# The Natural Sequence and True Order of the Tarot Major Arcana: the Hebrew Alphabet

## The Astrological and Hebrew Formative-Letter Basis of the Tarot

[Tarot Index]

### The Natural Alphabetic Matrix of the Tarot: Putting the Key in the Lock: 22=3+7+12=22

The 22 Tarot Major Trump cards are iconic/symbolic representations of the inner meansings of the 22 Hebrew autiot/letters.

The best way to see the Tarot as a whole, and appreciate the relationships between individual trumps, is to lay them out in their "natural" alphabetic order, in three rows. The first row corresponds to the nine Hebrew letters-numbers from 1/Aleph to 9/Tayt, the second row to the nine from 10/Yod to 90/Tsadde, and the last, the four letters from 100/Qof to 400/Tav. Optionally (and for symbolic verification) the twenty-two can be extended with their five final (sofit) forms and corresponding Tarot trumps to complete the matix.

This simple exercise reveals an integrated symbolic framework, which, if seven Tarot are realigned with their vertical symbolism (and/or their original Hebrew formative letters), shows internally consistent iconography in both row and column directions.

It is important to remember that the Hebrew alphabet is a complete set of letter-numbers. Each letter possesses both an alphabetical/qualitative and a numerical/quantitative aspect. This means that just as there is a natural alphabetic correspondence (we would say derivation) of Tarot to each Hebrew letter, there is a natural numerical correspondence of Tarot to each Hebrew number. "Numbering" the Tarot by starting at zero and ending at twenty-one does nothing but introduce confusion. Aleph, The Fool, "the first number" and "one" are all one. It is pointless to reference the letters and not the numbers, their equals in signification and an important part of Tarot symbolism, as we shall see.

Row (1/Aleph-2/Bayt-3/Ghimmel) and column (1/Aleph-10/Yod-100/Qof) sequences define a logical alphanumeric array of both number and meaning. Each Tarot image must be understood and justified not only in itself, in relation to its supposed Hebrew letter-number assignment, but also in its sequence and order, as well as in relation to the whole pattern. We expect each Tarot in a column to be related both numerically and semantically as a "power of ten" through its iconography. Once we accept these restraints on arbitrary ordering we can look for the underlying relationships and patterns that actually do exist in the complete, correctly-aligned, matrix.

The twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet consist of three Mother letters, seven Double letters and twelve Simple or Single letters. These correspond to the three elements, the seven planets, the twelve astrological signs, and the twenty-two Tarot.

Our goal then, is to establish a one-to-one correspondence of Tarot to Hebrew letter through each Tarot's astrological and alpha-numeric symbolism, and then bring the pattern into coherence by restoring the positions of seven Tarot trumps, which just happen to represent the seven classical planets, to their original order according to ancient cosmology and astrology. When this is done, the "locked" formative meanings of the Hebrew alphabet are opened, and may be used for decoding certain texts written in that language.

In traditional tarot, the key to the code is itself scrambled, or "hashed" by mixing up the positions of the Tarot corresponding to the seven classical planets. This is one reason why so much of tarot commentary is nonsensical and probably why there is still dispute about the so-called "attributions" of tarot cards to the planets and signs. See Revived Tarot for in-depth discussion.

Here the key is unscrambled using the astrological assignments and formative meanings of any of the early recension sources of the Sepher Yetsira. All three levels of linked semantics -- Tarot, Hebrew Letter, and astrological sign/planet -- are hyperlinked and may be examined for their correlation and interrelatedness --

 Native Positions of the Tarot According to the Sepher Yetsira by Hebrew Formative Letter (Short/Long/Saadia) Archetypal 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Air Existential 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Water Cosmic 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 Fire Finals

### Rows and Columns: Generalized Formative Processes in Three Worlds

The Tarot are the alphabet/number-blocks for a completely generalized language of energy and consciousness. Each "block" is self-defined by its internal structure, and is self-orienting in relation to other blocks. Together, they are the minimum set of basic creative or structural energies necessary to create an autonomous indeterminate universe.

