by John Gilbert
Editor's Note: the following ten lessons were first published in Tarot News and appear here with the author's permission.
Tarot Dignities - Part One
The terms dignity and dignities refer to how cards placed next to a given card affect the meaning of that card. Dignity is the relationship between two or more cards. Dignities may be neutral, positive or neutral. This quality of neutral, positive or negative is determined by the system or type of dignities the reader uses.
We'll discuss several systems of determining dignity. Elemental Dignity is determined by the Element of the cards. Astrological Dignity is determined by the planet assigned to the cards. Numerological Dignity is determined by the relationship of the numbers assigned to the cards. Sequential Dignity is determined by the relationship of the cards to a sequence of numbers. Royal Dignity provides an interesting way of handling court cards in a reading.
First, let's define what we mean by the qualities of neutral, positive and negative. For our purposes, neutral means the card in question is not affected by the cards around it. The total affect of all hose cards is no effect. The card in question is read using it's normal interpretation. A positive quality means the card in question is to be interpreted in a positive light. Negative quality means the card in question is to be interpreted in a negative light.
Let's say the card we're evaluating is the Ten of Swords which means intellectually drained. If the Ten of Swords is neutrally dignified, this meaning doesn't change. If negatively dignified, it indicates an intellectual disaster. If positive, it may only be a temporary situation where the client is intellectually drained but will recover soon.
This is just an example. Rather than telling you what positive and negative dignity mean for each card, my intention is to give you a set of rules so you may define the cards the way you want to define them. Using dignities is a way of giving three meanings to each card. The neutral meaning is the meaning you've decided to give the card in question. Using this definition as your as your usual meaning for the card in question, come up with a positive and negative meaning for the same card.
Let's say the card you're evaluating is the Six of Cups which means Happiness. If this card is negatively dignified, it could mean Sadness or it could mean neither happy nor sad, Neutral. If positive it might mean Joy beyond description or Very Happy. There's a whole range of possible meanings. Each tarot reader needs to decide in advance which meanings he or she will use for neutral, positive and negative dignities. Answer the question: How much positive, how much negative?
Some tarot readers use dignities instead of using reversed cards for this reason. Instead of two possible meanings, the reader has three possible interpretations anytime two or more cards are used for a reading. In my own systems, I normally use both reversals and dignities with my three, five, ten and twelve card spreads. This gives me six possible meanings for each card. When using one card draws, using dignities isn't an option.
My suggestion is for you to learn to use one form of dignity or reversals first and add more systems later. My second suggestion is to always use the same system with the same deck. This suggestion is to have a different deck for each system and not use the same deck with more than one system. The rest of the suggestion is to learn one system at a time. This is the second thing we needed to discuss.
To use dignities you need to define each card three ways: neutral, positive, or negative. Or, you need to devise a set of rules for knowing how positive and how negative those dignities will affect each card. You can do this before or after you've decided what system of dignities you're going to use.
Your homework, should you choose to try dignities, is to choose a deck for the system you're going to build and define each card with three meanings as described. In the next lesson we'll define Numerological Dignities.
Tarot Dignities - Part Two
If you've been studying and working with your cards as suggested in the last newsletter, you now have three key words, phrases or concepts for each of your tarot cards. One of these meanings is the normal meaning you attribute to each card. The second meaning is more positive and the third more negative. That's a good start.
The next step is to decide when dignities come into play. Let's assume dignities come into play whenever two cards are next to each other in any direction. There are no cards between the two cards in question. With a three-card spread where the cards are laid out in a row, the dignity of the middle card is affected by the other two cards. The dignity of the two end-cards is affected only by the middle card. But, if three cards are laid out in a triangle, then the dignity of each card is affected by the other two.
With a five-card spread laid out in a row, the dignity of the two end cards is affected only by the card next to them. The dignity of the middle three cards is affected by the cards lying on either side of them. But, if the same five cards are laid out in a cross, the dignity of the middle card is affected by all four of the other cards. The dignity of the four cards forming the cross is affected by the middle card and the two cards on either side of the card in question.
