Phoenician letter correspondences & Astrological considerations


This thread was generated by seperating a couple of posts from the thread XVIIII Le Soleil...

I trust it generates the wonderful discussions it has headed towards...


Aleph is One: Le Bateleur

The planetary attributions are, so far as I know, mine alone.
All are based on the ancient Phoenician alphabet:

Letters 1, 13, 21: Aleph, Mem, Sin:
Air, Water/Earth, Fire.

Letters 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19:
5 He: 1st mo: exaltation of the Sun
6 Waw: 2nd mo: exaltation of the Moon
7 Zayin: 3rd mo: exaltation of North Node
8 Heth: 4th mo: exaltation of Jupiter
9 Teth: 5th mo.
10 Yodh: 6th mo: exaltation of Mercury
12 Lamedh: 7th mo: exaltation of Saturn
14 Nun: 8th mo.
15 Samekh: 9th mo: exaltation of South Node
16 Ayin: 10th mo: exaltation of Mars
18 Tsade: 11th mo.
19 Qoph: 12th mo: exaltation of Venus

I think the planets appear in the order of their distance from
the Earth (looking out the window, or over the garden fence):
Letters 2, 3, 4, 11, 17, 20, 22:

2 Beth: Moon
3 Gimmel: Venus
4 Daleth: Mars
11 Kaph: Mercury (as always, with Virgo)
17 Pe: Sun (between Capricorn and Aquarius, like Christmas)
20 Res: Jupiter
22 Taw: Saturn

It is significant that Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius do not
have exaltations: it has something to do with the Moon.
Another mystery, but one that I am (happily) working on.

le pendu

Fulogur and JMD,

Thanks for starting this very interesting thread.

I'm pretty ignorant of the history of the alphabet, and also ignorant of the letter meanings given to the hebrew alphabet.

I found this site fascinating. I didn't realize that the Hebrew alphabet was so closely related to the Phoenician alphabet, and it's direct ancestor!

What I find interesting is that on this page:
They have given a comparison of early alphabets as well as the meaning of the letters.

In the list they have letter meanings like:
'Aleph = ox
Beth = house
gimmel = throwstick

Are the letter meanings they give Hebrew? Phoenician?

Do they match up to the Hebrew letter meanings or are there differences?

I'd be very interested to know what the differences are, if any.


Fulgour's a long way to Marseille

Hi Robert,
The meanings of the letters are well known, though you may have to focus your research just on the literal, rather than the elaborated associations. Where this thread is now (it started in Lyon France around 1701) we're likely to encounter a great deal more than ABC.


I hope and trust that even given its apparent distance from Marseille, discussions will ensue in lively fashion.

I am personally particularly interested in three aspects with regards to comments made so far.

The first is whether the astrological/elemental attributions which you (ie, Falgour) make are based on isolating the Phoenician roots of the Hebrew, and then allocating essentially similar 'values' or qualities which may have come from much later considerations (probably in late antiquity, and probably to first Greek or Hebrew letters). Hence, the seven double letters are allocated the seven planets, the three 'mother' letters elements, and the twelve singles the twelve signs of the zodiac.

This, however, seems to me to come from not Phoenician, but rather from Hellenised Hebrew considerations.

At most, it seems that the Phoenician, which may certainly be related in some manner to certain Egyptian hieroglyphic script, may have had the meanings (ox, house, sticks, etc) through either initial ('a is for apple' type), homophony ('t is tea'), or transformed pictogramme ('H for a human being').

This is a step away from the alphabet into areas of particular merit - but fail to see how it is different to Hebrew letter correlations as made in the Sefer Yetzirah.

The second, which I find fascinating and is perhaps not alphabetical at all - or at least I still fail to see its alphabetic correlation except by way of Hellenistic Hebrew considerations - is by further considering not just straightforward astrological or zodiacal correlations but rather, as indicated, other and different ones, such as exaltations.

With regards to the list of exaltations given, it is also interesting to note that more modern views place the exaltation of Mercury in Aquarius... and have personally been somewhat puzzled by early placements of both rulership and exaltation of Mercury in the same sign (ie, Virgo - but that is another matter).

If I understand the suggestion, then, the 'single' letters are allocated, as per the previous section, zodiacal signs, and then a note is made as to which planet (if any) is exalted therein.

Why not, by the same token, list its rulership?

