The numbering of the small cards and their associations

Written by  on May 15, 2017 

The numbering of the small cards and their associations

Most of the Tarot readers relays on Numerological calculations, during their readings they add up the numbers of the cards and based on this calculations, draw conclusions, make predictions or give advices.
My concern is that practitioners do not really know and understand the theoretical aspects of the esoteric sciences and how these are all connected and based on a common, unitary system.
The numbering of the small (numbered) cards is one very good example.
Most readers believe that 2 of Wands, 2 of Cups, 2 of Swords and 2 of Discs are representing number 2; the 3’s represents number 3 and so on.
You might be surprised, but it’s so untrue.
How the small (numbered) cards were numbered?
Surprisingly, the numbering of the small cards is connected to Astrology and not to Numerology.
The first attempt to explain the connection of the small cards to astrological aspects was made by Papus (Gérard Anaclet Vincent Encausse, 1865 – 1916), in his book ‘Le Tarot Divinataire’ (known as ‘The Tarot of the Bohemians) and published for the first time in1909.
This system was adopted by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Papus noticed for the very first time the connection between the small, numbered cards and the 36 decans of the Zodiac.
Except the 10s, which Papus considered to be ‘transition’ cards according to his Kabbalistic views, the 9 numbered cards, including the Aces which are considered to be the 1s, are made up a total sum of 36 cards.
As we know, one year is divided into 4 seasons, each season is divided into 3 months, but also each month is divided into 3 decans, sometimes called ‘decani’ or ‘faces’.
According to Papus, the first decan is ‘Active’, the second is “Passive” and the third represents the ‘equilibrium’, it’s ‘dual’, respectively can be both active and passive.
So, let’s take as example the third quarter of the Zodiac where we have the Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius.

The 1st decan of Libra is the Ace of Swords (Air).
The 2nd decan of Libra is the 2 of Swords (Air).
The 3rd decan of Libra is the 3 of Swords (Air).
The 1st decan of Scorpio is the 4 of Cups (Water).
The 2nd decan of Scorpio is the 5 of Cups (Water).
The 3rd decan of Scorpio is the 6 of Cups (Water).
The 1st decan of Sagittarius is the 7 of Wands (Fire).
The 2nd decan of Sagittarius is the 8 of Wands (Fire).
The 3rd decan of Sagittarius is the 9 of Wands (Fire).
The 10 of Wands represent the transition from Sagittarius, the Fire sign to Capricorn, the Earth sign.

This scheme (pattern) applies in a similar way to each of the four quarters of the Zodiac.
Much later, in 1944, Aleister Crowley (1875 – 1947) published ‘The Book of Thoth: A Short Essay on the Tarot of the Egyptiansț. The book describes the philosophy and the use of Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, a deck of Tarot cards designed by Crowley and co-designed and painted by Lady Frieda Harris.
Crowley made several fundamental corrections to the Golden Dawn system and his vision is still the theoretical foundation of most of the current Tarot practices.
Regarding the numbered cards and their associations, Crowley excluded the Aces from the scheme, and started the association to the decans from the 2s and going up till the 10s inclusively.
The Aces, according to Crowley’s interpretation represents the ‘spirit’ of the four elements and represent a link between the small cards and the court cards.
Roughly, the Aces represents the 4 seasons, respectively the ‘root’ of the 4 seasons which are the 2 Equinoxes and 2 Solstices.
I think Crowley made the right corrections regarding the small cards.
So, as we can see, the numbering of the small cards was made according to the cards astrological position on the Zodiac and not by numerological considerations and associations.
Some may believe that it’s possible that the astrological and numerological associations may be identical. They are not.
The association between the numbers and the planets it’s obvious, but it wasn’t made till quite recent times.


According to modern Numerology (Sepharial’s The Kabala of Numbers, 1913; Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, 1926), the most frequently used assignment of the numbers to planets are:

1 – Sun
2 – Moon
3 – Jupiter
4 – Uranus
5 – Mercury
6 – Venus
7 – Neptune
8 – Saturn
9 – Mars

Some added Pluto as 10, but it’s not a generally accepted practice.

Now let’s go back to the third quarter and apply this pattern to the cards:

Ace of Swords – September or Autumn Equinox (22, 23, or 24 September) – Sun in Libra.
1st decan of Libra – 2 of Swords – Moon in Libra.
2nd decan of Libra – 3 of Swords – Jupiter in Libra.
3rd decan of Libra – 4 of Swords – Uranus in Libra.
1st decan of Scorpio – 5 of Cups – Mercury in Scorpio.
2nd decan of Scorpio – 6 of Cups – Venus in Scorpio.
3rd decan of Scorpio – 7 of Cups – Neptune in Scorpio.
1st decan of Sagittarius – 8 of Wands – Saturn in Sagittarius.
2nd decan of Sagittarius – 9 of Wands – Mars in Sagittarius.
3rd decan of Sagittarius – 10 of Wands – Sun or Pluto in Sagittarius.

