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Death is Not the End

                      by Tony Willis      

The Qabalist Eliphas Levi says of 13 that it is “the number of death and of immortality”, an apparently contradictory statement. He continues: it is “the most mysterious of numbers, for like the Sphinx it devours those who do not comprehend it.” At a later date, this theme was picked up by the seer and numerologist Cheiro, who wrote in his Book of Numbers, “In some ancient documents it is written: ‘He who understands the number 13 will be given power and dominion.’" To discover what lies behind these pronouncements, we must dig deep into the symbolism and lore associated with the tarot Trump 13, known as Death.

In divination, the card has as its chief meaning a metaphorical death. It may herald the conclusion of a cycle, the collapse of a business, or the termination of a love affair. When the card is prominent in a spread, expect something to end.

13 II    13 cary yale    ws Death

As there is no ending without a new beginning, the wise tarot reader looks to the symbol following Trump 13 for signs of a more upbeat tone attaching itself to the inquirer’s life, moving forward. In a reading concerning the affections, Death trailed by the Ace of Cups would show the end of one relationship (Death) while holding out the hope of a new one blossoming in the not too distant future (Ace of Cups – aces are indicative of the new).

Tarot readers should also be aware that there are some things an inquirer might ardently desire to see the end of. Death coming after the 8 of Swords, for instance, points to an oppressive situation where the inquirer feels they have restricted choices, that life is dull and lacks stimulation (8 Swords). Therefore the presence of Death in this instance is an uplifting factor, predicting the passing of these drab, uninspiring conditions.

Because it can be interpreted in a variety of ways, Death is not an easy card to decode. More than usual, this Trump’s meaning is dependent on the other cards around it in a layout. As noted, it can signify an ending, or an ending giving way to a new beginning. In this latter sense, it is a card of transformation. It can, however, be a symbol of misfortune for it can signal the death of hopes. One of the gypsy readings for Death is:

Upright or reversed, a bad omen. Do not undertake anything for the moment.

S.L. Mathers meanings for Trump 13 (The Tarot, 1888) encompass all the concepts just set forth.

Physical death, Change, Transformation, Alteration for the worse. Reversed: Death just escaped, Partial change, Alteration for the better.

Richard Huson’s suggested interpretation takes a gloomier view of the Trump.

This arcanum is a very evil omen . . .; it threatens serious loss, and should serve as a warning to the inquirer to postpone for a time any important action or enterprise which he may have been contemplating. If the card appears reversed, its portent is more sinister still; the inquirer should look to his health.

Both delineations are valid; it simply depends on where the Trump falls in a layout and which other cards surround it.

In the Tarot de Marseilles, Death is represented as a skeleton, mowing with a scythe. Instead of mowing grass or reaping corn, the figure is mowing human heads, hands and feet – a gruesome image for anyone who has not laid eyes on the card before. At other times, Death has been depicted as an armored skeleton riding down a succession of people: mothers, children, prelates, kings, peasants and paupers. The message is that, no matter what our social standing, no matter how rich we are, Death will take us in the end. A.E. Waite revived this image for the Waite-Smith tarot of 1909.

Those new to tarot symbolism sometimes express surprise that Death does not fall toward the end of the Trumps. An occultist shows no such surprise, for esoteric teachings declare that physical death is not the end of the soul’s journey. The death of the body does not mark the extinction of the soul. Death is thus a transition, and also a transformation. Both terms have been assigned as keywords for Trump 13 at times.

Eliphas Levi tells us that every particular life that ceases returns to the bosom of universal life, at which time universal life reabsorbs and decomposes it. In the fullness of time, that spark of life will return to the material world, incarnating in yet another body. The occultist accepts this as a necessary process during which the soul learns (while in incarnation) and then reflects on what it has learnt (in the afterlife).

deathA Biblical text sometimes applied to Death is John 12:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” It is in connection with this saying that a seed is sometimes represented on the Trump, in the B.O.T.A. tarot, for example (see illustration), where it can be found floating in the air up in the left-hand corner of the card.

Esoterically, Trump 13 stands for the immortality of change; that is, immortality viewed as permanence in the essence of a thing not in its structure. The structure in this instance is the body, the essence is the immortal soul. The former dies and disintegrates, the latter continues apart from the body, until a time comes for it to take on flesh once more. This teaching is encapsulated in the mystic equation Ten plus Three equals Thirteen. Death (13) is part of an on-going process (10, the Wheel) in which its complement is birth (3, the Empress). The Wheel turns, whirling the soul through a seemingly endless round of births and deaths until the point of potential freedom from the cycle appears – the Day of Judgment, when the soul is finally called to a higher realm, on condition that it is found worthy of such an apotheosis. The relevant mystic equation of this event is Thirteen plus Seven equals Twenty. After death (13) comes the opportunity to progress (7, the Chariot) to a more spiritual mode of existence, if the soul can discern and react to the clarion call sounded on the trumpet of the Angle of the Day of Judgment (20). This is something we shall come to in due course, as our study of the Trumps draws to a close..

For now, let us turn our attention to the secret titles given to Trump 13. (I should point out that these titles are no longer secret; they have been published several times and a diligent search of available texts on the tarot will uncover them.) One title is Immortality in the Essence, with which we have already dealt. Another is rendered either as Death and Rebirth or Death and Reincarnation; this concept has also been covered. Levi restated this as Death and Immortality (see the opening paragraph of this article). A third title is the Transformation of Forces. This refers to the after-death process of which Eliphas Levi spoke, mentioned above, wherein the soul is reabsorbed into the great sea of Universal Life to be broken down into its component parts. This process is known to occultists as the second death. It is the death of the personality and it is a requisite part of the preparations for the formulation of a fresh personality to be sent forth to inhabit a new vehicle of incarnation.

