Journeying the Pips

 Journeying the Pips: Poetry and Prose of the Tarot de Marseilles

                                                        by Audrey J. Layden

Illustrations by Paul A. Nagy

Foreword JTP 3-9-16

It’s true that it’s only the last few years that I have put a sustained effort into studying the Tarot but I’m no stranger to the concept of reading the cards. My mother was a particularly gifted reader of the ordinary playing deck. She would lay out the whole deck of 52 cards in rows of nine with the 6th row having 7 cards. She’d then focus on a significator chosen by the person for whom she was reading and read out from there.

I copied down a meaning for each of the cards as she told them to me when I was about 14 and I wish I still had a copy of that but its more than 60 years ago so it’s gone. I periodically would decide that I’d study the Tarot but life kept intervening and I never got much past reading by using what was written in books. Memorizing meanings just didn’t seem to do it for me.

At last however, there came a time when I had fewer distractions and I took another stab at it. This was after I had met Paul and although he hasn’t directed my interpretations or the process I developed to help me learn the cards it was (1) his urging that I look at the cards thoroughly and in great detail and (2) his avowing that I was perfectly free to read them anyway I saw fit that moved me past whatever roadblock kept me from a full appreciation of the possibilities and intrigue of the Tarot.

Falling into the depths of the Major Arcana was fascinating and something I am still exploring but it was the Pips that got me writing. The fact is that I started to argue with the images/scenes offered on the various numbered suits in the deck I was using. Then Paul introduced me to the Tarot de Marseilles and I was hooked. This is where I feel that, for me, there is a greater opportunity to relate to the cards as symbols to explore rather than signs to be read. Signs are designed to concretize and simplify the known world. Symbols are images whose meaning transcends their content, pointing towards a yet to be discovered reality – outside the box – not quite yet defined.

I started to think of the cards as tools to access tonal vibrations of energy – like chimes that evoke a response and open the listener to visual sound – unique chords blending random cards – music of the cards – music as universal language – turning music into language – poetry.

Poetry lends itself to expressive images that are larger than the words that try to hold them, hinting at a wider universe. And so, poetry became my way of learning the Tarot from inside, of tuning into and expressing the energy, the music of Tarot. This current writing is to clarify for myself, and to share with any who might be interested, what I came up with to read the Tarot without the “little white book”.

galaxy 2

Journeying the Pips
To imagine that we can explain
All that is
Capture it with our earthbound intellect
And declare that we know the truth
That surpasses all other truth
Is to build ourselves boxes to hide in
And furnish them with cushions of words
To protect us from the vast unknowing
That so unsettles our fragile heartbeats

Rather come revel in the mystery
That challenges us to stretch and wonder
Eternally in the process of being
United with more than we can ever contain
In boxes of knowing.

JTP Introduction:

With each breath we take in and let out we are making ‘the now’ along with all the disparate others with whom we share this existence. We are history and future in pinpoint brilliance. We are the particular and the infinite in the crosshairs. We draw the Tarot cards to invite greater understanding of ourselves and how we may embrace our past and be active participants in the creation of our tomorrows. What we bring to the Tarot experience, the Tarot event, influences the depth and breadth of what may open to us, what we may be open to. The illustration above represents this event, the pivotal point of an observed present. The horizontal line carries the particular, the subjective, the individual and the vertical line carries the infinite, the objective, the shared universal.

What is it that offers this opportunity? The Tarot is a series of seventy-eight pictures and designs that are a tool for eliciting openness to the energies that are within us and which surround us. Energy is not ‘seen’ with the naked eye but its effects often are and scientists have been forever measuring it.

 “Concerning matter, we have been all wrong! What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.” Einstein

The Tarot experience offers a directed opportunity to explore these extant energies, within and without, at any given time, by allowing ourselves to key into the symbols that are pointing beyond the surface of our attention. We are ‘reading’ ourselves as the random symbols detach us from the norm that so distracts us to allow us to see, to hear, an expanded reality. Each melding of two or more cards creates a unique chord that resonates for a brief time. We act as observers, sorting out the myriad details that confront us, highlighting the role the we have in making decisions, in recognizing choices and their potential outcome.