Sounds complicated, but it isn't. If one card is positive and the other negative, the result is no effect or neutral. If two cards are positive or negative, you can read this as either very positive or negative or just positive or negative.
This is a decision you make when you're building your system. Here's a seemingly-complicated system to show you how it works. This system is a Spirit-Mind-Emotions-Intuition-Body spread with Spirit in the middle, Air above, Water on the left, Fire on the right and Earth below. Each card is defined with the neutral meaning. This doesn't mean the definition of the card is neutral. It defines what the card means when the card's dignity is neutral.
Then an extremely positive and an extremely negative definition is given each card. This is the best-case/worst-case scenario and represents the best possible and worst possible meaning of the card. The best possible positive meaning is used when the subject card is in the middle of a five card spread and the other four cards are all in positive dignity to it. The worst possible meaning is used when the other four cards are all adversely (negatively) dignified to the central card.
Now's a good time to talk about how tarot readers refer to positive and negative dignities. Positive dignity is also called beneficial, helpful, good luck, and fortunate dignity. Negative dignity is also called adverse, inimical, bad luck, troublesome and ill-dignified. What you call positive and negative dignities is entirely up to you.
Next, define a positive meaning in the middle between neutral and extremely positive, and a negative meaning in the middle between neutral and extremely negative. This meaning is used when the net result of the dignity is plus or minus two. Plus two means there's a net of two positive dignities and minus two means there's a net of two negative dignities. If three cards are positive and one is negative, the net is plus two. If two cards are negative and the third is neutral, the result is minus two. Positive and negative meanings are used when the net results is plus two or minus two respectively.
You now have five definitions for each card -- extremely negative, negative, neutral, positive and extremely positive. These five definitions will serve you well for all three card tarot spreads. For five card spreads you may want to add two more positive and two more negative meanings. These are slightly positive which is plus one and half-way between neutral and positive; and slightly negative which is minus one and half-way between neutral and negative. Then you also derive very positive which is plus three and half-way between positive and extremely positive; and very negative which is minus three and half-way between negative and extremely negative. You now have nine meanings for each card:
As you can see, it's not as complicated as it looks. For three card spreads and other spreads where no more than two other cards affect the dignity, you only need five meanings for each card:
Numerology reduces every number greater than nine to a single-digit number by adding together the digits in the number. The result is always a number greater than zero and less than ten. For example, the number ten is a double-digit number, so we add the digits one and zero to obtain the number one. Thus, ten reduces to one. Fourteen reduces to five. Twenty-one reduces to three. Nineteen reduces to ten and then to one. The final result is always a single-digit number and it's called the Root Number.
When using numerology with tarot cards, the court cards are numbered equentially 11-14. In the standard Rider-Waite Tarot the Pages are eleven, Knights are twelve, Queens thirteen and Kings fourteen. The numbers of the tarot trumps are the number assigned to each Key. You'll need to decide how to number any cards which are not numbered in your deck.
It is this root number we use to determine the dignity between any two cards. The rules for determining dignity are based on the relationship of the numbers to each other. The odd numbers 1-3-5-7-9 are positively influenced by other odd numbers. All even numbers 0-2-4-6-8 are positively influenced by other even numbers. The odd numbers 1-3-5-7 are negatively influenced by any even number 2-4-6-8 and neutral to the number zero. The even numbers 2-4-6-8 are negatively influenced by any odd number 1-3-5-7 and neutral to the number nine. Nine is helpful to other odd numbers and has no effect on even numbers. Zero is helpful to other even numbers and has no affect on the odd numbers.
Here's a summary of the rules for determining Numerological Dignity:
Even root numbers are positively dignified to other even numbers. Odd root numbers are positively dignified to other odd numbers. The even root numbers 2-3-4-8 are negatively dignified to the odd numbers. The odd root numbers 1-3-5-7 are negatively dignified to the even numbers. . The number zero is neutral to all odd numbers. The number nine is neutral to all even numbers.
We'll do some example readings in the next lesson using this system. Your assignment, if you decide to play with Numerological Dignities is to play with them.
