The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs


The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs - Book Review

The Kabbalah and Alphabets section is joined as a topic section, but this thread will focus on the alphabet. This thread is not about letter paths on the Tree of Life, but instead will investigate the letters of ancient alphabets and their relation to the Tarot. This will be an in-depth investigation to determine if the Tarot is based on the alphabet.

After this initial investigation we will take a closer look at the alphabet which will include alphabetic inscriptions, ancient star maps, and the pictures on the Major Arcana Tarot cards. Eventually it will be shown that techniques used in astroarchaeology or archaeoastronomy can be applied to the decipherment of the Tarot. Although I don't necessarily support all of the ideas I present in this review, I believe some are worth exploring.

My thesis is that the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot are based on a set of constellations that the alphabet was based on. In other threads I have posted my conclusions about how the Major Arcana Tarot cards are based on constellations and the alphabet. In this thread I will offer support for my theory. Later I will show how using methods of decipherment that can be used to decipher individual cards of the Tarot, which I have discussed in other threads on this forum.

This thread starts with a book review of The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs by Hugh Moran and David Kelly as a way to introduce the topic of decipherment, the alphabet, and the Tarot. I include additional commentary exploring the possible influence of the alphabet on the Major Arcana of the Tarot. A comparison between the Hebrew alphabet and the Chinese lunar calendar signs also reveals information that may be pertinent to the origins of the Tarot. Other calendar systems and their possible relation to the Tarot will be explored after looking at the Chinese system.

For instance, the Hebrew letter 'Waw' may correspond to the Lovers card. According to Moran, the letter 'Waw' corresponded to the Chinese Lunar calendar sign 'Pi', which means 'a wall', 'a prince,' 'princess', 'to rule', 'punish'. In this case the prince and princess may correspond to the man and woman in the Lovers card. If the Lovers portray the Greek constellations Perseus and Andromeda, then the words: 'prince, princess, rule, and punish' are connected with those myths because Prince Perseus rescued Princess Andromeda who was being punished by Poseidon.

These are the types of analogies that are valued in etymological research because they show how names can be transferred between different peoples through cultural diffusion. The alphabet is known to have been transferred between cultures through diffusion, but could the Tarot have been brought to Europe through cultural diffusion as well? In the investigation of the alphabet we will also take a very close look at the connection between the pictures on the Major Arcana Tarot cards and the alphabet. Other information that pertains to the Tarot and ancient calendars will be covered. Since this is a dusty and ignored topic, any scholarly help would be appreciated.

The "Alphabet Book" (as it has been called) by Moran and Kelly has been cited in Bibliographies and is sometimes quoted from. Some reviewers see Dr. Moran's thesis as unreliable and his conclusions incorrect. As an introduction, I want to first provide links to other reviews of Moran's theory. I will cover Dr. Kelly's theories later, although they were better received by critics than Moran's theories.

Some reviewers of Moran's contribution to the "Alphabet Book" have not given good reviews, while the worth of Moran's research has been recognized by others. First, links to the reviews by Gary D. Thompson, Marshall Durbin, and Rick Flavin, and a quote from the book's Foreword by David Diringer. If you find other relevant reviews of Moran and Kelly's book, then please provide a link.

Review articles with brief critical quotes:

Studies of Occidental Constellations and Star Names to the Classical Period: An Annotated Bibliography Compiled by Gary D. Thompson

"The Alphabet and Ancient Calendar Signs. [Note: The book is comprised of separate essays by both authors - the longer one by Hugh Moran is unreliable. Our alphabet uses a visual mark (letter) to represent a sound of spoken language, rather than a complete idea (i.e., pictograph or ideogram). Hugh Moran claimed to have established a definite link between the shapes of the Semitic letters of our phonetic alphabet and those of the Chinese lunar zodiac. According to Moran the letters of the Hebrew, Greek and Arabic alphabets are based on/derived from the signs of the Chinese lunar zodiac." - Gary D. Thompson

The Evolution and Diffusion of Writing by Marshall Durbin of Washington University

Durbin discounts Moran's theories and presents his own view of the history of writing, but has this observation: "No simple solution such as correlating the number of signs in the alphabet with the number of signs in the ancient calendar can take into account the complexities of the origin or evolution of the alphabet. While calendar signs undoubtedly are important in a study of this sort they can by no means account for the known complexities of ancient writing systems as outlined above." - Marshall Durbin

"Another Farewell" A tribute to Cyrus Gordon by Rick D. Flavin.
Moran and Kelly's alphabet book is favorably mentioned.

