Uh-One and uh-Two and uh- . . .

What activity can get you tossed out of a casino, but can give you tons of information in a Tarot spread? Why, counting cards of course.

If you’re at a blackjack table and the management suspects you of counting cards, you could very well be escorted unceremoniously off the premises by large men with names like Vinnie and Rocco (for example, remember 21?). But, use counting in a Tarot spread, and a new world of interpretation opens up. The practice was a standard with the Golden Dawn, and it has been carried on with organizations that have evolved therefrom, such as B.O.T.A.

Warning: this technique is not for beginners, but for those readers with a comfortable familiarity with spreads and interpretation.

First off, you need to know the code. In the minor Arcana: 2’s through 10’s count as their face value; aces count 11 (beginning of a new cycle of ten) or 5 (the fifth element, quintessence), depending on the spread; court cards count 4 (for the base elements), though Pages count 7 (messengers of the Elohim, the “Seven who stand before the Throne”).

The major Arcana are a different matter entirely. It depends on their associations. Here goes, so hang on: Those associated with astrological signs count 12 (Emperor, Hierophant, Lovers, Chariot, Strength, Hermit, Justice, Death, Temperance, Devil, Star, Moon); most associated with the planets count 9 (Magician, High Priestess, Empress, Wheel of Fortune, Tower, Sun, World); while those associated with the “Mother letters” of the Hebrew alphabet, even though these cards are associated with planets, count 3 (Fool, Hanged Man, Judgement).

See now why it’s not for beginners? Anyway, here’s how it works. Take any spread you prefer, though the process works best with spreads that have at least six cards (to keep it interesting). After the usual interpretation, take the cards and arrange them in a circle. Start at the first card as is recognized by the spread. Always start any count by counting the card you are on as 1. For instance, if the first card you count from is the Six of Wands, start the count with this card as 1. Then count in the order of the cards of the spread until you reach 6. This is a card of importance to the Six of Wands and should be interpreted within the sense of the Six of Wands. Taking that new card as 1, count its value and interpret the card landed on, etc. Since the cards are in a circle, eventually you will land on a card that has been landed on before. This signals the end of the cycle, and the count. However, this card assumes greater importance, having been touched twice.

Side note – In ten-card spreads, like the Celtic Cross, count Aces as 5 instead of 11, since counting them as 11 will always cause them to count back to themselves.

Sound confusing? Lay out some cards and give it a try. You can also count in the opposite direction to gain “the other side of the coin,” for a reading.

And don’t feel limited. You don’t have to start at the first card of a spread. After all, this is a circle of cards. Say a particular card has caught your attention. That could be the starting point for a new layer of exploration. The possibilities are endless, as are the opportunities for depth in a reading. It proves immensely satisfying for both the reader and the querent.

All I can say is that this entire process goes to show what we’ve already known about Tarot readings. Every card counts. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

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