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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.

The First Septenary, part 3

by Tony Willis    
Card Interpretation

Reading the tarot is an art. No two painters will depict a landscape in exactly the same way, and no two tarot-readers interpret cards identically. For some tarotists, The Chariot reversed does not bear a disturbing significance; it means only that the assistance promised by the upright card does not arrive until the very last minute.

There is a long-standing tradition which maintains that The Chariot in reverse represents merely the delay of what the upright card pledges. That same tradition applies this principle also to Trumps 19 and 21, The Sun and The World. Naturally the tenor of the whole spread has to be taken into account. If the cards following the reversed Chariot point to loss (5 of Cups), hardship (5 of Pence) or failure (10 of Swords), then other interpretations of the card will apply: Plans fall apart; Danger of defeat; Overthrow; Obstacles prove insurmountable.

But my own experience of The Chariot reversed (and of The Sun and The World reversed, too) is that victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat, and immanent failure transformed into success eventually, often after considerable delay, so long as other factors in the reading confirm that interpretation.

Arcane-Arcana-07-chariot     Arcane-Arcana-05-pape-pope

Trump 5, The Pope (High Priest or Hierophant) is a card that throws many beginners in tarot interpretation into a panic. Depending on the book of instructions the novice tarot-reader is working from it may not be entirely clear how the card is to be construed.

It can signify a man to whom the inquirer can turn for unbiased, honest advice; or it can show the inquirer herself “doing the right thing”, acting charitably, with a generous spirit, towards another person – following her conscience, in other words. Or it can indicate marriage or other form of union.

In interpreting The Pope, the fledgling tarot reader must rely on his intuition, guided, as ever, by the lay of other cards in the spread. Following the Empress (falling in love) and the 3 of Cups (a celebration, as it might be, an engagement party), The Pope will almost certainly predict marriage. Following The Moon (not being able to see a clear way forward) and the 2 of Pence (financial instability), The Pope suggest the need for professional advice, from a bank manager or an accountant, for instance. Nine times out of ten, the other cards in the spread will give a huge hint as to which interpretation of The Pope is appropriate.

Other times, the subject of the inquiry will provide the hint. Should the question be “Will I marry X?” then it is more than likely that The Pope card upright will be giving an affirmative answer. Should the question be about business then The Pope might well carry the message, “Seek advice”. Should the question be about an ethical dilemma, the probable answer is “Follow your conscience.”

So much for interpreting cards in a divination. In the next post we will return to the main theme of the current series, namely how the Trumps come to have the significances they do.

The First Septenary, Part 2

by Tony Willis     

In Part 1, we learned that the ineffable One divides itself into Two equal and opposite complimentary potencies, Yin and Yang, Force and Form, according to the terminology employed. In the process of division, energy descends one rung on the ladder leading to manifestation. The interplay of dynamism between these Two complimentary potencies gives rise to the Three Alchemical Principles, and the interplay between the Three principles produces the Four visible Elements as well as a Fifth invisible Element, Æther or Spirit, again depending on the terminology employed.

The Emperor

The Emperor, Trump 4 in the Tarot, was associated by the tarot masters of the nineteenth century with the geometric symbol the Square. They also associated it with the equal-armed cross, although nothing is made of this in the occult literature of the period that I have perused, possibly because the equal-armed cross is also assigned to The Papess, Trump 2, and in the program of occult instruction that rigidly follows the numerical order of the Trumps, the major features of this symbol have generally been dealt with under that heading long before The Emperor’s attributes come up for consideration.

On the one hand, Trump 4 stands for the Hermetic Elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth taken as a group; in fact, a cross with arms of equal length was used in old alchemical texts to denote the Elements as a collective. In concert with this attribution, Trump 4 also stands for the entire plane of Earth, the stage, as it were, on which the Four Elements display their most recognizable modes of physical expression in the forms of electricity and the gaseous, liquid, and solid states of matter. At the same time, the Earth plane is intimately connected in occult thought with the planet on which we live, so that Mother Earth herself is assumed to be the product of a four-fold interaction of agencies. This mindset is embedded in phrases current even today, such as ‘the four corners of the Earth’, and is also in familiar concepts like that of the four cardinal directions, North, South, East and West.

