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Lesson #kt The Number Cards

This lesson and all course materials © Cinnabar 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, without permission in writing from Cinnabar. Use of this publication is by permission only, and any unauthorized use or distribution is prohibited.

In the last two lessons, we have focused strongly on the symbolic content of the images depicted on the Trumps and court cards, and on the symbolism of their astrological and Elemental attributions. The reasoning behind this lies in the fact that these images are abstract. The meaning of (for example) IV The Emperor goes beyond being merely the idea of power and control that the picture of a crowned, enthroned man conveys. Through the symbols that have been designed into the image, it is made into a greater and more profound thing than a representation of a human monarch; it becomes instead the depiction of a supreme and fundamental force that no actual emperor, however strong, could control. By the same method, the image of II The High Priestess, the sacred guardian and transmitter of ancient lore, is transformed into a figure representing the subtle, indirect nature of spiritual knowledge.

The symbols that bring about these changes, however, are only readable to someone who knows their meanings. These meanings do not lie in the physical reality or surface appearance of the symbolic items; the crescent moon of the High Priestess doesn't represent the real moon. The meanings lie in those things which are associated with the symbols, and unless you know at least some of the associations you can neither read the symbols nor interpret the images. This is what we're referring to when we say that the images of the Trumps and court cards are abstract: their true meaning is symbolic rather than literal.

The images of the number cards, however, are in most cases much more concrete and literal. There is still symbolic content to these images, of course, especially the Aces, but at bottom they have a meaning which is much closer to the face value of the image than is the case with the Trumps or court cards. The bound, blindfolded figure hedged about with eight swords is quite easy to understand as an image of restraint, confinement, and so forth; the three women dancing with upraised cups clearly represent friendship and shared pleasure. Some of the cards are more abstract, especially (as mentioned above) the Aces, which after all represent the root and source of the powers of each suit --- in and of itself an abstract concept. The heart pierced by three swords is distinctly symbolic rather than literal, but the symbolism is not as intensely abstract as is that of (for example) XVII The Star; it is fairly open and accessible to interpretation.

The exception to the rule of the comparatively more concrete nature of number card imagery (and it's a big one) is the type of number card found in older, pre-Waite decks, and also in a few newer ones --- what in Lesson #1 we referred to as the "geometric" illustration card. A cluster of three swords is an almost entirely abstract image, with no surface meaning beyond its obvious inclusion in the suit of Swords. -There is, of course, still a certain amount of rather stripped-down symbolism left in the image --- that of the swords themselves, and, if you choose to apply some sort of system of numerology to the cards, that of the number three --- but where the image of

IV The Emperor conveys a certain amount of information in and of itself, apart from its symbolic significance, the image of three swords conveys nothing at all beyond the fact that it's a purely symbolic image. It lacks the rich complexity of Trump imagery, and the meaning-laden wealth of symbol.

This is a good place to sidestep briefly and discuss the issue of numbers. Most traditional systems of numerology clash in part or in whole with the traditional meanings of the cards. Often, a student of the Tarot who wishes to work with the significances of numbers as they relate to his or her own deck is obliged to create his or her own system, based on personal understanding of the cards, or to use one created in a similar manner by a modern Tarot authority. (There are several good ones available.) But some people can* t find a numerological system that is satisfactory for them, or for whatever reason simply choose not to use numerology. If such a person tries to work with a geometric deck using the symbol-related approach of this course, the symbolism of the Three of Swords is reduced to the single element of the sword itself.

In any case, whether or not the issue of number symbolism arises, the symbol content of the geometric deck's number cards is low. Some people have no difficulty in using these decks, but if you're approaching the Tarot as a set of symbolic images you'll run into trouble with a geometric deck. One of the most effective ways to overcome this is to construct groupings of number cards and tie each grouping together by means of something which is a common property to all of the cards in the group.