“In a Tarot reading, a window of self-study is thereby opened to safely consider such shadow themes, teaching and empowering one to become master and maker of one’s fate, in all its facets, rather than its victim and/or victimizer.” Rosengarten page 102 Tarot and Psychology

The three parts to the Tarot are the Trumps or Major Arcana – archetypal images, shown as the vertical line in the illustration, the Pips or Minor Arcana – suits numbered one (Ace) to ten, shown as the horizontal line and the Court cards – Kings, Queens, Knights and Pages – the cast, shown as available to play a myriad of roles. All are critical in presenting factors to consider in whatever question may be at hand.  The Court cards most generally denote other players in the drama while the Trumps symbolize the objective collective, the enactment of communal scenarios or attitudes that may strongly impact the reality of which the seeker is an active part.

This work, however, focuses on the Pips, the Minor Arcana, forty cards divided into four suits, each numbered one (Ace) to ten. It is my belief that these cards connect most strongly with the seeker’s individual worldview, their unique stage of development moving through time as we know it. In reading, helping to interpret the Tarot for the seeker, the aim is to engage the person as fully as possible allowing what the cards symbolize for them to elicit true and honest response – helping to encourage that the best questions are being asked and addressed.

In many ways the Marseilles deck may be especially suited to this open-ended approach to freeing up the seeker’s own psyche, or inner knowledge. Because this style of deck presents the Pips as interactions between numbers and elements rather than the portrayal of scenes, it doesn’t set the stage beforehand but allows the seeker to bring in their own backdrops, props, and cast members.

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Nikola Tesla

In the world of Tarot and the Pips, the energy is represented by the four suit elements, the frequency and vibration is represented by the numbers one, or Ace, through ten. And it is the vibration of the numbers interacting with the elements that the reader may tune in to.


The four states of matter in physics – solid, liquid, gas, plasma – correspond closely to the classical elements – earth, water, air, fire, or Coins, Cups, Swords and Wands.  While the domains of these elements are interdependent – fire could not exist without air, earth could not realize its potential without water and so forth – understanding the special characteristics of each is essential.

Earth, Coins, is the solid, the stable, the literal. It is that which can be realized through the five senses, touched, seen, heard, tasted, and smelled. In a word it is the stuff of life.

Water, Cups, is the liquid, the mobile, the connecting, desiring union. Realized through the senses and something more it is more readily mutable in its form. It inevitably seeks its center, its heart, the sea. In a word it is emotion.      Linking earth to air?

Air, Swords, is the gas, the unseen touch, the ever-present, the carrier of intangible information like odor and sound. It moves within and without our bodies unceasingly as we breathe. In a word it is mind. Linking water to fire?

Fire, Wands, is the plasma, the volatile, the independent, initiatory movement. It is the conductor of energy from the potential into the manifest. In a word it is action.  Manifestation? Circling around back to earth?


Numbers are symbols. As such they represent something unseen, a belief, the imagined, unknown. Numbers are not material ‘things’. They are ideas, concepts.

They may serve as indicators of the natural process of human psychological growth and expansion in varied situations. There is a logical order from the Ace, the One, to the Ten. But in this context, we must understand that as agents of free will, subject yet to larger influences, this expansion is most likely irregular and characterized by falling back as well as moving forward. It is helpful nevertheless to illustrate how uninterrupted progression of initiation to completion works its way out.

