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Pips: Element and Numerology

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 05 Feb 2003, and now archived in the Forum Library.

Macavity  05 Feb 2003 
Thinking a bit more about reading "pip" minors, I've come across several references that allude to creating a (mental) table of Element vs Number (minor arcana 2-10) It's then just a matter of filling in the table cells with "meaning", Right? ;) Hmm, perhaps that's what I'm being told here all along - and wasn't appreciating fully? This should work for a Thoth, a Marseille... and should be rather "easy" too? One could bring in astrological assignment (in the former) and flower stems (in the latter) as experience, taste dictates? :D

In their book "Keywords for the Minor Arcana", Banzhaf and Theler use something like this. (Note: the keywords derived (presumably?) from the row and column (Number and Element) are underlined by me) They have entries like:

Dominion: Friction (2) of Polar Forces (Fire)
Virtue: Living (3) Development (Fire)
Completion: Solidified (4) Will (Fire)
Strife: Challenges (5) to Competition (Fire)

Love: Merging (Water) of Opposites (2)
Abundance: Living (3) Feelings (Water)

etc. etc.

"Thoth" card titles are used - But, that aside, Clever huh? (Or maybe not?) Does the above sound familiar to any pip readers out there?

"Aha" moment or not? You decide... :)

Macavity (still minor-ly confused but hopefully improving) 

Diana  05 Feb 2003 
Macavity: I am lost! Walking around in circles.

What you say sounds enticing, but my brain doesn't understand. Would you care to rephrase the whole thing for my poor little grey matter? :confused: 

Macavity  05 Feb 2003 
Hmmm, how to explain it better? I think, first of all, this is hardly rocket science or will be a revelation to many. It was initially to me - But I'm now slightly embarrased... in such erudite company ;)

For the visual idea, take a look at Joan Bunnings approach to minor keywords on: I have always liked her tables, for the simple reason that one can see the grander scheme of things, (progression with number, changes with suite etc.) rather than the usual linear flow of a book of one page per card in suite order.

Now imagine removing the present keyword content of her table. Add an extra row at the top (beneath the suite headers) and column on the left (to the right of the numbers) To the cells in each of each of these, add a few very simple keywords or properties associated with each number and each suite respectively.

Now all the card meanings become simple "products" (sic) of these keywords, at the intersection of a row and column? Think one of those multiplication tables they used to publish in books - before the advent of the calculator (or even slide rule!) :D

What's the point? Well I guess instead of (like in the Bunning table) having to remember the diverse content of ALL the cells, you only have to remember a few words for each suite and number seperately. The rest can be assembled in the mind by doing a simple mental lookup at the "intersection" of these.

Again, this must seem trivial to the many, but to this left-brainer with limited memory space, it might prove useful? And least you will get a certain consistency of approach - at the expense of perhaps a slightly less rich (or random?) assignment of card keywords. :)

HTH, Macavity.

P.S. Now you only have to tell me what the number "keywords" are. }) 

Lee  05 Feb 2003 
Hi Macavity, I think what you describe is indeed a way that several people read Tarot. I've tried it often, and I find that I can do perfectly satisfactory readings with it, but the readings don't seem as fun or as intense as they do when each card is assigned a separate and distinct meaning. I would *like* to read this way, but I just don't feel comfortable with it. But I know there are people who do, and it works for them, so I suspect it's all what you're used to. If you really like this approach and do a lot of practice with it, I'm sure it will work well for you.

However, I would caution against trying to compare this kind of system with the R-W-S or Thoth decks. I don't think you can really make strict numerological meanings fit with these decks. There will always be some cards that don't fit the pattern, and frankly I'm not sure that it's worth the trouble to impose the one system on the other. If I were you, I would forget about illustrated decks altogether and concentrate on trying the system with unillustrated decks.

As far as what meanings to assign to the numbers, there are several threads which have various people's systems. Not surprisingly, there are lots of similarities between them and also lots of differences. If you search for threads with the words "pips" or "numerology", you'll probably find them. You could also search for "numerology" on the Internet, you'll probably find several sites with meanings for numbers 1 through 10, and you can mix and match meanings until you come up with a set which you like.

-- Lee :) 

Aoife  05 Feb 2003 
Macavity, I've been trying to go down the same road too. On the face of it I thought there 'ought' to be a formula but I didn't get far into the subject of numerology before I came across differences, discrepancies.

Then, as I learned from Laurel today, it depends which deck you use as to whether Knights are ascribed to fire or air [and likewise kings]; there's also debate about whether queens or pages/princesses are ascribed to water.

I feel more on track with ascribing minor numbers to Major cards. But where I really got lost was with the business of elemental dignities.

And finally I decided that the formula would be incomplete without tree of life, cube of space and astrological correlations and I stopped just before my brain exploded.

I have neither the ability nor inclination to continue with this line of enquiry - instead I've decided I need to pick up some toothpicks with the shopping tomorrow.

I wish you the very best of luck and will be really interested to hear where this road takes you.


Macavity  05 Feb 2003 
Thank you all - After my unpromising start ;)

Lee: Yes, I agree it becomes difficult with the RWS imagery. I think this was highlighted by my recent purchase of the Clive Barrett "Ancient Egyptian" Tarot. I spent ages pondering the Four of Wands. CB used (essentially) the RWS image but, since it's a "Thoth-alike" retains the Crowley card name "Completion" and fits it into the general Thoth scheme? He does a great job with the card, picturing a couple on a four-poster bed (seated I might add!) with plans for the building behind which has (apparently) just been completed (sic) Hmmm, wonderful though it is, it does (imo) become a little contrived in the fitting process? The RWS original still looks to me like a simple group celebration! :)

Eve: Yeah, I spend a lot of time with and PHB's (classic) methods for the Thoth deck: The card counting and dignities etc. - All wonderful stuff. I also liked the idea of adding a subjective "divination layer" as the very last stage. The problem (for me) is that you always NEED one despite all these techniques! The fact is that (probably) PHB is able to immediately lay his hands on almost any amount of esoteric and astrological facts to accomplish this. I'm still groping towards that...

It's reassuring to know that others have trod / are treading this path :D


The Pips: Element and Numerology thread was originally posted on 05 Feb 2003 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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