How To Use The 22 Cards Of The Major Arcana In Magic
The mysterious history and magic surrounding the Tarot make it a powerful ally for any witch. Everything about each card is significant, tells a story, and reflects some deeper meaning. The cards have been interpreted by everyone from psychologists to church leaders and over the centuries, the Tarot has been used to pass on knowledge and keep secrets. In fact, “arcana” means secret, and everything about these richly symbolic cards holds a clue.
You can build a relationship with your deck, learn to understand it, and even ask it for advice like an old friend. Every card holds an answer if you’re brave enough and wise enough to decipher it. Going beyond divination, these cards can be used in spellwork to guide along your intent in marvelous ways — and the closer you are to your deck, the better its magic serves you. While there is much to say about the various historical connections of the Tarot or its prominent place in the whispers and legends of witches and mystics all over the world, today I’m going to keep it simple and focus on which cards will serve you best depending on the spell or magic you want to do.
The Major Arcana
The Fool: This card represents naivety, youth, and new beginnings. In spellwork, this card can be used to bring bravery and joy when starting something new, like a relationship or a job. Any spells surrounding a child will be bolstered by the Fool, who represents innocence. If you feel you’ve been foolish lately, use this card to help reverse the damage by turning it from upside down to right side up during self-transformative spellwork. Because the element associated with the Fool is air, when using this card incorporate this element in some way for better results. Sing, speak, use the wind! Note: This card is light-hearted and free-spirited, and should never be used in hexes or curses.
The Magician: A tricky little card that must be used the right way. The Magician represents power and having the control necessary to wield it. Pair this card with others to create layers of symbolism and power during spells. The Magician paired with The Lovers can give you the upper hand in a relationship. When paired with The Sun, it can boost spells for success or to turn things in your favor. Reversed, the Magician becomes an illusionist, who seeks personal gain at the detriment of others. Can be used in magic when you need to hide your true intentions or as a last resort when other means to get what you want have been unsuccessful. Element: Air.
The High Priestess: This card is a sign of knowledge, balance, and intuition. Because the High Priestess is all about self-discovery and learning to trust yourself, her presence during meditation and astral travel is welcome. This card can be used on its own whenever you need clarity on a situation, during quiet reflection or paired with the Hermit when seeking inner truth. Simply hold the card, ask a question, and listen to your own inner voice to find the answer. Set this card nearby and take a long bath to help calm nerves and anxiety. Element: Water.
The Empress: A sign of harmony, love, luxury, and motherhood. Particularly useful in spells directed at pregnant women, women hoping to become pregnant, and mothers. The Empress will help with spells of abundance and peaceful relationships, ensuring spells involving either of these pursuits are successful. Because of its connection to nature, this card is good luck for green witches and will be especially potent in spells involving herbs. Element: Earth.
The Emperor: A counterpart to the Empress, the Emperor represents fatherhood and control. Keep nearby when you are developing strategies and use in spells focused on discipline, like breaking a bad habit or achieving a goal. This card’s element is fire, so magic using candles will be given a boost when the Emperor is around. Keep in mind that unchecked, too much power corrupts and this card can be reversed in spells if you’re targeting a bully in your life.
The Hierophant: On its surface, the Hierophant represents establishment and a set tradition, passing down knowledge through structured methods. Not much fun but, I suppose, occasionally necessary. However, when you reverse the Hierophant, he represents rebellion. Turn the Hierophant upside down and use in spells seeking change to the status quo. This card, reversed, can also be used to change someone’s mind or open them up to new ideas. Element: Earth.
The Lovers: I love this card because it’s associated with my Zodiac sign, Gemini! The Lovers represent harmony, duality, balance, and bonding. Reverse this card in spells if you’re seeking to breakup a relationship. Use right side up and pair with rose quartz to bring harmony to your love life. The Lovers don’t just symbolize romantic couples, though. Whenever you’re performing spells to strengthen a bond between friends, family, co-workers, etc, make sure the Lovers make an appearance. This can also be used in spells meant to resolve an internal conflict and bring harmony to yourself.
The Chariot: This is a winner’s card, to be used in spells after you’ve put a lot into work into something already to ensure positive results. I’ve pinned the Chariot above my altar as a constant power boost, along with keeping one near for every spell where I want to be victorious in a situation. This card is so powerful, you can carry it with you and use only with intention when you need extra willpower or to guarantee success. Bring it with you to the bank to ensure a loan, or a job interview. Pair with aventurine when you need extra luck. Wherever you have toiled, this card will help turn the tables in your favor. Element: Water.
Strength: While there are many different ways to be strong, the Strength card can represent them all in spells. When dealing with temptation, draw the Strength card to give yourself extra willpower and morale. Always keep one close when performing spells relating to bravery or facing your fears. This card’s element is fire, and this should be respected when using it. Add a red candle and the Strength card to any spell you feel requires extra fortitude — spells connected to leaving a bad situation, overcoming something that holds you back, or starting a new course in your life that you’re afraid of.
The Hermit: This card is all about wisdom and truth. Great for college witches seeking help with school. Light a blue candle and set the Hermit card next to it during studying to retain facts and information better. Carry this card and a piece of petrified wood while taking tests. The Hermit is also about discovering yourself and the knowledge we attain in our quiet moments away from everyone. Let the Hermit guide you during meditation and whenever you need a companion during work focused on inner peace and reflection. The Hermit’s element is earth, and performing these spells outside will be extra effective.
