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Numbers and Tarot

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on May 10, 2012 | Comments (9)

Tarot cards have numbers (except the court cards) and suits (or names for the Majors) as well as images. I have always used these elements in several ways when interpreting a single card or a reading.

The numbers, I have always thought, affected the individual card meanings. For example, all the Aces (1) are new beginnings of some sort. All the 2s have an element of choice in them. And so on.

I recently heard of a school of thought that says the numbers on the cards are only there for playing with (when using the cards as a game) or perhaps for calculating (things like birth cards). They say that the numbers have no inherent meaning or significance.

What is your opinion?

Reader Comments

Written By Matt Williams
on May 10th, 2012 @ 8:31 am

I guess you could say that we all find meaning where we look for it. I use the numbers in the pips as part of the meaning of the card when I read, but I have to say that I rarely will bring in the numerology of the Majors when they come up.
I think the numbers hold meaning in every card, but it is up to the reader whether or not to interpret it.

Written By Karen Schumann
on May 10th, 2012 @ 9:31 am

Which came first: the game or the divination? Did the divination evolve from the card game or vice versa? If the game came first, then, perhaps, the numbers became important as symbols in their own right as the divination process developed, and were not intended to be significant. Now, though, I can’t imagine not using the numbers as part of the reading.

Written By Carolyn Cushing
on May 10th, 2012 @ 9:54 am

I am pro-number! I use the numbers, especially in the Minors, to create my spine of meaning for the cards and then build from there. Numbers certainly have a deep history of symbolic meaning and why should we be denied that!

And/or/but the Major Arcana cards in the earliest decks were not numbered, if I am remembering this correctly. Numbers started being added later and card historians have speculated that it was to facilitate the playing of Tarot as a game. Death longer remained an un-numbered card. And I do have to admit that number is less important to my meaning making in the Major Arcana. Here it is more about progression and relationship between the cards that having a number facilitates.

Oh and interesting that this has come up today. Have you seen Alex Satin’s post in Taroholics Anonymous? His card is in Japanese or Chinese (no images) with only numbers giving any clue of meaning to those who don’t speak the language.

Written By Angelo Nasios
on May 10th, 2012 @ 11:26 am

The numbers for me have a meaning. From a Pythagorean view numbers are the key to unlocking the universe. Which is true based on science today which shows how math/numbers are what give us our natural laws.

While in tarocchi the numbers have a practical use for playing a game. But in Tarot the numbers have a spiritual meaning.

Written By Sarah
on May 10th, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

When reading I particularly rely on number cards.

If a number is repeated I interpret that as the cards emphasizing a theme or concept. Likewise, if I see a progression of numbers I use that information to determine roughly where a person is in their cycle.

Also, if you think about it, for each number card of the minor arcana it represents a different view of that concept.

Foe example, the 5’s are all about conflict, but each of the four 5’s represents a different type of conflict. The numbers are how the suits communicate to each other.

Written By Marlene
on May 10th, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

I believe that the numbers are significant. Probably not in the way that others might but I look up what they number meaning is. So today I drew card 45 which means going through a positive live change, and number 7 which means you are on the right path and the outcome will excede your expectaions. those numbers were from an oracle deck. However I did pull some cards from a tarot deck 1 – stay positive, 20 – have faith, 17 – keep up the good work you are on the right path. For me it just helps to sink in what the tarot card is telling me. I love pulling in all I can when looking at the cards, numbers, meaning, intuition, and what the picture is telling me. From that I usually come up with the answer that is for me and not generic.


Written By Ty
on May 11th, 2012 @ 7:40 am

I rely on the numbers not only for the pips but also for the majors. I think it is also important and how the card’s number may reduce to another card’s number, demonstrating an underlying a relationship. For instance, The Wheel of Fortune 10, can reduce to The Magician 1 (1+0= 1) illuminating a need for activation or change on our part in the face of larger change.

Written By Brigit | Biddy Tarot
on May 13th, 2012 @ 8:36 am

I use the numbers a lot in a Tarot reading. It helps not only to interpret a single card (Pips in particular) but also the whole reading. I look out for repeated numbers (e.g. 3 x Tens = closure and completion), missing numbers in larger readings (e.g. no Ones, no new beginnings) and patterns in numbers (e.g. mostly 7-10 = ending a cycle in general).
I agree with Matt Williams, though, in that I don’t really use the numbers for the Majors.
I do think it’s possible to get a little carried away with numbers though, such as adding up all the numbers in a reading to get an overall read, or adding numbers in particular rows. I know it works for others, but it’s not really my cup of tea!
And of course, numbers are very helpful for determining Birth Cards, Soul Cards, etc.

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