Want to dive deeper into a tarot reading? Look for patterns in the spread. One possible pattern is the number of cards from one suit, element, mode (major, minor, court card), or number.
At a point in the tarot reading, when you start a reading or when you have completed the reading*, step back and look at the big picture. How many cards of each mode, element, suit, or number do you see?
A predominance of one of these elements can add to, emphasize, moderate, or dispute the interpretation of a spread. For example, when you have several nines in a spread, it may indicate cycles and that circumstances have arisen before and may arise again (see the table of numbers below). Many fours in a spread can indicate overall stagnation. Many Cups cards in a spread dealing primarily with finances can indicate that there is too much emotion to be rational about money. Many Swords in a relationship reading suggest the head overrules the heart.
Let's take a closer look.
Major or minor
Major arcana cards suggest forces that are uncontrollable. If many of the cards in the spread are major arcana cards, ask yourself if these cards represent major forces in your life right now, or if they point to what is important to you. Or do they add an element of spirituality to your reading?
If your spread contains mostly minor arcana cards, you might be dealing with everyday concerns. Minor arcana cards represent forces that can be changed when you exercise choice or deliberately follow a different path.
Aces are sometimes accorded their own mode. If you have several Aces in your spread, it might mean an emphasis on newness or potential.
Several court cards of any suit can suggest that people and relationships are at the heart of the matter. Alternatively, they indicate that various aspects of yourself are in play.
If you have several Pages, the emphasis might fall on newness, service, lessons learned, and youth.
Knights give a volatile flavour to a reading. They can indicate restlessness and travelling, quests, exploration, adventure, irresponsibility, or immaturity.
Queens are mature, loving, nurturing, understanding, supporting, emotional, creative, and spiritual. Several queens in a spread might indicate the presence of, or need of, any of these qualities.
Kings indicate mastery, control, action, leadership, and protection. Kings also indicate maturity; however, they can point to stagnation, rigidity, and being ‘stuck in a rut.’
Suit and element
Many cards of one suit or element give a reading a ‘suitable’ flavour.
Some tarot readers associate Kings with fire and Knights with air; and some feel that Knights are fire and Kings air.
The major arcana are accorded elements depending on the system you use. The table below is the system used by the Golden Dawn. If you use a different system, please substitute these allocations with yours:
|Wheel of Fortune||fire|
Many Wands or fire cards could describe a situation that is volatile, has elements of creativity or spirituality, or pertain to sex, business, career matters, or introspection. The element and suit have a ‘masculine’** character.
Many Cups or water cards point to high emotions, situations in which relationships are important, or fluid situations. The element and suit have a ‘feminine’*** character. They could also pertain to intuition, creativity, or the imagination. Many Cups cards could indicate that emotions rule the situation.
Many Swords or air cards bring out the difficult aspects of the element: aggression, pain, loss, defeat, or mental confusion. The spread could also refer to the intellect, science, the law, or communication. Many Swords cards suggest the intellect is dominant over emotion or intuition.
Many Pentacles or earth cards suggest practicality, nurturing, the materialistic, or the physical. These cards suggest an abundance of resources, but perhaps also stagnation, passivity, or the quality of being stuck. Pentacles tend to point to possession, the body, home, or work (actual work, not career).
Numbers include the major arcana cards and court cards (Pages 11, Knights 12, Queens 13, Kings 14). The numbers of the major arcana cards above 9 can be reduced to a single-digit number:
10=1+0, therefore, 10=1
11=1+1, therefore, 11=2
and so on.
In the same way, Tens in the pip cards are also 1, Pages 2, Knights 3, Queens 4, and Kings 5.
Several of each number can indicate:
|1||Freshness, beginnings, starting over, egoism|
|2||Balance, peace, harmony, cooperation, relationships. Alternatively: choices, dualities, differences in opinion|
|3||Creativity, teamwork, abundance, completion, friendship|
|4||Rest, boredom, stagnation, conservatism, materialism, rationality, justice, mercy|
|5||Movement, upheaval, struggle, activity, change, loss|
|6||Social responsibilities, mediation, generosity, compassion, balance, harmony, peace, love, perfection, nostalgia|
|7||Courage, partial success, defiance, obstacles, treachery, illusions, dreams|
|8||Cycles, rhythms, nearing completion, hard work, success, abundance, swiftness|
|9||Ending, cycles, fulfillment, completion, attainment, success. But also illusion, fear, failure, despair, suffering, endurance|
|10||Starting a new cycle, a higher level of 1, perfection, completion, abundance, conclusion, overkill|
[A modified version of this article appeared on SynTAROTis.]_____________________________________
* It depends on whether you like to work from the big picture to the details, or prefer to concentrate on details and look at the big picture at the end.
** Note that masculinity does not mean men. All genders have aspects of both masculinity and femininity.
*** Like masculinity, femininity does not denote female. All genders have aspects of both masculinity and femininity.