THE LEMNISCATE TABLEAU
The Lemniscate is an important geometrical figure in Tarot.  It is also the sign of
Infinity, it connects us to the spirals of creation, to the whirling motions of the Tree of
Life. The sign is displayed above the heads of the Magician and Strength in the Waite
Smith deck, as well as in the garland surrounding the World Dancer of Key XXI.  We
will also find this sign in the Two of Pentacles, which was considered the "key" card of
the Minors and usually carried the signature or emblem of the printer of the deck or
the card maker.  In Alchemy, this symbol was usually intimated with two snakes biting
their tail, for example, or two circles with the images of the Sun and the Moon making
the figure 8.  

Barbara G. Walker (
The Secrets of the Tarot: Origins, History, and Symbolism, 1984)
gives us a version of this tableau when she speaks of the Wheels of Becoming.  She
notes that the infinity sign implies a hierosgamos, the sacred marriage of male and
female energies, of matter and spirit; of conscious and unconscious energies.  The
tableau is supposed to be laid out with the Emperor and the Hierophant on the top
and the Tower and the Devil on the bottom; one circle is the solar and the other is the
lunar circle; the solar faces outward (the material world) while the lunar faces inward,
toward the spiritual realm.  This configuration is still used in some rituals, especially
using the Marseilles deck.  I am presenting this particular pattern because this is the
one that I use. with all cards facing the reader in a horizontal position.  The Wheel of
Fortune and the World cross at the center; and this is, in reality, the key to this
tableau. As I have noted somewhere else, the Wheel of Fortune as illustrated by the
Waite Smith deck and the Rosicrucian tradition, was supposed to represent a
"lesser"aspect of the World, and therefore we have the same fixed Zodiac signs
illustrating the four corners or directions in both cards.   

Notice all the correspondences, and the energies that flow from one card to the other
when we use this formation.  In Dr. Walker's diagram the cards are supposed to be
paired with their opposites adding up to 20 (the finger-and-toes number sacred in
both the Mayan and the Indo-European traditions), and if we use this particular
scheme, we find quite interesting correlations; between such keys as 1 and 19; 2 and
18; 3 ad 17, etc, etc.  Go ahead and meditate on these combinations and then, why
not ponder the correlations between the keys that add to 21, like the Fool with the
World; or the Devil and the Lovers?  The Pythagoreans considered numbers sacred
and there is much richness and wisdom when we allow these numerical combinations
to play on their own and open for us new doors of interpretation for these magical
images.

Note:  See also Irene Gad,
Tarot and Individuation: A Jungian Study of
Correspondences with Cabala, Alchemy, and the Chakras
, p. 415.  The Lemniscate
diagram also appears on the frontispiece of  Alfred Douglas'
The Tarot, as illustrated
by David Sheridan, 1972.
copyright © 2010 YMRobinson
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