In the minor arcana, the elements combine with numbers. Each element has a sequence, it’s own story line much in the same way the Fool’s Journey runs through the major arcana.
First, I’ll simplify the whole thing. Each number becomes more intense, more “stacked” as it holds the meaning of all the numbers before it, all of the lessons learned through each phase in the sequence. So higher numbers are more intense, sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad.
To break it down further, we get into numerology, the story of creation hidden in the numbers. It’s a bit more efficient than the Fool’s Journey though.
When I talk about numerology, I’m not talking about your lucky number based on your birthday or the letters in your name, this is more of a meditative spiritual practice thing. There is a story of creation in the numbers 0 to 10. The way I learned it involved beer and eavesdropping on rambling discussions by arguing young occultists, so if you heard it was some other way, it probably was.
Zero is the “in the beginning there was nothing”, and one is the first action (“let there be light”). Two is the equal and opposite reaction. Since obviously man comes first, the number one is masculine and number two is feminine.
The feminine principle receives the light of the male and transforms it. This story is the dance of the sun and the moon, the harsh light of the sun is thrown onto the moon and transformed into something soft and silver. It is a metaphor for sex, because secret society loving ceremonialists wrote it and they are into everything being a symbol for sex.
Not the sun and moon metaphor. Pagans wrote that. We are also into sex. I mean the numbers having sexual symbolism and weaving it into old testament related occult stuff. That’s totally on them.
One and two are yin and yang, in eternal dance leading to synergy. When you mix man and woman with sexual religious symbolism, you get a metaphorical child. Three is synergy, the number of the previous two as a whole. Three is sometimes seen as the birth of a child or the beginning of an idea. When it refers to a skill set, it is the lessons learned in childhood, or the start of learning a skill.
Three is an odd number, therefore interpreted as masculine or dynamic. The first step leads to the reaction, then the next step is another action. Odd numbers are active and masculine, in a state of movement that must come to rest (the reaction, the even numbers). Periods of masculine activity are followed by periods of feminine receptive stability where active lessons are absorbed.
The dynamic synergy of three comes to rest in four, the number of stability, the home. However, it’s a kind of boring home, the one you get when you go to work every day and come home and watch t.v., one that might leave you feeling a little empty.
So, five is the number of a challenge to break you out of that rut. It can be seen as apprenticeship, or high school. It is followed by the number of a happier home, one with more laughter and the most joyful number in the deck, six.
Seven is another challenge, akin to higher education to refine our skills. Eight is even, therefore stable, but it is in motion, near completing the cycle. I’ve seen it referred to as a boulder rolling downhill. In skill sets, eight is the number of the journeyman, nearly complete with their education.
Nine is completion, the final stage of the cycle. Skills have been applied, and the results are tangible. But in the tarot, there’s another number, after this final stage. In numerology, when you have a double digit, you add them together until they are a single digit. So ten is one plus zero equals one, but a more evolved “one” who is the sum of all of the lessons of the previous stages (as all the cards contain the momentum of the card before them), but on the next level. It’s a new journey, but unlike the fool, your lessons are intact. This is the number of mastery.
So, when you read the little booklet, four of wands is boredom because it’s putting the most stable number on the element of motivation, and five of cups is grief because it challenges our emotions and teaches us lessons about what we love. This information will help you interpret the art that you see, and understand how your deck’s instructions came up with the meanings they did.
The numbers and the elements combine to form how your actions reflect your motivations, but there’s also an aspect of the cards that lends more personality to the tarot, the court cards.
By the way, if you think the whole suits combined with numbers and court cards sounds familiar, yes. The tarot is the mother of the poker deck. Or possibly the other way around. Like I said, the history of tarot is spotty and often debated so I don’t usually bother paying attention.
Tarot For Writers And Skeptics * Why Tarot Speaks To Us * Grab A Deck * The Fool’s Journey * Elements And Alchemy * Numerology And The Tarot * Court Cards * Seeds For Stories * Tarot Story List