X Marks the Spot

It is often reported that ‘e’ is the most commonly used letter in the English alphabet. This is true when used for writing, but it is far from being popular as a symbol. ‘X’ or the ‘X mark’ is by far the most used letter in our language, and with it comes several different meanings. To refresh your mind let us consider when it is used. As a child your work would have been ‘marked’ by a teacher sometimes with an x when you got an answer wrong. Large clothes have the sign XL, XXL for the larger person. Pornography uses the letters X in their titles to symbolise that their films are ‘X rated’. In times gone by when illiteracy was common, people who couldn’t write would sign X on a document. According to popular lore, pirates would mark their treasure with an X, hence X marks the spot. In recent time, pop culture has delivered us such terms as Xmas, eX, with eXits. We have the X-men, with X-rays. x means multiplication, a rotated cross, a kiss in a text message. Death or danger is marked with an X. WE have been marked by generation -x. In the past alcohol was marked by its strength by X’s, XXX being the most strongest of beverages. In algebra it means unknown quantity. In Roman numerals it means ten. X has also meant something unknown, a missing person for example. We have eXtraterrestrials,  XX chromosomes for females, XY for males. We have eXopolitics, eXorcisms and exodus.

I think I have made my point, we live in an Xtra-ordinary world. Let us look at some of the numerical uses of the mark X. In Hebrew it is the alphabet, having a numerical value of 1. It is lily the Romans used this to signify 10. Our pronunciation of X -‘ex’. Is linked with the Greek ‘hex’ or ‘hexa’. this means six, in Greek the letters had a numerical value, X (chi) is 600.  X was also written as ‘xi’. Which in Roman numerals means six.

In Latin ‘ex’ is used to mean in or of something. In English the prefix – ex, means the former, out of or from. In my previous blogs I have linked the number six with the word sex, through the use of triangles. If we look at two chevrons, incomplete triangles, one V with an inverted V on the bottom, with both their points touching each other we get a whole new meaning to X. X can mean the female (V) meeting the male (inverted V). The meeting of two humans, face to face. They meet at the X-spot. This is even more symbolic if have a circle with an X inside. X or the cross has been used to denote matter, (masculinity) while the circle means spirit (femininity). X can also be used to interpret the four elements, which are often depicted as triangles. They have combined together, and in the centre we have the spot. The exact point which has the most power. This point would be a place where the fifth element would be located, in-between the four other elements. The quinta essentia, is the element that hermetic philosophers and alchemists would search for, and was often hinted at in symbols throughout alchemical texts. 

In the tarot the tenth card (X) is the wheel of fortune, rota  fortuna. Deals with the changing rhythm of fortune. Often depicted as lady luck, it can also symbolise the wheel of karma, or the solar cross of Norse mythology.

Perhaps this is the best way to described at present what X means, 10 can be read to symbolise 1 (matter, phallus) and 0 (absence/spirit, vulva). The duality of the two combined to create a divine number. The meeting of the male and the female.

The interpretations I have offer here are only scratching the surface of the meaning of X. Its use in culture has increased in recent times, one of the few methods we have to understand its prevalence is to look at its origins and its transformative use throughout time.

 

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Three is an important number in the tarot, and it signifies something important within the major arcana of the Rider-Waite pack of cards. There is a reason why the cards have certain symbols in a certain order. But before we can analyse the meaning of several of these cards we need to look at the importance of the number 3.

3 is a magic number, like the song by Bob Dorough. It really is a magic number in a mathematical sense as mathematics and magic correspond together for the ancients  The start of which was seen by Pythagoras  who saw the number 3 as a perfect number expressing the beginning, the middle and the end. He used it in music as with 1,2 & 4 to discover a principle of harmony. Over time we see three incorporated into children’s tales, goldilocks and the 3 bears, the 3 little pigs and the genii with 3 magic wishes. The trinity also features heavily in our culture, not to mention Christianity’s obsession with it. Freud’s  Id, ego and superego. Dante’s Inferno, Purgatory and paradise make up his divine comedy. The 3 primary colours, red, yellow and blue. Newtons three laws of motion. The 3 wise men and the 3 wise monkeys. The list goes on and on.

