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Numbers in Tarot. How to Use Numbers in Readings

Updated: Jan 22

NUMBERS IN TAROT: THE MAGIC ADDITION

Numbers in Tarot can be a daunting subject. Especially when we often choose a deck because of an imagery, a vibe... not to do math.

We get drawn to a set of cards because it’s a promise of a universe far from cold rationalism and numbers.


When one starts learning Tarot, they might like the Rider Waite Smith style. Others will prefer Celtic atmospheres or the classic Marseille geometry.

It doesn’t matter here because one thing that all decks have in common despite the different styles, colour codes and sometimes names of the cards, are the numbers.

Each card has a number and each number carries a meaning.

Tarot and Numbers work perfectly together. Even for beginners!

It may seem complicated to add, subtract or learn their symbolism but there are simple ways to get started and make numbers your allies. Especially when you’re reading with minimalist minor suits (hello Marseille, Old English Tarot deck and their friends).

Numbers have been used since the dawn of times to predict the future and interpret the will of Gods and Goddesses. Greeks, but also Hebrews and Chaldeans alike used to believe in Arithmomancy, which later led to numerology.

Pythagoras (6th Century BCE) was one of the first – to our current knowledge – to give very specific attributes to each number.


Following his dogma, all even numbers are female and all odd numbers are male.

numbers in tarot - pythagoras

Pythagoras (6th Century BCE) – Not just a pretty face


READING NUMBERS


The meaning of a number depends on your cultural background.

What is true for a number in the West, may not be true in Asia or Africa. What is true for a Muslim may not be the same for a Christian or Buddhist and so on and so forth.

In this post, I’ll focus on one tradition: Tarot. With its own history, background and cultural connections, it has also developed its own numerology. It’s a mix of Paganism, Western beliefs and Christian influences.


While Tarot is not a religious tool, it was created and developed - as we know it - during extremely religious times mainly in Italy and France. For instance, it is no accident that the Devil is card 15 (1+5 = 6). The Church did not invent anything but rather 'stole' from various Pagan and Ancient cultures. Therefore understanding basic Catholic symbolism can help understand Tarot in more depth (one does not need to adhere to any religious dogma to do so).


Let’s start with the minor cards


As you know, there are 4 minor suits:

Wands, Cups, Coins/Pentacles and Swords. Each of them mainly linked to certain topics, one element and one season. Also see my infographics on the minor suits.


Each minor suit is made of 10 numbered cards (Ace to 10) plus the Royals (Court cards). That's a total of 14 cards per suit.

Let’s ignore the Royals and focus on card 1 to 10. The symbolism of number 1, 2, 3…10 will be the same for all four suits and continue into the Major Arcana.


1 :  New beginnings – Sparks – Decisions

Maybe the most powerful of all numbers, 1 is for (new) beginnings, creative spark, genius and decisions. That’s why Aces or such potent cards. That’s why the Magician is the master of the 4 minor suits, of the 4 elements.





2 : Partnership – Collaboration – Opposition – Duplicity

2’s carry an inner contradiction and must be read only while taking other cards around them in consideration. There are always 2 faces to one reality. Which one is at play here? Only the bigger picture of your spread can determine if your 2 is mostly positive or negative.

3 : Growth – Dynamism – Decisions – Change

For better or for worse, 3 always speaks of a specific action, which will lead to growth and expansion.

Whether this action is pleasant or heartbreaking is not the subject. It’s inevitable and will lead to growth.


4 : Stability – Structure – Standstill

4 stands for stability, rest and even boredom. Rather influenced by the reading it is surrounded by, more than influencing it. The number itself is mostly positive and minor 4s go from great (4 of Wands) to still pretty okay (4 of Swords). 4 is both complete and balanced.


5 : Conflict – Damages – Struggles

A very human number in the Christian tradition, 5 is the number of mankind (6 is the Devil, 7 is God). 5 is everything imperfect and unfinished. Often difficult but not entirely bad either.

5 speaks of struggles and obstacles, real or imaginary. Number 5 is never still and always come with changes.


numbers in tarot 5 of cups

Number 5 is never all dark but can certainly cast a shadow over a spread


6 : Support, Balance, Hope

Ideals, hopes, victories...6 used to be a dark number associated with all things Evil. But its meaning has evolved into something more positive in Tarot over the centuries. 6 was considered the first perfect number by the Ancient Greeks.

Messages of hope, nurturing energy and support.

7: Knowledge – Magic – Solutions

7 is considered in many cultures and traditions a perfect number. One of completion, of wholeness. It is not an ending (like 10) but a goal reached, a victory (or defeat, when reversed).