The first Tarot row (1-9) describe archetypal processes of creative formation, starting with infinite, unknowable energy/consciousness (Aleph/Fool)) and ending with the formation of a seed (Tayt/Strength) for Aleph's manifestation in existence (as Yod/Hermit). The second row (10-90) is ten times the first, and represents the projection of the first row into existence, where the meaning is often reversed (Intemporal to temporal, uncontolled to controlled, active to passive, life to death, male to female, possible to actual, etc.). The third row (100-900), completed by the 5 final letters, are multiples of 100 and the cosmic projections or realizations or reconciliations of the first and second rows.

First Row: 1-9: Archetypal Level: outside space-time: Fool through Strength
Second Row: 10-90: Existential Level : in space-time and duration: Hermit through Star
Third Row: 100-900: Cosmic Level : beyond space-time: Moon through the doorway of the High Priestess

There is both an horizontal and a vertical developmental sequence -- any trump can be seen in relation to up to four neighbors and coordinated in two directions. For example, the second column, the only completely planetary column -- the projection into existence (Kaf/20) and the universe (Raysh/200) of the archetype of a container (Bayt/2) -- reveals a completely unseen dimension of symbolic consistency and meaning when seen in its natural alphabet matrix with the correct Hebrew planetary formative letters (none of the Tarot in the second column are assigned to their correct Hebrew formatives in traditional Tarot).

 Second Column: Containment 1 2 3 10 20 30 100 200 300

### Symbolic Themes in the Iconography of the Tarot: the Vertical Dimension

Seriously, how obvious is that? And how could this be missed forever?

The archetypes of the Tarot are posed in a variety of positions, or tableaux -- hanging from a cross, riding a horse, sitting on thrones, standing, holding a lantern. In only three cards (besides the Fool) does the primary figure face outward with both arms extended away from the body; only three cards use the theme of the figure draped with a scarf. In fact, all three trumps -- World, Sun and Magician -- symbolize containment on archetypal, existential and cosmic levels, consistent with their Hebrew formative letters and numerical symbolism: 2, 20, 200.

2: Archetypal: The World (Bayt) is the naked Fool (Aleph) in his first step off the cliff of manifestation. It is the only enclosed figure: the wreath makes its primary symbolism (containment) clear and establishes the boundary of inner and outer. Two wands. The World contains the Fool (just look at the cards) just as creation is the House of God (Bayt-El). Note the continuity in horizontal symbolism as the enclosing Bayt becomes the circle and motion of the Wheel.

20: Existential: The Sun is the World in existence (note natural setting); the containers of physical energy provide the biological supports for life: the wall supports the garden and the biosphere receives and transforms the energy of solar radiation. In the Sepher Yetsira, the Sun is formed by Kaf (containers for the existence of Hermit/Yod) at the eighth sephirot of unstructured energy and our psychological past (the child). The physical energy of the horse supports the child as the body does the mind. In other versions, we have twin children in a circle.

200: Cosmic: The Magician is the cosmic container, archetype of the universe as Mind. Looking down the column, the World is an abstract archetypal figure; the Sun is in (natural) existence; the Magician is the cosmically-connected reconciliation of the two: as above, so below. He holds one double-pointed wand in the position of the Yod at the beginning of the letter Raysh:     which his form resembles in the Rider-Waite recension. In early tarot, the figure is behind a table with objects which suggest either three or four elements and is holding a wand. Hermes, Mercury and the Magician are all the same archetype behind the Italian Bagatto, or street magician, Tarot. See Don Juan's Table of the Tonal.

Further, just as the World contains the Fool, and the Sun physically supports the existence (and light) of the Hermit, the Magician is the universal container of the energy of the reconciled twin towers of Aleph (Life/death) and Yod (Existence) in Qof, the Moon and cosmic consciousness.

Other patterns may be discovered along the vertical axes, as each row represents the projection of the same set of qualities into a different state of actualization. In this case, the primary archetype of the container has a different organizational structure and function depending on which level of energy is involved. See Justice and The Hanged Man for further column analysis. Note that traditional tarot, by moving all seven planetary tarot out of their Hebrew formative letter positions, destroys symbolic consistency for four of the nine columns (2,3,4,8), and Crowley adds two more (5,9), leaving practically nothing standing.

