The Major Arcana

THE fundamental difference which exists between the minor and major arcana, is that in the latter the figures and numbers are united, whilst in the former they are distinct.

There are 22 major arcana, but one of them bears a 0, so that, in reality, there are only 21 great or major arcana.

Most of the authors who have studied the Tarot have devoted all their attention to these 22 cards, without noticing the others, which, however, contain the real key to the system.

But we will leave these digressions and commence the application of the law Yod-he-vau-he to this portion of the Tarot.

A little reflection will suggest to us that there should be some sequences in the major arcana as well as in the minor arcana. But how are we to define the limits of these series?

Each card of the minor arcana bears a symbol which easily connects it with the whole scheme (Sceptre, Cup, Sword, or Pentacles); it is different in this case. Each card bears a different symbol. Therefore it is not symbolism that can guide us here, at all events for the moment.

Besides the symbol, each card expresses an idea. This idea is already a better guide, for it is easier to classify than the symbol; but this guide does not yet offer all the security that we could desire, for it may be read differently by various persons. Again, the idea proceeds from the action of the symbol upon the other term expressed by the card, the number.

The number is certainly the most reliable element, the easiest to follow in its evolutions; it is, therefore, the number that will guide us; and through it we shall discover the two other terms.

Let us now recall our explanation of the numbers, and we shall easily define the series of the major arcana.

However, from the commencement we must make one great reservation. The series which we are about to enumerate are the most usual, but they are not the only ones.

This said, we will now study the four first major arcana.

The numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 at once indicate the classification to be adopted and the nature of the terms.

corresponds to Yod, and is active.

— to the 2nd He, and indicates transition.

This 4th arcanum corresponds to the Knave and to the 10 of the minor arcana, and becomes Yod in the next or following series.

If we wish to make a figure of the first ternary 1, 2, 3, we should do it in this way--

The active term 1 is at the head of the triangle, the two other terms are at the other angles. This ternary can also be represented in its affinities with Yod-he-vau-he--

2 he

2nd he 4

vau 3

SECOND TERNARY.--We have stated that the 4 becomes the Yod or active term in the following sequence.

This is realized in the figure below--

5 he

2nd he 7

vau 6

The 4 representing the Yod, therefore, acts with regard to 5 and 6, as the 1 acted with regard to 2 and 3, and we obtain another ternary.

The 7 acts here as the 4 acted previously, and the same rule applies to all the series in the arcana.

FIRST SEPTENARY.--The application of one law to very different terms has led us so far; we must not abandon this system, but persevere and say--

If in one ternary exist an active term = yod, a passive term = he, and a neuter term = vau, resulting from the two first, why should not the same result be found in several ternaries taken together?

The first ternary is active and corresponds to yod; the second ternary is passive and corresponds to he; the reaction of one ternary upon another gives birth to a third ternary or vau.

Let us make a figure representing this--

The 7 therefore forms the element of transition between one septenary and another.

If we define the analogy between this first septenary and the Yod-he-vau-he, we shall find--

A deduction may be made in passing, from which a great deal of information may be derived, if it be carefully studied: the 4 being only the 1, considered negatively, the 5 is only the 2 considered negatively, whilst the 6 is the negative of 3. It is always the same number under different aspects.

We have therefore defined a first septenary, formed of two opposing ternaries.

We have seen that this septenary also reproduces Yod-he-vau-he.

SECOND SEPTENARY.--The law that applies to the first ternaries is also true for the others, and following the same method we obtain a second septenary, thus formed--

Positive Ternary.

Negative Ternaiy.

The two ternaries, positive and negative, septenary and to its term of transition 13

will balance . Thus--

each other to give birth to a second

General figure--

But if the two ternaries respectively act as positive and negative, why should not the two septenaries do the same?

The first septenary, taken as a whole, will therefore be positive, relatively to the second septenary, which will be negative.

The first septenary corresponds toyod, the second to he.

THIRD SEPTENARY. The third septenary is thus formed--

If the first septenary is positive and the second negative, the third will be neuter, and will correspond with vau. We should have therefore, definitely--


Yet each septenary contains one term which belongs to the preceding septenary, and one which belongs to the following septenary.

Thus the 7 is the 7th term of the first septenary and the 1st term of the second. 13 is the last term of the second septenary and the 1st of the third, etc.

The result is that three terms remain to be classed. These are--

These three terms form the last ternary, the ternary of transition between the major arcana and the minor arcana, a ternary which corresponds to the second he, and which may be thus represented--

The last numbered card, which ought correctly to bear the number 22 (or its Hebrew correspondent), closes the Tarot by a marvellous figure, which represents its constitution to those who can understand it. We will return to it presently. Therefore, in the major arcana, the great law is thus definitely represented. (See next page.)

The first septenary corresponds to the Divine World, to God.

The second to Man.

The third to Nature.

Finally, the last ternary indicates the passage from the creative and providential World to the created and fatal world.

This ternary establishes the connection between the major and minor arcana.


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