"The Arcana is the means by which all is revealed..."
The Arcana are divided into the Major Arcana (22 unique cards) and the Minor Arcana (four suits of 14 cards each, not unlike those of traditional playing cards). The Minor Arcana appear in rare events in the Persona 2 duology, only in Shuffle Time in Persona 3 and Persona 4 Golden, and not at all in Megami Ibunroku Persona, Persona 4 and Persona 5.
"Arcana" is properly the plural form, the singular being "Arcanum," but in the Persona series "Arcana" is used for both singular and plural.
In the Persona series, the Personas' Arcana are functionally equivalent to demon races. According to the Persona World guide, each Arcana in Megami Ibunroku Persona equals a specific race (such as the Lovers Arcana being composed of demons from the Fairy race). These racial equivalences were partially kept in Persona 2 and abandoned in Persona 3 onwards, which instead divided Personas on how they are most closely related to their Arcana, such as the Lovers Arcana being comprised of demons who are related to love and relationships.
Starting from Persona 3, each Arcana has a related Social Link or Confidant, usually with a "story arc" that represents the Arcana it's related to, with the exception of the World Arcana, which is rarely seen in gameplay and does not have a related Confidant, as it is to symbolize the end of the protagonist's journey. Each Persona user also has an Arcana they are related to as well, usually defined by their first Persona.
While most Major Arcana in the Persona series are derived from the traditional 22-card deck, alternative and nontraditional Arcanas are also used, usually with the same numbers as their traditional equivalent, such as the Jester Arcana and the Fool Arcana both numbered as "0," or no numbers in the case of the Faith and Hope Arcanas.
Nontraditional decks used in the Persona series include Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot deck (Hierophant & Priest/Apostle, Lust/Hunger, Aeon, Universe), El Gran Tarot Esoterico (Consultant/Councillor), and the various incomplete Visconti-Sforza decks (Hope, Faith). Jester is unique in that it’s an Arcana using an antiquated name of its namesake, that being Fool.
- 1 In Persona 3 Portable, female route only.
- 2 In Persona and Persona 2, Strength and Justice Arcana are VIII and XI respectively, this is swapped in Persona 3 and subsequent installments.
- 3 In Persona 4 Golden only. Initially called Jester Arcana (numbered 0), then becomes Hunger (numbered XI) should the protagonist decide to confront Tohru Adachi alone.
- 4 In Persona 3 FES and Persona 3 Portable only.
- 5 In Persona 4 Golden only.
- 6 Only mentioned in Persona 3, Persona 3 FES and Persona 3 Portable, with no gameplay effect.
- 7 In Persona 5 Royal only.
- 8 In Persona 5 Strikers only.
- 9 The Visconti-Sforza deck where the Faith and Hope Arcana are from is unnumbered. Faith is listed on the bottom of the Confidant list in the menu.
The Minor Arcana are comprised of four suits with 14 cards each. The Minor Arcana commonly employ the Italo-Spanish suits: Wands (alternatively, batons, clubs or staves), cups, swords and pentacles (alternatively, coins, disks or rings).
Personas from the minor Arcana are featured in these games via mutation only. These Personas cannot be summoned normally in the Velvet Room. See List of Persona 2: Innocent Sin Personas#Minor Arcana and List of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment Personas#Minor Arcana.
The Minor Arcana cards appear during Shuffle Time and grant the player various effects depending on which card is chosen:
- Cups - Restores the protagonist's or party's health if drawn (amount depends on number)
- Wands or Staves - Grants bonus experience or stats if drawn (amount depends on number)
- Pentacles or Coins - Grants bonus Yen if drawn (amount depends on number)
- Swords - Grants the player a random weapon (power depends on number, and FES: The answer gives the player one random equipment)
Additionally, Incense Cards, items that improve any of the protagonist's Persona's stats, are based on the four face/court cards of the Minor Suits, with the they improve being depended on the suit they belong to, and the amount they improve is based on how strong the court cards are to each other.
Persona 4 Golden
The Minor Arcana cards are featured in the remake of Persona 4 for the PlayStation Vita. The Minor Arcana cards have the same effects as in Persona 3, except for the Swords Cards, which give the protagonist Skill Cards instead of weapons, and the Cup Cards, which restore SP along with HP.
Arcana is only applied to Main Personas and Sub-personas that player characters can use; Shadows do not have an Arcana in this series, even though the bulk of enemies are generic Arcana Shadows from 3 and 4.
In the Persona 2 games, due to the way the contact system is built, all enemies are classified under an Arcana. However, some of those aren't present in the tarot deck, being more akin to races. However, the game does acknowledge them as such and refers to them by "Arcana." Demons of those Arcana are impossible to recruit. They are:
- Reich (Nazis in the PlayStation release)
- Zombie (misspelled as Zonbie in Eternal Punishment)
- While both Persona 1 and Persona 2 have Personas to represent the usual major Arcana, due to the lack of Social Links there are a lack of characters to match an Arcana to, making them the only Persona games not to feature all of the 20 first major Arcana in terms of character representation.
- Persona 3 features thirteen main Persona users. Each represents one of the first 13 major Arcana, with the exception of Elizabeth:
- 0. Fool: The protagonist
- 1. Magician: Junpei Iori
- 2. Priestess: Fuuka Yamagishi
- 3. Empress: Mitsuru Kirijo
- 4. Emperor: Akihiko Sanada
- 5. Hierophant: Shinjiro Aragaki
- 6. Lovers: Yukari Takeba
- 7. Chariot: Aigis
- 8. Justice: Ken Amada
- 9. Hermit: Jin Shirato
- 10. Fortune: Takaya Sakaki
- 11. Strength: Koromaru
- 12. Hanged Man: Chidori Yoshino
- As of Persona 5 Strikers, the Temperance and Tower Arcana are the only major arcana to have never been represented by any playable character, and the Hermit has only been represented by a non-fighting Navigator (Futaba Sakura).
- Temperance is the only major Arcana to have never been represented by any Persona user at all. The Tower Arcana is represented by Takahisa Kandori from Megami Ibunroku Persona and Anna Yoshizaka from Persona 2: Innocent Sin (via the playable version of their Personas, Nyarlathotep and Aeshma respectively, being identified as such.)
- Persona 5 Royal was the first Persona game to introduce a new Tarot that was not in another number as a tarot in the traditional European decks, with the Faith Arcana.