This method can also be a useful tool for practitioners who use either full-illustration decks or the small number of decks

--- such as the Thoth --- that fall into a nebulous in-between category because they have had some symbolism added to them without quite becoming full-illustration decks. The easiest and most fruitful way of creating groups of number cards is to group them, logically enough, by number. Having grouped them, the next step is to study each group for the common thread that links all four cards. If you find what appears to be one, evaluate it carefully---how does it affect your understanding of the four cards? Does it clarify their meanings, or instead obscure them? Does it stand up to close examination, or does it go to pieces? If it doesn't work after all, does it lead in the direction of something that might? In this way, you can put together usable associations.

Once you've created an association for each set of numbers , you have a functional framework for dealing with the number cards in terms of clarifying or memorizing one aspect of their meanings; you also have a tool for beginning to comprehend their relationships when they occur in groups, which you will find a valuable skill in divination. If you can understand the ways in which a linked group of cards interrelates, then you can begin to grasp the interrelationships of a group of randomly assembled cards --- and this skill will make a unified whole of a reading.

Don't be surprised if you can't come up with good, sound associations for all ten groups of cards. Most people find one or two groups to be elusive and difficult to link together. It won't hurt your work if you don't succeed in all ten cases ---

you'll learn as much from trying as from succeeding. Also, as we've said before (it bears repeating), the way in which you interact with your deck is unique; your perceptions will differ at least a little from someone else's. Another person may see links which you don't, and vice versa. Be aware of this if you find that you can* t complete an association---it may be that to your perceptions there are no links. If that's the case, then so be it. Don't fret, just accept your perceptions and go on to the next group.

To give you an idea of how associations work, we're giving you a sample set drawn up for the Waite Tarot. We expect you to study it to get the general idea of associations --- which, in the Practice section, you' 11 be doing for your own cards---but as ever, we don't expect you to accept them as perfect.

The Aces are associated through their common quality of representing the root of the powers of each Element. They indicate pure, undiluted energies, and they possess the immense influence of all primal sources. The Ace of Wands, looked at in this light, combines these attributes with those of Fire as the source of. the powers of the will; it represents volition, action, and outpouring energy. The Ace of Cups, with the more contemplative and changeable influence of Water, depicts the powers of the emotions and subconscious --- meditation, adaption, and receptive energies. The Ace of Swords partakes of both the subtle otherness of Air and the immense strength of the sword, and becomes an image of the penetrating, analytical power of the intellect --- powers which are invoked rather than innate according to some readings of the symbolism of the sword. The Ace of Pentacles, through the materiality of Earth, indicates the root of the powers of the physical world: the body, the senses, the matter of which the world is made .

Each of the Twos expresses an aspect of duality. In the 2 of Wands the duality is polarized, separated into its halves. The 2 of Cups expresses the union of the halves. The 2 of Swords depicts a duality held firmly in a static balance; the 2 of Pentacles is the opposite, a duality balanced through motion.

The Threes all express strength, or ways of achieving strength. Wands shows strength in activity or venture. Cups is strength through relationships and bonding. Swords indicates the strength that comes through suffering. Pentacles represents strength through skill and effort. In all four cases, strength must be developed; it is not a windfall, but rather a thing which grows.

The Fours show structure. In Wands, structure and the act of volition together give rise to peaceful productivity. Cups depicts the result of structuring the emotions: dissatisfaction and rebellion. Swords, structure and intellect, indicates a retreat from the outer world into the ordered peace of spiritual contemplation. Finally, Pentacles shows the result of structure in the material? a dogged clinging to the world of the senses.

1516 Fives express disruption. Wands shows the dispersion and disruption of volition and energy. Cups is the disruption of an emotional state. Swords depicts the disruption of the intellect; Pentacles represents the disruption of the material

---wealth, the senses, material security all scattered to the winds.

The Sixes express harmony, and the fruits of harmony: in Wands, harmony of the will creates success; in Cups, harmony of the emotions gives rise to security; in Swords, harmony in the intellectual sphere fosters activity and communication; and in pentacles, material harmony generates prosperity coupled with generosity --- someone in a secure position extending aid to one who needs it.

