Anatomy of the Trumps

Our lives are constant cycles, repeating themes that occur throughout time. While all the cards in the tarot deck can help us to understand the why behind it all the Trumps (or Major Arcana) are particularly suited to do this. These are the “BIG” cards of the deck. When they come up in a reading they talk about the reoccurring cycles that we all go through over the course of our life time. They give us clues about the lessons that we need to learn in each situation and the archetypes that are at play.

As archetypal cards, the Trumps exist as Platonic forms or the highest ideal that a person strives for when they exist in a certain role. For example, the Empress can be seen as the ultimate mother – nurturing, caring, fertile. She represents a symbol for what all mothers are. These symbols, according to Carl Jung, are collectively inherited from the society and culture that we are in. That is to say, a mother in one culture may represent something different in another. When the Trumps come up, their archetypal message provides us with an example of how to function and that example tells us the lesson that we are supposed to learn.

As lessons, the Trumps are the teachers. While the pips and courts get into the mundane details the Trumps exist above that. They provide us with an example of how to act or an ideal we need to hold on to. When we follow the advice of the cards, we start to see why things are the way they are. When I would read about my graduate school applications (after many, many rejections), I kept getting the Star and Justice. Looking at these cards reminded me of two things: first, keeping the faith and having hope wasn’t delusional, it reminded me of the work that I have done that laid the foundation for where I was going (the Star). It also reminded me that the energies that I put out into the world were what came back to me, thing basic physics; Justice told me that while the decisions were in a sense blind, my energies affect my reality.

Many readers think of the trumps as immutable, the things that are fated to happen. I disagree. I don’t think anything is fated unless you want it to be. Reading tarot gives you the ability to understand a situation from multiple angles and when you have the knowledge you have the power. With the trumps, when you understand why you are where you are you can change it. You can learn the lesson the first time so you won’t have to repeat it.