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Beginning Interpretation

A Few General Observations:

Trumps

A majority of trumps in a spread can signal a particularly significant issue for the querent. He may feel that there are forces at work beyond his control . . . and indeed there may be. In any case, strong forces are at work. The matter in question is an important one. Destiny may hand in the the situation.

Minor Arcana

Court Cards

Generally, many court cards in a reading can show that many people are involved in the querent's question. Also, they can refer to bits of news, messages, or even various or conflicting aspects of the seeker's own personality or attitude.

Card Counting

I find it useful to total the numerical value of all the cards and reduce them to a number from 1 to 10, or 11, or 22. I use a numerological interpretation of the spread as a whole to aid in the interpretation, and to provide focus or confimation.

NOTE: This is my own preferred way of counting. Most readers do not count court cards, which are unnumbered. Also, while I use the Golden Dawn's attributes to determine the numerical value of the royal cards, I don't consistently use their counting system as a whole. In fact, so far as I know, the GD used these royalty card values only in their complex "Opening of the Key" system of card reading, and not to derive a numerological overview of simpler spreads, as I do here. In other words, I've bastardized more than one tradition!

The Numerological Significance of the Numbers

One Unity. Beginning of a cycle. Taking action. Self-consiousness. Change. Something new. Originality. Volition. Will power. Aces. The Magician.
Two Reflection and duplication. Balance, harmony, choice, partnership, sharing. Wisdom, intuition. Twos and the High Priestess.
Three Product of action. Beauty, love, integration. Optimism, children, happiness. Cooperation, growth. Idealization. Creativity, art. Threes and The Empress.
Four Grounding and stability. Reality (as opposed to the idealization signified by 3). Building foundations. Perfection and completion. Turning points and milestones. Organization. Fours and The Emperor.
Five Opposition and strife. War, obstacles. Stability is upset. Reaction. Storm and stress, anger. Tests of strength and fortitude. Fives and Hierophant.
Six Accomplishment. Restored harmony. Centeredness. Justice, reconciliation. Sixes and The Lovers.
Seven Success. Introspection, heightened awareness. Awakened consciousness. Spirituality. Victory. Meditation. Self-control. Sevens and The Chariot.
Eight Order, power, and success, more immediate than long-lasting. Control. Healing. Eights and Strength (or Justice/Adjustment, depending on your deck).
Nine Great force and power. Luck, fate. Intellect, isolation, self-reliance, achievement of goals, endings. Also, illusion. Nines and The Hermit.
Ten Completion. A cusp . . . the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. A matter is determined. Implies the characteristics of Ones (1 + 0 = 1). Tens and The Wheel of Fortune.
Eleven A master number. Spiritual. Artistic, creative. Inspiration, idealism, originality, compassion. Justice/Adjustment (or Strength, depending on the deck you use).
Twenty-Two A master number. Mastery and power--specifically, self-mastery. Large-scale accomplishments. Altruism.

Examples

Let's use some simple spreads to show how this works. In the first spread, we have the following three cards:

Strength, reversed
8 Cups
6 Swords

These cards add up to 8 (Strength) + 8 + 6 = 22

Very broadly speaking, the numerological significance of all the cards suggests that the difficulties denoted by reversed Strength and the 8 Cups may be overcome more through a mastery of self than of one's environment. Also, since 22 further reduces to 4, The seeker may first need to determine what he can do to provide himself with the sort of stable environment he needs to regroup, to reverse the reversed Strength, so to speak.

Here's another example:

This question was asked by a 34-year-old man, Michael. He wanted to know, "What is my future with Dorothy." They had dated somewhat seriously 8 years prior to this question, and subsequently separated and become involved with other people. Michael's recent relationship was over, but Dorothy's ex-boyfriend was still hanging on. I've changed the names to preserve confidentiality. This was a free reading that I did by e-mail, and I used a simple, three-card spread. The cards were:

8 Swords
9 Disk, reversed
Knight of Wands (I was using the Thoth deck, in which the Knight is a King)

The cards add up to 8 + 9 + 4 = 21
21 reduces to 2 + 1 = 3

Three is certainly relevant to matters involving love, and the symbolism is also very apt for a three-sided relationship, which this was. One would expect Cups to be present in a love reading, but none are. Nevertheless, the numerological symbolism confirms the validity of the reading, and so it is safe to proceed. Furthermore, although two of the three cards are problematic, the final card, which in this spread shows how things are likely to progress, is a positive, optimistic card. Perhaps the cards are suggesting that that the seeker adopt the guiding principle of the 3 (love, cooperation, etc.) to resolve the difficulties shown in the 8 Swords and the reversed 9 of Disks. In any case, it would certainly be worth exploring further with the seeker.

