The Twos As “Accumulation and Incubation”

I’ve always considered the number Two in the Minor Arcana of the tarot to signify “centrifugal” oscillation like that of a swinging pendulum. It reaches the outermost limit of its travel before being pulled (very briefly) back to center by gravity, and then departs once again to the end of its tether in the opposite direction; thus, it operates more in extension than in compression, pushing boundaries rather than observing them. I thought (and still think) of it as embodying all binary extremes: black/white; up/down; in/out; open/shut; off/on; hot/cold; etc, migrating between one state and the other at any given moment but seldom completely at rest. In my previous opinion, its action was always compensatory or reciprocal rather than entirely linear and one-way (from Point A to Point B) as might be assumed from Pythagorean number theory. It suggested the cliche “What goes around, comes around” in that repetition of entrenched behaviors can become habitual and invite repercussions. A good example of this appears in the Waite-Smith 2 of Pentacles, in which the circulation of force appears to be throwing the juggler off-balance.

But in reading Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Way of Tarot, I came up with a new wrinkle that is more emblematic of “centripetal” force that draws inexorably inward toward a central point of focus, condensing rather than distributing (and potentially diluting) its influence. A vortex, whirlpool and planetary gravity well are all representative of this “capturing” action. The image in the Waite-Smith 2 of Cups strongly conveys the type of convergence symbolized by “gravitational pull.” Jodorowsky proposes the ideas of “accumulation” and “incubation” for the Twos, signified in his decimal theory by the “2” that holds the “tens” place in the number of the Hanged Man (12), and that card is also a “numerological counterpart” to the “2” of the High Priestess. When you think of it, although Two is the root of the binary series, it is also an “additive” number (1+1), so the concept of accumulation is not foreign to its nature. Both of these Major Arcana possess “inner awareness” as a common theme, and “2” might reflect the subconscious interplay between the Persona and the Shadow (with reversal perhaps emphasizing the latter).

In the Jodorowsky-Camoin Tarot de Marseille deck, “accumulation” enters the picture with the Priestess in the form of a fertilized egg that is on the verge of hatching, eventually bursting forth in the “3” of the Empress (or in the next card of the minor series) after sufficient “incubation.” With the Hanged Man, this “accumulation” is a function of his immobility, and “incubation” arises from his resolute cessation of effort that permits intensification of the accumulated energy for release into the transformational realm of Death. The Priestess implies incipient incubation and the Hanged Man reveals its full measure, welling up from the most remote depths of the Unconscious to flood the waking mind.

I’m strongly reminded of the operation of a storage battery, which accumulates electrical energy in anticipation of any demand for its discharge. In the tarot, the type of energy that is gathered and then transmitted depends on the element or suit represented by the card. The Priestess and the Hanged Man are both reservoirs of elemental Water energy (the Priestess corresponds to the Moon and the Hanged Man to Primal Water in the Golden Dawn system). We might take a page from the association of the court cards to the elements, where each card has both a “hierarchical” element and a “natural” element, and turn that around when relating the minor “Twos” to the Priestess and the Hanged Man. While the King of Wands is characterized as “Fire of Fire,” the 2 of Wands when aligned with either the Priestess or the Hanged Man could be expressed as “Fire of Water,” the 2 of Cups as “Water of Water,” and so forth. The minor card (both number and element) denotes the mundane root of the energy and the trump card its archetypal “trigger point.” Here is a graphic depiction of this idea using the Thoth tarot. This looks like fruitful territory for the application of Elemental Dignities, since the two placid and mystical Water trumps consecutively modify the Fire, Water, Air and Earth minor cards. In naturalistic terms the combinations respectively suggest “hot springs;” “subterranean grottoes;” “humid breezes;” and “wetland meadows” (complete with water snakes).

Thoth Tarot, copyright of U.S. Games Systems Inc, Stamford, CT

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