Tarot Birth Cards for Dummies

If you want to learn to read the cards and are feeling overwhelmed, a great place to start is with an exploration of your tarot birth card. Your birth card represents your potential. It embodies qualities you may have already developed as well as challenges inherent to the card’s theme.

There are different methods for calculating a birth card, but my favorite is the one my friend Carole Pierce of Crossroads Tarot taught me. It is simple, even for the mathematically challenged.

Take each digit of your birth date and add them together.

For example,
January 3, 1980 is calculated like this: 1 + 3 + 1 + 9 + 8 + 0 = 22.
September 22, 1947 is calculated like this: 9 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 9 + 4 + 7 = 34.
October 29, 1999 is calculated like this: 1 + 0 + 2 + 9 + 1 + 9 + 9 + 9 = 40.

If the resulting number equals 22, such as in the first example, keep it. Your birth card is The Fool.
If the resulting number is a double digit other than 22, add the digits together to reduce the number.

In the last two examples above,
34 reduces like this: 3 + 4 = 7. The birth card for 7 is The Chariot.
40 reduces like this: 4 + 0 = 4. The birth card for 4 is The Emperor.

If the resulting number is a double digit other than 22, reduce it again. For example, May 24, 1952 must be reduced twice like this:
5 + 2 + 4 + 1 + 9 + 5 + 2 = 28
2 + 8 = 10
1 + 0 = 1. The birth card for 1 is The Magician.

Each reduced number, corresponds with a Major Arcana card as follows:

1 = The Magician
2 = The High Priestess
3 = The Empress
4 = The Emperor
5 = The Hierophant
6 = The Lovers
7 = The Chariot
8 = Strength
9 = The Hermit
22 = The Fool (On his card, The Fool’s actual number is 0.)

Before you grab a book to see what your birth card means, pull it from your deck and see what insights you discover on your own. These will probably be more significant. Here are some questions you might consider as you examine your birth card.

  • What is your first impression of the card? Do you get a positive or negative feeling when you look at it?
  • Describe the card. What is happening in the card? Examine all of the details. Is there a story it tells?
  • Does the card evoke personal associations? Does it remind you of a situation in your life? Does it remind you of aspects of yourself or anyone you know?

After an initial exploration of your birth card, you might want to see and read about it on my website, Tarot Insights. Just go to the Birth Card page. You might also read about your card on the Major Arcana page. The Major Arcana category of this blog also has entries on some of the birth cards such as The Magician, The Empress, and The Emperor.

After getting aquainted with your birth card, consider the following questions:

  • What qualities of your birth card do you have? What were the experiences that led you to develop these qualities?
  • What qualities of your birth card would you like to develop? What challenges stand in your way?
  • Are there aspects of your birth card that you find off-putting? Why?

In her book, Tarot for Yourself: A Workbook for Personal Transformation, Mary K. Greer teaches an alternative method for calculating your personality and soul cards along with your year card and other cards of personal significance. Ruth Ann Amberstone and Wald Amberstone, in their book, Tarot Tips, provide yet another method for calculating two birth cards.

5 Responses to “Tarot Birth Cards for Dummies”

  1. Carly Says:

    Hmm….I got 59, which reduces to 14 – Temperance — but you don’t include that one, so reduced again it’s 5 – The Hierophant.

    Interesting, I my initial response was to the reverse meanings, but based on the upright meanings I like it.

    Why don’t you include all of the Major Arcana with this?

  2. Susan Gold Says:

    Hi Carly,

    Thanks for leaving a comment! The Tarot School at tarotschool.com has a system for calculating two (and in one case, three) birth cards using “harmonics.” Each card at the lower end (or octave) of the major arcana has a match at the higher end (or octave.) Using the Tarot School’s system, you would keep the 14–Temperance and then reduce again to 5–The Hierophant. This would give you two birth cards. The founders of the Tarot School, Ruth Ann Amberstone and Wald Amberstone have a book called Tarot Tips that explains this in detail. You might also look in the archives of their newsletter, which is on their site. The general concept of harmonics is, I think, fairly common, and if you are interested, you might find more about that online.

    There are a number of systems for calculating birth cards–though, as far as I know, no matter which system you use, you will end up with The Hierophant–and Temperance, if the system includes two cards. My friend gave me permission to “publish” the system she has been using for years, which only includes the lower octave of the majors.

    Let me know if you have any questions. And thanks again for commenting!


  3. Dan Says:

    I just did the determining of my birth card and it was another one of those WHOA, moments. (Yes I double checked the math) For years now Ihave had reads identify the Magician for me outside of my normal significator card. I am humble and unassuming and would always say when regarding this to people that I felt to be more the Fool than the Magician. Here I sit though having that indicated as my birth card and again it is one of those moments like calling forth for a card and cutting it straight out of the deck. Are these significant happenings in any real tangable way I must wonder, but I do think there is something more than coincitental ranom fate at work here.

  4. Susan Gold Says:


    How wonderful to get The Magician as your birth card! I hope you embrace all of his gifts.

    Thanks so much for posting all of your comments!


  5. Jordan Says:

    I pulled a 31 which reduces me to 4- The Emperor… However if you enter your name/birthdate into tarot sites… I get the Emperor as well as 9 other cards (power, desire, core, growth, and lucky). Using my name I am able to account for 6/9 (not including the birthdate card) however I get a double set (first and last name equal 20-2)) however these double don’t show in computed readings. The cards selected by the computed reading seem to be quite accurate, however the Fool was attached with the Emperor as a part of my power cards. Any insight you could provide into more information, or correct method would be greatly appreciated. I am currently using the kabbalistic method of converting names to numbers…

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