Elements and Numbers

One way to learn the Tarot is to first understand the basics: the elements and numerology. Each of the numbered cards in the minor suits is a unique combination of element and number and can be interpreted based on that alone. The Court cards are a combination of two elements (and perhaps the same element twice). And all of the Major Arcana cards are numbered as well.

Below find brief descriptions of all of this with occasional insightful comparisons here and there.

The Elements

Fire

Suit = Wands. Direction = South. Court = the Kings.

Spirit, energy, the non-physical, the unseen, action.

Water

Suit = Cups. Direction = West. Court = the Queens.

Emotions (what is expressed) and feelings (the internal experience). That which flows.

Air

Suit = Swords. Direction = East. Court = the Knights.

Thoughts and communication. That which connects and joins the other elements.

Earth

Suit = Pentacles. Direction = North. Court = the Pages.

Physical reality. That which is seen. The physical body, money, and wealth. Possessions.

Numerology

In numerology, all numbers greater than nine can be reduced to a single digit between one and nine by adding together each digit and then reducing. For example 526 becomes 5+2+6 = 13. 13 further reduces as 1+3 = 4. Therefore 526 is reduced to 4.

The Tarot has its own slant on numerology. This section lists the meaning of each number from 0-10 and the following section illustrates the numbers as they relate to other numbers.

Zero (0)

Purity, perfection, infinity; the unknowable; the in-between; that which has no beginning and no end; the unmanifest, the non-physical.

One (1)

Individuality, potential, force, raw energy, raw material, building blocks, electric charge, the observer, the beginning.

Two (2)

Partnership, opposition, direction, choice, purpose, balance, contrast, tension, conflict, union, the blending of opposites, that which is observed.

Three (3)

Creating, creativity, co-creation, manifestation, art, beauty; force and direction produce results; man and woman come together and produce offspring.

Four (4)

Stability, structure, form, function, flow, rest, plateau, limitation, foundation; the calm before the storm.

Five (5)

Challenge, problem, change, happenstance; structures weaken and fail; tearing down; letting go; destruction; pushing through and stretching beyond limitation; the storm.

Six (6)

Solution, success, repair, rebuilding; harmonizing (returning to harmony); progress; peace after the storm.

Seven (7)

Retreat, depth, introspection; a return to center; back to the drawing board; meditation, contemplation, magic and mystery, spirituality.

Eight (8)

Gain, skill, acquiescence, proficiency, progress, acceleration, power, speed, a quantum leap.

Nine (9)

Completion, refinement; the end is within sight; still room for growth; embodiment.

Ten (10/1)

Gateway, end of a cycle; one journey ends and another begins; transition, transcendence; moving up to the next level; the ten of one cycle is the one of the next cycle.

Zero Versus One and Two – The Creation of Duality

In many ways, zero exists outside of numerology. That is because you can never arrive at zero from any other number. Zero represents the unmanifest—the absolute where nothing is separated and where there is no beginning and no end. Once there is the one, there is also the two because in having the observed, you have an observer.

One, Two, Three, Four – Linear Progression

One through four represents linear progression. You start with an idea (one). In moving in a direction (two) you become creative and create (three), thus arriving at the goal (four). You can also think of the progression this way. The individual (one), chooses a mate (two), then produces offspring (three), resulting in a complete family (four).

Five and Seven, Six and Eight – The Shift versus The Quantum Leap

Five and seven represent a break from linear progression. In both cases, the linear growth cannot be sustained. At the five, we step back to re-evaluate goals, ensuring we are heading in the right direction. It can indeed be painful when this is forced upon the one who was not paying attention. At the four, we have stability, but also a bit of tension. We can rest there, but mustn’t become overly complacent. Our dissatisfaction is the warning.

The seven invites, implores, or even forces one to go deeper within oneself. Seven is a highly spiritual number; as such, it requires one to consider the source of any issue or discomfort (thus inspiring one to reach toward Source).

The six and the eight are the responses to the five and the seven. At the six, we find a solution to the problem encountered at the five. We can thus more forward once again, jumping forward perhaps. At the eight, we encounter a systemic solution, not merely surpassing an obstacle, but potentially taking a quantum leap forward, eliminating future problems of a similar nature.

Nine, Ten, One – Transcending the Gateway

In the Tarot, we don’t merely reduce ten to one the way we would normally do (10 -> 1+0 = 1). This is because the Tarot focuses on the journey, and thus the transition from one level to the next is considered in more detail.

At the nine, we are nearing completion of the current segment of the journey. As such, we are, in a sense, looking back on the journey traveled thus far. When we reach the ten, we are in the doorway and able to look both forward and backward. We are completing one journey and sensing what lies ahead. Once we reach the one again, our focus is decidedly forward. We have now begun a new phase in earnest.

The chaotic nature of the Universe does not allow us to merely exist within the one, two, three, four. However, one can go a long time cycling only up through the six. True evolution and expansion requires us to visit all nine experiences in order to ascend to the next level.