In tarot terms, the soul continues beyond the milestone of Trump 13, Death, having seven more steps to take before it stands on the threshold of the Day of Judgment. Having passed through the Gates of Death, the soul experiences a period of adjustment (Temperance) prior to encountering the forbidding figure of the Devil, and traversing the inferno (Tower) as Dante did until the Star of Hope is seen shining in the east. Then, in spiritual terms, the soul rises first to the level of the Moon and thereafter to that of the Sun and finally the blast of the trumpet is heard and the soul is ready to be judged.


The Hanged Man

by Tony Willis

Way back in the eighteenth century, the French pastor, Antoine Court de Gébelin, had an epiphany. It occurred to him that the tarot dated from the time of Ancient Egypt, and this being so, it must also have an esoteric aspect. Court de Gébelin proposed plausible explanations for most of the images on the Trump cards. He came badly unstuck, however, with his attempts to unravel the symbolism of Trump 12, the Hanged Man, Having spent his life either in Switzerland or France, de Gébelin was unfamiliar with the centuries-old Italian practice of suspending traitors by their feet, customarily after the offender had been put to death by other means.

The picture of a man hanging from a gibbet by one ankle was a puzzle to de Gébelin. He solved the puzzle by means of a drastic measure: he presumed that, over the passage of time, the image had become reversed. Rather than representing a traitor’s punishment, de Gébelin posited that Trump 12 depicted a man tethered to the ground by one foot, his other foot raised up. De Gébelin explained the gesture by saying that it symbolized Prudence, the one Cardinal Virtue not already among the tarot images.

tdm hanged man  gebelin-pendu  prudence

The man is frozen in time, lifting one foot in preparation to hesitantly setting it down slightly ahead of himself, his intention being to test the ground before trusting his whole weight to it. The first drawing above of the man upright is de Gébelin’s re-envisioning of the Tarot de Marseille image. The second is a much later version of the Hanged Man as Prudence, indicating that de Gébelin’s idea continued to have support in certain quarters, though it never gained wide acceptance.

De Gébelin’s explanation of the picture doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and, as I’ve indicated, didn’t prove popular. With the rare exception, students of the tarot have held tight to the Tarot de Marseille picture on the Trump, whether in its original form or as refined by some later tarot “reviser”. At the same time, however, tarot readers didn’t cleave as tightly to the Italian interpretation of the card. In old Italian decks, Trump 12 is sometimes titled Il Traditore, the Traitor, but the vast majority of taroists reject that delineation in favor a very different one – Sacrifice.

Depending on the inquirer’s situation the card can denote a willing sacrifice or an involuntary one.

The Gypsy meaning for the upright card is twofold.

A trial lies before you and some form of sacrifice will be necessary.

And: You sacrifice yourself too much.

In reverse, it signifies

Your sacrifice is useless.

Frank Lind gives the card the same significance expressed in his own words.

Sacrifice. Suffering and anxiety.A victim to the spite and intrigues of others.

Reversed: Suffering and anxiety may be needless, exaggerated by consultant, or largely self-imposed. Unwilling self-sacrifice.

The meaning accorded the Hanged Man by S.L Mathers (1888) is worth noting.

Self-sacrifice, Sacrifice, Devotion, Bound; Reversed: Selfishness, Unbound, Partial sacrifice.

12HangedManRiderWaite   h-man   Arcane-Arcana-12-pendu-hanged-man

While it covers the main factor, Sacrifice, Mathers’ delineation brings in two other concepts. The first is Devotion and the second the idea of being Bound – or in the case of the reversed card, Unbound.

“Devotion” is a reference to one of the secret titles of Trump 12, Charity, derived from a Greek word meaning Love. In a divination, the Hanged Man frequently represents an individual who is prepared to make sacrifices for another out of altruistic love – a husband for a wife, a mother for a daughter, the permutations are endless.

The idea of a person being bound is reflected in a phrase applied in Europe to the Hanged Man – the Slave of Duty. It describes a person who does the right thing even if it is not to their immediate benefit.

Another of the secret titles for the Hanged Man is ‘’”the Zodiac” and in some occult schools its associated glyph is the diagram of the Twelve Houses of Heaven – a Circle divided into Twelve equal segments. This symbol links the number of the card with the 12 signs of the zodiac. This is also the significance of the twelve stumps on the supports to the gibbet on the two last cards shown above.

It is said that each soul is required to incarnate under all twelve signs of the zodiac and to learn the lessons embodied by them before it can be released from the Wheel of Rebirth. Esoteric tradition associates the zodiac with the twelve labors of Hercules. The Greek strong man had to complete these tasks before he could be released from a bond of servitude to the despotic and envious king, Eurystheus.

The promotional material for a Blog Talk Radio item on the subject had this to say:

The labours of Hercules are a chart of the soul’s journey through a cycle of lifetimes. They represent the great wheel of birth and death and are considered one of the Keys to the mysteries.

The labors can also be thought of as ordeals or trials of strength. A connection back to the Hanged Man can be seen in these words of Robert M. Place in The Tarot, History, Symbolism and Divination about the figure on the card:

He is going through an ordeal, but willingly, to further his goal..

The reason behind the ordeal was set forth thousands of years ago by the great sages of many nations. Confucius cast it in these words:

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trial.