If we do this, we have the following list
  • Aries - r[ulership of] Mars; e[xaltation of] Sun;
  • Taurus - r. Venus; e. Moon;
  • Gemini - r. Mercury; e. Rahu (north node)/or no exaltation;
  • Cancer - r. Moon; e. Jupiter
  • Leo - r. Sun; [color= silver]e. none normally given[/color];
  • Virgo - r. Mercury; [color= silver]e. [trad.] Mercury or [modern] none given[/color];
  • Libra - r. Venus; e. Saturn;
  • Scorpio - r. Mars; [color= silver]e. none normally given[/color];
  • Sagittarius - r. Jupiter; [color= silver]e. Ketu (south node)/or no exaltation[/color];
  • Capricorn - r. Saturn; e. Mars;
  • Aquarius - r. Saturn; [color= silver]e. [modern] Mercury or [trad.] none given[/color];
  • Pisces - r. Jupiter; e. Venus.

If one now takes the nineteenth letter (on its ordering as given), and makes the correlations suggested by Fulgour, then indeed what results is Pisces, which is traditionally ruled by Jupiter (and hence harkens back, according to the same letter ordering/attribution to the twentieth letter whose correlation to the planet is likewise made), and in the sign of which Venus is exalted (thus harking back to the third letter similarly attributed that planet).

To relink it to Tarot's nineteenth card named the Sun, with the particular letter correlations suggested by Fulgour, the planet indeed links to the seventeenth letter 'Pe' - all these cross-currents of considerations, by the way, may indeed also have been made during at least some particular deck production, including the Marseille, though it does seem to me, and at this stage, to be unlikely (possibly because I have not thought about these suggestions sufficiently).


Fulgour mentioning Lyon around 1701, one cannot avoid but bringing to mind the Dodal Marseille - yet still continue to fail to see how, however intriguing these reflections are - the depictions upon the Marseille (or another deck) are either a clear or metaphorical reflections of either rulership or exaltation of planet in sign given by letter (whether Phoenician, Hebrew or Greek) zodiacal correlation.

If there is another reason for the 1701 date and Lyon being specifically mentioned, I missed the reference (which I could easily, of course, miss).


thanks jmd

The exaltation of Mercury in Virgo is fundamental to the entire Phoenician system, the very system borrowed by later cultures. It may seem as though modern attributions must have been invented later and then given to the origianl alphabet, but really, that is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Letters 10 and 11 are Yodh and Kaph. Hand and Palm of Hand. Mine and Thine. Virgo and Mercury.

It may help to understand the nature of exaltations as something more than mathematical horoscope factors if you allow for a suspension of disbelief in regard to the sacred qualities they represent. It is said that the exaltations represent the positions of the planets at the moment of creation.

I like to think that God created Mercury first because She wanted someplace to stand while She finsihed making the Universe, and where other than in Virgo would She do that?


jmd said:
Fulgour mentioning Lyon around 1701, one cannot avoid but bringing to mind the Dodal Marseille - yet still continue to fail to see how, however intriguing these reflections are - the depictions upon the Marseille (or another deck) are either a clear or metaphorical reflections of either rulership or exaltation of planet in sign given by letter (whether Phoenician, Hebrew or Greek) zodiacal correlation.
Intellectually, the Tarot exists in and of itself, even without the cards we recognize as its embodiment. The clearest link to its origins comes from the Phoenician alphabet, and it is the truths contained in that writing system which I think underlie the purpose of the images seen on the Major Arcana, their order and meanings. Where the Tarot really breaks away from "letters" is in the Minor Arcana, but that is another subject.

The system of exaltations fits, and does so without guesswork or lingering doubts. My hope is only to share these insights, not win converts or disprove any other belief system. I have nothing to gain but the fulfilment of a sense of obligation I have always had about the cards, and that is to share freely whatever I might gain an understanding of.

As a Tarot reader (Senior Reader with both the FTN and FRN with over 1200 volunteered readings to date), I can assure you my interpretations are very down to earth, respectful and sincere. It is however an intellectual passion of my own which motivates me to seek the foundations of the origins of the Tarot, and my postings here are a reflection of my attitude of sharing and enthusiasm for learning.

The Jean Dodal Tarot of 1701-15 was and is part of a tradition of logical thinking and free will. I hope some of my ideas reflect even a little of that evident wisdom.


