A deck of Tarot cards is divided into Greater and Lesser Trumps (aka Major and Minor Arcana).
The 22 Greater Trumps reference the Life Lessons each soul must learn in order to return to Source and are concerned with matters of Spirit; their meanings are not obvious, but the images on each card contain clues to their intentions.
The 58 Lesser Trumps are divided into 4 suits of 14 cards each and reference the mundane, every-day aspects of material existence. Like the Greater Trumps, each image on each Lesser Trump card will contain symbolism relevant to its meaning, but Lesser Trump meanings are usually easier to interpret.
In a sense, we are already familiar with the suits of Tarot because, over time, they morphed into the modern deck of playing cards used in poker, bridge, canasta, etc. The modern deck condensed Tarot’s Page and Knight into the Jack (or Knave), reducing each suit to 13 cards.
Of the Greater Trumps, only The Fool survives in the modern deck: the Joker.
In a typical 10-card Celtic Cross spread both Greater and Lesser Trumps usually appear. Is one more important than the other? How to tell? The question posed by the querent is the best clue a Tarot reader will have. If the querent is concerned with spiritual matters (i.e., “Am I acting honorably?”, “Am I on the right path, Spiritually speaking?”, “What’s the morally proper thing to do in this case?”), then the Greater Trumps will weigh more heavily in your interpretation. If the querent is concerned with mundane topics – i.e. “Is my job secure?” “Is my lover faithful to me?” “Will I complete my trip safely?” – then the Lesser Trumps will be of more importance. In any case, there will usually be a mixture of mundane and spiritual energies to consider when making your interpretation.
Example: Querent asks how best to decide whether or not to apply for a position in management in her workplace. She expresses concern about how her co-workers will feel if she becomes their supervisor, about whether she will lose their friendship if she gets the position, about being able to get her finances under better control if she gets the position.
The spread shows: The Star crossed with Strength in the center; Knight of Cups behind; 2 of Pentacles before; The Emperor above; 8 of Pentacles below; 5 of Pentacles, 5 of Cups, Queen of Wands, and King of Pentacles up the side.
An interpretation: The Star indicates spiritual changes, with a slight emphasis on rebalancing in areas involving communication; Strength indicates all-around spiritual balance; The Emperor indicates querent’s position as the best “expert” in this matter. This is the time for querent to trust her sense of right action more than the feelings of her co-workers. She has helped these co-workers in the past (Knight of Cups behind), but now it’s time to learn from her mistakes (5 of Cups), think creatively (5 of Pentacles), stay focused on doing the right thing (Queen of Wands). By trusting her spiritual sense of Right Action, querent will incur great good fortune (2 of Pentacles) which will lead to getting her finances under control at last (King of Pentacles). The recommendation would be to apply for the position and to accept it if querent’s application is successful.
Kate Braun © 2010
More about Kate Braun here.
Another article by Kate Bruan: Compatibility of Tarot With Other Metaphysical Systems