The Importance of Words in the interpretation of Tarot - or - The Art of Splitting Hairs

Words are important. Pictures, symbols and icons can do a lot, but in many instances, they remain extremely subjective and in many cases extremely esoteric - more so than words in some cases (see the essay The Keys of Understanding elsewhere on this site). Words do have similar limitations as that of images, but if chosen carefully, words can be a very effective way of transferring a thought from one brain to another - especially when an intermediary like a book or web site is involved (see Content + Context = Meaning elsewhere on this site). I'm not saying that words are better than pictures, only that things like word dictionaries seem more commonplace than picture, symbol and esoteric icon dictionaries, and as a result, the potential for finding agreement about anything using words, with a dictionary between us, seems more likely to result in precise communication than with pictures, symbols and esoteric icons and no dictionary.

Of course, for many tarot enthusiasts, agreement and precision of communication from one person to another is not important. To many, tarot is a strictly personal thing, where words fail in exploring deeper thoughts and emotions. Thus... to many, words are not important. Hence... the strong interest in tarot - a device that is largely visual - in the first place! But... in making this distinction, many overlook just how many words have passed into their brain in the process of understand the images they use. In making such an error, many overlook the fact that there is indeed a difference between USING tarot, vs. STUDYING tarot. In using tarot, words indeed matter much less than the emotional reactions we have to the images in the deck. While in studying tarot, we are frequently, if not typically, consulting other sources to compare our personal experience with the personal experience of other people. In studying tarot we are frequently, if not typically, taking an interest in knowing and understanding what the intended meaning of an image is, relative to the intent of the author who created the image in the first place. Some authors will not, or cannot divulge that meaning. Others have very specific meaning in mind. Thus it is in the conveying of this very specific meaning that words become extremely important to effective communication from one brain to another.

Some symbols and icons are pretty common and obvious in meaning - as obvious as some words. Many however, are specific to a particular culture's thoughts and lack clear equivalents to point to as a translation. The symbols that are pretty common don't need much verbal support to understand. The symbols that are more esoteric to a particular culture usually do require some verbal support, in order to convey to an initiate exactly what each symbol stands for (see The KEYS to Understanding elsewhere on this site). Because so many established word-based languages have dictionaries, translating from word to word is often easier than translating from culture-specific esoteric symbol to culture-specific esoteric symbol. That is why this STUDY of tarot strives to perfect a system of analysis that includes a device devoted to the detailed organization of words. I have very definite intent in the meanings of each card/number of this system. These meanings are not born out of occult mystical rhetoric from the past, or even my own personal emotions derived from interactions with the images of existing tarot decks, they are born out of the meticulous observations I've made of fundamental, elemental, primordial, archetypal patterns in nature. A person owning any of the decks being offered on this site could USE my words... and pictures, in a reading, to suit their own intuition and personal experience, and come up with any kind of meaning they like. But, in STUDYING those same decks, it will be found that the words themselves point to very specific ideas. Thus, unequivocal word-based communication is of extreme importance to this system.


New Grammatical Terminology!

Unfortunately, a problem was encountered when I attempted to define the many ways in which this system differentiates various word associations and the ideas they represent. Describing the difference between words of the Major Trumps as antonymous was easy (see the essay The Spine of Tarot elsewhere on this site). But beyond that, I could not find any established terminology that could adequately describe the other subtle, yet distinct variations of meaning that I use elsewhere within this system (see the essay The Numbers in Space elsewhere on this site). As a result, I have been forced to invent my own terminology, which I offer here. Some of these terms are specific to describing parts of my system and may not be so relevant to common everyday semantics. But others might actually be usable by linguistic experts seeking precision in speech and definition of word meanings.

