The Tarot's 22 trumps are so rich and dense in meaning that it's difficult to summarize each card in just a few lines. Yet this is the delicate exercise I attempt below. On a single page, you'll be able to browse through all the interpretations of the Tarot's Major Arcana. Naturally, you'll want to click on the full description to read the complete card contents.
In fact, the full description for each card contains :
The card is more about being incomplete (table with 3 legs instead of 4) and the need to grow and evolve (acorn between the fingers) along the way. The Bateleur embodies resourcefulness, urging the consultant to use his or her ingenuity to solve challenges and make the most of available resources.
The card focuses on the fact that the traveller has infinite magical power, and if he wants to, he can fulfil all his potential. It underlines the importance of persuasive communication and the mastery of words to positively influence one's environment.
Le Bateleur/The Magician is the first card of the Tarot, and represents the beginning, the potential, and the manifestation of ideas in the material world. It is the card of positive energy and possibilities. It invites you to be active, creative, resourceful and to seize opportunities to achieve your goals. It's a symbol of beginnings, potential, the willingness to learn and the ability to manifest your desires in the material world. Keep in mind that the Bateleur/The Magician also reminds you of the importance of self-confidence and perseverance to succeed in your endeavours.
La Papesse of the Tarot de Marseille symbolises inner knowledge and access to the hidden mysteries of the universe. She invites us to connect with our intuition and to seek the truth through inner reflection.
The High Priestess of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot is more associated with divine wisdom and esoteric knowledge.She represents connection with the spiritual world and access to hidden secrets.
La Papesse/The High Priestess of the Tarot embodies wisdom, spirituality and the quest for esoteric knowledge. This card symbolises access to esoteric knowledge and encourages you to trust your intuition and deepen your understanding of the mysteries within and of the universe. It invites us to seek inner truth, to trust our intuition and to develop our inner wisdom. It emphasises the power of reflection and study to help you make informed decisions in your life.
The Tarot Empress embodies femininity, creativity and abundance, and invites us to express our love for ourselves and others. This card also symbolises motherhood and protective support, reminding us of the importance of benevolence in the life of the consultant.
The Empress of the Tarot de Marseille, with her coat of arms in her arm, is more associated with the mother or a maternal figure, emphasising her protective and benevolent aspect.
The Empress of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot is a more modern creation, with additional esoteric elements associated with her role as guardian of the sacred mysteries.
The Tarot Empress embodies femininity, creativity and abundance, and invites us to express our love for ourselves and others. This card also symbolises fertility, motherhood and protective support, reminding us of the importance of benevolence in the life of the consultant. It encourages the cultivation of harmonious relationships and the expression of inner creativity. It also underlines the maternal and protective aspect, reminding us of the importance of support and benevolence in the life of the consultant.
With his worn coat of arms and the hand holding his belt, the Emperor of the Tarot de Marseille emphasises the accumulation of experience and the lessons and skills we draw from it to establish our power.
The card places greater emphasis on leadership, authority and mastery of the material elements.
The Tarot Emperor is a card that embodies authority, strength and stability. It invites you to exercise balanced leadership, establish solid foundations and make informed decisions in your life. This card emphasises the importance of discipline, organisation and the practical application of ideas to achieve success. It can also represent a benevolent father figure, reminding us of the support and protection needed to progress in life.
The Tarot de Marseille's Pope places greater emphasis on inner wisdom and the search for spiritual truth.
The Hierophant of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot is more associated with institutions, traditions and organised religious teachings.
Le pape/The Hierophant is a card that evokes spirituality, wisdom and the search for inner truth. He encourages us to turn to traditional teachings or spiritual values for answers and guidance. This card represents spiritual authority and may indicate the presence of a mentor or spiritual guide in the life of the seeker. It is also a card that can raise moral or ethical questions, reminding us of the importance of following our principles and beliefs in everyday life.
L'Amoureux is often depicted with traits of indecision, underlining the difficulty of choosing between two options, evoking the theme of important decisions, dilemmas and choices to be made in the life of the consultant.
The Lovers focuses more on the love, harmony and union between two people, rather than on a difficult choice between two options.
L'Amoureux / The Lovers of the Tarot is a card that emphasises the choices, decisions and dilemmas in the life of the consultant. It symbolises the importance of following your heart, listening to your intuition and finding balance in your relationships. This card invites us to make authentic and fulfilling choices, taking into account both the emotional and rational aspects to find the path that best resonates with our heart. It highlights the power of personal transformation and informed decision-making to move forward in life.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the back of the hand on the hip means that the Prince can be flippant and careless, which explains why the carriage wheels go in different directions. This tarot underlines the idea of self-control, of being clear about one's commitment, at the risk of becoming spread out and going nowhere.
