MINOR ARCANA #3: NUMEROLOGICAL ASPECTS
In this lesson, you will become familiar with the numerological associations of the pip cards 1-10 of each suit, as well as additional uses of numerology in conducting tarot readings.
For the following exercises, set aside your references or notes and use only your tarot cards. Separate out the Ace through 10 of each suit, and set the rest of the deck aside. Lay these cards out in four rows of ten, with each suit in sequential order, as you did in the previous lesson. For all the exercises in this lesson, including the example readings, use only the Ace through 10 cards of the four suits.
Exercise #1 – Developing Numerological Associations. Look at each column, starting with the Aces. What aspects or properties do all the Aces seem to have in common? Write down as many key words for Aces as you can think of. Then do the same for each number 2-10, focusing only on the traits which the cards sharing the same number seem to have in common. List the keywords that are shared by all four of the cards of that number, then describe how each card modifies those keywords in its own way.
After you have developed your own key words and phrases, take a look at the table at the end of this lesson, which lists some key words of mine and various other authors. While these may provide additional information for you, remember that your key words are the most important – don’t try to use ones that don’t make sense for you. There is no single meaning that is “correct” – in your readings, the cards will represent what you think they represent. For another reader, the same card might mean something different.
Exercise #2 – Trump Associations. Now take out the trumps that have the numbers 1-10, and place them above the columns with that number. What associations can you form between the trumps and the minor cards of the same number? Write these new insights down in your journal. If you want to take this exercise even further, take the rest of the trumps and place them in the appropriate column as follows: Add the two digits of the trumps together until they reduce to a single number – for example, Key 14, Temperance, would work like this – 1+4 = 5. These cards are considered “higher-order” versions of the basic numbers and have associations with the primary card. Thus, Justice is associated with the High Priestess, The Moon is associated with the Hermit, etc. Technically, in numerology, 10 is not a basic number and should be reduced to 1, although for this exercise, you may choose to put both the Wheel of Fortune and the Sun in the 10 position for comparison to the minor arcana. What does this tell you about the associations between the 10s and Aces of each suit? If you have any questions about this part of the exercise, or just feel like sharing your thoughts, please post them to the list. We will be exploring the relationships between the Trumps and the Minor Arcana further in when we study the Trumps.
Exercise #3 – Combining Suit and Numerological Associations. As you know from the previous lesson, each of the suits is also associated with one of the four elements, and with particular aspects of life. Looking at the key words for the suits which you developed earlier, combine your key words for the suits with your key words for the numbers. For example, if your key word for Cups is Emotions, and your key word for Sixes is Harmony, then one possible meaning of the Six of Cups is harmonious emotions. Review these pairs for all ten cards of each suit, and compare these phrases with the key words you developed for your cards in Lesson 1. Do you notice any cards whose keywords don’t seem to fit the suit/number pattern? For the cards that don’t fit, is there any combination of key words you have developed that would work?
In numerology, the numbers 1-9 are considered to be part of a repeating cycle representing stages of life that we all go through. These numerological associations, described below, can be helpful in understanding the meanings of the minor arcana, and can be added to your list of key words for the numbers.
1 – Beginnings, potential, spark or idea
2 – Emotional and practical investment
3 – Expansion, growth
4 – Foundations, consolidation
5 – Change, communication
6 – Rewards, creativity
7 – Unexpected challenges, upheaval
8 – Maturity, peak of ability
9 – Endings, preparing for the next cycle
In this system, 10’s are not represented – all two-digit or higher numbers are reduced to single numbers. Therefore, tens in the tarot may be considered have an additional meaning of transitions between cycles, situations which are in the process of ending, or overdue for ending.
Exercise #4 – Suit Stories. Lay out the 1-10 cards of one of the four suits (you can do this exercise for all four suits, if you wish). Make up a story that moves sequentially through all ten cards, from beginning to end. Imagine that the people and places in the card are your characters and setting. The story can be about anything, but should be true to the suit and the numerological cycle, and should use the symbols and depictions on the cards in the story to inspire your “plot”.
Using Numerology in Tarot Spreads
Numerological associations may be used in a variety of ways in tarot readings. First, and most basic, you may find situations where the numerological/suit combination of meanings makes more sense in the given situation than the keywords or traditional meanings of the card. It is also very significant if a particular number appears several times in a reading – for example, a 5-card reading in which 3 Twos show up. Then the interpretation should discuss the general meaning of Twos in addition to the specific meanings of each of the individual cards. In looking at repeated occurrences of numbers in readings, one should also keep in mind the numbers associated with any trump cards received in the reading. For example, the High Priestess in combination with several Twos would reinforce the Two energy of the reading.
