Arcanum XVIII, The Moon


Esoteric Titles:
The Mirror of the Soul
The Path of Nature
The Bright Mother
The Spiral Flower

After the appearance of Arcanum XVII, The Star, we are presented with the image on Arcanum 18 of The Moon and beyond this, to Arcanum 19, The Sun. This sequence accords with the manner and chronology in which early man organised their lives and activities to the natural cycles of stars, the Moon and the Sun. However, all the world’s mythologies contain references to the Moon as a symbol of the Mother, the mirror of the psyche, a symbol of intuitive processes at work and so forth. Contrary to scientific pronouncements the Moon has long been regarded as a symbol of form and fertility because it was associated with the Earth, the womb and the life currents or tides of the ocean. The Moon‘s symbolic attributes are accorded to the sign of Cancer – the Crab whose shell resembles an upturned boat or coracle. The human imagination merged or played with these practical considerations to produce a metaphor or symbolic language. Besides the natural manifestations of great nature, the animal kingdom, the sun, moon and stars, man-made objects became deeply infused with symbolism and meaning. Furthermore, they became the basic components or building blocks of a coherent and as yet unspoken language. Traditionally the card depicts a luminous orb, with either side two towers on a barren landscape and below that two hounds, one red the other white and a crayfish emerging from the water’s edge. The twin towers are reminiscent of the portals or dolmen arches used by Megalithic cultures for the sighting of planets in stone circle constructions. In conventional astrology the Moon has a great deal to do with form, psychic activity, the subconscious and other more specific emotional factors. It may define the feminine side of ones personality, or the way that an individual views or interacts with women generally. The Moon also defines the type of mother someone has or how they personally nurture others. In relation to the fixed stars the Moon revolves around the Earth once every 27.32166 “solar days”, but these lunar phases are governed largely by our observations from Earth which again do not take into account the Sun‘s slippage. Consequently it would be more accurate to say that a true lunar cycle (Synodic Lunar Month) takes 29.53059 days to be precise.

The annual cycle of the sun and moon as a calendrical cycle

A year is defined as the time it takes our planet to go once around the Sun, again relative to the fixed stars, this is known as the “Sidereal Year” consisting of 365.256363 days. However for the purposes of maintaining a yearly calendar the important annual period is that between two successive Spring Equinoxes (technically known as the Tropical Year). The numerical factors of these planetary cycles are both pertinent and frustrating because they both contain an irrational number of days and cannot be resolved simply by noting the diurnal cycles of Sun and Moon and reconciling them! The mathematical problem of recording time in any year required the resolution of twelve lunar months (354 days) to twelve solar months (364 days) – an approximate discrepancy of 11 days. This could only be done by the intercalation of a 30-day month at the end of every 3 years and an additional day every 4 years – what we now accept as the traditional “leap year”. On investigation much of the Bronze Age mythological iconography is therefore little more than a way of cryptically encoding this mathematical riddle for the benefit of future generations. This was expanded upon to include the greater cycles of Sun/Moon conjunctions (which occurred every 18/19 years) – known as the Saros and Metonic cycles. These were no doubt known and observed by ancient Megalithic and Bronze Age cultural traditions.

William Blake’s vision of GOD as the Great Architect

Unlike modern western astrology today, ancient astrology was essentially Moon orientated, when astrologers referred to the Tropics of Capricorn or Cancer they were not referring to the Sun in those constellations. It was the phases of the Moon in the constellations, the lunar eclipses and especially the Full Moon by which measurements were taken for the maintenance of calendrical calculations or cultural ceremonial purposes. Even in Roman times astrology was essentially Moon-centred – the Emperor Augustus minted his coins with an icon of the Sea Goat on the reverse side indicating that the Moon was in Capricorn when he was born. In mythology and folklore the Moon had numerous sinister connotations because of its presumed supernatural effects on otherwise perfectly natural phenomena. The Paleolithic hunter-gatherer groups or tribes organised their hunting activities in accord with the cycles of Sun and Moon. The women usually arranged for their menstrual periods to become aligned with the phases of the Moon, so that the Moon became a type of primitive clock to which the hunters could refer when making their foraging or hunting plans. Generally speaking the new Moon signalled a time for activity to commence while full Moon signalled a time when hunting activity ceased. Therefore the light of the Moon was an important factor in regulating hunting activity during winter as opposed to summer. During the onset of menstruation the women of a tribe denied sexual favours to their men thereby forcing them to prepare to go on hunting forays. If the men returned with ample game they were rewarded with feasting, dancing and sexual intimacy. To regulate their menstrual cycles the women engaged in a primitive form of magic, the first woman to begin menstruation smeared her body with menstrual blood. This effectively caused the other women in the clan to synchronously commence menstruation as well.