In its natural order and sequence, the Tarot is an interlocking 2-dimensional, 3-level, 27-element mosaic of structurally and thematically related symbolic meaning. The symbolism derives from the astrological and formative symbolism of ancient works of Jewish Kabbalah like the Sepher Yetsira. We repeat: the twenty-two Tarot are completely derivative of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Those who search for the basis of the Tarot in various medieval systems should look deeper into the roots of those traditions. It is actually easy to follow the development of the symbols once the pattern is seen: first column developing identity, the second column developing containment, the third, movement, the fourth, resistance, the fifth, life, the sixth, sexuality, the seventh indeterminate possibilty, the eighth unstructured/indeterminate potentials and the ninth, structure. The symbolism is both simple and transparent: Fool = beyond thought, World = container, Wheel = movement, Tower = resistance, Emperor = archetype of life (beginning of the zodiac), etc.

It almost looks like no one ever asked themselves what trumps made the most sense when simply laid on top of the Hebrew alphabet when arranged in its natural, 22 letters, 5 final forms, three rows of nine, order. All of the columns contain rather obvious keyed symbolism which is different for each column:

• 1: Life-Death/Consciousness: staff (1) of the Fool and Hermit (Aleph becomes Yod, the Fool in duration) and two towers of the Moon (Qof: beyond duality)
• 2: Containment: duality: Aleph enclosed: wands, circles, twins, palms and soles (Hebrew Kaf) and scarves
• 3: Movement: wheel/scales/breath: archetypal/controlled/cosmic movement
• 4: Resistance: falling/suspended upside-down figures: vertical tower, tree, crosses and pillars: active, passive and cosmic resistance
• 5: Life: life (Emperor/Aries/Spring) and its projection into existence: death (the harvest in Scorpio)
• 6: Copulation: hierophant/angel: male/female sexuality: fertility and interpenetration
• 7: Indetermination: twins/angel-devil: choice: indetermination and realization of actual potentials/probabilities: choice
• 8: Unstructured Potential: chariot-throne/sceptre: unstructured/unconscious energy and pool of potentials (sum of probabilities)
• 9: Formation/Seed/Structure: bending woman managing energy: structuration (from pool of indeterminate potentials)

Generalized Creative Energies in Three Worlds

Archetypal 1-9 Existential 10-90 Cosmic 100-900
Life/Death & Existence 1
Container / Boundary 2
Movement 3
Resistance 4
Organic Life 5
Sex / Fertility 6
Indetermination 7
Unstructured Energy 8
Structuration 9

Many systems of ancient knowledge have a deep relationship with number. Pythagoras, for instance, taught that each number had its own peculiar character, virtue and properties. In Jewish mysticism and medieval kabbalah, the Tree of Life is conceived of as an emanative process of creation involving ten "fundamental powers of creation" (Gershom Scholem). These are the same ten hypostases or aeons known to Neoplatonism and Gnosticism and Ptolemy, the master astrologer.

So far, we have spared the reader the direct confrontation with a language where numbers mean something. One problem is that the language is based on a kind of reverse-thinking, where we are searching for generalizations of abstract concepts instead of particularizations of specific things. In other words, the definitions do not define, they only indicate the limits of abstract thought.

Early kabbalah like the Sefer Yetzira deals with the mechanics of the emanative process through three worlds (which were later differentiated into four) -- creation, formation and making, or realization. The "equations" that describe these processes are written in "formative" language -- they describe different states and organizations of the primary creative powers. For instance, the equations that describe the astrological signs and planets have to do with the sphere of formation, where reality is pre-structured and psychological space is developed.

There is nothing "occult" or mystical about either the Tarot or the systems of knowledge underlying its structure and iconography. Whether one "believes" in these systems -- astrology, numerology, alchemy -- is irrelevant. They were the primary structures of scientific knowledge for most of Western ancient history. If we are looking for the significance of a late medieval document like the Tarot, we need to understand the structures and modes of thought in use at the time that might have contributed to its form and content.

For comparison and contrast, here are the abstract indicators of the fundamental powers one to ten of Suares and those of Iamblichus, a Pythagorean writing in the fourth century CE.

