Unlocking The Arcana - The Aces

Have you ever wondered why the aces of the tarot do not depict any scene other than a hand coming forth from the clouds with the suits emblem? There is a reason for this.

Much of esoteric thought derives from Greek philosophy so this is where we must go to first to explore this topic. Since we are dealing with numbers we must look to the Pythagoreans.

The early philosophers attempted to explain what reality was made up of. Elements such as air, water or fire were offered up as the “stuff” the world was made up of. Pythagoras explained the physical world through mathematics. For the Pythagoreans, numbers are the eternal principle that animates everything. The power of number is realized and expressed in the cosmos, in the soul and in all things.[1]

The Monad (The One) is what the Pythagoreans called their first principle. However the Monad is not a number itself, it is the generator or originator of numbers.[2]

Each of the cards also has an esoteric title. Within the minor arcana the titles start with “Lord of”. For example, the Four of Swords is The Lord of Rest from Strife. The Aces do not have a lord title, instead they are “Root of the Power of” with the element of the suit. Ace of Wands is “Root of the Power of Fire”, Ace of Cups is “Root of the Power of Water” and so on for each suit.

The ace’s represent in one sense the Monad; in the case of tarot the ace’s are the originators of each element. They the “First Principle” or “Root” of each element.

This means that the Two’s are the first true number within the Pythagorean system and with Tarot, as we see it is in the two’s we have our first scenic images.


Why do the Ace’s depict a hand emerging from the clouds? This is an image of the Hand of God participating in Creation. In tarot, the hand is the divine craftsman. In Gnostic and Platonic language, this is the demiurge who created the world using raw materials (the four elements).[3]



[1] Stamatellos, Giannis (2012-03-02). Introduction to Presocratics: A Thematic Approach to Early Greek Philosophy with Key Readings (p. 23). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid 23.

[3] Plato, Timaeus