Tarot 101: Diving into Tarot Numbers
This is a continuation of my earlier resource that took a quick look at number patterns in the tarot. We dive deeper into understanding the relationship between cards that reduce to the same number.
For example, I cannot think of the Aces in the minor arcana without evaluating The Magician (Major #1) or The Wheel of Fortune's (Major #10) influence.
In fact, if you've already got some grasp of the majors, don't be afraid to let that bleed into how you take in the numbered suits of the minors. 99% of the time they enhance your understanding.
The Aces are your first spark (wands), seed (pentacles), drop (cups), and breath (swords).
They are right at the beginning, the liminal space between an inhale and exhale. Often, most decks won't even use human figures on these cards and will leave you with only whatever they've chosen to represent the suit- a chalice, arrow, flame, or coin.
Something important to remember is that you never lose that initial Ace. Throughout the Minor Arcana, while the number of cups or coins might multiply or reduce or get lost or shared, you will always have at least one for yourself. The Ace you start with, you will always have- though it might look a bit different when you come out on the other side. It's a reliable comfort to take with you in the journey of the Minor Arcana which is filled with both victories and losses.
The Aces are perfectly neutral. From this point, you can go anywhere and they are just waiting for you to start. The Aces are the will and potential to manifest the best of the suit. Good advertising is unforgettable so whenever I see an Ace, I remember the Nike trademarked slogan: Just do it.
The Twos in the tarot are about the presence of balance, decision, choice, multiplication, and reflection.
I think about how I learned the properties of a line; my teacher taught me that all a line is the connection of two points.
This is probably why I have such affection for receiving the Twos in a reading.It's more than the Aces- that is, I've finally begun and I'm not trapped in the potential of my journey.
I'm making progress, made a noticeable move from point A to point B. I've connected my desire to grow with a decision to get there.
Twos are also comforting because you don't feel so far from the start that you can't start over if necessary. The Twos grant the power of choice.The Twos allow for that going back and forth and playing with liminal space to receive what you want, think of the High Priestess' power to move back and forth between worlds. After the Twos, it's pretty much guaranteed that you can never exactly go back, but right here in the Twos you can reach for that reset button and likely get the chance.
"Give me a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth." -Archimedes
In the space of the Threes, we finally get to a sense of result!
It's not the final goal met by any means, but it is the comfort of feeling or seeing some progress.
Threes are foundational. Think of the process of building a house, the Threes may be the cleared land or leveled foundation. It's not a house yet, but we can more concretely envision what comes next.
Back to the whole line thing again- and I'm not a math expert by any means but work with me: we have our first point (Aces), and then we create the lines that connect them (Twos), and now we add a new dimension to the picture (Threes).
Three dimensional objects are something you can touch, feel, move around in a way you can't with a line. In this way the Threes are that feeling of tangibility, foundation, and the beginnings of something like stability but the kind that could always be improved on.
In terms of progression, we're likely no longer going back and forth like we may have in the Twos, we've picked a path and we're getting somewhere. The connections are getting deeper and our perspectives are broader.
Security is the motivating factor of the Fours which can be good and bad in equal measure. That something-like-stability feeling has grown stronger and matured.
We've built on the work of the Threes. We're not just interested in seeing result, we want to be able to duplicate result or make it better. We want to keep it. We want it to last. In this space we taste selfishness and damn it feels good. But for how long?
Selfishness is a neutral energy that we can then turn into light or shadow.
In its light aspect, selfishness encourages good boundaries, self-care, forethought, and stability.
In its shadow aspect it breeds isolation, greed, stagnancy, and arrogance.
We build structures in this selfish space of the Fours, and its up to us whether those structures provide necessary support shelter for us and our community or are a way to keep us disconnected and hoard power.
Forgive the reference but the Fives come in like a wrecking ball and disorder all that structure we tried to achieve in the Fours. If you survived the minor test of the Fours that challenged your capacity to keep going after the first sign of success, you'll come into the Fives and really get tested.
The Fives bring conflict, challenge, and opposition. It's uncomfortable, to be sure, particularly since it often pits your individual self against already present structures and other folks' perspectives. Five is a powerful number, from this space you can catapult into victory and manifestation (think of the pentagram) but first you must prove yourself.
Think of this energy as initiation, where you have to meet certain standards or present evidence of your experience in order to move on.
The Sixes check in with how you dealt with the Fives.
Did you lose and have to gather yourself, did you win and now celebrate? What are the values you associate with losing and winning anyway?