 Comparative Numerology: Formative Meanings of the Numbers 1-10 # Suares Iamblichus 1 One/Life-Death Unity Identity 2 Container Formless Form 3 Movement Actuality Extension 4 Resistance Solidity 5 Life Life/Mediacy 6 Sex Perfection 7 Indeterminate Probability CriticalTime Chance 8 Sum of Potentials Harmonic Sum 9 Cell Limit End 10 Existence Perfection Wholeness

 Three Hebrew Mother Letters, Elements and Tarot Archetypal 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Air Existential 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Water Cosmic 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 Fire Finals

### The Three Hebrew Mother Letters: Formative Symbolism in the Tarot

There is really no great mystery in the basis for the iconography (and therefore the meaning) of the Tarot. All the symbolism reduces easily to either an astrological sign, a planet, or a Hebrew letter formative meaning (or both). In fact, the formative language of the Sepher Yetsira underlies all of the Tarot trumps. In a majority, the sign or planet is a convenient short-hand reference to the more generalized formative letter. In some cases of both planetary and zodical Tarot, formative symbolism predominates or replaces simple astrological references. In the case of the three non-astrological Hebrew "Mother" letters, Aleph, Mem and Sheen, the symbolism is purely formative and elemental.

Three Hebrew Mother Letters and the Three Elements

1: There is one Mother letter on each level: archetypal (Aleph), existential (Mem) and cosmic (Sheen). Their interaction is the basis of primordial manifestation in all three spheres. In medieval Kabbalah, Aleph, Air, is referred to as Makshabah, "highest thought." Or as we see here, "highest thoughtlessness," the Fool ("up in the air" and "head in the clouds"): beyond thought.

40: Mem/Water:, passive, biological resistance/response in formative language, is symbolized by the The Hanged Man, one of the most interesting tarotlogical references. The central concept is passive resistance: life suspended between two supports or on the cross, depending on the early version, with legs usually crossed. Once the Tower and High Priestess are restored to their correct Hebrew letter formatives (Dallet and Tav), the symbols line up as neatly as in the column of twos: falling/suspended figures, towers, scaffolds, crosses and pillars. But even without them all three Mothers are crystal-clear in their elemental symbolism:

 Air Water Fire

300: Sheen/Fire: Judgement is a kabbalistic cliche, with the angel as Rouhh Elohim and the three figures an obvious Sheen. On a deeper, formative level, the Breath from above and the Breath from below as the mediating energy between Aleph and Mem, Fire.

The Sepher Yetsira knows only three elements -- Avir (Air), Esh (Fire) and Mayim (water). These are the "Fathers" that descend from the "Mothers" (Aleph, Sheen and Mem) as primary forces in the sphere of formation. Here, ancient -- as opposed to medieval -- qabala agrees with alchemy (Mercury, Sulfur and Salt) and the Vedic system (Satva, Raja, Tamas).

 Seven Hebrew Double Letters, Planets and Tarot Archetypal 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Air Existential 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Water Cosmic 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 Fire Finals

### The Seven Hebrew Double Letters: The Formative Basis of Astrological Symbolism

Seven of the Hebrew letters are "double" -- they have both a hard and soft pronounciation (Bayt/Vayt, Ghimel/Djimel, Dallet/Thalet) -- and in classical texts of cosmology like the Sepher Yetsira, "form" the seven planets. Thus each planet has a "contrary quality" according to whether it accepts or resists energy. See Seals and Axes in the Cube of Space for the three-dimensional organization of the seven planets, and why they are paired, except for the seventh.