Tarot Dignities - Part Three
The example readings in this issue are done using the Numerological Dignities explained in the past two lessons. These examples are created for instructional purposes only, and any similarity to a real tarot reading are purely coincidental.
Q - What outcome can I expect from creating the Temple Amulet in a ritual this evening:
- A five card Elemental Cross spread was used.
Every card is an odd root number except the middle card. So each of the four directional cards have two positive and one negative dignity for a total of +1 meaning slightly more positive than the normal meaning. But the middle card, the Spirit card has four negative dignities. This total of -4 means gives a very negative meaning to this card.
Since amulets are basic spiritual tools, this does not appear to be a good time to create a Temple Amulet unless we want that temple to be really tied down in the mundane world. It doesn't matter how positive the rest of the reading is. Very negative is warning enough.
Q - What's the probable outcome of running a new advertisement for the Institute?
- A three card Mind-Emotions-Spirit spread was used (this is an Air-Water-Spirit
two end cards are +1 and the middle card + 2 (positive) in this reading.
The reading is:
Q - How well will the cat recover?
- The spread is a three-card triangle spread for Past-Present-Future.
On the surface it looks like the Nine of Cups has a negative influence on the other two cards, but by definition the nines are neutral. Therefore the Nine of Cups is +2 while the other two are each +1 or slightly positive. The over-all picture is positive. The past and present cards indicate the illness isn't serious and the Nine of Cups promises a lasting cure.
Q - What's the probable outcome of doing the candle ritual tonight?
A - Using a three card Past-Present-Future spread laid out in a line, we have: Past = Princess of Cups (11=2) (Loving friend) Present = Seven of Cups (7) (Illusion) Future = Key XX (20 = 2) (Spiritual Rebirth)
The two end cards are negatively dignified and the middle card is (-2) very negatively dignified. The candle ritual won't have a positive result if performed tonight. I'd really be fooling myself to believe otherwise (very negative Seven of Cups). Both the foundation for this ritual and the future outcome are negative. The loving friend may not support the ritual or may withdraw and any rebirth will have negative consequences. Without using Numerological Dignities with this reading there's nothing to indicate this ritual would have bad consequences. On the other hand, using Elemental Dignities (to be discussed later) a very positive outcome could be expected. You're probably wondering how the same cards can give such opposite recommendations. The secret is in the system of Dignities you choose to use. Which system you use is really immaterial. They all work. Try them all and see what works best for you. Use that system. One more reading, this time the Numerological Dignity system provides a more positive result than most other Dignity systems would.
Q - What can we expect if we change servers?
A - Using the five card Elemental Cross spread:
Earth (above) - Five of Wands (5) - Conflict Water (left) - Seven of Cups (7) - Illusion Spirit (center) - Ten of Swords (10=1) - Ruin Air (right) - Tower (16 = 7) - Awakening Fire (below) Five of Pentacles (5) - Loss of Money
Our first impression might not be very positive if we just look at these cards and remember what they mean to us. Any one of them by itself sends a rather negative message. But here, every card has as odd-numbered root.
Earth and Fire are each +2. Air, Water and Spirit are all +3. Looked at in this manner, this reading becomes pretty positive. Conflict becomes a minor irritation, a no-never-mind. Illusion becomes reality, Ruin becomes a good idea, and loss of money becomes a minor overhead expense. The Awakening is a very positive one. Changing servers is going to be a good thing to do.
Your assignment, should you choose to experiment with Numerological Dignities, is to do a few spreads and see how you like the system. In the next lesson we'll discuss a few variations that might be of interest.
Tarot Dignities - Part Four
There are several optional way of looking at Numerological Dignities. Today we'll consider a few of them.
If you don't like defining both zero and nine as neutral, you can just leave them alone. Zero would be an even number and the nines would be odd. You don't need to make any other changes.
