The Tetractys and the Four Suits

In this article I’m going to be looking at the concept of the Tetractys, a mathematical pyramid conceptualized by Pythagorus that consists of four rows of 1, 2, 3, and four numbers respectively. Not being a mathematician, I am not going to go too deeply into this, but I want to present a basis for looking at the numbered cards in the Minor Arcana of the Tarot, and how they relate to each other.

Some interesting background on the Tetracty (from Wikipedia):

  1. The Tetractys symbolize the four elements – earth, air, fire and water.
  2. The first four numbers also symbolized the harmony of the spheres and the Cosmos.
  3.  The four rows add up to ten (1+2+3+4=10), which is a unity of higher order mathematically,
  4. The Tetractys represents an organization of space: (1) the first row represents zero-dimensions (a point), (2) the second row represent a one-dimension (a line with two points), (3) the third row represents two-dimensions (a plane defined by a triangle of three points), and (4) the fourth row represents three-dimensions (a tetrahedron defined by four points).

There is an actual spread entitled the Tetractys (Tetraktys) spread. It is in the form of the ten position Tetractys triangle, and is defined as follows:

1

3          2

6          5          4

10          9          8          7

The bottom row, the Tetrad, represents the material world. From right to left, the positions represent the elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. This row represents the opportunities and conflicts between the different areas of the Seeker’s life.

The second row from the bottom, the Triad, represents spiritual forces. This line presents the back story, or the explanation for what ha happened in the bottom line. The three positions are, from right to left, the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Destroyer.

The third row up from the bottom represents the Dyad, or the essential principles. The right hand card represents light, and yang, while the left hand card represents dark, and yin. Here we see the heart of the issue of the reading.

The fourth row up, from the bottom, represents the Monad, or the whole, the unity of the principles in he Dyad. It represents the theme of the issue being addressed.

Over the next four weeks, we will take a look at the four suits of the Minor Arcana, and see how they fit into the principle of the Tetractys. Some of the things that we will be looking at are masculine/feminine polarity, which cards are operating “behind the scenes”, and fate versus free will. Wish me luck on this!

In the meantime, take a look at the Tetractys – as a unified triangle, and as a triangle made up of many smaller triangles. Lots of inter-relationships here!

Here are a couple of links that will allow you to use the Tetractys as an actual Tarot spread: Aeclectic Tarot Forum, http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Tetractys/id/578326.

To end this on a high note – a little video that I found on You Tube. It is a reflection on the Kabbalistic Tetragrammaton and the Tetractys, so not directly related to the Tarot, but well done and interesting, none the less.

Bibliography

Kabbalistic Tetragrammaton and Tetractys. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAukInaCgas.

Tetractys. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetractys

Tetrakyts. http://www.telp.com/tarot/tetraktys.htm

© June 2011 Bonnie Cehovet

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2 comments on “The Tetractys and the Four Suits

  1. Simona says:

    Great post I just have to say! You really pointed out a couple things to take a minute to think about. Looking forward to your next post!

  2. Simona –

    Thank you for your kind words. 🙂 I hope that you enjoy the posts on the four suits! 🙂

    Blessings,
    Bonnie

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