Posts Tagged ‘tarot numbers’
This feature on the blog is designed to address questions that relate to specific challenges that a reader may be struggling with – whether it’s a new reader who is trying to put it all together and figure things out, one who has been reading the cards for awhile but still feels like he or she is meeting up with some bumps in their execution of interpreting a reading, or for those who are creating a tarot practice to do readings in the course of business.
This is even for non-readers who may have some issue they are struggling with in regard to getting a reading or even thinking about learning to read the cards. If you find yourself stuck on something with the Tarot, let’s work on this together and see if we can find some clarity for you.
What are your biggest challenges or “pain points” in reading the cards or with Tarot in general? What do you feel holds you back? Or what is it that you seem to struggle with or simply can’t reconcile in your tarot journey? This is for both readers and non-readers alike, but may be of special interest to those who read the cards or for those who are trying to learn this vast subject that is filled with so much wisdom and empowerment.
Keep in mind that none of us will ever “know it all.” We are all going to be perpetual students in the amazing subject of Tarot. But the more we learn and practice, the more enjoyable this experience continues to be.
Today’s topic starts with some Tarot basics!
The best place to start . . . is at the beginning. And no, I don’t mean we’ll grab the Fool card off the top of a new deck and begin studying. We’re going to talk today about some very basic knowledge that can help you with ALL the cards of the Tarot – some simple things, perhaps often overlooked or considered not to be very important.
Even if you are an experienced tarot reader, it’s helpful to take a step back from time to time and return to a “beginner’s mindset.” Plus – it’s fun to do! It also simplifies things when you find a tendency to make something more complex than it actually has to be.
There are many ways to look at a card to help you decide what it means:
Here are some of the ways to help you understand a card’s meaning . . .
- The imagery of the card itself (This is one of the most important ways to understand a card’s meaning!)
- Symbolism used in a card
- The number of the card
- The suit and element of a card
In terms of the imagery, think about how the card makes you feel. Do you sense happiness, sorrow, stagnation, movement, loss, gain, etc.? What is happening in the card? What kinds of symbols are contained in the card? (Symbolism in Tarot is a whole topic in itself, but it’s helpful to learn about it, as symbols can also provide important clues to a card’s meaning.)
So let’s take a look at what the numbers and court cards mean in general for all the Tarot Suits – Cups, Wands, Pentacles, and Swords. I’ll follow that up with some basic information about the suits themselves – and the elements to keep in mind. We’ll explore a few examples, and from there, you can explore the cards, too – even if you are already a seasoned reader! I’ve been reading the cards since early 1999, but I still find these exercises fun and refreshing to do.
I recommend that you create a list of your own, as you might not agree with all of my keywords and associations – or you may have some that you would add to your list that I’ve not mentioned here. A fun way to determine your keywords for the numbers is to lay out all the cards of that number – for example, lay out all of the Aces to get a general feeling for what the number one implies to your way of interpretation.
If you are unsure of what the numbers mean in Tarot, or you’re new to Tarot and don’t really know where to start with this . . . here is my list that you can use to get you going:
The Numbers of the Tarot
Aces: new beginnings; fresh start; gift; opportunity; potential; solo; focus; a seed that has potential to grow and prosper
Two’s: choice; duality; balance; bringing together opposites; polarity
Three’s: creativity; growth; teamwork; building; expansion; discussion; evaluation
Four’s: stability; structure; foundations; creation; order; routine; duties; organization; solidarity; stagnation
Five’s: conflict; struggle; hardship; loss; chaos; instability; challenges; rebelling; midpoint of a journey
Six’s: collaboration; cooperation; sharing; communication; problem solving; love; beauty; chance; reconciliation; reflection; inner work
Seven’s: reflection; assessment; imagination; inner thoughts; challenge; choice, strategy
Eight’s: movement; speed; power; strength; effort; physical work
Nine’s: nearing completion; solitude; fullness; wisdom gained from the journey; loss or fulfillment
Tens: end of a cycle; something is finished; ready to move on; staleness; exhaustion; need for revitalization
Pages: enthusiastic beginner; inexperienced but eager; students; newbies, rookies; least mature of the Tarot court cards; can represent a child or the young-at-heart
Knights: messages; movement; ambition; confidence but not yet knowing one’s limitations; courageous; bold; action that is usually taken to one extreme or another; can represent a teen or young adult
Queens: mothers or mother figures; reflection; introspection; collaboration; organization; nurturing; support
Kings: fathers or father figures; responsibility; power; control; authority; leadership
Another consideration is that numbers 1 through 4 can indicate something in the earlier stages of a situation, 5 through 7 can suggest the midpoint (with a 5 being noted especially for the midpoint of a journey), and numbers 8 through 10 show us that something may be closer to the ending. This additional consideration may not always apply for every card in every situation, but it’s something to keep in mind. The little things sometimes help you find more meanings in a card that are fitting for your situation being asked about in the Tarot.