A view of the Midsummer sunset from Stonehenge

The Etruscan civilisation from its supposed eastern origins evolved into a curious mix of cultures. Having occupied the Italian mainland they came into contact with the indigenous population, who were largely rural and agrarian and other migratory entrepreneurial tribes from Spain, the Alps, S. Germany, Greece and later Egypt, N. Africa and Carthage. One specific ethnic contact brought them under the influence of the Druidic caste from S. France. We know this because statues of Druidic priests, characteristically hooded or wearing conical hats, bearing the familiar hooked, or spiral crosier have been discovered amongst remains in the region. This hybrid of cultural synthesis was accelerated by a shared interest in cartography, astronomy, augury, mathematics, metallurgy and sea-faring technology. In actual fact the Etruscans were excellent metal-workers, horticulturists, smiths and seafarers, and their society was largely devout and libertarian in layout, attitude and design. In divination they had one particular ceremonial ritual in common – that of executing animal and human sacrifice to appease their gods. They established a realm or dominion consisting of 12 independent city states, each one being ruled over by a series of Twin Kingships. The length and duration of each alternating rulership was dove-tailed into a sacred calendar, which was calculated on the basis of the reconciliation of solar and lunar periods. The practice of dual rulership was also entertained by the early Mycenaean culture which settled into the Greek mainland and into the northern regions of Asia Minor. This form of social or political rulership was based on aristocratic connections, or what we may term as a type of “municipal royal family”, not unlike a contemporary bourgeoisie. The city states shared many religious dates and festivals, although minor customs and superstitious practices tended to vary from one district to another. Their calendar operated on a numerical pattern linked to the numbers 2, 5 and 11. The calendar system was inextricably linked to an alphabet composed of 22 letters and to their religious bull-slaying cults. The key to these numbers and their importance in the Etruscan calendar system lies basically in a cycle of 11 years, composed of 6 + 5, multiplied 3 times to give a subtotal of 33 years. Minor adjustments were made to the calendar every 5, 11 and 110 years, after which the whole of the system was realigned to the natural cycles of Sun and Moon, and the precise dating of the Spring Equinox. The original calendar, like the early Mesopotamian had ten months of 30 days duration. This was later changed to 12 months of alternating periods of 27 and 28 days. Their time cycles were calculated on the basis of the 1st New Moon to Full Moon as well as midday to midnight, thereby giving them a far more accurate system of timekeeping than the Egyptian, Greek and Mesopotamian cultures. A lunar calendar is still maintained by the Islamic peoples, the Chinese, the Judaic tradition, and the Tibetans.

“The Mirror of Illusion” (Love’s Labours Lost) Qoph

Academics have for some time puzzled over the literary, historical and linguistic references and allusions contained in this “William Shakespeare’s” earliest of comedies. In particular they have struggled to give an exact time of composition since a date as early as 1578 or as late as 1598 have been suggested by Dover Wilson and Charlton Ogburn respectively. There are several layers or levels of allusions in the play which require some unravelling if we are ever to arrive at any firm conclusions on its authorship, allegory and literary sources. Firstly, the bucolic playwright and poet “William Shakspere” was a mere 14 years old in 1578. That being the earliest date of the play’s composition and presumably he had just been entered into grammar school (if we are to accept the presumption by Stratfordian academics that he had an education at all due to lack of evidence) let alone witnessed any form of Commedia d’elle Arte in England or for that matter in Italy. As far as we know William Shakspere had never set foot on foreign shores or travelled by ship or boat overseas. He travelled on foot or by horse from Stratford-upon-Avon to Oxford and then to London. True enough by 1598 he would have been thirty years old and probably been resident in London for at least 5 years if the latter date is more credible which I personally seriously doubt.

