The Trumps as a 3x7 Structure


On his website Phillipe Camoin claims to have revealed the 3x7 structure of the tarot trumps in 1999.

Introduction to the Camoin 3x7 Diagram

I find it unlikely that Camoin was the first to look at the cards in this manner. Does anyone know of any sources prior to 1999 that find significance in viewing the trumps as 3 groups of 7 cards?


In the Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack described the very same 3 X 7 structure to discuss the Major Arcana sequence, and it is a recurring theme throughout that part. Look at page 21 of that book to see where it was first discussed. I have the 1997 revised version which is still before your 1999 stipulation. I'm not sure if it was included in the 1980 edition.

A caveat tho: she did use the Rider-Waite-Smith in her book and not the Marseille.


Here are some quotes from page 21 to 22 of the book:

Despite the value of seeing the Major Arcana as two halves, I have found that the trumps dvide even more organicaly into three parts. Setting the Fool apart as really a separate category all by itself (and setting it apart allows us to see that it belongs everywhere and anywhere) gives us twenty one cards - three groups of seven.

The number seven has a long history in symbolism: the seven plnets of classical astrology, seven as a combination of three and four, themselves archetypal numbers, seven pillars of wisdom, . . .

The best reasons for the division into three groups lie withn the Major Arcana itself. First, consider the picture symbolism. Look at the first card in each line. The Magician and Strength are both obviousl cards of power, but so is the Devil. The Magician and Strength are linked by the infinity sign above their heads, while the
Devil bears a reversed pentacle. If you look at the Devils posture, one arm up, one arm down, you will see the picture is in some ways a parody of the Magician, with the torch pointig down instead of the wand pointing up. In some decks card 15 carries the title of Black Magician. (In many decks Justice, not Strength is number 8. If you look at the posture of the figure in Justice you will see an even closer resemblance to the Magician and the Devil.) The same kind of verticsl correspondences apply all the way through the three lines.

My apologies for the transcription misspellings, I'd just clean it up later.


3 X 7 : there was Yves Lévy in 1953 & earlier there was Van Rijnberk in 1947 with his curious 7 X 3 structure leaving out the justice but not the fool


Thank you, EmpyreanKnight, that was most helpful. Also on page 22 is the following:

The division into three allows us to see the Major Arcana as dealing with three distinct areas of experience. Briefly, we can call these: consciousness, the outer concerns of life in society; subconscious, or the search inward to find out who we really are; and superconscious, the development of a spiritual awareness and a release of archetypal energy. The three levels are not forced categories. They derive from the cards themselves.​

As I too have the 1997 revised edition of Rachel's book, I would appreciate knowing if the same text can be found in the original 1980 version, if anyone has access to that.


Thank you, Phillipe. Do you have access to any of the relevant text from Lévy or van Rijnberk?


Gebelin/Mellet divides the 21 trumps into 3 groups of 7 cards:

Trumps (dividing along lines corresponding to three of the four ages of man derived from Ovid) :

21 - 15 = Age of Gold
14 - 8 = Age of Silver
7 - 1 = Age of Iron (or Bronze)
The Fool

The idea of the 22 allegories being a 21 (3x7) + 0 (fool) structure goes to the beginning of "occult" commentary on the structure of the tarot, from Gebelin & Etteilla* onward ---


* While division by seven was part of Etteilla's numerical based schema's, he divided the deck according to several different schemes - for instance while taking up Gebelin/Mellets reference to Ovidian ages, he divided the deck in one scheme of four books as:

trumps 1 - 12 = age of gold (first book)
trumps 13 - 17 = age of silver (second book)
trumps 18 - 0 = age of bronze (0 the fool he called the sovereign of the third book (trumps 18 - 21), and ambassador to 22 - 77 (the pip suits and court cards) = age of iron (fourth book)


Thank you, kwaw. Did Gebelin/Mellet attach any meaningful significance to these correspondences or was he simply creating categories? Do you happen to know the relevant passage?

From the information you included it sounds like Gebelin had more to say about this than Etteilla, though I'm happy to take a look at any of the occultists.


John Shephard in The Tarot Trumps: The Cosmos in Miniature (1985) defines the three levels of seven cards as representing the Realms of Man, of the Soul and of Eternity.

In The Tarot of the Bohemians Papus describes the major arcana as representing the septenary of planets acting upon the three worlds.

De Guaita wrote two volumes of a proposed three volume set on occultism, with a structure based upon a three septenaries division of the tarot trumps-

Wirth (Tarot of the Magicians) also discusses the three septenaries of the tarot -

Eilteen Connolly in Tarot A New Handbook for the Apprentice (1977) also writes of The Septenaries: The Major Arcana are divided into three groups of seven cards each, called SEPTENARIES.

I haven't been able to check but if memory serves me right Sadhu speaks of both three septenaries and seven ternaries?

Hilton Hotema (The Land of Light: The Tarot, 1996), quoting Eliphas Levi on the Isiaac Tablet (and its relationship to the tarot) wrote:

The three septenaries furnish the absolute number of the three worlds, the aerial, fluidal and physical, as well as the complete number of primitive letters, to which a complementary sign was added, like zero to the nine numerals

Frederick Graves (Window of the Tarot, 1973) wrote that the trumps are: "are classified into three septenaries and the zero card, The Fool."

Papus allocates the first Septenary to Man, the second to God, the third to the Universe


This, divides the trumps according to the classical planets three cards per planet, sans the Fool: based on the writings of Ithell Colquhoun - just not sure how old the reference is.

I'm also looking for literature squaring the classical planets with the tria prima, if anyone knows any alchemical reference to that...