As an example:

At birth we come forth from the womb, the zero, the indrawn breath of expectant potentiality, to the great wailing exhalation of life, the One, aware only of hunger. The duality is the inhaled breath of recognition that the “other” is required to satisfy that need, the Two. The joining of the One and the Two reaches for synthesis, the creative exhalation of the Three. The continued satisfaction establishes the resting inhalation of the Four, the family of support that allows the growth of that which has come forth. This growth strains the bonds of stability and leads to the challenging exhalation of the Five as a larger world is touched upon. The process of naturalizing to broader experience introduces the inhaling of the larger community, the Six of shared cooperation. Continued curiosity can provoke to look beyond the circumstance of survival to transcend the commonplace and to blow away, with exhalation, the cobwebs of known practice, the Seven. The reconciliation of the old, the Six, with the new, the Seven, adding up to thirteen and reducing to four, brings the double Four of the Eight, the withdrawal to construct, consolidate the larger vision. From there we spread out our history to meet its pains and pleasures, harvesting and discarding to exhale our stories, the Nine. The finale is the Ten, the One and the Zero that comes back to the beginning of all possibility on the spiral of existence.

A word about zero. There is before the Aces the potential of the void that is, rather than empty, filled with all that is possible beyond our current imagining.

Therefore it may well be said that this Circle Potential, this ⨀, is the first number in the cosmos’ and is symbolic of the Unknown, the Illimitable.  It contains all numbers, i.e. all possibilities, within itself, just as the light of the sun contains all colours in its “whiteness”.” Leonard Bosman, The Meaning and Philosophy of Numbers p.66

There is, after the Pips, between Pips and Trumps, again the zero, the Fool, again all unknown possibility.

Like the Kabbalistic conception of God the point is nothing, yet the entire circle radiates from it.  And the Fool’s number, 0, has been represented as a point as well as a circle.” p22. Rachel Pollack, Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom

The forty quintains that follow are an attempt to capture in words the unique blending of energy, frequency, and vibration that the Tarot symbols suggest. The poetic art form, that requires the readers participation in the creative process, is ideally suited to addressing these symbols.

Comments and questions on any and all aspects of this writing will be most gratefully received!

The illustrations are free hand ink drawings by Paul Nagy. They characterize the energetic ‘becoming’ of the cards inviting the viewer to be freely involved with the “living hand that reinvents the image seen”.

The Pips identify the Fool who acts and is acted upon by the Trumps and the zeros spiral and the circles become cycles.

Aces:Big Bang

Paul Ace Coins

Ace of Coins:
All about surrenders manna
bringing forth earth’s varied blessing
teasing with the stuff of making
shaping matters bud of being
offers up the working hand

Paul Ace CupsAce of Cups:
Surging currents of the sea womb
swirl the ancient silent canyons
stirring seeds that carry passion
waking, conscious, wanting, dreaming
undeciphered pulsing rhythm                                               

Paul Ace Swords

Ace of Swords:                                                             Gathers first the gasp of breathing
hears the ceaseless thought of being
stretched and straining for a wisdom
shackled by the vast unknowing
struggles still to own its meaning                               

Paul Ace Wands

Ace of Wands:
Lightning sent with heaven’s arcing
scorches loins and sounds the thunder
shaking loose the long inaction
putting heat to tool and sinew
pouring life upon the sand


Paul Two Coins

Two of Coins:
Spins and twists the fertile matter
Testing what the spirit calls to
Searching choices, changes, chances
Knows the blooming deep within
Holds the power of the making.

Two of Cups:
Knows a wrenching separation
Feels the empty space of longing
Reaches out to make reunion
Finds itself within the other
Reaching for the same communion

Paul Two Swords

Two of Swords:
Holds within itself the challenge
Thought that contradicts the maker
Arguing its own creation
Standing motionless in battle
Blind to all that goes without.

Paul Two Wands

Two of Wands:
Splits itself in two directions
Meets itself in whirling vortex
Seeking purpose in the moving
Casts the eyes upon horizons
Filled with possible intending

Threes: Expression

Paul Coins Three

Three of Coins:
Putting matter into motion
Molds the stuff to patterns planning
Feels the substance in the forming
Tosses up a new creation
Being how the world is made

Paul Three Cups

Three of Cups:
Celebrates the gift of harvest
Fruit of womb life’s fragrant blossom
Finds in joining increased measure
Gathering up creative working
Shares the joy of happy union.

Paul Swords Three

Three of Swords:
Breaking down the this or thatness
Forging something new from pieces
Leaves behind the warring factions
Aims to find a new hereafter
Built on shattered lessons learning.

