THE MAJOR ARCANA & THEIR DIVINATORY MEANINGS

The Rider-Waite tarot deck, originally published in 1909, is widely considered the most popular tarot deck for tarot card reading. The cards were drawn by illustrator Pamela Colman Smith from the instructions of academic and mystic Arthur Edward Waite and were originally published by the Rider Company.

Copyright:

In the United Kingdom, copyright in the artwork for the deck expired 70 years after the end of the year in which Waite died, i.e. after 31st December 2012. In countries with a 50 years posthumous terms (e.g. Australia, Canada, etc.) the copyright expired after 31st December 1992.  In the United States, the deck fell into the public domain in 1966 (publication + 28 years + renewed 28 years), and thus has been available for use by American artists in numerous different media projects. U.S. Games Systems has a copyright claim on their updated version of the deck published in 1971, but this only covers new material added to the pre-existing work (e.g. designs on the card backs and the box).

Arthur Edward Waite had this to say about the Major Arcana cards in divination. (Keep in mind that these meanings are just  a starting point that gives you the opportunity to expand and adapt them to the modern world or specific circumstances.)


0. THE FOOL

Folly, mania, extravagance, intoxication, delirium, frenzy, betrayal. If the card is reversed: Negligence, absence, distribution, carelessness, apathy, nullity, vanity.

1. THE MAGICIAN

Skill, diplomacy, address, sickness, pain, loss, disaster, self-confidence, will, the Querent himself (if male). If the card is reversed: Physician, Magus, mental illness, disgrace, disquiet.

 2. THE HIGH PRIESTESS 

Secrets, mystery, the future as yet unrevealed, the woman who interests the Querent (if male); the Querent (if female) silence, tenacity; wisdom, science. If the card is reversed: Passion, moral or physical ardour, conceit, surface knowledge.

3. THE EMPRESS

Fruitfulness, initiative, action, long days, clandestine, the unknown, difficulty, doubt, ignorance. If the card is reversed: Light, truth, the unravelling of complicated matters, public rejoice, also, according to another reading, vacillation.

4. THE EMPEROR

Stability, power, aid, protection, a great person, conviction, reason. If the card is reversed: Benevolence, compassion, credit, confusion to enemies, obstruction, immaturity.

5. THE HIEROPHANT

Marriage alliance, captivity, servitude, mercy and goodness, inspiration, the man to whom the Querent has recourse. If the card is reversed: Society, good understanding, concord, over-kindness, weakness.

6. THE LOVERS 

Attraction, love, beauty, trials overcome. If the card is reversed: Failure, foolish designs.

7. THE CHARIOT

Succor, providence, war, triumph, presumption, vengeance, trouble. If the card is reversed: Riot, quarrel, dispute, litigation, defeat.

8. STRENGTH

Power, energy, action, courage, magnanimity. If the card is reversed: Abuse of power, despotism, weakness, discord.

9. THE HERMIT

Prudence, also and especially treason, dissimulation, corruption, roguery. If the card is reversed: Concealment, disguise, policy, fear, unreasoned caution.

10. WHEEL OF FORTUNE

Destiny, fortune, success, luck, felicity. If the card is reversed: Increase, abundance, superfluity.

11. JUSTICE

Equity, rightness, probity, executive. If the card is reversed: Law in all departments, bigotry, bias, excessive severity.

12. THE HANGED MAN 

wisdom, trials, circumspection, discernment, sacrifice, intuition, divination, prophecy. If the card is reversed: Selfishness, the crowd, body politic.

13. DEATH

End, mortality, destruction, corruption. If the card is reversed: Inertia, sleep, lethargy, petrifaction, somnambulism.

14. TEMPERANCE 

Economy, moderation, frugality, management, accommodation. If the card is reversed: Things connected with churches, religions, sects, the priesthood, unfortunate combinations, disunion, competing interests.

15. THE DEVIL

Ravage, violence, force, vehemence, extraordinary efforts, fatality, that which is predestined but not for this reason evil. If the card is reversed: Evil fatality, weakness, pettiness, blindness.

16. THE TOWER

Misery, distress, ruin, indigence, adversity, calamity, disgrace, deception. If the card is reversed: According to one account, the same in a lesser degree, also oppression, imprisonment, tyranny.

17. THE STAR 

Loss, theft, privation, abandonment, although another reading suggests hope and bright prospects in the future. If the card is reversed: Arrogance, impotence, haughtiness.

18. THE MOON 

Hidden enemies, danger, calumny, darkness, terror, deception, error. If the card is reversed: Instability, inconstancy, silence, lesser degrees of deception and error.

19. THE SUN

Material happiness, fortunate marriage, contentment. If the card is reversed: The same in a lesser sense.

20. THE LAST JUDGMENT

Change of position, renewal, outcome. If the card is reversed: Weakness, pusillanimity, simplicity, also deliberation, decision, sentence.

21. THE WORLD

Assured success, route, voyage, emigration, flight, change of place. If the card is reversed: Inertia, fixity, stagnation, permanence.

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