It was with these and similar thoughts in their minds that the French tarot masters of old allotted the Trump the meaning of Ordeal or Trial, which Frank Lind expressed more prosaically as “suffering and anxiety”.

The Lady & the Lion

by Tony Willis            

In the Tarot de Marseilles, the Trump Strength is numbered 11. It portrays a woman holding the jaws of a lion. Some say the lady is opening the lion’s mouth, others that she is closing it. From a symbolic point of view it makes no odds. Whether the woman is opening or closing the beast’s maw, she is employing her physical strength to execute the feat.

For once, the card’s esoteric (philosophical) and exoteric (predictive) significances are the same. On the spiritual level the Trump represents moral strength, its associated keyword Determination. On the intellectual level it represents mental strength, and its keyword is Endurance. On the material level it represents physical strength and is associated with bodily vigor and activity; its keywords are Energy and Work.

Tarot pundits over the centuries have presented the card’s mundane significance in their own words.

S.L. Mathers, in a book published in 1888, associates these keywords with the Trump:

Power, Might, Force, Strength, Fortitude. Reversed, Abuse of Power, Overbearingness, Want of Fortitude.

Around forty years later, a French author revealed the meanings used by continental gypsies.

Success through work, perseverance, will-power. Reversed, disgrace, cares.

In 1936, Richard Huson penned a more comprehensive delineation for the Trump:

Invincible strength and dauntless courage . . . It promises victory and the attainment of the end in view to those who know how to direct their natural gifts and will-power into the right channels, and who persevere in their efforts with unflagging energy. Reversed, it means vain and fruitless striving, dissipation of energy and abuse of power.

Frank Lind, in the early 1950s, is more concise but his message is the same:

Courage. Endurance. Struggle for supremacy. Victory over Evil. Spiritual powers and capacities.

There is no such consistency to geometrical representations assigned to Trump 11. It is a topic rarely mentioned, and when attributions are given, they are hardly ever explained. If the number 11 is represented in terms of other numbers, it can be expressed by five equations.

mmTarot 05mmTarot 06




    5 + 6 = 11





mmTarot 04mmTarot 07




    4 + 7 = 11





mmTarot 03mmTarot 08




    3 + 8 = 11





mmTarot 02mmTarot 09




    2 + 9 = 11





mmTarot 01mmTarot 10




    1 + 10 = 11





The last equation translates as: Change (The Wheel) initiated or directed by human intelligence (Juggler/Magician). This interpretation is, in outline, the meaning awarded the card by Richard Huson above. Two plus Nine speaks of our native wit (The Hermit) combining with wisdom gathered by experience (High Priestess) to lend our spirits grit and resolve. Three plus Eight is a numerical representation of actions aimed at increasing (The Empress) the degree of fairness or balance in a situation (Justice). Four plus Seven is more metaphysical in its significance. It describes the need for a solid base or foundation (The Emperor) whenever one intends to move forward with any lasting purpose in mind (The Chariot). Where these two coincide, the Will is in a position to create beneficent future conditions for the individual is exercising her of his will.

More metaphysical still is the combination Five plus Six. The Pentagram (five) is the symbol of the ordinary human being with all its faults and psychological foibles. The Hexagram (six) is the symbol of the perfected human being. The enmeshing of the two generates the invincible strength and dauntless courage we have so often met with in the delineations for Trump 11 we examined earlier in this article. The bringing together of the Five and the Six is a mystery, and as such it is the meaning for Strength that the average person has most difficulty grasping.

The other four equations are eminently understandable, however, and the student can go a long way towards comprehending the various operations of Trump 11 by analyzing them. The rarified atmosphere of the metaphysical heights is not an environment wherein everybody can breathe with ease. But if such matters attract you, application and dedication will in time bring you to an apprehension of these mysteries, to the extent that you are able to understand them.

The Number Ten

The Wheel of Fortune continued

by Tony Willis    

The Trump cards used to illustrate Papus’s The Divinatory Tarot have geometric figures on them up to and including Trump 9, The Hermit. After that none of the Trumps have them. Beyond Nine the geometry become highly complex. I am going to continue to explain these figures as far as the number Twelve. After that, it is best that students think esoterically of the Trumps in terms of linked geometric images – that Thirteen is viewed as Three plus Ten, Fourteen as Seven plus Seven, and so on. Much can be learnt by working in this fashion. A brighter view of Death is found through interpreting 13 as The Empress (3) working in tandem with The Wheel of Fortune (10). Change (the action of the Wheel) in the overall, and continuing, Life Process (the Empress) leads one to thoughts of Renewal and Regeneration, significances regularly assigned Trump 13 by occultists, and prompting those who have eyes to see to look beneath the surface of the conventional tarot image of Death. As Dion Fortune was apt to remind students: Death on one plane is Birth on another, and Birth on one plane is, equally, Death on another.

Returning to The Wheel of Fortune and the geometric figures associated with it, the first thought of a logical mind might be that it could be, indeed should be, represented by a Circle. This is correct: it could be so represented. However, I know of no occult school that uses the Circle to indicate Trump 10. In the French school, of which Papus was a prominent exponent, the Circle is attributed to The Hermit and the number Nine, for reasons already discussed. The French school has no wish to cloud the waters by assigning the Circle to two consecutive numbers, Nine and Ten, and so fights shy of linking the Circle to The Wheel of Fortune beyond what is suggested by the picture of a wheel on the card.

