Anatomy of the Pips

Of all of the cards in the deck the most bountiful are the pips (the cards 1-10 in each suit; 40 in total). They out number the Trumps and and Court cards (combined: 38). In the earliest decks, they resembled playing cards (eg, 10 swords, 4 cups, or 5 wands on the card); there were no pictures. It wasn’t until the RWS deck that cards with pictures on the pips became commonplace.

Intrinsically tied to the pips is meaning of the numbers (numerology). There are two main ways to look at symbolism of the numbers: the first is relating the pip to the Trump (ie, the Empress to the 3’s, the Lovers to the 6’s, etc) and the second is to look at the number on it’s own. I’ll talk about the Trumps in a later post (for now, I’ll make a note about the number associated with the Trump), but for now lets talk about the numbers themselves.

There are plenty of great books and websites out there on numerology. I’m not going to try to go out and summarize them all. What I’m going to do is provide some basics about what each number means and how to incorporate those meanings into our understanding of each individual card.

Aces (the Magician) – Potential; beginning of a process or new initiative; everything remains to be done. An attitude or a significant factor expressing the character of the suit; raw potential & energy; things about to take form. It expresses unity, identity, uniqueness, wholeness & the infinite; it stands for all potential. It stands for initiative, intent, reason, & unchangeableness.

Twos (the Papess/the High Priestess) – Balance; knowledge of what to do with the energy; waiting period, pausing between two choices. It is duality, separation, opposition. Duality implies balance, choice & decisions. The separation of opposites is an illusion, they are two halves of the same whole. Gathering & marshaling resources to take action. With two comes cooperation, compromise, and conflict.

Threes (the Empress) – Results; completion of a phase; stability & foundations. It is the first real form & thus reality, a creative explosion without experience or specific purpose. It forms the basis of all cycles (i.e., life-death-rebirth), growth, and birth (you need a mother and father for a kid), the indissoluble whole & unity of experience. Unity & diversity are restored to harmony. Opposites uniting to create a third; the point of creativity, soul, & spirit.

Fours (the Emperor) – Foundations; the results of planning & proper applications; maintaining what you have; actions stabilizing. It adds depth & form, representing perfect order & permanence. Creation in the physical world & material existence. As a foundation, it represents justice, perfection, domination of material things, & emotional tranquility.

Fives (the Pope/the Hierophant) – Problems & answers; reactions to changes & challenges, fluctuations. Five forms an endless knot representing time, motion, & change-alterations. It upsets the stability of four throwing things into crisis. Introducing inequality to move beyond the original order. The emergence of a new point of view.

Sixes (the Lovers) – Problem-solving; ability to transcend difficulties; a give & take resulting in a new equilibrium; restoration of balance. Six represents completion of creation, it represents emerging consciousness & purification. It is the union of opposites and integration, promoting reconciliation. Doing what you love – what you please in all aspects of your life.

Sevens (the Chariot) – Victory; the ability to find yourself in a situation; standing your ground against adversary. Seven represents both chance & reason. It is a sacred number, the time of rest in creation. It represents perfection, but also everything that can undermine it. Strong action in the world, seasoned & intense founded in experience & purpose.

Eights (Justice/Strength) – Movement & change; the power that comes from within & enables you to accomplish what you seek; bowing to your limits. Eight represents the infinite & Justice; balance & reception a state that cannot be improved. It returns on itself, but in a new & higher frequency.

Nines (the Hermit) – Evaluation; look at the results of your labors; bringing things to conclusion; granting what you seek. Nine is a circular number representing limits, boundaries, strength, & wisdom. It is the completion that lacks something. Entering into a crisis to encourage passage into an unknown; accepting that perfection isn’t possible & going into an unknown.

Tens (the Wheel) – Completion; lasting achievements; carrying the experience with you as the cycle begins again. The all-embracing totality of things; infinite & unbound, a higher order of unity. It represents manifestation & death of an ideal; it emanates the divine. It resolves & consolidates the lack of the nine.

Taking these individual meanings for each number and applying it to the meaning of the suits, begins to give us an understanding of what each card means. This understanding of the numerology will also inform our understanding of the Trumps. Coupling the numerology and the symbolism in the images, gives us a rich and deep meaning for each card.

Understanding these two aspects (the number and the images) of the card, and the third when you add the Trumps, allows you to build a massive vocabulary built sole on the cards. All without opening a book. This is Tarot minimalism: building an understanding on what is present in the cards.


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