Once upon a time, a hero was born. That hero is YOU.
We often get caught up in the busyness of our lives. We have responsibilities, we work hard, and we have a lot on our minds. Rarely do we take the time to consider that while we are living our lives, we are simultaneously experiencing it on a much deeper level. The deepest part of us, the Essential Self, lives life on a different plane than our mundane, everyday existence. Our Essential Self experiences the deep richness of our lives, even while we’re preoccupied with rush hour traffic, deadlines at work, and catching up on our favorite television shows.
John Lennon once sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” While we may not often think about the richness of our experience, it is happening at every moment. Generally, it’s in the big occasions, both good and bad, that we consciously notice the depth of our own being. But our Essential Self is connected to the deep richness of life each and every day, within every moment. Regretfully, most of us rarely experience life this way during our daily routines.
The term “Major Arcana” means big things that are hidden. These 22 cards in the tarot deck, also called trump cards, illustrate the experience of life on a deeper level. They are considered the most important in the pack because they display who we are in relation to the deep experience of life. This deeper, more meaningful level is hidden from us because we are too busy in our lives to see it. But it is there, always. And by using tarot, we better recognize and experience the richness and depth of our lives on a daily basis.
THE HERO’S JOURNEY
There’s another way to view the “Majors”. Joseph Campbell wrote of the Hero’s Journey. He examined across many of the world’s cultures what was considered to be the path of the human experience during a lifetime. Throughout history and up to the current day, cultures have told mythic stories about heroes who started out with little more than potential. In these myths they are called upon to take on a quest, and the epic story of this quest finds the hero fulfill his or her own personal destiny. These tales are generally epic in scope: the hero must travel far, face all kinds of adversity, and learn and grow as he or she goes. In the end, these tales end with our hero transformed from the naïve greenhorn that he or she started out as.
Examples of the Hero’s Journey in literature include Homer’s The Odyssey, Don Quixote, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Examples from film include Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings. Epic stories like these often become global blockbusters because people from all over the world can relate to them, regardless of age or culture. They are universal and tell a tale of the human experience of life.
How often have you thought of yourself as a hero? Perhaps as a child you did, but most of us give that up as we enter adulthood. Yet, you are the center of your universe. Everywhere you go, and with every person you meet, you are the protagonist, the main star. Your life story has chapters, a “plot”, supporting characters, and villains. The challenges and struggles that the hero faces, the triumphs and breakthroughs he or she experiences; do you not live your own version of the epic tale?
The cards of the Major Arcana encourage you to see yourself as the hero in your own story. The themes that exist in Hero’s Journey tales are all presented as a different card in the Major Arcana. When we use tarot, the Major Arcana show us life on the deeper archetypal level that so many of us rarely feel in our humdrum lives. When you’re sitting at your desk at work on a random Tuesday afternoon, or relaxing on the couch watching a movie, you probably don’t see your life as the epic saga that it is. Whether you notice it or not, however, you are the hero of a marvelous legendary story.
How would your life differ if you saw it as the Hero’s Journey that it is? Regardless of your personal circumstances, you could experience your life on a much grander scale. You would see that you are an explorer, a pioneer, and a voyager in the story that is your life. All that you do has great importance to all those around you, most importantly yourself. You could recapture more of the essence of life.
There are some tarot decks comprised of only the Major Arcana. For the users of these decks, there is nothing more that needs to be understood. All that really matters is the life experience, viewed from a deeper, mythic level.
The Hero’s Journey could be viewed as an allegory for the life experience. Think about an epic, Hero’s Journey book or movie that is familiar to you. When Luke Skywalker started in the beginning of the first Star Wars movie, he was just a young rube who dreamed of big things. Harry Potter, before he was called to Hogwarts, lived a truly modest existence under the stairs of his muggle aunt and uncle. The Hobbit was quite happy in his home inside of a tree before the dwarves unexpectedly arrived. They all broke free of their modest beginnings and experienced adventures of incredible bravery and consequence. They fulfilled their destiny.
The Hero’s Journey can be appreciated on a smaller scale too. Within each of chapter of our lives, a great story is told. For example, let’s take the card The Fool. It represents the beginning of something completely new. On the one hand, we start life as infants, pure potential with no experience to draw on, but a future that stretches out far ahead. We could see that when we begin life, we are symbolized as The Fool. On the other hand, throughout life, we start new chapters of our lives with pure potential, and no experience to draw on. Examples include a new job, a vacation, or we move to a new location. With each episode of our lives that we begin fresh and new, we are The Fool once again.
The same holds true for all the archetypes of the Major Arcana. You draw upon inner Strength, go through major transformations represented by Death, feel inspired by The Star, and bring a chapter to closure (The World). Each of these symbols represent where we are in relation to the Hero’s Journey that is ongoing throughout our lives. As you grow accustomed to appreciating your life as an epic tale, and accept your role as the hero of that story, your workings with the Major Arcana will bring deep meaning to the experience of everyday life, and you will find greater purpose in all that you do.