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The Nature of the Numbers in the Minor Arcana

The numbered cards of the minor arcana represent energy in motion. Beginning with one and ending with ten the cards refer to various states of energy flux, from birth to infinity. This energy is the machinations of cause and effect, karma in the most rudimentary sense.

Aces are the sources of the power of the elements. They most strongly indicate the essential qualities of their individual suits. The energy of the aces is primal; it is conception, gestation, birth. In a reading they often indicate inception or initial manifestation, initiative or will, attention or concentration. The beginning of the situation which caused the reading is often indicated by the position of an ace within the spread. As the number of the point, one is said to symbolize singularity.

Twos are the sources of duplication. They represent repetition, sequence, continuation. In a reading twos are almost always positive unless surrounded by an opposing suit but even then they indicate only slightly undesirable occurrences. Two is the number of the line, the joining of two points; it represents direction, the first manifestation in which movement can occur.

Threes are the sources of multiplication. They indicate growth, extension, and production. They often reveal where the most action, change, is occurring in the subject of the divination. As the number of the triangle three is said to represent the first plane and the three axises; it is the first space.

Fours are the sources of order indicating system, classification, reason. This is the number of the square, of order fashioned by intellect, the first structure in a space, primordial form. In a reading fours often show where concentration has occured or should or will occur in the matter in question.

Fives represent mediation, adaptation, accommodation and reconciliation. This is the number of the human animal and its essential condition. These are the cards which contrast the twos; fives are negative no matter how complemented by a supporting suit. In a reading, fives usually indicate that mediation is needed.

Sixes indicate reciprocation, correlation, correspondence, concord. As the number of the star, six indicates radiation. The ancient hebrews drew the Star of David to represent the aphorism: as above, so below.

Sevens represent equilibrium, symmetry, poise and security. Seven is the number of subconsciousness, conscience. In a reading sevens often indicate points where unconscious action causes change.

Eights represent rhythm, periodicity, pulsation, response. Being the number of consciousness, eight represents willed actions. In a reading eights often indicate what type of action has, should or will be taken, or not taken in the case of Eight of Water (Cups).

Nines represent completion, conclusion, end, goal. Nine is the number of the ego, what we percieve,identify and label as our self. This number also indicates return to the self, self-centeredness. Nines may also indicate repetition, that the end is just the beginning of an unproductive cycle.

Tens represent beyond, the gap after the end and before the new beginning. Ten is the number of infinity - that which is beyond the conception of our ego-centered minds.

These indications may sometimes seem at odds with the individually assigned meanings of the cards. The resulting dichotomies form interesting patterns within a divination and serve to convolute the plot of the reading.

The meaning of each minor arcana numbered card can be simplified to a single word. These words, called keywords, are symbols of concepts which are identified as being essential to the meaning of the card within a reading. Most tarot decks do not display these words on the cards but instead rely on visual imagery, in the case of picture decks, or memorization of attributions, in the case of pip decks. The more accessible decks do use these words to do away with the need for memorization and to provide a much more defined symbol for interpretation within the reading.

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This page last updated 9 November, 1997 by Bev Thornton

Copyright © 1997 Bev Thornton, All Rights Reserved.