Arcanum III “The Empress”

Numerical Significance 0-22:

It has already been shown, and now largely taken for granted, that the 22 cards and their gestalt images correspond to the 22 letters of the Etruscan and Jewish alphabets. In retrospect one might even find this idea itself remarkable as well as puzzling, if we did not in many respects take it for granted. From what we now know of the megalithic culture and the origin of their numerical scales, weights and measures, they were invariably linked to some natural or supernatural correspondence. If we take for example the art of Palmistry, we might easily postulate that the 5 fingers of the human hand bear the hallmark of a grand signature. The art or science of semiotics relies heavily on there being an innate human response to images that evoke a greater truth or reality. Existential truths are often sealed or rather entombed in metaphors or analogies which protect them from perversion and misuse. The fact that human beings have two hands extends this natural analogy even further giving rise to the myriad speculations about the esoteric significance of the numbers 0-9, or in some systems 1-10. The ancient Druids would not have failed to see an important correlation between the number of digits on each hand and the order of the Universe. The idea that Man was a microcosm which was identical in every respect with a macrocosm existed even well before the advent of Christianity. It is the very foundation stone of Occult Science.

The mysterious Neolithic stone balls found in Scotland

A set of mysterious Neolithic “stone balls” carved into the form of the 5 Platonic solids were found in Scotland which were dated 1,000 years earlier than the time of Plato. The study of spherical co-ordinates equates well with the construction of ancient stone circle astronomical observatories such as Stonehenge or Maes Howe and suggests an interest in cosmic phenomena well before the Egyptians took it upon themselves to construct the Pyramids. The esoteric significance of the 22 Trumps and perhaps the allocation of the Fool to the 22nd path in the French system may have some bearing on the number of bones which make up the crown of the human skull. As already laid out in the above introduction the sequence and order of the 22 Tarot Trumps is directly related to calendrical symbolism but they are also numeric gestalts that evince ever more ripples or currents of understanding below the surface of mere reason or mathematical symbolism. The question we need to ask therefore is whether the ancient necromancers were aware themselves of this correlation and if within this apparent coincidence there might not inhabit a greater mystery.

The 22 Tarot Trumps and their correspondence to the 22 bones of the human skull

Whenever we examine in detail the work of the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”, his plays and poetry and take note of the inclusion of so much of 15th and 16th century occult science hidden within it then it would not be unusual to assume that the playwright had more than a passing acquaintance with the divination system in Europe known as the Tarot. When I realised that the author of Shakespeare’s Folio (Edward de Vere) had travelled to Italy and France where the Tarot was already flourishing it would be safe to assume that he had acquired his own deck of Tarot cards and indeed probably used them in a creative manner. By 1450 the first 78-card deck was commissioned by the Visconti-Sforza family and in France by 1392 Charles VIth commissioned Jacquemin Gringonneur to create three hand-painted packs. However, the first list of the Major Arcana in Europe was found in a Latin manuscript entitled “Sermones de Ludo Cumalis” (1500) and by 1540 in Italy it is defined and described as a divination system by Marcolino (“Le Sorti”). Furthermore, as I have subsequently discovered Edward de Vere was a member of the Rosicrucian Order as well as a Freemason and he would without doubt have come across a divination system originally known as ROTA. With this thought or prognosis in mind I have drawn numerous correspondences between the plays of “William Shakespeare” and the 22 Tarot Trumps. This year in a series of posts I hope to highlight and compare each Tarot key with a Shakespearean play to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s Folio. The 1623 First Folio edition features 36 plays, 14 are listed as “Comedies”, 10 as “Histories” and 11 as “Tragedies”.

A Tarot deck based on Egyptian Mythology

One particular play, “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” was excluded from the Folio for copyright reasons but no doubt the publishers intended 12 tragedies bringing the entire catalogue to a total of 37 plays. The number 37 is a numerical key to the Old and New Testaments, as already mentioned in other posts on the subject and the division of the triple numbers 111 (AAA), 222 (BBB), 333 (CCC), 444 (DDD), 555 (EEE), 666 (FFF), 777 (GGG), 888 (HHH), and 999 (III) by the “key number” 37 gives us the so-called Fibonacci series of numbers eg: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 etc. Triple letters are also employed in the Enochian system of invocation which Dr. John Dee utilised and espoused as “a divine language” that only angels could readily understand and were compelled to obey as does the angel Ariel for Prospero’s benefit in the “Tempest”. According to the antique science of the Chaldeans, the number 37 symbolizes the Force, the Capacity and the Power. In the “Word of God”, in Greek, the word “Word” (ie: Logos) is written rhma, numbering 37 by using the gematria in “n”: 17+7+12+1=37. It is the same for the word silence, sigh, 18+9+3+7=37. Numerical value of “I Am” in Hebrew, Ehieh. By seven times in the Gospel of Saint John the Christ mentions it. The four Gospels use on the whole 37 different numbers, which are numbers 1 to 12, 14, 15, 18, 25, 30, 38, 40, 46, 50, 60, 72, 77, 80, 84, 99, 100, 153, 200, 300, 500, 2000, 4000, 5000, 10000 and 20000. The book of Exodus of the Old Testament uses also on the whole 37 different numbers, of which the higher is 603550 (Ex 38,26). In the New Testament four chapters have a total of 37 verses: Mark chapter 7 and 13, Luke chapter 17 and Acts of the Apostles chapter 4.

