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The First Septenary, pt. 1

May 20, 2017

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.


From → occult tarot, tarot

  1. Sue Dean permalink

    Mr. Willis, I just have to say thank you! I know all the things you discuss here but you have a way of putting them all together concisely in one place so that their associations with each other become more obvious and comprehensible. Your concepts and the information you provide have been invaluable to me in my own studies. Again, thank you.

  2. MizGrace permalink

    interesting read as I came across the Magikal tarot by accident, perhaps no accident it was inside a thoth clamshell I bid on. I sat thinking this deck was thoth for years until someone kindly said hey that is something else you have the wrong deck in the box. I was then pointed here this month and just starting to look into card meanings instead of intuitively. I really should sometime sit and look at the deck properly. I am snowed under with other decks.

    Thank you for posting! this looks like it is going to be an interesting blog!


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