Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tarot by the Numbers: The Two's

I have a very conflicted relationship with numbers. I'm hopeless with math but I can do symbolism. That may seem a contradictory statement, for what are numbers but abstract symbols themselves? I can grasp the conceptual meaning of the symbols easily, but for some reason I will add 2 + 2 and come up with 5. Hey, that's just me thinking outside the box, ok? Numbers and their symbolism inform a great deal about the meaning of tarot, and there is very little, if any, mathematical skill necessary to understand them. While the suits each have their attributes, so do each number.

There's a whole field of spiritual and divinatory study called Numerology that goes well beyond the realm of tarot. However, tarot numerology differs in some ways from what has been developed in Numerology numerology. In Tarot, we primarily keep the symbolic meanings of the numbers in mind as a reference to sorting out the meaning of the cards. Understanding these symbolic numerical associations becomes more critical when working with non-scenic pip decks, such as the Marseilles-based decks, where pictured on the card may simply be 4 cups or 7 swords and not much else to go on.

The Major Arcana is numbered 0-21 and the Minor Arcana is numbered 1 (or Ace)-10 in each of the four suits. Each of the Minor numbers are associated with a Major. For example, as we take a look at the Two's in Tarot, they all connect in some way to the Major Arcana II -- The High Priestess. Each number also has a planetary association, so there's some crossover with Astrology here as well.

The number two first and foremost represents dualism which is the existence of two fundamental principles, concepts, things or energies, that are in opposition to each other. It is where thought begins to actually take form. Human minds are geared towards seeing the relationships between two things, usually opposite things. We often express ourselves in this way, using opposing concepts to get at what we mean. We say something is good/bad, light/dark, male/female, sweet/sour. It is said we could not know happiness if not for having experienced its opposite, sadness. So, in that way two's represent that dichotomy of thought that allows coherent expression of the initial idea begun in the Aces.

The planetary association of the number two is the Moon. This is also the heavenly body associated with The High Priestess, Major Arcana II, isn't that nifty? The High Priestess is the feminine energy that acts as mediator between two opposing things. She is all about the duality thing. She is able to find peace in ambivalence, between holding two opposite ideas at once and recognizing that they can both be true. She doesn't live in Either/Or Land, but in the margins, the grey areas, the I-can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it-but-I-know-it's-true places. Each of the four two's in the Minor Arcana show an aspect of this dualism and mediation between two things.

Because the High Priestess is passive energy, the two's in tarot often show a time of waiting, deciding, balancing, weighing, discerning. There is a time of recognition in the two's, of seeing what is the same and what is different, of comparing and contrasting. The focus of this time depends on the suit designation.

The Two of Swords represents the attempt to reconcile two opposing thoughts or arguments. There are some people who are very black and white in their thinking. They are uncomfortable with the ambivalence and processing that is required to sift through the opposing sides and arguments and simply decide their position based on what they already think and have previously decided. For them, the time spent in the two of swords place is brief. Others spend a long time weighing the arguments, considering the evidence, deliberating, debating, and thinking about how to reconcile the two rather than choose either/or. This also brings up the association of the two's with Justice. In many decks Justice is numbered eleven which, when reduced (1 + 1 = 2 -- ohmygod, there is math involved!) is two. The Two of Swords is more closely associated with Justice because of the imagery of the sword. As Justice also wields a sword, deliberates, balances, and decides, so the Two of Swords represents that decision-making time.

While the two's often show a division between opposing things, they can also show a cooperation and mutuality between two things, people, or ideas. The Two of Cups in particular portrays this aspect of the meaning of the number two very well. The Two of Cups displays the image of a couple in love, but it by no means is limited to this one experience. The Two of Cups represents the merging of emotions. One might say it reconciles opposite emotions and brings them together so rather than compete with one another, they compliment each other. To use the example of the new lovers, the competing emotions of nervousness and comfortableness co-exist in the meeting. Butterflies in the stomach flutter while at the same time you feel drawn to one another. Emotional discomfort plus emotional attraction. Likewise, the image shows two people, often a man and a woman, opposites, merging together and drinking from each others cups. Therefore, the Two of Cups represents the harmonious union of two opposites on an emotional (cups) level.

The Two of Wands is in some ways similar to the Two of Swords in that there is a decision-making process going on, but with Wands the decisions are more action-oriented. The choices are fairly equal but one will yield the best result. The problem is, you can't have it both ways. You have to decide which action or course you will throw your efforts behind else not accomplish anything at all. There is a sense of power in the Two of Wands, of confidence and ability, unlike the Two of Swords which seriously does not want to make the decision but would rather maintain a tenuous peace between opposing arguments. The Two of Wands recognizes, eyes wide open, that the choice must be made and it's just a matter of feeling which one you're more passionate about, which action will yield the best result, which idea has more potential. The friction between them is usually because they're both good ideas but because they are opposing, you only have the resources to achieve one of them.

The Two of Pentacles brings in the aspect of the two that is balance between opposites. Like the Two of Swords, the figure isn't interested so much in choosing between the options but trying to balance them indefinitely. This might be the person juggling two jobs, or full-time work and school. His hands are most definitely full and it's not an easy task to balance these two things, but both are priorities to him so he's giving it his best tap dance to keep both things in the air. Conflicts are a given, but he's confident he can manage them.

However, two's are unstable and tense with polarity. They represent the small beginnings, not accomplishment. They are the time between beginning and taking the first steps to actual creation. Two's are a time when you think a lot, feel a lot, make up your mind, but nothing substantial has yet happened. Also, there's only so long you can remain in that tense state. Burning the candle at both ends, as in the Two of Pentacles, or sitting in the middle of an idealogical fence, as in the Two of Swords, has a rather short duration. The Two of Cups loses its shiny rather quickly as anyone who has fallen in love can attest to, and the eagerness of the go-getter in the Two of Wands won't waste too much time planning because he wants to see his ideas come to fruition.

DruidCraft Tarot By Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington Published by Connections 2004Hudes Tarot Deck by Susan Hudes Published by US GamesCopyright 1995Rohrig TarotCopyright Rohrig & Marzana-Fritz, Bluestar CommunicationsVictoria Regina Tarot copyright © 2000 Sarah Ovenall


Roswila said...

Nice start to this series, Sophia. I, too, am almost enumerate. (Balance my check book? Say what!?) But love paying attention to the numbers in The Tarot. I did study numerology many years back and even tried my hand at numerology charts. (I'd offer my Tarot clients a numerology chart as part of the "deal.") But there was ultimately just too much math involved and no pictures! I.e., it wasn't Tarot. LOL! But it did give me the underpinnings for relating to The Tarot's numbers. As you are doing in this fine series....

KH said...

Thanks for the post! I have been struggling with a "this or that" situation and not understanding why the Two of Swords and Two of Pentacles keep showing up together.

RChMI said...

"The planetary association of the number two is the Moon."...... hhmmm.

Interesting association, but it really doesn't square up with the planetary attributions of all the individual 2 cards (2W=Mars, 2C=Venus, 2S=Moon, 2P=Jupiter) or the numerical association of the Moon which is 9. Neither does it correlate to the aspect of Kings governing the 2s, nor the connection of the High Priestess between that of 1 and 6 on the Tree... But still interesting nonetheless. :)

Ginny said...

It depends on the system you're referencing. Most magickal or Qabballist systems associate the Moon with 9, but other astrology systems associate it with 2. I found it interesting that they did as it matches up with II High Priestess which is also governed by the Moon. So it was a nifty tidbit, but if that's not the correspondence you work with, by all means toss it.

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