Nor is the Decagon linked to Trump 10, so far as I am aware. It is more usual to find the Square associated with The Wheel in occult literature. It is one of those puzzling tropes that occult teaching comes up with from time to time and which regularly befuddle newcomers to the world of esoteric thought. To understand the attribution, think of the Square as a mnemonic. Number the points of the Square from 1 to 4. (See diagram.) Next add the numbers together: 1+2+3+4. The answer is Ten. scan0002Occultists see this equation as illustrating a bond between the number 4 (to which the Square is attributed) and the number 10. When it is recalled that the Emperor, Trump 4, is a ruler, in some ways a supreme ruler, having authority over mere kings, while the inner meanings of Trump 10 include ‘the Kingdom of God’ and that Authority which has rulership over the myriad changes constantly taking place in the world, the link between the two cards immediately comes into focus.

Another way of representing this connection between the single digits 1 to 4 and the number 10 is the Tetractis. (See below.) The Pythagoreans venerated this symbol and swore oaths upon it, implying that they saw it as in some way representing Deity. scan0001Again, we encounter the concept of a transcendent power that governs the universe in both its visible and invisible aspects. The secrets of the tetractis are many; I cannot discuss them all in a short article, nor would it be prudent of me to do so in a public post intended for general consumption. What I can say, as it relates to the Waite-Smith illustration of the Wheel card, is that the Tetractis’s four lines of dots correspond to the Elements. The single dot at the top is assigned to the Element of Fire, the two dots are assigned to the Element of Air, the three dots equate with Elemental Water and the four dots are Elemental Earth. On the Waite-Smith card, these Elements are hinted at by the presence of the emblems of the Four Evangelists situated at the card’s corners. St Luke is represented by a bull – Taurus, an Earth sign. St Mark is represented by a lion – Leo, a Fire sign. St John is represented by an eagle, the hidden or secret symbol of the purified Scorpionic personality, Scorpio being a Water sign. St Matthew is represented by an angel, which is better understood as a winged man, pointing to the purified Aquarian personality – humanity once it has attained angelhood after passing through innumerable incarnations, or rounds of the Wheel of Life. Aquarius is an Air sign, and thus all four Elements are suggested by the symbolism of the Waite-Smith Wheel of Fortune card.

The glyph of the Tetractis itself is identified with the Fifth transcendent Element, Spirit, which encompasses the Four material Elements, holding them in a matrix, within which they act upon, and with, one another.

The Tetractis makes a good general protection. One mystery school of my acquaintance insists that its students create a tetractic talisman to wear as they work their way through the initial Elemental grades on the ladder of initiation. The single dot is colored flame red, the two dots below it are colored blue to represent the sky. The three dots are white, reflecting the transparency of clear water, and the four dots are the yellow of ripened corn, referencing the bounty of the fruitful Earth. Anyone wishing to make this talisman should do so on a Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, while the sun is above the horizon. The directions are simple so that anyone just entering the mysteries can follow them without needing a detailed knowledge of astrology or any of the more recondite aspects of occultism.

The talisman can be made out of a piece of stout card cut in the shape of a triangle with a tab at the top. The background can be left blank, as in the diagram. If you have the skill, the background, including the tab, can be painted midnight blue. It is no coincidence that, apart from black and white, all the colors on this talisman are primary colors.

To consecrate the talisman, place it face up on a table from which you have removed all other objects. Stand at the table and lift your active hand (the right for a right-handed person) to a little above head height. Hold the palm of your other hand over the completed talisman, and make an invocation to the Supreme Being using the nomenclature most familiar to you (God, Jehovah, Brahma, or whatever it may be). Ask the Supreme Being (here you may substitute the name meaningful to you) to bless the tetractis talisman, and endow it with the positive attributes of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, working through the power of Gaia (or one of the other Earth deities) if your spiritual path is a pagan one, or Uriel, the Angel of Earth, if you align yourself with the Christian or Jewish faith.

Take four deep breaths and try to sense an energy descending into your uplifted hand. Once you feel touched by this energy, imaging it flowing down your arm and pooling in the center of your chest in the general area of the heart chakra. When a quantity of energy has collected, imagine it flowing to your shoulder and from thence down to your passive hand, and out through the palm of your hand into the talisman. Continue until the flow of energy ceases, then thank Gaia (or Uriel) and the Supreme Being for empowering the talisman. Rub the palms of your hands together, take a deep breath and count to four. The consecration is now complete. It can be carried out on any of the days already indicated.

Once the talisman has been consecrated, pierce the tab and thread a length of string through the hole you have made. Tie the two ends of the string together and wear the talisman around your neck, allowing it to rest in the general area of the heart chakra. It is a useful talisman to wear when undertaking Elemental magick, or any of the divinatory methods that have Elemental connotations, such as geomancy, which is a type of Earth divination.

Lady Luck & Dame Fortune

by Tony Willis    

The divinatory meanings for Trump 10 in the tarot, the Wheel of Fortune, are standard and compact. The words ‘Change’, ‘Luck’, ‘Fortune’ and ‘Destiny’ occur time and time again over the centuries. When the card is upright, a benign change, a stroke of good luck, or a blessing from Dame Fortune are generally what is betokened. In reverse, bad luck, ill-fortune, or a change not to the inquirer’s liking are portended. Older books on cartomantic divination agree on this. S.L. Mathers (Fortune Telling Cards: The Tarot, its occult signification, use in fortune telling, and method of play, etc. published by George Redway, 1888) has Trump 10 signify “Good Fortune, Success, Unexpected Luck; Reversed: Ill-Fortune, Failure, Unexpected Ill-Luck”, while The Book of the Occult and Fortune Telling (c. 1925) describes the card’s effects thus: “in a good position, it is very favourable indeed; but if badly aspected by other cards or reversed, unfortunate influences will delay the achievement of one’s aims.

