Table of Contents


Tarot Reflections

  May 15, 2003

Essays on Card Numbers - Part Two
Teresa Michelsen, CTM

Teresa Michelsen is a tarot reader and instructor who has been reading and studying tarot for 25 years. She teaches beginning and intermediate tarot courses and workshops on-line, through her Tarot Adventures and Tarot Explorations study groups.

Teresa has published many articles on tarot on the worldwide web and in American Tarot Association publications. Her first book, Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads is now available from Llewellyn, and she is currently working on her second book, The Practical Art of Tarot Reading, which will be published in 2004.

Teresa is a Certified Tarot Master. Her website, Tarot Moon, is a favorite destination of tarot readers who come for her lessons and articles on tarot and fully illustrated examples of completed tarot readings.

Teresa lives near Seattle, Washington with her husband Niels and black cat Shadow. In addition to her tarot activities, she holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering, and works out of her home as an environmental consultant.



After the instability and stress of the Fives, the Sixes bring a welcome feeling of success and having overcome difficulties and obstacles.  After sorrows and travails, joys taste even sweeter, especially since we have worked hard to reach this point.  Now we enter a time of relative stability, but unlike the rigid stability of the Fours, this is a stability in which there is flow and interaction.  I think of the Sixes as being in harmony with the world around us, letting energy flow through, into, and out of us. Here we understand the rewards of giving and are open to the blessings as they return to us in equal measure.  We are no longer rigidly afraid of change nor so unstable that we are out of control, but somewhere in the middle, and the light shines on us in this happy state.

This centered existence is the pivot around which our soul turns, and having once experienced this, we can climb to even greater achievements.  The Fives and the Sevens both have their challenges, but to me the difference is that Fives are often thrust on us when we are not prepared and are not willing to let go of the Fours.  Sevens, on the other hand, are challenges we choose freely, that will lead us to greater maturity and mastery in the end. Without our successful and centered time in the Sixes, we would not be ready to take up the challenge of the Sevens.  Indeed, the Sixes are so wonderful there may be many times when we wish to just stop at this point in the cycle and not move on :).  We cannot really do this, but we can stop and rest for a while, and use this time to recharge, energize, and enjoy life.

Real-life examples of the Sixes:

Wands: getting that job you always wanted and finding that it's a perfect match for your abilities, getting a promotion, receiving recognition for something you deserve and can feel good about, winning through skill or ability, achieving a goal, being a good role model.

Swords:  overcoming fears and looking ahead, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, moving steadily toward a destination of your choice, having your plans in order and the means to carry them out, making good progress after a period of intense difficulty, enjoying the journey.

Cups:  being in harmony with a friend, sibling, or lover, finding a safe and relaxing place, enjoying simple everyday pleasures like gardening or walking, feeling protected, spending quality time with your children, being on vacation, feeling at peace, simplifying your life.

Pentacles:  feeling relaxed about your money, believing and experiencing that the universe will provide for you, feeling the pleasure of sharing your wealth with others, enjoying your possessions without being overly attached to them, being in good health.


One concept of Sevens centers around the idea of challenges, chosen by and for ourselves as part of our path toward personal mastery (the Eights). After the harmonious existence of the Sixes, if we are completely satisfied there, we might never choose to move above that level. Indeed, for many people who achieve success in life, however they choose to define it, they may stay happily in the Sixes and never think of looking beyond their good fortune and where their hard work has brought them.  Others feel an urge, a tug to go beyond anything they have achieved so far and meet a personal challenge.  In life from the Ones through the Sixes, we have been learning to live successfully in the world and reach a harmonious balance with it. From this point on, any further we go is a more personal journey.  In the Sevens, we choose our next challenge to focus on.

The concept of personal choice here is critical.  In the Fives, we are faced with difficulties and challenges that were not of our own choosing and which we are forced to deal with in order to reach the Sixes.  We are often unprepared for the Fives, clinging to the stability of the Fours and refusing to look ahead.  In the Sixes, we are prepared and we can see.  We have reached a point of maturity and capability that allows us to look ahead without fear to new horizons and challenges.  If we think of the primary 7 card in the Major Arcana, we can clearly see this concept.  Here the driver of the Chariot carries with him all the forces he learned to balance in the Sixes - positive/negative, the four elements, the 12 astrological signs, etc.  He starts out with the tools he needs for success, and he chooses to leave his familiar city and go forth on a journey of self-adventure (one can think of the great heroes of Greek mythology and their quests).  This is what the Sevens are about for me.   If he succeeds, he will reach new levels of self-knowledge and mastery in the Eights (Strength) and Nines (Hermit).

