The Major Arcana are the named or numbered cards in a cartomantic tarot pack, the name being originally given by occultists to the trump cards of a normal tarot pack used for playing card games. There are usually 22 such cards in a standard 78-card pack, typically numbered from 0 to 21 (in card playing packs, there is no 0, the unnumbered card is the Fool). The name is not used by tarot card game players.
Prior to the 17th century, tarot cards were solely used for playing games and the Fool and 21 trumps were simply part of a standard card pack used for gaming and gambling. There may have been allegorical and cultural significance attached to them, but beyond that, the trumps originally had no mystical or magical import. With decks designed for card games (Tarot card games), these cards serve as permanent trumps and are distinguished from the remaining cards — the suit cards — which are known by occultists as the Minor Arcana.
The terms “Major” and “Minor Arcana” are used in the occult, and divinatory applications of the deck as in practising Esoteric Tarot and originate with Jean-Baptiste Pitois (1811–1877), writing under the name Paul Christian.
Sir Michael Dummett writes that the Fool and trump cards originally had simple allegorical or esoteric meaning, mostly originating in elite ideology in the Italian courts of the 15th century when it was invented. The occult significance began to emerge in the 18th century when Antoine Court de Gébelin, a Swiss clergyman and Freemason, published Le Monde Primitif. The construction of the occult and divinatory significance of the tarot, and the Major and Minor Arcana, continued on from there. For example, Court de Gébelin claimed an Egyptian, kabbalistic, and divine significance of the tarot trumps; Etteilla created a method of divination using tarot; Éliphas Lévi worked to break away from the Egyptian nature of the divinatory tarot, bringing it back to the tarot de Marseilles, creating a “tortuous” kabbalastic correspondence, and even suggested that the Major Arcana represent stages of life. The Marquis Stanislas de Guaita established the Major Arcana as an initiatory sequence to be used to establish a path of spiritual ascension and evolution. In 1980 Sallie Nichols, a Jungian psychologist, wrote of the tarot as having deep psychological and archetypal significance, even encoding the entire process of Jungian individuation into the tarot trumps.
These various interpretations of the Major Arcana developed in stages, all of which continue to exert significant influence on practitioners’ explanations of the Major Arcana.12. From Wikipedia, accessed 16/08/22
The High Priestess
The Wheel of Fortune
The Hanged Man
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- 12. From Wikipedia, accessed 16/08/22