Tarot card reading is an exciting and rich technique. This technique was developed by the Golden Dawn but European cartomancers used it much earlier. It allows you to see a story unfold in front of your eyes. This method eliminates all doubt as to the next step or the tarot meaning that applies to the situation.

Tarot cards can help you tell the story of your own life

Tarot card reading is an exciting and rich technique. This technique was developed by the Golden Dawn but European cartomancers used it much earlier. It allows you to see a story unfold in front of your eyes. This method eliminates all doubt as to the next step or the tarot meaning that applies to the situation.



Card groups & Counting values

Tarot Card Counting Mechanics

Card Counting

Tarot Card Counting Anomalies

Other Helpful Techniques

Doing Your First Linear Reading

Working outside the Box

Using this tutorial beyond the Celtic Cross

Card Pairing



This tutorial will teach you how to count cards using the tarot, as taught by the Golden Dawn. Their system is interwoven into the Qabbalah, the Tree of Life and other systems.

Golden Dawn uses Elemental dignities to determine the strength and weakness of cards that they count and examine. These two systems are extremely effective together but can also be used independently. For the sake of simplicity I have not included their use in this guide. They don’t depend on each other, so learning them separately can bring additional rewards.

Tarot readers who are not comfortable with the rigid and definitive rules of elemental dignity may find that the card counting method is thorough and rich in itself. Tarot card-counting is easier to master and makes the transition from basic tarot reading into advanced tarot more enjoyable. You can read other articles and tutorials about the elemental dignity before or after reading this one. This will help you to broaden your knowledge of these advanced tarot systems.

We must assign numerical values for each card to allow us to count them consistently. These are discussed and outlined below.


The Qabalistic Tree of Life assigns a unique value to each card. This system is not necessary to count cards. This is just a method to value the cards, and add structure and order to the technique.


The Aces represent 5, the four elements, and the fifth element, the spirit or aether.

The Small Card or Pip are given their own numeric value. For example, the 2 of Cups will count 2, the 8 of Pentacles will count 8, etc. These numbers are the sephiroth of the Tree of Life.

The pages and princesses are counted as 7, which is the seven palaces of the Tree of Life. These correspond to the seven planets of ancient times.

The Knights Queens & Kings number 4 represents the four letters of the Tetragrammaton.


3 is the sum of FoolHanged Man and Judgment. These are the three primordial elements that represent the Hebrew alphabet.

The nine planets of our solar system are represented by the Magician (the magician), High Priestess (the Empress), Tower, Sun, and the World.

As the 12 zodiac signs, the Emperor, Hierophant (the ruler), Lovers, Chariots, Strength, Hermits, Justice, Death Temperance, Devil and Star all count 12, so do the Hermit, Justice Death Temperance, Devil Star and the Moon.

Click here to download the complete Card Counting Reference Chart


Tarot card count is used for the epic tarot reading, the Opening of the Key. It has a specific way of determining where to start counting. To keep things simple, in this tutorial we will start counting with the first card. We will be counting in our natural side movements, from left to right.

Whenever we count we always include the card that we are counting off of as the first card.

Then we count the cards, telling a tale as we go.

If you are following the Golden Dawn rules then the counting will also end when we land on the card we have previously landed on.


Combinations of tarot cards and card counting work well together. Combinations of readings allow for richer stories with more details. Three cards tell a mini-story within the frame. The cards can also be read sequentially. It is best to read triads, or groups of three cards. This allows you to get more information from the multiple cards. These are the principal or central card, and the moderators (or flanking cards).

You will find it easier to read triads if you are familiar with Elemental Dignities. However, I would suggest that reading triads without Elemental Dignities will be less structured, and allow for greater freedom of interpretation, as there aren’t any rules to apply.

If we are counting and we reach a card at the end of the line of cards, then we add the card on the opposite end in order to complete the triad. The line of cards may be circular, and as such continuous.


This graphic shows a selection of cards with numerical values in different groups, and different strings (counts). It is also prepared for more advanced techniques to follow.