"Prof. Gordon’s alphabet article proposed a lunar-based calendar technology and narrative mnemonic attached to the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet, and argued that the acrophonic principle and a mathematical calendar ultimately combined to directly inspire our abc’s. This model arose from an appreciation of the groundbreaking work of Hugh Moran and Prof. David H. Kelley (The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, by Hugh A. Moran and David H. Kelley, with an introduction by David Diringer, second edition, Palo Alto, CA: Daily Press, 1969), which put forth a basic hypothesis of a profound relationship between writing and the calendar. Moran regarded the alphabet as a means to convey tradition, myth, and establish a lunar-based calendar, and received the support of the day’s (1952, for the first edition)) leading alphabetologist, Dr. David Diringer. Kelley added his knowledge of Mayan “day names,” as well as improved upon many of Moran’s proposed Old World correspondences." - Rick Flavin

Also see: "The Oldest ABC's: The Ugarit Cuneiform Alphabet"

David Diringer writes of Dr. Moran in the book's Foreword:

"Dr. Moran's theory is entirely original and to my knowledge has not been presented elsewhere. His thesis is, however, more than a new theory, for Dr. Moran shows us the fresh light reflected on it from his research both in the Chinese and the Near Eastern field; his reading as well as his scope has clearly been wide..."

"The author likes to speculate, to attempt generalizations, to explore dark areas. While Dr. Moran's suggestion is not to be accepted or rejected lightly, it holds the possibly of important results. The author expects critical co-operation rather than blind belief from the intelligent reader who desires to increase his knowledge." - David Diringer

Now for my review of The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs.

This is a book review of The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs by Dr. Hugh Anderson Moran and Dr. David Kelly (Daily Press, Second Edition, 1969). This review is from the perspective of someone who has closely investigated the ancient alphabet and had personal instruction in the methods described in the book by Dr. Moran himself. Some of my insights about this book were formed during meetings with Dr. Hugh Anderson Moran in the 1970s. Dr. Moran was kind enough to meet with me for a couple of hours a week for over a year and instruct me in his methods of decipherment. Over a period of several semesters I received college credit for individual study of the alphabet directed by Dr. Moran.

My interest in the alphabet was sparked by the traditional assertion that the Tarot was somehow based on the alphabet. Exactly how the Tarot was based on the alphabet has not been adequately explained, so I began an investigation of the alphabet starting with a book I checked out of the college library for a history report I gave in the 1970s. Decades later I prepared much of this review for another college history class. It has been updated to address the Tarot and its connection to the alphabet.

I will be reviewing the Second Edition of the book, which has improved graphics and minor textual corrections in addition to an entire section written later by Dr. David Kelly that explores the American parallels as well as other calendar systems used around the world. This review will start on the material presented in Part One of the Second Edition, which is an edited version of the First Edition published in 1953.

This review is continued in my next post.

"The letters of the alphabet are the abc's of the Tarot." - Cartomancer (Lance Carter)


Objectives of this book review

An objective of this review of The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs is to help other researchers to understand the pros and cons of Moran’s hypothesis in a format that facilitates further research into this subject. The core of the material presented is focused on the specific correspondences that Dr. Moran postulated between the Semitic alphabet and the Chinese lunar calendar. Another objective is to explain the correspondences between the alphabet and the Tarot.

The subject of Moran's section of The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs regards the origins of the earliest Western alphabets and their relationship to the Chinese lunar calendar and horary (hour) signs. Dr. Moran focused his attention on the striking correspondences between the word meanings attributed to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet to their one-to-one relationship to certain Chinese lunar mansions.

Dr. Moran’s hypothesis was that attributes of the Western alphabet were somehow derived from the Chinese lunar calendar. His thesis was that the meanings of each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet had a one-to-one correspondence to the meanings of twenty-two Chinese lunar mansions, while omitting six lunar mansions in his correspondence. The Chinese lunar mansions were actually constellations in a band in the sky that the Moon traversed, which is the same band that the Sun travels, but is called the zodiac in the solar context. Moran compared the meanings and etymology of these two sets and found many similarities that he documented.

The artifacts associated with early Chinese astronomers are quite sophisticated for that era and the alphabet was a revolutionary development in the history of Western civilization, so please look at this subject as if you were an archaeologist analyzing the remains of long vanished cultures. International interest in The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs in Europe and Asia has remained steady through the years although the book is out of print. Chinese scholars are keenly interested in the origin of their calendar and writing system as well.