If you prefer to define the Major Arcana as always being neutral, you also have that option. Neutral cards have no effect on the cards around them. You have the option of allowing other cards to affect the Trump Key or not. For example if your three-card spread is:
Past = (left) Queen of Wands (13 = 4) Present = (center) Hierophant (5) Future = (right) Two of Swords (2)
You need to decide in advance if the Hierophant will be adversely affected twice by the two even numbers or not. The Queen and Two are considered neutral because of the Trump beside them. The Hierophant can be interpreted as being neutrally affected or negatively affected twice according to how you set down your rules.
The normal rules are: Odd numbers enhance other odd numbers; even numbers enhance other even numbers; even and odd numbers conflict with each other negatively; Major Arcana have no effect on the other cards in the spread. If you want, you can add that no cards have any effect on the Major Arcana.
Rather than going through the process of calculating the Root Numbers (19 = 10 =1, for example), you can just use even numbers vs. odd numbers. So the card twenty-one would be odd on sight instead of going through the process of finding the Root Number (21 = 3 which is also odd).
This will cause a few problems if you don't let your subconscious mind in on the new rules. Key Eleven for example would be odd whereas the root of eleven is the even number two. In fact, all of the numbers from ten through nineteen will have a different polarity using this approach.
The rules are the same: Odd numbers enhance odd numbers, even numbers enhance even numbers, and the conflict between even and odd numbers is negative. Trump cards can be considered neutral when using this system but that's not a requirement.
Tarot Dignities - Part Five
Astrological Dignities are based on the affinities and antipathies certain Planets have for each other. The usual grouping of planets when using Astrological Dignities is:
Masculine: Mars, Uranus and Pluto
Feminine: Venus, Neptune and Saturn
Neutral: Mercury, Jupiter, Sun and Moon
This may not be the assignment you prefer, so you're encouraged to start right out by creating your own system. Decide which polarities you want to use (masculine, feminine, neutral) and which planets you want to assign to each of these polarities. Either way, step one in creating a system for using Astrological Dignities is to use the suggested system of polarities or create your own.
basic rules are very simple:
Again, if you don't like these rules, write your own. To do this you'll need to Decide how many neutral cards you want then divide the rest of the deck up into two parts: positive and negative. That's all there is to it. Make up your own rules and you've finished the second step in creating your own system for using Astrological Dignities. Otherwise, step two is to learn the basic rules.
The third step is to assign the planets to the cards. For Astrological Dignities we normally use only the planets and not the signs. You can use the ruling planet of each sign if you decide to use signs too. Or you could use the signs as well as the planets. This requires you to decide the polarity of the signs. My impulse is to make the Fire and Air signs masculine and the Water and Earth signs feminine. But that's just my opinion. This is your system, build it the way you want to build it. You'll find that's easier and it works better for you anyway.
Tarot Dignities - Part Six
We'll continue building a system for using Astrological Dignities started in the last lesson. If you haven't read that issue yet, you may want to do so before proceeding further with this issue. The rules and polarities discussed there will be used in this lesson.
next step in the process of building a system for using Astrological Dignities
is to assign the planets to the cards. One
easy way to do that with the Pip Cards is to assign them in order, like this:
The system used for assigning the planets to the Major Arcana can be done in the same manner. The usual method in use today is that developed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. That's the system used by the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck and most decks of that genre. You're encouraged to develop your own correspondences between the planets and the signs.
Here's the one used by the Golden Dawn:
Zero - Uranus 1 - Mercury 2 - Moon 3 - Venus 4 - Aries (Mars) 5 - Taurus (Venus) 6 - Gemini (Mercury) 7 - Cancer (Moon) 8 - Leo (Sun) 9 - Virgo (Mercury) 10 - Jupiter 11 - Libra (Venus) 12 - Neptune 13 - Scorpio (Pluto) 14 - Sagitarrius (Jupiter) 15 - Capricorn (Saturn) 16 - Mars 17 - Aquarius (Uranus) 18 - Pisces (Neptune) 19 - Sun 20 - Pluto 21 - Saturn
The Court Cards present and interesting problem. There are ten planets and sixteen cards. Some planets will need to be used more than once if the planets are assigned to these sixteen cards. One option is to use the Court Cards as always being neutral so no planetary assignment needs to be made. Another option is to assign the Pages and Queens to the Feminine Polarity and the Kings and Knights to the Masculine. A third option is to use the polarities for determining how other cards impact the Court Cards but consider the Court Cards neutral for evaluating the cards around them.
