Numbers in Tarot

Last week, in the Meet the Cards series, we concluded the Major Arcana (trumps) of the Gaian deck. Next week, we will begin to explore the Minor Arcana (pips).

Before we continue meeting the cards, I want to pause and explore the numbers we find associated with the tarot. Just like a standard deck of cards, tarot cards are numbered. And there is a whole science around numbers!

As we saw, the Major Arcana is numbered 0 to 21. Major secrets, lessons, and archetypes.

There are two basic thoughts on how you figure the numerology of the cards.
  1. Reduction. For example, the Star (17) would be reduced to 1 + 7 = 8.
  2. Numerical Signifier. For example, Temperance (14) would be 4.

Either way works and from what I can tell it’s a personal preference.

One overview of what the numbers mean is The Numerological Significance of the Tarot by Anthony Louis. There is also a school of thought that the odd numbers are masculine (active) while the even numbers are feminine (passive). That goes back to the elements too.

If we look at the above examples.
  1. The Star (17) is reduced to 1 + 7 = 8.

    Eight is made up of 2 x 4, or 2 x 2 x 2. Like the four, it is a number of power, manifestation, and material accomplishment.

  2. Or Temperance (14) as 4.

    Four is the number of manifestation and material reality. There are four elements, four sides of a square, four cardinal directions of a compass, four seasons, four winds, etc. It is a number of order, structure, power, and earthly dominion. Four is the number of the prototypical complete family: a father, a mother, a son, and a daughter.

What do those mean to you? How does it add to your ‘reading’ of the card as you look at the image or read the details out of the LWB (Little White Book) that came with your deck?

The Minor Arcana is closer to a regular deck of cards in that we have four suits (which correspond to the four suits of a standard deck of cards) and each suit is comprised of fourteen cards numbered ace [1] to 10 plus four court cards. The Minor Arcana represent the everyday events and feelings within each suit. The court cards represent family with the father (king), mother (queen), son (knight), and daughter (page). The Gaian deck focuses on this sense of family (or ‘it takes a village’) even more by changing the court cards to Elders, Guardians, Explorers, and Children.

If you’re interested, I uncovered a great series of lessons while researching this post. The Secrets of Tarot Numerology is 12 lessons long complete with assignments to practice. I’ll definitely be doing this in the near future.

However, we’re going to look at the journey.

Just like the Seeker’s journey through the Major Arcana we have a Seeker’s journey through the Minor Arcana, too.

Three mini-dramas, in fact.
  • Ace – 2 – 3
  • 4 – 5 – 6
  • 7 – 8 – 9
Or look at it this way.
  • Ace, 4, and 7 = new beginning
  • 2, 5, and 8 = the challenge
  • 3, 6, and 9 = resolution (if the Seeker met the challenge)

Each of the three sets of three goes a bit deeper as the Seeker grows and matures. The first triad parallels the trials and exploits of youth, roughly corresponding to the Child and Explorer [court] cards. The second triad is more about the experiences of midlife, corresponding to the Explorer and Guardian cards. The third triad is about maturity and wholeness, corresponding to the Guardian and Elder cards. ~Joanna Powell Colbert

  • Culminating in 10…transition. Something dies, is reborn, and the cycle begins again. Hmm, doesn’t that just sound like the “dark night of the soul”?

How about this?

Is it me, or are you seeing character arc and/or plot structure at every turn of the tarot?

For a blogiversary giveaway tease hop on over to Tarot Elements where they recently featured the delicious Steampunk Tarot.

Meet the Cards: Temperance

Temperance, the combining of opposites, is number fourteen of the Major Arcana. According to Raven’s Tarot site “14 as two times the 7, adjustment of destiny.” It is also the number of cards in each suit when you count the court cards.

What I See:

For a fire card I don’t get an overwhelming sense of the element. Though there is a feeling of steam, fire mixing with water. A very Lady of the Lake image with her raising from the pool like that. I get a sense of day blending into night, or vice versa. Rainbows can symbolized the bridge between heaven and earth, and more currently GLBT, which leaves me thinking of acceptance and finding peace within ourselves. It maybe the story I’m working on, but I also get a feeling of mixing cultures, races, and/or bloodlines. The overall color palette speaks of art and creativity, the blending of colors to create others.

Light (upright) Reading:

The serenity of the middle between polarities.

  • Keywords: Tolerance, Moderation, Blending, and Adaptation.

Shadow (upside down or reverse) Reading:

Beware of a struggle to blend opposing sides.

  • Keywords: Volatile, Excessiveness, Outlandishness, and Haste.


The rainbow has become a symbol of gay/lesbian rights, perhaps your story revolves around that. Angels and demons? It looks like she’s raising from a pool of water, perhaps a Lady of the Lake type story. How about the obvious guardian angel? Maybe her wings mean the ability to cross between worlds, spirit and physical. Or maybe the colliding of worlds?

Temperance is one of the four cardinal virtues, perhaps the cutting of something with water or alcohol abstinence? Temperance is the blending of opposites to create something new, maybe your story focuses on wine making, cooking or a nutritionist, a pharmacist, a doctor or nurse or healer.

  • Themes: Balancing Opposites, Art & Creativity, Healing, Moderation, Finding the Middle Path, Owning Your Light & Shadow, Boundary Between Conscious & Unconscious/Thought & Intuition, or Blending to Create Something New.


Temperance is a mixed-race child with the bloodlines of many cultures.

  • Archetype: Alchemist, Healer, or Guardian Angel (the Higher Self).

Mentors represent the Self, the god within us, the aspect of personality that is connected with all things. The higher Self is the wiser, nobler, more godlike part of us [think Jiminy Cricket in Disney’s Pinocchio]. ~The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler

  • Mythical Figures: Hestia, Panthea, Asclepius, Chiron, Vishnu, and Apollo.

The personality enneagram, a nine-pointed array of personality types, might also be a useful reference for character building.

Temperance is E5: Observer, Investigator, and/or Sage

  • Self Image — I see through
  • Passion — Greed
  • Virtue — Detachment
  • Narcissistic Trap — Knowledge
  • Avoids — Emptiness
  • Speaking Style — Explaining or Systematizing

E5 people are ruled by their head. They need to understand the pattern of events, where all the pieces fit in the puzzle of life, and are often detached from their emotions. Their objectivity may hide feelings of isolation or confusion.

Additionally, look up one of the Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) for personality traits.

When the Temperance card appears in your writing practice, you might want to reflect on how you find balance in your work as a writer. ~Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner

Image: Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert from Llewellyn Worldwide

December 2014
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