Paul Three Wands

Three of Wands                                                                              Takes direction, ceases turning
Casting bread upon the waters
Moves ahead with eager promise
Acting on decisions making
Taking steps to feed the wanting.

Fours: Foundation

Paul Four Coins

Four of Coins:
So the thing itself before us
Warms us as we take possession
Satisfaction in the making
Storing resource for the future
Equal to the need demanded.

Paul Four Cups 2

Four of Cups:
Solid as the day is long now
Friends and lovers tied together
Settle into daily rhythm
Comfort in the trusted sameness
Lightly carry bonds of knowing.

Four of Swords:Paul Four Swords                                                                 Comes upon a settled landscape
Mind in synchronized attention
Neatly fitting thoughts in crannies
Each to suited space provided
Resting in the quiet wholeness

Paul Four Wands

Four of Wands:
Seeing the results of doing
Motion caught in stilled reflection
Watching as the ripples widen
Ready for the next outgoing
Joyful time within the moment.

Fives: Challenge

Paul Five CoinsFive of Coins:
From the center comes the breaking
Nothing holds to former station
Losses separate resources
Tear apart the old foundation
Solo run the shattered pieces

Paul Five Cups

Five of Cups:
Growing from within come fractures
Distance from the fading closeness
Outside forces widen spaces
Shifting sands revise the landscape
Playing on the unpredicted.

Paul Five Swords

Five of Swords:
Struggle to retain the theorem
Argument surrounds the thinking
What was once in place is threatened
New ideas invade the mindframe
Shaking girders, loosing rafters.

Paul Five Wands

Five of Wands:
Ways for moving on find blocking
Crowding on the path needs clearing
Obstacles engage the action
Building strength on challenge offered
Meets and counters all oncoming.

Sixes: Community

Paul Six Coins

Six of Coins:
Others come to aid the working
Vistas broaden, boundaries lengthen
New ways feed the aging footings
Adding richness to the mixture
Raising custom to brave levels

Six of Cups:
Reaching out to find communionPaul Six Cups                      Embraces more than held before
Warmth of others finds a welcome
Comes to know a wide belonging
Opens to a new receiving

Paul Six SwordsSix of Swords:
Seeks release from inner stressing
Sorting through the memories garden
Taking time for paths that wander
Curious in the exploration
Planting seeds for further growing.

Paul Six Wands

Six of Wands:
Sees the open path before it
Takes the steps with easy pleasure
Finds the others moving with him
Common action builds momentum
For achieving treasured goals

Sevens: Transcendence

Paul Seven Coins

Seven of Coins:
Breaking out of old traditions
Seeks a different way of doing
Searches for an unknown substance
Flowering from exotic birthing
Leads the way to newer climes

Paul Seven Cups

Seven of Cups:
Lets the fancy wander widely
Revels in imagination
Many dreams to stir the heartbeat
Choosing one for center stage
Falters in the contemplation

Paul Seven Swords

Seven of Swords:
Steps beyond the self-made boundaries
Slicing through to other thinking
Seeks another way of knowing
Questions all that comes before it
Grows new images to savor

Paul Seven Wands

Seven of Wands:
Seeks to know another action
Taking ways unknown, untested
Moves beyond familiar comfort
Tastes the wine of daring’s pleasure
Harking to the distant drummer

Eights: Masterpiece

Paul Eight Coins

Eight of Coins:
Comes the time for formulation
Coding out a way of conduct
Making a way for matters use
Sturdy, framed and undivided
Builds a whole from scattered parts

Eight of Cups:Paul Eight Cups
From the central heart of passion                                          Blended with the spirit’s moving
Grows a framework that encircles,
Guides and colors while describing
Being in the world with others

Eight of Swords:Paul Eight Swords                                                        Choosing from the wealth of notion
Forms a catacomb of being
Orders shapeless notes of thinking
Into ways of rhythmic custom
Round the inner blooming lotus

