Tetractys and the Suit of Wands

In a previous post (https://bonniecehovet.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/the-tetractys-and-the-four-suits/) I introduced the Pythagorean concept of the Tetractys – a triangle consisting of the numbers one through ten (ten being the most significant number). In this post I am going to look at the concept of the Tetractys as applied to the Pips (numbered cards) in the Tarot. We are going to look at each suit separately, starting with Wands.

Following is a schematic of the Tetractys. A good visual aid would be to take out your deck of choice, and place the cards from the suit of Wands in this format:

3      2
6      5      4
10      9      8      7

Following the pattern of the numbers will create a facsimile of the lightening bolt path that we see on the Tree of Life. Something else that we need to remember is that the number ten (1+2+3+4) is considered by Pythagoreans to be a pure number, The Tetractys triangle itself represents creation … form coming into being. Each of the four suits represents another world coming into creation.

With the suit of Wands, we are looking at the Qabalistic world of Yetzirah, or formation. The first row, number One, represents the Monad. The second row, numbers Two and Three, represent the Dyad, or essential principles. The third row, numbers Four, Five and Six, represent the Triad, or spiritual forces. The bottom row, the Tetrad, represents the material world.

The suit of Wands aptly represents the world of Yetzirah (formation), and the element of Fire. Through Fire, and passion, we create form. Number One, the pure energy of Wands, and form, also represents will and desire. In creating this world, we are giving form to qualities such as boldness, ambition, competitiveness and ambition. It is here that we develop will, and are motivated to take action.

Numbers Two and Three represent the Dyad, or opposing forces. For the suit of Wands, we are looking at the number Two representing a situation that is deadlocked due to opposing energies that are involved, and the number Three, as representing an inner balance. As Two moves into Three, the situation in Two has been resolved, and balance restored. The number Three gifts us with the energy we need to take calculated risks and move forward with our ideas. Christine Payne-Towler, in her article on Wands – http://noreah.typepad.com/tarot_arkletters/2005/06/suit_of_wands_m.html – notes that sometimes in more esoteric decks a winged wand with two snakes twined around it appears. This is a caduceus, which is Mercury’s wand, and an ancient symbol of a healer or shaman.

Numbers Four, Five and Six represent a Triad, or spiritual forces. Four is a foundation number – it carries the energy of working with others to manifest a dream into physical reality. The stronger a four manifests, the more solid the literal foundation is for whatever is being built. Wands is a highly creative suit, indicating that the Four of Wands will set a foundation built on creativity and passion.

The Five’s are always a little chaotic. The Five of Wands takes the foundation of the number Four and let’s the ambition found there run rampant. Ambition … and the competitive spirit! The balance here is between personal success, and not taking away from someone else. The ideal here is to fit fair, to not make a mess in the sandbox of life. Ego finds its place in humility here.

The Six’s are all about your own personal truth, and your own personal version (and vision) of success. Six’s are celebration and victory. Remember that we do not ever succeed on our own – our victory celebration needs to include those that helped us get there.

The final row – numbers Seven through Ten, represent the material world, and the four elements (from right to left – Fire, Air, Water and Earth). The Seven of Wands shares it’s place with the element of Fire. The nature of this Seven is that the passion, will and determination of the individual places them at the head of the pack. The elemental nature of Fire adds strength and impetus to this.

The number Eight share’s its place wit the element of Air. The nature of the number Eight is all about change, and keeping up with change. In respect to the Tetractys, this change is evidenced in the world of Air (the mental realm). It is through the process of logic that the individual learns to accept change and work with it in the creative, competitive world of Wands.

The number Nine shares its place with the element of Water. One cycle is coming to an end – in the case of Wands, a high energy, very active, creative cycle. Time to take a break, time to sit back and listen to our intuition. Bring your projects together, and release that which will hold you back.

The number Ten shares its place with the element of Earth. Ten’s talk about endings and new beginnings, but they also talk about putting all of the energy, focus and will power that you have into your project. I think of this card as “Burden of Responsibility”. It is a burden, as the activity is taking place on the physical plane. The passin of the Wands is presented full force in this card.


This is not meant to be the final word on the Tetractys and the Pips. It is actually a mere whisper, as seen through my eyes. Place your cards in the pyramid shape of the Tetractys. Move your hand over the lightening path, and see what feelings/knowing come to you. Treat the numbers as rows, instead of a straight line. See how they work together, instead of focusing on individual meanings.

It’s all good!

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.

Next week we are on to the suit of Cups! See you all there!

© July 2011 Bonnie Cehovet

6 comments on “Tetractys and the Suit of Wands

  1. niki says:

    i just bought a tarot set it is the marseille version. i am having trouble figuring out what the minor cards are. i can tell by the pictures of cups that they are cups, also the pentacles, i am not sure if the card that i am looking at is a wand or sword..so i’m having trouble figuring this out with this deck. any suggestions? email me if u can if u can find pictures or anything that are labeled. i have looked myself but with no luck. my email is elusiv3dreme@comcast.net thanks!

  2. Niki –

    What I would say is to look at the companion book – that should give you a clue. Also, look at the icon on the Court Cards – that might be helpful.


    • niki says:

      thanks bonnie! the only problem is it is a marseille tarot set and the book that accompanied it doesn’t have the same pictures as the picture shown on the tarot card. it’s very clear pictures about the major set, but once i get to the minor’s i run into problems because certain cards have just numbers on them. i figured out the cups, pentacles, now i’m not sure if the pic i’m looking at is a sword or wand!! any extra feedback would be greatly appreciated, take care, niki

  3. Niki –

    What is the exact name of the Marseille deck you are working with?


  4. Corniss says:

    This is great fun to play with. I am hoping that it helps me see connections in my readings. At any rate, fun, very fun.

  5. Corniss –

    I should have the blog up for Cups later today! 🙂


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