The significance of three in the tarot has been used to signify in a certain way three levels of reality. The underworld, the earth we inhabit at present and heaven. As we need 3 points to make a triangle, triangles can be used and have been used to signify male and female, that of mother earth(underworld) and father sky(heaven). The empress is the third card of the Major Arcana  she represents mother earth and she has been rightly been given the number of 3 to signify her. This will make sense once we consider the next two cards.

Mother earth

Mother earth

As seen in the card above, the symbols of fertility, the earth by water and dense vegetation  not to mention the Venus symbol, with spirit the circle on top of the cross, matter. The empress is mother earth. Now if we multiple 3 x 3 we get 9. And 9 is the antithesis of 3.

The 9th card is the hermit.

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Father sky

The youth of the empress can be contrasted with the old age of the hermit. He has a long white beard, holding a staff with a hexagram light in his lamp. As discussed in an earlier blog, there are plenty of 6 symbolism within the hexagram which is the next number we shall address. The hermit is on the highest peak, looking down at humanity, much like Nietzsche’s Zarathrusta. The height of the mountains symbolising divine wisdom or knowledge. He can be seen to be like Diogenes of Sinope, with his lantern  Going through the streets of Athens in the middle of the day with a lantern asking ‘have you seen an honest man?’ Diogenes represents wisdom here with the lantern and with it he is bringing light to the world. Illumination  by throwing light for others to see. Light has been used in the past to symbolise knowledge, as without it we would be left in the dark. The hermit is father sky, as he towers above the world, pouring forth understanding and knowledge through his lantern. He is the end as he is an old man, while the empress is the beginning, as she represents fertility and birth. The hermit represents old age and the end of life.

Between 3 and 9 is 6. Which is the lovers in the major arcana.

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The union between mother earth and father sky

The lovers represents perfectly the union between mother earth and father sky. She is positioned on the left, representing in liner time the past, the birth, the beginning, and the number before 6. Father sky is positioned to the right representing the future, old age and the end. The trees behind them represent the tree of life, the kabbalah. with the serpent round the tree of knowledge for the woman. who also represents eve. The flames behind the man, representing Adam are 12 flames of passion. Interestingly 12 (flames) divided by 4 (red apples  = 3. and 4 divided by 12 = 0.333. The angle above gives form to the trinity. With the light above them symbolised by the sun they are being illuminated  They are becoming enlightened. With the angle above and the male to the bottom right and the female to the bottom left, they symbolise a trinity, of several forces coming together.

There is a reason why the lovers are represented by the number 6. Have you ever noticed the similarities between the word six and the word sex. In Latin ‘six’ was spelt as ‘sex’, and ‘sexus’ (sex) was seen as the ‘state of being either male or female, gender’ (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=sex&searchmode=none)

This is deliberate, sex and six are the lovers. This is the ultimate act of creation, to become like the gods to have sex and take part in creation. But the number six is a number that unites 9 and 3. And it unites them in such a way that the gut and lusty feelings of mother earth are combined with the intellect and wisdom of father sky by the heart, the lovers.

Love unities the mind and the body. We can see this in an illustration by Robert Fludd.

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Robert Fludd – Man’s Fundamental Duality

This picture is a symbolic representation of the three main faculties of the human being.

Man’s Fundamental Duality
‘A simple diagram shows how in man the divine fire diminishes as it proceeds downwards, while the intoxicating vapours of sensuality prevail. Man’s loftiest faculty, the higher mind (Mens) receives the direct rays from God. Below are the regions of intellect, the point of balance at the heart, and the elemental realm of the appetites whose base and nadir, for Fludd, is sexuality.’ (Joscelyn Godwin – Robert Fludd).

We can find Plato’s tripartite theory of the soul in this diagram and the symbolic meanings of the empress, the lovers and the hermit in Fludd’s diagram as well.

Plato’s theory of the soul has three parts.

eros

thumus

logos

The base and heavy feelings that we have, like hunger, pain, and lust is eros. This is represented by mother earth. Thumus is love, the feeling that is shared between two individuals  that in essence binds the universe together, it is the emotive feelings from the heart that unite the dualities of eros and logos. Logos being the wisdom, and the intellect.

If we give a location to these faculties we find that Logos belongs to the head, like the number 9 it is close to the divine number 10 but is a digit short. Thumus is the spirit the heart of the matter. It is located were the heart is. Below the heart we find the genitals and the stomach. This is where we find eros, the gut feelings of lust and hunger. It is where all our animal instincts are founded upon and acted from.

Three is a Magic Number