One of the many things I love about Anthony Louis’ Beyond the Basics is his overview of the historic evolution of so many of the facets of tarot. This really helps modern card interpretations make more sense.

For example, in his chapter Number Symbolism and the Tarot, his explanation of how the Golden Dawn numerology is based on the Sephirot made more than any I’d ever read. Usually books just give the Sephirot meanings without making it clear how these associations developed to a numerological symbolic system. Tony provides the list that we are probably all familiar with:

1. Kether: Supreme crown

2. Chokhmah: Wisdom


But then he explains that the Golden Dawn combined the Sephirot with astrology to create their system. Here’s what Tony writes regarding the Golden Dawn system:

Each zodiac sign consists of three decans: a first or “initiatory” decan, a middle or “stabilizing” decan, and a final or “transitional” decan. The symbolism of the sequence of decans (initiate—stabilize—move on) combined with the symbolism of the numbers from one to ten generates in large measure the Golden Dawn meanings for the pip cards.

1: (Kether) The force of Spirit acting on and through an element. This initial spark of pure elemental energy will undergo development and maturation as it moves toward the 10 of the suit. In Kether, the energy is pure potential and has not yet manifested (like an idea in the mind of God)

2: (Chokmah) The initiation and fecundation of a thing. The element of the suit appears in its original harmonious condition and first tangible form, not yet affected by outside factors. The pip twos are associated with the initial decan of the “initiating” or cardinal signs of the zodiac and exhibit a double dose of the desire to manifest something new.

3: (Binah) Action launched and realized, for good or evil. The action characteristic of the element has commenced and manifests in a form of initial completion. The pip threes are associated with the “stabilizing” middle decan of the “initiating” or cardinal signs and signify an initial consolidation of what was started in the twos.

4: (Chesed) Realizations, making a matter fixed and settled. The energy now solidifies and manifest in established reality. The pip fours are associated the final decan of the “initiating” or cardinal signs, which will soon transition to the fixed signs of the zodiac and represent a desire to let go of what was begun in the twos and threes to move on to something more enduring.

And we will end the excerpt here, as we have read through one full decan cycle. Hopefully this helps you understand the Golden Dawn marriage of Sephirot, numbers, and astrology. I know it helped me quite a lot.

Written by Barbara Moore
The tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has ...