The Sevens all depict the consequences of success in the various spheres of the four suits. Wands points out that success in the will can lead to fighting, winning, and possibly also enjoying a vigorous battle against the odds. Cups is the result of success in the emotions: fantasy, daydreaming, and a certain amount of detachment from cold hard reality. Swords shows the aftermath of intellectual success: cockiness, arrogance, and unstable effort. Pentacles depicts the result of material success; here one experiences a brief breathing period between one period of hard work and another.

The Eights are linked by movement. Wands is swift movement, rushing forward. Cups is withdrawal, movement away from a thing or situation. Swords is restricted movement and physical restraint. Pentacles is slow but steady progress toward a goal.

The Nines, at least in the Waite deck, were impossible for our staff member to link together; the monkeywrench in this set is the 9 of Swords, which is very different in character from the other three Nines. Wrestling with the attempt to find an association for this grouping is a very valuable exercise even if one fails, and every practitioner should at least try to find an association for every grouping in this exercise. If you do fail, at least you'll have the practical experience of closely examining all four of the cards in the group --- and this is of more use than you might think it to "be.

The Tens express the manifestation into the realm of the material of the energies of the four suits; as the Aces are the purest form of these energies, so the Tens are the most physical and/or dilute forms. The 10 of Wands, manifestation of the will, results in shouldering burdens. The 10 of Cups, emotions made manifest, is the achievement of the heart's desire. The 10 of Swords, intellect in manifestation, represents the shattering of illusions and the shock of perceiving reality. The 10 of Pentacles shows the established prosperity of manifestation of the material.

As you've probably gathered from some of the foregoing remarks, the Elemental symbolism in the number cards isn't quite as vital for interpretation as it is for the court cards, but it is still important, especially with "geometric" decks . The Elemental attributions can be the key to many ways of looking at or working with the number cards. Part of this we will demonstrate in the second part of the Theory section, when we introduce you to the astrological attributions of the number cards. Another part we'11 discuss in a later lesson, when we deal with interpreting divinations. Yet a third part of it you've already seen in our discussion of "geometric" number cards, for part of the symbolism of Wand, Cup, Sword, or Pentacle is the Element which it represents.

But beyond these, there are other uses. Some Tarot authorities prefer to view each suit as depicting each Element progressing from its purest to its most corrupt form, or in a different perspective, from its most immaterial to its most material form. Many Tarot authorities also find that the Elemental attributions of the number cards help one to verbalize details of the meanings of the cards --- especially when dealing with readings for clients. For example, think of the picture of the Waite 6 of Cups; two small children, playing in a cottage garden, amidst six gigantic golden cups which are full of flowering plants. Add to this picture the Elemental attributions of the suit of Cups---Water, the emotions> dusk, maturity, autumn --- and many nuances of meaning immediately appears nostalgia, memories of childhood, a desire to return to childhood happiness or to relive youthful pleasures, a desire to re-experience childhood security, the return of an old friend or playmate, etc.

As you study and experience more and more with the Tarot, you'11 find further, subtler uses for the Elemental attributions of the number cards. Keep them in mind while you work; you may be surprised by what surfaces.

Whether you have a geometric deck or a full-illustration deck, you can benefit by exploring the symbolism of your deck's number cards in a way which was apparently first developed by Aleister Crowley for his Thoth deck. Although he wasn't the first person to assign titles to the number cards, he seems to have been the first to assign one-word titles. This is an innovation worth copying. The point to a one-word title is that it forces one to distill the essential meaning of the card into a single appropriate word. This has two useful functions. First, it generates careful thought about each card; you need to decide which is the correct word, and evaluating possibilities requires consideration of the card's primary meaning. Second, it demands clarity. Fuzzy thinking won't distill---you can't boil down "bad feelings" or similar vague definitions without coming to some sort of conclusion about just which "bad feelings"

are involved.