Some real-life examples of the Sevens:

Wands: A challenge of personal identity or beliefs.  Coming out of the closet.  Deciding to live according to a personal philosophy that runs against the mainstream.  Defending a doctoral thesis.  Taking on a career that is not well-paid but is important to your belief structure.  Working for change when outnumbered by the system.  Quietly explaining to your Catholic family that you are a Pagan and you plan to read tarot cards for a living.  :)

Swords:  A challenge of ingenuity or ethics.  Taking a calculated risk with a possible significant gain or loss.  Thinking out of the box, coming up with a creative and unorthodox solution to a difficult problem.  Taking a stand on ethical issues in the company or institution that you work for. Knowing when to walk away, even if it means taking a loss, and calmly and maturely making the best of what remains.  Learning to make do with less in order to reach a longer-term goal.

Cups: A challenge of values, emotions, dreams, or desires.  Reaching a point in your life where you feel you can set your own goals and trying to work out what those should be.  Questioning the values you were raised with and deciding for yourself what you believe in.  Beginning to understand what drives your response to other people and your relationships, and learning how to choose positive life partners.  Working through a childhood issue that has been blocking your progress in life.  Giving up unproductive fantasies or dreams and replacing them with dreams and hopes that are realistic and achievable.

Pentacles: A challenge of long-term planning and practicality.  Setting long-term goals for your life and working steadily to achieve them. Learning to value incremental progress over instant gratification.  Learning to have patience with yourself and others.  Saving money for retirement, college fund, or other important purchase.  Buying a home and remodeling it little by little.  Planting a garden that will take 20 years to reach maturity, and taking enjoyment in each small change.  Making a 5-year plan to get an important promotion at work.


The tarot is grouped numerologically into three groups of three, plus the Ten, which is a transitional number.  Each group culminates with a multiple of three - 3, 6, 9.  The Eight is midway through the third group, starting with the Sevens and culminating with the Nines.  Recapping a bit on the Sixes and Sevens - the Sixes are where we find our first real successes in life, and feel in harmony with ourselves, our relationships, and our environment - the pinnacle of the second group of three.  In the Sevens, we set ourselves a higher challenge - we choose to work on some aspect of our self or a major project that will take us to a higher level.  Unlike some of the earlier challenges we face in the numerological journey, the Sevens are consciously chosen.  They represent a graduation or initiation and a step forward in determining our individuality and life purpose, similar to the concepts associated with the Chariot.

The Eights represent the mastery and accomplishments for which we are aiming.  Once we have defended our ideas, made mature choices about our values and relationships, evaluated our ethical boundaries and willingness to take risks, and established a long-term plan (all Sevens), we begin to see these steps create results.  In the Eights, we have reached a position of strength and maturity.  Eights are a doubling of the Fours, almost like building another story on top of a firm foundation - very stable and solid (hopefully not too much like a Tower!).  At this point, we do not only live in the world, we begin to shape our environment and our reality to resemble our personal vision.  The Eights can be associated with the Strength card in the Major Arcana.  After passing the tests, breaking free and moving forward on sheer will alone (Chariot), we come to exist with a deep personal strength that arises from setting and meeting our own challenges, facing our fears and darker side, and becoming a master of ourselves.

In the Eights, we are not resting on our laurels or enjoying the fruits of our accomplishments (that would be the Nines), but we are still actively engaged in the exciting project that we began in the Sevens.  Right now our world revolves around what we are doing and we are reaching new heights and depths.  We may be acknowledged as an expert or master by the outside world, or it may be entirely internal, but in the Eights, we know who we are and what we are doing.

