Tarot as an Alphabet

People who make use of Tarot as a form of divination are referred to as Tarot “readers”…and using the cards in this way is known as doing a “reading.”  Given these terms, isn’t it possible to make a case for Tarot being essentially a sort of alphabet with 78 letters?  Letters assembled into sequences are what we read, right?  So any given Tarot spread could be viewed as a word, a phrase, a sentence, a poem, or whatever other assemblage of letters we like.

After pondering this concept, it occurred to me that if Tarot is, in fact, a 78-card alphabet, maybe the Majors are its vowels, and the Minors are its consonants.

For the sake of argument, hear me out on the following…  Consider the notion that in English, we can make words with only vowels, but not with only consonants: “I” is a word, “a” is a word, “eye” is a word, and they’re all made up solely of vowels…”cnsnnt” is not a word, “vwl” is not a word, “wrd” is not a word, and they’re all consonant-only.  In a sense, vowels are therefore arguably even slightly more “necessary” to the written language than consonants are.  They’re more scarce, and they offer a bit of added functionality

Also, consider this…  In our own written 26-letter alphabet, a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y are generally considered to be our vowels.  Fudging things a bit due to that “sometimes y” business, let’s say that this would work out to about 21% of the alphabet being its vowel population.  Now over in Tarot, we have 22 Majors out of the total of 78 cards.  22/78 = 28%.  That’s not identical to 21%, but it’s not ludicrously far off from it, either

And here’s my own admission: I have a slight personal bias in favor of the Majors.  If I do a reading that yields Majors, it feels complete, like a legitimate, vowel-inclusive word feels complete…but if I do a reading that yields only Minors, it feels somehow lacking and unsatisfying to me, like a lump of consonants with no vowels.  I realize how bent that might sound, and there’s no logic informing this response in me – but I also can’t pretend it’s not there.  So while this theory may or may not hold water with you, I’m kind of fascinated by it, myself.

P.S.  Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement about the Tarot Toolkit Online Course that I co-taught earlier this year!

2 thoughts on “Tarot as an Alphabet

  1. Interesting thought. And of course, on a similar track, there’s the tradition of attributing the Trumps to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet (although where, exactly, those attributions fall varies somewhat across Tarot thought).

    1. You’re right. Very interesting, too, as that’s a drawing of parallels between the Majors and an entire alphabet…but then what about the Minors in that instance? I’ve never heard anyone address the notion of the Minors being assigned letter attributions in that Kabbalah sort of context. It’s a lot to think about!

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