The Chariot of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot focuses more on balance, or the union of opposing forces to achieve an ideal of a divine or celestial nature.
The Tarot Chariot is a card that emphasizes control, willpower and determination to achieve one's goals. It symbolizes a journey towards success, and highlights the need to balance opposing forces in order to move forward successfully. The Chariot encourages courage and inner strength to overcome life's obstacles and challenges. It is a victory card, underlining that the consultant is on the right track to achieving his or her goals and success.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the scales and/or sword are tilted and unbalanced, indicating that human justice is arbitrary and self-serving. Her hair, forming a rope around her neck, may mean that by drawing towards oneself the benefits of any action, avoiding any just retribution, one can saw off the branch on which one is sitting, provoking a sense of injustice in others.
In the Raider-Waite-Smith Tarot, the veil can indicate that the truth may be hidden, and it must fall for the clarity of judgment to appear. The two columns can lead back to an institional character of Justice, as a solid and immutable Law.
The Tarot Justice card represents fairness, balance and impartiality. It invites us to face the consequences of our actions and take responsibility for our choices. This card reminds us of the importance of making informed decisions based on objective facts and a clear vision. It also symbolizes the notion of just retribution for past actions. Justice encourages us to act with honesty, integrity and wisdom in all situations, and to seek inner truth in order to make fair and just choices.
The Tarot de Marseille hermit looks ahead with his staff raised, showing a much more dynamic stance than the RWS hermit, who stands statically. Also, the Tarot de Marseille hermit speaks of a pilgrim's journey confronting his past (looking to the left), whereas the RWS hermit would be more of a sage or guide.
In the hermit's lantern of the RWS Tarot, a star shines to signify a quest of a divine nature, or a path enlightened by the gods, or some kind of magical protection against future obstacles. The hermit appears to be standing atop a hill, looking down on the void at his feet, evoking the fall that the hermit risks.
The Tarot Hermit card embodies wisdom, knowledge and inner searching. It encourages you to step back from the outer turmoil to connect with your inner wisdom and personal truth. It is a card of reflection, introspection and meditation, indicating a propitious moment for contemplation and the quest for truth. The Hermit underlines the importance of finding inner light to illuminate one's path and find answers in moments of doubt or uncertainty. It can also signal the presence of a mentor or spiritual guide in the life of the consultant, offering enlightened wisdom to guide his or her path to personal enlightenment.
The Wheel of Fortune of the Tarot de Marseille is purer than the RWS Tarot. Its meaning is centered on the passing of time, the turning of fortune and the fact that everything has an end.
The card in the RWS Tarot is more esoteric, with references to Christianity, Judaism, alchemy and ancient Egypt. The meaning is thus dispersed, with Set speaking of disorder, Anubis evoking death, the Sphinx submitting an enigma, the letters TORA speaking of the Law, and alchemical symbols evoking fulfillment.
The Wheel of Fortune Tarot card represents life's cycles, inevitable change and destiny. It invites us to embrace change and adapt to life's changing circumstances. The Wheel of Fortune underlines the importance of recognizing life's unpredictability and accepting that everything is in constant motion. It symbolizes the law of karma and reminds us that past actions influence present and future outcomes. Finally, it offers a reminder that difficult times can lead to more favorable ones, and that opportunities can emerge even in times of change.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the woman wears a crown hat, signifying that she is master of her mind and reason. The animal emerges from her legs, suggesting that violence and savagery come from her, or that she rides and dominates her desires.
In the RWS Tarot, the woman has a lemniscate, the infinity symbol, above her head, evoking the infinite power of her mind to curb her desires. The lion has its tail between its legs, showing submission, and licks the hand, indicating that it is appeased and domesticated.
The Tarot Strength card represents inner strength, self-mastery and the ability to overcome obstacles with gentleness and perseverance. It emphasizes the power of compassion, love and wisdom, rather than brute force. The Force encourages taming impulses, patience and persuasion rather than confrontation. Force is a reminder of the need to be calm and gentle with oneself and others while overcoming life's challenges, emphasizing that true strength lies in acceptance, compassion and kindness.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the trunks, beam and rope symbolize the fetus in its mother's womb.
In the RWS Tarot, the T-tree may refer to the crucifixion cross, and the yellow halo may mean that even with his head upside down, the spirit of the hanged man remains luminous.
The Hanged Man emphasizes the importance of reflection, meditation and introspection in gaining a new perspective on life. It also evokes the need to free oneself from limiting thought patterns and accept inevitable change. He reminds us that seemingly negative situations can offer opportunities for spiritual growth and deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. It's a card of wisdom and acceptance, inviting us to let ourselves be carried along by the flow of life without resistance.