Ultimately the meaning of individual words remains about as subjective as any symbol or icon. Because of that, many may not agree with how accurately the examples I've included here fulfill the requirements of each term offered. That's OK. It's the definition of the terms that is important here, and how they can be used to organize our own individual, subjective interpretation of any word, or set of words, and the ideas they represent. Ultimately, like a tarot deck itself, these grammatical terms are intended to be used as a tool for organizing ideas, whether expressed with pictures or words, or pictures and words - with clear referents or unclear referents. These grammatical terms are mean to be used as a tool for differentiation. A discriminating eye, STUDYING the tarot, will understand the importance of these terms. An highly personal, intuitive or interpretive eye, USING the tarot, may have no need for them. Personally, I like to utilize both methods. So, I find this particular method of organization useful during the times that I am employing my discriminating eye.

Here's the way I approach the semantics of tarot interpretation:

First, invent the terminology that will allow for clear communication, whether that be between myself and another person, or my conscious mind and my unconscious mind... my Binary Buddy (see A Binary Buddy elsewhere on this site).







Where one word is the
Opponent of Other
Contingent of Other

They are

----- (Example) -----
(Sprng/Smmr vs Fall/Wntr)
(Add/Mult. vs Sub./Div.)

----- (Geometry) -----
Incremental vs Decremental
Additive vs Subtractive

----- (Nature) -----
Positive vs Negative
Ameliorate vs Deteriorate

Where one word is the
Manifestation of Other
Abstraction of Other

They are

----- (Example) -----
(L-Brained vs R-Brained)
(Particle vs Wave)

----- (Geometry) -----
Segmented vs Continuous
Sequential vs Simultaneous

----- (Nature) -----
Quantitative vs Qualitative
Categorical vs Conceptual

Where one word is the
Agent of Other
Derivative of Other

They are

----- (Example) -----
(Past vs Future)
(Birth vs Death)

----- (Geometry) -----
Mono vs Poly
Uni vs Omni

----- (Nature) -----
Causative vs Effective
Antecedent vs Consequent

Where one word is the
Cardinal of Other
Peripheral of Other

They are

----- (Example) -----
(Point vs Sphere)
(Hub vs Rim)

----- (Geometry) -----
Apart vs Together
Outer vs Inner

----- (Nature) -----
Exclusive vs Inclusive
Segregated vs Integrated

Where one word is the
Precursor of Other
Subsequent of Other

They are

----- (Example) -----
(A vs B vs C)
(1 vs 2 vs 3)

----- (Geometry) -----
Consecutive & Serial
Adjacent & Contiguous

----- (Nature) -----
Active vs Passive
Connective vs Connecting

Where one word is the
Exaggerate of Other
Mitigate of Other

They are

----- (Example) -----
(Wt/Lt vs Dk/Bk)
(Hot/Warm vs Cool/Cold)

----- (Geometry) -----
More vs Less
Greater Than vs Less Than

----- (Nature) -----
Superlative vs Comparative
Extreme vs Between




[+] or [X] vs [--] or [/] [+] or [--] vs [X] or [/] 1, 2, 3 or 4 vs 6, 7, 8 or 9 3, 4 or 6, 7 vs 1, 2 or 8, 9 2, 4, 6 or 8 vs 1, 3, 7 or 9 Good, Smile vs Bad, Frown


In the matrix organization of ideas being presented throughout this STUDY of tarot, meaning is facilitated by differentiation. In such a world, no word or idea can be offered into this system as an objective suggestion of meaning, without also offering reasons for differentiating one interpretation from another. By comparing and contrasting, meaning of words are better understood. In this way, ambiguity in the communication of an idea from one brain to another is reduced. However, as implied above, many recoil at the very idea of reducing ambiguity and establishing precision, or objective meaning... they prefer the multivalent, ambiguous meaning of symbolism over that of any objective meaning. At the same time, people continually ask "what does this card mean?" Sometimes, those devoted to personal interpretation of meaning while USING a tarot deck will only offer multivalent, ambiguous suggestions. Others, however, in their STUDY of intended meanings crafted by an author, will attempt a measure of clarity in the communication of that intended meaning. This is where the grammatical terminology being invented in this STUDY of tarot can come in handy.

