Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tarot By The Numbers: The Sixes

Sixes in tarot are a welcome relief after the disruptive, conflicting adrenaline-pumping fives. Sixes restore harmony to the chaos, they offer comfort, nurturing, sympathy, and healing to those battered by the losses of the fives as well. Sixes are the kudos you deserve, the solace you need, the balm on your wounds.

Six is the number of the Major Arcana card VI The Lovers and it represents all the qualities of a secure, loving relationship such as harmony, beauty, nurturing, love, marriage, family, responsibility, understanding, sympathy, healing, empathy, perfection, order, duty, comfort, and service. Even its shape is soft and beautiful, its form is a continuous curve without angle, without line. It is almost a spiral, going towards infinity.

Six is both the sum (1 + 2 + 3) and the product (1 x 2 x 3) of the first three numbers. It is therefore considered “perfect.” In mathematics, a perfect number is one that equals the sum of its divisors (excluding itself), and 6 is the first perfect number in this sense because its divisors are 1, 2, and 3.

In alchemy, the upright triangle represents fire, and the upside-down triangle is the symbol for water. Together they symbolize the unity of opposites. The hexagram is seen in the Seal of Solomon, and this symbol is often used in ceremonial magick. It has been adopted as the national symbol of Israel and is a common symbol in Judaism, as there was a 6-pointed star on the shield that David carried to battle Goliath. Another version is the Unicursal Hexagram devised by the Golden Dawn in order to create a six-pointed star symbol in one movement rather than two. Qabbalistically, six represents Tiphareth, or "beauty."

In Western Astrology, Virgo is the sixth astrological sign of the Zodiac with Mercury being the natural ruler of the sixth house. A key word for the sixth house would be "duty" and this is also implied in the commitment shown in The Lovers. However, in Vedic Astology the Moon rules the sixth house and Taurus would be a natural there. Either way, the sixth house characterizes work, service given, health, diet, hygiene, clothing, employment and personal habits. There is a lot of giving in the sixes and attempts to create a nurturing, healthy environment for oneself and especially for others. In numerology, the energy of number six exudes the qualities of nurturing and caring. It is unselfish, philanthropic, compassionate, and kind. It is intimately associated with the concept of family, and as such values balance and even-handedness. It offers sympathy, advice, understanding, and plays the sounding board for commiseration when needed. These qualities can be seen in each of the four suit sixes in Tarot and their association with both The Lovers and The Devil should be kept in mind.

The Six of Swords often evokes a sense of sadness with the hunched, shrouded woman and her child alone on a journey across the water. The ferryman could be her husband or he could just be someone kind enough to give them safe passage. The movement in this card suggests transition, a time between the changing event of the five and the start of something different. The swords are carried along with the figures in the boat and so one could assume that the lessons and thought processes that were acquired in the five are taken with them on their journey forward. It is during this time that the internal chaos of the five is assimilated but not yet ready to be put to use. The compassion and giving of the sixes can be seen in the ferryman who is moving the pair along to where they need to go. One may imagine the conversation between him and the woman, his heart going out to her in her need and offering to lend a helping hand. As such, when the mind is reeling a bit from a recent conflict, the six of swords brings a sense of solace and an understanding that, while you may not be where you want to be yet, there are others that can help you get there as you sort out the gains and losses in your mind. The boat glides over the waters, in some places rough and in other places smooth. The water represents the emotions attendant with the thoughts and words you carry with you and the boat is the safe place in which to observe those emotions without being engulfed by them. This card suggests moving to a better understanding with the help of others listening and providing a safe emotional space in which you can process. On the other hand, the flip side to this card may be that the ferryman could be taking you to a place not of your own choosing, so it advises being careful to whom you commit your trust to guide you, with whom you share your thoughts. Make sure you know who it is that is taking you and where.