The Tarot de Marseille card is quite simple. It emphasizes the fact that Death imposes itself on everyone, from mere mortals to crowned heads. On the black, fertile ground, plants grow, evoking rebirth after death.
The RWS card contains more details than the Tarot de Marseille card, such as the characters who show different attitudes to death. The river, mountains and sun tell us that life is not a tranquil river, but leads to a mystical dawn.
The Tarot Death card should be interpreted as a symbol of change, transformation and transition. It represents the end of a cycle or phase of life, but also the beginning of a new chapter. Death invites us to let go of old habits and outdated beliefs, to enable positive transformation and rebirth. Death underlines the need to adapt to life's inevitable changes with flexibility and acceptance.
With its red and blue water jugs, this Tarot de Marseille card focuses on the need to balance opposites. The diadem on the forehead reminds us that Temperance acts with logic and reason.
In the RWS, the lake speaks of purification from the flood of emotions. Archangel Michael appears, casting out evil and judging past actions. The RWS card is all about healing and spiritual transformation.
The Tarot Temperance card represents moderation and balance. Temperance encourages us to practice moderation in all aspects of life, and to be patient, calm and tolerant in everyday situations. It calls for wisdom and reflection before making important decisions, and evokes the need to strike a balance between work and leisure, the spiritual and the material. It is a card of serenity and spiritual transformation, reminding us of the importance of finding inner and outer harmony for a fulfilled life.
The Devil of the Tarot de Marseille is a hybrid creature, half woman, half man, half animal, standing on a pillar. The card reminds us that the Devil is a fallen angel, and his appearance shows above all that he is an alienated being, no longer knowing himself who he really is.
The RWS map focuses on forbidden fruit, temptation and the darker side of humanity. The Devil is no longer human, so man and woman have retained almost all their human appearance. The RWS card confronts Evil with Humanity, while Marseille speaks of attachment to desires that are not like us.
The Devil of the Tarot de Marseille represents the darker aspects of humanity, such as excessive desires, addictions and dependencies. It invites us to become aware of our negative patterns. The Devil is a card of temptations and moral choices. However, it also emphasizes that we have the power to free ourselves from these chains. It's an invitation to face our fears and overcome our weaknesses to achieve greater inner freedom.
In Marseille decks, the card is called "Maison Dieu" ("House God", not House of God), meaning that the individual is god himself, his temple. In the oldest decks, the lightning bolt goes up to heaven, not down from it, showing that the individual obtains a real illumination that reveals the sacred (pure and luminous) part within him. This card is a reminder that goodness is within us all.
In the RWS, lightning is shown as divine intervention, the result of man's excessive ambition in defiance of the gods. This catastrophic event is a reminder of the fragility of life, and of the need for courage and resilience in the face of unforeseen events.
La Maison Dieu / The Tower represents a major crisis and a sudden, life-altering change. It symbolizes the destruction necessary to enable rebirth and renewal. La Maison Dieu / The Tower emphasizes that certain situations may seem devastating, but they can also be an opportunity for a new beginning. It evokes the need to accept inevitable change with courage and resilience. It's a card of revelation, bringing hidden truths to light and inviting us to question rigid, outdated beliefs. La Maison Dieu / The Tower reminds us that sometimes, unexpected events can lead to a more enlightened path and significant personal growth.
In the Tarot de Marseille, L'Etoile reverses one of its chruches at the level of its sex, as if its water had broken (in correlation with the Hanged Man, representing the fetus in its mother's womb). The card thus focuses on the individual revealing himself, offering the best aspects of himself to the world.
In the RWS, there are 8 8-pointed stars. The 8 symbolizing perfection, the card signifies that cosmic balance has been achieved. The water poured onto the earth separates into 5 streams (in relation to the blood spilt from Christ's 5 wounds on the cross) indicates that the Star is fully aware of its love for mankind.
The Tarot Star represents inspiration and spiritual guidance. It evokes faith in a better humanity, and is the card par excellence of humanism. The Star symbolizes connection to one's inner self and deep convictions, and invites us to follow an ambition based on spiritual values. It suggests positive opportunities ahead if you follow your intuition. The Star reminds us of the importance of caring, of giving of ourselves, and of recognizing the signs that guide us on our path.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the animals are wolves howling at the moon, not dogs, focusing on unmastered aspects and instincts that can be brutal and violent. In the Noblet tarot, the yellow cone above the crayfish shows the need to integrate one's dark side in order to move towards the light. This is the message of the Moon : accept your shadow to find your light.
In the RWS, there is a wolf (the wild animal form of the spirit) and a dog (the domesticated animal form of the spirit), in Waite's words. Again according to the author, the crayfish represents that which emerges from the depths, nameless and hideous, remaining inferior to the wild beast. Waite adds that the path between the two towers leads to the unknown.
