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The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: Numerology of Pip Cards

When first getting acquainted with tarot, you’ll most likely hear about the Rider Waite Smith as the standard tarot card deck to work with for beginners. And indeed, that is the most common deck in the English-speaking world that many artistic interpretations of the tarot seem to be based on, including some of mine. But there’s a deck that is older than that - and if you trace the history of the Rider Waite Smith deck, you’ll most likely encounter another standardized deck - the Tarot de Marseille.

Just a heads up - this is a sneak peek of the upcoming Seventh Sphere Tarot deck - a Tarot  de Marseille companion to the Seventh Sphere Lenormand. To get updates, sign up for our newsletter!

How the Tarot de Marseille and Rider Waite Smith Tarot Are Different

The Tarot de Marseille was originally designed as playing cards - and as such the minor arcana is reflective of that. While you may be more familiar with detailed scenes and symbolism within the minor arcana, you might be a little nervous to see that the pips, as they are known, have no such depictions. Rather than following an symbolic story arc, as they tend to do with the Rider Waite Smith, they gather their meaning from esoteric numerology.

The cards are much less likely to press on you with distinct meanings or interpretations. Because of that, the majority of the meaning that emerges from the minor arcana will be dependent on your ability to follow your instinct, your knowledge of the suits, and numerology. The tradeoff however, if you manage to clear your mind of the meanings of the cards from the Rider Waite Smith system, is that your interpretations can be more personal. From my own experience, working with the Tarot de Marseille has been a lesson in unlearning - stripping meaning down into its most basic of elements.

In This Post: The Seventh Sphere Marseille

Full color plastic Tarot de Marseille deck with rose gold details. Companion app included.

Understanding the Suits in the Tarot de Marseille Minor Arcana

One thing that remains similar between both Marseille and Rider Waite Smith systems is that the suits remain unchanged in their meaning. More or less, they both correspond to the following:

  • Wands: Creativity, Action, Willpower
  • Cups: Feelings, Relationships, Love
  • Swords: Intellect, Thoughts, Ideas
  • Coins: Finances, Home, Body

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - Elements and Suits Meanings

Numerology Within the Tarot de Marseille Pip Cards

When we talk about the pips here, we’re talking about the 40 cards that range from ace to ten for each of the four suits. The court cards are not counted here, and they have their own system of sorts, that we can go over in another date.

The numerology that guides the pip cards is the very same one that we actually see in the first 20 cards of the major arcana for for the Marseille. What happens here is that we’re going to use the first 10 major arcana cards as a foundation for the themes that we see in the pip cards that match their number. For example, the Magician and the Aces are all about beginnings and potential. What you’ll start to notice (hopefully!) is that they actually go through a the same precise and orderly principles.

Aces in the Tarot de Marseille: The First Degree - The Magician

Potential is the main theme here - there is the promise of much to be achieved, but it is still in its latent stages. The archetype is the Magician, who represents willpower, energy, creativity and vitality. We see the same themes applied to the aces but in each of their suits.

  • Ace of Wands: New desire to play, move or create. A potential for action.
  • Ace of Cups: New desire to socialize, to give, to empathize. Stirrings of love.
  • Ace of Swords: New desire to explore ideas. Coming of inspiration.
  • Ace of Coins: Something is ready to be cultivated or enriched.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - The Magician and the Aces

Twos in the Tarot de Marseille: The Second Degree - The High Priestess

From potential, we need time to gestate and develop. The twos represent the quiet gathering of strength, or preparation for the move forward into action. The archetype is the High Priestess, who looks within herself for answers.

  • Two of Wands: Preparing for a creative endeavor. Developing abilities.
  • Two of Cups: Being reserved about one’s feelings. The beginning of a relationship, acquaintances.
  • Two of Swords: Reflecting or researching ideas. Preparing by gathering knowledge.
  • Two of Coins: Rest and restoration. Self care and nurturing.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - The High Priestess and the Twos

Threes in the Tarot de Marseille: The Third Degree - The Empress

At this stage, the energy that was latent and building in the prior degrees is unleashed - something raw and untamed is coming to fruition - usually a joyous occasion. This suggests the archetype of the Empress, who represents fertility and expression into the material realm.

  • Three of Wands: Impulsive and spontaneous action. Start of a voyage or project.
  • Three of Cups: Expressing emotions frankly. Sudden outburst of socializing and new friendships.
  • Three of Swords: Expressing a new plan or set of ideas. New communication.
  • Three of Coins: Making an investment of some kind. New purchase, explosion of physical vitality.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - The Empress and the Threes

Fours in the Tarot de Marseille: The Forth Degree - The Emperor

Once in the fourth degree, we are firmly rooted in the world - the previous untempered state has developed and been shaped by the laws of nature. There is a certain stability and organization here, represented by the archetype The Emperor, whose task is to bring order, structure and protection to his kingdom.

  • Four of Wands: Stable and predictable work. Developing habits and routines.
  • Four of Cups: Controlled and stable emotions. Relationships amongst family or community.
  • Four of Swords: Orderly analysis of something. Clarity and consistency in ideas and communication.
  • Four of Coins: Financial stability. Maintaining health. Keeping an orderly home life.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - The Emperor and the Fours

Fives in the Tarot de Marseille: The Fifth Degree - The Pope

At the fifth degree, we have reached the limits of our earthly realm, and in order to grow, we must look upward. The archetype of the Pope is the mediator between the realms of heaven and earth, and so this degree is about transition, about leaving what is familiar to explore new realms.

