Tarot card cycles

In studies of the tarot, Its been found to be something called tarot card cycles.  These are groups of cards that are related to each other in some way.  Below are notes on this interesting field of study. 

Tarot Card Cycles

For your consideration, here are some generally accepted tarot card cycles associated with the major arcana:

a) "Inner" cycle of cards 1 through 9

    "Outer" cycle of cards 10 through 18

    "Transcended" cycle of cards 19 through 21

b) Cards 1 through 6 - Path of Balance (harmony)

Cards 7 through 12 - Path of Life’s Lessons and Opportunities (Cause       and Effect)

Cards 13 through 18 - Path of Rebirth (Transformation)

Cards 19 through 21 - not account for in text on these cycles, but they would appear to be a transcended triad.

c) Splitting of the 21 major arcana into triads. There are many different definitions relating to a triad. One I recently encountered is associated with degrees of the mystery schools. It defines the triad as: 1) knowing, 2) doing, 3) being. Knowing is the book learning needed for entry into the mystery schools. Doing is the practice of practicing what is learned during Knowing. Being is the responsible use of the tools gained during Doing. This triad model corresponds nicely with the triad model of maiden, mother, crone.

When the 21 major arcana cards are split into triads, they form major and minor triads. Cards 1 through 9 have a three major triads (1-3, 4-6, 7-9) with a minor triad in each major triad. The second cycle of 10 cards again for three major triads with minor triads in each major triad. The last three cards (19-21) form a separate triad. I have tagged this separate triad with the title of "transcended". However, the form and function of the last three cards deserves further investigation.

One possibility is that there are three "super" triads in the major arcana. The first is associated with cards 1-9, the "inner" cards. During this first cycle one develops the tools of Knowing. A full cycle of 9 is used to emphasize the many steps required during the first stage of the triad. The "inner" cards show the archetypes associated with gaining and enhancing knowledge. Much of this work is inward, and hence the association.

The second phase of the "super" triad are cards 10 through 18. The "outer" cards show the archetypes associated with the exercise of knowledge in the practice of Doing. The effects are external, and will affect others. Many of life’s biggest pitfalls (The Devil) and lessons (The Tower) are present here.

The last phase is very short. It consists of only three cards instead of the ten. Why? The Doing function of the triad gains no new knowledge or techniques. Everything that is needed has already been established. The emphasis is instead on the proper, or "transcended", use of powers during the act of Being. The World marks the end of the final triad. The World represents the full maturity of being. It is the archetype of one who has mastered all inner and outer trials. With this total mastery, one is ready to begin again. Hence, the placement of the Fool, and the being of the path again at The Magician as the triad recycles.

Examination of Inner and Outer card associations:

The "inner" and "outer" have cards that correspond to each other. Below is a chart that gives my personal interpretation of their relationships.


# Inner # Outer Relationship
1 The Magician 10 Wheel of Fortune Wheel of Fortune reflects the good, but unpredictable, outcomes of the use of power in The Magician. The Wheel of Fortune has public consequences, while The Magician can work internally. The Wheel of Fortune reflects the outcome of the lots thrown by the Magician.
2 The High Priestess 11 Justice Both cards speak of judgment. The difference is that The High Priestess is inward, or unspoken. Justice is very outer and public. Justice exposes the privately held beliefs of The High Priestess.
3 The Empress 12 The Hanged Man The abundant harvest of The Empress leads to spiritual contemplation. The outer card as a check to the raw energy of the inner.
4 The Emperor 13 Death Death is the rebirth of the unmoving, static energy created by the Emperor. This appears to be another "checking" type relationship.
5 The Hierophant 14 Temperance The Hierophant is a card of guidance, focus, and growth. The Hierophant has a reputation of rigidity even though it is an agent of change. Temperance checks the rigidity by offering a blending of energies as it also changes and grows.
6 The Lovers 15 The Devil The Devil represents is both a warning and result of the outward energies of The Lovers. The choice made in The Lovers is extended to a choice of whether to break from the bondage of The Devil.
7 The Chariot 16 The Tower The progression of The Chariot to The Tower an interesting one. It would appear that the victorious journey taken by The Chariot has not gone far enough. The Chariot, ruled by Cancer, is associated with the crab. The crab carries its home on its back. The Tower seems to forcibly separate the crab from it’s home, forcing it to mature and find a new shell. Seven is also a spiritual number. If the inner spiritual path is not successful, the outer will force spiritual growth.
8 Strength 17 The Star The transition from Strength to The Star appears to be a "good" one. The self control of Strength flows into the hopes and wishes of The Star. Perhaps the check here is a warning of too much self confidence. The Star can also speak of being blinded by illusions and dreams.
9 The Hermit 18 The Moon The Hermit seeks knowledge, and finds more than what was expected. When the introspection of The Hermit moves outward, new and disturbing truths are discovered.

figure 4


Associations of Cards by Groups of Ten:

# Inner # Outer # Transcended
1 The Magician (optional)* 10 Wheel of Fortune 19 The Sun
2 The High Priestess 11 Justice 20 Judgment
3 The Empress 12 The Hanged Man 21 The World
4 The Emperor 13 Death 22 The Fool (optional)
5 The Hierophant 14 Temperance    
6 The Lovers 15 The Devil    
7 The Chariot 16 The Tower    
8 Strength 17 The Star    
9 The Hermit 18 The Moon    


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