 Identity: Other and Self 2: Bayt: primary, archetypal containment (of Aleph/The Fool). Formative symbolism: Fool in the World. Astrology: Saturn as puer-senex. The single staff of the Fool becomes two wands. The wreath establishes the boundary of inside and outside. The World is a perfect picture of the container and the contained. Early Tarot often shows an enclosed globe containing a world-cosmos, supported by an angelic figure. 3: Ghimel: archetypal motion (of every Bayt/World impacted by Aleph/The Fool). The Wheel is Jupiter as the innate expansive (or driving) uncontrolled biological energy of the self (see Freud). Tsedeq (Jupiter), is the bi-polar self, spelled Tsadde-Dallet-Qof (see Star and Moon for the separate destinies of Tsadde and Qof). Early Tarot is consistently a simple wheel, sometimes even without human figures. Commentary often confuses the Wheel with the World as a symbol of the cosmos, but the concept is simply movement. Paired with the World in the Cube: above (Saturn) and below (Jupiter). Life: Future and Past 4: Dalet: archetypal resistance: the Tower is a straightforward symbol of resistance and conflict and Mars. Dalet is the central letter in Adam, spelled Aleph-Dalet-Mem. It is the resistance that allows Adam to resist Aleph to the point of becoming Aleph. The malific, Mars, has always ruled over wars, conflict and disasters. The lightning bolt or "fire from heaven" simply reverses the arrow of Mars. Mars "makes things happen" in the mirror of our psychological immaturity -- and resistance to -- the future. 20: Kaf: existential containment: the passive physical supports for biological life, physical energy. The Sun is both obviously astrological and deeply formative in its symbolism of the basis (supports) for physical life. The Sun supports the life in the garden and the physical energy of the horse supports the activity of the child as the body supports the mind. The child/ren represent our psychological past. Pair with the Tower, in front and in back. Experience: Sense-Perception: Feeling and Thought 80: Pay: existential unstructured energy, or the actual pool of evolutionary potentials; Mother Nature as sensuous reality and abundance. The Empress is an obvious classical symbol of Aphrodite/Venus (Hathor, Innana/Ishtar, Demeter). 200: Raysh: universal container (Mind) of cosmic consciousness (Qof). The Hermetic roots of the Magican as Mercury, the messenger, (see Kawkab) in the classic as above/so below mudra. Pair with the Empress, the left and the right. Psychic Core 400: Tav: cosmic resistance as the sanctuary and mirror of Aleph. The High Priestess is Isis, in her aspect as Hathor goddess of the Moon and rebirth, which is why she must live here, in her proper place, at the end of the alphabet, at the threshold of cosmic life (the five final letters). Transparent in both astrological and formative directions. Restore her to the center.
Obvious planetary Tarot: Tower, Empress, Sun, Hermes/Magician, High Priestess. Slightly less obvious: World, Wheel, High Priestess if you don't understand the Moon is not the Moon.

Note that the planetary sequence is the same as the classical geocentric seven Heavens, known from time immemorial in Western astrology and cosmology, starting with Saturn and ending with the Moon. This order is not retained in modern interpretations such as the Victorian secret society of magicians, the Golden Dawn, which largely preserved and rationalized the inherited (encoded) order of the Tarot (even if it meant literally moving heaven -- seven of them, actually -- and earth to do it). For instance, assigning the Magician and hence Mercury to the second Hebrew letter, Beth/Bayt, has the obvious consequence of disordering a rational logical sequence (classical order of the planets, ancient cosmogony -- Saturn is Jupiter's father, Mars' grandfather, etc.). It should be equally obvious that (once Strength and Justice are restored) the twelve zodiacal signs are all in sequence, if separated by other signifiers. We need to understand why all the basic formative energies are in sequence -- elements, planets and signs -- and why they are grouped (ordered in two dimensions) as they are in the Tarot "genome" in the first place.

 Hebrew Letter Formatives for the 7 Doubles: Planetary Major Arcana: Ancient Versions of the Sepher Yetsira 2 3 4 20 80 200 400 Golden Dawn Arrangement

The planetary correspondences are correct but the order is wrong and out of sequence. Even without the Hebrew alphabet, this disconnects Tarot from classical astrology and cosmology.

 Twelve Hebrew Simple Letters, Signs and Tarot Archetypal 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Air Existential 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Water Cosmic 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 Fire Finals

### The Twelve Hebrew Simple Letters: Zodiacal Rosetta Stone for the Tarot

The Tarot trumps Chariot through Hermit represent a unique group, whose order hasn't been questioned since the Golden Dawn Society gave the Lion back to Leo and the Scales to Libra, and swapped Strength and Justice. If we are decoding the pattern of the Tarot, a string of six characters in their correct places is a huge help.

