Everyone has some cards they struggle to connect with or truly understand on an intuitive level. There may even be cards you just don’t like.
Often these aversions stem from being unable to attach a meaningful idea to those particular cards.
The solution is obvious, if you think about it: All you need to do is reframe the thought behind the card, and the easiest way to do this is by renaming it!
The Power of a Name: A name is a very important part of our identity. It shapes how others perceive us and it invokes certain feelings, expectations and assumptions. Knowing someone’s name has a power not to be underestimated! So by changing a card’s name, you can change it’s associations and change how you feel about it.
Tarot encourages individualized interpretations – it will not do to spout traditional card meanings for cards appearing in your readings, when those meanings do not represent your truth!
Your interpretation may even differ from deck to deck! The Hierophant in the Rider-Waite deck does not have the exact same meaning to me as the Hierophant in my Sasuraibito deck! The artwork, symbolism, layout, facial expressions and even colour in a card may give different connotations to the idea depicted in it.
Don’t get me wrong: I do believe it is important to be aware of the traditional meanings of the Tarot cards – they are based on time-honoured ideas and archetypes that provide a broad basis for interpretation! I just don’t believe you should limit yourself by subscribing to those ideas only!
My Hermit does not have to be your Hermit, the traditional Devil might not be the Demon you struggle with, the Star that shines brightest for you may not be the one found in your Guide Books…
You can change the way you look at your least favourite cards by renaming them, or you can take the cards you love and express how you really feel about them by giving them the gift of a New Name.
Here is a list of all Major Arcana cards and some alternative ideas they may represent. I give my personal associations, followed by some more possible interpretations. The New Names can consist of an Idea or a Concept, a Noun, Adjective or Verb. Not all names are “positive” – Tarot would not be a very balanced system if it only addressed the finer points of Life! You can read the whole list or head directly for those cards that pose a challenge to you. All I ask is that you try out some of these New Names and see whether they can add meaning and depth to how you see the cards. At the very least you may come accross some descriptive factors to add to your card interpretations in your Tarot Journal! If you find some associations in this list that resonate with you, feel free to appropriate them for your personal use – if not, please try and think of New Names for those cards that need them and don’t forget to share! I would love to hear your take on any card!
0 – The Fool: I often hear people complain that the name of this card is too “foolish” to be taken seriously! They don’t like pulling this card as a significator, or as a representation of their Self or their Spirit Guide, as the word “Fool” can evoke negative feelings an connotations. This is a shame, as this can be such a wonderful card to be associated with! By focusing on a more positive name you can change how you feel about this card – personally I like to think of this card as The Wanderer, going where life takes him, being open-minded, trusting that the road ahead will lead him somewhere good and willing to take a leap of Faith to get there. Other possible names are: The Explorer / The Inner Child / The Dancer / Innocence / Naivity / Faith / Trust / Impulse / Peter Pan.
1 – The Magician: Magicians are often associated with misdirection and subversion, I know that when I see this card I get a feeling of being distracted from what is really going on. The Magician is actually able to create his own reality from the raw elements available to him. I call this card Manifestation – Here are some alternative names that may better reflect the power in this card: Potential / Ability / Skill / The Builder / The Conjuror / The Alchemist / The Shaman / DNA.
2 – The High Priestess: This is one of the cards that resonate with me the most and I find the true meaning behind this card easy to deduct. But people who hold more traditional beliefs may find it hard to interpret this notion of a strong, powerful Adept, an Initiate to the secrets of the Gods/Universe. I find one of the best ways to connect with this card is to call it Intuition. Other ways to address this card may be Spirituality / Knowledge / The Psychic / The Witch / The Sorceress / The Seer / The Source / Instinct / Consciousness / Awareness / Perception / The Key.
3 – The Empress: As this card embodies our connection to the Feminine (necessary to bring balance to both males and females!) and to the Earth that not only supports our existence but also encourages us to grow, feel loved, connected and safe, it may be helpful to look upon this card as The Mother / Mother Earth / Gaia / The Goddess / Nurturing / Abundance / Nature / Fertility.
4 – The Emperor: This is a card I personally struggle with. The strong, imposing, influential man often depicted in this card possibly reminds me too readily of the stern male authority figures in my life with whom I have not always had the best experiences. I find it helps me to think of this card as Stability. For you the best connotations may be The Father / The Provider / The Protector / The Green Man / The Leader / Rationality / Authority.
