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Major Arcana Tarot Spreads

By August 12, 2011Tarot Spreads

Ever wondered what your life purpose is? Or ever wanted to delve deep into who you really are? Reading the Tarot cards can certainly help to shed light on these ‘soul searching’ questions, but one of the most powerful ways of answering these types of questions is to use a Major Arcana Tarot spread. In this blog post, I talk about how you can use the Major Arcana in your Tarot readings and spreads in a way that will help you to answer some of life’s more important questions.

Understanding the Major Arcana

The Tarot deck comprises 78 cards, 22 of which are Major Arcana cards. The Major Arcana cards represent a path to spiritual self-awareness and depict the various stages that are encountered in the search for greater meaning and understanding. These cards typically highlight the Universal forces and energies that are at play and that have a long-lasting impact on your life journey. Accordingly, the Major Arcana represent meaningful life lessons and offer deep insight from the collective unconscious .

Using only the Major Arcana cards in a Tarot reading is therefore incredibly powerful and insightful, particularly when you are in search of answers that relate to major life events and influences.

Major Arcana Tarot readings can generally be conducted in one of two ways:

  1. Use only the Major Arcana cards for any Tarot spread of your choice.
  2. Use a Tarot spread specially designed for the Major Arcana cards.

Using Only the Major Arcana Cards in Any Tarot Spread

You can certainly use the Major Arcana for any Tarot spread (as long as it is less than 22 cards!). However, my recommendation is to save these powerful cards for Tarot readings that are of great significance and importance in your life.

We know that the Major Arcana cards relate to Universal energies that are present in our lives and often reflect the deeper life lessons that we must encounter before we can transform ourselves and progress to the next stage in our lives. We also know that the Major Arcana cards point to aspects of our spiritual and psychological selves. So, in choosing a Tarot spread that is appropriate for the Major Arcana, we need to keep these aspects in mind.

Consider using the Major Arcana cards for the following types of Tarot spreads:

  • Spiritual and/or psychological Tarot readings
  • Personal growth and transformation Tarot readings, such as the Sacred Mandala
  • Yearly forecast readings
  • The Celtic Cross

You may also want to use the Major Arcana for questions that are of significant importance. For example, it may be appropriate to use the Major Arcana cards for a simple Past/Present/Future spread if the question is, “What life lessons do I need to learn?” or “What do I need to know about myself?” Look for questions that are associated with Universal or long-term influences.

Using a Tarot Spread Specially Designed for the Major Arcana

Oswald Wirth’s Major Arcana Tarot Spread

This is a five-card-cross spread, using only the Major Arcana cards. Designed by Oswald Wirth, this spread was recently featured on Mary Greer’s blog. The original spread is set up as if you are facing a court of law and your ‘case’ is being decided by the judge. However, in an attempt to make it more practical and applicable, I have adapted this spread somewhat. In this form, it can be used for any type of major decision, choice or situation where you want to understand more about the pros and cons and the result or outcome.

  • Card 1 (left) – What is in favour of the situation.
  • Card 2 (right) – What is against the situation, and hostilities that should be avoided or feared.
  • Card 3 (above) – Weighing up the pros and cons and clarifying the decision that needs to be made.
  • Card 4 (below) – The result or solution, and what may come about as a result of your decision.
  • Card 5 (centre) – This card is determined by adding the numbers of the first four cards and reducing to 22 or less. (The Fool is considered 0 when adding the cards, and 22 when it is the result of the addition.) This card is a synthesis of what has gone before, and points out what is of prime importance on which everything else depends.

Circle of Eight Spread

The Circle of Eight spread was initially designed by Charles San, author of “How to Read the Cards”, and was also recently adapted by Mary Greer.

  1. Shuffle the Major Arcana and deal six cards face down on top of each other. Turn the seventh card face up – this is the Significator and represents you in this present moment. Return the other six cards to the bottom of the deck.
  2. Deal two cards face down and turn one card up, placing this third card at the 10 o’clock position (relative to the Significator). Do this seven times placing every third card in a counter clockwise circle around the Significator. Eventually, you will have seven cards surrounding the Significator card (eight cards in total).

The Circle of Eight spread highlights the ebb and flow of your life. There are no set positions as such, but rather a combination of Major Arcana cards that create insight into the energies that are present in your life.

22 Card Spreads

The idea of the 22 Card Spread is that you can take an existing Tarot spread and increase the number of cards drawn to total 22 cards so that every Major Arcana card is laid out in the reading.

For example, this method can be applied to the Celtic Cross. To create the 22-Card Celtic Cross Spread:

  1. Draw one card each for Positions 1 and 2 (the significator and the crossing card).
  2. Draw three cards each for Positions 3, 4, 5 and 6, such that the first card of the three is strongest, while the other two cards modify it.
  3. Draw a pair of cards each for Positions 7, 8, 9 and 10. Consider each card in the pair equally.

Some More Alternatives…

The Major Arcana Spread (using the full deck)

While searching on tarotforum.net, I found a great spread that uses the Major Arcana to create the spread itself. That is, each position is related to each Major Arcana card. The difference, however, is that the full Tarot deck is used – not just the Major Arcana cards. Here’s the basic layout:

Card 1 – The Fool – The initial journey

Card 2 – The Magician – Actions that need to be taken

Card 3 – The High Priestess – Mysteries that need to be uncovered

Card 4 – The Empress – Sources of creativity and abundance

Card 5 – The Emperor – Required structures

…and so on until all 22 cards are laid out.

Major / Minor Arcana Spreads

Instead of just using the Major Arcana cards for a favourite Tarot spread, you may choose to separate out both the Major and Minor Arcana cards. To start, split the deck into Major Arcana and Minor Arcana (resulting in two decks of cards). Shuffle both decks and choose a Major and Minor card for each position in the selected Tarot spread. For example, if you use the Celtic Cross, place both a Major and Minor Arcana card in each of the positions.

The advantage of this method is that the Major Arcana card identifies the broader energies that are influencing you while the Minor Arcana card identifies how this is affecting you in the here-and-now. It is almost like you are looking at the situation from the high level, helicopter view as well as the more detailed, specific view.

Over to You…

What Tarot spreads do you use when reading with just the Major Arcana cards? Do you have a personal favourite? Leave your comments below.

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