Some examples of the specific cards:

Wands:  Here we have successfully defended our ideas or concept and it is all coming together for us.  The resources are flying in to do what we need to do, communication is building, activity is bustling to make happen what we believe in and have envisioned.  Any minute now, these ideas will come down to earth and be materialized into something substantial that can be presented to others.  Imagine a business-man putting together a deal that will create a new company or launch a new product, or perhaps an architect who sees her revolutionary design for a bridge or building rise into the skyline.  An artist gathers musicians from all over the world and launches a successful album that crosses over into new markets.  A woman joins the Peace Corps and finds a way to bring together resources that provide water to an impoverished African village.

Pentacles:  A person reaches a deep level of mastery in a particular talent or area.  In this card, I see the master-craftsman, the woodworker, the musician.  A talent honed by long practice, a deep love of the tools and materials with which he/she works, and a level of earned ability that goes beyond what they have been taught by others.  Whether a brick-layer, a tailor or a senior engineer, this person is rock-solid in their ability and sense of self-worth and their identity strongly resonates with their hands and how they use them.  They may teach, but more often serve as a quiet role model for others who learn by doing and apprenticing.

Cups:  A person, having decided what they truly value in the Sevens, begins to actually live their values and takes steps to change their life.  Many things may have to be left behind and few taken, even friends and family on occasion, but the journey into self under the Moon of the subconscious is paramount.  This is the person who walks the walk and talks the talk, and leaves behind hypocrisy or half-formed, equivocal values systems.  Perhaps he gives up his automobile and heats his home solely on renewable energy sources.  Perhaps she leaves behind a husband she no longer loves or shares values with and looks for new companions in life.  Perhaps after many long years of soul-searching, a person changes their religion to one they truly believe in.  After the change, the person lives much more comfortably in the world, without the constant pressure of a lifestyle that doesn't match one's beliefs.

Swords:  This is probably the hardest card to fit into the Eight concept, based on the picture alone.  If the Sevens present an ethical or risk-based challenge to your ideas or attitudes, in the Eights we are struggling to throw off the last bit of doubt, hesitation, or obstacles.  All of these are in our minds, and here at least all Eight Swords are within easy reach - not falling out of our hands as they were in the Sevens.  The mastery in this card is in realizing that we can - it is mastery over our minds and self-doubts.  We do have the mental tools to accomplish our objectives, they are gathered all around and are even relatively well-organized.  We just need to believe in ourselves enough to see it.  The minute we do this, we will be able to use our minds as we wish to, make the connections we have been searching for, solve problems, and generate new ideas.  The Eight of Swords once the obstacles are passed represents the senior scientist who runs his lab with confidence that new discoveries will be made each year, the author who now has several books published and can feel secure that she really has a career in writing, or the free-lance consultant who no longer needs to advertise because his talents are well-known in his field and doesn't lack for business.


After setting a new challenge for ourselves in the Sevens, and rising to meet it with maturity and skill in the Eights, the Nines represent completion of this 3-card triad, as well as the entire 1-9 numerological cycle (tens don't count in numerology - they are considered ones). As such, the Nines are associated with culmination, completion, finalization, wrapping up, winding down, enjoying the fruits of our labors, and reflection on our accomplishments. Being 3 x 3, the third cycle of three, they also represent the abundance and contentment that results from successfully reaching the end of a complete cycle. Alternatively, the cycle may have been a negative one, if things haven't worked out as we planned. Always, they represent an abundance and the final culmination of whatever we have reaped or created during the cycle - good or bad, loving or angry, joyful or sad.

Some ideas on how these concepts relate to the Nines:

Pentacles: Retirement, enjoyment of one's hard-earned possessions, living in the surroundings one has chosen for oneself, being a self-made person, a mature and beautiful garden but with no room to plant new things, the completion of a major project, financial reward for one's efforts.

Cups: Enjoyment of pleasures after a long day's work, taking a well-deserved vacation or retirement, basking in the enjoyment of having completed all tasks and having no more responsibilities at the moment, a sense of contentment and fulfillment from finishing a creative project, celebration of an accomplishment, a return to childlike enjoyment of life in old age.

Wands: Protection of accumulated resources, defending one's position at the top but being a little past one's prime, receiving recognition for lifelong career achievements, having a well-developed sense of self-identity and ego, being president of a company or having nowhere higher to go in one's chosen field.

