Symbolism in the Tarot and Elsewhere - You’re Reading the Symbolism Archive


One of the things that makes the Tarot so interesting to me are the many symbols it uses and the understanding you can gain from the study and contemplation of these symbols.

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One (Ace): The Roots of the Beginning

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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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Numbers, The Tarot and Symbolism

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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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There’s No Such Thing as Universal Symbols

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Do truly universal symbols really exist? Are there symbols that will mean the same thing to any intelligent being, anywhere in the universe?

I tend to doubt it. There may be a few, but even something that seems universal to us may not be. Take water for example. This seems pretty universal—life needs water to exist. But intelligent beings who live in and breathe water would look at water differently than we do—after all, it’s really their air—and so water would not mean the same to them as it does to us. And what about beings based on a different chemistry, ones to whom water is not only unnecessary, but actually lethal? They would certainly think about water in a way completely alien to us!

So when we talk about “universal” symbols, we really mean “universal human symbols.” Read the rest of this entry »

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