Numerical Significance 0-22:
 TAROT OF THE SKULL
Numerical Significance 0-22:
To students of Qaballah it has already been indicated, and now largely accepted, that the 22 cards and their gestalt images correspond as hieroglyphs to the 22 letters of the Etruscan, Egyptian 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, cosmic or supernatural correspondence. We might easily postulate that, for example as in the art of Palmistry, that the 32 bones of the human skull, together with the 32 teeth bear the hallmark of a grand signature. Similarly, the 22 sutures of the human skull are readily analogous to the 22 Trumps of the Tarot just as the 33 joints of the human spine were esoteric elements in the Hindu and Tibetan tradition in the study of the 7 chakras of the subtle body.
Throughout history and in many diverse cultures the number of bones in the human skull had some metaphysical affinity to the human condition in relation to the cosmos, and even more significantly for the death cults of Megalithic Man! The Hindu Goddess Kali wore a necklace composed of the human skulls of vanquished warriors, each one corresponding to a letter of the Sanskrit alphabet. In Medieval Alchemy the classic Hermit is often depicted contemplating a human skull, an image of transient mortality or icon of Death and transfiguration. Furthermore divination by casting of bones (Scapulimancy) is common among peoples from Africa, MesoAmerica, N. America, China and Indonesia. In Tantrism sacred drinking cups made of the skull-caps of saints and Sages evoke a time when human beings practised a form of ritual cannibalism in honour of the dead. The Tibetans thought that the head was fed from etheric currents of vital energy through a hole in the crown of the skull. At death, the life force was ejected through a hole in the upper carapace. Human babies are all born with two openings in the top and rear of the skull called the fontanelles which begin to seal together as we age. In the Kaballah there are 10 sephirah and 22 letters signifying the paths or keys, thereby totalling 32 components. There are 3 Mother letters מ, & ש(--Mefisto 02:40, 10 October 2007 (PDT)), 12 Simple letters (ח,ו, ז, ת, ט, י, ל, נ, ס, ע, צ, & ק) and 7 Double letters (ב, ג, פ, ד, כ, ה, & ר ).
In the evolved Hebrew alphabet additionally, there are 6 finals Kaph, Mem, Nun, Peh, Tzaddi & Aleph enlarged (ןםךףץ) which develops the symbolism to accommodate a correspondence with the 28 lunar asterisms. Coincidentally, there are also 32 separate bones in the human skull including 2 in the mandible and 6 in the hard palate. If we exclude the mandible, which fuses in adulthood into one bone, for the time being, we note there are 6 symmetrical pairs of bones, (totalling 12), 7 transverse bones, and 3 slightly smaller bones around the nasal and orbital regions. The 3 pairs of bones (6) in the hard palate can therefore correspond to the 6 finals. Incidentally, the Hebrew finals correspond to the Greek double vowels. However, the correspondence only fails marginally if we take note that there are in actual fact 2 extremely small identically-shaped Wormian bones placed between the occipital and parietal sutures. We might assume, for the sake of argument therefore that perhaps these two were counted as one or totally omitted, although the number 33 also has some greater significance in Kabbalistic number symbolism. Depending largely on specialised ontological classifications, the correspondence of the bones in the human skull to numerous other alphabets also seems applicable. For example, the 24-letter Roman alphabet is accommodated by virtue of also excluding the two symmetrical bones of the mandible to a basic schema which includes the 6 palatals, but omits the finer membranes in the nasal and orbital regions. Whereas the English Kaballah composed of 26 letters would naturally include just two of these finer bone components, probably with the exclusion of the ethmoid or concha bones. The Greek and Hebrew alphabets appear to be more comprehensive in attributing the bones to letters. There are 8 symmetrical pairs of skull bones which can also form an Ogdoad.