Swords: Completion of an important thought process, publication of a major work, conscious realization of an issue that has been hidden or buried in the subconscious, the point at which a final decision is made and action must be taken, overwhelming thoughts that effect a transformation in the psyche, the culmination of a long and gradual shift in attitudes or beliefs.


Tens are the transitional number, the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next. Numerologically, tens are not stand-alone numbers, but reduce to 1 (1+0=1).  In association with the Trumps, 10 corresponds to the Wheel of Fortune, which is also all about cycles, endings, and new beginnings. However, the number 10 can be looked at in many other ways - associated with Capricorn, it could be considered a number of great responsibility and solidity - like 4+4+2 - a two-storied tower with a peaked roof (now our Tower is complete - ready to be struck down and rebuilt).  Associated with Malkuth on the Tree of Life, it is the number of manifestation, the only number that corresponds to the material world in which we experience our lifetimes - in this association, it is thought of as 3+3+3+1 - the one sphere in the realm of Earth.  10 is a magickal number, produced by the addition of the first four numbers, 1+2+3+4, important in Pythagorean and alchemical philosophy.

With all this, what does the number 10 really mean?  We can see in it elements of solidity and stability, as well as transition and change.  These apparent contradictions are key to the 10s - in the Wheel of Fortune, we have the stable hub and the unchanging elements, as well as a continuous cycle of change around the rim.  In the material world, we also have a central core that remains as we cycle through many lifetimes or cycles within a lifetime.  The material world we build remains even as we ourselves are transitory through it.  The 10s are about how we experience these transitions, what we take with us as well as what we leave behind, what we have built and what we allow to dissolve into the sands of time.  It is interesting that the passive suits depict more positive transitions, while the active suits show more difficult transitions - this may have to do with the issues of control and resistance to the turning of the Wheel.

Here are some examples of the Tens:

Cups: The card of happy endings, yet in real life we don't live happily ever after, unchanging.  A moment of supreme happiness, when all that we have wished for is manifested.  We cannot remain long here, because emotions and the water element are fluid and ever-changing.  In order to keep this relationship alive, we must look for new sources of inspiration and emotion.  This card may also represent the completion of an artistic endeavor - the moment when we frame the canvass and put it on the wall unchanging, only to be gazed at from now on.  We ourselves must move on to the next project or risk stagnation and living in suspension.

Pentacles: Here we see 10s in their natural element of Earth, representing all that we build in the material world and pass down from generation to generation.  This may be the next generation of parents and children in the family, it can be material possessions such as homes or inheritance, cultural knowledge and traditions, or what we leave behind in our work to society to be built on by others.  This card represents the time when we pass on what we have held to the next person or generation to hold and use it.  While we pass on, what we have created endures and makes up the fabric of family and society.

Wands:  Wands are integrally associated with our self, our ego, our ideas, and our career.  Because we initiate Wands cycles, it is that much harder to let go of them when the time comes - so we carry them around as a burden, unable to see that it is time to release them and go on to the next idea.  Giving them up is bittersweet - both a welcome release and a regret. This may represent the moment when a CEO passes the company he built onto his successor and goes into retirement, or when a woman realizes she can no longer personally run every aspect of the department she has built from scratch, or when a family member realizes she does not have to take responsibility for solving everyone else's problems and she can just live her own life.  A person's ego and self-identity may be quite wrapped up in the previous cycle, and he has to make the transition to investing in a new cycle before the burdens can be willingly laid down.

Swords: A transition relating to ideas and attitudes, often more difficult or painful than others.  Ideas, habits, and attitudes have a way of getting very strong hold of us and our minds, and when it comes time that it is necessary for a change to occur, it can be very difficult.  We may struggle and struggle through the 8s and 9s before we are willing to do whatever is necessary to make the change, and even then, we may have to beat the old attitudes down hard before they finally lie down and give up the ghost.  Or, it may come in a rush of surrender to the inevitable, giving ourselves up to the pain in a cathartic release that frees us to experience new ideas and ways of living our life.


Subscribe to Tarot Reflections, and receive notification of each update!

Request to be added to the list by sending email to!



All articles remain the property of their respective authors.
Tarot Reflections is a publication of the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2003
Questions or Comments? Contact Us.