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Comments on 'Fortune' card in Harris-Crowley deck

To: alt.tarot,alt.magick
From: (Sylvia Li)
Subject: Comments on 'Fortune' card in Harris-Crowley deck
Date: Sat, 05 Jul 1997 22:36:53 GMT

Recently I have had occasion to study the 'Fortune' card in the
Harris-Crowley deck.  I have been trying to work my way into an
understanding of the symbolic significance built into this particular
image.  It occurred to me that some people might be interested in the
notes I made for myself.

Observations about the Wheel of Fortune card

1.   "The card represents the Universe in its aspect as a continual
change of state." (1)  Compare to Two of Pentacles: "Change is the
support of stability." (1) 

2.   There is an upper wheel and a lower one.  The two are connected
by the energies of lightning and water: Chokmah and Binah.

3.   The upper wheel is seen almost edge on, as if it is slanting into
another dimension.  It is a ring of light set with stars.

I saw Eternity the other night
*Like a great ring of pure and endless light,*
     All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it, time, in hours, days, years,
     Drivín by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow movíd, in which the world
     And all her train were hurled.		(2)

Crowley was educated; he surely knew this famous poem.

4.   "The stars appear distorted in shape, although they are balanced,
some being brilliant and some dark." (1)  Iím sure both the number and
the positions of the stars are significant -- see below.

5.   "This card, like Atu XVI (The Tower) may also be interpreted as a
Unity of supreme attainment and delight.  The lightnings which
destroy, also beget; and the wheel may be regarded as the Eye of
Shiva, whose opening annihilates the Universe." (1)

6.   "In the midst of all this is suspended a wheel of ten spokes,
according to the number of the Sephiroth, and of the sphere of
Malkuth, indicating governance of physical affairs." (1)

7.   The fist represents Kaph, the letter of this path, which is a
double letter, one of the "Gateways of the Soul" representing the
opposites of Riches and Poverty.  The closed hand symbolizes grasping
comprehesion, as well as the completion of an activity or the closing
of a circle.  Kaph is the scarf covering the dancer in the Universe
card [in sone decks]. (3)  The path links Four (Chesed, Jupiter,
Mercy) with Seven (Netzach, Venus, Victory), which works out nicely,
and provides one reason for the Triangle (7 - 4 = 3) in the

8.   Hermanubis is Heru-em-Anupu, meaning Horus as Anubis.  Typhon is
associated with Set, the symbolic dark side of Osiris; insofar as
Typhon is shown as a snake, as he is on the Waite card, he is one of
the forms of Set.  Anubis is often represented as slaying the Serpent.
The Sphinx is the stable element in the midst of change: the balance
of male and female, the synthesis of the elemental forces, a cardinal
symbol of manifestation, the Middle Pillar. (3)

9.   If the cards of the Major Arcana are laid out in a figure-8
double circle, the two circles intersect on the crossed cards of
Fortune and The Universe.

10.   "The Solar system is not a sphere, but a wheel... The Ancients
imagined this wheel very much more clearly than modern minds are wont
to do.  They paid particular attention to the imaginary rim.  Within
the limits of this rim, they conceived that the Fixed Stars were in a
special way connected with the apprent potion of the Sun. This rim or
belt of the wheel they called the Zodiac.  The constellations outside
this belt did not seem to them to matter so much to mankind, because
they were not in the direct line of the great whirling force of the
wheel. (T.A.R.O. = R.O.T.A. = wheel.)" (4) This explains why there is
a Sun at the centre of this cardís great Wheel suspended in space.

(1) Aleister Crowley: The Book of Thoth pp 89-91.
(2) Henry Vaughan: Silex Scintillans, 1650
(3) Robert Wang: Qabalistic Tarot
(4) Aleister Crowley: Book of Thoth pp 25-26

This is a complex card, very beautiful.

The luminous pale green ten-spoked wheel hangs in space, with the sun
at its centre.  A jet of -- water? energy? power? -- gushes from each
spoke, curving so that you see the wheel is turning counter-clockwise.
Behind the wheel there is a dim pale violet equilateral triangle.  At
the top of the wheel, not one bit disturbed by the apparent motion,
crouches a sphinx, her face tranquil, between her paws a vertical
sword.  To the left, trying to climb against the motion of the wheel,
there is an ape, its eyes wide and dazzled, its lips fixed in a
foolishly optimistic grin.  To the right, being dragged upward by the
wheelís rim, a crocodile with human arms dangles by its coiled tail,
with all its attention directed downward.  The crocodile has a crook
in its left hand, an ankh in its right; it flails both of these
awkwardly in the air.  At the lowest point of the wheel, an unattached
hand clenches something tightly; what it is we cannot tell, but the
great triangle in the background seems to be projected from this

Nine jagged streaks of lightning descend from a horizontal row of nine
yellow stars which form a boundary between the lower and upper world.
The lightning converges on a point below the bottom of the picture --
the same point, it seems, on which the crocodileís attention is fixed.