There have been discoveries of ancient writing styles and Chinese writing since the publication of the First and a Second edition of The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, but elements of the hypothesis presented by Dr. Moran continue to be valid in my estimation. Dr. Moran’s so-called “Alphabet Book” is still respected as an early milestone in the exposition of the correspondence between the calligraphy of the early Chinese calendar and the original Semitic alphabet, although not much has been presented to prove or disprove the basic premise that the Semitic alphabet was based upon or somehow closely related to the early Chinese calendar.

The Chinese lunar calendar is postulated by Moran to be directly related to the Semitic alphabet because of the epigraphic correspondences or similarities between them in regard to the meaning of the symbols themselves, their order and their descriptions, or through analogies to related symbols in related systems. Next, we need to investigate the validity of Dr. Moran's hypothesis.
- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)


What will be investigated

What will be investigated in this review of The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs is the validity of the Dr. Moran's hypothesis that the ancient lunar calendar was the source of the written alphabet as used by early Semitic peoples. Dr. Moran’s venerable master, Yeh Hsien Seng (Before Well Born), introduced him to the resemblances in number and use between the Western alphabet and the twenty-two horary characters of the Chinese Ten Stems and Twelve Branches, and Dr. Moran continued his study of those correspondences.

In 1913, Moran shared his ideas with Professor John Fryer of the Department of Chinese Studies at the University of California and in 1923 Moran read a paper about this subject at the American Oriental Society at Princeton. Eventually Dr. David Diringer of Cambridge University in England came to Dr. Moran’s aid and offered valuable suggestions in regard to this line of research. (Diringer, David, The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind, New York, Philosophical Library, 1948.)

Moran states that: “There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and there are also twenty-two horary characters in the Chinese, which includes the twelve signs of the solar zodiac.” (The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, p.XVII) Moran goes on to describe the early Chinese astronomical charts that use dots to represent stars in the sky connected by lines in a linear form and show the twenty-eight lunar constellations. The Chinese ideographs of these star groups that are still used today were derived from these constellation drawings or from their associated meanings or characteristics. Dr. Moran was intrigued by Chinese writing and during his years in China he endeavored to understand its form and meaning.

Moran’s thesis that the letters of the alphabet were derived from the lunar constellations is entirely his original idea and unique, but it requires the reader to become an investigator instead of merely a bystander. The reader must understand Moran’s methods to achieve the results he did, which requires knowing some of the basics of epigraphic decipherment. The methods are not difficult and they can greatly contribute to the reader’s understanding and appreciation of the conclusions of this thesis. An investigation of this particular method of epigraphic decipherment is useful to the decipherment of the alphabet then it may find its use to decipher other scripts and the Tarot as well.

The lunar calendar was widely distributed in the second millennia BCE, but the earliest alphabet is thought to have originated around the first half of the second millennia BCE, and newly discovered alphabetic writing in Egypt throws that date back to about 1950 BCE. Dr. Moran didn't go about to set an exact date for the origin of the alphabet, but he tried to explain how the alphabet may have originated and its possible connection to the Chinese astrological/astronomical system. Next, we explore Moran's investigation into the alphabet.
- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)


Hugh Moran's investigations into the alphabet

The alphabet was once believed to have originated with the Phoenicians, who somehow borrowed the letters from the Egyptian hieroglyphs according to Plato, Plutarch, Tacitus, and numerous other early authors. Should we discard these esteemed opinions or trust that there is some truth to what they said. The Phoenicians (Canaanites), who occupied parts of modern-day Lebanon, were some of the earliest users of the ancient alphabet. Some of them were sea-faring traders who may have traveled as far as the New World and even to China and the Orient, but those conjectures will be left for archeologists to prove or disprove. The Phoenicians and other peoples in that area were the first to use a primitive alphabet as far as the excavated evidence indicates. Recent discoveries place the origin of the alphabet at the hands of Canaanites who may have been employed to do mining in Egypt. These discoveries as well as the relationship between the Hebrew alphabet and Egyptian writing will be explored later.

Early forms of the alphabet were found in Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, and adjoining areas, while the North Semitic forms of the alphabet appear to have stabilized into a set of letters that was engraved on tombs and stone tablets. The Greeks borrowed the alphabet from the Phoenicians and modified it a bit and then the Romans took it and helped spread it across the ancient world. Most of the modern world uses variations and adaptations of the ancient alphabet.

Moran undertook a study of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and the alphabet, but did not believe that the alphabet was based on the Egyptian hieroglyphs for numerous reasons, although there are certainly correspondences.