5 – The Hierophant: Personally I do not like my Hierophant to look like a Priest or Pope as I find the ideology of the Church as an institution too restrictive for women and too intent on exerting control over it’s followers. But if you are a religious person you may actually like the thought of a benevolent Priest or Pope guiding you on the path to redemption! I prefer to look at this card as The Teacher. For you it may be Tradition / The Guru / The Priest / The Pope / The Wise Man (or Woman) / The Elder / Guidance / Rules.
6 – The Lovers: For most of us this is not a hard card to understand. But the fact that most often this card depicts a male and a female (wether they are just reaching out to eachother with an Angel blessing their union, or engaged in a physical embrace with obvious erotic overtones), can provide a challenge to some! Be this due to their sexual preference, a-sexual mindset or simply because they are not currently in a romantic relationship, they can find it harder to connect to the traditional imago of this card. It is helpful to keep in mind that this card can also refer to connections of a platonic kind. Furthermore I would like to commend the fact that more artists are now breaking open this traditional concept of the Male/Female Couple and there are many now choosing to depict a variety of Couples and Partnerships! For me this card signifies Intimacy. It can also be seen as Love / Harmony / Attraction / Sexuality / Partnership / Union / Connection.
7 – The Chariot: To me when this card appears it means a need to stay on target, head towards your goal with determination, avoiding distractions and overcoming pitfalls. My name for this card is The Compass, not only an instrument to show direction but a Moral Compass as well – reminding us that victory should not come at the expense of others. Other associations may include Force / Control / Action / Willpower / Determination / Victory / Success.
8 – Strength: This card does not normally have negative connotations. Most people will recognise it for what it is – staying strong in turbulent times, managing to tame the beast of our baser instincts not by brute force but by applying our wits, soothing, calming energy and gentle guidance (This card to me is a good depiction of what parenting is all about haha). The main idea that springs to mind, for me, is that of Persuasion. Other suitable names can be Courage / Resilience / Perseverance / Faith / Subtelty / Gentleness.
9 – The Hermit: People sometimes look at this card and see Loneliness or (self-imposed) Exile. For me this card is about taking a step back from your busy everyday life to make time for Contemplation or Introspection. It signals a need for quiet time, a time for seeking Knowledge and Truth, for Spiritual Development and Self Care. Other names may include The Philosopher /Enlightenment / Solitude / Prayer / Meditation / Retreat.
10 – Wheel of Fortune: Generally this card is considered an Omen for Good Luck. We are in a constant state of flux – nothing remains the same forever. This card teaches us to cherish the good times, because we know that they are fleeting. On a more positive note we can be sure that, when times are hard, this too shall pass. To me this card reminds me that what goes up, must come down (and vice versa) – I like to think of it as Transition. Other possibilities are The Circle of Life / Fate / Fortune / Destiny / Luck / Chance / Life Cycle / The Turning Point / The Seasons.
11 – Justice: The obvious interpretation of this card is one of seeking Truth and Fairness. I see this card as Karma, not in a sense of being punished or rewarded for past actions but as in Karmic Balance and Life Lessons learned. Other names for this card could be Equilibrium / The Law / Ethical Thinking / Clarity / Honesty / Integrity / Honor.
12 – The Hanged Man: Here we have another card people might interpret as finding yourself in difficulty, where as to me, the main thing about this card is that the position you are in provides you with a different Perspective, as it forces you to look at things from a different point of view. Yes, it might be uncomfortable, but sometimes that is what is needed to shake us out of our complacency. Another way to look at this card would be Sacrifice. It is very reminiscent of the story of Odin, not only did he give up an eye in exchange for more wisdom, he hung himself voluntarily upside-down from the World Tree for 9 days in order to gain knowledge of the Runes. So we have 3 suitable names for this card already, we may also choose names as Limbo / Patience / Acceptance / Surrender / Suspension / Pauze.
13 – Death: There is a strong tendency to downplay the power of this card these days. Where I can subscribe to the notion that the Death card merely signifies a metaphorical Death, I do feel that in our eagerness to change what is seen as a Negative Force we are not seeing the beauty it holds, even if it is bitter-sweet. In my mind, I call this card Mortality. Without the notion that our lives will some day end, would we feel the same drive to make change happen in the here and now? Would we strive to fit as many beautiful, meaningful moments in to our existence as we possibly can? Each story has a beginning, a middle and an end. In order to move on, one situation must end for another to begin. “Memento Mori“, or the awareness of the mortality of all, is an ancient concept that we would do well to keep in mind. Other names for this card could be Transformation / Change / Rebirth / Release / The End / New Beginnings / Letting Go / Transcience.
14 – Temperance: This card immediately calls to my mind the act of adding water to your wine, to me it quite literally stands for Moderation. It might also contain a warning, to test the waters before diving in. Possible names may include Balance / Tranquility / Calmness / Evaluation / Caution / Responsibility.