Sometimes the Wheel of Fortune is associated with gambling on account of its connection with Lady Luck. Well placed in a reading, Trump 10 may indicate that the inquirer is, for a brief moment, Lady Luck’s favorite person. But Lady Luck is fickle; her favor will not last forever, and the inquirer will only benefit from her attentions if he acts at once. To prevaricate is fatal; once the opportune moment has passed, the winning lottery ticket will have been bought by somebody else, someone ahead of you in the queue.

The divinatory meaning of the card is comparatively simple. From the earliest surviving tarots, circa 1420, to the end of the twentieth century, Trump 10 has borne the name The Wheel of Fortune, from which the cartomantic significance has been drawn. For it is understood to represent Dame Fortune’s wheel, a well-known metaphor in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The oldest examples we have of the card (now housed in museums around the world) show an upright wheel with four human figures around its rim. At the top usually sits a king (though he may wear ass’s ears in place of a crown!). The falling figure is a man toppled from a position of rank, wealth and plenty. At the nadir is a beggar, destitute and clothed in rags. The fourth figure ascends, a man in full vigor, about to displace the king presently set above them all. At times a woman stands beside the wheel, rotating it by means of a handle, generally identified as Dame Fortune herself. In the card below, she is at the center of the wheel, though still supposedly controlling its movement.

wheelincolor  wheel th  mmTarot 10

How this image became altered into the scene that confronts us on the Tarot de Marseilles card is a mystery. Gone are the human figures. Now three shapes cling to the wheel: one with the appearance of a sphinx armed with a sword; another, rising, is so badly drawn one can hardly tell whether it is meant to be a dog or a horse. A monkey descends. A smartened up version of the Tarot de Marseilles card can be seen in the third illustration above.

Occultists of the nineteenth century were so dissatisfied with the TdM representation that they quickly ‘reformed’ it. In a deck referenced by Papus (see below), the sphinx remains at the top of the wheel but a crocodile descends, and a human figure with dog’s head and brandishing a caduceus ascends. This last is Hermanubis (a fusion of the Greek Hermes and the Egyptian Anubis), while the crocodile stands for the threat of danger, since that is the way the tarot masters of the nineteenth century interpreted the image of a crocodile, as we shall be reminded when we come to look at their attempts to rectify the Fool card.

Arcane-Arcana-10-roue-de-fortune-wheel-of-fortuneArcane-Arcana-10-roue-de-fortune-wheel-of-fortune10 Wheel

Oswald Wirth (middle illustration above) made a telling adjustment to the image presented by Papus. He turned the descending figure into a more intimidating creature. It is horned, like the devil, and holds a trident or pitchfork, also an emblem of the devil. The figure has a dark face and wears a dark loincloth; instead of feet, he has two fishtails. He could hardly be any more foreboding.

These same ideas, in slightly altered form, are in evidence on the Waite-Smith Wheel of Fortune card. In addition to the central wheel and the three figures turning upon it, all or which we have become accustomed to, the Waite-Smith card has the symbols of the Four Evangelists at the corners of the card.

Noting that there were three figures on the Tarot de Marseilles’ Wheel of Fortune, the nineteenth century tarot masters identified them with the three great Alchemical qualities, Mercury, Sulpher and Salt. The symbols traditionally used to denote these qualities can be discerned on the inner portion of the wheel on the Waite-Smith card (see the third illustration above). Alchemical Mercury is at the top, under the letter ‘T’, Sulpher is on the right and Salt on the left. The bottom symbol is not that of Aquarius but represents the alchemical process of dissolution, in which all three qualities become mixed together.

The novice in matters esoteric may expect Alchemical Mercury to correspond to Hermanubis on the wheel, seeing as his name is partly derived from that of Hermes, the Greek name for Mercury. That is not the case, however.Alchemical Mercury is placed higher in the occult hierarchy than the planet of the same name. It corresponds to the sphinx in the illustration and represents balance, just as the sphinx on the card is the point of balance between the active quality, Alchemical Sulpher, and the torpid, downward-tending quality of Alchemical Salt.

The Waite-Smith version of the card is a glyph explaining the mysteries of Trump 10 in symbol form.

Some occult texts on the tarot associate the Wheel of Fortune with the Kingdom of God, Order, and Fortune. The beginner struggling to get to grips with the tarot might find these designations confusing. How, for instance, can the concept of Order be accommodated under the same heading as Fortune, which appears to operate so haphazardly? To bring light to bear on the subject, one must remember that occultists look beyond the physical universe to invisible worlds situated around and above it. On the spiritual level, occultists take Trump 10 to denote that active principle that vivifies all being, not living things alone but encompassing things such as soil and minerals too. This vivifying principle is identified with an aspect of the Supreme Being, an aspect Christianity names God the Father, and which further relates to what the Gospels call The Kingdom of Heaven, in this case rendered as the Kingdom of God.

On the Waite-Smith card, the four evangelists at the corners, associated with the Four Elements on the one hand and the Four letters of God’s Holy Name in Hebrew on the other, represent the state of Order within which Dame Fortune’s Wheel incessantly turns.

