How to Read Tarot - The Elements and the Numbers


Now that we've analyzed the splits in a Tarot deck, it’s time to explore the more subtle patterns, beginning with the patterns found in the Minor Arcana. Remember from the last episode, the Minor Arcana, including the Court Cards, provide the context in a spread, revealing the energy, details, and timing of the question. The Minor suits correspond to the four elements. Each of these elements manifests as the energy in our everyday life, making the Minor Arcana our day-to-day experience.

To help you visualize this episode, feel free to press pause and organize the 40 numbered Minor Arcana and their Court Courts in order in their individual suits, starting with the Ace and ending with the King. Place each suit into four piles in a vertical line to the left of you. At the top should be the suit of Wands, then the suit of Cups, then the suit of Swords, and lastly the suit of Pentacles.

Let's first look at the numbered Wands. Lay them out in front of you, 3 cards in 3 columns with card 10 at the bottom. You can leave the Court Cards in the original pile. The first row of three should have the Ace of Wands, 2 of Wands, and 3 of Wands; the second row should have the 4 of Wands, 5 of Wands, and 6 of Wands; the third row should have the 7 of Wands, 8 of Wands, and 9 of Wands; and the fourth row should have the final card 10 at the bottom of the center column. Take a second to look over the cards, you should see a common theme of goals and action. The suit of Wands represents the energy of Fire, which manifests as the decisions we make for our future. This suit projects optimism, pursuit, competition, leadership, success, aggression, self-direction, independence, enthusiasm, pressure, in fighting, defense, negotiation, inspiration, self-expression, passion, pride, and progress. Wands show up when we feel the impetus to take control of our lives. If you pull many Wands, you know there are actions being taken in one’s own interest or defense. When asked about timing, Wands indicate the near future, with the card number as a potential number of weeks.

Now let's look at the suit of Cups. Place the numbered cards in order on top of the suit of Wands. You'll see a common theme of fluctuating moods among the images. The suit of Cups represents the energy of Water, which manifests as how we feel inside. This suit projects emotional ups and downs, imagination, memories, hopes and wishes, community, kindness, contentment, depression, regrets, loneliness, artistic expression, trust, bonding, gratitude, friendship, romance, love, and family. Cups show up when we’re enjoying or longing for connection and happiness. If you pull many cups, you know fantasies and dreams are at stake. When asked about timing, Cups indicate that it’s currently happening but will unfold in its own time.

Now let's look at the suit of Swords. Place the numbered cards in order on top of the suit of Cups. You'll see a common theme of challenges among the images. The suit of Swords represents the energy of Air, which manifests as realistic thinking and problem-solving. This suit projects immediate issues, uncertainty, tough lessons, harsh truths, solutions, pain, betrayal, opportunism, self-preservation, anxiety, overanalyzing, powerlessness, trauma, bullies, evolution, self-awareness, boundaries, and healing. Swords show up when the mind is hijacked by tension or conflicts. If you pull many swords, you know a problem needs to be resolved. When asked about timing, Swords indicate immediacy, with the card number as a potential number of days.

Now let's look at the suit of Pentacles. Place the numbered cards in order on top of the suit of Swords. You'll see a common theme of loss and gain among the images. The suit of Pentacles represents the energy of Earth, which manifests as dedication and accumulation. They project values, standards, hard work, commitment, resources, persistence, patience, promotion, funds, investment, alienation, materialism, real estate, security, wealth, assistance, and production. Pentacles show up when we’re working toward building and securing our future. If you pull many pentacles, you know the effort is required for achievement. When asked about timing, Pentacles indicate the distant future, with the card number as a potential number of months.