Here are also the stirrings of a need to withdraw after being burned by the world in the Fives, and we are more likely to turn inwards and check-in with our knowledge and principles.
In any cases, the Sixes provide a chance to make progress. Here you can gather the lessons of the Aces to the Fives and decide how you are going to make them work for you. They are a mixture of the Twos and Fours (2+4 is 6, after all) where you are faced with yet more choices of should I stay or go, how do I secure myself after the disruption I just went through, and we generally experience a state of "now what?" here.
We decide how we want to reach back into the world now, touch and be touched, and we understand so much better that every connection isn't meant for us and we learn to practice discernment around external influences.
This is the natural point of an active stillness. Stillness that isn't so much about stagnancy but about taking stock and reflecting about our decisions and the motivations behind them. In the realm of the sevens we evaluate trust, wisdom, and our sense of self.
I can't help but think of the duck serenely moving on the water but underneath is a flurry of paddling feet. In the Sevens position we might present a quiet or even withdrawn exterior to the world but it's all bubbling and brewing inside us.
It's a deeper exercise than the Sixes, really evaluating how we relate, how we trust, how we connect, how we conceive of ourselves and our place in the world. The Sevens are also a warning that if we don't take the time to really do this work of discernment, we end up seeking out exterior influence and getting burned by our wrong decisions.
If the Fours were about self-interest and security, then you expect that the double-space of that would be an intensifying of that energy. The Eights are about personal power and how we enact it on ourselves, our environment, and those around us. The Eights can either mobilize or trap us, depending on how balanced or imbalanced we are in this space.
The primary conflict of the Eights isn't with the exterior world, it's with ourselves. The traps of anxiety and addiction are that much easier to fall and get stuck in and so much harder to pull ourselves out of. It's always easier to wage war with someone else than it is to face ourselves and listen to our better angels.
When we make decisions in the Eights we are reminded to take in the experiences of all we have learned so far. Drastic change happens here in about as equal measure as drastic stagnancy depending on how well we've integrated those previous lessons and reflections into our day to day actions.
The Nines are the penultimate state. In the Nines you can finally see what you've been working towards and there's a great sense of accomplishment. The Nines provide divine space to reflect and if necessary rethink.
You're almost there but there's just one more detail, a final touch, you've just gotta pick the cherry to place on top. Here is where you are encouraged to make the final adjustments so that your landing is solid.
You are also encouraged to feel good about your work and take a pause to feel the sense of accomplishment. You deserve it.
Conversely, it may be that you can't see accomplishment or success and you're either wise enough to grieve the time and energy lost and turn things around or you've fooled yourself into thinking you can keep going all evidence to the contrary.
"Looks like we made it!"
Whew! You got there in the end... or as it is often in life, you skipped around and somehow landed here.
In the Tens we are supposed to feel the fulfillment of the Aces, the potential energy turned dynamic all the way down the line and bursting out on the other side matured, developed, and transformed. And also all the ways that energy stuttered and fizzled out. The Tens are the window to what both sides of that look like in ourselves, our communities, and in our environments.
Completion is a fraught space to be in. It sounds nice, but the end of a cycle isn't always roses and champagne, at times it can be filled with regret and betrayal. The Magician and the Wheel of Fortune rule this space so you can expect that some ambiguity. The Tens of the tarot do a great job of showing us that there's always more to see in an ending than coming to a final stop.
The best part about the Tens is that we are offered a chance to gather our wins, losses, and all in between and enter a new space, begin a new cycle armed with all that rich experience.
Make your own tarot numbers quick sheet!
Grab your deck(s) and lay all the cards according to their numbers.
Write down the major themes recurring in each set of cards and how they relate to the numbered set that comes before and after.
What are your own associations with these numbers and how do they change your reading of the cards?
Go learn different kinds of patterns!
Whether it's getting deep into the elements or astrological correspondences, with experience you learn to add layer upon layer to a reading of any one card in the Tarot.
Integration is the name of the game when learning the Tarot. Looking at the patterns of numbering is just one of the ways we can approach the tradition. There's always more patterns to learn, and so many more ways to combine them.
A delicious alchemy.
Never forget your intuition.
Quick sheets like these or the one you might make are not meant to be complete so please don't let them limit you. Let them be the gentle nudge that dives you deeper into reflection with your cards rather than your only go-to reference. Read more content, write more of your own reflections, and be open to new understanding of these lovely cards.