I experienced a breakthrough regarding tarot when I realized that all the Major Arcana cards are operating somewhere within me at all times. I discovered this from doing a variety of twenty-two card spreads that show where each energy or archetype is operating at the moment. Of course some cards are emphasized or highlighted around particular issues. These are the ones that show up in smaller spreads saying: “Look at me. I’m what’s most important right now regarding your question.” It’s kind of like they’re doing a jig or vibrating more than the others, and thrusting themselves to the front to get your attention. Meanwhile, the others are in the background, quietly doing their own thing or maintaining the status quo.

Sometimes it’s worth seeing the whole picture to understand how each energy or archetype plays its role in relation to the others. There are several ways to do this.

Detailing a Job, Profession, Task or Field of Endeavor

There’s a truly enlightening process almost all serious tarotists discover at some point, though it’s rarely suggested as an exercise that anyone can do. Take any field of endeavor, say your job, for instance. Go through the Major Arcana one-by-one and identify where that energy functions in that particular profession.

For example, how do you, as a cook, act as the Magician? How is a carpenter a High Priestess? When does an accountant exhibit Empress qualities? When a teacher acts as the Star does he or she, perhaps, find practical exercises that demonstrate guiding, but abstract, principles? Or, perhaps, does a mother-as-Star inspire her children with ideals and the hope that they can live according to those ideals? There’s no single right or wrong answer—just what you perceive at the moment.

Give yourself only one minute to write down an example for each card. Skip over the cards for which no answer comes immediately. Then go back and write something for the cards you skipped, leaving the hardest for last. The whole exercise should take no more than 20 to 30 minutes. When completed you should have much more respect and understanding of the dynamics and potential of your work. The card for which it was most difficult to find an example may provide a breakthrough in understanding or help you view everything from a different perspective.

Alternatively, you can list something like twenty-two things you can do to promote yourself as a tarot reader. Or the twenty-two ingredients you need to consider in a project you are contemplating. What does each card suggest?

By the way, Dan Pelletier does a great job of detailing the Major Arcana in Chapter 23 of his audio book The Process where he describes a 22-step map for recovery, change or achieving your dreams and goals (expanding beyond AA’s Twelve Step Program).

22 Card Major Arcana Spreads

Now that you have a sense of how each card can act, let’s see where they are acting in your life right now.

I suggest using a favorite spread that focuses on your whole self—preferably one with at least seven cards. Double or triple the cards in some or all positions so that all 22 cards of the Major Arcana can be used. Here’s a couple of examples:

The 22-Card Celtic Cross Spread
  • One card each for Positions 1 and 2 (the crossing cards). This is your heart issue.
  • 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.
  • A pair of cards each for Positions 7, 8, 9 and 10. The meanings of these two cards are to be integrated.
The 22-Card Tree of Life Spread
  • Lay out two cards for each of the ten Sephiroth and the eleventh, Da’ath position.

Note: If you use the Paths as positions, rather than the Sephiroth, then you can draw one card for each Path.

The 22-Card Horoscope Spread
  • One card each for the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th houses (the cardinal angles).
  • A pair each for the other eight houses. The pair in Fixed/Succedent Houses (2, 5, 8, 11) tend to bolster each other for good or ill. The pair in Mutable/Cadent Houses (3, 6, 9, 12) tend to waffle or present divergent perspectives.
  • Read each position according to the meanings of the twelve Houses of an astrological chart.
  • A pair in the center gives overall advice and direction regarding what is going on in the whole.

Reading the Spreads

The spreads may seem a little overwhelming at first. One way to handle this is to look first at what individual cards and energies are doing. Find the Sun: where is your greatest joy right now? Where do you need to let go of something—Death? Where do you need to wake up and make a judgment call—Judgment? What is asking you to make a fair and just decision—Justice? Where do you need or have the greatest Strength? If you are concerned about a relationship then where are the cards that most strongly suggest you and the other in your interactions? The cards paired with these will modify them or tell you what else is involved. You might also pay special attention to your Lifetime and Year Cards (based on your birthday). And, if you did the first exercise, you’ll probably easily recognize the role each card is playing.