 Signs of Subjective Existence 5: All of these images are directly emblematic of the astrological signs Aries through Virgo. Emperor: initiator of new life, Aries, head and ruler of the zodiac. Early Tarot shows 1) a ruler on 2) a throne holding 3) a scepter with an (iconclass 44B193) orb -- symbol of the cosmos and sovereignty. Ruler of the heavens. 6: High Priest, age of the sacred Priest/Kings -- Hierophant and symbol of mediation between the spiritual and the material. Hidden in the depths of the popular image is the is the meaning of Shaur/Taurus: spelled Sheen-Waw-Raysh, the cosmic marriage between the Breath of God (Sheen) and the Universe (Raysh). His staff is the copulative Waw of the sixth letter. Note: male energy. 7: Lovers/Twins: how Gemini can you get? Again, the real meaning is in the structure of the sign, Teomaim/Gemini where the choice/indetermination is between the Intemporal Aleph and the temporal Yod: Tav-Aleph-Waw-Mem-Yod-Mem. The zodiacal signs are active developmental environments for the dual energies of the planets. The different relationships of Aleph and Yod determine the internal structure of the sequence of signs. Emperor/Hay/Aries forms a simple cell for life. High Priest/Vav/Taurus fertilizes the cell and establishes the union of matter and spirit. Only then can Tav-Aleph and Yod, the two partners, or "twins" or "lovers" actually appear in the zodiac. In the involutionary direction, the choice is between matter and spirit. 8: Chariot: just a little more subtle, Cancer is the home of the Moon with its two qualities of slavery and freedom and the chariot of unstructured energy/consciousness. The cell (Sartan) of psychic (Hayt) energy is formed here, in contrast to the cell (Tayt) of physical energy (Hhamah, Sun) in the next sign, Leo/Arieh. We only hint at the depth of these interrelationships. The Chariot itself is the Merkaba. "Descend to ascend." 9: Strength: Lion: Leo, hello? But the real connotation is the physical energy of Leo (home of the Sun) and the relationship of feminine energy to the serpent power. Tayt/9 is the serpent's tooth     or the mouth of the lion. Leo, Arieh, spelled Aleph-Raysh-Yod-Hay shows Aleph entering the Universe (Raysh) and resurrecting as Yod alive. The seed containing Aleph is complete and can incarnate in existence (Yod) -- on the level of ten's below Aleph/the Fool as the ... 10 Hermit: here is a zodiacal symbol that is mostly formative. Yod/Hermit is Aleph/Fool in duration: the seed of existence which will be structured in the second six signs: Timelessness (Aleph) incarnate (cloaked) in Time (Yod). The lantern of inner light. In some early Tarot, the Hermit was Time and carried an hourglass (9.8 on the obviousmeter). The seeds (Z'ar) of objective, material, existence are developed in the womb of Virgo.
Obvious zodiacal Tarot: All of them, really. Slightly non-obvious -- Hermit unless you notice that five previous obvious signs were in order.

Before moving on to the second six zodiacal signs and Tarot, symbolic of objective existence above the horizon, what have we learned? We have a trusted block of code that spells out the first six signs of the tropical zodiac in order starting at the fifth position. If we are looking at the Tarot "genome" -- twenty-two cards in linear sequence -- we need to know why the pattern is encoded in this way: [MdddssssssdsMsssdssdMd] -- where M is a Mother letter, and d and s are double and simple Hebrew letters. And why the zodiac starts at five, the letter of archetypal life, Hay, and ends at one hundred, Qof, cosmic consciousness.

