The Tarot is a wonderful place to explore the full dimensions and nuances of our life, but sometimes the whole gamut of seventy-eight cards can get overwhelming, especially for the beginner. When you’re just starting out it may be easier to play with just the Majors, that is, the Major Arcana, and perhaps shelve the Minor Arcana for the time being.
But whether you are a newcomer to Tarot or a seasoned veteran, exploring the Major Arcana on its own with intentional spreads can help deepen your understanding and relationship with the Tarot as a whole.
Let’s take a look into some specifically designated Major Arcana Tarot spreads and discuss why and when we might want to use them.
What is the Major Arcana?
The Major Arcana is a group of cards (twenty-two, to be exact) that represent the main occurrences, experiences, and feelings that happen in the course of our life, from birth to death and everything in between. The Minor Arcana builds upon these major life events, adding minutia, intricacies, and expanded meanings to the details of our lives. But it’s the Major Arcana that contains both the meat and the bones of what it means to live the human experience.
As an example, we see the message of the Strength card (number eight) in all the eights of the Minors, from learning how to ride the robust, productive velocity of movement in the Eight of Wands to having to find the inner strength to escape our own prisons in the Eight of Swords. But it is the Strength card that is the root, the seed, and the heart of all its corresponding cards that we find in every emergent leaf of the Minor Arcana.
When would I use a Majors only spread?
The Minors are certainly helpful and add incredible insight, don’t get me wrong. They are there to add important elements of specifics to our readings. But there are times when only using only the most essential, foundational cards of the Tarot would benefit us, perhaps greater than using the entire deck.
Here are some situations in which we might want to use only the Major Arcana in a reading:
- when we’re just starting out with Tarot and desire greater clarity
- when we want to get right down to the nitty-gritty
- when we need answers quick
- when we want solutions without any fluff
- when we don’t want to sugar-coat anything
- when we don’t have time for nuanced complexities
- when we’re confused or feeling foggy in life
- when we’re being our own worst enemy and trying hard to ignore something we know we should face
Any of these and so many more and good reasons to stick to the crucial twenty-two cards. Now let’s get into some Tarot spreads we can use with the Major Arcana as our guide.
The Past Present Future Spread
This is perhaps one of the most common, popular, and useful of spreads. It’s easier and more accessible than the bigger spreads, and yet holds plenty of space for valuable discernment.
For this spread, you’re going to draw three cards. This is what they’ll represent:
- Past – Anything in the past that is influencing the current situation. This could be events or people that have come across your path, or any feelings and situations that have happened in the past.
- Present – This is the current situation as it is right now. This represents the energy of what’s going on, whether it be where you’re at in life or what’s happening concerning your situation in this moment.
- Future – This is where the energy’s going, where it’s heading based off of the current situation. Nothing is set in stone, and the future may not be wholly clear right now, but this placement gives you an idea of where you’re going so that you can act accordingly, as you see fit.
The Pros and Cons Spread
Here’s another three-card spread that we can use for clarifying a particular/specific situation or dilemma. This would be great to use for determining a course of action, especially for matters of the heart or when your uncertainty lies not in external doubts, but internal ones.
- In Favor – This card will signify what internal or external aspects lie in favor of the situation in question. These are your pros, the reasons why it might be favorable for you to go through with this situation and continue on its course.
- The Situation – Here is our situation at hand, the topic in question. This card will illuminate anything you may not have seen regarding your reason for delving into this question, or it may solidify why you are considering this course of action in the first place.
- Unfavorable – Here we see any reasons why going through with the situation might not be a good idea, or why now might not be a good time for it. These might reveal deal-breakers, or they might just represent challenges you are facing or might have to face if you decide to go through with it.
The Yes or No Spread
This is perhaps the most simple and easy kind of spread to do and read. Here you will draw a card with a “yes or no” question in mind and whatever card you draw will either mean “yes” or “no.”
There are two main ways you can go about this:
1) Each card within the Major Arcana will represent either “yes” or “no.” Either you can determine this for yourself beforehand with your own personally assigned associations, or you can research which cards correspond to “yes” and “no.” Of course, there is no right or wrong way to assign them, but here is a suggestion that evenly divides the twenty-two cards into eleven “yes” and eleven “no”:
- “Yes” cards: Magician, Empress, Hierophant, Lovers, Chariot, Wheel, Strength, Temperance, Star, Moon, Sun,
- “No” cards: Fool, High Priestess, Emperor, Hermit, Justice, Hanged Man, Death, Devil, Tower, Moon, Judgment
2) You can choose to previously shuffle all of the cards with half of them reversed (upside down). Any reversals you draw would mean “no” while all of the uprights will read as “yes.”
The Celtic Cross Spread (Whole and Simplified)
The Celtic Cross spread is a classic. It’s big, it’s thorough, and it means business. When you really want to delve into the full spectrum of why and how something is happening, of all the complexities and influences to your situation as it manifests in the present, this is an excellent spread to utilize. It really brings out the power and functionality of the Majors and adds a lot of depth and detail to what you’re looking at.
This is what our cards will represent in the Celtic Cross:
- Present – This card represents you and how you are feeling, your state of mind, or your situation as it reads right now in the present.
- The Challenge – Here lies your greatest challenge or obstacle facing you that may be blocking or inhibiting you from going where you want to go or doing what you want to do.
- Past – This shows any past influences – situations, people, or instances – that may be negatively or positively affecting you or the situation.
- Future – This is what is most likely to occur based off of how things are right now. It’s not set in stone, but it can illuminate where the energy’s going.
- Above – This represents where you are working consciously, your goals, aspirations, hopes, and physical steps. It can also represent the best possible outcome for the current issue at hand.
- Below – Here we take a peek into the subconscious realm and illuminate anything you might be unconsciously doing or thinking about the situation for better or worse. These are the underlying feelings and the deep foundation beneath why you do and think the things you do.
- Advice – In this card you find some suggestions as to what you might need to do or change about your actions or your thoughts to bring about a solution or the best possible outcome you’re seeking
- External influences – This card brings to light anything coming from outside your own head and your own actions that might be hindering or available to help you in your journey.
- Hopes or fears – Pay close attention here, and perhaps don’t take the cards for face value but consider how even “negative” cards could represent a desire and how even typically “positive” cards can carry disadvantageous implications.
- Outcome – And here, finally, we have the card that delineates what will most likely be the result of things as they hold at the current time, or how the issue in question might be resolved.
You can also simplify this mega spread into just the first six cards. This will still give you a well-rounded but still in-depth reading that may be more suitable when you have less time or less energy, or if you are just starting out reading the Tarot.
The Wisdom of the Majors
No matter which spreads you choose to dive into, you will be exploring the depths of your own life with the most profound, concise, and to-the-point cards the Tarot has to offer – the Major Arcana.
Play around with these Major Arcana Tarot spreads and see which ones suit you best, which ones are easiest for you to wield, and which present beneficial or unnecessary challenges for you.
Which spreads did you like the most? Are there any you think I should add? Tell me in the comments below!