Secrets within Symbols
It's been a whole week since I wrote the post introducing a supposed link between the tarot and the word rota — which is Latin for "wheel". Authors such as Eliphas Levi have noted that the term tarot can be formed as an anagram of the word rota with the addition of a repeating "t". But how might such an idea originate? And what would be its significance?1
Authors such as Paul Foster Case, viewed the tarot as a valuable communication tool within the tradition of the Hermetic Philosophers. The tarot makes extensive use of symbolism, thereby obviating the need to rely upon ambiguous words and phrases. From my perspective, this also points one back to older forms of communication that relied more upon poetry than prose.
Hermetic Philosophy has a deep association with mysticism in the West, allowing it to innocuously exist within the purview of a myriad of religions. One of the hallmarks of mysticism is its ability to integrate new ideas and incorporate religious symbols already in use.2 The term of the tarot is particularly interesting, since it bears a strong resemblance to "Chi-Rho" cross often associated with Christianity.
The alpha and the omega are typically viewed as representing the "beginning" and the "end" within Christian symbolism. The "cross" in the middle along with the rho are typically interpreted as being associated with Christ. Another interpretation of this symbol is quite possible.2 What if the entire symbol is written in Greek?
Using this approach, the "cross" becomes the Greek letter tau. Taken together, the rho, omega, tau, and alpha form the Greek spelling of the Latin word, for wheel — rota. Transposing these letters forms the anagram tarot. But why? And to what purpose?
Within Christian symbolism, Christ is typically referred to as the "alpha" and the "omega", symbolizing the "beginning" and the "end" in a linear fashion. The concept of a rota speaks to a cyclical conception of time that is very much aligned to the way individuals experience the time on a daily, yearly, and even monthly basis (with the assistance of the moon).
I will continue to expand upon these ideas in future posts, particularly the idea of the tarot representing a "calendar of cycles" of sorts. I find it interesting that such an interpretation also paves the way for an explanation of the divinatory powers often attributed to this little deck of cards.
1 Levi alludes to this connection through his two-volume work, Dogma & Ritual of High Magic, but never makes this connection fully explicit.
2 There also is the distinct possibility that the symbols adopted within religions originated with mystics — either within, or outside of, various religious institutions.
3 Symbols are typically viewed as holding multiple meanings, allowing for the presence of multiple valid interpretations.