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Published July 13, 2023 Updated July 14, 2023

Psychology, Numerology and playing cards

Numerology assigns significance to individual digits and their combinations, considering them as symbols with inherent meanings.

USA Astrology Cartomancy Psychology Symbols Add to Collection

Traditional numerology outlines the numbers one through nine and then interprets more complex numbers as conglomerates of the original nine. This is all well and good. It works. But when speaking of numbers in terms of psychology, much more is possible, and strangely enough, the 52-card deck provides a model for combining psychology and numerology. This is another facet of playing cards that makes them so well “suited” for divination and personal insight.

For the sake of our discussion, let’s loop in one more metaphysical science – astrology. One reason that astrology works so well in defining and illuminating the personality is that it uses the fundamental archetypes of the natural world – fire, earth, air and water. Each astrological sign exemplifies a unique aspect of one of these elements. For example, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius all are “fire signs” and Aries is considered “cardinal” fire, Leo is “fixed” fire, and Sagittarius is “mutable” fire. This fundamental orientation defines each astrological sign, and in turn the planets that appear within them.

So why do these two giants of age-old metaphysical psychology have to live separate? And what would happen if numerology and astrology had a baby? Indeed, as we advance toward more inclusive and holistic points of view, why not create a lens that somehow merges the essential components of both these models for reality? What if this lens already exists, but we simply did not see it?

It would be tough to deny that there is some kind of numerology going on within a 52-card deck, and equally difficult to deny the presence of the four elements. The deck is divided perfectly by four and these natural quadrants represent the four natural kingdoms of the world – the four directions, the four seasons, the four elements, and on and on. This I have outlined in length in my book, The Playing Card Oracles, as well as in various other blog articles and in a few of my youtube videos.

Four was also a master number to the Mayan, who divided their world into 4, naming 4 Gods that were the “4 Bearers of the World.” This is very much in line with old school alchemy that divided all things into one of four elements and combinations thereof. Such things as a person’s temperament, tastes perceived by the mouth, the elements of nature, not to mention the sciences of astrology and geomancy all were perceived through the foundation of the 4 elements.

When looking at a traditional 52-card deck, what do we find? Each number within the deck repeats itself 4 times, once within each element (or suit). THAT MEANS that the number one, for example (which is pictured as an Ace) appears in all its’ glory once within each of the 4 elements. This means that a different and unique aspect of that number will come forward depending on which suit it is in. In my opinion, the significance of this cannot be over stated. This revolutionizes current concepts of numerology.

So let’s look at a couple of examples. What aspect, for instance, of the number one comes into focus as it appears in the element of Fire, the Diamond suit?? One is already could be considered a “selfish” number, but within the suit of Fire, we would see this aspect come to the fore. We would witness a strong and “showy” sense of self, overt determination, etc…. decidedly reminiscent of certain characteristics found within the Fire signs of astrology.

For comparison sake, how about the Ace as it appears in Clubs, for example, in the suit of Air? This would be a more subtle manifestation of the number one, something hidden to the outside world but very much defining this person’s individuality. This could be more like a wish or a dream existing within the person.

You get the idea?

The 4 Aces” from the Playing Card Oracles, Alchemy Edition

Above: “The 4 Aces” from The Playing Card Oracles, Alchemy Edition.

When we talk about the numbers one through nine of traditional numerology we have an expanded template. Each number manifests four different ways, offering a total of 36 specific facets of expression, all existing within the original 9 archetypes. In addition to this, many times I find when a person has a predominance in their reading toward one or another suit it very much correspondences to the element of either their natal sun or moon sign. I have no doubt more would be revealed by comparing the card layout to more complete astrology charts.

But let us not overlook perhaps the greatest jewel the 52-card deck has to offer us in terms of expanding metaphysical models. What about the Court cards? And what about cards of the number 10? How do these fit in?

First it must be understood that it is entirely possible and actually probable that cards of the number 10 were originally Court cards. Although the deck we have today appears largely unchanged from centuries ago, early documentation points to a significant difference. In the 1300’s, a German Monk wrote a lengthy treatise about the evils of playing cards and in doing so contributed greatly to historical knowledge of the early playing deck. This monk, Johannes of Basel, went to great lengths to describe the 52-card deck then in existence, as if aware of the future historical destiny of his writing! He describes 4 suits, each of 13 cards, with a King and his attendant and a Queen and her attendant. Clearly, this is what we now refer to as the “King” and his subordinate “Jack,” and the “Queen” and ….? Where is the Queen’s attendant? If we add another card to the Court we get 14 cards in a suit, and Johannes clearly tells us there are 13 cards in a suit. So where did this lady disappear to?

According to this research granted us by my father, card historian and illustrator C.J. Freeman, it only makes sense that at some point in history the hand-maiden to the Queen was stripped of her rank within the Court and relegated to a number card. If we restore the 10 to a “Lady,” we now have all four members of the Court within the original 13-card suit. This also fits nicely with standard numerological principles which would have been well known at the time the deck was created. To group a 10 with the nine numerological root numbers would have been a bombastic faux pas within a deck that is otherwise an exemplary representation of metaphysical harmonics.

The Ladies, the Playing Card Oracles, Alchemy Edition

Above: “The Ladies,” a much awaited restoration to the 52 card deck. (The Playing Card Oracles, Alchemy Edition).

Having 4 Court cards to me elicits a deep sigh of relief. It feels right. How can you operate with a mechanism so obviously lopsided between male and female? 4 feels perfect. There are 2 older Court figures, one male and one female, and two younger Court figures, male and female, each appearing within each of the 4 suits. This is balanced and now has a greater potential for divination in that you have both male and female represented in both youth and old age (often “soul age”). How could it be otherwise? And even if one questions the historical citations and deductions, one must concede it works – and it is beautiful.

Now, one last note on the numerology. The Mayans had 13 “number gods” that repeated themselves to create larger cycles. The Mayan year was 13 months, just like a natural lunar year. Nature herself dances to rhythms of the number 13, and so I, as well, happily yield to a framework of 13 in regard to a broadening view of numerology. The 52-card deck provides this while staying loyal to the significance of the original numbers one through nine of numerology.

In using the 52-card deck for divination, the numbers (or cards) one through nine represent the experiences of a person, and the Courts represent the people (or the “Gods”) who have these experiences. And on it goes. I could go on forever, which I frequently attempt.

Suffice it to say, all of this is incorporated into the card reading principles, methods, and illustrations detailed in the The Playing Card Oracles, cards and book

New video on youtube exploring archetypes, symbology and psychology of cards in Card Review of Movie, The Shape of Water.


3 cards from a 55-card cartomancy deck printed by Gustave Arnoult, Paris, 1858.© The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: 3 cards from a 55-card cartomancy deck printed by Gustave Arnoult, Paris, 1858. Hand-coloured wood-engraving. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

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By Ana Cortez

Member since January 10, 2015

Ana Cortez is the author of "The Playing Card Oracles, A Source Book for Divination" and "Oracle Alchemy." Daughter of Oracle creator and illustrator C.J. Freeman, she is a self-described misfit, truth seeker, rule breaker, and freak for the supernatural.


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