All of this sounds like a great deal of work, "but it's actually fairly easy. People in modern industrialized nations are strongly oriented towards visual images --- thanks, in large part, to movies and television. In addition, the images on the number cards of most Tarot decks are, as we mentioned before, fairly easily accessible to interpretation. Thus, although titling the number cards isn't a job that can be done in five minutes, it isn't an overwhelming chore either. You're most likely to run into trouble while trying to find exactly the right word. A Thesaurus will help here --- although look up a word in the dictionary before using it I Many innocent people have ended up using a wonderfuL-sounding word from the good old Thesaurus, only to find that it doesn't mean what they thought it did. So if you use a Thesaurus, use a dictionary too:

The chore is also made easier by the fact that the Aces are exempted from the one-word titles (the word Ace, though, serves to sum them up in a single word). This eliminates the frustration of trying to condense into a single word the description of primal Elemental powers --- a task not unlike that of squaring the circle.

We've included a set of one-word card titles for you to examine; they're listed, by suit, in Table 4-1. These titles were developed for the cards of the Rider-Waite deck. They're given partly as an example for you to study, and partly to give you a starting-point for your own titles . Since the point of a one-word title is to give you the meaning of the card, Table 4-1 takes the place of the discussion of card meanings which was used in Lessons #2 and #3, and you should treat it the same way .

For the second part of the Theory section of this lesson, we'll be dealing with a very different way of interpreting the number cards. This work is based on the astrological . ' attributions of all of the cards in the Tarot deck --- number cards, court cards, and Trumps.

Each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac is divided into three equal segments of ten days apiece. These ten-day sections are called "decans". They represent the phases through which each sign passes; traditionally, each decan of a sign differs slightly in character from the other two. Think of them as a set of identical triplets: children of a single "birth, yet with separate personality features.

The character of a decan is symbolized by the combination of the planet which is attributed to it and the sign to which it is itself attributed. For example, the three decans of Libra are, in order, Moon in Libra, Saturn in Libra, and Jupiter in Libra. Those of Aries are, again in order, Mars in Aries, Sun in Aries, and Venus in Aries. The combination of Mars in Aries produces a different effect than does that of Saturn in Libra, just as the effects of the Elemental combination of Fire and Earth differ from those of Air and Water.

This is a good place to stop and put in a word of caution. Please do not connect the character of a given decan as it is described in this lesson to the personality of a person who was born during that decan. Not everyone born during the second decan of Gemini has a personality related to the 9 of Swords, nor does a person born in the first decan of Virgo necessarily have the traits indicated by the 8 of Pentacles . Natal horoscopy is complex and delicate; the system which we're using here is by comparison crude and rudimentary. So don't thrill or depress your family, your friends, or yourself by making connections with the astrologically "appropriate" card; 'tain't that simple .

As you may have gathered from the foregoing paragraph, each of the decans is linked to a number card of the same general character. (To sum up the characters of the decans, refer to Table 4-1; the card titles given there apply to the decans of the cards as well as to the cards themselves.) However, there are 40 number cards, and only 36 decans: once more, the Aces are left out. In this case, it's because each Ace, as the pure and perfect expression of the Element of its suit, rules an entire quadrant of the heavens around the poles. The Wheel of the Zodiac just isn't big enough to contain them. Therefore, the decans cover only the 2 through 10 of each suit.

The decans are assigned to the suits on an Elemental basis as well as on a character basis. The decans of the three Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) are assigned to the suit of Wands; Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) to the Cups; Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) to the Swords; and Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) to the Pentacles. Within the suits , as mentioned above, assignment is based on similarity of meaning between card and decan.

All of the foregoing, however, has merely been background material. The point of introducing you to the decan system is not to get you to use it itself, which we don't expect you to do, but rather to teach it to you as a basis for another way of looking at how the cards interrelate. (As with the associations exercise, this will give you skills that will assist you in divination.) The decans are not merely tied to the number cards

---and therein lies one. of the primary points of this. (The other will come in Lesson #5-) The decans are also linked to some of the court cards and some of the Trumps, and so the decan system can be used to link specific groups of cards together for study purposes.