In The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, Moran investigated the early theories about the origin of the alphabet, but he was not satisfied with the conclusions drawn by the published works about the alphabet at the time. Moran starts with an exposition to the early research into the alphabet, and uses of a fair number of actual quotes to give the reader an idea of how research into the origin of the alphabet progressed over the years and the insights of pioneering authors such as Seyffarth, Ernest Renan, Dr. Peile, Isaac Taylor, Emanuel de Rouge, Flinders Petrie, Sir Authur Evans, C.J. Ball, Dr. David Diringer, and others who paved the way for his line of research.

Those authors explored the possible origins of the alphabet in order to get a full picture of this marvelous invention, but Moran was not convinced by the theories and evidence that those authors offered. Moran’s ability to read Egyptian hieroglyphs gave him insight about why Egyptian hieroglyphs could not be the origin of the alphabet. He gave several examples of why the two systems of writing do not have a one-to-one correspondence in either written form or in spoken form.

I have studied the books by Dr. David Diringer, but have not seen the works of the authors Seyffarth, Ernest Renan, Dr. Peile, Isaac Taylor, Emanuel de Rouge, Flinders Petrie, Sir Authur Evans, and C.J. Ball. Any help or insights into their works would be appreciated if it is relevant here. I reviewed the sections from Les Origines de l'Astronomie Chinoise by Léopold de Saussure that Dr. Moran suggested at the time of my original research. Next, certain characteristics of the scientific investigation will be explored.
- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)


Certain characteristics of the scientific investigation

In The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, Moran dismissed the early investigators as being desperate to pin down the origin on the Egyptians with little evidence and finally he totally rejected the Egyptian hieroglyphs as being the origin of the Semitic alphabet. (Does this sound similar to attempts to pin the Tarot's origin to Egypt?) Moran was determined to look elsewhere for a more suitable starting point and decides that a scientific investigation must have certain characteristics which can be summarized as: 1) An Organizing Principle, 2) Great Age, 3) Widespread Distribution, 4) Correlation of Form, Meaning, and Phonetic Value, 5) Constant Order. With these principles he undertook a scientific investigation into the origins of the Semitic alphabet.

Moran searched for an organizing principle that would provide a means of satisfying the requirements he set for his scientific investigation of the early alphabet. Religious ideas had great antiquity and were widespread, but he was looking for something that would bring order out of the chaos of the multitude of symbols used around the world. He found that the cosmological concepts used by ancient nature worship used many symbols that were associated with the sky such as stars, triangles, crosses, and other shapes that also had correspondences to the seasons and feasts.

The sun, moon, planets, and constellations played a major role in many ancient religions and Moran surmised that cosmological symbols for these religions had common roots and were part of a common culture. The twelve signs of the zodiac were used in various religious rituals and became associated with kings, calendar signs, seasons, feast dates, and were integrated into stories and legends. He found that astrology, the calendar, and religious rituals were respected all across the ancient world. He noted that the organizing principle behind the origins of the alphabet were Semitic and astrological, but he could not find evidence that the alphabet originated in ancient Chaldea, Sumeria, or Accadia.

Moran then turned his investigation to the Chinese culture, which had been dismissed as a possible progenitor to the alphabet in 1853 in the 8th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Moran noted that astrology played an important in Chinese culture for millennia and that their written history was unbroken since antiquity. Dozens of ancient Chinese texts deal with astrology and it is woven into the fabric of Chinese wisdom and lore. The problem was that Chinese ideographic writing uses the symbols for the representation of concepts or ideas and not as phonetic sounds which the alphabet is best known for. Moran surmised that astrology was the major organizing factor in the Chinese written language. Next, pictorial or pictographic astronomical symbols are investigated.
- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)


Pictorial or pictographic astronomical symbols

In The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, Moran saw the outline pictures of simple objects as significant when compared to their heavenly counterparts in such objects as an ox, dipper or a spoon. The method of outlining an object in a stellar pattern is still used today when outlining the “Big Dipper” in the stars of Ursa Major or the “Little Dipper” in the stars of Ursa Minor. Mythical heroes are outlined in many star maps as the figures of Hercules, Perseus, and Andromeda. The outlined constellations took their names from the objects they portrayed and had symbolic meanings associated with them such as the moon took on the meaning of ‘lofty’, ‘glorious’, and ‘brilliant’ in the Chinese framework. The meanings that the outlines symbolized were ancient in origin and had archaic meanings and names that had connections to the calendar, feasts, and sacrifices.

