infinity symbols

isthmus nekoi

Does anyone know the significance of the infinity symbols used in the Rider Waite deck? A querent I had pulled The Magician, Strength and 2 of Pentacles, all of which feature this moebius strip symbol and I was wondering if there were any historical meanings attached to it....

All help is appreciated :)
 

MeeWah

The symbol is a mathematical symbol meaning infinity. In Tarot it is often referred to as a lemniscate.
The number 8 refers to the achievement of balance (one circle atop the other); the meeting of heaven & earth; as above, so below. It refers to transformation, evolution, regeneration, resurrection, enlightenment. Its shape represents the life force or the creative force spiraling towards the Divine or Enlightenment.
If 1-The Magician, 8-Strength & 2-Pentacles are the cards, then there is a common theme of appropriate use or direction of energy.
The Magician speaks of the application of will, which directs the use of the creative power inherent in each of us.
Strength speaks of the character & the wisdom needed to perfect or accomplish something. Possibly knowing when to press forward, when to fall back.
2-Pentacles speaks of the skill & flexibility needed to maintain the equilibrium. Literally, something may be depending on the skill of "a balancing act".
A sentence of the three may read something like "I will achieve my goals". Or "I have what it takes to get to where I'm going", etc.
I can see these cards applying to a student; someone beginning a new project, or some other new experience in life.
 

jmd

I agree with MeeWah that the representation is usually a lemniscate rather than an Moebius surface/strip.

In earlier decks, this was only partially represented. The Magician and Strength both wore hats which hinted at the lemniscate, whereas the two of coins had a non-closed S-shaped ribbon upon which the publisher's name appeared. Again the shape hinted at the lemniscate.

Unlike the Moebius strip, which has only one surface and no connecting point, the lemniscate hints at transformation from one level to another (as above, so it is below; and as below, so it is above). Both share an implied movement, and I do remember seeing one deck which clearly had a Moebius strip rather than a lemniscate (I can't remember which deck).

I do not specifically know the ancient meaning(s) of this symbol, but it was used, along with the ellipse and circle (to which it is mathematically related), to represent a halo above/behind sanctified heads. Here the implied meaning is more straightforward: it implied that the person was blessed by the Divine, and that 'doors' of communication or inspiration were flowing, permitting the Divine Will to be made manifest through an individual, who would then be able to perform miraculous feats (both the Magician and Strength can be said to do this).

Etymologically, it it connected with the adornment of ribbons, and hence also fits quite well with the depiction on the two of coins.

With regards to the lemniscate's application in Tarot, MeeWah's description amply describes its meaning.

It is quite astonishing to investigate lemniscatory properties in projective geometry, and their applications to both the world of living plants, and to one's understanding of the transformations which occur as one passes from one of the spaces, through the central linking point, and out into the other side. An book(let) really worthwhile investigating (if you're into that kind of thing) is one by George Adams, I think titled Lemniscatory Surfaces (my copy is on loan... again).

The work arising out of projective geometry with specific reference to the lemniscate will, I think, deeply impact future esoteric understanding of this figure.
 

isthmus nekoi

Thank you so much Meewah and jmd, this helps a lot. Just knowing the proper name for this symbol lets me research the history (hopefully my school library will carry Leminiscatory Surfaces). Again, thanks a bunch :)
 

tarotbear

The magician also wears a belt that is a snake devouring it's own tail...another Infinity symbol since it makes a circle.
 

isthmus nekoi

oh thanks, I never noticed that before tarotbear... :)

I learned a little about this symbol of the snake eating its tail... for those interested, it's called the ourobourous (I've seen different spellings) and is an image found cross culturally. (I believe it's also an important symbol in alchemy...) As well as infinity, the ouro also symbolizes totality and wholeness.. in Jungian terms, the Self archetype.

So, at least in the RW deck, the Magician is guided by the self regulating principal of the psyche striving towards integrating its totality into consciousness...
 

jmd

Quote:isthmus nekoi (28 Nov, 2001 08:26):
I learned a little about this symbol of the snake eating its tail... for those interested, it's called the ourobourous

The Ourobouros can at times also symbolise eternal life. In the epic of Gilgamesh, it is the snake which steals the former's plant which gives its partaker immunity to death, hence the snake's future ability to shed its skin.

The snake belt is, as mentioned by Tarotbear, found on the (20th century) Rider-Waite and derived decks, but not, as far as I am aware, on earlier ones.
 

renard

What an amazingly learned and thoughtful discussion. This board *rocks.*

Thank you!