Take Five With The Tarot Fours
Our topic for the Mid-Winter Tarot Blog Hop is “Beginning Again.” Wrangler Kim of Kimberly Essex Tarot and Meditation skipped through a series of word associations starting with “spring cleaning” to “cleaning the slate” and ending with “beginning again.” The sequence set off a similar set of jumps for me. I thought about what gives me that clean slate feeling. At first my mind drifted across chores like doing the laundry, making the bed, and cleaning the kitchen. But I thought that one of my best “fresh start” feelings during the day was that moment at night when I’ve fed the cat, started the dishwasher, and wiped down all the counters. A sense of relief that the work is done for the day. And that nothing needs to be started until the morning. It’s not the start that feels fresh. Nor is it really the ending. It’s the nothingness. The break. It reminds me of the tarot fours. Let me explain.
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Tarot cards get their basic meanings from the scenic story on each card, the suit, and number. It makes sense that the tarot Aces are the start of the suit and represent beginnings. Meanwhile the tarot Tens conclude the suit and represent endings – you can see this clearly in the card images! Because the number 10 reduces to 1 (using theosophical reduction: 10 = 1 + 0 = 1), some readers put the fresh start here. But I’m going to go a different way, and hopefully explain why the tarot fours are so meh.
Although there are a variety of styles of numerology, the number philosophy that fits best with tarot is qabalistic numerology, or number symbolism based on the Tree of Life. This number philosophy starts with 1 and goes through 10, just like the tarot’s numbered cards. The number 1 represents the head or start of the sequence, but interestingly there is a new start at the number 4. This is our opportunity to begin again.
The Three Supernals
The top three sephiroth (“enumerations,” the numbered circles) of the Tree of Life are called the Supernals. The Tree emanates from the three veils of Nothingness, the Limitless, and the Limitless Light. These are beyond even the concept of beginning or ending.
The first emanation is Kether, the first circle at the top of the Tree. Kether represents a point where the Limitless Light became so dense it solidified. You could say the imperceptible became real in a way that we can imagine. Kether is 1. From Kether, Chokmah arose by reflection. Like a mirror image, Chokmah expresses Kether, but not as clearly. Chokmah is 2. Binah arose from Chokmah via polarity. Where Chokmah shoots outward, Binah draws inward. Binah channels the energy of Chokmah. She provides direction, structure, and support, giving form to his overflowing force. Binah is 3.
The Supernals, while not the Divine, are perfect expressions of the Divine, undiluted in their power.
The Lower Seven Sephiroth
Below the Supernals is an imaginary line called the Abyss. The Abyss separates the Divine expressions from the seven lower sephiroth. The lower sephiroth describe the everyday world, as well as our experiences and aspirations.
The sephirah at the bottom of the Tree, 10 Malkuth, represents the physical existence of our bodies and the world we live in. The sephiroth from 9 Yesod up to 4 Chesed represent levels of personal expression and ethical consideration. Not everyone exhibits all the lower sephiroth, but everyone has access to them. For instance, it is easier to express emotions (7 Netzach), but harder to realize compassion (4 Chesed). But those who haven’t yet developed compassion can work to experience it.
Crossing the Abyss
The creative energy of the Divine descends via the ten sephiroth following the Lightning Flash Path. Meanwhile, we start at the bottom of the Tree and wind our way up via the 22 lines that connect the sephiroth. This is called the Path of the Serpent. (You can read more about the Lightning Flash Path and the Path of the Serpent in this post.)
Whether coming down from above or up from below, the Abyss is a significant, in some philosophies insurmountable, hurdle to pass. In fact, so much energy is expended coming down across the Abyss from above that reaching the fourth sephirah feels like a great accomplishment, as if you’ve achieved a goal or won an award. Meanwhile, climbing up from below, sitting at 4 Chesed and looking across the Abyss to Binah feels like a complete impossibility. The end of the line.
Either way, we need to take a break when we reach 4 Chesed.
Rejoice, Remember, Recuperate, Reserve
Many of the card images for the tarot Fours resonate with this explanation. The revelers in the Four of Wands rejoice as we arrive. The meditative individual seated stoically in the Four of Cups remembers the past before turning to new opportunities. As I see the Four of Swords, a knight has found a place to rest from an ongoing battle. He will recuperate for now but must return. And the alleged miser in the Four of Pentacles wisely reserves what he has, budgeting for future needs. Each card shows a balance, a threshold, a liminal point marking the end of one round and the beginning of the next.
When one of the tarot fours comes up in a reading, I’ve noticed that it feels like you’re done, fini, kaput. No more energy. If a four comes up as a final outcome, frequently the querent feels like they’ve exhausted all their possibilities and have no more options. But this is a blind. Four is not even halfway to Ten. When a tarot spread says that your result is a Four, it’s time to begin again. Yes, you have accomplished much! You’ve cleared the biggest hurdle. But where you are now is not the end. It’s your break, your recognition of what you’ve achieved and your preparation for what lies ahead. Take five, then get back to work.
Sometimes we get secret signals from the tarot. For me, when a Four turns up for a client, I see where they are ready to give up. Often, I know that no matter what I say, they’re done. I’d like to say that the Fours are a get-back-up-on-the-horse moment, but really they’re stuck in how much it hurt to get thrown. Sounds like some time for self-care.
Chesed, the fourth sephirah, is associated with Jupiter, generosity and leadership. Its title means Mercy. Its correspondences include majesty, lovingkindness, and memory. When you get a Four in a spread, it’s time to be compassionate for yourself.
The number four also makes me think of the Fourfold Breath, which I teach in many of my classes. Breathe in for four counts, hold full for four, breathe our for four, hold empty for four. Then begin again.
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I love this so much, Joy! It makes so much sense with the 4s in the tarot and yet I hadn’t thought of them this way before. I don’t know much about the Tree of Life but I love how it aligns. Thank you for taking part in this hop!
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Even though I associate the 4’s with the foundations, I can also see how it relates to completion as well, as once the foundations are built, you then continue to build the rest of the structure, and without proper foundations, it would fall down eventually. you’ve done it again Joy Vernon, you made me think!!
The four’s as a jumping off point after a much needed rest. Another layer of meaning to incorporate into a reading! Great perspective! Thanks
I really liked this post and how you showed the connection between the tarot and the kabbalah. What was especially meaningful for me was the fours as a time to begin again. That is so clear in the four of swords, but now that you have pointed it out I can see it in the rest of the fours as well. THanks for a great spread.