An artist’s impression of the characters Harlequin and Columbine

There are so many references to the Euphuist Movement, to French history and literature/courtly life, Italian drama as well as to the court of Queen Elizabeth 1st that only the anonymous, yet charismatic and aristocratic author Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford could have been privy to that social and cultural milieu. Clearly, in my mind this rules out any form of contribution literary or otherwise by the Stratfordian William Shakspere to this Elizabethan drama with all its subtle literary techniques. However, this was the first play to be published by Cuthbert Burby using the pseudonym “W. Shakespeare” (See “Shakespeare’s Codename”) although some commentators from the Oxfordian camp say it was a revision of an earlier play presented at court or perhaps Gray’s Inn. It was not listed or recorded in the Stationer’s Office until the 22nd January, 1607 with the reference: “As it was presented before her Highnesse this last Christmas”. Although the date of its first performance also eludes researchers because England employed the extant Julian calendar and so the term ‘last Christmas’ could refer to 1598 or 1597? The Shakespeare academic Woodhuysen suggests that the title page could have been a re-print from a previous edition and so it may have been an early play by the newly-formed Lord Chamberlain’s Men for the Queen because she had long ago died in 1603. It was accepted practice in the 15th – 16th century to take an old play, revise it and then give it an alternative title. Some academics have suggested it was originally performed under a different title as “A Maske of Amazones & Knights” before Queen Elizabeth and the visit of the Duc D’Alençon on the 6th January, 1579. Also on a visit to Norwich with the Queen in 1578, the Earl of Oxford accompanied her to witness a “Mask of Nine Worthies” in a pageant organised by Sir Thomas Churchyard and probably taken from the play composed by Nathaniel Woodes (“The Conflict Of Conscience”, published 1581). Francis Meres mentions six comedies and six histories by “William Shakespeare” in his Palladis Tamia (1598). In the same year the poet Richard Tofte mentions it in his own poem “Alba: The Month’s Mind of a Melancholy Lover”“Loves Labour Lost, I once did see a play/Ycleped so, so called to my paine”. The Revels Accounts records a play enacted “By his Majestie’s players between New Years Daye and Twelfth Daye-A playe of Love’s Labours Lost” earlier performed at the Earl of Southampton’s House, which at that time would have been William Cecil’s House. “Shakespeare’s” patron Henry Wriosthesley, the Earl of Southampton was then a ward to William Cecil just as Edward de Vere had been in his youth when his father died mysteriously.

Snow White’s wicked stepmother is challenged by the “Mirror of Truth” in Walt Disney’s film

The literary sources are equally puzzling and even more convoluted as to be viewed by some commentators as ‘cryptic illusions’ to the anonymous author, Edward de Vere who would no doubt have read the “Memoires” of Marguerite de Valois (daughter to Catherine de Medici) and been very close to the court of Henri Navarre, she later becoming Queen to King Henri IVth of France, five days before the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre. There are sufficient literary references to John Lyly’s “Endymion” and Sir Phillip Sidney’s “Arcadia” to locate the author as being with some degree of certainty, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. John Lyly (the author of “Euphues” & “Anatomy of Wit”, 1578) was the Earl’s secretary by that time and Sir Phillip Sidney was his “rival poet” and fellow commentator on “The Defence of Poesy” and Gabriel Harvey a protagonist in the “Martin Marprelate Controversy”. But the academic Bullough believes the major source for this play is Pierre de la Primaudaye’s “L’Academie Francaise” published in 1577 which was not translated into English until 1586 by Thomas Bowes. The French King had indeed patronised an academy in France (1576-79) as described in “Love’s Labours Lost” and Edward de Vere had been a close ambassador to both the French and Italian courts visiting Italy and France between 1575-6. It is recorded that Oxford was presented to the French King and Queen on the 7th March, 1575 and probably met Henri of Navarre when travelling back to Paris in April 1576. (See “A Stratfordian Homunculus Forged And Distilled From Italian Comedy”). On the question of authorship Alfred Harbage of Harvard University writes:

“Why should a play written for adult professionals in the mid-nineties so much resemble plays written for child professionals in the mid-eighties? The resemblance is not superficial. It is observable in content, form and spirit. It seems highly suggestive that all the basic ingredients of the play became available in a cluster in the decade before 1588, and that nothing that became available thereafter was used except incidental phrases.”

Perhaps Alfred Harbage should have taken note of the fact that the Earl of Oxford patronised the Boy Players at St Paul’s and choirboys at the Blackfriar’s playhouse for some years composing songs and plays for them. And Dover Wilson is even more adamant about the spurious ideas surrounding William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon as the author of this play:

“To credit this amazing piece of virtuosity…to one whose education was nothing more than a grammar school and residence in a little provincial borough could provide is to invite one either to believe in miracles or to disbelieve in the man from Stratford.”

