The Fives

The fives break away from the lesser foundational numbers and stand up on legs. Life is breathed into them.  Dynacism is now a trait, as we move into the greater primary numbers.

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.

What makes fives so personal is their relationship to the corporeal realm.  Each hand and foot has five digits, as do many mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Our worldly experiences are recorded by the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. The number five is felt through the body, eluding to four limbs and the head. Like the five on a face of gaming dice, four pips plus a central pip, it appears to be the outstretched limbs and body of a human.  This quincunx design can be perceived as the incarnated conscience: 4 plus 1.  With this, we begin to recognize our physical limits with the number five, accepting our mortality as human beings.  

There are five elements in Ancient Greek philosophy, earth, air, fire, water, and ether; and in the East Asian traditions, water, earth, wood, fire, and metal.  A nod to the idea of five elemental associations can be seen in the movie The Fifth Element.  Inasmuch people associate the Tarot suits to certain classical elements, they may see the 22 trump cards as a type of fifth element, trancending the basic four.

The five books of the Torah, the pentatuch, contain written Law; Buddhism teaches the five commandments of Ānantarika-karma, and Islam has its Five Pillars.  The universal amplification of these ideas allows the fives to be associted with morality or religious obligations.  The Pathogoreans thought so highly of the number that they called it the marriage of the heaven and earth.

In modern culture there are five regular days of business, and can be indicative of economy.  There is no overload with the fives, for they still have the weekend.

IMG_3457The five continents and the five Olympic Rings remind of us of the earth’s globe, and how the games connect humanity across the world.  We percieve competition and bold physical activity in this number.

The pentatonic scale, the only musical scale with the least number of notes but generally still considered a complete scale, contains five notes. It is can be heard in most popular music.  Its ancient origins provide a range of qualities, intervals, and moods, but regardless of its structure, it is universally pleasing and versitile.  Often it is the first star shape we learn to draw, mostly pointing up but sometimes pointing down.  Even the common perception of a seastar has 5 arms.  The 5 pointed star has both magical and childlike associations. 

Using the Fives 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 fives show up, first consider asking or describing to whom the 5 applies.  The fives describe more than just the body, but you can bet a five will relate back to humanity in some way or another.

The Tarot suits become personal with the fives.  They affect us to our core.  We feel our flow with the cups, we know of our self-worth with the coins, we discover our limitations with the batons, we and decide who gets cut with the swords.

We can read the number five in terms of degrees. It is half of ten, and feels as though it is in the middle. Is the glass half empty, or half full?  The fives bargain with what they have been given.  Negatives and positives are immaterial here because the fives describe tension in both directions.  We may see a poverty of suits in the fives: we possess, but it’s never enough for what we think we deserve.  

If you want to get esoteric with the Fives, go for it. But please always ask yourself if it makes sense first.  Complicated does not always equal better. The fives should feel like stark reality, and carying all the emotions that are attached to it.

Stay tuned for the Sixes.

The Fours

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.

The Threes

If there is a number that is unconsciously attuned to us, it is three. It is impossible to list all the ways threes function in our lives. With just a basic understanding, you will begin to see the threes as inseparable from the way we relate to the world and each other.

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 relevant.

Threes Are Everywhere

Threes are easy to think of as being complete. Not in the sense of being finished or done, but complete in as much as we think of entire with no necessary part left outside.  The number three feels right. It feels proportioned and comfortable.

You can discover the relevancy of threes without even trying.  The Christian bible mentions threes at least 523 times.  We are granted three wishes. Incantations are repeated three times. There are three primary colors. Three notes form a complete musical chord. Popular folklore includes three little pigs, three blind mice, and three bears. We riddle with animal, vegetable, or mineral. A sentence has a subject, verb, and object. Three strikes and you’re out.

What makes a three substantial is its simple geometry.  Regardless of how three points are arranged, a triangle can be formed by connecting them.  When a triangle is formed, it creates the first two dimensional shape and things begin to feel solid. A three also offers architecture and physical stability. A tripod is the simplest legged support that is dependable under load. And of course, we perceive our physical world in three dimensions. This dependability of the threes tells us how things are ordered.

