Life Numbers, Birth Cards and Year Cards
We started out the lesson this week with the interesting exercise where we all discovered our numerological Life Number. This is done through a mathematical equations where you use the Month, Day, Year of your birth. For an example I will use my information to show you the equation.
My birthday is April 10, 1971. That is 4-10-1971. You start by adding those three numbers together. 4+10+1971=1985. Once you have that four-digit number you then add all four digits together. 1+9+8+5= 23. You then take those two numbers and again add the digits together until you find a single digit. 2+3=5. So my Life Number is 5.
This process is called numerological reduction. This is taking any set of number and reducing it down to a single digit. Now there are many who will then look at this number and correlate it to a Tarot card of the Major Arcana. Again looking at my first reduction equation 4+10+1971= 23 we see that the number 23 is not a number among the Major Trumps. If the first reduction does result in a number that is 1 to 21 then many will associate the corresponding Trump to be your Birth Card. So if you Life Number and your Birth Card may be different numbers. (The Tarot School www.tarotschool.com) has a Birth Card calculator on their website and is loaded with support literature on the practice as well. Mary K. Greer in her book Tarot for Yourself also covers this information as well.
One think that we didn't really cover that much in class was the idea of a Year Card. This is where you find out where you are in the numerological cycle. You take your birth month, birth date, and add it to the current year. So for me it looks like this. 4+10+2010=2024 2+0+2+4=8 So my Year Number is 8 and my Year Card would be Strength or Justice depending on how you order the deck. (See, last week I said order matters and this is a case where it does for me.)
Surveying the Landscape
Last week we looked at the Major Arcana or Trumps. We looked at them in a hands on practice. By looking at them as cards and asking our intuition to give us insight into what they mean to us as symbol. The Major Arcana are universal archetypes. An archetype is a person, persona, experience or challenge that is common to all people in all places at all times. When we use the Tarot we look at the way one set of images of these Archetypes as seen through the worldview of the Italian Renaissance. I believe that the Major Trumps are essential and distinctive to the system of Tarot.
Tarot began as a trick taking card game like bridge, spades or rook. The majority of the cards in the Tarot deck are what are referred to as the Minor Arcana or the Suit Cards. The Suit cards are 56 cards that work alongside the Major Trumps. They are most definitely historically related to the common playing card deck though historians debate what the relationship came to be and which came first.
The Suit Cards, often called Pip Cards, are organized in four Suits with ten numbered cards and four court Cards. What may be the most common arrangement for the suits are the Ace through the 10, followed by Page, Knight Queen and King. There are significant systems that may name and/or order the court cards in a different manner. For now we will be setting the Court Cards aside for nights lesson and visit them with more detail and clarity in next week’s class.
The four suits tend to be named Wands (Rods, Batons, Clubs) Cups (Chalices, Bowls, Hearts, Shells), Swords (Knifes, Blades, Spades) and Disks (Pentacles, Coins, Diamonds, Spheres).
Labeling the Landscape
When we start with Tarot it is often easier and many teachers teach Tarot by piggy-backing it on a established system of understanding of th Tarot. The Hermitic Order of the Golden Dawn were a group of magician in Europe, mostly England, that saw who the Tarot and the Suit cards 4 X 14 structure along with the 22 Trumps as a potential teaching and divination tool to their personal practice and worldview. Two members of the Golden Dawn, A. E. Waite and Aleister Crowley both created Tarot Decks. These two decks, the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot and Crowley Thoth Tarot, were each ground breaking decks that shaped much of Tarot in the 20th century.
For decades many have encountered these two representations of Tarot as the one and only way to do Tarot. These decks are influential because of their depth of symbolism, study, insight and supporting literature (books, teachers) that empowered others to embrace the one system. It is a perfectly good system that has stood the test of time, actually lasted much longer than the organization. They used the Tarot as a teaching tool for their system. It is effective and many Tarotists have used their system with little or no understanding of the greater worldview that the Golden Dawn had. In a very pragmatic way the Golden Dawn have done a great service to the Tarot and all who use it because they showed us all that Tarot structure is a flexible and meaningful.