At the intellectual level, Trump 10 is associated with the authority governing the ordered running of the universe in both its visible and invisible aspects. The Greeks termed this authority Zeus; the Romans named it Jove or Jupiter, and that is why the planet Jupiter is so frequently given as the astrological correspondence of the Wheel of Fortune card. In angelic terms, this authority is Tzadkiel, whose name derives from the Hebrew word for righteousness. Now, what is right and what is fitting or appropriate are notions directly relating to the idea of Order, for in an ordered universe there is a place for everything and everything will be in its appointed place. When a human being apprehends, however fleetingly, that such a state of affairs exists, in his heart he will echo the sentiment of the poet Browning: “God’s in his heaven – all’s right with the world.” To connect this idea to the image of Dame Fortune’s ever-turning wheel, we must extend the proposition in the following manner.

“In an ordered universe there is a place for everything and everything is in its appointed place at any given moment in time.”

As anyone can see, the material world is in constant motion. The moon tonight will have a different shape to that which she displayed last night. As I write, Summer is declining into Autumn, and Autumn will ineluctably give way to Winter and then to Spring. There is constant change, but also order, since the sequence of the seasons is ever the same; day follows night, and the moon waxes and wanes in regular sequence. It is change conducted in an orderly fashion and a ruling force is assumed to be in charge of this process.

On the material level, Fortune is the keyword allotted to Trump 10, but what is meant is both good and evil fortune. These wax and wane, also, like the moon. Look back on your life and you will see that there were periods when Dame Fortune smiled on you and other times when she frowned. Various activities in your life will have responded to this ebb and flow. You may have been lucky in love at a time when you were not particularly fortunate where money was concerned. Or you may have been fortunate in your career at the same time as suffering a series of minor ailments. These periods of good and bad luck follow an ordered course which the occultist knows how to chart.

The health cycle is approximately eight years in length. If somebody suffered an illness that laid them low back in 2010 then it is highly probable that another illness of some kind will afflict them in 2018. The ‘love cycle’ is approximately four years in length. Therefore, should your love affair have not reached the conclusion you most desire – for some this will be marriage, for others simply setting up house together – within four years of the two of you first embarking on a romance, it is unlikely that it will ever do so. In the field of career or profession, ambitions that show no tangible signs of materializing within eight years are unlikely ever to do so.

These various cycles work together within the greater cycle of a person’s individual karma. This intermeshing of cycles is referred to as the turning of wheels within wheels. The individual karma is of overriding importance in the understanding of the effects of the cycles. I, for instance, was born with a horoscope replete with aspects denoting physical vigor. Until I turned 65, when age began to take its toll, the only visits I had made to a doctor concerned a split forehead, when I feel against the sharp edge of a table leg, a broken arm, from falling off a wall, and an eye defect, for which I was prescribed glasses at the age of seven. None of these are illnesses as such, and so I was never in the position of being able to count eight years from one bout of sickness so as to work out when my next period of ill-health would occur. But then I didn’t need to; I wasn’t prone to illness. Some people are but I wasn’t. The predisposition to good physical health evident in my horoscope overrode the eight-year health cycle. I was, however, subject to all the other cycles and can trace their effects on my emotional and financial life and the progress of my career.

You can take the information I have laid out above as a rough guide to your fluctuating fortunes in love and ambitions by following a simple rule: If you want to know your future, look to your past. In the case of health, count forward eight years from your last significant bout of illness – and it must be an illness, not an accident. The year you arrive at is the year in which, most likely, you will experience another period of ill-health. Those who find themselves in that nightmare situation where every department of life derails at the same time – quarrels occur, money is tight, bad health strikes, there are separations from those we love, and one is treading water where one’s career is concerned – can take heart from the following occult law relating to stupendous bad luck. Such a period tends to run for three years and in the fourth year there are signs of a definite up-turn in the person’s fortunes. For the wheel must turn eventually – the trick is to know when it is going to turn.

I can only supply a rule-of-thumb method of judging when changes in life might occur. There are many factors to be taken into account when working out in detail the lengths of the various periods of health, love, money and business. But in most cases, the rule-of-thumb method will be a sufficient indicator of how the tides of life are flowing and exact dates will not be necessary. The approximate year of the change should be enough.

There are cycles in the life of a nation as well as in the life of a human being. The rise and fall of countries, empires, continents even, are governed by these cyclical laws. As Paul Foster Case explains in The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages (Macoy Publishing Company, USA), “The rotation of circumstance appears to be accidental, but it is not really so.” The person who understands the mechanism behind the apparent haphazard turns of the Wheel of Fortune is in a better position to weather the storms those turns bring about and to capitalize on those sunnier years of growth and expansion it also ushers in.

And in that description of the Wheel of Fortune in action the mystery of how eternal change is locked into a regular and orderly process is explained.

Nine & The Hermit

by Tony Willis     

The Tarot de Marseilles Hermit card depicts an old man with long white hair and beard. He wears a robe and a cloak with a pulled-back hood. In his left hand, he carries a walking stick and his right hand is raised up, holding a lighted lantern. The divinatory keywords given to the card by nineteenth century tarot experts were Wisdom and Prudence. The image was taken to represent a man searching for truth while engulfed by the darkness of ignorance. As questing for truth is self-evidently a wise thing to do, the Hermit was thought of as wise. As walking in darkness with only the weak light of a lantern for a guide is an undertaking fraught with danger, it was assumed that great caution was needed while one was looking for truth, and so Caution, or Prudence, became a keyword associated with the Trump.

tdm hermit    Arcane-Arcana-09-hermite-hermit

Nineteenth century tarotists with occult leanings adapted the simple Tarot de Marseilles image, having the Hermit preceded by a snake. No doubt they had in mind the Biblical quote, “Be ye gentle as doves and wise as serpents.” They also had the Hermit shroud his lantern with the folds of his cloak; in the Tarot de Marseilles version, the cloak hangs to one side of the lantern. This shielding of the light was supposed to indicate that the wise man protects his knowledge, and does not share it with fools or those not yet ready to receive it. Wisdom used often to be symbolized as a pearl, the Bible’s Pearl of Great Price, and there were adages about not casting pearls before swine.