In tarot lore, the Square represents “the Earth and all that’s in it”, and by implication, authority over the world of matter, the capacity to control it, or some part of it, be it a nation or a small personal fiefdom, such as the head of a typing pool might hold sway over. As a result, in divination The Emperor signifies temporal power and the qualities required to maintain it: leadership, physical strength, either strength of the body or, more likely today, strength in the form of wealth, arms or manpower, as well as a degree of moral potency, since nothing causes popular support to evaporate faster than deliberate, undisguised favoritism or looking the other way when illegal acts are committed. The link between temporal power and Mother Earth, in the shape of the mother-country or the fatherland, needs no explanation, I feel sure.

4marseille  4 II  bota trump 04

Examination of the Trump’s secondary symbol, the cross, draws us once more toward the four cardinal directions; for many maps are marked, for purposes of orientation, with a cross, at each point of which is printed a letter corresponding to one of these directions. Most weathervanes are marked similarly. A good many spatial divisions are divisions into four, and both the examples I have just given relate to that concept, a notion so fundamental to the human mind as to be ingrained in us to the extent that we tend automatically to cleave the world spreading out all around us from beneath our feet into four sectors, even if these are only before, behind, to the right and to the left.

Having stated already the connection between the occult principle assigned to The Emperor and its divinatory significance, I will move on to the next number, Five.

The Pope

Just as the number Four in tarot lore relates both to Mother Earth and the Four Hermetic Elements, so does Five relate firstly to the Fifth element, Æther, as the animating factor that enlivens the four visible Elements, which, without its influence would be nothing but dead matter. Secondly Five relates to Spirit envisaged as the polar opposite of Matter. In this arrangement, Matter corresponds to the number 4, Spirit to the number 5.

The geometric symbol given to Trump 5 is the Pentagram, or five-pointed star. When the sigils of the Elements are assigned to the points of the Pentagram, that for Æther is always set beside (or sometimes within) the uppermost point.The illustration below reproduces this idea in diagrammatic form.

pent with elements

When the head, or the powers of common-sense and wisdom, hold sway in an individual, that person functions in the way Shakespeare describes in the “What a piece of work is a man!” speech from Hamlet. “How noble in reason [he is], how infinite in faculty . . . in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god — the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!” Such a person’s actions manifest in the world in a variety of ways but are always rooted in sentiments of goodness, compassion and generosity of nature. Three hundred years ago, in an ideal situation, the person most expected to exhibit these qualities was a man of the church. This would also be the individual many turned to for advice when difficult decisions were in the offing. In Part 1 of this article, the synopsis I gave of Trump 5’s divinatory significances read “Goodness, compassion, generosity of spirit; an advisor or counselor.” Clearly, the card’s occult connotations directly affected the predictive meaning that the great tarot masters of the nineteenth century assigned it.

Throughout the world of western occultism, the Pentagram is universally considered to represent the human being. The symbol is often depicted superimposed over the figure of a man, his arms outstretched and his legs parted so that each of his five extremities coincides with one of the pentagram’s arms, as in the following  illustration.


What is rarely understood is that the pentagram relates – Shakespeare’s eulogy notwithstanding – to the unperfected human being lacking in spiritual enlightenment, the unredeemed man or woman of Christian theology, there often designated ‘the Old Adam’. The traditional symbol of the perfected spiritual human being is the six-pointed star, of which more in a while.

Shakespeare, a master of words if ever there was one, uses simile to describe rational human beings. In action, they are “like an angel”; in understanding, they are “like a god”. Like an angel but not an angel; like a god but not one. Shakespeare, himself an initiate, knew that human beings stand at the center of a scale, and are capable of either rising above that level or sinking below it. The latter propensity we find revealed all too vividly in the reversed meanings given by the tarot masters of another generation to Trump 5 in reverse.

“Self-seeking in religion rather than the helping of one’s fellow-creatures. Another person’s tyranny and selfish interference in the inquirer’s life. Or the inquirer will meet with craftiness, guile, where she expected to meet with loyalty and trust.”