The bones of the human skull can therefore be classified according to their general shape both scientifically and etymologically so that they correspond as magical gestalts to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. For example, the pair of cheek bones (Zygomatic) are so-called because they resemble an ox-goad, which we know is the gestalt image for Lamed (21st Key - Justice & Ayin - an eye). The Vomer looks like a plough-shave and therefore corresponds to Aleph, an ox plough (11th Key - The Fool). The pair of Temporal bones we might postulate relate to time and might therefore correspond to The Wheel and Death for several reasons. The shape of this bone also resembles a portion of a dead or butchered fish with the pectoral fin exposed, or the palm of the hand (Kaph) and greying of the temples indicates old age the passage of time etc. The Sphenoid bone derives its name from the Greek (sphenos -wings) and acts as a prop to the dome of the skull and may therefore correspond to Samekh - a prop (26th Key - Temperance). This bone literally props up the dome of the skull behind the nose and eyes. The Palatal bone is an obvious reference to Peh - a mouth, because without it the faculty of speech would be impossible. The two Nasal bones resemble a door, pages of a book, a hinge and in fact are the only way that worms can enter the skull carapace and may correspond to Daleth - A door (23rd Key - The Empress) and He - the Emperor respectively. The Ethmoid bone resembles a tooth and therefore can be attributed to Shin (31st Key - Judgement). Alternatively we might also speculate that it looks like a dove ascending with triangular wings, while the palatine looks like a dove descending. The Frontal bone can easily be attributed to Beth, a house because it houses the brain of the Magician (Key 12), the bowl-shaped Occipital bone contains sutures reminiscent of a crescent moon and can be attributed to Gimel - the High Priestess. Alongside this bone the two Condylar bones resemble the shafts of a chariot and can therefore be attributed to Cheth - The Chariot and 18 The Moon. Incidentally, the Occipital, basal and condylar bones as a whole also resemble the breastplate of the Jewish High Priest with the basal bone acting as a fastening at the back - in all a type of keystone or wedge - therefore possibly a reference to the High Priest. To find the Fish-hook attributed to Tzaddi - The Star, can only be the Concha bone a tiny fish-hook shaped bone that is allocated to Venus in Aquarius, signifying a shell which resides in water and Earth, but which is exalted in the air signs. Coincidentally, the lachrymal bone which houses the tear ducts corresponds to Mem - Water (The Hanged Man). While Qoph back of head, refers to the condylar which resembles a crab's claw. Shin - a tooth looks like the Palatine Bone and Resh - a face whose eyes resembles the Wormian bones between the rear parietal & occipital sutures. All in all this only consolidates even more symbolic correspondences to the bones of the skull and the Tarot keys. All that remains are the 2 bones of the maxilla which may correspond to Yod - a fist or I suspect looks like the back of the hand when clenched and the haft of a sword (Zain). Finally, the basal bone near the foramen magnum (spinal socket) which may correspond to Tau - a mark (The World). With the additional aid of gematria we might also speculate that the word "SKULL" (19+211+12+12= 75, 6+4 = 13) itself reduces numerically to thirteen (Death). This corresponds to the Ain, Soph, Aur and the number of sephirah on the Tree of Life. The number 13 in occult circles is composed of 1 plus 3 = 4 the transformation in Alchemy of the four elements of the Magician who is himself transformed by death.
The majority of narrow-minded and reductive scientists today would of course declare that there being a certain number of bones in the head a mere fancy of evolutionary theory. However, our purpose here is not to attack their viewpoint nor to advance any esoteric theory with no basis in rational or intuited thinking processes. 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 enshrined 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 mathematical 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 (viz: God creates man in his own image). 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. Mythological & Alphabetical Correspondences:
From the study of the Naples Arrangement we know that the 22 cards of the Major Arcana can be arranged to represent the Etruscan Calendar cycle. 12 cards represent the 12 astrological months of the year. The remaining 10 cards represent the planets, seven of which were named after the 7 days of the week. We are therefore left with 3 cards, #12 The Hanged Man, #16 The Tower and #20 Judgement which represent 3 important calendrical festivals:
• A: Sacrifice, (Water-Easter/Moon) Scrying in Water
• B: Revelation, (Lightning-Hallows Eve/Sun/Stars) Astrology & Augury
• and C: Resurrection (Fire-Xmas/Jupiter/Saturn). Pyromancy