These associations do not seem right, make no sense.

But how the planets are assigned to the decans in Astrology?
Well, there are only two methods in use with several variations depending on how many planets are counted in.
Let’s begin with the definition of decans also called ‘decanate’ or ‘faces’.
The Zodiac is roughly a circle of 360° (respectively 365 representing the days of a year). The Zodiac is divided into 12 signs, each of approximatively 30° arcs.
The term is applied to the subdivision of a Zodiac sign into 10° arcs. As a consequence, each sign is divided into 3 decades referred to as the first, second and third decans.
The interpretation of Decans is based upon a system of rulerships, each decan being ruled by a different planet.
The so-called “Chaldean” method was proposed by William Lilly (1602 – 1681) in his famous book ‘Christian Astrology’ (London, 1647) which was a reinterpretation of Claudius Ptolemy’s (c. 100 – c. 170) even more famous ‘Tetrabiblos’ (meaning “Four Books”). It’s important to know that the astrological model proposed by Ptolemy and adopted by Lilly was the Hellenistic Geocentric model – a model of the universe with the Earth at the center, based on the existence of only 7 planets.
The order of the planets around the Earth is: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, then the fixed stars.
This model was adopted by the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley.
Crowley ordered the planets in a repeating pattern as follows: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and Moon, starting from the 1st decan of Leo. (In reversed order as they supposedly revolves around the Earth).
So, according to Crowley the association of the rulership in the third quarter is:

1st decan of Libra – 2 of Swords – Moon in Libra, respectively number 2.
2nd decan of Libra – 3 of Swords – Saturn in Libra, respectively number 8.
3rd decan of Libra – 4 of Swords – Jupiter in Libra, respectively number 3.
1st decan of Scorpio – 5 of Cups – Mars in Scorpio, respectively number 9.
2nd decan of Scorpio – 6 of Cups – Sun in Scorpio, respectively number 1.
3rd decan of Scorpio – 7 of Cups – Venus in Scorpio, respectively number 6.
1st decan of Sagittarius – 8 of Wands – Mercury in Sagittarius, respectively number 5.
2nd decan of Sagittarius – 9 of Wands – Moon in Sagittarius, respectively number 2.
3rd decan of Sagittarius – 10 of Wands – Saturn in Sagittarius, respectively number 8.

The association of the planets to the numbers was not available to Crowley, he did not know or he didn’t consider it relevant that each planet is assigned to a specific number.
Crowley, as majority of the scholars and authors did and still do, was more preoccupied with the connection to the Kabbalah.
Crowley identified correctly the correlation between the 10 Sephirot of the Tree of Life and the numbered cards. He attributed the 2’s to Chokmah, the 3’s to Binah and so on. What Crowley – and other scholars – failed to understand, is that all the 78 cards are associated the same way in the same patter.
The problem is that nobody realised that there is a complex connection between the planets, the numbers, the Sephirot and if you do not have a system to connect the dots correctly, the result will be a Babylonian chaos. (According to Genisis 11: 4-7, humans wanted to build a tower in Babylon to reach the heavens and challenge the God. In response, God ‘confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’).
Reading a couple of hundreds of Alchemical books, I learned that it was a common practice in the 14 and 15 centuries to switch up part of the texts, put the explanation of one thing in the ‘wrong’ place to another chapter of section and make the works unreadable and quite impossible to understand the processes for a ‘profane’ outsider.
Things are even worst when it comes down to Kabbalah.
The Kabbalah was a strictly oral tradition transmitted for hundreds or thousands of years in very strict circumstances from generation to generation.
Against the general understanding that the Kabbalah is the mystical branch of Judaism, I suspect that it’s actually a secret doctrine which incorporates the pre-Mosaic Jewish tradition.
Also, I think that when the first Kabbalistic texts have been publicly presented from the 13th century, the exoteric form of Kabbalah has been heavily encrypted. Everything we know or we think we know about the Kabbalah is, at best, inaccurate and misleading.
To connect the dots between the Tarot and Kabbalah, first we should fully understand the system which lays at the very foundation of Astrology and Numerology and then connect it with the Kabbalah within the Tarot system. Knowing and understanding Astrology and Numerology, understanding the foundation of the system, we can make the connection to the Alchemy.
Majority of the scholars, starting with Eliphas Lévi (1810 – 1875) and up to Aleister Crowley, were generally – and sometimes exclusively – concerned to connect the 22 cards of the so-called Major Arcane to the 22 letters of the Jewish alphabet, respectively to apply the tetragrammaton (the four Hebrew letters יהוה‎, commonly transliterated into Latin letters as YHWH and considered to be one of God’s name from the Hebrew Bible) to the Tarot cards.
Understanding the hidden doctrine of the Kabbalah is a much bigger challenge as many of us would suspect. But this will be a subject for another time!