Lists of three are considered a universal way to prove a point or provide evidence: a single occurrence is a fluke, a second is a coincidence, but a third shows a pattern. This principal is so fundamental to the human mind, that is is used both consciously and unconsciously when one wishes to unequivocally state their beliefs.

But threes don’t always work out in an equal manner. The bound twos are transformed when a third element is introduced. We see it in the birth of a child, as the creation of life changes the relationship and produces a new idea: family. Jewish wisdom identifies the number with creation, where two opposite entities synthesize and form a harmony of three. Conversely the addition of a third person can produce friction by becoming a situation with a third wheel. This new three can be felt as a destabilizing force to the pair.  In this way threes become a method of comparison, where one is not like the other two. Taken further, threes are sometimes associated with a love triangle between people.  For these reasons this unequal quality of three can be associated with creativity, but also deconstruction; or increase and decrease.

Ultimately, The threes answer the question why or how. We explain existence in terms of three, such as: birth, life, death; mind, body, and soul; and in many cultures as the heavens, earth, and the abyss.  We perceive in three dimensions: height, width, and length.  A complete story has a beginning, middle, and end.  Within these qualities of why and how, three is often associated with wisdom, for people manage time by organizing their present, anticipating their future, and applying the experience of the past.

Using Threes 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 threes show up, consider asking or describing what you see in terms of why or how.

You may also see the number three in terms of degrees; such as a modest but adequate quantity. When we talk in terms of a few cups or swords, we are accounting for more than a couple but definitely not a lot. Regardless of the quantity, suits in the amount of three are well-ordered. They are so well-ordered, threes can signal completion or adequacy, where no more is needed. This order tells us exactly how things are related, with an organization that begins to become less clear as we move into the higher quantities.

If you want to get esoteric with the threes, go for it. But please always ask yourself if it makes sense first. The threes should feel complete, familiar, and satisfactory to us. Complicated does not always equal better.

Stay tuned for the Fours.

The Twos

The number two is quite simple. It is perhaps the most common and understandable number that we interact with.

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 relevant.

The number two helps us compare things, and also helps us provides contrast between related elements. We experience twos in terms of light and dark, top and bottom, left and right, and right and wrong.

The number two also describes duality, where something can be either in one state or another.  A lightbulb can be on or off.  A binary digit is either 1 or 0. A personality trait can be two-faced. Dualities are common and can be seen everywhere. Humans have a distinct preference for two-valued logic—yet another duality, true or false.  This natural preference makes the twos the easiest number to apprehend.

The number two also may be polar. It describes opposite ends of the same thing. Think of a battery with positive and negative poles; or the earth, where you can travel in one continuous direction and run across the north and south poles and back again without changing direction.

Duality and polarity of the twos are often confused or blurred together, or may be conditional based on the subject matter. For example, the idea of male and female can be thought of in terms of polarity OR duality, depending on your frame of reference.  In the Alchemical Marriage, male and female is a duality; but in the sexing of animals, male and female is a polarity.

The number two may be relational. In relationships, we are not looking at differences between two elements, rather we are defining the bond that connects them. For example, a relational two may be contractual as in a marriage or business agreement. Best friends would share a unique bond of two, but could also be seen in a romantic connection. A two could also be an arms length transaction in which something is exchanged. It may be a dependency, where the two elements are not equal but must relate to one another to exist. Think of an employer and an employee, a match and fire, a dog and its owner, or a reflection in a pool of water.

Another type of relational two is the concept of unity. Two different qualities, when bound together, form a new single unit. Each of the two qualities are unique, but their unity forms something greater than the sum of their parts (this concept can be sometimes be seen in the transformation to three). Some negative sides of unity are redundancy and duplicity. A bond of two is often strong, and does not easily allow for a third element or the loss of one of the partners. An oxygen molecule is an example of this cohesion.