In the upper world, there is another wheel which does not turn.  Nine
stars on that upper wheel correspond to the nine boundary stars.  The
largest and brightest of these nine stars is central, and connected to
each of the other eight, but all of the nine reach out to touch the
rays from a tenth star at the very top of the picture.  

Why are four of the eight stars on the rim of the upper wheel bright,
and four dim?  Crowley mentions "balance" as a reason for this, but I
donít think that was the whole reason -- or at any rate, itís a highly
compressed and cryptic explanation.  If the stars are distorted, it is
because they are reaching to touch each other.  Whatever the stars
represent, Iím sure thatís an intended part of it.

Hereís a possible interpretation; Iím not satisfied that itís what
Crowley meant.  Nine stars sending their energies into the lower world
suggests the nine upper Sephiroth (even though the arrangement is
quite different from the Tree of Life, with Kether at the centre).
The bright and dark stars evenly balanced about the rim would be the
even- and odd-numbered Sephiroth.  In that case, one could identify
the furthest star at the top of the card, the distant nine-rayed one
that touches each of the others, as Malkuth transfigured.

One could also look into Crowleyís An Essay Upon Number and discover
in the list for "the Universe as it is" that 9, the Ennead, is
described as Stability in Change, being 3 squared, and thus a
combination of 3 and 2.  Or, one could look up the note on 913 in the
same work, where Crowley adduces seven different "proofs" that the
Number Nine is the highest and worthiest of the numbers.  As usual, he
is most flippant when he is most serious.

The triangle is the symbol of Binah, and of the Supernal Triangle:
point, line, then plane, which permits form -- restriction, the Outer
Robe of Concealment.  Compare with the Three of Disks, which is the
material establishment of the idea of the Universe: Mercury, Sulphur,
and Salt; Sattvas, Rajas, and Tamas; Aleph, Shin, Mem; Air, Fire,
Water; the tetrahedron rises from the Sea of Binah.  These are the
same as the figures on the Wheel, though rotated or seen from a
different direction: Mercury (Hermanubis), Sulphur (Sworded Sphinx)
and Salt (Typhon).

Hermanubis, the ape, is the Word, Horus as Anubis, the companion of
Thoth, the vibratory patterns of existence which turn the Wheel and
slay the Serpent.  Typhon, the Father of the Sphinx, is associated
with Set, the dark side of Osiris, the accuser of the dead.  The
Sphinx is the synthesis of the four elements, a symbol of
manifestation, the keeper of the passage of birth and death, the
stable element in the midst of change.

The Crook and Ankh are curious items to be held by Typhon, the figure
of death and destruction.  The Crook is the weapon of Mercy (as
opposed to the Scourge of severity), and the Ankh is the Sandal-strap
which according to 777 represents the mode of going - the essential
faculty of every god.  It "forms a link between the material apparatus
of his going and his feet - that is to say, the formula of the Rosy
Cross enables a man to go, or, in other words, endows him with
Godhead."  Hmm.  So Typhon is flourishing symbols of Godhead and
Mercy.  On the other hand, he doesnít really seem to know what to do
with them...

The two figures can also be interpreted as reason/emotion, left/right
brain activity, consciousness and subconsciousness, with the Sphinx as
the arbiter, the ĎIí of self-awareness.  The pictured direction of
rotation then makes a salient psychological comment.  The direction of
Typhonís attention also explains itself.  Notice that it is
Hermanubisís efforts to climb that seem to be actually turning the
wheel.  And yet the Sphinx is not dislodged, nor can Typhon be raised
very far before he slithers down to wrap around the next section of
the wheelís rim.

Perhaps what will happen is that as the wheel turns they will each
metamorphose into each other. The Sphinx will, on losing her balance,
begin trying to climb back to her place, thus providing motive power.
Hermanubis will wrap his tail around the rim and grow scales. And
Typhon, finding himself on top, will grow tranquil and enigmatic.

Or perhaps not.

Then, of course, since the Crook (symbol of Mercy) ties the three
figures explicitly into the Three Pillars, the occupants of the Wheel
can also be seen as a representation of the Tree of Life applied to
the manifested Universe.

There is a great deal of richness in this card.  I am convinced that
nothing in it is arbitrary or accidental.

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