Minor and Major Arcana

There are two parts to a Tarot deck. One part is called the ‘Minor Arcana’ and the other part is called the ‘Major Arcana’. But what do these labels mean?

‘Arcana’ comes from the word ‘arcane’ meaning ‘mysterious’ or ‘secret’. Understood by only a few. This word in turn was derived from the Latin ‘arcere’ meaning ‘to shut up, enclose, contain’ which came from ‘arca’ meaning ‘chest’ or ‘place for safe-keeping’. You get the picture. Basically it refers to things which have been kept hidden.

Interestingly, it’s related to the ancient Indo-Euoropean root word ‘ark’ meaning to ‘hold, contain, guard’. As in the Holy Ark. A receptacle, or ornamental closet, which contains the Torah scrolls in a synagogue. As in the Ark of the Covenant. A gold-covered wooden chest said to hold the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. This was the ark that got Indiana Jones and his feisty female companion into so much trouble in the movie ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

I’ve never liked the phrases ‘Minor Arcana’ and ‘Major Arcana’. They don’t mean anything to a modern audience. And this blog is all about bringing Tarot into the light. Making it meaningful. Showing the sense that can be found in the cards.

The Minor Arcana consists of┬ácards that deal with day-to-day situations so I’ve dubbed it Everyday Tarot.

The Major Arcana consists of cards that represent significant life experiences. I call them Life Lessons Tarot.

What would you call the Minor and Major Arcana if you could rename them?

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