View Full Version : Odd and even numbers in the Minor Arcana

12-11-2005, 07:07
Hey everyone.

I had an interesting insight yesterday about odd and even cards in the minor arcana. It just came to me when I was trying to understand two cards, and then later in the day went through all my pip cards and plotted this out. For me it was a very valuable realization, and helped me immediately.

Here goes:

I know of course that each number has a certain general meaning across all suits. And also that there is a progression from Ace to ten, a certain development. I always had a bit of hard a time putting it together, but I could see it.

But there is also a rhythm in the cards that moves from odd to even, and this rhythm presents a different way of understanding the progress from card to card, and some relationships between cards.

What I noticed was that odd numbered cards tend to be active and even cards passive. But that was really too constrictive, not accurate. So, with the pip cards spread out, I wrote down a bunch of keywords for the odd and even cards, and then tried to reduce it to a manageable number--because, of course, if you have enough key words you can make anything fit any meaning you want. Got down to four keywords for the odd and the evens each.

I came up with odd numbered card keywords: potential, movement, quest (mental, emotional or physical), dynamic/unstable (I know that's sort of cheating).

And for the even cards (trying to match terms as exactly as possible): consolidation, stasis, peace (or maybe introspection), stability/balnce.

Now, I looked through my books and through a bunch of threads here on AT, and I found, certainly, discussion of movement from, say, the chaos of the 5's to the relative peace of the 6's, and that there is such a movement. But I didn't see it layed out in terms of a whole series of cards as a rhythm. In other words, this is another method to provide a framework for the meaning of the individual cards or relationships between cards.

I found this creates a pattern of development that oscillates from potential, movement, etc., to consolidation, stasis, etc. and back to movement and so on. Or if you prefer a different visual metaphor It's like rises and plateaus or steps. I realized that with this insight I could say something like "this card means 'x', and such-and-such a number means 'y', and, well, this is an odd card and it means 'z': 'Your searching within this context but following this could be a period of understanding what you found.'"

For me, this created a huge difference and I saw the cards and their relationships in a completely new way. Exciting. It added coherence and a way of relating a rhythm between different meanings, and different steps in the progress. It even made some of the difficult cards, like some of the swords, make sense: e.g. the 7 of swords is instabilty, potential being mischanneled; 9 of swords is grief, pain (I use the RWS, by the way), but this is an active kind of mental energy, a movement to somewhere else, not quite similar to the 3 of swords, which is more about the end of a quest or an unstable heart. For example, I can see movement, understand what a card rerepsents differently in the journey from Ace to ten, and then find a more subtle meaning of the particular card within that framework. Or, if there were a prepoderance of even cards in a reading, it could mean that someone is in a period of stability or consolidation or introspection, and then understand the subtle permutations on that theme,and look for the next phase of activity.

I guess the 10 of each suit would work in the usual way--it does represent stability, but by the numerologcal reduction (1+0=1) it also represent more potential. I suppose the odd/even idea could be used in relation to the elements of the suits--water in movement, still water, etc.--as well as the suit qualities and the particular meaning of a particular card. I'm not sure if it works with the Major Arcana--there seems to be some correlation, but will need to work with it--but it doesn't have to. The Minors are their own thing.

If this is well known by others, well then I apologize and just chalk it up to the hot flame of discovery. Nuncle's just a tempest in a cracked teapot. :) (Boy, there's some mixed metaphors!)

But for me, it was like the clouds opening and getting struck by lightning. Maybe it will help some others, as well. If you have any thoughts, input, or ideas, I'd like to hear.

Trying to be neither too odd nor too even,

12-11-2005, 07:46
Gosh ! It surely helped me. I am relatively new so that is such an interesting insight and not difficult to grasp. I have that kind of mind, reduce it to simplicity and give it a word ! It takes that wondering and unease out of the equasion. Thanks so much I am sure more experienced people will give more intelligent replies but certainly am going to "watch this thread".

12-11-2005, 12:05
Hello......the theory is interesting and I plan to study it. IT reminded me of another theory, not the same, but similar, about repetitive patterns in the minor arcana. Thought you might like a look..........http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/tob/tob52.htm BB, Michael

12-11-2005, 19:58

This is really cool. My readings make so much more sense with this theory. I'll go over them with a fine toothcomb and let you know what I see. Keep up the good work,


13-11-2005, 02:58
Thanks for the feedback, you guys.

Tarobones, the link is interesting, especially the chart where the pips are divided into thirds in a repetitive pattern--I'll have to take another look. The interpretations of the court cards, however, seem a bit constrictive.

I'm trying to see a more general rhythm moving through the pips--a natural rhythm of movement and rest. So, just to be clear, I'm not interested in changing the meanings of the cards, or not using the other numbered meanings; but that there is another structure of movement and rest which aids overall interpretation.

There are a few cards here and there that don't fit as well; even in the ordinary numbering, there are cards which are hard to fit in. So, the 8 of cups is one of those. It seems to imply movement, a quest, rather than statsis or consolidation (at least in the RWS), but it may still fit. But perhaps the card is more about instrosepction--the eight cups stcaked up are very stable, but the man sees a gap. The eclipsed sun representing a darkness, an uncertainty, will soon (within seconds or minutes) be shining again. And the 9 of cups seems to be solid. Though as someone here on AT poinyted out, the 9 of cups is about giving up and settling for a good situation which is less than completion. So maybe there is a struggle there. Not perfect, I know, but close (just like the 9 of cups). :)

So, I'm still trying to see if this idea is valid. But yesterday when I did a reading for myself and 3 out of 4 pips that came up were odd, the reading certainly did indicate movement.



13-11-2005, 03:12
I agree that the link does not explain everything. I also prefer your method, actually! But it reminded me of a "tarot classic" and I think you can be proud that you're in such good company! Keep theorizing! and thanks for sharing! BB, Michael