August 10, 2018

What happens when you remove a card from your Tarot deck?

tarot satanism fortune telling
Do you see what I see?

The title of this post is both more and less than you might have assumed. It is less than you assumed because my inclusion of numerological principles within Tarot is no secret, but it is more than you assumed because in this instance my act of hacking the Tarot is not a matter of altering the insides of my 78-card chaos computer, but of actually removing cards.

I've long had an interest in the principles of numerology, and this is what has inspired some of my most productive thinking about the Tarot (and how to use it), but I was never actually interested in numerology itself and the formulas and long-winded calculations used by numerologists. Given that no numerologist has yet won the lottery -- a pure numbers game that ought to be a numerologist's delight? -- I think it's safe to say that the formulas and calculations are hokum, but for me they fall into the category of useful hokum and that's why I periodically review the occult foundations which informed my understanding of the Tarot.

During one of my periodic reviews which take place every few years, it occurred to me that 10 is only a permutation of 1. Do you see how this works? Through the numerological process of reduction (which is actually addition), the digits of a number (or a word converted to numbers) are added together over and over until something between 1 and 9 remains. In this instance, 10 is represented by the following equation: 10 = 1 + 0 =1. Or written with numerological shorthand, 10/1.

Because 9 is a critical number for me in my understanding of the pips -- they're all based on my understanding of the 9 Satanic Statements -- this means that 10 is the odd number out. Combined with the numerological observation that 10 is only a permutation of 1, this makes 10 doubly conspicuous which lead me to think, "Why don't I just remove it?" So I did: I removed all four 10's from my Tarot deck so that each suit of pips would number only 1 through 9.

But so say I, hacking the Tarot is like eating potato chips: you can't make just one change. Because of the five years I spent reading with just playing cards, I've developed a fondness for reading with 12 face cards instead of 16, so as long as I'm cutting cards from the deck I also removed the four Slaves (what other people typically call the Pages, or even the Princesses), leaving only the Jacks, Queens, and Kings. 

Finally, because I've been in a mood where I want everything in my deck to have a set meaning, or at least a set rule for how it behaves within a reading, I removed my wild card, the Joker (what other people typically call the Fool.) Granted, yes -- the Joker does have a set definition for nearly all other readers -- but for me, the Joker is a wild card with no set definition. That plus the fact that I never read with Jokers when I used playing cards, I decided to hack the Joker from the deck, too.

In the end, this left me with a 69-card deck composed of 21 trumps (forming a perfect, self-contained septenary), 36 pips (1-9 among among four suits), and 12 faces (J/Q/K among three suits). If you're studying along at home and are curious to know how this changes the configuration of the royal court, this is what I'm doing:
  • King: 4 < 9 > 2
  • Jack: 3 < 5 > 7
  • Queen: 8 < 1 > 6
All other rules for the royal court remain in effect: trumps produce fixed values based on the middle numbers, same and complimentary suits produce cardinal values based on the right numbers, neutral and opposite suits produce mutable values based on the left numbers. Rules for support and antagonism are unchanged.
Where was I? Yes... hacking the Tarot. In the end, this leaves me with a 69-card deck which strictly speaking isn't that far away from a 78-card deck, but even a small change can make a big difference. I mean, ever tasted the difference between 1% milk and 2% milk? The difference of 1% in milk-fat is quite noticeable, wouldn't you say? So when I removed 9 cards from the deck, this changed the deck in a few ways.

First and most obviously, a 69-card deck is no longer a Tarot. In order for a deck to be called a Tarot, it must be 78 cards composed of 22 trumps numbered 0 to 21 in ascending order, 40 pips divided equally among four suits in ascending order, and 16 faces divided equally among four suits and arranged in ascending order. Remove four pips, four faces, and a trump, and it's not a Tarot anymore. Hell, lacking the four 10's which I removed for my own pleasure, it's not even a regular playing deck anymore. But you know what the great thing is about being a Tarot reader? There are no Tarot police, and I'm free to experiment with, and hack away at, my Tarot deck as much as I please if it serves my purposes.

Second and less obviously, subtracting 9 cards changes the distribution and ever so slightly increases the odds of drawing almost any of the remaining cards. For example, in a 78-card deck, each card individually composes 1.2% of total deck, but in a 69-card deck this is increased to 1.4% of the total deck. Trumps were 28%, but now 30%. The pips were 51%, but now 52%. All face cards were 20.5%, but now 17%. In this newly adjusted distribution, I'm more slightly more likely to draw trumps and pips, and slightly less likely to draw faces.

Third and much less obviously, this change in distribution does something that I personally enjoy quite a lot: it creates much more frequent overlap among the cards. One of the things that I really enjoy doing during a Tarot reading is to form connections between cards based on shared septenaries (for trumps), or suit and value (for pips and faces.) Connecting number to number by shared value, connecting cards by shared suits, connecting trumps by shared septenary, and above all pointing out the conflict and opposition between any of the cards based on their neutral, complimentary, or polar opposition according to suit, number, or septenary is just fascinating. This sort of hunting is like a Dorito for my brain, and is so satisfying to me. 

Removing the poorly unified 10 (which never did fit very well into my 9 Satanic statements, and which is also considered only a permutation of 1), reducing the number of faces to match the configuration I prefer among playing cards, and removing the Fool to create a self-contained grand tableau of trumps is just a delight to me because it's like making Tarot new again. This creates an opportunity for me to not only attempt to improve or refine my approach to the Tarot, but this also recreates the feeling of novelty and discovery that has long since diminished for me.

Does this mean that I'm no longer a Tarot reader (since, after all, I'm not using a 78-card deck anymore)? Nope: Tarot reader I was, Tarot reader I am, and Tarot reader I will remain. I'll call myself what I like even if I have to ignore a few technicalities in the process. But me being who I am, it's very likely that I'll reintroduce the subtracted cards back into the deck during my next review in about two years. Of course, it's also very likely that in two years I might be doing something completely different.

So say I, a change is as good as a rest.