You can also assign four planets to the four ranks of Court Cards just like the Minor Arcana. For example, Pages = Saturn, Knights = Uranus, Queens = Neptune and Kings = Pluto. This is the approach we're going to use in building this system for using Astrological Dignities. It's an interesting system worthy of your consideration. Other planetary assignments are also workable.
With both the Pip Cards and the Court Cards you have four cards of each rank. You can handle these by assigning specific meanings to the suits or to the Elements. There are a lot of options but that gives you a lot to work with as you build your own system for Astrological Dignities.
Tarot Dignities - Part Seven
So far we've assigned the following planets to the following cards:
0 - Uranus I - Mercury II - Moon III - Venus IV - Aries (Mars) V - Taurus (Venus) VI - Gemini (Mercury) VII - Cancer (Moon) VIII - Leo (Sun) IX - Virgo (Mercury) X - Jupiter XI - Libra (Venus) XII - Neptune XIII - Scorpio (Pluto) XIV - Sagittarius (Jupiter) XV - Capricorn (Saturn) XVI - Mars XVII - Aquarius (Uranus) XVIII - Pisces (Neptune) XIX - Sun XX - Pluto XXI - Saturn 1 - Neptune 2 - Uranus 3 - Saturn 4 - Jupiter 5 - Mars 6 - Sun 7 - Venus 8 - Mercury 9 - Moon 10 - Pluto Page - Saturn Knight - Uranus Queen - Neptune King - Pluto
We've decided upon the following Polarities:
- Mars, Uranus and Pluto
And, we've established the following rules:
planets are positive towards other masculine planets
This looks like a good, consistent, easy-to-use system, and with practice, it is.
Your assignment, should you elect to participate, is to experiment with this system, or the system you create, or any other system of your choice.
Tarot Dignities - Part Eight
We're going to do some readings now using the Astrological Dignities propounded in the last few newsletters. Since the important thing here is applying the dignities, I won't complete the readings.
Q - Where will I find true love?
A - Using a three-card triangle spread: Mind = 3 Cups (Saturn = F) Body = 6 Coins (Sun = N) Heart = Knight of Wands (Uranus = M)
The Mind card is positively influenced and means more and better whatever it is. The Body card is completely neutral and has it's original meaning. The Heart card is negatively influenced and means less than it did.
Q - When will I find a new job?
A - Using a five card star spread: Air (E) - 7 Wands (Venus = F) Fire (S) - Hermit (Mercury = N) Water (W) - 2 Swords (Uranus = M) Earth (N) - Key XX (Pluto = M) Spirit (C) - 10 Wands (Pluto = M)
Air is positive 2 (2M and 1N) Fire is plus 1 (2M and 1F) Water is plus 2 (2M and a N) Earth is plus 1 (2M and 1 F) Spirit is plus 1 (2M, 1F and 1N)
Q - Why do I feel depressed?
A - Using a five card star spread: Air = Strength (Sun = N) Fire = 7 Swords (Venus = F) Water = Page of Cups (Saturn = F) Earth = Devil (Saturn = F) Spirit = 5 Wands (Mars = M)
Air is minus 1 (2F and 1M) Fire is neutral (F + M + N) Water is minus 1 (2F and 1M) Earth is neutral (M + F + N) Spirit is minus 3 (3F and 1 N)
As with astrological systems for reading tarot cards, the secret for using astrological dignities is to decide which cards are positive, which are negative and which are neutral in your system. One of my students has a very simple system you might like to consider. The Sun, Mercury, Venus, and the Moon are all positive (inside Earth's orbit). Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Uranus are negative (outside Earth's orbit). Neptune and Pluto are neutral because they're too far away and besides, they may be mother and child (planet and lost moon).
