Distribution Probability Counts by Spread Sizes

The ability to count cards, as if at a blackjack table in a casino, is unlikely to help you read the tarot better. But knowing, for example, that in the spread you just laid out for your client, Mars is more heavily represented than chance would account for can provide a rather important insight. Though deck designers often try to give us clues, it might be easy to miss something like that. Some decks even print the zodiac, planetary and/or qabalistic symbols on each card, specifically for this reason.

The table below isn’t meant to be anything more than background information. It’s to provide a context. How does one recognize when, to take our example, Mars is “over-represented?” You can develop a feel for it, of course, but not everyone can do that. Fortunately, modern spreadsheets provide us with the ability to calculate standard deviations easily. That’s what this table does. Given a known subset, as, for example the sixteen court cards of the 78 card tarot deck, assuming a random shuffle (not that any shuffle is truly random), we can forecast that in a ten card spread a standard deviation formula shall suggest that between one and three court cards shall appear. It’s common sense: the court cards account for just over 20% of the deck. The space between the “extra” card on the “3-card-side,” or the “missing” card on the “1-card-side” represents the standard deviation. So if you should see four or five or more: the cards you’ve drawn are indeed “heavy” on the court. Given ten court cards, you have a full address book!

Type Quantity Cards in Layout Expectation based upon standard deviation
Earth:
all the Pentacles
14 1 Between 0 and 1
2 Between 0 and 1
3 Between 0 and 1
4 Between 0 and 2
5 Between 0 and 2
6 Between 0 and 2
7 Between 0 and 2
8 Between 0 and 2
9 Between 1 and 3
10 Between 1 and 3
11 Between 1 and 3
12 Between 1 and 3
13 Between 1 and 4
14 Between 1 and 4
15 Between 1 and 4
16 Between 2 and 4
Water, Fire, Air:
All Cups plus The Hanged Man;
or all Wands plus Judgment;
or all Swords plus The Fool, respectively.
15 1 Between 0 and 1
2 Between 0 and 1
3 Between 0 and 1
4 Between 0 and 2
5 Between 0 and 2
6 Between 0 and 2
7 Between 0 and 2
8 Between 0 and 3
9 Between 1 and 3
10 Between 1 and 3
11 Between 1 and 3
12 Between 1 and 3
13 Between 1 and 4
14 Between 1 and 4
15 Between 2 and 4
16 Between 2 and 4
Court: all Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings. 16 1 Between 0 and 1
2 Between 0 and 1
3 Between 0 and 1
4 Between 0 and 2
5 Between 0 and 2
6 Between 0 and 2
7 Between 0 and 2
8 Between 1 and 3
9 Between 1 and 3
10 Between 1 and 3
11 Between 1 and 3
12 Between 1 and 4
13 Between 1 and 4
14 Between 2 and 4
15 Between 2 and 4
16 Between 2 and 5
Major Arcana 22 1 Between 0 and 1
2 Between 0 and 1
3 Between 0 and 2
4 Between 0 and 2
5 Between 0 and 2
6 Between 1 and 3
7 Between 1 and 3
8 Between 1 and 3
9 Between 1 and 4
10 Between 2 and 4
11 Between 2 and 4
12 Between 2 and 5
13 Between 2 and 5
14 Between 3 and 5
15 Between 3 and 6
16 Between 3 and 6
Minor Arcana including all pips and court 56 1 Between 0 and 1
2 Between 1 and 2
3 Between 1 and 3
4 Between 2 and 4
5 Between 3 and 5
6 Between 3 and 5
7 Between 4 and 6
8 Between 5 and 7
9 Between 5 and 8
10 Between 6 and 8
11 Between 7 and 9
12 Between 7 and 10
13 Between 8 and 11
14 Between 9 and 11
15 Between 9 and 12
16 Between 10 and 13
Each Zodiac Sign:
Aries: Two of Wands, Three of Wands, Four of Wands, The Emperor;
Taurus: Five of Pentacles, Six of Pentacles, Seven of Pentacles, The Hierophant;
Gemini: Eight of Swords, Nine of Swords, Ten of Swords, The Lovers;
Cancer: Two of Cups ,Three of Cups, Four of Cups, The Chariot;
Leo: Five of Wands, Six of Wands, Seven of Wands, Strength;
Virgo: Eight of Pentacles, Nine of Pentacles, Ten of Pentacles, The Hermit;
Libra: Two of Swords, Three of Swords, Four of Swords, Justice
Scorpio: Five of Cups, Six of Cups, Seven of Cups, Death;
Sagittarius: Eight of Wands, Nine of Wands, Ten of Wands, Temperance;
Capricorn: Two of Pentacles, Three of Pentacles, Four of Pentacles, The Devil;
Aquarius: Five of Swords, Six of Swords, Seven of Swords, The Star;
Pisces: Eight of Cups, Nine of Cups, Ten of Cups, The Moon.
 