Coming back to the issue of the numeric value of the numbered Tarot cards, let’s verify what numeric values represents the 2s in the Crowley’s system.

2 of Swords is associated to Moon, respectively to number 2.
2 of Wands is associated to Mars in Aries, respectively to number 9.
2 of Cups is associated to Venus in Cancer, respectively to number 6.
And 2 of Disks (Pentacles) is associated to Jupiter in Capricorn, respectively to number 3.
You can verify all the other assignments of the numbers to the planets, they simply don’t head up.
And same goes to each of the numbered cards (the 3s, 4s, 5s, etc).

Some modern astrologers extended the Ptolematic model and added the later discovered planets to the pattern, respectively Uranus, Neptune and in some cases Pluto.
Upon this changes the pattern may differ from author/reader to author/reader.
What majority of the astrologers don’t tell you and some of them are not even aware of, it’s that the system stayed the same, respectively it’s still based on the erroneous notion that the Earth is in the centre of the universe and every other planet, including the Sun, are revolves around it.

The other method is called ‘Triplicity’.
This method employs the ruler of the sign as specifically the ruler of the first decan, with the second and third decans associated with the rulers of the other two signs of the same triplicity. Thus, according to modern Astrology, the First decan of Aries is ruled by Mars; the Second is ruled by the Sun, ruler of the next Fire sign, the Leo; and the Third is ruled by Jupiter, the ruler of the third and following Fire sign, the Sagittarius.
But things were always the same.

Triplicty rulerships using the “Dorothean system” (classical Hellenistic astrological system) are as follows:

Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius): Sun, Jupiter, Saturn.
Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn): Venus, Moon, Mars.
Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius): Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter
Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces): Venus, Mars, Moon.

First planet is considered to be the Day Ruler, second the Night Ruler, and third Participating Ruler.

Currently, the most commonly used rulers (assignments) are:

Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius): Mars, Sun, Jupiter.
Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn): Venus, Mercury, Saturn.
Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius): Mercury, Venus, Saturn or Uranus.
Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces): Moon, Mars or Pluto, Jupiter or Neptune.

So, coming back to our third quarter example, the things should look like this:

1st decan of Libra – 2 of Swords – Venus in Libra, respectively number 6.
2nd decan of Libra – 3 of Swords – Saturn or Uranus in Libra, respectively number 8 (Saturn) or number 4 (Uranus).
3rd decan of Libra – 4 of Swords – Mercury in Libra, respectively number 5.
1st decan of Scorpio – 5 of Cups – Mars or Pluto in Scorpio, respectively number 9 (Mars) or number 10 (Pluto).
2nd decan of Scorpio – 6 of Cups – Jupiter or Neptune in Scorpio, respectively number 3 (Jupiter) or number 7 (Neptune).
3rd decan of Scorpio – 7 of Cups – Moon in Scorpio, respectively number 2.
1st decan of Sagittarius – 8 of Wands – Jupiter in Sagittarius, respectively number 3.
2nd decan of Sagittarius – 9 of Wands – Mars in Sagittarius, respectively number 9.
3rd decan of Sagittarius – 10 of Wands – Sun in Sagittarius, respectively number 1.

Same issue here as it is in the ‘Chaldean’ system.
2 of Wands is associated to Mars, respectively number 9; 2 of Cups is associated to Moon, respectively number 2; 2 of Swords is associated to Venus, respectively to number 6; finally, 2 of Discs (Pentacles) is associated to Saturn, respectively to number 8.

Conclusion: no matter which system and which type of association you are using, the number of the card is, from numerological perspective irrelevant, you have to know the number assigned to the respective planet and that is also the card’s numerological value.
If your card is Sun in Aries – or in any other sign for that matter, the numerological value of the card is 1 and not 3.
Plain and simple.
And just like the planets have different manifestations in different signs (houses), the number that represent those planets works the same way.

I think, nobody really understanding the Tarot as a whole and a very complex instrument because 99.9 of the books about Tarot are focused on the individual meaning and interpretation of the cards and do not say much about the system. Studying further, the same applies to Astrology and Numerology. And, from my point of view, nobody really understanding how – at least these three – are connected into one consolidated system within the Tarot.
As a personal consideration, resulting from 25 years of study, research and practice, I do not think that any of the planets can rule both an Air and an Earth sign as it is the case of Mercury and Venus for instance.
In my opinion this is a completely erroneous understanding and interpretation of the very nature of the planets. The 12 Zodiac signs should be ruled by 12 distinct planets as the 12 months of the Sumerian calendar was dedicated to honor each a distinct god.
Not at least, I also think that the association between the numbers and the planets, currently it’s also incorrect.

Excerpt from the book ‘Tarot – the complete key to the esoteric unified field theory’ by Attila Blága. Full or partial use of this text for commercial or non-commercial distribution by any means whatsoever is strictly prohibited unless expressly authorised by the author.


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