Tarot Counting explained

card counting

Tarot Counting Technique explained

Counting makes Elemental Dignities come alive. Each Triplet is linked or threaded together, and the Tarot Reader creates a “story”. Sometimes the thread is very straightforward, but other times the thread can become convoluted as it moves back and forward. The nature of the threading can be an indication of the complexity of a situation. The Tarot Reader is advised to silently “follow through” the length of the thread before starting to speak to the Querent.

The aim of Sequential Spreads is to create a story that can be either in the past, the present, or the future according to circumstances. Working within this system is fascinating, advanced, and a revelation not only to the Reader but to the Querent. In some cases it is as if the Reader was reading from a book or commenting on a scene from life. There are many advantages to Elemental Dignities, most of which do not come clear until one works with them in a reading. For example, using Elemental Dignities and the GD spread offers the Reader a multitude of choices of where to begin in a reading. Courts, never easy to read, are seen in their context and relationship between each other and the other cards – it is easy to see which Court  is doing what to another Court and how the Courts (and therefore people in the Querent’s life) respond to situations or trample over everyone.


By its nature, the Counting Technique is selective. Vital information can be gleaned by those cards that are missed. For example, a perennial question in Tarot Readings is “will this person come into my life?”. Once the Reader has located the Significator for the Reader, and the pile is spread out, it is plain that there is only one other Court of the right gender and age group. Counting starts, and surprise, surprise, the target is missed. Counting from the other Court , the Significator is hit. Interpretation? The Querent need do nothing special – that special person will turn up, and we can even suggest the way of the event according to Elemental Dignities. Alternatively, neither card links up, which suggests that the desired event will not happen. Does the intrepid Elemental Dignity Reader give up? No. Plan B comes into play, and the Reader searches for one in the spread that will connect with both Significators, suggesting a different course of action to achieve the desired result. Obviously, this is not always possible nor desirable. Another scenario is where there is a choice of suitor, so the possibilities surrounding each other can be explored.

The pattern is suggestive. The Reader may find the counting goes round in circles, which is exactly the experience the Querent has gone through. Since we are dealing with the energy flows within a reading, we can also see the Sphere of Influence: by definition, any card will influence those either side, and those that are hit by the technique. Each card is influenced by the cards at intervals 4, 5, 7, 9, and 12 either side of it, depending of course on the type. It is entirely possible that a card has no influence upon it, which is analogous to a singleton in Astrology which acts in a rogue way. Sometimes in even a long sequence, only a few are significant. Sometimes the Count meanders along, changing direction at random. My experience is that the fewer the moves, the more direct, the more likely something is to happen; conversely, a long sequence indicates many things that can go wrong. Sometimes the sequence goes through many Courts, showing that events are in the hands of others, not a good sign. We may also find “pockets” or groups that do not seem to be part of the situation – sometimes there are two or more ‘pockets’ indicating areas of the Querent’s life that is off-limits, or unknown at the present, that need to be investigated, or that the Querent is not addressing more important concerns. Looking at the elemental aspects, we may find that one or two elements dominate, or that the Count oscillates between opposing or enemy elements, showing a stop-start pattern, lack of confidence, confusion, or lack of direction.

Card Counting Technique

Card Counting is a technique that is fundamental to the GD Spread, it enables the Reader to create a ‘story’, a situation that develops over  time. It is a fascinating process that reveals layer after layer of subtlety.

5 or 11
Princess or Knave
Knight or Queen
Face Value
Minor 2-10
Fool, Hanged Man, Aeon or Judgment
Planetary Major: Magician, High Priestess, Empress, Tower, Fortune, Sun, Universe
Zodiacal Major: Emperor, Hierophant, Lovers, Chariot, Lust, Hermit, Justice/Adjustment, Death, Art/Temperance, Devil, Star, Moon

Obviously, there are differences between various Tarot decks that have to be taken into account. Remember that there were very few Tarot decks when the original documents were written. If your favourite Tarot deck does not contain these attributes, you will have problems, and I suggest you choose a more traditional deck.

There is another alternative method of counting in the Book of Thoth where the Aces count 11 and not 5. Eleven is a significant number in that system, and it is very dynamic – the number of change and magic. Since I have a synthetic approach to techniques, I usually count five, but if a situation appears “locked”, I will resort to using eleven. Be warned, this is very powerful, and can result in life changing experiences for the Querent; this may be exactly what the Querent wants. Since choice is a vital aspect to readings, and gently steers the Querent away from a fatalistic point of view, the Reader may find it worthwhile offering alternative actions and their outcomes.

Facing and Direction of the Courts

A peculiarity of the Court cards is the direction the counting starts with. The original instructions state that the direction to count depends on which way the face of the figure is facing. A moment’s thought should make one realise how inadequate this advice is – it depends on the Tarot Deck used. A far more practical method is to look at where the Courts are placed upon the Tree of Life. The Queen resides in Binah on the left, while the Kings are placed upon Chokmah on the right. Between them is the centre column of balance. Therefore, the Queens and Princess should move to the right, while the Kings and Knights should move to the left. The Golden Dawn Spread allows reversals, so the direction would change if a court is reversed.

The Courts control the direction counting takes place, and if several Court cards are ‘hit’ in the process, the direction may change several times. Card counting finishes when a card is ‘hit’ twice.

What happens when a card is hit twice but from the opposite direction? In my experience I have found it is better to continue counting until a one is hit from the same direction.

Article Name
Tarot Card counting explained
Tarot Counting makes Elemental Dignities come alive. Each Triplet is linked or threaded together, and the Tarot Reader creates a "story".

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