15 – The Devil: It can be hard to put a positive spin on this card and, for that reason, it is one that most people don’t like to see in their spreads. However, there is power in knowing what you are up against, so finding out who or what your Demons are can only be a good thing! If you understand what is holding you back, making your life difficult or stopping you from reaching your full potential, then you can do something about it. I think that we can agree that we are NOT talking about Evil incarnate here – but even IF you should subscribe to the notion of an actual, biblical version of Satan, there is a silver lining – because then you would also have to subscribe to the notion of Free Will – meaning that in the end, YOU control the choices you make. For me The Devil represents Temptation. Other possible descriptions would be The Shadow / The Demon / The Adversary / Darkness / Shame / Dependency / Addiction / Bondage / Slavery / Materialism / Sensuality / Hedonism / Gratification.
16 – The Tower: Another card that looks like a Doomsday-scenario and that may make you flinch when revealed in a spread. I like to think that sometimes, existing structures HAVE to be torn down to make room for new and improved versions. The structure of The Tower itself stands for Ambition, Pride, Goals,… but when these are built on shaky foundations then that lightening bolt may strike it down. My name for this card is Chaos, which is also the name of the first created being in Greek Mythology, and what The Oxford English Dictionary calls the “formless matter supposed to have existed before the creation of the universe” – you may want to call it Opportunity / Divine Revelation / Epiphany / Revolution / Rebuilding / Challenge /Disaster / Struggle / Drama / Disruption / Conflict / Trauma.
17 – The Star: A card full of promise, of dreams come true and happy coincidences brightening up your day! To me, this card is Serendipity (one of my favourite words!). You may call it Affirmation / The Wish / The Promise / Fulfilment / Blessings / Hope / The Law of Attraction.
18 – The Moon: This is a card of Secrets and Illusion, letting you know that all may not be as it seems and urging you to tread carefully as the water may be treacherous. A card open to many diverse interpretations, you may need more than one name for it, depending on the situation you are Reading for! I would also advise you take notion of the current Moon phases whenever this card crops up, as there may be extra information to be found there. From the fresh start of the New Moon, through the growing power of the Waxing Moon, to the time of the Full Moon – which is ripe for Manifestations and Affirmations – and the Shedding/Releasing during the Waning Moon, down to the removal of unwanted energy or period of rest/regaining strength at the Dark Moon, the card may be trying to convey an appropriate action for you to undertake at that particular time. The Moon card can also stand for Warning / Fear / Anxiety / Revelations / Dreams / Emotions / Hidden Depths / The Triple Goddess / The Sacred Feminine / Magic.
19 – The Sun: Depicted as an unequivocally positive card, The Sun brings us Happiness and Joy. Personally I feel that sometimes, this card can warn us of what happened to Icarus when he flew too close to the sun, and sometimes, the light of the sun can be blinding. But overal I agree that this card stands for Celebration / Abundance / Optimism / Positivity / Pregnancy / Birth.
20 – Judgement: The Old Testament-style depiction of the Souls of the Departed being called to be judged, and either taken up to Heaven or sent down to Hell, is one that I struggle to accept. I prefer to look at this card as holding up a mirror, to take a good look at yourself before passing judgement on someone else. A wake-up call, to try and put yourself in another’s shoes but also to remind us that it doesn’t matter what others think of us – as long as we can say that we have acted with integrity and for the Greater Good we have nothing to worry about. My name for this card is Reflection. You could also call it Conscience / Self-Knowledge / Compassion / Forgiveness / Absolution / Accountability / The Mirror / Awakening.
21 – The World: The cycle that started with the Magician comes to conclusion here, making way for another cycle to begin. This card is both Beginning and Completion. I prefer to look at this card as The Universe, and all Possibilities contained within. We are all part of the Anima Mundi, the Universal Soul that connects all living beings. We are made of the same stardust and draw from the same Vibrational Energy. When you arrive at this card, you have come Full Circle and now is the time to celebrate your Achievements.
Note: The best way to broaden your view of a card you struggle with, is to find as many different images for that particular card as you can (Google or Pintrest will help you out here). I guarantee you that at least one or two of the artists’ interpretations in different decks will alter the way you feel about the possible meaning for that card! You can easily repeat this exercise for the Court cards and Minor Arcana!
Phew! That turned in to a rather long post! That was not my intention when I set out to write down a few alternative names for the Major Arcana cards! I surprised myself by how much I had to say on the subject (you won’t believe how much I have cut from this post already!) – Congratulations for making it to the end ☺️ and thank you for bearing with me 🙏🏼