Some Golden Dawn Observations

I have not found many of the following generalities to be particularly useful in my own reading, but, then, I have only very rarely employed them in the Golden Dawn's ornate tarot divination scheme called "The Opening of the Key." In any case, here is what the GD has to say, verbatim. It is taken from The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, by Israel Regardie, published by Falcon Press, 1984.

THE GENERAL SIGNIFICATION OF THE MAJORITY OF A PARTICULAR SUIT AND OF THE PARTICULAR SIGNIFICATION OF EITHER 3 OR 4 CARDS OF A SUIT IN A READING

A Majority of Wands: Energy, quarreling, opposition
A Majority of Cups: Pleasure and merriment
A Majority of Swords: Trouble and sadness, sickness, or death
A Majority of Pentacles: Business, money, possessions, etc.
A Majority of Trumps: Forces of considerable strength, but beyond the Enquirer's control
A Majority of Court Cards: Society, meeting with many persons
A Majority of Aces: Strength often; aces are always strong cards
4 Aces: Great power and Force
3 Aces: Riches and Success
4 Kings: Swiftness and rapidity
3 Kings:Unexpected meetings, generally shows news
4 Queens generally: Authority and influence
3 Queens generally: Powerful and influential friends
4 Knights: Meetings with the great
3 Knights: Rank and honour
4 Knaves: New ideas and plans
3 Knaves: Society of the young
4 Tens generally: Anxiety and responsibility
3 Tens generally: Buying, selling, commercial transactions
4 Nines generally:Added responsibility
3 Nines generally: Much correspondence
4 Eights generally: Much news
3 Eights generally: Much journeying
4 Sevens generally: Disappointments
3 Sevens generally: Treaties and contracts
4 Sixes generally: Pleasure
3 Sixes generally: Gain and success
4 Fives generally: Order, regularity
3 Fives generally: Quarrels, fights
4 Fours generally: Rest and peace
3 Fours generally: Industry
4 Threes generally: Resolution and determination
3 Threes generally: Deceit
4 Twos generally: Conference and conversations
3 Twos generally: Reorganization and restarting a thing.

The Golden Dawn also employed some general numerological considerations when defining the cards. These considerations were based on their version of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. For more information about the Golden Dawn in general, you can visit their website. For more information on Qabalah, specifically the Golden Dawn's spin on it, try Mitch's QBL Links Page.

KETHER--ACES

"The first in order and appearance are the four Aces, representing the force of the Spirit acting in and binding together the four scales of each element and answering to the Dominion of the Letters of the Name in the Kether of each. They represent the Radical or Root-Force and are said to be placed on the North Pole of the Universe, wherein they revolve, governing its revolution, and ruling as the connecting link between Yetzirah and Assiah."

CHOKMAH--TWOS

"The Four Twos symbolise the Powers of the King and Queen; first uniting and initiating the Force, but before the Knight and Knave are thoroughly brought into action. Therefore, do they generally imply the initiation and fecundation of a thing."

BINAH--THREES

"The Four Threes, generally, represent the realisation of action owing to the Prince being produced. The central symbol on each card. Action definitely commenced for good or evil.

CHESED--FOURS

"The Four Fours. Perfection, realisation, completion, making a matter setled and fixed."

GEBURAH--FIVES

"The Four Fives. Opposition, strife and struggle; war, obstacle to the thing in hand Ultimate success or failure is otherwise shown."

TIPHARETH--SIXES

"The Four Sixes. Definite accomplishment, and carrying out a matter."

NETZACH--SEVENS

"The Four Sevens. Generally shows a force, transcending the material plane, and is like unto a crown which is indeed powerful but requireth one capable of wearing it. The Sevens then show a possible result which is dependent on the action then taken. They depend on the symbols that accompany them."

HOD--EIGHTS

"The Four Eights. Generally show solitary success; i.e., success in the matter for the time being, but not leading to much result apart from the thing itself."

YESOD--NINES

"The Four Nines. Generally they show very great fundamental force. Executive power, because they rest on a firm basis, powerful for good or evil."

MALKUTH--TENS

"The Four Tens. Generally show fixed culminated completed Force, whether good or evil. The matter thoroughly and definitely determined. Similar to the force of the Nines, but ultimating it, carrying it out. These are the meanings in the most general sense."