PapusWirth09    9 knapp hall

The idea that one ought to shield one’s knowledge from the sight of others influenced another of the divinatory meanings the card accumulated over the years, that being, not to share one’s plans with other people as they may attempt to subvert them. Over time, the above notions became condensed into a simple formula: “Prudence and wisdom are the leading ideas conveyed by this card; badly aspected by other cards, however, it enjoins the necessity of secrecy, watchfulness and caution against hidden enemies and subtle intrigues.” This is from Richard Huson’s The Complete Book of Fortune.

Huson took as his template interpretations from The Book of the Occult & Fortune Telling, c. 1925 (“Someone is seeking to harm you, but the spitefulness at work against you will fail. If reversed, it means the opposite”), and Card Fortune Telling, c. 1921 (“Prudence and wisdom; but if the other cards are not good, it may merely mean trickery and lying. Reversed: secrecy, fear and needless caution”).

In reverse, confusingly, the card can signify either that the inquirer is in great danger of having her secrets revealed or of being duped by someone she trusts, or that she has become unnecessarily fearful, and is being held back by her over-cautious attitude to life. My experience is that readers adopt one or other of these interpretations, and that it works for them, whichever it is, with the alternative interpretation rarely if ever coming into play as far as that particular tarot reader is concerned.

Geometric symbols associated with The Hermit are the Circle and three Triangles arranged as shown in the diagram below. The Circle denotes the completion of a cycle. The cycle referred to is that of what are sometimes called Arabic Numbers. These run from 0 to 9, the common or garden single digits we use every day. After the number 9, these ten basic digits are repeated in various combinations in order to denote numbers higher than Nine – 10, 11, 12, 13, and so on. Nine is, therefore, the end of a sequence. As such it implies Completion and Perfection, insofar as that which is complete is also whole and may therefore be considered perfect.

In the same vein as Completion, the Greeks of past times called the number Telesphoros, “bringing to an end”, and associated it with the ninth month of pregnancy, in which birth most often takes place. At the same time, however, it is worth bearing in mind that the Eleusinian ceremonies of initiation were called Teletai, “perfectings”. Esoterically, the Hermit is regularly associated with initiation. If you look to the Papus version of the card (the second example given above), you will see the French word for Initiation inscribed above the Trump’s divinatory meaning, Prudence.

One other point, in relation to the divinatory meanings of the Hermit, is that the end of a cycle is a precarious time, on account of it being a disconnect. The uo-coming cycle might bring happiness and fulfillment into a person’s life but it might as easily usher in a period of distress, illness, or money troubles. All of which is reflected in the divinatory significances assigned the card by the wise tarot masters of former years.

Three Triangles can denote prolific fruitfulness where they stand for 3×3. As we have seen, the energy of the number 3 is concerned with abundance and multiplication. This message is also carried by the Empress in the tarot, Trump 3. Three times three, therefore, symbolizes a high level of abundance in whatever it touches. Hence, when we turn to the Minor Arcana, we find the 9 of Pence (or Pentacles) signifying, “Much increase of money or goods”, for Pence is the Earth suit, representing all things material. The 9 of Cups signifies “Complete success in emotional matters”, for the Cups suit deals with the affections. The 9 of Rods signifies “Great strength, energy, and health”, for Rods cards reference dynamism and vitality. Swords, being an unfortunate suit, the 9 denotes “Malice, cruelty, and despair”. In each case, a simple concept, such as love or material happiness, has been magnified or elevated, that being the effect of the number Nine when in fruitful mode on everything it comes in contact with. (I have had recourse to the card meanings favored by the Golden Dawn, but most books of instruction follow a similar pattern where the nines are concerned.)

scan0003But it is not Nine in fruitful mode that is represented by the diagram we find accompanying the Hermit in tarot decks such as those favored by Papus. (See right.) Here the central triangle is inverted. Only when all three triangles are upright does the energy denoted by the number 9 flow unhindered on the material plane. Were all three triangles standing on their apexes a most injurious figure would be produced, a figure wherein the whole of 9’s positive energy was turned back upon itself. Two triangles so positioned would describe a less severe, but still extremely thorny, state of affairs.

In the diagram associated with the Hermit only one triangle is reversed. The top- and bottom-most triangles are upright, the central triangle alone being upside down; but as it is sandwiched between two upright triangles, its power to damage, disrupt or cause chaos is mercifully diminished. It therefore mirrors the card’s meaning, “Someone is seeking to harm you, but the spitefulness at work against you will fail”, encompassing all similar delineations along the lines of “Trickery and lying from which the inquirer is protected.” As ever, though, the context is all-important. Even an upright Hermit laying between the Moon and the 10 of Swords can take on a negative connotation, the whole sequence predicting loss of goods or reputation (10 Swords) through the underhand dealings of others (Moon plus Hermit). But in other circumstances, the Hermit may denote nothing more than a blip, the evil designs of others thwarted by the inquirer’s vigilance or overturned by the hand of Fate herself before any real harm has been done.