A large number of “Shakespeare’s” plays make reference to the Moon, and I have mentioned the author’s interest and fascination with the known planets (See “Shakespeare’s Astrology”). For example in “Romeo & Juliet”:

But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious MOON,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,

An ambiguous image or optical illusion

The ‘envious moon’ was of course the rather tragic and ill-conceived Mary, Queen of Scots who, after fleeing Scotland was imprisoned and then found guilty of treason and summarily executed at Pontefract in 1586.

“O swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable”.

Or for that matter in a conversation between Lorenzo and Jessica in “The Merchant of Venice”:

“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!”

And in “Anthony & Cleopatra”:

“There is nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon”.

Or for example in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:

“Our nuptial hour draws on a pace; four happy days bring in another moon: but O, methinks, how slow this old moon wanes”. Or when Bottom remarks:

“Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams, I thank thee, Moon, for shining now so bright”. And the description of one of the mechanicals:

“This man, with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,
Presenteth Moonshine; for, if you will know,
By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn to meet”.

And as mentioned by “Othello” to Emilia:

“It is the very error of the moon;
She comes more nearer earth than she is wont,
And makes men mad”.

Ben Jonson’s masque entitled “News of the New World discovered in the Moon” (1621) depicts the sect of Rosicrucianism as a form of impractical lunacy:

“The children of the Rosy-Cross have their college within a mile of the moon; a castle on wheels with winged lantern”.

(See “The Secret Alchemy of Shakespeare” or “Shakespeare’s Cosmology”). Or in Julius Caesar the lines:

“Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.”

The anima and animus as reflected in the mirror of the soul

The Moon as often quoted is a Mirror and references to the Moon in the dialogue of “Love’s Labours Lost” are numerous and extremely enlightening especially for their depth of knowledge of Greek and Roman Mythology. In the 16th century, the naming of a character identified with English military prowess was “Britomart” as portrayed in Edmund Spenser‘s knightly epic and homage to Queen Elizabeth: “The Faerie Queene” (most likely because “Brit” seemed to allude to “Britain”, and “mart” from the Latin Mars, the god of war). This led to a number of appearances by “Britomart” type figures in British art and literature. Shakespeare may have read Callimachus who describes her escape from King Minos. However, we note that the character, Dull is the first to inquire:

“What is Dictynna?”
(As Diktynna, she was depicted as a winged goddess with a human face, standing atop her ancient mountain, grasping an animal in each hand, in the guise of Potnia and known as Britomartis. She was beloved by Minos who pursued her for nine months (a lunar gestation period) over valley and mountain, through forest and swamp. He nearly overtook her but she threw herself into the sea, where she was caught up and saved in the nets (δίκτυον) of fishermen. Minos then desisted from pursuing her, and ordered the district to be called the Dictaean.)

Walter Crane’s own depiction of England’s Britomartis watching the waves at the white cliffs of Dover

Sir Nathaniel:
A title to Phoebe, to Luna, to the moon.

The moon was a month old when Adam was no more,
And raught not to five weeks when he came to
five-score. The allusion holds in the exchange.

And I say, the pollusion holds in the exchange; for
the moon is never but a month old: and I say beside
that, ’twas a pricket that the princess killed.

In Act 3, scene 3 Ferdinand remarks:

So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not
To those fresh morning drops upon the rose,
As thy eye-beams, when their fresh rays have smote
The night of dew that on my cheeks down flows:
Nor shines the silver moon one half so bright
Through the transparent bosom of the deep,
As doth thy face through tears of mine give light;

Meanwhile, references continue to the Moon in Act 5, scene 2:

My face is but a moon, and clouded too.

Blessed are clouds, to do as such clouds do!
Vouchsafe, bright moon, and these thy stars, to shine,
Those clouds removed, upon our watery eyne.

O vain petitioner! beg a greater matter;
Thou now request’st but moonshine in the water.

Then, in our measure do but vouchsafe one change.
Thou bid’st me beg: this begging is not strange.

Play, music, then! Nay, you must do it soon.
Music plays, Not yet! no dance! Thus change I like the moon.

Will you not dance? How come you thus estranged?

You took the moon at full, but now she’s changed.

Yet still she is the moon, and I the man.
The music plays; vouchsafe some motion to it.