These cards are actually symbolic of the old 3 season year, as this accords with a time and location when there was only Summer, Autumn and Winter. The final card The Fool represents the spirit of Springtime as evidenced in folklore by the festival celebration of April Fool's Day. As in the case of the Saturnalia, when the child of the New Year is reborn, at this time there was a general dispensation where all the normal taboos were abandoned and anything allowed, hence his other title Lord of Chaos or Misrule. For example he might be blamed for any bastards born to a community, any crop failures and so forth. In traditional ceremonies the Fool often took the place of the King (or Emperor), as the scapegoat in the ritual sacrifice. He often wears a 3-coned hat and carries a bladder and whip denoting the element Air and the ritual torture he must endure. The 3-coned hat signifies the 3-season year or the Triune forces of Hermes Trismegistus - the thrice born fool of Sulphur, Salt & Quicksilver. The fact that he returns at springtime to reek vengeance on those who tormented him in the previous year is evocative of another mythological story concerning the Green Man (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight). Whipping or literally "goading" was imposed on Walnut trees to encourage the production of buds - this idea of accidental damage or purposeful pruning to promote new growth permeated into the mythology of the King's Fool who occupied the lowest strata of society and the court. In other words prior to the emergence of Humanism in Europe the misfits, the demented, and the outcasts of society were tolerated up to a certain degree. A flourishing tribe needed those of sound body and mind, just as the stock of a fruit tree required to be resistant to disease. This could only be ensured by cutting back the old branches to allow for new growth. We are reminded here of the Vine - as a symbol of the so-called bloodline of Christ and of course his own purging of the "temple" of moneylenders, in true pagan style he too carried a whip. During the ancient Roman Lupercalia young boys whipped the young virgins into an erotic frenzy to encourage fertility. Furthermore the idea of whipping suggests the effect of goading or encouraging the Sun out of its underworld realm so that the fertility of the land could be ensured. In many cultures from Mesopotamia to Europe the advent of the year was perceived just as a spinning top turns on its axis when whipped on by young boys. The leaping action of the Fool not only imitates the "leap of faith" which he has to make but also the intercalary day in any Leap Year. The Fool also symbolised the intercalary period or 5 epagomenal days at New Year and anything which was an anathema to the well being of pagan tribes.
The lemnisciate symbol or "lazy eight" above the head of the woman denotes the paths of evolution and involution expressed by positive and negative numbers as a binary system within Cabalistic symbolism. The caduceus of Hermes - the psychopomp, who guides the souls of the dead into the underworld also has twin serpents intertwined in a figure of eight path on his staff. So that for example when 8 is subtracted from Trump 10 (10-8=2) we arrive at Binah in which the twin pillars (night & day or Joachim & Boaz) reiterate the significance of the 11-year cycle represented by 11. Justice. This numeric idea is clearly illustrated in "The Naples Arrangement" as a labyrinthine path of odd and even numbers. The first numbers 1-9, plus the function of Zero (viz: Pi) or the Fool will enable the continuous flow of numbers to unfold. That is why in a mathematical sense Trump 10 The Wheel denotes "X-change" and expansion. The letter X symbolising the "unknown quantity" or the question. When Keys 1-18 are arranged in this schema we can use the two mathematical functions of addition and subtraction in a mnemonic table to arrive at any one of the 21 key values;
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Note: That keys 19, 20 and 21 are omitted from this table is due to their association with macro-cosmic principles.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 19 =10 =12 =14 =16 =18 =20 =22 =24 =27 =29 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 19 21
Therefore, the 7-fold aspect of the numeric keys is also secretly revealed by virtue of the fact that seven is held in check by eight 7+7 =14 - Temperance, plus 7 = 21 The World. The card is also known by many names for example - Force, Fortitude and Endurance, while the occultist Aleister Crowley named it simply Lust. In very simple terms the message of the card seems to illustrate that a weak or passive principle (the lady) is quite capable of holding in check ferocious, intractable or destructive forces, they being represented by the red lion. From Egyptian mythology the woman and the lion represent the goddess Sekhmet - who in turn epitomises the destructive force of the midday Summer Sun. Even something so wonderful and longed for as a warm day can so easily become the beginning of a long drought bringing with it famine and pestilence. Indeed, we might crave for water when thirsty, but too much of that element and we could so easily be drowning in a flood or vast ocean. The card therefore advises moderation and control in one's life or affairs will bring about harmonious conditions. It also indicates that gentleness not severity serves to mediate with those who use force to implement their will on others. In Medieval Alchemy the symbol of the lion denoted the idea found in Orphic doctrine that spiritual evolution is in fact a destructive process. This idea is numerically expressed in adding 8 and 11 which results in 19. The Sun. In other words the ego is actually slowly devoured by the process of self-development or spiritual training. The deeper significance of the lemnisciate above the woman's head is related to the old Etruscan calendar cycle - when the forces of light begin to decline after the celebration of the Summer solstice. In the eternal cycle of Return the twin forces of light and darkness exchange dominion ie: The Magician is a male figure representing the expression of individual willpower, the female "lion-tamer" relies on the power of others and no doubt uses more subtle persuasive means to achieve the same goal. It also illustrates how important Creativity and Self-confidence are in everyday life and how this power needs to be harnessed and channelled for maximum effect.