The Lovers

Trump 6 is assigned as its geometric form the Hexagram, two triangles, one apex upwards, the other apex downwards. At times one triangle is superimposed over the other, at other times the triangles are interlaced. Occasionally, the triangles are of different colors, in which case the colors represent opposites such as: White and Black, day and night, action and repose; Red and Blue, fire and water, heat and coolness. In the Hexagram, however, the opposites are not at odds; they are in harmony, that being one of the prime meanings of The Lovers on whatever plane we examine it.

Even so, as Dion Fortune says:

“Force in equilibrium is static, potential, never dynamic, because force in equilibrium implies two opposing forces which have perfectly neutralized each other and thus rendered each other inert, inoperative. Upset the equilibrium, and the forces are freed for action, change can take place; growth, evolution, organization can occur. There is no possibility of progress in perfect equilibrium; it is a state of rest.”

The Mystical Qabalah, p. 301.

The occultist must always have it mind that the potency represented by Trump 6 is temporary, and therefore to be regarded as unstable. Dion Fortune again points us in the right direction.

“Equilibrium is the result of the balance of contending forces; consequently, they must pull one against the other.”

The Mystical Qabalah, p. 301.

This pull, or tension, must prevail eventually. When the equilibrium of the hexagram is upset the two forces that composed it are liberated and the immediate result is growth, evolution, and the organization of the lesser but more complex forces generated in the process, just as Dion Fortune has indicated.

It was with reference to the harmonious aspect of the Hexagram that the early tarot masters gave Trump 6 the divinatory significance of Attraction, Affection, and Love. It was with reference to the pulling of two triangles one against another that they gave the Trump such meanings as Temptation, Two ‘loves’ or rival interests, and Ordeal. The picture on the Tarot de Marseilles version of the card depicts the latter of these meanings while the design of the Waite-Smith card depicts the former.

In divination, when The Lovers denotes an ordeal and is upright, the meaning is “some kind of test that the inquirer will pass successfully”. If the card is reversed, then sadly the chances are that the inquirer will fail the test, in whole or in part. Any ordeal, great or small, that we overcome leads on to a victory on some level, moral, intellectual, or material; and the more rigorous the test, the more illustrious the reward. It is no accident that the Trump coming after The Lovers is The Chariot, the main keynote of which is Victory.

Only where the hexagram symbolizes the perfected human being does it become an emblem of stability. In that instance, it points to a paradisiacal, Eden-before-the-Fall, state. It is this condition we are shown in the Waite-Smith illustration, whereon Adam and Eve, naked to demonstrate their innocence, live in harmony not only with each other and Nature but with the Divine, symbolized by the angel in the upper portion of the card. In this picture, the accent is on the love/affection/harmony facet of the Trump’s energies, and, giving for once his personal view of the card, Waite says that it signifies:

“Material union, affection, desire, natural love, passion, harmony of things; contains also the notions of modus vivendi, concord and so forth; equilibrium.”

bota trump 06   mmTarot 06

Paul Foster Case follows Waite in this, just as he follows him in the use of the Garden-of-Eden-before-the-Fall image for the Trump. In The Tarot, a Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, Case gives The Lovers the meanings:

“Attraction, beauty, love. Harmony of inner and outer life.”

The thinking of both men is that this equilibrium, this harmony of inner and outer life, existed in the Edenic state and will exist again once all human beings have ascended to spiritual perfection. In the Waite-Smith and B.O.T.A. cards, temptation, represented by the serpent coiled up the tree behind the woman, is present but not heavily accented. Conversely, on the Tarot de Marseilles card, temptation, in the form of choice, is emphasized while love/affection/harmony aspect of the card is barely hinted at.

The Chariot

Trump 7 has two geometric symbols associated with it. The first is the Heptagram, the seven-pointed star, and the second is a Triangle standing on a Square    –           3 + 4 = 7.

