Reading with the Orbifold — Major Associations

Majors Mandala

In any standard tarot deck, there are a certain proportion of Minor Arcana, Court Cards, and Major Arcana, leading to a certain mathematical probability of cards coming up in any given reading. The ratio is 40:16:22 or 20:8:11 (reduced), or a percentage of just over 50% Minor Arcana, just over 20% Courts, and just under 30% Major Arcana.

In decks that have extra Majors, as in 79 or 80 card decks, the proportions are a little more even. So in the Orbifold, the ratio 5:2:3, or 50% Minors, 20% Courts, and 30% Majors.

Regardless, this means that in a 4-card draw, the most likely proportion of cards is 2 Minors, 1 Court, and 1 Major. In a 10-card Celtic Cross spread, we could reasonably expect to see 5 Minors, 2 Courts, and 3 Majors.


Although these may be probable statistics, the cards do not usually conform to these probabilities — there are times when grossly disproportionate numbers of Minors, Courts, or Majors come up. Sometimes this disproportion, especially when there is a lack of Major Arcana, can make it difficult to sum up the reading, or make sense of the overall theme.

But thankfully, many of us have learned a few methods to associate cards with Majors even when they are absent.

The first two common methods are to notice if there are any repeating numbers among the Minors: got 2 or more 5’s? Take a lesson from The Hierophant. A bunch of 7’s? Take the reins, The Chariot is not far. All Aces? Wave that wand, dear Mage. Tens, tens, tens? Change is coming — ride The Wheel! Stuck on 2’s? Time to explore the veil between worlds with The High Priestess as a guide.

If numbers are not repeating, we can associate each card to a Major, or we can add up all the cards in the spread to find the associated Major. This method also helps us relate to Majors above 10. The additive method also works of course for repeating numbers, like three 5’s: The Hierophant and The Devil are now both at play… perhaps there is a dance going on between the part of you that knows how to follow the rules and the part that is a rule-breaker. This method lends a lot of depth to simple readings, and all by reading cards that aren’t even on the table!

A third method is to look at the Elemental associations. Traditionally, each Major Arcana card is associated with an element: Air for The Fool, Water for The Moon, Fire for The Emperor, Earth for The Hermit, and so on… so if there is a dominance of any one Element, the reader can relate one (or more) of the Majors that are associated to that Element… but it can be a little ambiguous, as several Majors are classically Air, so which one to choose?

In the Orbifold Tarot, I’ve taken this concept a little further, and (gasp!) changed some of the associations. Each Major is associated to one, two, three, or all four Elements, with two cards that have no Element at all: The Void and Death.

The breakdown is as follows

Single Element:

The Fool — Air
The Devil — Fire
The Moon — Water
Justice — Earth

Two Elements:

Strength & The Sun — Air and Fire
The High Priestess & The Lovers — Fire and Water
The Hermit & The Star — Water and Earth
The Chariot & Judgement — Earth and Air
The Emperor — Fire and Earth
The Hierophant — Air and Water

Three Elements:

The Empress — Fire, Water, and Earth
The Hanged One — Water, Earth, and Air
The Tower — Earth, Air, and Fire
Temperance — Air, Fire, and Water

All Four Elements:

The Magician
The Wheel
The Universe

While this may at first seem complicated, the visual clarity of the Elements on the Majors makes them easy to learn. Once learned, now we can associate a Major (still sometimes more than one Major) to any combination of Elements that come up in a reading — including, at times, readings where there is a Major present, but we need more insight, as with a reading done recently by a friend of mine who has a pre-release copy of The Orbifold.

The cards drawn were Queen of Water, Ace of Air, and Judgement. Now, Judgement has often stumped me too, and so the question was, “What could Judgement mean here?”

Major associations-2

Well, one of the keywords that really helped my understand Judgement (as it was a difficult card for me ) was “calling.” So that may help a little, but how does it relate to the Queen of Water and Ace of Air?

When working with the Orbifold, one of the first places to look when stuck is at the Elements — which Elements are present, and how do they interact (if they do)?

In this case, Air interacts with Earth in the Judgement card, but Water stands alone in the Queen, Water in Water, and the Water Element doesn’t repeat. To gain some insight on Judgement in context with the other two cards, we can combine all three cards’ Elements to find a corresponding major: The Hanged One. Can The Hanged One give us some insight into Judgement?


The Hanged One represents both feeling stuck, but also turning your perspective around, drawing the conscious mind underground into the subconscious, and digging up the subconscious to the conscious — Air going below Earth, and Water being drawn up from Earth.

Major associations-1

That process, then, may lead you more clearly to answer a “calling” — raising the conscious mind up from the ground of being to find one’s true purpose, or at least the purpose for now.

The Hanged One and Judgement are very similar actually, with Earth in the middle, and Air above and below… the only difference is that Water is absent from Judgement, so the unconscious/subconscious stuff is resolved into consciousness in Judgement… it’s an interesting development since Queen of Water is all feeling, all intuition, all subconscious… then Ace of Air is the start of that turn from unconscious to bright consciousness, like a lightbulb above the head.

Major associations-3

Then they mix in The (absent) Hanged One, and are resolved in Judgement. The Queen of Water’s deep, intuitive sensitivity becomes conscious, and they are resolved in Earth by turning everything on it head, leading to an answer that seems to come direct from the Divine!

Those of you who have been following the #SMOTO (Short Musings on the Orbifold) series, may now want to go back and look at how some drawings have incorporated an absent Major to arrive at the interpretation.

Happy Orbifolding!

The Orbifold Tarot is currently in production, and available for pre-order here

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