 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 200 300 400

 Signs of Objective Existence and Material Realization 30: We now come to Justice, Libra complete with Scales and as obvious astrologically as Leo. The key concept is organic, equilibrating movement as opposed to the uncontrolled movement of the Wheel above it. The Sun, which supplies the physical energy for objective manifestation, comes before Justice, the first sign above the horizon, and after the Hermit, the last sign below and the completion of the subjective hemicycle of experience. Justice comes before the Hanged Man for the same reason the Wheel comes before the Tower: movement and resistance, equilibration and response. 50 Three zodiacal signs in a row, Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn, another unbroken string. Following the Mother letter Mem/Hanged Man, the symbol of existential life, Death, appears at the eighth sign with a value of Noun/50. The archetypal life of Hay/5/Emperor is realized across the zodiac, in Scorpio, objective, existential life, ten times five. The classical connotations of Scorpio as the sign of sex, death and regeneration would be clear to the medieval mind, if not to ours. The central icon is skeleton death with the harvest scythe (who cuts down the high and the low). 60: Temperance in its earliest representations is based consistently on only three themes: 1) a woman 2) pours water from one vessel to another 3) in a high-waisted (cinched) dress. Sammekh/60, the corresponding Hebrew letter, is centripetal, female sexual energy, in contrast to the centrifugal masculine energy of Waw/6, the High Priest, with his phallic staff, above. Sammekh "gathers in" and transfers energy to the core for building and replicating life (remember, it follows Death). In later Tarot we often see the rainbow of Qoshet, Sagittarius, an elequent representation of the perfection of the material process, where the energies of cosmic consciousness (Qof/100) are directly in contact (Sheen/300) with their ultimate goal (Tav/400). This perfection is wasted, however, unless it serves as the material base (Sammekh/60) for the spiritual realization of the next sign, Capricorn.
Obvious zodiacal Tarot: Justice (Libra/Scales), Death (Scorpio). Slightly less obvious: Temperance (Sagitarrius, Female energy).

Before we complete the zodiac, we note the literal intercession of the Empress, which is Venus/Nogah and the tenth sepiroth and the abode of the Shekinah. The Empress is the projection of the Chariot (archetypal unstructured, undifferentiated energy-consciousness) into existence -- actual unstructured-undifferentiated potentials available for evolutionary realization). Contemporary neuroscience tells us something Freud and the Tarot already knew: the felt experience of reality and the processing of both internal and external information is largely unconscious. The Empress is an obvious natural symbol, as we have said, emblematic of the sensous aspect of the triple Goddess ( Ishtar | Demeter | Aphrodite | Venus). If she is not found here, in existence, between the Devil and the Star, her meaning is completely lost.

The last two signs, Aquarius and Pisces, can only really function after Capricorn has been realized and the Empress manifested from actual unstructured potentials. They represent non-developmental, terminal, states as homes for feminine, perfected structure (Tsadde/90/The Star) and masculine cosmic consciousness (Qof/100/The Moon). The Moon is an interesting Tarot -- it's the only major arcana that isn't what it is. Like the Sun is. The Moon and the Wheel (at least in some versions) are the only arcana without a human figure. If it's Pisces, where's the fish?

As we come to the end of our journey, we will note that Tarot commentary seems to consist, one the one hand, of an acceptance of a system of correspondences and attributions, one level of which involves a one-to-one match (if incorrect) with the Hebrew alphabet, and on the other, either the rejection or complete ignoring of both astrology and ancient Hebrew (or Classical) cosmological and cosmogonic systems as relevant to an understanding of the Tarot ("there just happen to be twenty-two of them ... sorry, we meant 21+1"). The fundamental question for tarotologists to answer is whether there is any astrological symbolism in the Tarot at all. After sliding down that slippery slope, they will be in a position to examine the roots of the astrological system that was the basis of much of medieval cosmology, science and medicine, and which informs and organizes the Tarot. There, they will find the Hebrew alphabet, and Shabbatai Donnolo in the 10th, The Kalonymus Family escaping lethal perscution in the 12th, and Abraham Abulafia in the 13th century in Italy and can learn where Pico and Ficono got their material in the 15th, around the time the twenty-two images of the Tarot appeared.

Finally, we can put all the pieces together. The first Tarot trump is 1/Aleph/the Fool, never zero:
"The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to her, Alef, Alef, even though I will create the world with the letter Beth, you will be first of all the letters. I will not be unified except through you. Through you will be directed all calculations and all functions of the world, and every unification will exist only through the letter Alef.
Zohar: Aleph-Beth trans. Tim Woodruff

In the words of the Qabala: Aleph with everything, everything with Aleph. Bayt with everything, everything with Bayt.
Or -- the Fool with everything, everything with the Fool. The World with everything, everything with the World.

The next three letters -- Bayt, Ghimel and Dalet -- World, Wheel and Tower -- form the primary planetary triad, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. The last, Mars/Dallet/Tower, archetypal resistance, is the final prerequisite of life -- biological resistance/response -- which is why the zodiac only starts with the fifth letter, Hay/Aries/Emperor, the beginning of Spring and a new life.