Fulgour, I personally agree unequivocally with the substance of your statement that 'Tarot exists in and of itself, even without the cards we recognize as its embodiment'.

I would also be quite interested to investigate the various associations made.

With le pendu, I have at times also wondered on what basis the letter meanings are attributed. For many, in Hebrew, there is a close correlation (eg, Bet as letter and Bey't as house). Others are more distant, as per the three aspects I mention earlier, and also mentioned in other threads here and elsewhere.

Looking at the list of meanings between Hebrew and Phoenician (when one is given for the latter), with few exceptions ('throwing stick' being one) the 'meanings' of letter name match.

I of course wonder whether these are independently derived/found, or whether there is a connection such that a perhaps even later Hebrew attribution is matched to its parent Phoenician.

Importantly, however, I also wonder how and by what process the ordering of the Phoenician is determined. Depending on the given language, it is given as either according to the Hebrew or the Greek ordered derivation - but could it be that either of these were later ordinal arrangements on what may have perhaps been without specific order.

Though I have read in the past various books and papers which deal with alphabetic developments, I cannot recall whether this was specifically discussed (not being of particular note to my then current focussed attention).

Similarly, then, from whence derives the astrological attributions?

This is not saying that there are early documents - for there may not be, and, as you say, the 'planetary attributions are, so far as I know, mine alone. All are based on the ancient Phoenician alphabet'.

If I take this literally, then I could also ask on what is also based the division of the letters into elemental attributions (corresponding to Hebrew mothers), planetary attributions (corresponding to Hebrew doubles), and zodiacal attributions (corresponding to Hebrew singles)? ie, why not put all the elements first, followed by the seven planetary spheres, followed by the twelve zodiacal signs in that order?

If the response is that the divisions of the letters into the three groups comes out of Hebrew Yetziratic considerations, which are then pushed back onto Hebrew's (& Greek's and Latin's) parent Phoenician alphabet, fine.... and it of course then also makes some sense, though those who may use Greek letter-to-planet/zodiac correlations may have qualms with the choice of Hebrew as Phoenician alphabetic offspring which is given the legitimacy of conferral upon its parent.

To be sure, assuming a Hebrew correlative principle and pushing it back onto its parent Phoenician also has its merits... and ones worth investigation.

So, how does one begin?

With Alef is connected the ox-head, the element of Air, and the Magician. Mark Filipas has given some powerful correlations between Alef (the Hebrew version, rather than its Phoenician equivalent) and the Bateleur imagery.

How does this compare with Phoenician - or, even restricting discussion to associated zodiacal correlations and exaltation, how is this letter-image of Alef-Bateleur to be explained?

I ask not to put you on the spot, but as genuinely seeking to understand what you are bringing... such, the Alef-Bateleur may not be the best starting point - would He-Aries-Pope-exaltation of the Sun be better?


circular logic

If each of the letters, in their order as revealed by the Phoenician alphabet, were a musical note capable of being played on a single-stringed instrument with 22 frets, you could play any one note at a time, but the first note on the first fret would still be Aleph, and so on. It is a "given" or natural precondition.

By this same analogy, if one is actually able to play Aleph then it is also a natural given that all the other notes may thus be played, since the existence of the instrument, the precondition, has been seen to have been met, with the sounding of the "lowest" note on the string.

In effect, for any of the 22 letters to exist, all 22 letters must exist, and while we perceive them as being in an order, it is more that we can only come to know them first in that order: once the alphabet has been learned, the language may be written, songs composed and recorded, ideas preserved in images.

For when Le Bateleur starts his act with, "Ladies and Gentlemen!" the show is only just about to begin, again.


Phoenician astrological exaltations?

Fulgour said:
The exaltation of Mercury in Virgo is fundamental to the entire Phoenician system, the very system borrowed by later cultures.

While I am aware that the exaltations are older than the rulerships, I did not know they had been traced to the Phoenicians. Have you got a reference for that? As the division of the zodiac into 12 equal signs/constellations is traced back no further than 410 b.c as far as I am aware, it seems unlikely.

And Saturn is exalted in Libra for example, but Libra is a fairly recently constellation not recognised as such at the time when the Phoenician script arose. How then does any letter of the Phoenician alphaber correspond to an exaltation in a sign/constellation that did not exist?