The first term - Antonym - is easy. It asks you to define the diametrical opposite of the word or idea chosen. In the parallel 9s approach being used by this system of tarot analysis, this differentiation defines the difference between the first half of the Major Trumps (1-9) vs. the last 9 (10-18). And, as Minor Suits are seen as Child to the Parent Majors, it also defines the difference between the suits of Coins and Cups vs. Staves and Swords.

The next term - Coronym - is a little tricky, it asks you to consider the analogous correlation between an abstract, intangible, qualitative concept and an equivalent tangible, literal or otherwise quantitative embodiment of the same core concept - or vice versa. In the arrangement of Minor Suits being offered in this study of tarot, there is a correlative relationship between the suits of Coins and Cups. The same kind of correlative relationship is also seen between their opposite suits, Staves and Swords.

The next term - Transonym - asks us to define the complementary difference between words devoted to describing the equidistant similarities of number along a number line, as they represent the entering or exiting of our theoretical model of existence... a relationship that is determined by the influence of progress along a number line. As dynamic, temporal progressions of ideas are described with a number line, equidistant numbers reveal similarities with a cause and effect, before and after difference between them. One number becomes an agent, the other becomes a result.

The next term - Invonym - asks us to consider the proportional inverse of a word, or the idea it points to. In the study of existence being offered on this site, a number line represents the parts of any manifest entity. In representing the many facets of an entity, this term asks us to consider the difference in perspective between the inside looking out vs. the outside looking in, and how they become the inverse of each other, creating the kind of inverse symmetry that we see in a point becoming a sphere, which is then considered to also be a point.

The next term - Proxonym - relates to sequential numbers, or ideas, that are adjacent to each other on the number line. The proximate relationship of words is determined by the mapping and segmenting of intangible concepts into a number line form. So a proxonym represents the subtle variations that can be seen as a single core concept is divided into nine adjacent variations on a theme. To understand the difference in meaning at this level, you would need to have a working knowledge of the abstract concepts that make up the model of ideas, upon which the number line is based. Much more than I can offer here.

The last term - Varonym - is also a bit tricky. It asks you to consider a single core concept or idea, and express it in its most extreme or moderate terms. Usually, an extreme variation of a core concept will be taken as too much or too little. Being too much or too little carries with it an implication of subjective "good" vs subjective "bad." While such concepts as good and bad remain eternally subjective, this term invites you to map one's INDIVIDUAL, personal subjective sense of good and bad. Varonyms would be utilized when determining the nature of upright vs reversed cards of the same number ... in opposing suits.


That's the invented terminology. Here is a diagram that will help explain how each term relates to the Matrix of numbers that makes up the design of all the tarot decks being presented on this site. I use this Matrix to sort out the influence of patterns and archetypes within a tarot deck, but the same matrix could be used by anyone else for any kind of verbal sorting of meaning.

I also like to imagine each of these terms mapped upon a globe, in which case:

A Transonym is like connecting two points on a globe from North to South. That is, from an equidistantly similar climate in the Northern Hemisphere, to equidistantly similar climate in the Southern Hemisphere... like: Cold to Cold, or Cool to Cool, or Warm to Warm, or Hot to Hot.

A Proxonym is like traversing a globe incrementally from North to South, one latitude at a time... like: from Cold to Cool to Warm to Hot to Hot to Warm to Cool to Cold.

An Invonym is like the difference between the insides and outsides of a globe... like: the fiery core, the earthen surface, the watery atmosphere and the airy sphere of influence.

An Antonym is like connecting two points on a globe from Front to Back, or Day to Night - with diametrical extremes of difference between the two.

A Varonym is like traversing a globe incrementally from Front to Back, one longitude at a time...like: from Day to Afternoon to Evening to Night to Dawn to Morning to Day.

A Coronym is like the difference between an actual globe that exists in some kind of tangible reality, vs. the intangible idea of a globe that exists in a mind - between the actual and the virtual. It describes the difference between imagination conceptualized, and imagination realized.


