Using the Tarot for Creativity and Empowerment

21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card: Step 5 – Number


This week in Step 5 of Mary K. Greer’s book “21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card“, we are going to be working with Number. This step involves identifying one to three keywords that you will associate with the card number or the court card rank. Those of you who have worked with numerology in the past will no doubt be familiar with this concept. Using this system, you can conduct readings entirely by using numbers, without any regard to the images on the cards. This can be especially helpful when working with decks that do not have illustrated pip cards.

Numbers provide another layer for a card’s meanings. In this step, Mary provides us with several concepts to get started. The first thing she introduces is the concept of reduction. That is to say, all numbers are reducible to a single digit. For instance:

18 = 1 + 8 = 9

32 = 3 + 2 = 5

19 = 1 + 9 = 10 = 1 +0 = 1

You may have heard people refer to the current year (2010) as the year of the Empress (the Major Arcana card numbered 3). Using the above system, this is determined as follows:

2010 = 2 + 0 + 1 + 0 = 3

To put this practice to work, you will need to refer to a book containing number meanings (unless you already have them memorized, of course). In Appendix B of the 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, Mary provides a nice list of Number & Rank keywords that you can use. As an example, below are a few of the keywords for the number 7:

Challenges, tests; use of skill and courage, mastery, projection, getting things done, force, taking chances, power and energy, victory, loss of stability, imagination and experiment, etc.

The Seeker Card from the Gaian Tarot image

The Seeker Card from the Gaian Tarot

Our activity for this lesson is to refer to Appendix B in the book and select keywords that in our opinion best relate to the given number or rank of our chosen card. We are then to say the name of our card out loud and one to three keywords that makes sense for this card. My card, The Seeker (the equivalent of The Fool in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck), is kind of tricky as the number of the card is 0. The number 0 is not typically used in numerology. So just for the sake of this exercise, let’s imagine that I pulled the Empress card, the Major Arcana card numbered 3.

Empress from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck image

Empress from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck

Referring to the appendix, the keywords I chose for the Empress card are: creativity, fertilization and fruition.

Thus, I would say:

“I have drawn the Empress card, the key card of 3. Threes are about creativity and fruition of our labors.”

I personally think that this would be an excellent exercise to do for all the cards in your deck.  If you do, be sure to add the keywords that you have chosen for the numbers into your Tarot Journal – perhaps even add a special section just for number meanings.

Mary goes into quite a bit more detail with the numbers in the “Adept” section of this chapter. I encourage you to read through it and play around with the exercises. But since we mentioned the Court Card Ranks, I’ll add a few of the key words for these that Mary includes in the book:

Page: represents newness – the beginning of an endeavor, a tentative experience and serving others. Curious energies – may bear messages.

Knight: is like an adolescent – pushing boundaries, extending experience and testing abilities. They are adventurous, exploratory and goal-focused energies. In my personal system, knights almost always are about action and movement.

Queen: Mature, authoritative yin or feminine energy that nurtures, supports and manages. Often associated with sympathy, understanding or intuition.

King: Mature, authoritative yang or masculine energy that commands, defines and protects. Often associated with virility, aggression and rationality.

So there you have it – a nice starting point in working with the numbers. Numerology can add a deeper level and layer of understanding to your readings and I personally use it quite often.

One of my favorite things to do is to add the numbers of all the card in a reading, reduce them to a single digit and then apply the meanings of the number to the overall energy of the reading (I tend to count the court cards in this process as 0 although some people assign 11, 12, 13, & 14 to the Page, Queen, Knight and King, respectively). The results can be quite astounding when summarizing a reading.

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