Counterparts and the Tarot de Marseille

This tableau presents the Tarot de Marseille in a matched arrangement of numerological and archetypal counterparts that provides a condensed “snapshot” of the model I’ve been exploring in detail with the Waite-Smith deck. This layout shows the pre-eminence of the first nine numbered trump cards (the Fool as zero is a non-participant in this model), which form the “primaries” around which the counterpart structure is built. The trump cards in the tiers below devolve into these nine “root” numbers through “theosophical reduction” (addition of their digits). The similarly-linked pip and court cards are stacked rather than spread out, with the cards on top displaying the same element as the primary trump card from which they derive. Nine is the last “perfect” number in the Pythagorean series because the Ten can be reduced to One by addition of its digits; thus La Roue de Fortune becomes a reflection of Le Bateleur along with the suit-card Tens. The rest of the higher-numbered cards can be correlated to One through Nine in the same manner.

The counterpart cards in the first column on the left, focused around the Le Bateleur, are all expressions of “one-ness,” either directly or by numerological reduction; those in the second column around La Papesse represent “two-ness; and so forth up to
L’ Hermite and its depiction of “nine-ness.” Le Soleil (XVIIII = 1+9 = 10; 1+0 =1); Le Jugement (XX = 2+0 = 2); and Le Monde (XXI = 2+1 =3) form the second tier of numerological counterparts. The geometric conventions of Pythagorean number theory (the point, the line, the plane, the solid) can be introduced  as a way to create an underlying metaphysical coherence that goes beyond the customary meanings ascribed to the cards.

This design also brings together trump cards that are not normally associated with one another in the course of interpretation, lending nuance to their relationship. I have compared some of these connections in previous posts. Not all of them are intuitively obvious and will require some thought. For example, we might have some fun with this: L’ Hermite, although esoterically associated with “well-grounded” Virgo, could be seen here as the “illusion of wisdom” because the figure is figuratively “standing in quicksand” with the Moon beneath his feet. The Charioteer, through his unchecked hubris, could be – to steal a Molly Hatchet song title – “flirtin’ with disaster” if he underestimates the instability of the Tower. (But don’t quote me on any of that!)


2 thoughts on “Counterparts and the Tarot de Marseille

  1. I’m one of the few who sunscribes to the unpopular practice of theosophical reduction with tarot. Tarot lends itself well to multiple theories and applications, which is part of its mystique I guess.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also find it useful in many ways, but a few years ago someone on Aeclectic Tarot mentioned “casting out nines,” which can bring the calculation down to zero, something that can’t happen with normal reduction. If one doesn’t fit the context of the reading, I will try the other, and sometimes I will look at both for a “tiered” perspective.


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