There are several ways to study and learn the major arcana.
You can study for years and still find a new perspective and understanding of the cards.
Here’s one way that I learned the major arcana that I’m sharing here with you.
Many people learn a new subject with flash cards which are commonly used in mathematics, most often addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
At some point in our elementary curriculum, most of us have used flash cards.
Some people use this method to learn tarot using a few keywords to recite while turning over random shuffled tarot cards.
Can math be used in tarot?
Numerology is a cornerstone in the major arcana with meaning behind each number and even numbers have their own meaning. Math is a universal language.
So how can we combine math and tarot to learn the major arcana?
Why, math drills!
Easy as Pi(e)
I’ll confess. I’m not very good at mathematics.
I have a grasp at basic math to use in daily life, but beyond that with formulas, etc., nope.
That’s why this method stays with the easier operations of addition and subtraction.
You can get more complicated if you really enjoy math and formulas, but we’ll keep it simple here.
Each major arcana is assigned a number: 0 to 21 or 1-22 (if you assign The Fool as 22).
The Fool is a peculiar card that it can be assigned 0 or 22.
Some theories place The Fool as unassigned and somewhere in the middle between 11 and 12 as a separation between rows of cards (as noted in Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack).
For this method, we’ll assign The Fool as 22 to keep it easy when doing the exercises.
Find Your Keywords
To do these exercises and practice this method, you’ll need a set of keywords for the major arcana.
The keywords that I used for my learning is from Joan Bunning’s Learning the Tarot Online Course, which has a chart of the major arcana and keywords here. Print out the chart and keep it handy.
A note about keywords: Use words that you would commonly use in your lexicon.
If there’s a keyword that you can’t remember, don’t remember what it means or sounds like something that you wouldn’t ordinarily use, find another similar word to replace it.
Merriam-Webster Thesaurus is a good place to look for a different word with similar meaning.
Now that you have your keywords and know what numbers are assigned to which major arcana card, let’s begin.
You can use the cards in your hands or you can work with the numbers only on paper.
It may help to visually see the cards, but at the same time, it may be ideal to be able to visualize the cards in your mind without seeing them.
Try this method with and without cards present.
Let’s try an easy example with addition (I’ll give the answer here to show the method):
6 + 7 = 13
What is the number 6 in the major arcana?
What is the number 7 in the major arcana?
What is the number 13 in the major arcana?
If you replace the numbers with the names of the major arcana, you get:
The Lovers (6) + The Chariot (7) = 13 (Death)
Answer: 13 = Death.
Now that you have the answer, recite your keywords for The Death card.
This exercise can be done with the numbers only or replacing the numbers with the name of the major arcana.
You can do his on your own or with a partner/friend to help come up with math questions that will have answers that equal to 22 or under.
You’ll only need to recite the keywords for the answer that you give to the math question.
To help with this method, I’ve created a worksheet PDF with practice math questions that you can download/print here:
In the worksheet, when the names of the major arcana cards are used, convert them into their numbers, do the math, then come up with the numeric answer to equate to the major arcana card with that number.
If you need a calculator to help out with the math problems or need to use fingers (or toes), no worries!
The important thing is to gain that mental flexibility to know a number and name of the major arcana and recite the keywords that you’ve chosen to work with.
Where to Go After
Keywords are a good stepping stone.
Once you develop keywords, start putting them into sentences and build on them. Use associations like word associations and expand on them.
Keywords will help when you feel stuck and can’t remember anything else about a card.
If you draw a blank during a reading, use your keywords to jump start your thinking process or just let your gut reaction take over.
This is just one example of a method that can be used to memorize and use mental flexibility to practice the keywords for the major arcana.
Come up with some additional math equations of your own to keep learning or have someone else create easy equations for you.
If you enjoyed this method and think someone else might benefit from it, feel free to share this post.
Until next time!
Stacey & the Tarot Pugs