Court and Minor Cards as Allies to the Major Arcana

The appeal of systematically aligning the cards of the Minor Arcana with the Major Arcana has engaged many thinkers on the tarot, and a number of schemes have been proposed, most with a numerical or hierarchical root. Attempts along these lines have been made by James Wanless (Voyager Tarot) and Elizabeth Hazel (The Tarot Decoded). One of the more workable is the system of Chaldean “decans” applied by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but it only includes the twelve “zodiacal trumps.” Another method is the “pips-as-trumps” arrangement used by some Tarot de Marseille practitioners, but that only works for trump cards up to the Wheel of Fortune. I have prepared another paper offering an alternative solution to the latter. But the focus here is primarily on the court cards.

Much less attention has been paid to similarly aligning the “trump” cards and those of the tarot “court.” One dilemma with any such arrangement is that the math doesn’t work very well. There are 22 trumps and only 16 court cards; even adding the Aces as a higher order of “pip” card only brings the total to 20. In addition, there is no symmetrically persuasive web of numerical or hierarchical correspondences between the two ranks of cards.

Recently, while performing a reading for a client, I encountered the Emperor and the King of Wands in the same spread, in positions that implied a hierarchical evolution (actually a “devolution” since the Emperor preceded the King). I told the client that the King of Wands looked like the “little brother” or emissary of the Emperor, and brought the more exalted energy of the trump card into the realm of practical expression. I got thinking about how this idea might fit with the rest of the trumps and court cards. The next obvious connection was between the High Priestess and her “little sister,” the Queen of Cups.

I was on a roll, quickly noting the sympathetic natures of several trumps and courts, mainly in terms of elemental quality, polarity and modal “fraternity” (father/son; mother/daughter). I made a few judgment calls regarding the relative “maturity” of some of the courts and their associated Major Arcana “parents.” In the end, I arrived at several assignments on the basis of exigency – all of the obvious matches had been made and there were still a few open slots. The rest of the court cards had to go somewhere! Even then, the “number gap” proved a barrier to complete success.

I decided to bring in the four Aces to pair with the three primal “element” cards and the World – Fire (Ace of Wands/Judgment), Water (Ace of Cups/Hanged Man), Air (Ace of Swords/Fool) and Earth (Ace of Pentacles/World). So far so good, but there were still two outliers – the Wheel of Fortune and Temperance, which frankly seemed a little too abstract and universal to pin down to a “personality type.” Since both of the remaining trumps were associated with elemental Fire, I figured a Fire pip of the correct caliber would be a suitable workaround (what the computer geeks used to call a “kludge”).

I had recently encountered the idea of the Greek “perfections:” the numbers Three, Six and Nine. Due to their titles in the Golden Dawn and Thoth systems, I settled on the 6 of Wands (Victory) for the Wheel of Fortune and the 9 of Wands (Strength) for Temperance (although “tempering” was usually aimed at increasing the toughness and durability of a metal rather than its tensile strength).

The last thing I did was integrate my personal take on placement of the modern planets – Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – since the usual arrangement never satisfied me. But this was simply for completeness and had no effect on the stated goal of this effort. Finally, as Monty Python might have said, I was “done, done, done, done, done and done!” There is much to chew on in the accompanying table. Some of it is decidedly “kludge-y” at best, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Trump Card Allies

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