The Archetypes of the Major Arcana

The figures on the major arcana cards are archetypes — cosmic stereotypes that transcend the limits of time and place. They are the heroes of ancient myth and legend, and they are still populate the lead roles in contemporary movies, television shows, plays, and books.

Artists, writers, and musicians regularly tap into the waters of the collective unconscious for inspiration and explanations of the human condition.

Philosopher and psychotherapist Carl Jung believed that the symbols, myths, and archetypes that regularly appear in our dreams, our myths, and our stories all spring from that same source — which explains why so many people and culture share similar legends and make use of the same symbols, regardless of time and place.

The major arcana archetypes include:

  1. The Fool, the happy wanderer who sees the world through the eyes of a child
  2. The Magician, the skilled and cunning master of all he surveys
  3. The High Priestess, the enigmatic keeper of spiritual secrets
  4. The Empress, Mother Nature, the source of all creation
  5. The Emperor, the authoritative protector and provider who rules the civilized world
  6. The Hierophant, the head of a hierarchy that preserves his religious and cultural traditions
  7. The Lovers, who embody the twin principles of opposition and attraction
  8. The Chariot, a vehicle for forward motion and change
  9. Strength, the lovely lady with the heart of a lion
  10. The Hermit, the recluse who can’t get away from his followers
  11. The Wheel of Fortune, the spinning wheel of destiny and fate
  12. Justice, the ultimate arbiter, who balances a double-edged sword
  13. The Hanged Man, the visionary who sacrifices one life to be rewarded with another
  14. Death, the Grim Reaper who clears away all that cannot survive
  15. Temperance, the archangel of moderation
  16. The Devil, the dark and shadowy side of our existence
  17. The Tower, a forceful clearing of pent-up, overbuilt energy and ideas
  18. The Star, the blithe spirit who offers hope, inspiration, and guidance
  19. The Moon, the ever-changing mirror of life on earth
  20. The Sun, the source of heat, illumination, and life on earth
  21. Judgment, the call to consciousness
  22. The World, the never-ending, spiral dance of life