In the three dimensional model, the first zodiacal sign, Aries/Toleh, appears on the North-East edge of the Cube of Space only after the up-down Existential axis has been established with Saturn and Jupiter, and Mars -- half of the Life axis -- has been formed at the seventh sephirot of the indeteminate future. Archetypal Life (5/Hay/Emperor) is based on Aleph plus the primary triad; its characteristics are defined in the last four letters of the first row of nine.

Aries though Virgo (Emperor, High Priest, Lovers, Chariot, Strength, Hermit) complete the cycle of subjective existence. The Sun appears at the end of this zodiacal hemicycle, providing the physical energy necessary for objective existence, and is followed by Libra/Lammed/Justice, the first zodiacal sign above the horizon.

Justice is followed by the Mem, the Hanged Man, for the same reason that the Tower follows the Wheel -- resistance to motion (on the archetypal level) and response to stimulus (on the existential). Both are necessary preconditions to the life symbolized by the Emperor (archeyptal) and Death (existential). Death/50/Noun is followed by Temperence and the Devil (60/Sammekh/Sagittarius and 70/Ayn/Capricorn), symbols of material and spiritual achievement. This sequence parallels the one above, 5-6-7 or Hay-Waw-Zayn or Emperor-High Priest-Lovers or life-sex-possibility -- on the level of existence: life is factual, sex is female and possibilities are actual.

The Empress follows the Devil (as the Chariot the Lovers) and precedes the Star and Moon because it provides the pool of actual unstructured potentials for realization in sensuous material existence. The Magician, Raysh/200, follows the Moon as the container for the cosmic consciousness of 100/Qof.   Judgement and the High Priestess, Sheen/300 and Tav/400, cosmic movement (Sheen=300, Ruahh Elohim, the Breath of God) and cosmic resistance (Tav, the santuary of Aleph) complete the developmental pattern of the twenty-two archetypes on the cosmic level. The five final forms are past the doorway of the High Priestess and represent exalted or cosmically-significant states of life.

We've looked at how many of the Tarot are based in transparent astrological symbolism, and filled in a few gaps, where necessary, with the creative/formative language of the Sepher Yetsira. We've seen that when you lay them out on top of their Hebrew letters in a natural alphanumeric matrix, and correct for vertical symbolism, a complete, integrated pattern emerges, that accounts for every Tarot, planet, sign and Mother letter/element. We've outlined a logical pattern in both linear sequencing and a natural 2-D array where the letters and numbers and images line up and complete the whole, and explained why every Tarot is found where it is in the sequence and pattern.

Once we have died to ourselves at the threshold of the Devil and been blessed by the Empress, we can enter the last three stages of human development.

 Signs of Objective Existence and Spiritual Realization 70: Realization (Ayn/70) of spiritual consciousness and a rebirth in Capricorn, where Saturn/Shabatai is alive. An astrological symbol (Ghedi/Capricorn = goat) suffused with ironic commentary. Just as our egos perceive life as Death, we perceive freedom as the Devil. 90: Aquarius: the Star, symbol of perfected femininity, destroys obsolete structures and builds new ones. Early Tarot show women holding or pointing to stars, or pouring water with one foot in the stream under a star. This Tarot, of course, is not the Star, let alone "the Stars," but the Woman in her existential and transcendental states. She draws unstructured energy from the pool of possibilities of the Empress and builds it into structures. 100: Pisces, the so-called Moon, is the end of the zodiac, and the home of perfected masculinity and cosmic consciousness, where Tsadde-Dallet-Qof finally comes to rest. Six of eight early Tarot show figures pointing to or supporting the Moon. Half show both full and crescent moons overlaid or integrated. This looks like a classic case of mistaking the Moon for the finger pointing to Psyche's path.
Obvious zodiacal Tarot: Devil (Goat), Star (Aquarius). Slightly confusing: Moon.

See: Reading the Patterns of the Tarot for more examples and Obscuring the Origins for more analysis of the Golden Dawn confusion.

Back to Revived Tarot