As history as proven that the Tarot can accurately express the pattern of the world for the Golden Dawn I believe that it is a tool that we can use to map out the world and the journey of our life within the pattern of the world view we each hold. Tarot purists may cringe and become violently opposed to my idea here but I welcome the debate. It is the answer to the Question "Is their only one true and correct Tarot?" I say that with the success of so many who use it in different ways, obtaining different results, and with different associations that the answer to that question is clearly no. If then the Tarot is open to greater and more expansive understanding then there is a lot of work that needs to be done and important put smaller questions that need to be asked.
The Suit cards of the Tarot are the DNA of the Tarot. In many ways it is what gives it life and structure. Every person in the entire word is a unique individual and that is because the variation of four acids that pair up in long strings of pairs. These pairs are our genes and is the biological makeup of who we are. Like with the human body the Suit are Four Elements that come together and give depth and individuality to any Tarot reading or exercise.
The two things that we will look at in the most detail in this lesson are how the Suits and the Numbers come together to create a system of forty different meanings for the a Aces through the Tens of the Four Suits.
The Latitude and the Longitude of the Suit cards.
I will start by asking you to consider that forty cards of the Suits as a grid. Let's think of it as four rows with ten columns.
Think of the four rows as the four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles). Think of the ten columns as the numbers of the suits (Ace through 10). If you have room you may want to lay out all the pip cards of the Suits to get a good look at all of them in that grid pattern.
Each of the Suits of the Tarot represent a common thread that you should be able to see when you look through the ten cards. I will be providing you with Elemental associations for the Suits. Please remember that this is just an example. This is simply one way to look at the Suits.
Wands as Fire. Fire is creativity, action, movement, enthusiasm, adventure, risk-taking, and confidence. A masculine principle of the outer expression of ego and drive.
Cups as Water. Water is emotions, spirituality, inner states of being, feelings, intuitive awareness, flowing energy and the feminine principle of passive response and energy.
Swords as Air. Air is intellect, thought, reason, justice, logic, truth, ethics and mental clarity. Air is in a stat of constant change and volatile.
Pentacles as Earth. Earth is practicality, secure, mental concerns. Earth rules work, stuff (belongings and money), Relationships (the practical understanding of them) prosperity, wealth, need and charity.
Look through the rows of the suits and see if you can see in those card these representations of the suits. Does this understanding of the suits make sense with your deck?
Now we will look at the Number columns. I will now give you some keywords for the numbers. Remember again that these are just a place to start and that you may agree or disagree with these meanings for the numbers.
Ones (Aces)-- Unity, Solitary, Beginnings, Spark
Twos -- Duality, Balance, Union, Partnerships
Threes -- Creation, Abundance, Multiplication, Fertility
Fours -- Structure, Order, Foundations, Leadership
Fives -- Change, Conflict, Unstable Equilibrium
Sixes -- Bring into Balance, Stable Equilibrium, Short-Term Successes
Sevens -- Thoughts, Consciousness, Full Perfection
Eights -- Expansion, Power, Sacrifice
Nines -- Integration, Solitude, Beginning of the End
Tens -- Completion, Perfection, Finished, Cycle Renews
Now looking down the columns of numbers can you see how the four suit numbers each express the meaning of the number? Are the four suits in a way four ways of seeing the number?
Constructing Your Map
Now that you have seen how this idea of how the Suits and the Numbers can come together as systems of intersections to give each of the card a place in a system it is time to have fun and discover which system will work for you.
I have taken this idea of the grid with empty boxes and played with creating my own unique system of meanings for the Tarot. I challenge you to draw out or print out a four by ten grid with empty boxes and see how your understanding of the system fills in the boxes.