Tetractys and the Suit of Swords

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 Swords in this format:

3      2
6      5      4
10      9      8      7

Following the pattern of the numbers will create a facsimile of the lightning 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 Swords, we are looking at the Qabalisticworld of  Yetzirah, the formative 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 Swords represents the world of Yetzirah (formation), and the element of Air. Through Air, and its connection with intellect, the mental realm, and logical thinking, we enter the world of formation. Here the formation is specifically that of beliefs and values, expressed in our personal lives, and through our actions in the larger realm of society. Number One, the pure energy of Swords, and of formation, also represents the Seeker’s mental/intellectual life, and their ability to see things clearly and express themselves well.

Numbers Two and Three represent the Dyad, or opposing forces. For the suit of Swords, we are looking at the number Two as representing conflicting ideas that need to be brought into harmony. This duality needs to be seen before any action can be taken. The number Three in the suit of Swords indicates a breakup, or dissolution of some type of relationship. Looking at the point of conflict that precipitated the break-up will ease the process.

In the suit of Swords, the number Four represents the need for a time out away from worldly concerns. This is a time of contemplation, with a focus on roots, values and goals.

The Five’s are always a little chaotic. The Five of Swords is associated with the process of cleaning up after a battle. Modern battles are fought with words and actions, but seldom with active elements such as guns or knives. The process of cleaning up t he largely mental/emotional damage left after this type of battle has to do with looking back and determining where things went wrong. What could have been done differently, and how can a battle of this type be avoided in the future.

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, with the Six of Swords carries a sense of objectivity and insight to it.

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 Swords shares it’s place with the element of Fire. The nature of this Seven is that of mental preparedness, of being able to visualise success and goals reached. This is a stime of studying, of working smarter, not harder.

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 Swords represents our experiences, and what we learn from them.

The number Nine shares its place with the element of Water. One cycle is coming to an end – in the case of Swords, we are looking at the consequences of our actions. It is a time of grief and sorrow, and facing our worst nightmares.

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 Swords represents an ending, where there is no turning back. We come to this time when we have exhausted all of our alternatives. It is time to find another path, as this one has brought us to burnout.


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 lightning 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 final suit in this series – Pentacles! See you all there!

© July 2011 Bonnie Cehovet

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