The Trumps are assigned “grams” and not “gons”. By this, I mean that you will find the pentagram, the hexagram, the heptagram, the octogram, etc., linked to certain Trumps but not the pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon or any other kind of “gon”. The ’gram is considered the more appropriate symbol for a tarot Trump because it signifies an active, out-reaching energy, as denoted by its spreading arms. The “gon” indicates a self-contained and inward-looking force, a state again denoted by the “gons” shape, which encloses, womb-like.

The Heptagram associated with The Chariot generally has the Seven Planets of the Ancients (i.e., the planets one can see with the unaided eye) inscribed upon its arms. (See diagram.) The planets are always distributed in a particular order, such that, if one starts with the Sun and follows the lines of the Heptagram across and back, over and over until one arrives again at the Sun, one will have touched all the planets in their weekday order – Sunday, Monday (Moon day), (what follows is easier to understand if the days are given in French) Tuesday/mardi (the day of Mars), mercredi (the day of Mercury), jeudi (the day of Jupiter), vendredi (the day of Venus), and (back to English again for the final day of the week) Saturday (the day of Saturn). In those occult schools where teaching is given out in accordance with the order of the tarot Trumps, the qualities of the planets are imparted under the heading of the seventh Trump, The Chariot.

planets days of week

The card’s other geometric figure, a triangle standing on a square (see diagram), symbolizes Spirit (the Trinity, represented by the triangle) governing Matter (the square). It is the state of affairs described by the poet Browning as “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.” In most cultures seven is a lucky number, as are multiples of seven. In the tarot Trumps, those numbered 7, 14 & 21 are considered particularly fortunate.


mmTarot 07  07 II  GDtrump7

The condition represented by Trump 7 is preceded by a situation marked with tension or disquiet, as embodied by the Ordeal or Choice aspect of The Lovers. With the ordeal passed, the right choice made, it is as if a page had been turned in the Book of Life. What presents itself now can be described as Advancement, Unhindered Progress, Triumph, Victory, or Success. This advancement or victory is like as not arrived at by the overcoming of obstacles. All of this was encapsulated in the divinatory meanings allotted The Chariot by the tarot masters of old. They remain, by and large, the meanings associated with the Trump by modern day tarot readers, probably because, with the exception of decks from the recent po-mo era, the subject matter of the card has not altered at all. The chariot may face to the side (as in the G.D. tarot) rather than to the front; the charioteer may wear a helmet rather than a crown, or he may wear the double crown of the Egyptian Pharaohs instead of the one decorated with pentagrams that Eliphas Levi gives him; sphinxes or horses or bulls may pull his triumphal car, but essentially the picture presented is of a person in motion, going somewhere, and thus embodying keywords associated with Trump 7 such as advancement and progress.

It is taken as read that the man in the chariot is riding in triumph, and this assumption accounts for the remaining keywords attributed to The Chariot: Victory, Triumph, Attainment, Success.

The occult principle associated with this card corresponds to these keywords, for it is imbued with the will to triumph, to stabilize the unstable, to put errors right. In order to understand the symbol of the Triangle, not only above a Square, but standing on it, we must imagine both shapes first as separate entities, not conjoined, not even in alignment; in a word, disordered. Matter has lost its contact with Spirit; Spirit lacks a role, a raison d’etre. Order must be reestablished if the work of evolution is to continue. It should be realized how much effort has gone into placing the Triangle on top of the Square. That feat accomplished, however, the blocks are off, and it is all systems go, on the spiritual, ethical, and material planes alike.


There is an interesting divinatory peculiarity to Trump 7. I will deal with that, and one other anomaly, in the final part of this article.

To be concluded.

The First Septenary, pt. 1

by Tony Willis     

Having reviewed the significance in the predictive tarot of the first seven Trumps, it is time to pause and take stock. The meanings of these cards can be classed as traditional in that they remained more or less unaltered for three hundred years, from the point in the eighteenth century when Antoine de Gebelin brought the tarot to the attention of French occultists until the second half of the twentieth century. Those meanings can be summarized as follows.