As the Aces are omitted from the decan process, so are four of the court cards and three of the Trumps. The Pages are traditionally set below the Aces as lesser rulers of the four quadrants of the heavens. The three Trumps which have Elemental rather than astrological attributions --- 0 The Fool, XII The

Hanged Man, and XX Judgment---are as a result of their

Elemental attribution given different powers and spheres of influence than are the astrological Trumps. Therefore these seven cards, like the Aces, don't fit into the decan system.

Each King, Queen, and Knight rules over three of the 36

decans, but not over all three of the decans of any given sign. Instead, they rule over the last decan of one sign and the first; sign of the next; and it's the second sign which is Elementally appropriate for the card's suit. Thus, the Queen of Wands rules the last decan of Pisces and the first two decans of Aries; the King of Pentacles rules the last of Leo and the first two of Virgo.

As with the court cards, the Trumps with astrological sign attributions each rule three decans of the 36. Unlike the court; cards, each of the twelve Zodiacal Trumps rules all three of the decans of a given sign. The seven planetary Trumps each rule all of the decans which are linked to the same planet that the Trump is linked to.

The court cards are assigned to the decans in the same way that the number cards are --- a judicious mixture of character similarities and Elemental considerations --- but the Trumps are assigned based solely on their astrological attributions. IX The Hermit, with the attribute of Virgo, rules the three decans of Virgo. XVI The Tower, with the attribute of Mars, rules the seven decans which are given to the rulership of Mars .

These differences in assignment reflect the differences in rulership and nature between the Trumps and the court cards. The court cards are admixtures of the Elements, and in addition they represent earthly powers and personalities. The Trumps, on the other hand, represent undiluted Elements and higher powers, so their rulership is stronger and purer. They rank above the court cards in rulership, as the Aces rank above the Pages, and for much the same reasons.

Tables 4-2, 4-3, and 4-4 cover the decan attributions of number and court cards, Zodiacal Trumps, and planetary Trumps . You don't need to memorize them, but do learn them somewhat; you'll be using them in the Practice section. The decan-linked card groups provide much fruitful study, and they'11 form the majority of your studies this month. Also, as we mentioned above, they will be of considerable help to you in divination;

they are yet another tool to help you understand the interaction "between different cards.

This closes the Theory section of this lesson. Now, we'll move on to the Practice section and apply what we've discussed .

For this exercise, you'11 need pen or pencil and extra paper, as well as your cards and practice notebook.

Settle into your practice space. Separate out the forty number cards from the rest of the deck, and set the remainder aside. Group the number cards according to number --- Aces, 2s, etc. --- and place the groups in numerical order, Ace through

Create and test an association for each numerical group of cards, using the methods described on pages of this lesson.

As we mentioned before, don't be surprised if you can't find functional associations for one or two groups; but if you can't; find associations for three or more groups, regroup the cards in some other pattern and try again, or put the exercise aside and try it again another day. If you get really badly stuck, try doing Exercise 1-B first and then coming back to the number groups.

Try to do all of this exercise in one or two days, if at all possible; you need to complete it before doing Exercises 4-C, 4-D, and 4-E.

Exercise 4-B

For this exercise., you will again need extra paper and a pen or pencil, as well as the usual paraphernalia.

Settle down in your practice space. Take out the same cards that you used in Exercise 4-A, "but remove and set aside the four Aces. Put the cards in numerical order "by suit, 2 through 10 of Wands, 2 through 10 of Cups, and so on.

Lay the cards out one suit at a time, and develop a one-word title for each card, using the methods outlined on pages 8-9 of this lesson. Try to clarify and verbalize your understanding of the card's meaning, and try to select a single word that expresses the essential meaning of the card. Use Table 4-1 as a point of departure if you like. Remember here the potential assistance of a Thesaurus (and dictionary!).

