Pull up a chair and have a seat. There is security here, supported and surrounded by the corners of the room. The fours abound in our physical plane.
As with all of the Tarot numbers, we can choose to make them as complicated as we want or as relevant as we want. I choose relevancy over complexity every time. Always ask first “Why do you believe that? What makes more sense to you, a mysterious meaning… or a function that you use each and every day?” Meaning only exists when a number is organic and relatable.
The fours are the last of the foundational numbers. Whereas the threes form a conceptual foundation, the fours create a practical base on which we exert ourselves in the world. Geometrically, we usually relate the fours as two dimensional quadrilaterals; but the fours are also a foray into the third dimension with the four-sided pyramid.
Examples of fours aren’t simply arbitrary. They impart the stability of having all feet on the ground beyond what two legs can provide. This foundational idea is so strong, that even in structures that are not square we still find the secure power of the four in the foundation, posts, walls, and roof. Inside a dwelling, the tables, chairs, and the corners define our intimate space and give us the comfort to either stay, or to launch in a new direction.
The number four is common in how we organize information. Fourfold systems have been part of civilization for thousands of years. Think about the four classical elements (Air, Earth, Water, and Fire), the four Jungian psychological types (Thinking, Feeling, Sensing, and Judging), four phases of the moon, and the four seasons.
You can see fourfold systems everywhere when you learn to look for them. Steven Covey’s Time Management matrix is a great example. The idea of a matrix or chart helps orient us as to where we are in a process. A map is a type of matrix, with the angular measurements of latitude and longitude forming quadrants on a globe. This leads us straight to another fourfold system: the cardinal directions.
North, east, south, and west are the base of navigation. They are the four corners of the earth. We may have a plan, but we also need a direction to travel. We feel ‘grounded’ when a four is in play. The fours tell us where we are and where we are going.
India had four cultural castes. People knew where they were in the hierarchy of society. The western Renaissance had four classes: nobles, merchants, tradesmen and workers. Fourfold classes allowed people to know their life’s purpose, but also allowed others to rule and oppress others. These organizations can still be seen and felt today.
An anomaly with the fours, is that we sometimes associate them with luck: in the 4-leaf clover.
Using Fours in Tarot
Remember the Tarot suits are bound to the numbers, and may be primary, secondary, or equal to the importance of numbers depending on the context of reading the cards. When the fours show up, consider asking or describing what you see in terms of where or when.
The Tarot has four suits – another fourfold system. This same system can be seen from the ancient Mamluck cards, to the modern playing decks. In tarot, four of a suit tells us how that suit is organized. It could be squared, stuck, secure, foundational, anchored, or supportive. We know where we stand with the Tarot fours.
You may also see the number four in terms of degrees or quantity. It is an amount that is just enough to get our bearings. This construct can tell us exactly where the suit is, like a coordinate. This orientation becomes less clear as we move into the higher numbers and have more options for direction.
If you want to get esoteric with the fours, go for it. But please always ask yourself if it makes sense first. The esoteric meaning of fours throughout history are not much different than the practical ways we find them in our modern life. Complicated does not always equal better. The fours should feel stable, simple, and clear.
Stay tuned for the Fives.