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Studying Non-Scenic Pips - Numerological Approaches

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 13 Jan 2004, and now archived in the Forum Library.

Aoife  13 Jan 2004 
NUMBERS...... a personal reflection and a bit of book delving

The word ‘numbers’ still calls to mind a wave of disappointment as a young child, forced to abandon my lovely stories and look at those ugly shapes on the page, that would later look still worse covered in the teacher‘s large red crosses. It was later to coalesce into a cold and clammy sensation on the back of my neck as I battled vainly throughout my education to understand maths. And I never did...... so for me, numbers means ‘failure’ from an early age.

Numbers also meant rankings......’strive to be first’......’second best isn’t good enough’........ ‘this is a third rate essay’..... ‘what a pity you came fourth in the race, no medal for you‘. How many O levels, A levels, what class of degree?...... all nasty, horrible cold, objective and competitive numbers, devoid of feelings and the richness of the subjective and the qualitative.

Then it gets more personal. I don’t want to think about the demands of the numbers on a tape measure, or those on the weighing scales. I am a human being, not a bra size! sorry....was I ranting?

But casting my mind beyond the calorie counting, perhaps my first awareness of inhumanity and evil came from learning about the death camps in WWII...... the tattooed numbers......

When did we stop being names and start being numbers? Credit card number please.... oh, and your d.o.b., your bank account number, your payroll number, national insurance number, your policy number, car registration number, post code, your height, weight, shoe size, clothes size............. take a number then get in the queue.

Okay...... I admit it; I’ve had a grievance against numbers. But since I’ve begun to delve into their symbolism, the beauty starts to unfold. I hadn’t fully appreciated the fundamental difference between the arithmetical number and the symbolic number until I read:

”In symbolism, numbers are not merely the expressions of quantities, but idea forces, each with a particular character of it’s own. The actual digits are only the outer garments.” A Dictionary of Symbols, Circlot that’s my kind of language

”The arithmetical number defines an object by it’s quantity but says nothing about its nature, whereas the [symbolic number] expresses a link with the object it defines by virtue of a mystic relationship between what is enumerated and the number itself. In arithmetic, the addition of 1 and 1 and 1 gives 3, but not triunity; in symbolism the second and third of these ones are intrinsically different from the first because they always...... establish the first term as an active element, the second as passive and the third as consequent.” Ibid

Hmmm...... now I start to understand or at least I think I do......

”All numbers are derived from the number one [the mystic, non-manifest point of no magnitude] . The farther a number is from unity, the more deeply it is involved in matter... in ‘the world’. The first ten numbers in the Greek system pertain to the spirit: they are entities, archetypes and symbols. The rest are the product of combinations of these basic number” Ibid

Ahhh.... now I can see the relationship with Tarot. But this is still tough for someone who wanted to spend the whole day sitting on the story rug. So I’ll finish with an anecdote....

Did you know..... ‘cos I didn’t...... that in certain cultures one must never mention personal numbers.... like the number of children or wives or cows one has. It’s okay to talk about numbers not related to self, but like names, when personal numbers are spoken they release unseen living forces. And if these forces are used by an enemy, they can gain a hold over you.

“The power of words may be great, the power of numbers is even greater. Words may explain the sign, but numbers are its hidden root..... more powerful and more mysterious.” The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, Chevalier & Gheerbrant

You know, I have scoured my copy of “The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects” Barbara Walker, and can only find a passing reference to numerology. Might this be because males are better with numbers than females? Or have I outworn that excuse? 

skytwig  13 Jan 2004 
No, it is a myth that men are better with math..... studies have shown that for decades, teachers have INcouraged their male students in math and DIScouraged their female students in math......

Now that i have that aside.... I do enjoy this thread. Are you going to continue to enlighten us? i find these observations quite helpful.... especially the musings about 1.

I would also be interested in the author's view of zero..... :) 

Aoife  14 Jan 2004 
Thanks for the feedback skytwig.

No, ~lol, I can't think of anything more to say about numbers and numerology in general. Hopefully others will have views and ideas to share.

Thoughts about specific numbers would probably best wait for their specific threads? 

firemaiden  14 Jan 2004 
Very poetic and thought-provoking post, Aoife.

*firemaiden stays seated on story rug*

"more please..." :D 

Aerten  14 Jan 2004 
*promptly joins Firemaiden* :D

I was slightly put off of non-scenic pips by the usual numerological approach, but you sound very wise, Aoife. I have a considerable grudge against numbers as well, but that's being disspelled as I look over your post. Please continue! 