Paul Eight WandsEight of Wands:
Structured energy rewards
New ways build through repetition
Center forms a sturdy core
To temper burning passion
Molding fire into fuel

Nines: Inventory

Paul Nine CoinsNine of Coins:
All that’s wanted is at hand now
Flowering lush around the center
Holding place in confirmation
Plenty is the state of being
Yet to see what fruit is born

Paul Nine Cups

Nine of Cups:
Love grows forth from many sources
Wishes granted come together
Much is given, little asked for
All is present, no tomorrow
Threatened surfeit quiets wanting

Paul Nine Swords

Nine of Swords:
All pieces of the puzzle present
Lacking only final form
Seeks conclusion, waits the answer
Teased by hints that tempt the thinking
Struggles for the mental framing

Paul Nine Wands

Nine of Wands:
Focused aim comes from growing
Earned by nature’s yearning struggle
Girded with the strength of trials
Treasures the steady pulse of power
Moving towards the final goal

Tens: Pause

Paul Ten Coins

Ten of Coins:
Completion brings its own successes
Gladness grows in efforts crowning
All is done, the work is finished
Fullness brings an overflowing
From center seed comes new beginning

Paul Ten Cups

Ten of Cups:
Heart’s deep longing finds fulfillment
All the hungers satisfied
From the mighty chalice fashioned
By the balm of given grace
Blooms the rose of future seeding

Paul Ten Swords

Ten of Swords:
Kissing cross points come together
Sealed within completed reason
Tell the story through to ending
While without new concepts blossom
Pointing off to other searching

Paul Ten Wands

Ten of Wands:
Forward motion sealed in union
Story done, the task complete
Fully formed, energies settle
Quiescent till a transformation
Whips the winds of change again

Demonstration Reading:

Paul Seven Swords

Paul Three Wands

Paul Five Swords

Five of Swords:

Struggle to retain the theorem
Argument surrounds the thinking
What was once in place is threatened
New ideas invade the mind frame
Shaking girders, loosing rafters.


Takes direction, ceases turning
Casting bread upon the waters
Moves ahead with eager promise
Acting on decisions making
Taking steps to feed the wanting.

Seven of Swords:

Steps beyond the self-made boundaries
Slicing through to other thinking
Seeks another way of knowing
Questions all that comes before it
Grows new images to savor

These three cards were chosen at random for the purpose of showing how the poems might tell a story.  If I had chosen them deliberately I don’t think they could have described any better the process through which this piece of writing evolved.  Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Le Fou Manly P Hall

Copyright Manly P Hall Secret Teaching of All Ages

Comes the man, comes the woman
wounded, wandering, full of wonder
bearing image, mage and magic
circle ‘round, begin again.


We have, in a way, started with a zero and ended with a zero, The Fool,  ready to engage in a journey within the larger cosmos of the Trumps, the Major Arcana.  Along with The Fool are the other players in the scenario, the Court Cards, called by some the Royalty Arcana, personalities configured by their own intricacies of suit and position.  All are on possible call for the Tarot Event, intertwining with the existing symbologies of human situations to awaken us to their message.

The Pips serve as the foundation of the Tarot.  Just as the archetypal images both confront and inspire the actors so do the actors, by their individual choices along the way, help to conjure up the circumstances within which they find themselves.  Archetypes are made by human commonality -the cycling of the Pips.  As above so below – as below so above.

Like breathing in and breathing out, we create and are created by all that is around us.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Einstein

“Science comes to a stop at the frontiers of logic, but nature does not – she thrives on ground as yet untrodden by theory.” C.G. Jung

Inhale – take in, absorb, withdraw

Pause – choice, decision, the 0 potential of nothingness

Exhale- let out, release, create


Bosman, Leonard, The Meaning and Philosophy of Numbers, Maine: Nicolas-Hays, Inc. 2005

Hall, Manly Palmer, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, H.S.Crocker, 1928, San Francisco

Pollack, Rachel, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, CA: Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC 2007

Rosengarten, Arthur, Tarot and Psychology, MN: Paragon House 2000

Internet sources of quotes:



Tesla, Goodreads