  • Five of Wands: Expanding and exploration in your projects. Experimentation.
  • Five of Cups: New adventures in love and relationships. Exploration of your feelings.
  • Five of Swords:  Open-mindedness. Willingness to accept new ideas and points of view.
  • Five of Coins: Innovation in financial matters. Pushing your body to new limits.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - The Pope or Hierophant and the Fives

Sixes in the Tarot de Marseille: The Sixth Degree - The Lovers

Pleasure and enjoyment is referenced here in the sixth degree. Here the primary motive is to find that which we are attracted to, and take in the beauty that the world offers us. The archetype of this degree, the Lovers too is concerned with the appreciation of beauty and pleasure.

  • Six of Wands: Joy in creativity. Do what you find pleasure in. Enjoying playful activities.
  • Six of Cups: Joy in relationships. Nurture connections. Pleasure comes from community or romance.
  • Six of Swords: Joy in intellectual stimulation and knowledge. Appreciating communication.
  • Six of Coins: Joy in comfort, home, and all things offered by the senses.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - The Lovers and the Sixes

Sevens in the Tarot de Marseille: The Seventh Degree - The Chariot

After experiencing the delights of the world, the next step in the journey of spiritual development is taking action - to give back towards the world. This action is typically inspiring and dynamic. In a sense, it is also a mirror of the third degree, but made instead of wild and explosive, it is tempered and focused. The archetype here is the Chariot, which represents all the of qualities defined before.

  • Seven of Wands: Trailblazing in your creative projects. Hard work leading to success.
  • Seven of Cups: Humanitarian efforts. Giving kindness and love to those who need it.
  • Seven of Swords: Teaching, educating others. Sharing knowledge with a larger community.
  • Seven of Coins: Expanding your business while running it with compassion and generosity.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - The Chariot and the Sevens

Eights in the Tarot de Marseille: The Eighth Degree - Justice

With the eighth degree, we are approaching harmony and full maturity. There is a strong sense of equilibrium here - and as with it’s archetype, Justice, the scales are balanced - all actions have yielded their consequences.

  • Eight of Wands: Unimpeded action. Work on your projects is effortless. Actions are in harmony with world.
  • Eight of Cups: Compassion and Empathy. A loving and humble nature marked by gratitude and love.
  • Eight of Swords: Clarity of thought. Intelligence is expanded. Intuition is open to inner knowledge.
  • Eight of Coins: Living in tune with nature. Nourishment of the body and home.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - Justice and the Eights

Nines in the Tarot de Marseille: The Ninth Degree - The Hermit

From balance and harmony, inevitably transition must come. The cycle is drawing close to an end, which though is only natural, can also be felt as a loss or a crisis. The key parts of this degree are about letting go, and bringing something to a close. The Hermit is the archetype of this degree, and shepherds you through this stage of isolation and withdrawal from the world.

  • Nine of Wands: Ending a creative project. Declining energy or motivation.
  • Nine of Cups: Ending a relationship. A period of sadness and mourning.
  • Nine of Swords: Releasing old ideologies or beliefs. New doubts.
  • Nine of Coins: Decline in health. Closing a business. Moving homes.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - The Hermit and the Nines

Tens in the Tarot de Marseille: The Tenth Degree - The Wheel of Fortune

Here the cycle comes to a close. This degree is about the turn of the wheel that starts this cycle anew - as represented by its archetype, the Wheel of Fortune. It is the degree of both endings and beginnings, which can bring about mixed feelings of completion, fulfillment, excitement, anticipation all at once. In this degree, we find transcendence.

  • Ten of Wands: No action is required. Completion of a project. Accomplishment.
  • Ten of Cups: A mutual separation. Emotions are resolved. Closure.
  • Ten of Swords: Compromise is reached. No longer attached to ideas.
  • Ten of Coins: Financial or health goals have been met.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - The Wheel of Fortune and the Tens

Do you have any other questions about the difference between Marseille and Rider Waite Smith systems? What is the most confusing to you? Leave your question here and I’ll do my best to answer!

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille: A System of Understanding Pip Cards - Full Infographic

Posted in: educational, infographic, minor arcana

20 comments


  • Renee
    Hi. I found your site looking for Lenormand info but then came across this article. It spoke to me immediately since I am looking for a system that explains pip cards with no imagery in a way that makes sense and this just resonates! Thank you. I have a question though if I may? Here you have the number eight as Justice though in other places here on your site you have the number as Strength. I know they are often switched around but can I ask why the switch here?
  • Tina
    @Marissa – I personally do not. On a practical level, I think the pip cards are much harder to see reversals in because they are vertically symmetrical. Also I believe – but don’t quote me on this – that the Tarot de Marseille was created before reversals were used in tarot, so historically, there’s that point too.
  • Marissa
    Do you typically read reversals with the Tarot de Marseille?
  • Karla
    I love the Lenormand deck! The pictures and colors are simply wonderful. I have the Golden Thread deck and use it often. I like the simplicity of the line drawings. This new Marseille style deck seems like a wonderful combination of the two! I can hardly wait for the new Seventh Sphere Tarot deck to be released!
  • Tina
    @elly – you can sign up for our newsletter – we’ll announce it through there :) @Ness – Yes! Well, to be more specific, I’m going to add this deck to the existing Seventh Sphere app – which is currently only Lenormand. I had plans for this a while back, since it was technically named “Seventh Sphere Lenormand & Tarot”. @April – I’m so glad to hear! I hope you end up enjoying it! :)

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