Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tarot By The Numbers: The Sevens

Sevens in Tarot once again bring conflict and choice, but this go round involves less something from the outside happening to you, but your own actions and impulses create the change, cause the ruckus, because you have some silly notion inside you that prompts this. You are the one agitating here, but not for no reason. Sevens take a stand based on an unseen but strongly felt inner truth.

Seven is historically a mystical number. Its mythological and symbolic use is broad and deep. Many different religions and cultures view seven as spiritual, lucky, and very significant. It is the number of the philosopher, sage, and wisdom seeker. When a seven appears in any fashion, you can understand there is more going on under the surface that involves the spiritual, faith, and esoteric realms. Seven is an enigma and as such is difficult to define. It's like the faith it symbolizes: you know it when you feel it.

Some of its significance stems from the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations, which identified seven planets and framed seven days of the week around them. Very early among Middle Eastern peoples, seven became known as a "perfect" number, symbolic of completeness and goodness. Not "perfect" mathematically like the six, but symbolizing perfection and as such is often attributed to God. In the Bible, God rested on the seventh day because his work of creation was complete, entire, perfect. Thus seven represents this perfect completeness and also it represents rest, as in the rest that is taken from work. It is from this same word that the Sabbath, the day of rest comes. In Judaism, every seven years a year of Jubilee is celebrated as well as a Sabbatical year once every seven. The "Counting of the Omer" leading up to the giving of the Torah is expressed as "7 times 7 weeks." In Christianity, likewise, the number seven continues to be significant. It is the number of churches of Asia to which the "Book of Revelation" is addressed, the number of Deadly Sins and Virtues, the number of terraces of Mount Purgatory (one per deadly sin), the number of sacraments in the Roman Catholic faith, the number of heads of the beast of the Book of Revelation, and the number of seals on The Book of Life. Jesus says to Peter to forgive seventy times seven times indicating an unlimited number of times, but also that it is the spiritual thing to do.

The number seven is important to the belief system and cyclical view of time held by the Ismaili Shi'a Muslim sect, also known as the Seveners. In Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, ascetics model their sevenfold path to enlightenment after the Prophet Muhammad's Ascension into the seven heavens. The number seven turns up time and again in rite of passage ceremonies to protect oneself from evil spirits. For example, a wedding ritual in Pakistan involves seven happily married wives touching the bride's wedding dress to ensure a happy marriage. It is the number of Archangels according to some systems, the minor symbol number of yang from the Taoist yin-yang, the number of palms in an Egyptian Sacred Cubit, the number of ranks in Mithraism, and in Buddhism, Buddha walked seven steps at his birth.

Seven represents the union of man and woman, since the number for women is four and the number for men is three. The triangle represents woman and the element fire and the square represents man and the element earth. The esoteric symbol of the merged triangle and square represents the union of spirit (fire) and matter (earth). Therefore, sevens deal with the esoteric, scholarly aspects of magic and is representative of the search for understanding through research and the active seeking of esoteric knowledge. Sevens deal with the activation of imagination and of manifesting results in our lives through the use of conscious thought and awareness.

So what does all this woo woo spiritual stuff have to do with the Major Arcana VII The Chariot? Though not immediately apparent in the willful, focused drive and energy of the charioteer, the esoteric symbolism in The Chariot illustrates the connections. The Chariot is Netzach on the Tree of Life, Victory, the seat of occult intelligence. Netzach's element is fire. If you draw a line from the charioteer's hands to his crown, and from hand to hand, you form the upright triangle of Fire. This rests on the square face of the Chariot itself, so that the complete figure is a triangle atop a square. This symbol is 3 + 4 or 7 and the union of Spirit and Matter.

The number seven represents experience and/or feeling. The experience of the Seven is purely experiential. This is experience as it happens, before any logical processing takes place. We can associate this feeling with The Chariot's fast pace and focus as he rushes to his destination. This is a card of doing because of feelings, both the feelings that prompts one to action and the feelings one experiences while acting. But like the Chariot, the minor pips in Tarot have their pitfalls, too. Single-minded focus and forceful action can be incredibly useful and successful but sometimes that Chariot is a bit like a hit and run driver, mowing down whoever gets in his way. Acting on inner conviction tends to carry with it a very strong impulse and drive but sometimes also a too-narrow focus and mindset.

The Seven of Swords is a card rather disliked by many readers. This is the "thief" card, the one who steals your possessions, your ideas, or even your heart. This one is sneaky and calculating. Where's the mysticism in this card? What's so lofty or spiritual about this guy? Sevens are rather solitary action cards, in that the seeker is acting upon deeply held beliefs of their own. Our spiritual quest is, ultimately, a solitary one and the sevens depict figures engaging in thought, action, feelings and ponderings that are unique to themselves. In this card, the main figure has decided to act upon a plan that he devised and is carrying out on his own. Whether the action is ultimately just or unjust isn't clear from the card. He could be reclaiming what is rightfully his, or he could be stealing outright. He is engaging in some dangerous activity, though, which is a primary reason he's keeping this all to himself. This is sometimes called the Lone Wolf card because of his acting apart from the group, keeping his thoughts to himself, maybe behaving a bit oddly. He believes he knows what's best and will do it whether he has support or not from others. He takes his own counsel, wise or not.

