The word “Arcana” is a latin word which translates to “Mysteries” or “Secrets”, and so these three sections translate to say: The “Greater (Major) Secrets”, “Lesser (Minor) Secrets”, and the “Total (Royal) Secrets” – this last one can also be observed as the “Familial or Hierarchical Secrets”, because they describe the hierarchy of elements in the makeup of the universe and across the planes of creation, essentially describing how the various suits of the minor arcana interact with each other. The use of “total” comes from the etymological definition of royal from the 13th century, which also may translate as “splendid”.
As previously mentioned, within the Tarot there are five elements described. These are Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Ether. Four of these suits collectively make up the Minor Arcana, and the fifth element is then represented by the entire 22 cards of the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana is sometimes numbered 1 to 22 but in Patch Tarot, we have decided to stay with the traditional 0 to 21 numbering system, because of the numerological symbolism associated with “Zero” as a sphere or voidness, which is quite appropriate when you understand the nature of the card titled “The Fool”, which is related to this number… or rather, lack of number. However this card is also associated with the Hebrew letter ‘aleph’ which represents 1, so we combined both numbers and created a new first card “The Child”!
The Minor Arcana contains ten principal cards for each respective element, thus making a forty card grid with ten numbered cards for each of the four elements. The Royal Arcana has sixteen cards with four members of a royal family for each element. This is virtually identical to a modern day playing deck of cards with the Jack, Queen and King; but with the addition of a female mirror of the Jack, most often titled as a Page or a Princess. In a very simple sense, modern playing cards were a game-focused adaptation of the Tarot, with much of its spiritual significance removed. There is a lot more to this story, but we’ll save that history lesson for another time.
Each section of Tarot individually tells their own story; sharing an image of the circle of life from different perspectives, utilizing numerology, symbology, ancient esoteric wisdom, astrology, and much more. Therefore, the more that you learn, and the deeper you go into these subjects, the more and more the Tarot will speak to you. In Patch Tarot, we’ve specifically included a number of keys around the edges of the cards, in order to highlight the most important aspects of the cards, and support you in your spiritual learning.