1. Physical control of a situation; success through effort.

2. Intellectual control of a situation; mastery through understanding.

3. Fruitfulness of plans. Something coming to fruition. Abundance. Plenty.

4. Stability.Support. Realization of aims.

5. Goodness, compassion, generosity of spirit. An advisor or counselor.

6. Attraction. Affection. Desire. Temptation. Two ‘loves’ or rival interests

7. Triumph, Victory, Overcoming obstacles.

From the standpoint of practical occultism, however, the Trumps have more profound significances and these we can access by examining the various geometrical figures associated with them.

As explained in the previous post, Trump 7, The Chariot, has a particular geometrical shape assigned to it: a triangle standing on a square. Let us examine now the geometric shapes associated with the other six Trumps of this septenary.

Trump 1, The Juggler, is assigned two symbols: the point and the straight line. To understand their significance, we must turn to the definitions given by Euclid in his Elements (of Geometry). A point, as defined by Euclid, has position but no dimension; that is, it exists but cannot be seen, being an infinitesimally small speck in space. If you have difficulty with the concept, imagine yourself in a perfectly rectangular room. There will be a spot somewhere in that three-dimensional space that can be described as the exact center of the room. The room will certainly have a central spot, it must do; but that point cannot be seen with the naked eye: it is the same for the point in geometry, according to Euclid. When a human geometrician makes a mark on sheet of paper to identify the place from where she will commence her measurements, the point is made manifest; it is, however, now a dot, and no longer a point as defined by Euclid.

The father of geometry further defines a line as “the shortest distance between two points”. In all primitive cultures, and some not so primitive, One is represented by a straight line, as it is in Roman numerals. Occultism takes One to be synonymous with Divinity. That Divinity may be called God or Allah, Jehovah or Yahweh, Jove or Brahman. The occultist assigns all such concepts to the number One, also termed Unity and the Monad (unit, Gr.). Occultist also designate Divinity the Macrocosm, literally the great world.

In Monas Hieroglyphica, John Dee upholds the supremacy of the point, and by inference the supremacy of the One from which all else descends.:

The circle without a straight line cannot be artificially created, nor a straight line without a point. Consequently, everything, properly, began from the point and the monad. And whatever is strived for by the periphery of the circle, no matter how big it is, can in no way succeed without the ministry of the central point.

The point exists but has no dimension. Trump 1’s other symbol is the line, which both exists and is apprehendable by the senses. One is invisible, the other visible. To highlight these properties of Trump 1, in some occult tarots the words Visible and Invisible are printed on the card. (See illustration below.)

Arcane-Arcana-01-bateleur-magician Arcane-Arcana-02-papesse-high-priestess

The occult significance of Trump 1 is that each member of the human race is a perfect Microcosm of the Macrocosm, a small universe replicating in miniature the great universe that is the Divine.

Trump 2, the Female Pope or High Priestess has, like the Juggler, two geometric figures assigned to it. One of them is two straight lines standing parallel to one another. This figure may either be depicted horizontally, in which case it resembles an equals sign (see illustration above), or vertically, as in the Roman numeral Two or the astrological sigil for Gemini.

The second geometric figure assigned to the Papess is the equal-armed cross, formed of two straight lines of equal length, one laid transversely across the other. In some versions of the card, the Female Pope wears a cross of this type on her breast. (See the illustrations below.) Although Trump 2 is almost universally associated with the Moon, there are occult schools that insist on calling this symbol a solar cross.

The occult significance of the Papess is that manifestation takes place when the One divides into Two and those Two act and react on each other. Often this proposition is represented on the card as twin pillars, alike in form but differing in color, set either side of the seated Female Pope. Occult schools the world over acknowledge the existence of these two factors. In the west they may be classified as Force and Form, in China as Yin and Yang, in India as Ida and Pingala. It is their interplay that gives rise to the world as we experience it. As the Tao Teh Ching puts it:

One gives birth to Two.

Two gives birth to Three.

Three gives birth to everything.

One of these factors is credited with a positive charge, the other with a negative charge; and on the physical plane they are apparent in the phenomena of electricity and magnetism. One factor emits energy effulgently, the other receives energy and by turns absorbs it and reflects it outwards. These propensities are represented symbolically by the Sun and Moon placed at the tops of the pillars in some representations of the Papess. (See illustrations below.)

mouni-02  2-priestess

As a codicil to the above, it should be remembered that Manifestation ends when Multiplicity is resolved or absorbed back into Unity.