Again, try to complete this exercise in one or two days; as with Exercise 4-A, you'11 need to finish it before going on to the other exercises. And please, do this exercise even if your own deck already has titles printed on it; it's still of value to develop your own.

Exercise 4-C

For this exercise, separate out the twelve court cards and. thirty-six number cards which are listed in Table 4-2. Set aside the rest of the deck (Pages, Aces, Trumps).

Sort the cards into the groupings given in Table 4-2, and place them into the order given. Study one group at a time, starting with the grouping Queen of Wands/lO of Cups/2 of Wands/ 3 of Wands, and ending with King of Cups/7 of Swords/8 of Cups/ 9 of Cups. In each case, look for the links between the cards in the group: what pulls them together? How (or why) do they all express aspects of the ruling court card?

You may break up this practice as desired, provided that you study at least two groups a day. This is necessary in order to complete the coursework before Lesson #5 arrives; you need -fc0 complete Exercise 4-C before going on to 4-D and 4-E. If you feel that you can do the entire exercise in one or two days, go ahead; but be sure not to take it too fast. If you start to get muddled or confused, take a break or even quit for the day.

This exercise demands a clear head. Exercise 4-D

This exercise will be using the groupings from Table 4-3. Therefore, you'11 need the twelve Zodiacal Trumps (remember that VIII Strength is Leo and XI Justice is Libra) listed in the Table, and the 36 decan-linked number cards. Set the rest of the deck aside.

Group the cards according to Table 4-3, and place them in the order given. Study them as you did the other groups in Exercise 4-C, one group at a time, in order; and look again for the links between them, and the ways in which all of the number-cards express aspects of their ruling Trump. Also, try to spot the differences in nature between court card decan rulership and Trump decan rulership. (This last can be done in retrospect, after you've studied all of the groups.)

As with Exercise 4-C, you can break up this practice if you like. Unlike the previous exercises, however, this one doesn't have to be finished before you go on; you can do part of this and part of Exercise 4-E on the same day if you wish to. Just keep an eye on how much of the month you have left until Lesson #5 is due; it * s especially important to complete this lesson before #5 begins, since Lesson #5 is the first of the two lessons on divination and it requires you to have thoroughly explored and mastered your cards before you begin divining.

Exercise 4-E

For this last exercise, we'11 be using Table 4-4. You'11 need the seven planetary Trumps (as given in the Table) , and the same thirty-six number cards.

As before, group the cards according to the Table, and place them in order. Study them as above, using the same questions given for Exercise 4-D; and again, you can break up the exercise if you want to, or intercut it with Exercise 4-D.

Try also to spot the differences between the rulership of the Zodiacal Trumps and the planetary Trumps; this may give you some useful insights into the natures of the different Trumps, and into the differences in the ways in which they affect different; small cards.

This ends Lesson Although the text of this lesson is short compared to the preceding lessons, it should keep you as busy, if not more so, as did the others. Next month, in Lesson #5» we'11 begin the first of the two lessons on divination, including discussions of methods, question patterns, and the ethics of divination. We'll include material that will show you another way to make use of the decan system, too. Until then, good luck in your work; let us know how it's going!


2. Choice

3. Foundation

4. Completion

5. Struggle

6. Victory

7. Courage

8. Swiftness

9. Strength

10. Burdens

Table 4-1: Card

Titles Cups

2. Partnership

3. Friendship

4. Discontent

5. Regret

6. Security ?. Imagination

8. Withdrawal

9. Contentment

10. Attainment



2. Balance



3. Sorrow



4. Repose



5. Defeat


6, Movement



7. Instability


Hiatus (rest break)

8. Restriction



9. Fear



10. Finality



Decans Planets Court Cards Number cards

Decans Planets Court Cards Number Cards

Decans Planets Court Cards Number Cards

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