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, 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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  • Aasheesh Kumar says:

    Hi Biddy.My question relates to Oswald Wirth’s 5 card major arcana spread.Do we take into account reverse cards in this spread ? The fifth card is the sum of all preceding 4 cards,so how do we decide wether it should be reverse or upright ?
    Look forward to your comments.

  • Aasheesh Kumar says:

    Just to add on above;if the fifth card is one of the preceding cards,then how do we decide if it’s upright or reversed ??? Should we go ignore reversals ???

    • Hmm, good question Aasheesh. You could choose to use just upright cards. OR you could use both upright and reversed, but decide that the 5th card will only be upright. OR if the majority of the cards are already reversed, then perhaps assume the 5th card is reversed. So many options!

  • susan says:

    I usually do a three card spread, my question is, if you draw a major arcana card does this out weigh any other card in the spread? And what happens if all three cards that you pick are major arcana?

    • Hi Susan. The Major Arcana card will usually point to the karmic life lesson that is being learned while the Minor Arcana cards will point to what you can control in your everday life. One does not usually outweigh the other. If you see all Major Arcana cards, then it is likely you are at a pivotal point in your life, experiencing major life changes or karmic lessons. Hope this help, Brigit

  • Sartorius says:

    I’m a fairly new Tarot reader, having acquired the cards when searching through my deceased Grandmother’s remaining property (they seem to work fine for me however), and I seem to like the five-card major arcana spread. However, the whole thing still confuses me, even when using an instruction guide. How do I shuffle Tarot cards properly? Do I add reverse cards? If so, how?

    My personal favourite spread though is a 10-card spread I use for the entire deck, though it says it is usually used for the Major Arcana

  • susan says:

    Hey biddy. I’m new to the tarot. I’ve always been more of a rune caster. A feeling told me to embrace the tarot so I am doing that. My problem however is that for some reason I can’t seem to interpret my past life spread. Its hazy to me. I’ve meditated and listened but nothing is forth coming. Do you think that you can perhaps help me?

  • Nehal says:

    Hello!!My question is in spread if major arcana is more than 50% , shall we read the question??

    • Brigit says:

      Hi Nehal,
      If there is a majority of Major Arana cards in a reading, you can expect this to be a turning point in the client’s life when they are learning a large number of personal life lessons and they are really exploring the depths of who they are (as opposed to dealing with day-to-day issues).

  • bryon says:

    hi, i just started tarot a couple of months ago. i practice with the full deck but it never feels right. whereas when i tried using just major arcana it seemed to work alot better for me? is this an indicator that i should just stick with the major arcana?

    • Brigit says:

      Personally, I prefer to use the full deck and learn with the full deck. BUT, it’s important to acknowledge your intuitive feeling with the cards and so if using just the Majors feels right to you now, go ahead! I would suggest coming back to the Minors at a later stage, though, as these represent the day-to-day, while Majors are typically about life lessons and stronger energies.

  • L says:

    Hello there

    Looking for some helpful interpretations – did Wirth’s spread and I am a bit confused! in position one – the pro’s got the devil, opposing the lovers, 3 – magician and 4 the empress and by my calculations chariot is number 5. Primarily positions 1 and 2 seem the wrong way round? or not?

    Thanks L

  • Renata C. Franklin says:


    I’m a new student of Tarot and have been reading my cards frequently for practice. I have come to a point in my life lately where my career is weighing heavily on me. I am a Soldier in the Reserves and grappling with the idea of diving into my career head on. So many fears surround this issue so I decided to do a nine card spread and the out come was:

    The fool
    King of Cups
    The Lovers (R)
    6 of Wands
    2 of Swords (R)
    The Hermit (R)
    The Chariot (R)
    8 of Wands (R)
    3 of Pentacles

    Can you please help me interpret this. I’m seeing four major arcana and I’m thinking this is destiny at work but I just can’t tell for sure. I really can see me fears showing up in the cards as many of them are reversed. Thanks.

    • Brigit says:

      Hi Renata,
      Thanks for sharing your reading. Having so many Major Arcana cards come up is very important and significant. With three in the reversed position, there are a lot of life lessons that you’re just not ‘getting’ yet and that need your attention.
      To interpret your reading, I would need to know the positions of the spread you used. Also, for a large reading such as this, I recommend getting a personalised interpretation at to do it justice.
      Thanks, Brigit

      • Renata C. Franklin says:

        Thank you for your response Brigit. The spread was laid in threes, one set on the next which formed three rows of three.

  • Christina says:

    Hello – probably had my cards for only 12 months now and how true they are. Just been reading about major arcarna spreads and followed Oswald worthwhile tarot of the magicians spread.

    1 wheel of fortune (reversed)
    2 the moon
    3 the emperor
    4 the lovers

    Which gave me the wheel of fortune for my 5th card

    I would be grateful to receive your interpretation of the cards as I am aware that when reading your own cards you can tell yourself what you want to hear – although I do try to be very true.

