Tarot and Dice

For a while now, I’ve been combining dice rolls with my tarot spreads as a way to obtain a second opinion on the outcome, especially when the question is of the yes-or-no type. (Here is my most recent effort: https://parsifalswheeldivination.com/2017/08/20/the-double-whammy-yes-or-no-spread/.) I thought I was onto something until I read the very first page of the Major Arcana section of the Guide to the Pythagorean Tarot by John Osopaus. There I learned (although I already knew it in a vague way) that dice – and also “knucklebones” or astragali – were used extensively for games of chance prior to the introduction of playing cards to Europe in the 14th Century. I didn’t know that dice were the source of common playing-card terms like “Ace” and “Deuce.”

Although there are only 10 tarot pips rather than 12, I find that the six-sided dice square quite nicely with the ten-card minor sets of the tarot; the meaning of the numbers eleven and twelve can be tracked down in Henry Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, and beyond twelve (or beyond ten, for that matter) the smaller numbers that comprise the total can be treated as separate entities whose meanings can be blended for interpretation. Joseph Maxwell’s numerological study of isomorphs (different sets of two numbers that add up to the same number – for example, both 5 + 6 and 7 + 4 both equal 11) in his book The Tarot may be the definitive source for these considerations outside of mathematical textbooks.

I compiled a set of definitions for the range of possible single and double dice rolls from several sources, and use the meanings as either an adjunct to the outcome card or as a positional clarifier rather than pulling more tarot cards. A decision the reader or spread designer must make is whether to use one die or two dice for the clarifying roll; in a 12-month spread, I use a single die for the first six months and two dice for the last six.

Here is the list:

One spot: The beginning of something.

Two spots: A period of give-and-take.

Three spots: A period of growth or progress.

Four spots: A period of consolidation.

Five spots: A period of challenge or upset.

Six spots: A period of harmony restored.

Seven spots: A new direction or test.

Eight spots: A period of adjustment or anxiety.

Nine spots: A period of re-centering or reconciliation.

Ten spots: A period of rest and relative inactivity.

Eleven spots: A period of renewed trial and striving.

Twelve spots: A period of redemption or regeneration.

These meanings come primarily from the Tree of Life by way of Aleister Crowley, with minor input from Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. They aren’t related to the “lucky number” form of pop numerology.

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