Bible Gateway Psalm 37:

“For like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

  1. The Empress (VENUS) FERTILE CREATION: (East)

Esoteric Titles:
The Holy Union
The Sacred Marriage
The Hierosgamos
The Queen of Heaven & Earth

Arcanum III represents Enlightenment after the cosmic union of sky and earth, their consummation giving rise to a “new soul” or creative consciousness. Through the harmonious interaction of the three principle forces, a balance or harmony is achieved within the psyche as well as in nature. This Utopia or Paradise which was lost to mankind many thousands of years ago and all that remains is a memory of its original material existence – as in the myth of Adam and Eve or Arcanum VI (The Lovers). The Fool finally understands the relationship between the Triune forces as represented by the father (Sun), mother (Venus) and child (Moon). In Christianity for example they are often referred to as Faith, Hope and Love. This sacred Law of Three is found in all the worlds scriptures, religions and philosophical or mystical doctrines. In Hindu Mythology they are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, (generation, maintenance and destruction). In Celtic and Pagan myth they symbolise the 3-fold aspect of the Goddess as whore/maiden, mother and hag. In Pythagorean Lore expressed mathematically in the triangle whose sides form horizontal, vertical and diagonal planes. It signifies the physical world being influenced by the etheric, astral and spiritual forces inherent in many creative individuals. It represents not only an aesthetic perception, virtuous awakening but draws our attention to the moral values which were instilled in all of us as children. Traditionally this card was ruled by the planet Venus and crosses the path of forming a cross signifying the material sphere. The message of Arcanum III is simple: Love is everything and everything is Love, and without which nothing can be attained or achieved in life. In order to experience love we make social networks, build bridges, or project ourselves into the hearts and minds of others. In Greek mythology it represents not only the Goddess Aphrodite (Feeling) but Artemis (Will) and Athene (Wisdom) or again the triune aspects of the 3-fold Goddess. In Humanism they are defined as the three principles of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. These three are often the psychic forces or motivations represented by the artist, the entrepreneur and the altruist.

  1. The Empress (Anthony & Cleopatra) Daleth – The Scarlet Woman

Cleopatra was in effect the Empress of Egypt and is therefore suitably attributed to the trump of the Empress although Egypt was well-known for its continued dynasties of Pharaohs. Again, perhaps the author of Shakespeare’s play, Edward de Vere might have been alluding to the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth 1st, to Mary, Queen of Scots or to the life and circumstances of Catherine de Medici all of whom had a scandalous, controversial and challenging reign. Whereas the High Priestess is rather remote and cold, the Empress is warm-hearted, gracious and in effect highly sexed. Shakespeare portrays Cleopatra in this light within the play although the unusual affair and military alliance between Anthony and Cleopatra ends in tragedy and ultimately the suicide of both parties. However, historically she had previously been the consort of Augustus Caesar. The exotic and erotic nature of the play tends to bring the mystery of oriental culture to the London stage, as does the play “Othello” or Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine”. Certain aspects of the play suggest the author also had access to a translation of Plutarch’s “Of Isis & Osiris”. Veiled allusions to these two Egyptian gods and their mythological relationships also appear in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Queen Cleopatra would have been synonymous with the Moon Goddess, Isis and presumably Anthony or Augustus Caesar would have been the god Osiris. The result of their sacred union was the hawk-headed god-child Horus. The play was intended to follow the performance at the newly-built Globe Theatre of Shakespeare’s Roman play, “Julius Caesar” who of course was the Emperor of Rome but for political, social or security reasons (eg: Essex Rebellion 1600 or Gunpowder Plot 1605) the publishing and performance of this play was delayed.

Divinatory Meaning of this Card:

The 14th path on the Tree of Life links the sphere of Binah (Wisdom-Saturn) with Chokmah (Uranus-Intelligence) and denotes opposing human forces or conditions. This path lies below the veils that conceal the higher secrets contained in the supernal triad but is still close to the invisible sphere of Daath. It is known euphemistically in Tarot as the “Illuminating Intelligence” and astrologically is attributed to Saturn and the Fixed Stars or the zodiac working through the planet Venus upon the rings of Saturn. It represents on one level the Great Mother and the Great Father figures in human society or culture and in another sense the forces of the primordial Earth conjoined with those of the primordial Sky. It is the masculine and the feminine principle, the yin and the yang, matter and spirit, the left and the right, it is birth and death, as well as the principles of darkness and the light. As the hieroglyph for the Empress suggests a “door” or aperture, the path itself is therefore a beam of light or ray emanating from the east to the west. The symbolism connected to this path is very subtle for the door itself has the capacity to obscure, to defend and to block out as well as to defend against external intrusion. The door is a partition between inner and outer, so it is also a way into another world or dimension of the self. It is a form of consciousness that can be expressed in many different ways and although individualistic in meaning is paradoxically universally widespread in its manifestation of forms. Like a diamond it is hard to penetrate, is multifaceted and both absorbs and reflects whatever enters its translucent surface.

Positive: Fertility, abundance and material wealth, in creative activity, affairs with women, and the female mystic. Marriage/pregnancy.

Negative: Promiscuity, domestic upheaval, poverty, abortion, stifled creativity.

SPHERE 4 Chesed (Mercy) Receptive Daleth – A Door
Astrological: Gemini or 3rd House
Constellation: Virgo – The Virgin
Sacred Gemstones: Peridot or Turquoise

The next Arcanum in this series can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

“Arcanum IV, The Emperor”

“We all love Shakespeare, whoever he was…”

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The links to my publications 
“Shakespeare’s Qaballah”,
a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry,