The 78 cards of the Tarot fit together to create an allegorical story, known as the Fool’s Journey. The cards are broken down into four suits, the Swords, the Pentacles, the Wands and the Cups, each of which deals with a particular aspect of the human psyche. Furthermore, each of the numbers in the suit has a significant influence on the portion of the Fool’s Journey that it relates to, and the Fours are a number associated with stability and consistency.
The number four
The number four is used to depict things that are dependable and reliable. There are four seasons and four suits in the Tarot deck; they represent the natural order of things, things that occur whether we notice them or not. What is also true is that revolutions do not take place under the number four; things follow a pattern, time and time again.
However, the underlying stasis of these cycles can promote new ideas and thoughts that will come to fruition as part of a natural process. Conversely, if someone locks in too tightly to the cycle of repetition, contemplation and inward thought can transform into stagnation and boredom.
Although they are not strictly fours, there are two cards in the Major Arcana also associated with this number: the Emperor and Temperance. The Emperor is the fourth card of the Major Arcana and sets the tine for all the cards that bear his mark. This card suggests that if you are the stabilising force in your own world, then you are the Emperor of your own life. It suggests that we seek to gain control of the aspects of our existence that are ours to take.
Temperance is the 14th card and suggests that sacrifice can sometimes be the best way to move forward. Doing without does not close doors, it removes the temptations of indulgence from our paths and creates other opportunities. This is the card of self-control and allows you to begin your path to becoming the Emperor of your domain.
The Four of Swords
The Four of Swords depicts a knight at rest, with four swords hovering over his prostrate form. Occasionally, there are three swords above him and one on the side of the sarcophagus on which he lies. However, this card is deceptive for although the knight seems to be inert and at peace, he is actually alert and ready for action. The swords represent ideas and our ability to communicate. They are within his grasp – all the knight has to do is make the decision to strike.
Drawing this card suggests that the querent needs to withdraw into himself to fully understand what is going on around him. Through a state of inactivity, he will become ready and prepared to act when he needs to. When Shakespeare wrote ‘the readiness is all,’ he may as well have been writing with the Four of Swords in mind.
The Four of Cups
In the Four of Cups, a boy sits beneath a tree in apparent contemplation. Before him are three chalices, resting on flat and even ground. Floating in front of the young man is another chalice, offered to him by an ethereal hand. However, the boy is either asleep or hasn’t noticed the offering, and he remains cross-legged with his head bowed and his eyes shut.
This card of symbolic of opportunities than can pass us by if we choose to ignore them or are so absorbed in something else that we simply fail to spot them. If we are not careful, this moment can signify the beginning of a run of apparent bad luck which, in reality, is simply us being blind to the opportunities that surround us.
The Four of Pentacles
Welcome to the Four of Pentacles, one of the most complex and difficult of all tarot cards to interpret. This card shows a man, seated on a throne, with his feet resting on two pentacles. He cradles a third in his arms and a fourth is embedded in the crown he wears. Behind him, in the distance, is a sprawling city, but the sky that frames the whole scene is grey and dull.
The pentacles are concerned with our material wealth and this card indicates that we are being too possessive or covetous of material gain. The sky, normally blue and lively, is dull and empty, representing how we can become blinded to everything else where money is concerned and the distance of the man from the city suggests that he is cutting himself off from the rest of the world and the potential of his own life, in order to hang on to what he’s got. In drawing this card, the querent should ask himself whether the pursuit of material wealth is worth the cost to his soul or his reputation.
The Four of Wands
The Four of Wands is the Tarot’s way of letting you know that there is a surprise coming your way and, if you are prepared for it, you will be delighted by its arrival! Four staffs stand in golden sands, with a garland strung between them, much like the chuppah used in Jewish weddings. The structure stands alone outside a prosperous city, with people coming and going about their business. Two people approach the structure, waving flowering bouquets, as if in celebration. The city represents the foundations of our lives; the things that we have created that support and sustain us.
However, outside of the normal nine to five, something unusual and rewarding is about to happen, something that has resulted from our own ingenuity and creativity – represented by the wands. The bouquets and garland represent the fruition of those ideas and the celebrants indicate that others will share your joy; this is an event that must be experienced by friends and family. Yet, there is also a reminder that celebration is finite; the people going about their business in the background serves to highlight the fact that life goes on and, ultimately, things will return to normal.
When a four is drawn in a reading, it might make the results a little less dramatic, but the querent can be comforted by consistency and reliability. Even surprises given up by the fours are not wholly surprising, and if we are aware of ourselves, it is almost possible to predict the changes in our fortunes before they become manifest.