Fourteen: the Higher Helpers

Numerology meaning 3 Comments »

When we get to the higher numbers, we often can gain insight into their meanings by looking at the divisors (in this case, 2 and 7). Two is feminine, primarily about balance or tension between opposites, while 7 is one of the powerfully magical numbers. Fourteen takes those qualities and shifts them into an even more potent combination.

14 is often associated with the moon, as it takes the waxing moon 14 days to reach full moon, and 28 days to complete the full lunar cycle. Lunar deities are often associated with the underworld – presumably because of the fear of those nights when the moon was dark. In ancient Babylonia an Akkadian poem describes how the ruler of the Netherworld, Nergal, was translated from heaven down to the underworld, with an escort of 14 deities. In Egypt, another ruler of the dead, Osiris (whose wife, Isis, was a lunar goddess), was cut into 14 different parts by Set, his dark brother.

In Islam, a religion where lunar symbolism plays an important role, there are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet, 14 ‘solar letters’ and 14 ‘moon letters’. The Hurufis, working in the late 14th century, combined letter and number mysticism with physical attributes of the body and found that the words to depict hand and face (yad and wajh, respectively) both have a numerical value of 14. Another Islamic link to 14 is a Shiite reference to 14 innocent saints.

Similarly, In Christian lore, we hear of fourteen helping saints who assist in dangerous situations: kindness allied to reason. Various churches and monasteries were erected in medieval times to these heavenly helpers, the Vierzehnheiligen in Franconia being the best known.

These qualities may go some way to explain the potency of the number in the Temperance card in the Tarot. It is depicted as an angelic figure, pouring liquid from one vessel into another. Some have linked the figure to Aquarius, the water carrier, and to the Egyptian Hapi, god of the Nile; either way the symbolism contains elements of fruitfulness and inspiration. The word Temperance  in the tarot is used here in its alchemic sense (the right mix of ingredience in the right proportions at the right time – the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage). It might be relevant here to recall the story of the marriage of Cana, where Christ who transformed water into wine, as one of the meanings of Temperance is a deep balance, and transmutation of energies. We might also see it as replenishment of the conscious mind through creative interaction with the unconscious.

Number fourteen marks the completion of the Minors with the Kings of each suit. The Kings usually depict mature men – the emphasis being on attitude rather than age.

The King of Swords represents the detached, rational, intellectual male who dislikes emotional outbursts, staying detached if at all possible. He is difficult to get close to; if you’re in a relationship with someone like this you’ll find him at his best in games of strategy, looking down from his mountain-top and moving humans about like chess pieces. In older times he would be a warrior, while today he might be a philosopher, scientist, mathematician, politician.

The King of Cups, in contrast, is someone who understands the emotions. He may not find it easy to express his emotions, but he feels very deeply. He’s usually an older man, someone who has gone through the mill; he may be a divorcee, and often still has emotional baggage from previous relationships. He has drained his cup but still needs support, indeed negatively aspected he may be a bit of a parasite.  At his best, though, he is a warm, genuine, generous family man.

The King of Discs is strong, practical, and hierarchical. He is good with money, likes to deal with real-world issues, and is intelligent, acute, forceful and charming. He has a grounded physicality and assurance which is very attractive. Feelings of controlled sensuality and power emanate from him; he may well consciously generate these feelings for his own ends. He often lacks subtlety and imagination, but this is not a man to cross. Anyone trying to better him or take advantage of him might be advised to think again. His ruthless egotism and need to control can make him a dangerous enemy.

Finally, the King of Rods or Wands. As King of the creative suit and (in the Intuitive Tarot, the King of Air), he is equally as charming as the King of Discs but at his best has real depth and power. He has learned to ground his energy, through his staff (which symbolizes his inner vision, as well as his potency). He is perceptive, intuitive, and keenly self-aware; he could be a charismatic leader, teacher or spiritual searcher. However, negatively aspected he can be arrogant, manipulative, so sure of his own judgment that he becomes tyrannical. Alternatively he may become a shape-changer, never settling, never fulfilling his manifest destiny.

Of all the kings he is most aware of the unconscious and can work with it. Because of this understanding and talents this man can do great good – though you’ll have to be strong to keep up with him.


Learning Tarot 3 Comments »

If you are trying to learn the Tarot, it’s easy to get flummoxed at the beginning by the sheer volume of cards. Seventy-eight of them – and then there are the reversals and combinations as well. I remember when I was thinking about growing vegetables: I bought a book on how to do so, and found their information on the number of bugs and diseases so off-putting I never planted any!

But the Tarot is has a major advantage over vegetables. The images speak to us without any need for book-learning: we can often understand them clearly just by quieting the left brain down, and allowing ourselves to go into a little reverie. We then are opening up our intuition, and it will respond. Often the messages are quite off-the-wall: the more unexpected, the better!

As I’ve said before, the Tarot images are archetypal – they are the language of human unconscious, and as such we ‘get’ them without trying. Indeed, if we do try, we often lose the sense of them – it’s our left brain that’s trying, and the right brain gets overwhelmed by the left’s voice. The right brain sees in patterns, in wholeness, in feelings and shapes. It’s subjective and wordless (or mostly wordless – it can apparently swear). It’s probably the part of the brain that dreams, creates, and heals. The left brain is the cortex – some say it’s more evolved than the right brain, but that’s highly debatable. Firstly because both hemispheres must have evolved in tandem, but more importantly, our society’s emphasis on reason and logic has left us spiritually poverty-stricken. What we have gained in lucidity and logic, we have lost in connection and wisdom. Anyway, the left brain thinks mathematically, logically, sequentially. It categorises, rationalises, reduces.

So to learn the Tarot, begin by turning down the volume of the left brain. It can learn the traditional meanings and the Spreads if it wants to, and categorise the suits. That’s fine. The right brain, however, is the one you’ll really need to work the tarot.

Some info for the left brain:there are twenty-two Major Arcana, usually numbered in Roman numerals, though the Fool is either unnumbered or 0. So the Magician is number I, and the World, the highest card of the deck, is XXI. There are also four suits, which are similar to traditional playing cards: Cups, which are linked to feelings and water (Hearts); Staves / Wands / Rods (Clubs), linked to creativity and intuition, and are either associated with air (or fire in the Rider Waite); Pentacles / Discs / Coins (Diamonds), linked to money, physical energy, and earth; and finally Swords (Spades), linked to the intellect and fire (air in the Rider Waite).

Then there are four face or court cards in each suit – Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings. Pages are usually young people and are often depicted as feminine; Knights are male and youthful or immature; Queens are feminine though they can often be the feminine side of a person; and Kings are masculine – though again, they may be referring to the masculine side of a person. The character of each face card relates to its suit – thus the Queen of Cups will be emotional, generous, usually flexible and open-minded. The Page of Swords will be clever, passionate although she keeps that passion under tight control, usually focusing it on her passion for truth and justice.