Cups: reflection; emotion; feelings, intuition; creativity; love; nurturing; psychic ability
Wands: passion; enterprise; energy; desire; intention; fast moving energy
Swords: communication; thoughts; logic; intellect; worry; conflict
Pentacles: groundedness; practicality; money; finances; material resources; business, resources, health, slower moving energy
Water = Cups
Fire = Wands
Earth = Pentacles
So now that we’ve explored the above, how can this knowledge help?
Let’s use an example with the 7 of Pentacles. This is a card that varies somewhat in interpretation from one reader to another. If you were uncertain of what this card meant, or if this card came up in a reading that caused you to feel stumped, you could turn to the numbers and suit meanings to help sort it out.
First though, look at the card and consider what kind of feeling or sensation you get from the imagery. We see a man who is leaning on his spade and looking at his bush of Pentacles. But does he seem happy? Not especially so. We are shown 7 Pentacles on the bush with some greenery, but also with some brown decay, too.
Now let’s consider what the sevens in Tarot mean. From the list above, we might pick out reflection, assessment, and inner thoughts. It looks like this man is pausing and reflecting. He seems to be assessing his situation and the work that’s been done to determine if he is pleased with the results. Did he perhaps expect more from the harvest than what he’s actually gained so far?
The suit of Pentacles talks about practical issues, resources, and groundedness. And we know that this suit represents a slower-moving energy.
Now . . . how would you put the number 7 and the Pentacles together?
We might say that this man is assessing his situation, but something is taking more time and work than expected. And so he’s probably not thrilled about the results. He seems to be reflecting on his expectations versus what is actually there.
And there you have it – the basic meaning of the 7 of Pentacles! You can certainly go deeper in interpretation, especially with additional cards in a reading, but this gets you started to take a look at a card individually. Before you can put cards together to tell the story of the reading, you need to understand what each one means.
Let’s turn to another 7 in the Tarot, and see what we could glean by exploring the number and the suit meanings. Let’s consider the 7 of Swords.
Again, first consider what you gather just from the imagery itself, because that by itself can tell you a lot!
It looks like this man is tiptoeing away with his prize of swords. We can easily get a “sneaky” feeling from this card. Is he taking something that belongs to someone else? He certainly seems to be looking over his shoulder to make sure no one is watching him.
The number 7, as we saw above, can signify reflection, assessment, imagination, inner thoughts, and inner wisdom. It can also signify challenge, choice, or strategy. For this image, I would pick out assessment and strategy as the two main highlights for this 7. It appears that he’s looking around and assessing things to see what he can get away with. And he’s strategically being quiet as he makes his exit on tiptoes.
The Swords suit speaks of communication, thoughts, logic, intellect, worry, or conflict.
How could we put together the number 7 and the swords suit for this card?
We might say that this man is strategically sneaking away with something. The camp behind him seems quiet, so he’s assessed the situation with logic, and he’s determined at what time he can sneak away with those swords unnoticed. After assessing the situation, he decided on the best time to make his get-away – with the prize in hand. So this might be something that was thought about and planned rather than being a spontaneous act of thievery. And certainly, when the people in the camp awaken, there is bound to be conflict and upset when they discover what’s missing! So this is one of those cards that can make you uneasy, because of its sneaky and deceptive nature.
But what if we want to evaluate a card from the Major Arcana? How can we do that?
You can still apply the principles of the numbers to the Major cards, too! But here is where a little knowledge of the elements can be of help, too. I mentioned the four elements earlier: Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. These elements also relate to the corresponding Tarot suits of Wands, Cups, Pentacles, and Swords respectively.
Each of the Major Arcana is assigned to a particular element which can be helpful to keep in mind. You don’t have to memorize these – simply use the cheat sheet I’ve created below when you want to check for the element of a particular major arcana card. Through time, you’ll start to remember them.