You may also see the number two in terms of degrees; such as an indefinite small quantity, or perhaps two simply paired items such as pen and paper. If you need to take care of a “couple of things,” you have more than one task, but certainly not many. And having two of something gives you the perfect opportunity to either share, or withhold.

Remember that the Tarot suits follow the numbers, and may be primary, secondary, or equal to the importance of numbers depending on the context of reading the cards. If you want to get esoteric with the twos, go for it. But please always ask yourself if it makes sense first. The twos should feel natural, familiar, and accessible to us. Complicated does not always equal better.

Stay tuned for the Threes.

Yes or No Questions

Which statement describes you:

  1. I love asking the Tarot Yes or No questions
  2. I dislike using the Tarot for Yes/No questions; its better suited for who, what, why and how
  3. I don’t like Yes/No questions because the answer might scare me

Let’s consider one of the oldest puzzles posed to card readers, the ‘he said, she said’ conundrum.

Person X claims an incident happened.  Person Y says the incident did NOT happen.  Both people appear credible with their statements.  Both are questioned about their assertions and from what we can tell, there is little reason to doubt either.  Some people have probably formed an opinion about the matter, but outwardly they want to keep an open mind.

I watch a student reader pull some cards to determine who is telling the truth about the incident.  The reader asks “Did the incident occur as person X claims?”  I note this.  The question, stated as such, begs a YES or NO answer.  The question was not “What happened?” or “How can I know the truth?”  rather it was “Did it happen?”

Proverb: The question you pose determines the form in which answer will be given.

Now if you doubt this assertion, which some readers may do, why even ask a question at all?  Why not simply draw a mass of cards without context and divine the perfect answer to the question that was never even asked?  What use is a question in the first place, if the form of the answer has no context to the query?

Cards are a Powerful device for a Yes/No Question

tarot-dice-psychicIf you really want a clear answer, you can simply flip a coin.  Surely, a coin will unequivocally give you a concise answer.  I’ve thought about this many times before reaching for the cards.  Heads or tails.  We are pulled towards two-valued logic. No arguments, no interpretations.   Or maybe some dice.  That could work.  There’s no arguing with the number 5.  In our hearts, as truth-seekers, we find cards more satisfactory than a coin toss when peering into these factual queries.  We do this for several reasons:

  • Cards can give us degrees of certainty
  • Cards provide nuances in between the determinism of two-valued logic
  • Cards stimulate our imagination and intuition, often giving us ideas or angles about our question that we never even considered prior

I have often heard that the cards are not good for yes/no questions.  Nonsense!  The cards are deeply satisfying tools for answering anything.  I believe most readers who shy from yes/no questions have not learned a system for reading them, nor do I think they have practiced it using a personally meaningful methodology to gain confidence in wielding such a useful tool.  There is a great amount of hesitancy when dealing with absolutes.

Back to the question

“Did the incident occur as person X claims?”  The student draws three tarot and places them on the table.  She begins to read a thrilling story of the incident, card-to-card, ending with a knockout punchline.  “Yes,” she exclaims, “its so clear.  X is telling the truth!”  I look at the cards.

I’m thinking…I see something completely different.

To the student’s eyes, the cards told a sordid story; and this reader is skilled at seeing a tale within the cards.  I appreciate the way the student could be so clear in her reading, and her intelligence and use of language was impeccable.   It it all sounded believable.  But there is one problem: the reader didn’t answer the question from the cards.  Instead, she read the answer from her own story, not the tarot.

Now at this point you might be thinking that the reader did answer the question.  She supplied a “YES.”  In a long and roundabout way she did answer, but the source of the answer was corrupted.  It is like the story that gets passed between several people, and by the time it reaches the last person, the facts have changed completely.  She interpreted the cards, told a story, and then dissected her story to decide if the answer was yes or no.

Why is this problematic?

It’s problematic because we already knew the story of the incident before the reading. Persons X and Y already gave their testimonies.  The student then sought the cards, [apparently because she wanted to know who was telling the truth] but instead projected the story she had already believed onto the story in the cards.  If the original stories provided in X and Y’s testimonies were not adequate enough to answer the question truthfully in the mind, why on earth would another story somehow clear this up?