Exercise #5 – Using Numerological Keywords. Do a three-card reading on the following question: “I would like to know if this is the right time for me to quit my job and start a home business selling real estate.” Use any spread of your choice, from 1-5 cards. Instead of using your normal keywords for the cards, use the combination of number and suit keywords to interpret the cards, paying particular attention to any number that appears more than once in the reading. Comment on the numbers that appear with respect to the numerological cycles above to determine whether this is a good time for the client to make changes in his work situation.
Another way to use numerology in a tarot reading is to consider what comes before and after the card that is received. This can be especially helpful when reading a “difficult” card, such as any of the Fives. Especially when doing a one-card reading, this method provides insight into how and why the client probably got to this place, and what is likely to happen next. Fives have a purpose, which is to spur a person on from the stability and stagnation of the Fours, and reach a more spiritual understanding of life, in order to reached the balance and harmonious Sixes. This cannot occur without some difficult and trying life lessons. Each of the other cards can be read in a similar way, and you can use the stories you developed earlier to help provide inspiration for how these transitions might work as you move through the cards. Providing this larger perspective will be much appreciated by the client when working through a difficult situation.
Exercise #6 – Using Numerological Cycles to Provide Perspective. Do a one-card reading on the question “My mother and I have a very difficult relationship that causes us both a lot of pain. What are we supposed to be learning from this and how can we move to a better place?” Interpret your one card with respect to its place in the numerological cycle to identify how they likely got to this point, what the situation is, and how they can transition into the next natural step in the cycle. Using this method is one way to get a tremendous amount out of smaller readings on difficult topics, and can also be used with the Trumps, once we have studied their cycles in more depth.
Numerology can be used in a more traditional manner to supplement tarot readings when the client’s birthdate is known, to identify which year of a 9-year cycle they are currently in. To use this method, take the complete date of the person’s most recent birthday and add up the digits of the month, day, and year, and then further adding up the digits of that number until it is reduced to a single digit. This shows what year of their current cycle they are in, and can help shed light on aspects of the tarot reading. For example, my birthday is December 31. My last birthday was in the year 2000, so the cycle I am currently in can be determined as follows: 1+2+3+1+2+0+0+0 = 9. Knowing that I am in a 9 year could help explain why I may be thinking about endings and new beginnings. If I were in a 7 year, such thoughts would be premature, and I would have more work to do to finish up the old cycle before starting something new.
To tie this back to the tarot, this method can be associated with the trump card of the same number to show the overall energy for the current year, or can be used with the birth date and year to identify the “destiny” card or trump card that best represents this lifetime. In this latter case, reduce their birthdate until it corresponds with any number from 1-22 (22=0, The Fool).
Exercise #7 – Using Birthdates. For your own birthdate, determine your year card and your destiny card using the method described above. Reflect on what this means to you in terms of your life path and the energy you feel in your life this year. What part of the numerological cycle are you in, and what are you doing during this cycle of your life?
List of Key Words for Aces Through Tens
Here are some key words I have compiled for the Ace through Ten tarot cards:
Aces: Beginnings, potential, elemental energy, unity, perfection
Twos: Duality, choices, decisions, partnerships, division, balance, complimentary energies
Threes: Expansion, growth, expression, creativity
Fours: Foundation, stability, consolidation, safety, rest
Fives: Note – I have found that fives have very different meanings in different decks and traditions. My keywords below for the fives are divided into traditional Rider-Waite meanings and non-traditional feminist/Wiccan/pagan meanings. These are really flip sides of the same coin, and reflect early attitudes of the western mystical tradition toward women and their spirituality.
- Rider-Waite: Conflict, instability, danger, sorrow, intemperance
- Alternative: Spirit, magick, ritual, female energy, nurturing
Sixes: Harmony, success, generosity, symmetry, balanced flow of energy
Sevens: Challenges, rites of passage, ingenuity, flexibility
Eights: Maturity, ability, resilience, self-directed movement
Nines: Abundance, accumulation, living in the now, instincts
Tens: Wordly manifestation, long-term cycles, endings, transitions