Now that we've analyzed the elements of each suit, we can explore an even more subtle pattern: the numbers. If you placed each suit on top of the preceding suit, all the cards should be stacked together by number. While the element tells us the heart of the story, the numbers tell us the details. The numbers can be deciphered in two different ways. The first, and most often used, is the meaning of the number as defined by numerology. Looking at each of the numbers in this way, their correspondences are as follows

Ace’s represent the beginning of new events, potential, and opportunity Two’s represent choices, partnerships, and balance Three’s represent collective energy, creativity, and expansion Four’s represent stability, foundations, and strength Five’s represent challenges, changes, and conflicts Six’s represent transition, renewal, and healing Seven’s represent responsibility, mastery, and reevaluation Eight’s represent accomplishment, advancement, and power Nine’s represent perseverance, materialization, and attainment Ten’s represent culmination, completion, and new chapters

The second way, which is far less used but also extremely powerful, is to group the numbers. By grouping each numbered card, we’re able to determine where we are in the story. The first grouping is the first three cards of each suit, which includes the cards Ace, two, and three. Fan out these three piles to see each number in their different suit. These numbers represent the beginning of a story, symbolizing a new phase or event. When you pull Aces, 2's, and 3's from the Minor Arcana, you can determine we are at the start of something that hasn't fully played out yet. These cards resonate strongly with the element of their suit.

The second grouping is cards 4, 5, and 6. Fan out these three piles to see each number in their different suit. These numbers operate as continual energy, representing established or ongoing events. When you pull 4's, 5's, and 6's from the Minor Arcana, you can determine the story is locked in with no signs of change any time soon. These cards build upon the element of their suit.

The third grouping is cards 7, 8, and 9. Fan out these three piles to see each number in their different suit. These numbers operate as restless energy, representing attainment or the need for change. When you pull 7's, 8's, and 9's from the Minor Arcana, you can determine there is hope of achieving something important in order to begin a new chapter. These cards want to refresh the element of the suit.

The final grouping is the number 10. Fan out this pile to see all the 10s in their suits. This number operates as a conclusion, representing the inevitable ending of the suit's story. Wands end in overwhelming responsibilities, Cups end in “happily ever after”, Swords end in destruction, and Pentacles end in prosperity.

There are even deeper layers to the numbers that we will cover another time in another way. But for now, these references will more than get you started.

Let's now briefly look into the subtle nuances of the Court Cards. If you’ve separated the numbered cards into rows, you should have the Court Cards of each suit remaining in their original pile. Fan each pile out to see each Court Card separately in their suits. All you need to know for now are each Court Card's underlying energy. All Pages, regardless of their suit, correspond with the element Earth, Knights correspond with Air, Queens correspond with Water, and Kings correspond with Fire. For example, if you pull the Queen of Wands, their suit element is fire, but the underlying energy is Water. If you pull the Queen of Pentacles, their suit element is Earth, but the underlying energy is also Water. If you pull the Knight of Swords, their suit energy is Air and their underlying energy is also Air. If you pull the Page of Cups, their suit energy is Water while their underlying energy is Earth. Don’t worry, we'll go over this in more detail in later episodes, but it's important to familiarize yourself with these dual energies now.

So, why do we need to know so much about the cards? Because learning the cards as patterns first gives us greater insight into the behavior and prophecies hidden within the spread. If the patterns are used to their fullest, you should be able to answer multiple questions from one spread, using the shift of topic as your cue to reshuffle the cards and pull again.

Exercise #2

Continuing with last week’s exercise, thoroughly shuffle the deck however you’d like, but make sure all of the cards are upright when you finish. Then, pull three cards and point to each card in their order of importance: first point to any Major Arcana, then point to any Court Cards, and then point to any numbered Minor Arcana. After establishing the order of importance, check which of the 40 numbered Minor Arcana share the same number or the same grouping. For example, if out of the three cards you see the 7 of Wands and the 7 of Cups, mentally note that both of them are 7's. If out of the three cards you pull a 4 and a 6, mentally note they belong with grouping 2.

Last week, I gave you the option of pulling only 3 cards once a day or to pull three cards until you get to the end of the deck. This week, I want to push you all to go through the entire deck. Please, at this stage, don't try to memorize the meanings behind the symbology. Your intuition is still learning to recognize the patterns. Each exercise builds on the next, so try not to rush the process. If you need more time to practice last week’s exercise, feel free to continue with it and catch up when you can.

Join me for next week’s episode as we begin our journey through the cards. First, we start with the Aces. See you then.

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