In the year 1833 Edgar Allen Poe wrote for the literary magazine, “The Visiter” under his own name and sometimes using the pseudonym “Tamerlane,” as can be seen in the stanzas below. How many Baltimoreans are given to writing graceful enigmas, to the occasional use of “P.” as a signature, and holding the same opinions as Poe of both William Shakespeare and Alexaner Pope, were contributing to “The Visiter” in 1833? Edgar Allen Poe did not accept the popular theory or assumption that William Shakspere was a poet and playwright. I assign this poem fairly confidently to Edgar Allen Poe who was alluding to Edward de Vere as a literary prodigy in the following lines:


The noblest name in Allegory’s page,
The hand that traced inexorable rage;
A pleasing moralist whose page refined,
Displays the deepest knowledge of the mind;
A tender poet of a foreign tongue,
(Indited in the language that he sung.)
A bard of brilliant but unlicensed page
At once the shame and glory of our age,
The prince of harmony and stirling sense,
The ancient dramatist of eminence,
The bard that paints imagination’s powers,
And him whose song revives departed hours,
Once more an ancient tragic bard recall,
In boldness of design surpassing all.
These names when rightly read, a name [make] known
Which gathers all their glories in its own.

It would seem expedient to point out that the names and characters of “Love’s Labours Lost” find their counterparts in that of Queen Elizabeth’s and Henri IVth’s court. Others are taken from the Commedia d’elle Arte, In the latter for example: Braggart is equivalent to Armado, Pedant to Holofernes, the Curate for Nathaniel and the Clown for Costard. The names of Duc de Biron and de Longaville were the political allies of Henri Navarre’s academy, and the character of Margot is none other than Marguerite de Valois. Furthermore, some researchers have identified the character of Don Armado as that of Anthonio Perez who was exiled from Spain (1539-1611), the character of Moth is aligned to Thomas Nashe although in French historical records the names Boyet, Marcade and de la Mothe are also mentioned. Other commentators suggest Berowne to be Oxford himself, Costard (Clown) to be an allusion to William Shakspere and Moth alludes to Gabriel Harvey, a member of the Leicester/Pembroke coterie.

Divinatory Meaning of this Card:

The 29th path on the Tree of Life connects the sphere of Netzach (Victory-Venus) on the right hand side to Malkuth (Kingdom-Earth) on the central pillar and is known in Tarot as the “Somatic Intelligence”. This is the path of natural inclinations often associated with the subconscious mind and the emotional nature and feelings generally. Astrologically, it represents Venus acting through the zodiacal sign of Pisces upon the elements. In actual fact it is ruled by the etheric plane which is thought not only governs the body consciousness which in turn may have psychosomatic consequences but also the body’s metabolism. At the time of birth the “immortal soul” enters into this temporary vehicle or physical body as a complex of cosmic energies composed of the etheric vibrations of the child’s first breath, which forms a pattern of energy that in itself has great karmic significance. The etheric body equates with the human autonomic nervous system that in itself connects the cerebellum, motor cortex, and hypothalamus to other vital human functions such as thinking and feeling. While the physical body itself equates with the processing of sense impressions such as, taste, smell, touch and sight. During sleep the etheric body will transfer its impressions via the nervous system into the endocrine glands, affecting the hormonal system whose chemicals are then transferred into the bloodstream thereby targeting certain body organs and affecting groups of cells. The etheric body corresponds to the plant kingdom that governs the sensation of form or texture and receives and then transforms the collective intelligence of the other subtle bodies and passes it on to the physical body. Unfortunately, the etheric body is not really “intelligent” or sensitive enough to various environmental features to discriminate between good and bad effects. For example it will not be able to detect low levels of radiation or electromagnetic fields created by underground streams, overhead pylons, mobile phones etc. Disturbances of the nervous system are often due to malfunction or contamination of the etheric body.

Positive: Imagination, intuition, dreams. Psychic realms, creativity-the media, fantasy or the subconscious at work, -the healing arts.

Negative: Suggestion/innuendo & false appearances deception by others/lies and errors of judgement. Psychic pollution, pretence daydreams and delusions.

SPHERE: Corporeal Intelligence Qoph – An Ear or the Back of the Head.
Astrological: The Moon in Cancer or Pisces
Constellation: Canis Major – The Great Dog
Sacred Gemstone: Moonstone or Mother of Pearl

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

“Arcanum XIX, The Sun”

“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,