Understanding Numerology and Tarot
Numerology is quite simply the belief that numbers have some corresponding meaning or special relationship to concepts or events in the outside world. Some numerological systems believe in the divine or mystical aspects of numbers. There are many, many systems of numerology, but Western numerology has often been traced back to Pythagoras and the idea that everything has a numerological relationship.
It is not necessary to believe in a divine or mystical aspect of numbers to use numbers when reading tarot. If we think of numbers as symbols of particular concepts, they can simply add to the significance of the other symbols in the card. In the short lesson below, I will discuss some common number associations used in tarot. This article is not exhaustive and there are many different ways that numbers can be understood in tarot. If you would like to dig deeper, please explore the links at the end of the article.
Numbers in tarot can be used to interpret individual cards, but also to find thematic elements in a spread. For example, if several Ace cards come up, since the Ace corresponds to 1, it might be useful to know more about what 1 can mean and how that might affect the overall meaning of the reading.
Ace of Wands
Numbers 1 through 4
When you first begin to read tarot, you'll notice that the cards are divided into two major sections: the Major Arcana, also called the trumps, and the Minor Arcana, or the pips. The pips, in turn, are divided into cups, wands, swords, and discs (or some variation on these terms), each with numbers 1 through 10 and a King, Queen, Knight, and Page (or Knight, Queen, Prince, and Princess, depending on what deck you are using). The next two sections will focus on the numbered pip cards. The number 0 will be discussed under the Major Arcana section below.
In the tarot pips, Aces correspond with the number one. One is most clearly associated with new beginnings, fresh starts, and the "infancy" stage of any project, relationship, or event. One can also be associated with an explosive or untamed energy: the Aces are often considered the "raw" aspect of the element represented and might correlate with an overwhelming and uncontrolled expression.
Twos, as might be expected, indicate growth and coupling, whether with another person or another perspective. Twos represent growth, a stopping point before movement, or the inclusion of another person to build upon ideas. They can also be about weighing options and making decisions.
Threes represent the creation of a new thing based on the coupling of the twos. Whether that new thing is a creative act, a child, a dissolution of a partnership, or something else depends on the rest of the reading. The threes are a small ending point in which we stop to see what has been created from our actions.
Fours are a more stable, reliable number (notice the ways that odd and even numbers play between stability and chaos!), one that speaks to establishment, peacefulness, and the enjoyment of what was created in the 3's. It can also indicate a period of rest, planning, or even stagnation.
10 of Wands
Numbers 5 through 10
Number five brings us to another more tumultuous number, one that indicates an upheaval of what was established in the fours. Although this number could be seen as "negative", it indicates the possibility to recreate, reformulate, and make changes that are necessary. This number generally indicates that some disruption needs to happen in order to reach a deeper stage of equilibrium.
Six is a number of peacemaking and aid from others. It's a number of harmony and joining together, a welcome move from the turbulence of the fives! This number indicates a rich understanding gleaned from the upheaval from the fives and indicates a deeper sense of peace and need for fellowship.
Seven is an important number in many spiritual traditions, and in tarot, the number seven often indicates a pause for internal reflection and assessment. The sevens, while not exactly "turbulent", indicate the need to go inward and better understand our motivations and actions. It indicates a new step in the journey, beyond the harmony and balance of six.
Eights, like fours, are about stability and establishment, but they indicate a more mature, practical, and balanced approach: the eights are mature, stable, and have gone through the process of self-evaluation, upheaval, and now those lessons can be applied. Eights can indicate change, but it is change based on careful assessment and not outside forces.
Nine is where we see what we have created (note the relationship between 3, 6, and 9) come to fruition: we see the fruit of our labors. Although 9 cards can be positive, it's important to take into account which suit you get and what question the client is asking: negative beginnings can lead to a negative fruition.
Tens are about completion of a cycle (notice that 10 contains 1!). While in the 9's we see our results, the 10's are about finishing that cycle, reviewing what has come of the idea, and thinking of how to begin anew. The 10 can often indicate an ending or a new beginning, but it lacks the raw power and lack of formlessness of the 1.
Tarot and Numerology
The Major Arcana
The numerological relationships described above can be used for the Major Arcana with a few adjustments. First, the Major Arcana includes a "0" card, The Fool. The zero is about potential, uncertainty, and a complete lack of confines. If the one is about new beginnings and fresh starts, the 0 is that moment before an idea has arisen: a kind of "fertile void" in which everything is still possible and nothing has been defined.
Since the Major Arcana trumps go beyond the number 10, one method of reading the cards is to add the numbers together to find the correspondence :so, for example, in many decks, Justice is number 11. If you add together 1 and 1, you get 2, which indicates the number correspondence for that card. You can also choose to look at the individual numbers in the card: The Hanged Man, number 12, contains 1 and 2, and added together makes three. Looking at all of these numbers can be helpful in understanding the card.
Tarot and Numbers
Do you use numbers in your tarot readings?
Check out the following references for more information:
Angel Paths Numerology: http://www.angelpaths.com/numerology/numerintro.html
Biddy Tarot Numerology: http://www.biddytarot.com/tarot-and-numerology/
Tarot Reflections, Secrets of Numerology: http://www.ata-tarot.com/reflections/04-05-08/secrets_of_tarot_numerology.html
Check out my articles on Tarot and access to detailed readings on my website, Integrative Tarot.
As well as my article about Tarot for Personal Development.