Whatever you decide is what's important. Your subconscious and intuitive minds will both accept your definitions and use those definitions to communicate with you in the symbols you have available for them. Whatever system you use is exactly the system they'll use to communicate with you.
That's why it's so difficult to answer a question like: What's the Four of Wands mean in this reading? The answer is the four of Wands means exactly what the reader defined it to be. If the reader defined Wands to be intuitive insights and four to be Jupiter.
The answer is Jupiter Intuitive Insights. Now all you have to know is how the reader defined Jupiter. If Jupiter is Good Luck, the answer to the reader's question is Good Luck Intuitive Insights.
Tarot Dignities - Part Nine
The most commonly used form of dignities is Elemental Dignities. The rules for this system are very simple though you can complicate them as much as you desire:
Rule 1 - Wands and Swords are masculine
Rule 2 - Cups and Coins are feminine
Rule 3 - Major Arcana are always neutral
Rule 4 - Masculine are negative to feminine
Rule 5 - Masculine are positive to masculine
Rule 6 - Feminine are positive to feminine
Rule 7 - Feminine are negative to masculine
When using one-card draws, first decide which Element best matches the question. Then apply the above rules to that Element instead of a second card.
Here's a few examples using this system of dignities:
Q - Will I get the raise I'm expecting?
A - Using a five-card star spread: Air = Chariot (N) Fire = Wheel of Fortune (N) Water = King of Cups (F) Earth = Three of Cups (F) Spirit = Six of Coins (F)
The Chariot and the Wheel are both neutral and the other cards have no effect on them using the given rules. The King of Cups and the Three of Cups are both plus two because they have one neutral and two feminine cards touching them. The Six of Coins is plus two because two feminine cards touch it. So the answer is yes by a vote of three to none with two abstaining votes.
Q - Does this system work?
A - Using a Triangle spread: For - Against – Answer, the cards drawn were The Six of Cups, the Seven of Swords and The Emperor which is neutral. The dignity of the last card, the answer card is neutral. This means both yes and no or maybe. The full answer is this system works if this is the system you select. It doesn't work otherwise.
Q - Will my husband return from Iraq soon?
A - Using the same triangle spread the cards drawn for this reading were the Nine of Wands, Two of Swords and Seven of Wands. Since all these cards are masculine the Seven of Wands is to be interpreted as very positive (+2) and the answer is a resounding yes. (Her husband retuned two weeks later and has been re-stationed locally.)
This is all there really is to Elemental Dignities. You can redefine them any way you like and develop your own system. Here's a different approach using an Elemental Spread like the Dynamic Elemental Tarot Spread discussed in earlier newsletters and available as a short course at http://TarotInstitute.com/short/power-1.html
Use the above rules but apply them to the position of the card and not the other cards in the spread. Assign the Element of Spirit to be neutral as well as the Major Arcana which represent Spirit. For example, lets redo the first question Will I get the raise I'm expecting?
Answer: Air = Chariot (Neutral to Air) Fire = Wheel of Fortune (Neutral to Air) Water = King of Cups (Positive to Water) Earth = Three of Cups (Positive to Earth) Spirit = Six of Coins (Neutral to Spirit)
The answer is still yes (two positive and three neutral) but it's not quite as strong as the first reading. Now there are three abstaining votes.
You can use this on a Body-Mind-Spirit (Earth, Air, Spirit) spread just as easily. Let's use the second question and place the cards in this format: Earth = Six of Cups (+), Air = Seven of Swords (+) and Spirit = Emperor (N).
If Spirit were positive to Spirit, this would be a completely positive answer. Since two pluses outweigh one neutral, the final answer by the preponderance of evidence is positive.
If you'd like to learn more about Elemental Dignities, there are several places on the Internet that discuss them. My favorite spot is www.SuperTarot.co.uk
Tarot Dignities - Part Ten
The technique of applying the dignity of the card to the position of that card in the spread can be used with just about any tarot spread you want. All you need to do is assign an Element to each position in the spread. Then decide what rules you want to enforce for Elemental Dignities.