The Semantics of Tarot Interpretation

These are the "Levels of Abstraction" that I contemplate with each and every tarot card or number of numerology (see the essay The Numbers in Space elsewhere on this site). This is how the study of tarot being presented on this site attempts to clothe the archetypal roots of various numbers, relative to the fundamental patterns of nature they represent. To acquire this knowledge, a serious STUDY of the theoretical model of existence being presented on this site is required. We need to STUDY the fundamental, elemental, abstract patterns that are used to determine the nature of the fundamental, elemental abstract concepts behind the symbols and icons of each tarot card. Once the conceptual roots of the abstracted, primordial patterns have been STUDIED and understood, the subjective vocabulary chosen during the USE of a tarot deck may be different for each individual. Thus we can argue about whether this or that particular word best describes this or that particular number. But... the theory being presented here proposes that if we do disagree, it's up to each of us to suggest a better word that does fit, and to do so by also providing the supportive evidence of additional Antonyms, Coronyms, Transonyms, Proxonyms and Varonyms. In other words, we are not to examine any one card by itself, independent of all other cards, we are always and only to examine individual cards relative to other cards that relate to them in these various grammatical ways. Because... no matter what... the objective pattern of a matrix of subdivided opposites is there, whether we are able to come up with subjective vocabulary capable of describing it or not. The cubby holes are all there. The fundamental, elemental, abstract patterns that lead to the cubby holes are all there. Thus the challenge beeing put to each individual STUDYING this system is to sort and organize their own subjective vocabulary accordingly, using this Binary Matrix of grammatical relationships, and by doing so, reduce ambiguity in their communication of ideas from one brain to another. In other words - with this system each individual is asked to lay their cards on the table! All of them! Arrange them in such a way that if they want someone to believe, objectively, that such-n-such a card means such-n-such, they are able to explain... where in the deck will we find that card's Antonym? Where will we find its Varonym? Where will we find its Coronym? If those questions cannot be answered, great suspicions may arrise as to how well thought out each suggested meaning really is, or... how extensive and complete the deck being used may or may not be in its attempt to describe as full and complete a spectrum of human experience as possible.

Not every tarot deck out there is so meticulously organized as the ones on this site, using this Grid Matrix of invented grammatical relationships. In fact... my guess is that to anyone viewing the Minor Suits as groupings of 10 (especially if they see them as representations of the 10 sephiroth of the Qabalah), the very idea of a Transonym would be lost (see the essay A Few Minor Changes elsewhere on this site). And if they don't view the number line as incremental steps of dynamic, temporal, progressive patterns then the very idea of a Proxonym would be lost too (see the essay A Significant Signatue of Nature elsewhere on this site). And if they arrange their suits according to the traditional approach seen in most books on tarot, the very idea of a Coronym will be lost (see the essay A Few Minor Changes elsewhere on this site). And if they are someone who doesn't utilize reversed meanings then the very idea of a Varonym will be lost as well (see A Spectrum of Possibilities elsewhere on this site). This system can help in finding all those associations with ease. Once this system is STUDIED, the archetypal meaning of any card in the deck will be obvious. Anyone USING this system will then be able to objectively deduce the archetypal essence of any card, and translate that to a subjective personal meaning, based on an intimate knowledge of fundamental, elemental, abstract, archetypal patterns in nature, and the logical grid matrix organization of subjective vocabulary.

I think the invented grammatical terminology being presented here could be very useful. With this system, the endless debates about semantics are not ended, but hopefully improved... like playing football on a grid, in a stadium, instead of an open field with no such lines of distinction. People USING tarot may not need or want such lines of distinction. People STUDYING tarot, and wanting to communicate what they think this or that tarot card objectively means - relative to fundamental, abstract, archetypal patterns of nature and a theoretical model of existence, might find these lines of distinction useful in transferring a thought from one mind to another. For an example of how these terms can be used during debates about the semantics of meaning, try playing the game Shake the Trees! elsewhere on this site.

All words and images Copyright © 1980 - 2016 by Guy Palm

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