Not many people are aware that the term “Major Arcana” is relatively new. Most of them believe that Tarot has always had a Principal and Minor Arcana, and that the images were forever the same, but this is not the case. Before 1860, two divisions of tarot were known simply as trump cards and point cards. The trumps were 22 picture cards that featured Renaissance figures and scenes. Some of these images have names similar to Tarot’s modern names, for example, Emperor, Justice, and Death. Other cards are given terms such as The Pope, Hunchback, and Traitor.
Many of Tarot’s pictures and names have changed over time. Pip cards were very similar to today’s regular playing cards. Pip cards were the four sets of numbered cards with illustrations of coins, mugs, swords, or sticks. Paul Christian (whose real name is Jean-Baptiste Petois) was the man who gave the two Tarot divisions their esoteric major and minor arcana names. The word Arcana means mysterious or secret, and by giving these Latin titles on the cards, Christian tried to create a magical and mystical atmosphere around the Tarot.
Major Arcana in modern Tarot are numbered 0-21 and are the cards of greatest interest. It is considered one of the most powerful images, as it shows psychological influences, spiritual principles, and karmic lessons that influence your life. On reading they show the reasons behind events and can reveal the mindset behind a specific behavior. When a high percentage of Major Arcana cards appear in reading, it can indicate a time of change and / or an opportunity for personal growth. This usually occurs as a result of having to deal with tragic circumstances, or because a shift in awareness has resulted in some mind-boggling personal visions and increased self-awareness.
In Tarot Today, the Major Arcana sequence begins with The Fool and ends with The World. Some people see this series of cards as a journey through life, or a representation of progressive steps in spiritual development. These cards are filled with biblical, magical, and archetypal symbols. Lots of mysterious icons were added to the images as they evolved. Various artists have incorporated themes and symbolism into the design to achieve their concept of what the card should represent. One of these shows (The Rider-Waite Tarot) proved to be more popular than any of the others.
More than 6 million Rider-Waite Tarot decks have been sold. Its master Arcana design has become the basis for most of the modern Tarot spin-offs, and it’s easy to see why the visuals are so simple yet full of meaning. And when you look beyond the outlines of the main characters dominating the scene, you’ll often find jewels of wisdom among the little details.