Any person who grasps the relevance of the occult principles laying behind Trumps 1 and 2 has the key to practical occultism in their hands. The action of inserting that key into the corresponding lock and turning it comes under the governance of the Empress, Trump 3.

This card has only one geometric figure assigned to it: the Triangle. In the first illustration below, a triangle stands at the top of the first card, next to the number three above the image of the Empress. In the second, the Empress bears on her breast a triangle painted red, the most dynamic of colors. The triangle is the first example of what geometry calls a plane figure. With the introduction of plane figures, a step change occurs in the process that Christo-Judaic theology terms Creation. Remember what is written in the Tao Teh Ching: “One gives birth to Two. Two gives birth to Three.” A slow, laborious process is being described, which suddenly speeds up when we reach, “Three gives birth to everything.”

In eastern occult thought, the triad of forces behind The Empress card are known as the Three Gunas; in the west they are generally denominated the Three Alchemical Principles: Salt, Sulfur and Mercury. None of these name refer to any physical substance; they merely suggest properties the Alchemical Principles possess. Alchemical Salt is slow to change; Alchemical Sulfur, on the other hand, is volatile. Alchemical Mercury represents a condition midway between the other two; neither too resistant to change nor too apt to flare up at the least provocation.

In tarot terms, the Empress herself forms a triad with the two preceding Trumps. The Juggler stands for Will, the Papess for Intelligence. The Empress stands for Action based on Will and directed by Intelligence. Will enacted unintelligently fails. Intelligence unsupported by Will can never be translated into action.

Arcane-Arcana-03-imperatrice-empress   BOTA Empress

In some older books on the tarot, you will find the Empress assigned Action as a divinatory keyword. However, Action is more usefully reserved as a name for the occult principle the Empress represents. A better divinatory meaning would be Fruitful Action, this being in line with the flow of energy signified by Trump 3 as described in the phrase “Action grounded in Will directed by Intelligence”.

The number Three is a highly productive potency in occult thought, as the quote from the Tao Teh Ching makes clear, Numerically, Two plus Two equals Four, and Two times Two also equals Four, the results of addition and multiplication being the same; But while Three plus Three equals Six, Three times Three equals Nine, and so Three is regarded as the first fertile number, mystically the mother of all subsequent numbers.

Her occult significance is variously named Fertility, Multiplication or Generation. But it should be ever remembered that she gains that significance by being the third member of the triad Juggler, Papess, Empress, where the Juggler and the Papess denote male and female forces respectively, or more accurately, positive and negative charges, the Force and Form of Western occultism. The Empress is the result of their interaction. The value of this process can be grasped by meditating on the sequence Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis. One sees this process in action throughout the history of science: someone comes up with a workable hypothesis to explain a certain phenomenon which seems to satisfy the known facts; but eventually, perhaps because further data has become available, the hypothesis is challenged and a state of doubt prevails until somebody comes up with an explanation encompassing the original facts and the newly discovered ones, at which point a new hypothesis, a synthesis of all currently available knowledge, is created, and stability reigns again     . . . until newly discovered data upsets the balance once more. The Empress represents the “Synthesis” part of this equation.

While from one standpoint it is true, as the Tao Teh Ching tells us, that

One gives birth to Two.

Two gives birth to Three.

Three gives birth to everything.

from another it is possible to say: One by transmutation becomes Two, Two becomes Three, Three becomes Four, and so on. Thus it is that, In the terminology of the ancient alchemists, the Three Alchemical Principles are said to give rise to the Four traditional Elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Therefore, through the examination of the occult implications of the Empress, Trump 3, we are ineluctably drawn towards a study of the Emperor, Trump 4.


Before I move on to the remaining cards comprising this septenary, take a moment to look back at the divinatory meanings given for Trumps 1, 2, and 3 at the beginning of this article, and compare them with the occult principles associated with these same cards. You will see that the former are instances of the latter manifesting on the physical plane.

To be continued.