Recently I shared a post in my Fool’s Journey column on Autostraddle which offered a short guide to the numbers of the minor arcana.
Check it out! It goes through Ace/one through to ten with ideas about the significance of each, and how common themes for each number work across the four suits.
It got me thinking. I really don’t write a lot about numbers in tarot. Because I really don’t think much about numbers in tarot. How ridiculous is that? How have I got this far without paying attention to such a crucial part of tarot’s structure? Etc etc. Well, that’s gonna change. Here marks the beginning of an exploratory journey through the numbers in tarot.
From the Mary-el Tarot by Marie White
Just to be clear – this is not numerology. Numerology is its own thing which goes far deeper into the significance of numbers than I’m going to. It’s about energy, resonance and much more. I’m not a numerologist – though I will quote numerologists in this series!
If you are interested in numerology, check out Richard Abbot’s book, The Secret Language of Numbers.
Okay! Let’s start! With absolute nothingness! (Or is it?)
Tarot numbers: Zero = hero
The number 0 is absolutely crucial in tarot, as it is the very first card in the deck. Not one, where the magic begins, but zero, where the space is made for the magic to happen.
From The Fountain Tarot
The Fool is zero. Best explained in metaphors, they are a blank canvas, an unwritten book. A new start. A first step. Sticking out your thumb and just seeing what the heck happens. The Fool is nothing, with the potential to be everything. So when you get card zero in your readings, it’s time to wipe the slate clean. Cast off the inhibitions we learn as we move through life. Be a fool – as in, be naive. Be innocent. Pretend you never had your confidence knocked or got dumped or your first business never failed or whatever.
That stuff doesn’t matter. This is all about here, now, and what happens next.
From The Collective Tarot
But wait? What’s that they’re carrying? A wee knapsack! What’s in it? Questions. Experiences. So this isn’t absolute nothingness. The Fool is not a completely blank slate. There’s a little baggage here, just as we all have a little baggage.
The bag behind him carries his experiences. He does not abandon them, he is not mindless, they simply do not control him in the way that our memories and traumas so often control our lives. … The bag bears the head of an eagle, symbol of the soaring spirit. His high instinct fills and transforms all experience.
Rachel Pollack, Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom
Life is a series of cycles. Tarot is an expression of those cycles. Each suit is a cycle, and the major arcana is a huge cycle. As card zero, The Fool is a chance to go back and start again. To keep only what is most important, only the absolute gems, from previous cycles, and begin again with a fresh new approach.
From the Shadowscapes Tarot, by Stephanie Piu-Mun Law
Risk and trust
Because this is zero, there is nothing to know. Nothing is given, guaranteed, proven or explained. When you take a paintbrush to a blank canvas, no matter how much you’ve practiced painting in the past, you are taking a risk. You don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out. But you have to do it, or there will never be any painting at all.
When you’re working with the nothingness of zero, therefore, you have to trust. Trust in yourself, trust in the universe, trust that if your intentions are good, that everything will be okay. It’s naive. but that’s the point. Strip away all the junk that we collect over years, all the fears and worries and reasonable reasons why stuff won’t work out, why it’s better not to try.
Be the hero of your own story.
Take a risk, and …. begin.
From Thea’s Tarot by Ruth West
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.