Using this approach, I like to have the Major Arcana be neutral towards the masculine and feminine positions but positive toward Spiritual positions in the tarot spread. That's just my personal preference at this time. The neat thing about tarot reading is I get to choose how I do it, my personal preferences count.
Using Court Cards to determine dignity is a lot of fun. It works like this: An even number of court cards in a reading is positive and an odd number of court cards in a reading is negative. No court cards is neutral. You can use this method and give a regular meaning to the court cards. You can also use this method and give no other meaning to the court cards except to determine dignity. I call this technique Court Card Dignities.
You know, for beginning students really having a problem with court cards this isn't a bad approach. It gives your subconscious mind sixteen cards to play with to help you determine dignity. You can even say three court cards is more negative than just one court card; and five court cards in a reading is even more negative. You can say the same thing for four, six, or any higher even number of court cards in a reading.
Another way of using court cards for dignities is to say the card in front of a court card (the court card is facing it) is positively influenced and the card behind the court card is negatively influenced. You can use this sale rule for the Major Arcana or for the Minor Arcana of both. Cards facing ahead could be used as favorable for cards beneath them or they could just be considered neutral. If you decide to use forward-facing cards as positive to card below, then backward-facing cards would be positive to cards above.
You can have a lot of fun using this technique for court cards, pip cards, or Major Arcana. You can even have fun naming these techniques. I call these techniques Court Facing Dignities, Pip Facing Dignities and Trump Facing Dignities. You can use any combination of them. My personal favorite is Court and Trump Facing Dignities and I assign meanings to the Courts.
Another form of dignity you might enjoy trying is called Trump Dignities. The rules for this technique are very simple. Any upright Trump card is a positive influence on all other cards in the spread. Any inverted Trump is a negative influence on all other cards in the spread. You have the option to allow Trumps to be neutral to each other, but the system is designed so all Trump cards have an influence on all other cards in the spread - even other trump cards.
Using this approach, you can read all the cards in the spread as though they were upright. This means you only need to memorize one key word, phrase or concept for each card. Then you apply the dignities according to the direction of the Major Arcana cards and make that memorized meaning either more positive or more negative according to the direction of the Trumps. One other rule to remember is a positive and a negative result in no change of meaning for the card being considered.
You can expand Trump Dignities by using all cards in the deck. This is called Inverted Dignities and the rules are the same but apply to all cards and not just the trumps. Let's say you select five cards, three are upright and two are inverted. The net result is plus one. So all cards are read with a slightly positive meaning. Four upright cards out of five would be very positive and all five upright would be extremely positive using this approach. Again, no other meaning needs to be given to the cards. Each card can have one meaning and the meaning is not modified if the card in inverted. It is, however, modified by the other cards around it.
In my opinion, this is a good approach for people who have a hard time memorizing the meanings of the cards. If you have a really hard time, you can use a deck with printed meanings and modify those meanings up or down depending upon the Inverted Dignities. I use this system myself with the Thoth deck. I never got interested in memorizing the inverted meanings of the cards in the deck. I like the names given the cards already. It just seemed natural to me to use Inverted Dignities with this deck. I do.
There's one variation of Elemental Dignities that appeals to me but I don't use it very often. The idea is to classify the question by Element. Then all the cards of that Element in the spread are more positive than cards of the other Elements. You can even use cards of the same energy (masculine or feminine) as being more positive than others in the spread.
How I use this concept is not for dignities but for identifying more important cards in the spread. For questions about money, it seems to me Coin cards are more important in the reading. For readings about careers, Fire cards are more important. Water cards would be more important for relationship questions and Air for questions about thoughts and ideas.
This finishes my discussion of Tarot Dignities. I hope you find something that appeals to you, something you can use, change, modify and make a part of your tarot skills.
Editor’s Note: The lessons in this course first appeared in the Tarot News Newsletter and are reprinted here with the permission of the author. Copyright 2003 by John Gilbert and the Tarot Institute, all rights reserved. Tarot News may be used by teachers to assist students in learning tarot as long as the source is quoted and students are taught how to access the Tarot News newsletter on line at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TarotNews.