Even though we don’t have particular suits with the Major Arcana – since these 22 cards of the Tarot are like a suit of their own — each of these cards will still relate to one of the elements, just like each of the tarot suits do.
So let’s take a look at the mysterious Moon card! If you are a beginner – or if you are going back to a beginner’s mind — the first thing to do would be to consider what you feel about the card’s imagery. We see a wolf on one side of a path, and a dog on the other side. A crayfish is emerging from the water at the forefront of the card. The Moon almost looks like the sun, and there is a face in that yellow moon that looks contemplative, but not especially happy.
The Moon is numbered 18 of the Tarot, so how do we find a number to correspond to that? We reduce 18 to the number 9 with some simple math: 1 + 8 = 9. The number 9 speaks of solitude, loss or fulfillment, nearing completion, and wisdom gained from the journey.
Hmmm, that might not tell you a lot in itself. Let’s also turn to the element that is associated with the Moon card which is Water. Water relates to the emotional energy that is found in the suit of Cups. Water is about feelings, emotions, intuition, and even psychic ability – all very fitting associations with the Moon card.
So in the Moon card, we might put this together by saying that there is a solitary feeling in this card. Emotions seem to be important here, too. There does seem to be a journey of sorts with that long path in the imagery of the card as well.
Studying symbols can also be of help, but we won’t get into that right now. However, what we can ascertain from the card’s imagery is that there are two gray pillars featured in this card which can suggest duality. You’ll find similar pillars in the card of the High Priestess, the Hierophant, and Justice. So this tells us that there is some aspect of duality happening here, even though this card is not associated with the number two.
Because of this card being associated to the Water element and to the number 9, we can determine that this card may speak of emotional duality which would lead us to the idea of “moodiness” – very applicable for the Moon card. We may feel a push and pull on our emotions. There is a path in front of us, but we might not feel too certain about it. Additionally, this card features a night time scene, and we know that things are harder to really see in the dark in comparison to what is enhanced by the daylight.
One side of the path presents a domestic dog to represent the tamer or calmer side of our natures, while the wolf on the other side of the path can represent one’s wilder instincts or those “out of control” emotions. It can represent the shadow side that every person has.
Let’s look at one more example in a court card, and then I’ll let you explore on your own. Remember that, for today, we are merely looking at some basics that are often overlooked or forgotten in one’s tarot journey. If you put these ideas together, it can help you with the card meanings. It can help you enhance and create meanings of your own for the cards, or to just understand them better.
The court cards are often the hardest for new readers to grasp. We’ll talk more about them in a future blog post, but for now, let’s just focus on applying the numbers, suits, and elemental qualities. Let’s zero in on the Queen of Pentacles.
We know that Queens of the Tarot can be motherly, nurturing, organized, supportive, and reflective. They may bring things together. They can be introspective. The suit of Pentacles is a grounded energy that can relate to money, finances, material resources, or business matters.
The tricky part with court cards is that they can represent actual people in our lives, a part of ourselves, or the energy involved in a situation. They can represent events just as any other card in the tarot can do. You have to decide if you feel it relates to you or another person, or if instead you don’t feel it’s an actual person and may relate to an event or the energy involved with a specific situation.
In this example, the Queen of Pentacles could portray someone who is helping you be more practical and grounded. This person may be nurturing and supportive. It could be an aspect of you and how you are taking care of others. But if this card came up, and you didn’t feel that it was a person, you might see this card as relating to material matters and perhaps ways that you are supporting yourself. This is a grounded energy.
Court cards can feel complicated, and it can be a whole topic by itself, just as symbolism can. There have been books written on just the court cards!
The point of this post is to help you explore your cards from the mindset of a beginner. The numbers, the suits, and the elements all have importance for each card. After we’ve read the cards for awhile, the meanings will come naturally. But for those who are just starting or who may be struggling, remember that these basic points provided in this post can help you sort through confusion about a card and at least gain a basic understanding. When you at least touch base with the simpler side of things, it will then help you grow into deeper meanings and interpretation.
In the next post, I’ll talk about card reversals to answer the question I received about whether it’s important to use them, even though it’s a personal choice to allow for reversals in a reading or not. What is the value of reversed cards, or does it even matter? We’ll discuss that next time.
Happy Tarot Journeys!
Do you have a dilemma with Tarot that’s got you perplexed? Are you facing a particular challenge with Tarot? Please share, and your topic may be covered in a future blog post in this Tarot Journey series.