Numbers have a long history and are prominent in religion, folktales, superstitions, mythology, and theology and Tarot is no exception. New Age, Pagan, and Wiccan practices rely on numerical correspondences for a lot of purposes in their magical practices. Typically, only the numbers 0-9 are discussed in books or other text in referencing their correspondences, but there are other numbers that have meanings attached to them depending on the contest. For example, 13 is considered an unlucky and very superstitious number whereas 12 is considered a perfect number. The number forty also is prominent in a lot of religions.
Sometimes the numerical scale is seen as 1-10 and in Tarot we do attach correspondences up to the number ten card as these cards are known as the “Pip Cards.” The court cards come beyond that and while some decks may have them numbered, others may not. The courts would be 11-14 but most readers do not attach a numerical correspondence to them. The number zero is also used in correspondence but we only see this in the Major Arcana with the Fool card.
Knowing the numerical correspondences is very useful in Tarot, by combining this with the elemental correspondences a person can read a card without even using the imagery depicted in it (although never ignore the images and symbols in a card). Some cards are trickier then others to read so give yourself time to interpret the images by starting with the numerical and elemental correspondences.
Take the Four of Cups for example. The number four is one of stability and cups are of emotions so we have “an emotionally stable state of mind” (or something of the sort). The number two means balance and pentacles are money or materialism so the Two of Pentacles can mean balancing one’s finances. The number ten is the end of a cycle or the beginning of a new cycle and swords can mean strife or conflict so the Ten of Swords may be the beginning or ending of conflicts (depending on the card’s position in the layout).
It is also beneficial to look for patterns in the numbers such as seeing a lot of twos come up. For example, if a person is trying to achieve success or happiness and in the reading the number two shows up a lot it could indicate that they need balance in their life in order to get the desired results. Once they balance things out it will work in their favor.
Noticing what numbers are missing is also a good indication as to what a person needs to do or what may be missing from their life. For example, the previous outcome (needing to achieve balance) might be indicated by seeing the numbers 1, 3, 4, and 5 in a reading but the 2 is missing. This could indicate that what is missing is “balance” (two) and until this is achieved the person will not get their desired results.Looking at odd and even cards is also important. Even cards denote femininity, a negative outcome, and stability. Odds denote a positive outcome, instability, and masculinity. In a reading, all or mostly all evens could indicate that the answer is not favorable and a reading with mostly odd or all odd numbered cards can indicate the answer is favorable.
Keep in mind, that while we want to always include the numerical correspondence to any of the Pip cards looking for patterns of numbers only works really well for layouts of five or more cards. In anything less than that, patterns may not emerge with numbers. It is possible in a three-card draw to see a pattern because maybe every card was a number four or the cards were 4, 6,7 and it is noted that the five is missing but typically, in anything less then five-card spreads there aren’t enough cards to indicate true patterns.
Zero: because of its shape, zero indicates cycles which have no true beginning or ending. We see this in the Fool card in the Major Arcana. He is at the beginning of a journey, but when we have reached the end of the journey with the World we cycle back around to becoming the Fool again about to set of on a new beginning and so forth.
One: a number of beginnings, prime forces individuality, being alone or loneliness, uniqueness and the self. It is the ultimate reality, a source for all existence and the basis for all numbers. It can mean solitary and that the person stands alone, or needs to stand alone, in order to get the desired outcome. Seen as Aces in the Tarot, this number also indicates a perfectness or being the best such as “he is an ace pilot” or “he is number one in his class.”
Two: signifies duality, balance, togetherness, the yin-yang, complete opposites or opposing forces, relationships and couples. Think of good versus evil, black and white, up and down, left and right, male and female. This is a prominent number in religion with Noah bringing two of every animal on the ark, the number of stone tablets the commandments were written on, or the two candles representing the God and Goddess on Pagan altars.
Three: a number that means growth and represents several different forms of trinities or holy triads in a variety of belief systems such as the trinity in Christianity with the Father, the Son, and the Holy ghost or in the Wiccan Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, Crone. It also represents the tripartite male genitals and the triangular female genitals. Three plays prominently in superstitions and is either seen as good or bad depending on the source. Some say “bad things happen in threes” and yet others say “third time is the charm.” In Wicca three is seen as a powerful number for spells and rituals and that if someone does harm to someone Karma will bounce back three-fold. Three is also seen as a number of synchronicity such as we do things on the count of three in order to all act as one.
Four: this is the archetypal family of four, stability, the four elements, the four seasons, the four winds or directions, and a number of manifestations. It is a number that plays prominently in Buddhism, Hinduism, Judeo-Christian and Islamic beliefs.
Five: five has a lot of correspondences such as the five senses, the shape of the human form (head, arms, and legs), five fingers and toes, the five points on a star, and in come cultures five elements (such as water, wood, metal, earth and fire) or the four elements of earth, air, water, fire and spirit as seen in Wicca. Five is the middle of a cycle and represents the present because it is neither here nor there. In the numerical scale of 1-9 it is dead-center. Because it is in the center it can also represent confusion or uncertainty (should it go forward or backward?) and chaos such as seen in the Five of Wands.
Six: This is a number of harmony, choices, decisions, cooperation, creation, equilibrium and equal forces. This numbers is often thought of as a perfect number as well (twelve is another perfect number) and is often a more powerful and magical number then three because it is 3×2.
Seven: Often thought of as a spiritual or mystical number it is one of good luck and spiritual introspection. It is an active force and a heavenly number. It has prominence in Judeo-Christian, Hindu and Islamic religions as a lucky or divine number and in Japan there are seven lucky gods, sometimes known as the seven gods of fortune.
Eight: balance, achievement, material accomplishment and manifestations are represented by the number eight. It is also a number that resembles the infinity sign of which there is no beginning and no ending. It is a number of power, and similar in shape to the infinity sign. There are eight Sabbats in the Wiccan wheel, eight spokes on the Buddhist wheel, and in Hinduism it is a sign of wealth and abundance.
Nine: the last single digit in the numerical cycle, this number is the end of a cycle or phase. It is a number of completion, success and wisdom. The number nine is a good number in Chinese cultures and is associated with the Chinese dragon which is a symbol of magic and power.
Ten: this is the first of the two-digit numbers and one that has both the numbers one and zero in them indicating the beginning (one) of a new cycle (zero). It is a number of changes and fortune. It can be either a beginning (it begins the two-digit numbers) or an ending (it is the ending of the basic numerical scale).
Evens: even numbers are thought of as balanced and equal and are numbers exactly divisible by two. They are a sign of equilibrium, stability, the Yin, femininity and the answer no. A lot of evens or all even numbers in a Tarot read may indicate the answer is no or a negative outcome.
Odds: odd numbers are forceful, the Yang, masculine and portray a positive outcome or the answer yes. They are a sign of opposing forces or “odd man out.” A lot of odds or all odd numbers in a Tarot read may indicate the answer is yes or a positive outcome.
Sequences: numbers in sequential order (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) may mean that everything is lines up right and working in the querant’s favor.
Missing Numbers: a sequence in which a number is missing such as 1, 2, 4, 5 could indicate that what that number represents (balance, individuality, spirituality) is missing from the person’s life and in order to get their desired outcome they need to find those qualities.
This is a revised and excerpted piece from “365 Tarot Activities” also published by the author of this article.