The Tarot Moon represents the unconscious and repressed emotions. It invites us to explore our inner world, to connect with our intuition. The Moon evokes emotional cycles, as do the phases of the moon. It warns against illusions and reminds us of the importance of looking beyond appearances. The card also symbolizes dreams and spiritual experiences. It's an invitation to integrate one's part of the Shadow and pursue the search for inner truth.
In Jean Noblet's Tarot de Marseille, there are not two children, as in more recent Tarots de Marseille, but a man and a woman. This Tarot focuses on the idea of accepting and integrating the opposite aspects within oneself. Uniting on the inside, to appear whole and radiant on the outside.
In the RWS Tarot, the sunflowers symbolize growth, sunshine and love. The horse and child represent the innocent, luminous spirit that rides the impulses and animal nature of the individual. Waite therefore speaks more of growth and spiritual elevation in a spirit of conquest and guidance, as the child holds up a banner.
The Tarot Sun represents self-confidence, charisma, success and self-assurance in front of others. The Sun invites you to fully express yourself and enjoy life. It is a card of mental clarity, understanding and inner enlightenment. This radiant card reminds us of the importance of cultivating positivity, embracing inner light and savoring life's moments of joy and fulfillment.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the 3 characters are touching elbow to elbow, it seems obvious that the father and mother are seeing their child come into the world. Here, the card focuses on the acceptance and integration of the eternal inner child within each of us. Developing the openness and spontaneity of our inner child allows us to rediscover the world.
With its many figures emerging from the tombs, the RWS Tarot is deeply rooted in the symbolism of the Last Judgment, where each person will be judged according to his or her deeds, and will be released to enter heaven. The RWS Judgment thus has the value of liberation and spiritual ascension.
The Tarot "Judgment" card symbolizes revelation and renewal. It invites self-evaluation, deep reflection and personal judgment, but also reminds us of the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation. The card encourages awareness of our past choices and their consequences. It's an invitation to make informed choices and embrace the changes necessary for a new phase of life. It's a time of liberation, deep understanding and preparation for a new beginning.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the spiritualized Water element is represented by an angel, not a water creature. The card thus emphasizes that it is our feelings and emotions, bearing a genuine fervor for following our spiritual path, that will be the key to achieving our fulfillment.
In the RWS Tarot, the woman holds two wands, while the Magician holds only one, symbolizing his complete freedom.
The "Le Monde" Tarot card symbolizes completion, realization and fulfillment. It marks the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new phase. It is a card of celebration, highlighting the reward for efforts invested. The World embodies the completion of our spiritual journey and the recognition of our place in the greater whole.
In Jean Noblet's Tarot, the man's flesh-colored face indicates that he is above all human, i.e. imperfect. He also carries a walking stick with a carved head on the pommel. This version evokes the madman's journey as a kind of long pilgrimage, where ultimately the path is more important than the destination.
While the card in the oldest tarot de Marseille is called "Le Fou" (The madman) and not "Le Mat" (The Mate), in the RWS, the name "The Fool" speaks more of a mind without intelligence than of a mad mind, i.e. one outside the norm. Waite therefore speaks of a journey that requires intellect and spirit, whereas the Tarot de Marseille speaks of a journey that requires open-mindedness, availability to the unknown and the freedom to be oneself.
The Fool / Le Mat card symbolizes the beginning of an adventure, spontaneity and self-confidence to explore the unknown. It's a card of transition and change, illustrating the courage needed to step out of one's comfort zone and embrace new opportunities. The card embodies innocence, vitality and simplicity, but carelessness and recklessness in the face of danger, and perhaps even wandering.
As far as the Tarot de Marseille is concerned, I have a clear preference for historical tarots, especially those of type I (prior to 1702) which have details in their images that were not subsequently preserved in the canonical form of the Tarot de Marseille established around 1709 (type II) by the Madenié Tarot. These Tarots (Noblet 1650 and Dodal 1701, among others), through their forgotten and unpreserved graphic details, give a clearer and more precise teaching (in my opinion) than the usual Grimaud or Camoin/Jodorowsky form. Naturally, this requires study, but since these tarots are less abundant and esoteric than the modern Tarots de Marseille, learning them is easier (or so I think). Restored versions of the Noblet and Dodal can be purchased from the following site LeTarot.com. I have reviewed in detail :
RWS tarots vary considerably. Some of them deviate from the original form of the RWS, for example by putting the Justice and Force cards back in the right position 8 and 11 (The Wild Unknown Tarot), while others come closer to the Thoth tarot (The Urban Tarot). Below, I don't necessarily give my selection of the best tarots (everyone has their own preferences, of course), but rather the ones I feel are the most accessible and popular for beginners :
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