And also: the sefirot which are mapped to the pips. Binah, Chesed, Geburah, Tiphareth, Netzach, Hod, Yesed and Malkuth, corresponding to the Twos through Tens, respectively.
4 1 Between 0 and 1
2 Between 0 and 1
3 Between 0 and 1
4 Between 0 and 1
5 Between 0 and 1
6 Between 0 and 1
7 Between 0 and 1
8 Between 0 and 1
9 Between 0 and 1
10 Between 0 and 1
11 Between 0 and 1
12 Between 0 and 1
13 Between 0 and 2
14 Between 0 and 2
15 Between 0 and 2
16 Between 0 and 2
All Planets except Mars:
Jupiter: Eight of Swords, Six of Wands, Four of Swords, Two of Pentacles, Nine of Cups, The Wheel of Fortune;
Mercury: Five of Pentacles, Three of Cups, Ten of Pentacles Eight of Wands, Six of Swords, The Magician;
Moon: Six of Pentacles, Four of Cups, Two of Swords, Nine of Wands, Seven of Swords, The High Priestess;
Saturn: Seven of Pentacles, Five of Wands, Three of Swords, Ten of Wands, Eight of Cups, The World;
Sun: Three of Wands, Ten of Swords, Eight of Pentacles, Six of Cups, Four of Pentacles, The Sun;
Venus: Four of Wands, Two of Cups, Nine of Pentacles, Seven of Cups, Five of Swords and The Empress.
6 1 Between 0 and 1
2 Between 0 and 1
3 Between 0 and 1
4 Between 0 and 1
5 Between 0 and 1
6 Between 0 and 1
7 Between 0 and 1
8 Between 0 and 1
9 Between 0 and 2
10 Between 0 and 2
11 Between 0 and 2
12 Between 0 and 2
13 Between 0 and 2
14 Between 0 and 2
15 Between 0 and 2
16 Between 0 and 2
Mars: Two of Wands, Nine of Swords, Seven of Wands, Five of Cups, Three of Pentacles, Ten of Cups and The Tower. 7 1 Between 0 and 1
2 Between 0 and 1
3 Between 0 and 1
4 Between 0 and 1
5 Between 0 and 1
6 Between 0 and 1
7 Between 0 and 2
8 Between 0 and 2
9 Between 0 and 2
10 Between 0 and 2
11 Between 0 and 2
12 Between 0 and 2
13 Between 0 and 2
14 Between 0 and 2
15 Between 0 and 2
16 Between 0 and 3
Reversals (78 of 156) 1 Between 0 and 1
2 Between 0 and 2
3 Between 1 and 2
4 Between 1 and 3
5 Between 1 and 4
6 Between 2 and 4
7 Between 2 and 5
8 Between 3 and 5
9 Between 3 and 6
10 Between 4 and 6
11 Between 4 and 7
12 Between 5 and 7
13 Between 5 and 8
14 Between 6 and 8
15 Between 6 and 9
16 Between 7 and 9

The fact of the matter is this post grew out of an exploratory whim. I am particularly interested in the influence of astrology upon tarot, and this is a help in pinpointing the influences upon a given reading. I tend to do Celtic Cross layouts, which consist of ten cards, for any important question. Smaller layouts, as you can see by the lesser of the range sizes in the table, won’t gain very much from this type of analysis. But I’ve included all, because I’m sure there are curious people like me out there.


Copyright Information:
Creative Commons License 
This article’s content
by John Iacovelli, for islevue.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at mailto:admin@islevue.com.

John Iacovelli

I have spent 30+ years in the computing industry. In it I've pretty much done everything from tech support for elderly people doing genealogy, to documenting compilers, to software evangelist, to direct mail guru, to CIO of an international corporation. And here I am, older and gray, getting interested in Tarot? 😉

Leave a Reply