The Seven of Cups is the dreamer card, the fantasies and temptations of what could be dance before the mind's eye. The emotional pull of these images is strong and can heavily influence one's reality even though the things themselves are not of this world. These are one's imaginings, even illusions, or possibly delusions. Sevens are very much about feelings and experiences, so the seven of cups depicts the strong emotional pull of the unseen and imagined possibilities. As a mystical card it can represent the visionary, the dreamer, the act of envisioning one's reality beforehand in order to manifest it. In such work it is imperative to both see oneself in the chosen reality and feel the emotions attendant with that wish in order to manifest the actual reality. However, this card also represents a choice that needs to be made in order to focus ones thoughts and actions. If there are too many choices, if one's emotions are equally scattered among the options it is more than likely none of them will come to pass and you will remain only a wisher or a dreamer. This card sometimes reminds me of the phrase, "Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good." While there's nothing wrong with daydreaming or fantasizing and in fact its healthy, one who merely dreams and one who pursues a dream have very different lives.

The Seven of Wands reminds me of a rebel, a freedom fighter, a revolutionary. Here is someone who, against all opposition, and they outnumber him, stands up for what he believes. Once again, this card captures not only the solitary essence of the sevens but also the experiential act that follows strong feeling. When we see someone take on a challenge like this we say such a one has "spirit." This is a reflection of the spiritual seven, the spirit inside that drives one to, some would say, extremes. This card usually bodes very well for the lone fighter and indicates that if you should find yourself in a similar situation you will most likely prevail. Most decks depict the figure standing on higher ground symbolizing that he has the higher moral stance and that gives him an advantage. This is also the "walk your talk" card. Philosophizing and talking about one's beliefs and understanding of spiritual things is one thing, but where the rubber meets the road is when those same beliefs are challenged, when its hard to live by them because others don't accept you or berate you for them. Standing out in a crowd can be difficult, but in order to give your faith feet and bring it into reality, you must act on it or it's nothing more than, well, seven of cups.

The Seven of Pentacles may not seem very sevenish, in that it deals with work and material things, but we must remember that seven is the union of spirit and matter and each of the sevens in tarot do reflect an aspect of that union. In this seven, the focus is on goals and plans based on both one's dreams and one's material circumstances. It is in this card that one assigns "worth" to an endeavor, both in material and spiritual terms. For what does it matter if you have all the riches you desire if you are abjectly miserable doing what it is you're doing to create that wealth? In some ways this is the "meaning of life" card in that it represents an evaluation process that measures one's work against an inner sense of satisfaction. The seven's dreamer aspect is evident here as the figure weighs his accomplishments against his own goals and dreams and contemplates various possibilities. As the suit is pentacles, the focus is primarily on what can be accomplished with the material resources one has and is producing and how to use those resources to follow one's dreams and desires. This card brings those seven of cups dreams down to earth to reasonably consider what is actually feasible given the raw material you have to work with.

Sevens connect us spiritually to the forces we know exist but cannot see, both within us and without. They inspire and drive us in many powerful ways, which is why there are many pitfalls within each of them. The seven of swords could be up to no good, the seven of cups dangerously delusional, the seven of wands may be in for a thrashing, and the seven of pentacles just might foolishly throw all his cash away on some get rich quick scam, but these cards all get their energy from The Chariot whose will and focus derives from a powerful inner conviction. It's better to stand for something, live what you believe, and chase your dreams with enthusiasm. The charioteer is well aware of the risks, but the ride is worth it. Now that's living.


The Gilded Tarot
by Ciro Marchetti Copyright 2004 Published by Llewellyn Worldwide

Tarot of Durer by Giacinto Gaudenzi Tarot Deck Published by Lo Scarabeo 2002
DruidCraft Tarot By Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington Published by Connections 2004
The Hudes Tarot Deck by Susan Hudes US Games. Printed in Belgium.

5 comments:

bssc23public said...

Fascinating analysis. I can see the seven of Pentacles sending his bank account number to someone in Nigeria since it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Ginny said...

LOL! That's a perfect example of one of the pitfalls of that card. :) Thanks for the laugh today.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ginny,
Very nice blog, you are fantastic, I read it everyday since I discovered it. Today I`ve read about no seven and there is smth here I find unaccurate. You say: "Seven represents the union of man and woman, since the number for women is four and the number for men is three. The triangle represents woman and the element fire and the square represents man and the element earth." What I don`t understand is if the number for woman is no 4 how the triangle could represent the woman? Maybe you did a mistake? Thanks, Estelle

Ginny said...

Hi Estelle -- I should have stated more clearly in that sentence that I was referring to early alchemical and Pythagorean theory. Pythagoreans attributed masculine elements to the odd numbers and feminine to the even numbers, 3 for a man and 4 for woman. Interestingly, that is reversed in tarot where 3 is the number of the Empress and 4 is the number of the Emperor. But the geometric symbol on the Chariot is alchemical, and even though numerically a triangle is 3 and a square is 4, the shapes themselves have the opposite associations. In this article I was blending all the various information from the different systems. Triangle for man and Square for woman is distinctly alchemical.

Andrea Pluhar said...

I'm a noob, so bear with me. :-)

I'm looking at the Chariot and I understand not only from your post but from other sources that this card is and active card- the Charioteer is a skilled rider who rushes into action, etc. But when I look at the Rider Waite version of this card this rider looks like he's stuck in a block of cement and his steed- the Sphinxes look very much like they are hunkering down with their tails between thier paws. Further more they have no harness, and the Charioteer has no reins.

Puzzling over this,

Peace,

A.

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