Numbers, The Tarot and Symbolism

In this section of The Chariot, I’ll be musing on various numbers, what they mean in the Tarot, what they mean to me, and what they mean in other cultures. This will be an on-going process, as my ideas change and grow with the passing of time.

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Zero and the Tarot Fool

Zero stands for nothing, for emptiness. Sometimes this serves a useful purpose, as the zero does as a placeholder in mathematics. Or consider the value of an empty container which we can fill.

Zero is the perfect number for the Fool in at least two ways. First, it could be considered the beginning of the infinite string of numbers, while the Fool stands for the beginning of an infinite series of possibilies. Second, like the Zero, the Fool is open and empty, ready to be filled with new experiences.

The point is, while Zero stands for nothing, nothing itself has value, as a starting point, as a place holder, as an emptiness waiting to be filled.

“The Fool as Zero” from the Supertarot: Essays on the Thoth Tarot Deck site points out something I didn’t know: “Strictly speaking, the Fool is unnumbered, therefore it can appear anywhere in the sequence. Some Tarot decks put the Fool last, after the Universe, but most Tarot decks place it before the Magus, 1.” (Then it gets into some really complex material such as the Golden Dawn and the Tree of Life, which is totally opaque to me at this time.)

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One (Ace): The Roots of the Beginning

One stands for the beginning of things, the start: “This is the first step.” It can also stand for the best: “We’re number one.” And it can mean one thing or one person or one of anything (one God), which can be good or bad, depending on the situation.

When I read about the number one in different Tarot books, I get a variety of explanations, all similar but with subtle differences. Generally speaking, in the Tarot the number one symbolizes beginnings. But we’re talking here about the real basic roots of beginnings, As someone said on a list once, Ones/Aces don’t mean birth, they don’t even mean conception. They mean thinking about getting pregnant. And I think that’s a good meaning to keep in mind as a reminder that the number one stands for the idea, the inspiration, that gets you started in a new direction.

Part of the essence of one is that. like a seed, it in-capsules the entirely of the idea. That one brief flash, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to do this!” has, in embryonic form, everything the final manifestation will contain. This means that ones/aces are full of energy and excitment. To me, an “ace” feeling is that little special thrill I get when I meet someone who seems like they’d be a good friend, or when I get the first inkling of a new project (like starting this blog!).

But Aces are potential, not fullfillment. They signify unlimited possibilities and the raw energy of the Tarot suit, but they have no direction. We need to go beyond this raw energy to make our idea manifest. And that’s where the other numbers come in!

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