If you want a determinate answer, then use a determinate method.  Otherwise, you will simply answer the question based on what you already believe, not what you have just discovered, whether overtly or unconsciously.  And this brings me to another point:

The reader wasn’t even asking the right question that she wanted answered.  What she really wanted to know was this: “Am I justified in believing what I already have judged to be true?”

I believe she had already made up her mind as to what the truth was, and the cards were simply a way to discredit the vestiges of her subconscious doubts.  I suspect this, not because I have insight to her psyche, but because I know human nature and this is a common scenario.  I’ve seen it in countless readers, including myself.

What to Consider When Asking Yes/no Questions

  • If answering a yes or no question, your core method of reading must be as determinate as flipping a coin.  Otherwise, why are you asking in the first place?
  • Reading a story or meaning from a card can only give you insight to a yes/no question if you have little or no information about the situation.  Reading another version of the story on top of the facts you already know creates layers of confusion, and is inherently dishonest to your intuition.
  • Let the cards provide additional information and nuances, beyond the yes/no answer.
  • Allow the cards to describe degrees of factual error and truth.  Just as most human interactions are not as clear-cut as we would imagine, a yes/no question may have other facets to consider, and;
  • allow the cards to also describe how the yes/no question may be flawed from the start.  Be open to trashing the reading if you discover your question made no sense in the first place.
  • If you are emotionally invested in the yes/no question, your reading is unlikely to be useful as actionable information.  Most people who read yes/no questions for themselves already know the answer.  So in these cases, consider the reading a meditation rather than a divination.

How to Read a Yes/No Question

  • Learn a system that makes sense to you. If the system seems too convoluted, too simple, or too strange, then it is not the right system for you.
  • Practice and test your divination system.  Keeping a Q&A log of yes/no questions is not only valuable practice, but absolutely necessary for the student.
  • Learn how your system can stretch your divinatory insight beyond the yes/no answer
  • Learn the weaknesses of your yes/no system.
  • Analyze how you form your yes/no questions, and how it can affect the answers you receive.

How to Prepare for Your Reading

  1. Decide what do you want to get from your reading.  When our session is over, what do you want to know and how do you want to feel?
  2. Decide what question(s) are important to achieve step 1.
  3. If you are in an emotional state, I recommend meditation and relaxation prior to our session.  You can also arrange guided meditation with me as part of your reading.  Be sure to let me know 24 hours in advance.
  4. If you are nervous, accept this is a normal but temporary feeling. Know that these feelings will likely fade within a few minutes of starting the session.
  5. Please be prompt.

Assumptions

“Don’t assume anything.”

Last month a shop clerk assumed that I cleanse with sage and use crystals because I read Tarot.  I politely replied “No, but I sure like Tarot!”  The truth is an Arturo Fuente enjoyed with a good Armagnac is all the cleansing I need.

Assumptions seem to lead to conflict, inevitably.  They are the starting point of every argument.  Even the assumptions that boil silently in the unconscious mind erupt through simple comments we express to others.

Yet, assumptions are how we relate to what we observe.  An assumption is the uncomfortable birth of an intellectual equivocation:

This is THIS.

But it isn’t.

It is THAT.

And at that moment, we compare our assumption against what we see. Assumptions test our belief. So I ask for further clarity: “How do my assumptions help me?”  I draw three cards: the 8 of Cups, Le Diable, and Le Chariot.

IMG_2292
My assumptions strip off the superficial, expose the dirty truth, and then consolidate the differences. 

An assumption marries two versions of the same lie.

This is the ah-ha moment: when the cards challenge my assumption about assumptions.  The cards test my belief.  When I assume something, the act is not about comparing the differences, rather, it is an act of accepting that things really aren’t what they seem — and the truth is as elusive as the falsehood. Perception tricks the satisfied mind into thinking it has everything figured out, organized into compartments.

My glass is empty.  I reach for the Armagnac.