The Wheel of Fortune: Another great card to use in reverse, when you’ve been facing a lot of bad luck. Light a green candle and set the reversed Wheel of Fortune beside it. Then, as the candle burns, slowly (over the course of about an hour) turn the card right side to turn your bad luck around. This card is a reminder that things change, and neither good nor bad can last forever. Use in spells to control your fate by establishing where you want to go, and pointing the card in that direction.
Justice: This card represents an understanding that actions have consequences, which makes it a wonderful card to turn to when you want to make sure a foe gets what they deserve. If someone has wronged you, pair this card with the (humanely sourced) tooth of a predator and, because this card’s element is air, use your words to ask that your enemy is punished accordingly. When performing spells against another, turn this card upside down and cover its eyes (or, as the more modern decks can be quite abstract, put a black cloth over it) to protect yourself against retaliation.
The Hanged Man: This card is all about sacrifice and patience. The man is hanging upside down and therefore his view of the world is skewed, or perhaps he just sees things differently. It is suggested his pose is voluntary, a sacrifice to achieve another way of looking at the world — or achieving enlightenment. This makes the Hanged Man an excellent card for achieving higher wisdom through spellwork. Pair with howlite for patience and understanding in a trying situation. Especially useful for spells involving an altar or any grounding ritual involving water (the element associated with this card). I like to use this card after I’ve asked for help with something during a gratitude ritual — a good habit to get into. Place under your pillow each night to remember to be thankful.
Death: Quite the sinister card, no? Not really. The Death card is actually a symbol of a change, the end of something that has run its course so there can be something new. Whenever you want a spell for change, Death is the card you must reach for, especially if you’re finding it difficult to make this change on your own. This can be paired with the Wheel of Fortune card to bring an end to stagnant period in your life. It can be used with the Lovers card to get over a past relationship. I use it often for banishing spells to signal an end to whatever is pestering me. Element: Water.
Temperance: This is a good card to use when battling obsession or addiction. This card is about balance and serene control, however, when reversed, this card symbolizes a life out of tune and excessiveness. Reverse this card in spells against your enemies to cause confusion and a loss of control. Use this card right side up during centering rituals to help find an equilibrium. Element: Fire.
The Devil: Reversed, this card represents breaking free of something holding you back and returning to happier times. Right side up, he represents being a prisoner of excess or trapped in a cycle of addiction. I only use this card reversed and pair it with the Emperor in spellwork to break bad habits (like spending way too much time on the internet, for example). Use during a cleansing exercise and pair with salt to release yourself from negative energies.
The Tower: Another favorite. This card is fantastic for banishing and, when paired with Death or The Wheel of Fortune, changing a situation definitively. This can apply to anything; work, relationships, or something internal. Whenever you feel stagnation getting the best of you, whip out this card and burn a white candle to bring about a sudden and huge change in your life. Note: Best results come when the timing of these spells coincide with the changing seasons. Make sure your intentions are clear and pair with the Star to avoid a change for the worse! Element: Fire, of course.
The Star: Use this lucky little card for wishes and spells of abundance. The element associated with this card is air, so take this card somewhere where you can be alone and shout your wish into the universe. During the full moon, burn a green candle next to this card for some quick cash. Hang over your bed and before going to sleep, make your wish. It’s your own personal shooting star, witches.
The Moon: This card can help guide your intuition and reveal hidden truths about yourself. Dream magic and spells involving water will get a boost when the Moon card is added into the fold. While using other methods of divination, the Moon will make interpretations easier.
The Sun: Use the Sun in any spell to increase the chances of success. Add to an altar to make your workspace more magically potent. This card makes an excellent talisman, and can be carried with you to bring good luck and reduce the risk of negativity throughout the day. This is a happy card and will work toward positive outcomes in any spell, especially if paired somehow with honey and the color yellow! Element: Fire.
Judgment: Another card that focuses on consequences, which makes it a natural for spells directed at problematic people. However, unlike Justice, this card is not just about cause and effect, but awareness. If someone has hurt you in some way, this card will open their eyes to it when used in spells, and if you choose, you can find a resolution with this person. This card can also be used in personal spells to give you some perspective. It’s easy to believe we’re never at fault, but when Judgement is present, we can see where we’ve gone wrong and work to make personal improvements or amends.
The World: The element for the final card in the Major Arcana is earth. Go outside, hold this card and perform a grounding. In spells, use this card for bringing harmony, peace, and happiness to yourself or another. This is a good omen card and represents contentment or enlightenment. Use in any spell that aims for stress relief, fixing an imbalance in your life, or simply when you need to get back to nature and feel reconnected to your craft!
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by SL Bear
I grew up in the Sonoran desert, then moved to Colorado where I spent my 20s and early 30s morphing into an adult in the shadow of the Rockies. My life has been a quilt of extraordinary landscapes and wild terrain, and I have seen some beautiful, impossible things. I credit this upbringing for my ability to see beyond the regular day-to-day, and find the hidden magic that is ignored by so many. I work mainly with art, sigils, candles, stones, weather, and moods. With my articles, I will always try to be positive and find ways to bring new experiences and new ways to practice a craft we all love so dearly. I hope you enjoy.