    Thank you

    • Christina says:

      Sorry, it wasn’t wheel of fortune 5th card but strength – my miscalculation

    • Brigit says:

      The Strength card is often about controlling a situation but doing it from a very subtle place. Drawing on your self-confidence and your inner talents, you can bring order to a situation, without having others feel like they are being controlled in the process. Very helpful for a relationship, especially with the Emperor also present.

  • Ted says:

    I recently had a spread that yielded no Major Arcana cards. I have developed my own spread that consists of the traditional 10 cards with 3 additional cards or 13 total. Any feedback as to what a spread with no Major Arcana cards might indicate? (In addition there were only 2 face cards, they were both Queens).
    Thank You

    • Brigit says:

      There may be a focus on the day-to-day issues or everyday situations, rather than stepping back to look at the deeper life lessons that can be learned.

  • kylie says:

    I have recently been given a pack of tarot cards and being very new to this I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing yet. This pack is called the ‘Celtic Tarot’ and consists of a 13 card spread. I would prefer to start with the common 10 card spread. Am i able to do that with this deck?

  • Rylla says:

    Hello – The Major Arcana Spread (using the full deck) seems like a great spread. But it is only listed the meaning of the first 5 position. I did a search on AT but couldn’t find this spread. Could you please let me know where could I find the meaning of the rest of the cards’ position? (of course the meanings can be assigned according to the corresponding major arcana but I particularly like those meaning already assigned in this spread). Thank you very much,

    • Brigit says:

      Rylla, the Major Arcana spread is intended as a 5 card spread, rather than a 22 card spread. You use only the Major Arcana cards, but you only draw 5 cards for the reading.

  • Rylla says:

    Thank you Brigit!

  • Leah says:

    Hello! I was just wondering, when should the Major Arcana cards be used on its own? rather than being used in conjunction with the card of the Minor Arcana? Thanks!

    • Brigit says:

      You might want to use just the Major Arcana when you’re doing a reading on karmic or life lessons, when you’re looking at the major themes in your life, or when you’re doing a highly spiritual reading. I suggest using less then about 7 cards for a Major Arcana only reading – they’re pretty powerful so you don’t want to dilute the energy of these cards by drawing lots of them.

  • Rhoda says:

    Hi, Brigit
    First, thank you for being such an inspiration to so many as myself.
    My question has nothing to do with the Tarot but I just need to know if I am understanding this properly.
    This morning I dreamed of attending my husbands funeral. But He passed February 2000. He passed of emphysema.
    Now I have a few ideas of why this dream came to pass this morning. First, I still mourn him. Secondly, through tarot I’m being told that I need to let go of past situations and events that still are with me to this day. Thirdly, I am a smoker.
    Yesterday I did the 5 card spread and 3 swords came up, the strength card, and the hermit. The bottom card was the knight of wands. I am a Leo in my 40’s. Card positions:
    1: 6 swords
    2: 5 swords
    3: 8 swords
    4: Hermit
    5: strength
    Bottom card: Knight of Wands.
    I too, am not that experienced with the tarot. I pick the cards up for a while and then I leave them alone for a year or two due to daily life. But, I’d like to hear your insight.
    Thank you, Rhoda.

    • Brigit says:

      Hi Rhoda. I’m sorry to hear about your husband – my thoughts go out to you. Unfortunately, I don’t offer personalised Tarot reading interpretations here, but you might find that others readers are able to help you out here or at Thanks!

  • kadimiros says:

    This is fascinating stuff.

    I am puzzled, though. For the Wirth spread, does one reduce by adding digits (as done in numerology)?

    Also, let’s say that I drew cards numbered 4, 13, 19 and 10. 2 + 15 + 19 + 10 = 46 and then 4+6 = 10. That result gives me card 10 for positions 4 and 5.

    Or suppose we reduce by taking the remainder from subtracting multiples of 22. 46 – 22 – 22 = 2. That result gives me card 2 in positions 1 and 5.

    Is that acceptable, to have the same card for two positions? Or are we supposed to choose another card somehow, or leave the position empty?

  • kadimiros says:

    I wrote, “4, 13, 19 and 10.” Sorry, I meant to correct that example to “2, 15, 19 and 10.”

  • Chavi Gulati says:

    Hello maam,
    I just want to ask that can we use both the major and minor arcana cards for the same spread or is it necessary to use one arcana for each spread?

    • Brigit says:

      You can do either. For 99.9% of readings, I use the full deck with both Major and Minor Arcana cards. But every now and then, I’ll use just the Majors.

  • abigail says:

    so what does it mean if we did a reading using all the tarot cards but all five cards of your spread ended up being major arcana cards??

  • Sam says:

    I am two days new at this. I have everything I need to begin. What I have been reading assumes I know that which I do not know, I.e., the difference between choose and turn over the card on top. Does choose mean, lay out all of the cards in the Major face up and select one or does it mean after you shuffle the deck turn over the top card? Sam

  • Rom says:

    I did a full deck reading. All cards that came out were Major and all reversed, what does this highlight please? Thanks in advance.

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