Jodo’s Numerical Counterparts: “VI in the Ones Place”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I first came across the idea of “numerological counterparts” for the Major Arcana in the companion book to the Druid Craft Tarot by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm. It was derived in the same way as the “quintessence” card, but here is a slightly more involved method.

In The Way of Tarot, Alejandro Jodorowsky makes much of the connection between the Roman numerals and the Tarot de Marseille trump cards, noting that the conventional “reductive” notation (e.g. IV as 5-1 = 4) has been replaced with an “additive” linear model (IIII as 4). He goes on to talk about the mathematical place values of the compound number series, in which the integer to the left occupies the traditional “Tens” place and the numeral (or set of numerals) on the right side fills the “Ones” position. (I realize that his architecture is suspect since it uses complex Roman numerals instead of single Arabic digits, but if we are to buy into his paradigm we have to assume that the ends justify the means.)

For example, in the Tower (XVI) the “X” is in the “Tens” place and the “VI” sits in the “Ones” slot, yielding “10 and 6.” Because the omnipresent “X” (itself a unitary value as explained by Joseph Maxwell) is common to nearly all the compound numbers, he chooses to use the unique right-hand numeral(s) as a way to correlate the trump cards with one another and with the cards of the “pip” series. (For what it’s worth, I believe James Wanless follows the same construction in his Voyager Tarot study material, although he uses Arabic numerals and sets the Magician in the “Tens” place as “1 x 10” rather than the Roman “X.”) This is dramatically different from the common way of forming numerological counterparts through “Theosophical reduction” (adding together the digits), in which the Tower as “1+6” would bear a similarity to the Chariot (7) and to the minor Sevens.

Here I’m using the Tower to illustrate the approach. The “Ones” position holds “VI,” which can be equated to both the Lovers and to the pip cards numbered VI. I can’t think of two less likely trump cards to associate in a cooperative way, nor does the “blasted” Tower relate comfortably to the balanced and harmonious “VI” pips. But it does offer interesting food for thought. I can only assume that Jodo’s positive take on the Tower as showing an illuminating epiphany stems from the fact that the revelatory “bolt from the blue” is performing the same enlightening and inspiring function as the angel in the Lovers (even though both have a rather violent way of going about it).

Beyond being merely an intellectual exercise, this way of linking the cards in a reading can provide unexpected fodder for narrative amplification, as it does here. The visual array below tells the story. Perhaps the amorous gentleman in the Lovers makes a bad choice in spite of Divine intervention and the Tower shows what becomes of his decision; it basically says “I told you so!” The Sixes tumbling down the right side suggest having to let go of everything he holds dear: respect, peace of mind, pleasure and prosperity. Only the lawyers make out in the end.

Conver Ben-Dov Tarot, copyright U.S. Games Systems, Stamford, CT


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