I’m fairly sure even if you are relatively new to the study of Tarot Symbolism you will have seen the “Magic Nine” layout and can appreciate how useful it is particularly in Alchemical symbolism much of which is employed in the traditional Rider Waite deck. Unfortunately this deck has been changed slightly by the publishers over time with many lost symbolic and colour correspondences. The alphanumerical mnemonics employed are as follows:
A) 1+9=10 (Wheel of Fortune) plus 9 = 19 (The Sun)
B) 2+9=11 (Justice) plus 9 = 20 (Judgement)
C) 3+9=12 (Hanged Man) plus 9 = 21 (Universe/World)
D) 4+9=13 (Death) plus 9 = 22 (The Fool)
E) 5+9=14 (Temperance) plus 9 = 23 which reduces to 5 (Hierophant)
F) 6+9=15 (The Devil) plus 9 = 24 which reduces to 6 (The Lovers)
G) 7+9=16 (The Tower) plus 9 = 25 which reduces to 7 (The Chariot)
H) 8+9=17 (The Star) plus 9 = 26 which reduces to 8 (Strength)
I) 9+9=18 (The Moon) plus 9 =27 which reduces to 9 (The Hermit)
What should be borne in mind is that Judaic numerology employed only the numbers 1-8 in their calculations because they believed that the numbers 9-10, as sacred emanations were beyond human comprehension. Here are the original designs with a report of their Alchemical significance:
The colour codes are as follows:
Black or Grey, denote Saturn (ie; #15 Devil, #16 Tower or #13 Death) the alchemical term is ‘nigredo’ associated with the metal lead.
Red or Yellow Ochre often denote the Sun (Gold) associated with #1 The Magus, #19 The Sun and #10 Wheel of Fortune, or #8 Strength with the alchemical term rubedo.
White or paler colours (albedo) denote Mercury (Quicksilver) as in #2 High Priestess, #17 The Star, or #18 Moon. Yellow is generally the colour code for alchemical Sulphur in its inert state as seen in #1 The Magus, #3 The Empress, #7 The Chariot, #8 Strength, and #0 The Fool. The theory of the sublime unity of matter as a universal hypothesis was central to the understanding of the alchemical process. According to Aristotle all materials/metals evolve towards an example of perfection. Their expression depended on their qualities or properties so that the four elements were expressed as Hot, Cold, Dry, Moist and as there were perfect and imperfect compounds their comingling or interaction facilitated the generation of differing properties. For example water can under the right conditions turn to steam (a vapour) or ice (a solid). These properties were therefore linked to the four elements, Fire, Water, Air and Earth .
The Planets were attributed to metals which were subject to generation or corruption through their volatility/combustibility (Sulphur), mass or weight/concentration (Mercury), and their fluidity/mutability (Salt).
Moon – Silver
Sun – Gold
Mercury – Quicksilver
Venus – Copper
Earth – Bronze
Mars – Iron
Jupiter – Tin
Saturn – Lead
After a sustained period of study and training, the apprentice is requested to search in the “bowels” of the earth and discover the “untreated stone” or prima materia. This stone is then pulverised and mixed with the first agent a so-called “fire without flame”. He is then required to add a distillation of magical dew and place this mixture within a hermetically sealed vessel (or egg). This is then gradually heated and left to incubate – a process described symbolically as sulphur (masculine) seeking predominance over quicksilver (feminine) in order to create the so-called “inner-child” (androgyne). This represents the principles of ignition and volatility and the continual chemical coagulation of these alchemical energies eventually produces the blackest Black of energies (nigredo). As the heat continues to increase in the alchemical egg, the next phase of alchemical transformation is described as an iridescence of rainbow colours, not unlike that found on the inside of an abalone shell or reflected in the fine feathers of the peacock’s tail. This confirms the fundamental idea in colour theory that black and white represents waves of energy or light permeating matter and aether (spirit). When the 7 colours of the rainbow are mixed on an artists palette they produce black, but when they are placed on a disc and then rotated at speed they turn white. This consequently gives rise to the creation and unification of the Red King (rubedo -sulphur, hot, gaseous) conjoining sexually with the White Queen (albedo -mercury, cold, liquid). In effect they are either literally united in a sexual act or, as in the case of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, are visualised in sexual congress during meditation. Again this is not unlike the Chinese concept of yin and yang energy, both in the body and through the workings of the universal cosmos. In ancient Chinese pharmacopoeias yin and yang are depicted merged within a region in the solar plexus and entitled “The Cauldron”. This is synonymous with the alchemical process itself and the mythic elements of the “Holy Grail” legend. The myth of King Arthur came about at a time when medieval alchemy attained some of its finest exponents within the secular and orthodox sphere of spiritual consciousness. Artists, writers, scientists, and composers perceived the Grail legend as a useful leitmotif or spiritual manual which could lead them into a meditative realisation of personal transformation. In effect it provided a symbolic dialectic between the individual’s conscious and unconscious “mind” that gained ground and became disseminated by the collective subconscious of the masses.
The Gates of Transubstantiation encountered by the Alchemist were numbered as follows:
Gate 1: Calcination
Gate 2: Dissolution
Gate 3: Separation
Gate 4: Conjunction
Gate 5: Putrefaction
Gate 6: Congelation
Gate 7: Cibation
Gate 8: Sublimation
Gate 9: Fermentation
Gate 10: Exaltation
Gate 11: Multiplication
Gate 12: Projection
The Alchemical Wedding:
In a 16th century woodcut from “The Rosarium Philosophorum”, the “divine couple” are shown in coitus wearing their gold and silver crowns floating in the archetypal sea of the spirit. At their feet are the symbols for the Sun and Moon which denotes that elements of the unconscious naturally seek conscious fulfilment in the world of matter or the real world. This means that every woman or man unconsciously seeks fulfilment in their complementary partners, the so-called sacred marriage (“hierosgamos”). However, this is merely a temporary illusion, for what they really seek is to discover their masculine and feminine counterparts within themselves. The alchemical wedding is a symbolic reference to the fusion of masculine and feminine as a totally internal, self-effulgent experience, although, as in some tenets of Tantra, the catalyst may indeed be an actual ritualised sexual encounter. From many diagrammatic and illustrated examples of these alchemical experiments as well as some very well-known artistic works it seems evident that the inspiration for western artists with respect to both the composition and the subject matter is of Eastern Tantric or Buddhist iconography. The Hindu and Tibetan monastic and temple arts often displayed the “divine couple”, without shame or anguish in the act of procreation. When we contrast this image with that of Adam and Eve being banished we can also begin to understand the importance of Alchemy on arts censorship. The supposed “Fall” from the Garden of Eden being exposed by more puritanical religious sects seems to have met opposition from many heretical sects. In their view these artefacts were not pornography or for that matter an aspect of their “black arts” – but art without repression or sexual taboos.
|The links to my publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and my anthology of poetry; “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:|