The Druidic Calendar & the Tree of Life:
To conclude the Tarot 22 trumps are analogous with the 22 letters of the Etruscan alphabet which are in turn mnemonic devices for recording time cycles, linked to an ingenious system employed in divination. One must recall that the original Etruscan alphabet contained only 16 letters, and that these numbers represent the 16 geomantic divisions of the upper and lower worlds. These 16 divisions were also synonymous with the 16 months consisting of alternating 22 and 23 days and their tutelary gods or godesses. Due to linguistic developments and an evolved knowledge of the constellations, (ie: the transition from a 10 to 12 sign zodiac when Scorpio was divided into 3 to include Sagittarius and then Libra), when it became necessary to adjust the position of some letters (namely Ŝ, Sigma, & Sh - see below). When we examine the table of letters to coincide with their numerical order and the corresponding Tarot trump we can see that the sequence of letter correspondences begins to break down after Nun for Scorpio.
Therefore it may be that our present day tarot cards should perhaps be seen as arising out of the hermetic ideas at the foundation of the Renaissance, rather than directly from the secret teachings of the Jewish Qaballah or any Egyptian magical treatise (Hermes Trismegistus). Unfortunately, throughout time there has been a series of spurious conjectures on their origins and authorship, for example by Antoine Court de Gèbelin (1725-84) in his work "Le Monde Primitif" (Chapter VIII) attributes the Tarot to Egyptian origin just as Eliphas Levi ("Ritual de haute Magique") and Crowley ("Book of Thoth") did much later in the 19th century. In actual fact the Qaballah was merged with the Tarot system in from the 17th, 18th and in to the 19th century. Just as around that time people mistook the Romany people of Hindustan had migrated from the land of Egypt, hence their name being derived from a term "e-gypsies". An attempt at some universal synthesis occurred when power shifted from Constantinople to Rome and further when hieroglyphic aspects of the Qaballah became confused with the original Gnostic matrix which featured the Tectractys and the Gnostic Enneagram. At this stage influences from the far East, India and China in particular were included as well as some tenets of Classical Pagan theology from the East European and Celtic world. Instead of 5 divisions x 10 (50 cards) they become reduced to four x 10 (40 cards) paralleling the elements and the first decade, symbolising the stations of humanity, was increased to 22 (21 + 1) allowing for some vague correspondence to the Hebrew or Latin alphabet. In reality however, the number 22 was really connected to an ancient calendrical cycle and the number of bones contained in the human skull. Instead of being number one, the beggar or fool became zero, an idea again imported from the Arabic or Persian mystical mathematical fraternity. The Fool was never considered to be a trump in the true sense of the term. Also when we consider that there were originally 10 zodiacal signs (Sagittarius & Libra being omitted) then subtle assignments or correspondences consistently began to break down and that is why much later Eliphas Levi and Crowley got into deep water as the system became more and more complex in its attempt to incorporate astrological and phonetic ideas. Indeed it seems that the paths and the spheres on the Tree of Life, in terms of the 10 signs of the zodiac are interchangeable. The images themselves denote or correspond to the natural exaltations of the planets. The Magician is the Sun in Aries, the High Priestess the Moon in Taurus, and the Empress Venus in Gemini etc. It seems remarkable that both of these "occult experts" also made the mistake of presuming that Tarot cards were of Egyptian or Judaic origin. What may have been the intention of some Pagan Gnostic Circle or heretical genius is that the cards served as a secretly encrypted Ars Memoria to some underground movement that later became a satirical affront to the established Church thereby denouncing the Papal authority over all Christian dominions. It could be argued that the 22 Tarot Trumps are a type of book or record of the cycle of human development and not really intended as a fortune-telling or divination system at all.