The “Gang of Ten”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: After reading Paul Marteau’s peculiar statement that the Fool doesn’t necessarily belong at either end of the Major Arcana sequence as 0 or 22, but would more properly be found after any multiple of 7 (e.g. the Chariot or Temperance), I felt I had to drive the notion from my head by tackling a different issue that has stumped me for some time. (In fairness to Marteau, I do subscribe to Cherry Gilchrist’s opinion that the unnumbered Fool can pop up anywhere in the procession.) No matter what you may think of “theosophical reduction,” there is some interesting food for thought here.

Anyone who has worked with the Golden Dawn’s diagram of the Chaldean zodiac and its incorporation of the tarot cards (see below) knows that the seven planetary trumps and three “elemental” trumps do not appear in the model. I decided to take a closer look to see if I could find a convincing way to bring everything together in some kind of rational framework. My eventual inspiration was to create an “inner circle” within the polar arrangement of the Aces and Princesses. At its center would be the Fool (elemental Air) straddling the boundary between the two eastern quadrants and the Priestess (the Moon, representing Water) bestride the western interface. (As an aside, in “Elemental Orienteering 101,” Air occupies the East and Water lies to the West, with Fire in the South and Earth in the North.) Beginning in the northeast, the planetary trumps would be arrayed in sets according to astrological principles, two cards to a quadrant until the final sector, in which I would place the last of the “elemental” trumps. Note that I made no attempt to assimilate the Cube of Space or the three-dimensional Tree of Life into my thinking.

We can pretend that placing the Fool to the east of the celestial meridian and the Priestess to the west equates to the formula 0=2, but Crowley’s intent can be expressed most simply as 0 = (+1) + (-1) so that’s just an intriguing whim. Mercury (the Magus) and Venus (the Empress) are joined with the Ace and Princess of Pentacles in the northeastern quadrant of space; Mars (the Tower) and the Sun with the Ace and Princess of Wands in the northwestern quadrant; Jupiter (the Wheel of Fortune) and Saturn (the World) with the Ace and Princess of Cups in the southwestern quadrant; and the Hanged Man (elemental Water) and the Aeon (elemental Fire) with the Ace and Princess of Swords in the southeastern quadrant.

At first I didn’t consider the resulting pattern to be entirely coherent from the standpoint of “occult metaphysics” and was going to tinker with it, but then I noticed that a little “accidental logic” emerged from the display that I found absorbing enough to explore further. To whit:

In the northern quadrants, the Magus (Mercury) in the East lines up with the Sun in the West across the celestial meridian and the Empress (Venus) aligns in the same way with the Tower (Mars); in astrology these are considered “complementary pairs” of planets so the deployment makes sense. Furthermore, the Sun and the Magus are “numerological counterparts” since 1+9 = 10 and 1+0 = 1, while the Empress and the Tower sum to 19, which also reduces to 10 and then to 1. In the southern quadrants, the Wheel of Fortune (10) is linked to the Aeon, its doubling at 20, and the World (21) is paired with the Hanged Man, its “mirror” at 12 (although these associations are at most superficially plausible since there are no standard numerological or astrological connections between the cards).

The North-to-South alignment isn’t quite as pleasing from an astrological perspective, but there is some numerological convergence: the Sun (19) and the Wheel of Fortune (10) are counterparts since 1+9 = 10, as are the Hanged Man (12) and the Empress (3) because 1+2 = 3. In addition, the Magus (1) and the Aeon (20) sum to 21, another expression of 3 by reduction, and the Tower (16) and the World (21) sum to 37, which once again reduces to 10 and then to 1. What is obvious from all of this reductive math is the noteworthy recurrence of “Three” in the East and “One” in the West, while the northern quadrants also circulate the number One; in the South there is no such compelling consistency, so I would propose that the Priestess regulates any innate imbalance as “Two.”

It’s also worth mentioning that, as numerological counterparts, the Magus parallels the Ace of Pentacles, the Sun (reduced to 1) encompasses the Ace of Wands, and the Wheel of Fortune (also reduced to 1) overlays the Ace of Cups; the Ace of Swords has no such companion, which seems to be an inadvertent consequence of putting the “left-over” trumps into that quadrant. I was hoping to see some elemental symmetry between the cards in each sector but the population of eight trumps includes four Fire cards, two Earth cards and one each of Water and Air, so that thought will have to wait for another iteration and may in fact remain unresolved.

Numerical correspondences are great fun when these apparently random agreements can be picked out of an incidental array of cards. I’m not sure what significance there is in all of this, but the numbers 1, 3 and 10 do recur with remarkable regularity and internal integrity.

Addendum: I’m well aware that there is another way to correlate the trump cards, one I first encountered in the writing of James Wanless and eventually in that of Alejandro Jodorowsky (although I suspect that Jodo came first): cards that share a number, as either the primary or secondary digit, can be treated as counterparts. For example, all of the trump cards from the Wheel of Fortune to the Sun lead off with an active “1,” bringing them under the umbrella of the Magus, which in this role I interpret as both a “gatekeeper” and a “front man” who runs interference for the interior energy; as the secondary digit in Lust and the World, we might say he “prods from behind” like an annoying back-seat driver. (With the Aeon and the World, the passive “2” [Priestess] takes over the first position, with a consequent change in leadership style.)

Regarding secondary emphases, the Fool reprises in both the Wheel of Fortune and the Aeon; the Priestess is hidden in the Hanged Man; (the Magus as second digit has already been described); the Empress has a second life in Death; the Emperor lends backbone to Temperance; the Hierophant is lurking inside the Devil (where they’re probably having tea); the Lovers are headed for divorce or worse in the Tower; the Charioteer is humming “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as he hooks up with the Star; Adjustment is in a quandary over how to make the Moon see reason; and the lily-white Hermit risks a nasty case of sunburn as he finds “a place in the Sun.”

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