In the Knapp-Hall tarot (see the fourth Hermit card above), the artist surrounds the sage unequivocally with the darkness of ignorance, but he presents a novel geometric representation of the number 9, namely a Pentagram (5) within a Square (4). The symbol resonates to the Hermit as a combination of High Priest and Supreme Monarch, Trumps 5 and 4. While this is a true representation, esoterically, of an initiate of the Grade Exempt Adapt, this geometric arrangement is rarely seen outside of instructional papers in the safe-keeping of certain schools of the Western Mystery Tradition. As it bears no relation to tarot reading as it is customarily performed, I shall say no more about it.

Restoring the Balance

by Tony Willis       

For tarot enthusiasts of the French Occult Revival (c. 1770-1900), the second septenary of Trumps began with the card Justice. Today, most people think of Strength as the eighth Trump but back then nobody considered that Justice in eighth place was odd or in any way untoward. The eighth numbered Trump in the Tarot de Marseilles was, and is, Justice; and 8 seemed an appropriate number for it, as 8 was widely associated with concepts such as:

Alternating cycles, the active administration of law, redressing of balance, poise, impartiality, exactitude and accuracy.

One interpretation of “alternating cycles” is that reflected in the template of crime and punishment. A crime is committed, the miscreant apprehended and brought to trial. In court, justice is done, a sentence is pronounced, and societal order restored. Unsurprisingly, then, we find words like “retribution”, “rectification”, “judgment”, “equity”, “compensation”, and “rewards and punishments” applied to the Justice card.

The occultist Cheiro (1866-1936), interpreting the number purely on the material plane, has it represent human justice. Cheiro’s contemporary, Sepharial (1864-1929), suggests “human justice” as one of the meanings for the equivalent Trump, Justice. Operating at a higher level, the card can signify either Divine Justice or its occult agents, the Lords of Karma. For most individuals, however, Justice in a tarot reading will refer to justice of the human kind, whether it be meted out in a court of law, or in a broader context, in the court of public opinion.

Cheiro, still speaking of the number, informs his readers: “The occult symbol of 8 has from time immemorial been represented by the figure of Justice with a Sword pointing upwards and a Balance or Scales in the left hand.” (Cheiro’s Numbers.) Paul Christian, a pupil of Eliphas Levi’s, names the Trump “The Scales and Blade”. Other tarot experts name it “Balance”, referring to the harmony that is restored to the world whenever justice is done, and everyone involved receives their just deserts.

As well as Balance, the Trump was at times known as Harmony, the two concepts being analogous. In Greek myth, the wife of Cadmus bore the name Harmony, and W. Wynn Westcott, in Numbers, their Occult Power and Mystic Virtues, explains: “The Greeks called [Eight] “Cademia,” because Harmony was looked upon as the wife of Cadmus . . .”

In his book Numbers: their meaning and significance, Kozminsky, follows Cheiro in giving 8 the meanings protection and justice. For when justice is done, the weak are protected against bullies, and the fortunate are protected from the envious.

David Allen Hulse, in The Truth About Numerology, gives 8 the significance “success in material endeavors”. This connects to one of the predictive meanings assigned the tarot Trump, namely “Success in business matters, [or] the winning of a lawsuit.” Should the card be reversed, the opposite was indicated – great disappointment in business or the loss of a lawsuit.

One meaning given to the card by tarotists with occult leanings is “reactionary balance”, which is an obscure way of indicating restorative justice, things brought back into balance by the enacting of human or divine justice. Broadly speaking the card can signify the restoration of balance, or equilibrium, to the inquirer’s world. All these ideas go back to Eliphas Levi, who give the Justice card the meaning “the equilibrium of attraction and repulsion”, an expression that points up the circularity of the formula “crime and punishment”, or of any set of circumstances where order becomes disordered and is then returned to order once again.

8 as 2 squares       ogdoade1

This “equilibrium of attraction and repulsion” is presented visually in one of the diagrams attached to the Justice card – two squares, one on top of the other. The diagram is mirrored, to some extent, in the Arabic numeral for Eight, which is essentially two circles set one atop the other. The idea behind the diagram finds common expression in such sayings as “What goes up must come down.” Those who believe in karma understand that any good deed will be rewarded, in the right time and under the right circumstances, and that bad deeds will be dealt with in the same manner, and that in the great scheme of things, nobody “gets away” with anything. Somehow, balance will always be restored.

Occultists who are also tarot masters at times assign the meaning of “good karma” to the upright card, and “bad karma” to the reversal. For the Trump can indicate that an event is the result of one or the other. Justice reversed falling in conjunction with The Tower, for instance, might show that an upcoming damaging event is the result of past karma catching up with the inquirer. However, it is only for the highly experienced tarot reader to make such pronouncements, as distinguishing between a karmic event and a non-karmic one is a task for a fully trained occultist.

The other geometric symbol associated with Justice as Trump 8 is one square within another. It is a reference to the even-handedness of divine justice or of human justice conscientiously performed. One square within another is a symbol of the Ogdoad. The Greek writer Macrobius said of the Ogdoad that it was “the type of Justice, because it consists of evenly even numbers, and on account of its equal divisions.” The inner square divides the lines of the outer square into eight equal parts. These eight could themselves be divided into sixteen equal parts and those sixteen into thirty-two; that is what Macrobius was getting at. The division is always equal, and where equality prevails there is neither favoritism nor special treatment. No one experiencing this kind of justice is likely to come away dissatisfied.

The reversed card gives warning of the exact opposite: Unfairness, sometimes coupled with unjust accusations and criticism.