. It is about personal growth and growing as a person from what you’ve been through. The card signifies a time or a need for a period of positivity, healing, and renewal.
20. The Sun
While the Moon is about uncertainty, its counterpart, the Sun, is about positivity, celebration, and clarity. It indicates joy, success, and all things happy. The Sun can tell you that you’re a positive light in the lives of others, or that a difficult time may be coming to an end, and things are better on the other side.
Meaning: Self-reflection, Rebirth
The Judgement card can mean that you are at a crossroads and need to make a big decision. It invites self-reflection followed by an awakening or rebirth, where you decide between right and wrong.
22. The World
As the final card in the Major Arcana, the World is fittingly a sign of completion, fulfillment, and closure. It can signify that a goal has been achieved or a period of hard work and preparation has paid off. The World can also tell us that things will come full circle. Something has ended, and now it’s time to make room for new beginnings.
Tarot Card Meanings Printable
Now that we’ve touched on the interpretations of each Major Arcana card, print out this tarot card meanings pdf to keep handy and help you memorize them.
Meanings of the Minor Arcana
The Minor Arcana makes up the other 56 cards in the tarot deck. These cards represent the smaller, day-to-day events in life.
The Minor Arcana is made up of four suits: cups, pentacles, swords, and wands. Each suit includes fourteen cards which run ace through king. Here’s what each suit signifies:
- Suit of Cups: emotions, creativity
- Suit of Pentacles (also called Coins): work, possessions, money
- Suit of Swords: actions, words, thoughts, intellect
- Suit of Wands: passion, motivation
We won’t cover all 56 cards, but next we will expand upon 16 special cards within the Minor Arcana: the Court Cards.
Court Cards and Personality Types
The 16 court cards are often thought of as the “personality type” cards because you can easily pick out which ones you identify most with or a person that they remind you of.
Court Cards don’t necessarily have to correspond with a person’s entire personality. Instead, they can represent both positive and negative traits that you or the person they signify express at any given moment or phase in life.
Keep in mind that the King and Queen cards don’t have to correspond to gender; it’s more about connecting with the essence and behaviors of the card personalities.
King cards show leadership and control over different aspects of life and one’s inner self.
King of Cups
The King of Cups is kind and fair. Competent and balanced, the card represents someone who is in control of their emotions and shows great temperance and understanding.
King of Pentacles
The King of Pentacles represents leadership, power, and stability. If representing a person, they are someone who has a good grasp of a task or operation at hand, such as finances.
King of Swords
The King of Swords shows judgement, commandment, and leadership. This person solves problems objectively.
King of Wands
The King of Wands is a doer; they make things happen by taking advantage of opportunities with energy and vigor.
Queens display maturity and compassion.
Queen of Cups
The Queen of Cups is compassionate and fair. This represents someone who can connect with others on a deep and genuine level, and they are often imaginative and foster creative talents.
Queen of Pentacles
The Queen of Pentacles is a motherly figure who provides for and nurtures those around them. This card can represent someone who has built stability, financial or otherwise, and often practices good work-life balance.
Queen of Swords
The Queen of Swords is independent and intelligent. This card represents unbiased judgement and perception when making decisions and choosing between different paths.
Queen of Wands
The Queen of Wands is focused, bold, and knows how to achieve goals. She is confident and can channel her passion into achieving her goals.
Knights represent action and movement.
Knight of Cups
The Knight of Cups is idealistic, often with a romantic view of life. This represents a personality type that is often charming and charismatic, and someone who embodies the Knight of Cups may make emotional choices by following their heart.
Knight of Pentacles
The Knight of Pentacles is great at effective routines and is committed to getting things done correctly. It embodies reliability and a methodical approach to solving problems.
Knight of Swords
The Knight of Swords is all about ambition. Heroic and determined, this is someone who overcomes obstacles and faces challenges head-on.
Knight of Wands
The Knight of Wands springs into action and is full of enthusiasm. However, someone who embodies this card can also be perceived as impatient and hasty, sometimes rushing into things before thinking.
Pages represent someone who is still learning and growing, eager to start a new journey or phase of life.
Page of Cups
The Page of Cups represents the start of something new, and is full of creative energy and interesting ideas.
Page of Pentacles
Starting new skill, hobby, business, focused on achieving a goal, bringing ambitions to life. The Page of Pentacles represents starting a new business or hobby. They are focused on bringing ambitions to life and seeing their dreams made reality.
Page of Swords
The Page of Swords shows someone following their passion, enthusiastically getting started on a new venture in life.
Page of Wands
The Page of Wands has a desire for self-expression. This represents someone who is following a spark of passion and desiring a change in life.
Court Card Exercise
As we mentioned, tarot cards are about intuition and self reflection. Use this worksheet to reflect on the people in your life. Write someone you know who embodies each Court Card, and think about why. Don’t forget to write about yourself!
Remember that the Court Cards don’t always need to represent people as a whole. They can also represent a part of yourself. All tarot cards are up to interpretation and can symbolize people, traits, or other things. This exercise is simply meant to help you get started learning the cards and their associated traits.
Tarot Card FAQs
How do you read tarot cards?
Though there isn’t necessarily a “wrong” way to interpret tarot cards, learning to read them in introspective and helpful ways takes time. Skillful tarot readers consider not only the individual card meanings, but also the meaning of a spread as a whole. Try out different spreads and record your interpretations to gradually get better.
How many cards do you draw?
You can draw multiple cards in a spread. Spreads are the layout in which you place the cards you draw from the deck to read. Some of the most commonly used beginner spreads are the three-card spread and the Celtic cross, though you can also make up your own spreads. In a three-card spread, the first card can represent the past, the middle can represent the present, and the last can represent the future. To help you practice, we created a three-card spread practice sheet at the end of this article.
You can also pull a single card for a person’s daily card reading. This can serve as a reflection for that particular day.
What is the most powerful tarot card?
Though this is up to interpretation, the Fool, as the first card in the Major Arcana, is often considered one of the most important because it represents endless possibilities.
How do you clear and prepare the deck?
To clear your deck for a new reading, you can shuffle them. Start with the Major Arcana and then shuffle the Minor Arcana.
Some also believe that there are ways to cleanse the deck of negative energy, such as meditation, placing the cards outside, and wrapping them in cloth or storing them in a box in between readings.
Tarot Card Spread Practice
A great way to get started reading tarot cards is with a three-card spread. Draw three cards and lay them out a row. It is up to you how to interpret these cards, but a helpful guideline can be to connect each card with either “past, present, and future,” or “mind, body, and spirit.”
Use the printable below as a helpful guideline or tarot journal page to practice interpreting and reflecting on your spreads.
Learning all the cards and how to interpret them takes time, so be patient with yourself as you get better and better. Pay attention to the cards you resonate with most, and perhaps even place them somewhere you’ll see everyday, like a tarot sticker on your mirror or a tarot poster on your wall, to remind you of the areas you’d like to reflect on.