Use your Rider Waite Smith deck to follow this tutorial. Use a Rider Waite Smith deck if you don’t own one. The only reason to do this is so that the similarities between your deck and the cards in the picture are not lost.

Please lay out the cards from your own deck so you can follow along at your own pace. You can also use your own cards to follow along.
From left to right, they are:

Knight of Pentacles

Ace of Cups

3 Wands

3 of Cups

Page with Swords

The Lovers

9 Cups

7 Wands

6 Swords


The World

9 Pentacles

As he is the first card in the reading, the Knight of Pentacles will be our focus. The reading will focus on him and his most important life aspects at the time.

COUNTING from the Knight of Pentacles

The Knight is worth 4 cards, so count from him and include him. You will land on 3 of Cups.

If you are reading card combinations, look at the 3 of Cups and the cards directly adjacent to it.

A young man (Knight of Pentacles), perhaps at a celebration (3 of cups) after signing a contract (3 of Swords), will have his future expanded, and may include emigration.

When reading a triad, starting with the card that we have landed on (the 3 of Cups), we add the cards to either side of the 3 of Cups in order to read it as a combination. It is assumed that the cards either side of the center card are affected by the flanking cards. It is similar to the theory and method of Elemental Dignities. If you learn this system, you’ll find that learning to count cards will have prepared you for it.


We land on the Lovers after counting 3 cards, including 3 Cups.

If you are using card combinations, assess the Lovers based on the storyline that is developing.

It seems that this is his dream job (the 3 of Cups), or perhaps a partnership with which he has signed contracts (Page of Swords).

The 3 of Cups represents the celebration, not necessarily the dream position. Who would be so excited about something if it wasn’t important?

From the Lovers

We land on the Page of Swords after counting 12 cards, including the Lovers.

Use card combinations to enhance the story.

This partnership appears to be with the Page Swords, who is also celebrating. It could be that one or both of them were chosen from a larger pool.
The interconnectedness of these cards is fascinating. The Page of Swords is definitely part of this celebration. In a later tutorial, I will discuss a technique known as Directional Dignities. We can use this to examine the Knight of Pentacles, and the Page of Swords. They are both facing each other with non-aggressive bodies, which confirms their interaction, and inclusion in our assessment of opening cards. The cards between them also have relevance to their lives and how they will intertwine, as we’ll see later.

From the Page of SWORDS

We land on the World after counting 7 cards, including the Page of Swords.

Include the cards on either side and assess the World card as usual.

This job is a lucrative one, and there’s a possibility that he will have a romantic relationship with a lady (9 of Pentacles). He decides to move abroad (The World).

The Judgement cards give this triad a sense of destiny. In the eyes of the Knight of Pentacles, everything falling into place was meant to happen.


After counting 9 cards, including the World card, we arrive at the 9 of Cups.

The 9 Cups, the Lovers, and the 7 Wands are all included in this assessment.

Everything seems to be going smoothly (9 of Cups), until he encounters his first opposition or trouble (7 of Wands).

In this position, we can read more into 9 of Cups. The themes of satisfaction may show that the Knight is pleased with his new partner (The Lovers), and the way things are starting. The 7 of Wands, however, could be showing the initial phase of the new relationship.


After counting 9 cards, including the 9 Cups, to the right we arrive at the 3 Wands.

Assemble the three Wands as usual, and include the Ace of Cups, 3 of Cups, and the 3 of Cups.

He may be homesick now (3 of Wands), with only the possibility of a love affair (Ace of Cups), holding his attention. As the dust settles, perhaps the excitement has waned (3 of Cups).

It is important to not get too focused on one thing (love), when the Ace of Cups could represent a variety of things. Isn’t that tempting? Initially, the 3 of Wands indicated his desire for expansion, and possibly moving abroad. But now, I think it shows his desire for home or for something else. He may be assessing what he has achieved and lost and planning his next step. In light of the 3 of Wands and the new triad the 3 of Cups takes on a different tone. It now appears that he ignores the 3 of Cups or has temporarily shifted his attention.