Number Symbolism and the Tarot

numbers symbolism and tarot

The tarot works best when the reader allows him or herself to interpret the images on the cards spontaneously during each reading instead of merely memorizing the meanings for each card from the book.  However, this process is not just free association; it is a synthesis of knowledge of the symbols in the tarot along with your personal meaning.

To develop a creative understanding of the Tarot symbols it is essential to understand both the symbolism on each card and the symbolic patterns present in the structure of the deck. 

This free lesson will focus on information that will help you gain perspective on the number structure of the entire deck.

Below is a quick reference list to get you started on the symbolism of numbers as they relate to tarot in general.  This is not a lesson on the meaning of the numbers themselves. For that information, please see the Numerology Lesson List.

The pips in the tarot are traditionally interpreted through associations with the qualities of each number.  These associations can be traced back to the theories of Pythagoras, but they have evolved and changed over the centuries, like society in general.  

The keywords, phrases and concepts here are drawn from a variety of sources, including traditional numerology, Kabbalah, geometry, and tarot.  In one or more of the number keywords might find the interpretation of a card.  Keep in mind this list of keywords is by no means exhaustive.

In many cases, you will interpret a card without using number reference symbolism at all – or you will perhaps settle on a different meaning for a number.  I encourage you to experiment and learn more about numbers. Let your mind free associate.  And always, interpret the Tarot as you are first guided from within; the correct answer will filter up from a place inside you where you have stored what you have learned or from your own Divine wisdom.

This list includes the numbers 1-10 only.  We will not reduce 10 for this purpose and will address it as a coherent number of its own for this exercise.  The Master Numbers are not included in this list.  To learn more about Master numbers see the free lesson Introduction to Master Numbers under the Numerology Lesson List. Regarding Tarot interpretation, reversals are not specifically addressed in the suggested meanings, but may be inferred if that is how the meaning strikes you.

Let’s begin:

  1. Sum of the suit, unity of the suit. Beginnings, impulse, crown, perfection, “One in all and all in one”.  Truth, beginnings, start of something new, a seed, essence, life, pattern, potential. A Monad (indivisible; ultimately simple; singular; single celled organism /entity.  The point.
  2. Duality, contradiction, attraction/repulsion, balance or choice between two, negotiation and exchange, wisdom, revelation, gestation. Two dimensional reality. Something that consists of two elements (a dyad), formation, polarity, coming together of opposites, equality, inequality, ratio, balance, stagnation, harmony, attraction, duplication, splitting, initial growth after sprouting. The line.
  3. Synthesis, creativity, a triangle, threesome, understanding, intellect, reason.  A group or set of three connected people or things (a triad), creation of three dimensional reality, growth, energy, creativity, fertilization, first level of completion;  a three part structure (beginning, middle, end); the mean between extremes; perfection; the All (as in the Holy Trinity); successful teamwork. The triangle.
  4. Consolidation, stability, manifestation, physical reality, stagnation, rest. A group or set of four elements (a tetrad); physical manifestation in the third dimension, practical attainment; commitment, the key to nature, the four fold division of the world – the 4 elements, seasons, directions.  The 4 directions emanating from a central point. The square.
  5. Change, breaking from a pattern, revolution, loss, strength, severity.  A group or set of five (a pentad). The quinta essentia, spirit entering matter (the quickening), imbalance; upset equilibrium; change, growth; light; restructuring; creativity in action. War.  A Pentagram.
  6. Harmony or seeking harmony, perfection, pleasure, things going smoothly – maybe too smoothly!  Beauty, compassion, a call for commitment. A group or set of six (a hexad). Harmony, balance, love, male-female union, Aphrodite (goddess of love and beauty),  Amphitrite (Poseidon’s wife and Queen of the Sea) peace, fecundity, nurturing. End of a growth cycle. A hexagram. The Star of David.
  7. Focus or seeking focus, analysis, looking for solutions, seeking perfection, victory, initiative, persistence, patience.  A group of seven (a heptad). The goddess Athena, the Hero’s Journey, battle, development of soul or of the the soul, facing complex choices.  Evolution, ascension and descension; defense. A heptagon or septagon. 
  8. The number of cosmic balance, continuity, endlessness, infinity, action or seeking action, perfect balance, glory, surrender, perfection or perfectionism.  A group or set of eight (an octad). Re-creation. Balance. Harmony. Infinity. Endlessness. No end in sight. Repetitive physical labor, action, or activity; steadfastness.  An octagon .
  9. Nearing completion, regrouping and transcendence, material foundations, procreative power, the link between matter and spirit.  A group or set of nine (an enneagon). Attainment, perfection, prosperity, bringing things to and end or conclusion. Completion. Sacrifice; letting go. Greatness.  An enneagram.
  10. Completion, and of one cycle and the beginning of the next, social responsibility, kingdom or social assembly, culmination of the suit, the ‘collective as one’.  A group or set of ten (a decand). The One – eternity; God. The end result of a phase or cycle. Resurrection – beginning over again. The All-the many returning to the one or becoming a unit.  Justice. Cyclic. Nemesis (a downfall caused by an inescapable agent; in Greek mythology, Nemesis was the goddess of retribution); destiny for good or bad; immortality. The Phoenix Rising. The Ultimate.  A decagon.

Authors: Cathleen Vaune Carr, Sophie Nussle, Robert Place

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