~X~  14 Jan 2004 
Thank you for that thought provoking post, Aoife. I too, have always been leery of numbers and continue to be. Or is it that statistics class that is looming large because I keep putting it off? ;) 

Major Tom  15 Jan 2004 
I've read of this idea somewhere but cannot remember where in order to give proper credit.

Numbers are a written language which can describe the universe. Everything we experience can be described with numbers.

You only need look around to see the numbers. This is a digital community - maintained entirely through manipulation of numbers. Virtual reality indeed. :eek: Strip away your limitations and how do you present yourself to the world?

I believe numbers have meaning and the tarot can help me to understand that meaning. One way tarot helps is that it shows me how different numbers behave.

One hint might be to look at the major arcana numbers I - IX some might say I - VIIII, remembering that Justice is VIII. ;) 

Moongold  15 Jan 2004 
For some light (or dark) relief?

The Secret Life of the Numbers

0 would open its hungry mouth
and swallow all but for being nothing
without at least 1.

1, the ambitious rocket of the soul,
a loner on rain-washed streets
pines for 2.

2, the curlicue
of lovers coiled together
to make another.

3 hunches its back to the future
mumbling of the chances of the past
to whomever will listen.

4 makes music in the wee hours of morning,
her bow drawn across strings
mourning the dead.

5 sits still, waiting
for someone to rest
in her arms.

6, born late, is the dervish
absorbed in the glories
of history, in himself.

7 believes it can cut through
the difficulty of facts
through will alone.

At 8, infinity
stands up
to be counted.

9 whirls through space, a galaxy
of nothingness reaching out with memory
to gather lovers, family, everything.

John McCrory 

firemaiden  15 Jan 2004 
Moongold, that was a beautiful and very apt poem!! I love "2, the curlicue of lovers coiled together to make another" -- it's a poem which resonates on so many levels all at the same time. Extraordinary. 

Moongold  16 Jan 2004 
Pamela Eakins gives the following meanings for numbers in her fascinating book for Tarot of the Spirit

I will quote her directly:

It is useful to think of numbers 1 through 10 in terms of a geometric progression. I for example is a point. At the point of 1 everything begins to come into sharp focus, The 2 is 2 points that form a line; the line symbolizes duality, polarization or a continuum. The 3 makes a triangel or a triad and also a plane. When you begin to think of the numbers geometrically, if you use your creative imagination, much light is shed on the meaning of the particular card.....

Eakins goes on to show geometric diagrams of the numbers - shapes which do inspire further associations, She also gives the the following key meanings:

1. Raw energy
2. Will, purpose, initial understanding
3. Conception, manifestation
4. Production, mastery, clinging to achievment
5. Surrender, release, destruction
6. Solution, exaltation, seeing
7. Feeling, deepening, mystery
8. Repose, consideration, retreat, ripening
9. Understanding before or beyond words,strengthening
10. Processing, moving to a new level

This sounds so obvious, but when you understand the key meanings of numbers, suits and elements, you can then read an elementary pack of playing cards.


PS What is happening to this thread? 

Alex  18 Jan 2004 
Does anyone know a web site where we could find a serious history of numerology? If a website isn't possible (it would be readily accessible by all of us) a book?


Lee  18 Jan 2004 
Originally posted by Alex
Does anyone know a web site where we could find a serious history of numerology? If a website isn't possible (it would be readily accessible by all of us) a book?

The following is copied from one of Rusty Neon's posts in the History and Iconography section:

"At one point, I was interested in trying to get a handle on what numerology might have been in the mindset of the educated person of the Middle Ages, the time of the Tarot de Marseille. One book which I bought (and perused but didn't read cover to cover as is my unfortunate habit) and which you may wish to check out is a classic of sorts, first published in 1938 and reprinted by Dover. The book is _Medieval Number Symbolism: Its Sources, Meaning, and Influence on Thought and Expression_ by Vincent Foster Hopper. You can get a pretty good idea of its contents by viewing the index, table of contents, and selected pages of it on

"Hopper's book has the following chapters:

- Elementary Number Symbolism
- The Astrological Numbers
- Pythagorean Number Theory
- The Gnostics
- The Early Christian Writers
- Medieval Number Philosophy
- The Beauty of Order -- Dante
- Appendix: Number Symbols of Northern Paganism"

-- Lee 

The Studying Non-Scenic Pips - Numerological Approaches thread was originally posted on 13 Jan 2004 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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