of the meanings attributed to the Tarot cards derive from numerology.
In the West, numerology goes back to the philosophy of the Greek
thinker Pythagoras who believed that reality can ultimately be
expressed in numerical terms. We have already seen the importance of
the number four in the four suits of the Tarot which are derived from
the four elements of classic Greek philosophy. The fact that there are
10 pip cards is related to the fact that humans have 10 fingers and
therefore use the decimal number system. Odd numbers are usually
regarded as forceful, yang, or "masculine" and even numbers as
stabilizing, yin, or "feminine".
Below of some of the common meanings attributed to the basic numbers that comprise our system of numbering things:
Zero is the number of pure potential, of absolute beginnings and
endings (return to nothingness). Only the Fool Trump carries the number
0 in the Tarot.
"One is the loneliest number..." the popular song goes. One is the
first card of the pip sequence. One is the number of beginnings, of
individuality, of the child emerging from the womb, of the prime force
of creation. The Washington Monument is an architectural tribute to the
Two is the number of duality, of coupling, of self and other, of
opposing and complementing aspects of reality, of the union of two
Three is the number of the triad, of the unit formed by duality (2) and
its offspring (1), of the three faces of the goddess (virgin, mother,
and crone), of the creation that is made possible by joining forces
with another, the tripartite genitalia of the male and the genital
triangle of the female.
Four is the number of manifestation and material reality. There are
four elements, four sides of a square, four cardinal directions of a
compass, four seasons, four winds, etc. It is a number of order,
structure, power, and earthly dominion. Four is the number of the
prototypical complete family: a father, a mother, a son, and a
Five is a number related to the five human senses and to the pentagram
representing the human form (the head plus the four limbs). Five is the
midpoint or turning point of the cycle that runs from 0 to 10. As such,
five can represent a crisis point or a state of instability.
Six represents the harmony that returns when we resolve the disruption
and instability seen in the five. Being a combination of 2 and 3 (6 = 2
x 3), six carries with it the connotations of both 2 and 3, that is
harmony, cooperation, creation, new equilibrium.
Seven is regarded as a spiritual and introspective number. Being an odd
number, it carries an active, forceful, and sometimes disruptive
8: Eight is made up of 2 x 4, or 2 x 2 x 2. Like the four, it is a number of power, manifestation, and material accomplishment.
Nine is the last single digit in the series. It carries a connotation
of completion or the ending of a cycle. It can signify the wisdom that
is achieved toward the end of a cycle.
In the number 10 we see the final ending --- the sequence of pips is
over. The cycle has ended and a new one is beginning. Being one more
than nine, 10 often means "one too many".
The Minor Arcana
very number of cards in a Tarot deck reflects this numerological
scheme. The 10 pip cards represent a series of everyday feelings,
events, and situations associated with each of the 4 suits. The four
court cards represent the four members of the prototypical family:
father/king, mother/queen, son/knight, daughter/page. Hence each suit
consists of 14 cards (10 pips plus 4 court cards).
and family matters are thus represented by the 10 pips and 4 court
cards of the four suits. This makes a total of 4 x 14 = 56 Minor Arcana
The Major Arcana
remaining 22 cards of the deck are the Major Arcana (major secrets)
cards. These have a different numerological basis. Representing
timeless spiritual truths, these cards are based on the numbers 3 and
7. The Fool, numbered 0, stands at the center of a triangle (3 sides),
and each side of the triangle consists of 7 cards (connected with 7
days of the week that are named for the 7 visible planets). The Fool
(numbered 0) plus the 21 lessons the Fool must learn (the other 21
Trumps) make up the total of 22 Trump cards. In numerology, 22 can be
broken down into 2 + 2 = 4, the number of manifestation in the "real"
world. Furthermore, 21 (the number of spiritual lessons awaiting the
Fool) is the sum of the first 6 digits, that is, 21 = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5
+ 6, a fact that was not lost on the original creators of the Tarot
playing with these numerical relationships and their connections to the
cards of the Tarot deck, one can come to a deeper understanding of the
origin, structure, and meaning of the card.