Tetractys and the Suit of Cups

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 Cups, we are looking at the Qabalistic world of Briah, the creative world. 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 Cups represents the world of Briah (creation), and the element of Water. Through Water, and its connection with the unconscious and intuition, we enter the world of creation. Number One, the pure energy of Cups, and creation, also represents the Seeker’s emotional life, connection with the mysteries and dreamtime. It is here that we create our emotional “safety net”.

Numbers Two and Three represent the Dyad, or opposing forces. For the suit of Cups, we are looking at the number Two as representing a union or partnership, especially a romantic union (or a union of opposites). This can also represent a karmic tie. The number Three relates to working with others, giving and receiving support and encouragement. In the suit of Cups, the number Four represents a time of restlessness, where the Seeker feels dissatisfied with life in general, and emotional entanglements in particular. Life feels stagnant, and everything is being questioned.

The Five’s are always a little chaotic. The Five of Cups can be associated with the emotional quagmire left after a tantrum, argument or literal fit of rage. There are consequences … and this is it! To restore balance, focus needs to be placed on the Cups that remain upright.

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, and the Six of Cups carries a gentle sense of optimism with it. Remember that we do not ever succeed on our own – our victory celebration needs to include those that helped us get there. In this the suit of emotions, we need to be able to trust, and to allow life to flow freely.

The final row – numbers Seven through Ten – represents the material world, and the four elements (from right to left – Fire, Air, Water and Earth). The Seven of Cups shares it’s place with the element of Fire. The nature of this Seven is that of our dreams and desires – the world of our imagination. There is real magic in awakening the imagination, and the passion of Fire is an absolute plus! We need to release our fears and dream (and act on) the big dreams!

The number Eight share’s its place with 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). The Eight of Cups can be seen as walking away from emotional disappointment. The manner in which the Seeker is dealing with this is through stepping into the realm of logic. In very simple terms, the Seeker is being told to watch out for themselves, to not automatically trust all that they see,

The number Nine shares its place with the element of Water. One cycle is coming to an end – in the case of Cups, the Seeker is being advised to accept the fruits of their labors, to appreciate all that life has to offer and to find happiness within it. Emotional satisfaction and personal recognition are inherent in this card.

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.  The Ten of Cups takes the personal sense of happiness found in the Nine of Cups and expands it to a more global level.


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 Swords! See you all there!

© July 2011 Bonnie Cehovet

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