Welcome to the realm of the four suits! We rejoin our Happy Traveler after our journey through the triumphs to find her well outfitted with tools she acquired along the way. Dancing to the beat of life, The Fool is now learning to navigate the routines of the everyday. The details that occupy our daily lives can readily be seen in the suits: Love, financial difficulties, friendship, anxiety and philanthropy are just a few of the conditions expressed in the minor arcana. The psychological and spiritual qualities required to successfully negotiate these particulars are the lessons that are taught in the triumphs.
Any discussion of the four suits must begin with the meanings of numbers 1 through 10. Quite simply, the essential meaning of each of the minor arcana is based on the intersection of the specific number of the card, plus the general qualities of the suit. In other words, the energy expressed by the Ace of Wands is a combination of the number 1, representing initiation, and the suit, symbolizing motivation and Spirit. One interpretation of the card in a reading, then, might be an inspired new idea.
It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of understanding these basic numerological meanings. Keep a cheat sheet with your cards until you memorize them, if you need to.
THE OCCULT MEANING OF NUMBERS:
0. Infinity, super-consciousness, unlimited potential.
1. Conscious self-awareness, initiation, inception, focus.
2. Duality, reflection, alternation.
3. Growth, development, expression, networking of 1 and 2.
4. Calculating intelligence, order, measurement, classification, benevolence.
5. Adaptation, versatility, mediation, midpoint between beginning and completion.
6. Harmony of opposites, reciprocity, equilibrium, love.
7. Synthesis of preceding numbers, the unfinished Great Work.
8. Infinity, alternating cycles, the idea that opposites are the effect of the same cause.
9. Completion, attainment, fulfillment, the end of a cycle.
10. Balance of self-awareness and universal consciousness. Transition.
A grasp of these occult meanings lends great insight into the Tarot, even for the novice. Without any further study, you already know something about the Aces, for example. You know they all address the start of something new in some way. You also know they’re concerned with concentration and priority. The number 1 is a statement that says “I am”. When an Ace appears in a reading, the energy of intention is always at work.
The cards numbered 2 are in contrast with the Aces in the same way The Magician and The High Priestess demonstrate the principle of Yang and Ying. Another way to look at it is that these combinations literally represent the activities of the left and right hemispheres of the human brain. Aces, therefore, symbolize the rational, self-aware part of the mind, as well as beginings.
2 then, epitomizes the right brain and the intuitive, creative side. 2 is often said to represent duality, but in truth, Tarot doesn’t dwell in duality. The black and white perspective, and indeed, the very idea of good and evil, do not exist within the triumphs. Instead, 2 portrays balance, cooperation and harmony between the inner and outer lives. Reflection and polarity are strong aspects of the number 2.
3 is a networking of the energies described in the Ace and 2. The qualities found in 3 are what happens when the first two cards of the suit work together. 3 concludes a growth spurt of sorts that takes place at the beginning of each suit. Things take a different turn after the mission of the 3 has been accomplished.
4 represents a time of maturation. Making assessment and taking measure are functions of 4. Each of the cards numbered 4 has to do with the ways in which we face the world on a very practical level, and each has much to do with our security and solidity.
The mid-way point of a journey is shown in the minor arcana that bear the number 5. The qualities of the suit have developed and become established in cards 1-4, then sort of “hit a wall” at the number 5. This is the point where grief accumulates, process becomes gridlocked, disrespect rules the day, and financial difficulties abound. The conditions described in the number 5 are defining moments for the seeker. How one incorporates the lessons brought with the 5 is an important choice that determines how the rest of the story will play out.
The Happy Traveler pulls out of this funk with the arrival of the 6. Difficulties diminish in the face of increased support and healing. Conflict resolves into cooperation. Whatever story is being told shifts away from middle ground here, and begins to move towards conclusion.
A pattern has become apparent in this progression of numbers by this point, the same pattern as the one shown throughout the major arcana. Each number, just like each of the triumphs themselves, has a quality that contrasts with the preceding. The even numbers tend to represent stabilizing forces, while odds symbolize energies that promote growth and change.
After the happy 6, we see the juxtaposition of polarity again with the 7. Paul Case wrote that the number 7 has a specific relationship with the Tarot. In general, 7 is a synthesis of all preceding numbers, and in regards to Tarot, it represents the unfinished Great Work. Why are the cards numbered 7 so troubled, then? What happened? Things were going so well back at 6! The realm of the 7 is a point where the Traveler encounters a difficulty, loses clarity, or otherwise stumbles off the path for a moment. Previous matters are still seeking resolution. Still, the processes that develop in the cards numbered 7 are ones that ready the Traveler to carry on to the end of the story.
The number 8, like the 0, can be written repeatedly without lifting pen from paper. This suggests infinity. The double loops in the 8 represent alternating cycles. Motion and high energy are emphasized in all of the cards bearing 8. The journey is still very much under way, but the destination is about to come into sight.
9 is the final chapter of the stories told in the suits. The context of the 9 in a reading is very much dependant on the surrounding cards. Each 9 has the potential to play out in three different ways; through growth, equilibrium, or decline. Take the 9 of wands, for example. It might indicate a project that’s taken off successfully and calls for energy and attention to keep it on track. That would be growth. Or perhaps the project has been completed, and it becomes a building block for the next stage. That’s equilibrium. On the other hand, maybe the project didn’t work out well at all, leaving you unsupported and on the defensive. This principle applies to all of the cards and is an important aspect in a reading.
10, then, is not the number of completion, as that task belongs to the 9. 10 is the number of transition. It is the start of a new story, built on the path the Traveler has taken to that point. Again, meaning in a reading has everything to do with understanding which of the three expressions is being shown. Is the card talking about growth, decay, or balance?
A great way to become better acquainted with the suits is to lay out cards 1-10 of any one suit, and tell yourself a story about it. What’s going on in the Wands, for instance? An inspired idea, perhaps? Maybe our hero has an urge to write a play. What do the following cards suggest for our aspiring young playwright? Have fun with this. Name your character. Story-telling is a pathway into a time-honored realm that finds no real welcome in a techno society. Step into it, and loose your imagination!