The Six of Cups is one of the sweetest cards in the deck, often featuring an image of children playing sweetly or one bestowing a gift upon another. It's a card of innocence and togetherness with no strings attached. My immediate response to this card is, "Awwww." It evokes a nostalgic wistfulness that transports one to simpler times and experiences. As such, the card has come to be associated with acts of kindness, blessings, just all around sweet exchanges with people you have known. These acts come as welcome relief after the abject emotional loss and grief of the five and make life seem hopeful and sweet again. Its clear association with children also evokes the sense of nurturing and commitment such as the responsibilities one has for children, to care for them, to look after their needs, their health and wellbeing. It can sometimes point to someone behaving childishly or in a naive manner, seeing things through rose-colored glasses and as such has the potential to bring out the dangerous shadow side of the card associated with The Devil. Much as we might tell a child not to accept gifts from strangers lest they be lured into danger, this card shows the sometimes blindly innocent outlook that can possibly lead to trouble. As this card is of the cups suit, it represents emotional giving and sharing, meeting an emotional need through a random, simple, heartfelt gesture. It denotes lifelong friendship, re-acquaintance with an old friend, or even the connection you feel with someone from a past life, if you believe in that.

The Six of Wands applauds a victory and welcomes the conquering hero home. This is the welcome home parade for the Olympic medalists, the war survivors, or the graduate. Here you find the social rewards for your efforts and accomplishment, recognition for your achievement. While the image may seem like the giving is one-sided, it isn't. It's a mutual, reciprocal event. While the one receiving the accolades is having his day in the sun, the crowd also benefits. Society needs heroes, not to worship, but to inspire. When someone accomplishes a great thing, it brings hope and injects enthusiasm for life and shows us that we, too, can aspire to greatness. From the competitive energy of the five, a scene where anything can happen, we now have a clear victor. Whether he was the actual winner of the game or simply being lauded for his accomplishment of making it to that level of competition doesn't matter. A hurdle has been crossed and he's grown from the challenge. The scene usually depicts a horse and rider, and like the Six of Swords, the movement shows this as a time of transition, not a destination. Therefore, while the kudos are welcome and give one a boost, they're supposed to propel one forward to the next level.

The Six of Pentacles moves the desperate folks from the five to either a place where they have recouped their loss to such an extent that, remembering well their own hard times, extend a helping hand to others who are now in that sorry state, or they have humbled themselves and are now willing to accept the help now offered. Either way, it shows the result of the change in material circumstance reflected in the five. The lessons of the loss have been learned, however, as the beneficiary often holds a scale in which he measures his giving. He knows not to overextend his own limitations lest he find himself back at the struggling five himself. In the exchange we see in the six, both parties benefit, both are nurtured, both are blessed. There is something to that old adage that it is more a blessing to give than to receive because it broadens one's heart and sets into motion a freer flowing dynamic that was clogged up in the four. This is part of the reason most religions urge participants to tithe, to donate, to give of themselves and their resources to those in need. You get what you give, in a sense. The four may be stable but becomes walled off from human interaction. The five shows the result of that and with understanding and help, the six is achieved. The shadow of this card can be seen in a relationship in which dependency is fostered rather than independence and self-sufficiency. As the Devil can create co-dependency and addiction, so can the one who gives with an agenda. This can especially be accomplished within this suit when one person is overly dependent on another for material means. While it more often stands for a needed resource or relationship, it can sometimes hint that the dynamic is unequal with one person giving more than the other or not on equal footing in some very real way. While the help would ideally serve to boost the needier one to a more independent level, hence why the giving is "measured," the choices lie with the one receiving how best to utilize the gift. So whether you find yourself identifying with the giver or the recipient, mind how the gift is both given and received. The true nature of a six's intentions are good, but be aware of the dark potential of its shadow side.

Sixes are really nice. They're sweet and kind and generous and offer necessary times of blessing, especially after a hard won lesson, victory, or defeat. Within a six we are appreciated and nurtured, made warm and cozy. Use the time and the blessing wisely and allow it to inspire you to move forward, onwards, and upwards.


Photo Credit: Tom Philo Photography
The Secret Tarot Deck by Marco Nizzoli Published by Lo Scarabeo
The Hudes Tarot Deck by Susan Hudes US Games. Printed in Belgium.
The Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini 1970 Printed by AG Müller and distributed by U.S. Games
The Sharman-Caselli Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke. Illustrated by Giovanni Caselli © 2002 St. Martin's Griffin Press
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