The ancient constellation symbols could also be used to express the concepts of those ancient philosophies in verbs as well as nouns. A numerical system could be expressed using those ancient constellation symbols by attaching numbers to those early symbols. A calendar system was a natural use of those astronomical symbols because of their close connection to the motions of the planets and the celestial sphere in relation to the earth, which the ancients observed in their ancient observatories. Moran estimates that some of the Chinese astronomical symbols must have existed as early as 2500 B.C.E., and probably originated several thousand years earlier.

Moran notes that Dr. C. J. Ball found an interrelationship between the early Chinese and Sumerian writing systems. Ball surmised that early the Chinese writing and calendar symbols came from central Asia at about the fourth millennium B.C.E., but that idea is not widely accepted by modern scholars. Ball explains that the symbols used exhibited evidence of their ‘pictorial or pictographic origin’ (The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, p.18) and Moran notes that each of the primitive symbols used by Ball had an astrological significance to the Chinese.

Moran lamented that astrology has been neglected as a field of study to modern Chinese and Western scholars because astrology has been held in such contempt that its study was not deemed worthy of investigation and was left to those curious about the occult and was not seriously contemplated by modern scholars partly because of the dearth of information and inadequate understanding of its importance to the ancients.
Next, the Chinese constellations and the alphabet.
- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)


The Chinese constellations and the alphabet

In The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, Moran found the Chinese P’u Pan divining board as the key to unlocking the secrets of the ancient astrological system, which held clues to the origins of the earliest Chinese symbols. The P’u Pan was usually a varnished wooden disk about ten and a half inches in diameter and about an inch thick and can still be obtained at Chinese shops in various configurations. Modern versions have a crude compass in the center that is used for divination and not as a mariner’s compass for the magnetic needle points to different sectors of the board that have specific meanings depending on what specific questions are asked. Lucky and unlucky days can be divined using the P’u Pan board and places to dig graves or build structures could also be divined.

The characters inscribed on the board have philosophical and cosmological significance and were intended to convey what Westerners paraphrase as “As above, so below”. The ‘pa kua’ or eight hexagrams invented by Emperor Fou surround the center and the rest of the board is surrounded by circles that contain combinations of the Chinese five elements, ten stems and twelve branches. The ten stems and twelve branches are combined to form the twenty-two horary characters. The outer ring contains the twenty-eight lunar mansions or lunar signs, which are arranged in a counterclockwise arrangement. The complexities of the P’u Pan board is explained by Moran, who delves into the use of the board as a device that was used for numerology or fortune-telling by numbers as well as astrology or fortune-telling by divining stellar phenomena.

Moran explores the meanings and symbols of the five elements and numbers in the ancient Chinese system. He then explains that the ten stems are the ten circumpolar constellations and that the twelve constellations are the twelve zodiac signs. The twenty-two symbols of the ten stems and twelve branches are arranged arbitrarily on the P’u Pan board for different divinatory uses. The outer circle of the P’u Pan board has the twenty-eight lunar signs, which are also seen as houses, mansions, or divisions. Each of these twenty-eight signs has a constellation, animal and ideograph associated with it. Moran notes that there is some confusion associating the exact stars with the twenty-eight Chinese lunar constellations, which could have been the result of having those symbols being drawn in reverse for purposes of divination, such as the ancient Western habit of drawing a planisphere in reverse to show the constellations from God's view. Moran also notes that the precession of the equinoxes may have also caused confusion among authorities on the subject.

Moran describes the scholarship of Alexander von Humboldt and his research into the ancient Chinese calendar as well as the calendars of Aztecs, Toltecs, Hindus and other Oriental peoples. Moran also states that the system of writing used in early America has close correspondences to his theory about the astrological basis of the alphabet, although the relationship between the ancient systems is shrouded in mystery and the different groupings of the stars cannot substantiate a connection without close investigation. Next, a look at the solar and lunar zodiac systems.
- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)


Solar and lunar zodiac systems

In The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, Moran reviewed a number of lunar calendars. The argument about who originated ancient astronomy often pits the Egyptians against the Babylonians, while the Chinese are thought to be a fairly young civilization. The twenty-eight lunar signs were named “lunar stations” by Ideler, the German chronologist in 1839, whereas the French scholar J.B. Biot stated that the “lunar stations” were divisions of the equator. The Hindu lunar nakshastra asterisms are clearly derived from the earlier Chinese calendar system.

Even Saussure mixes things up with his support of Biot’s theory, but goes on to claim that the twenty-eight signs were for a primitive calendar that was used for finding the best times for planting, harvesting and determining dates for religious ceremonies.
Moran disputed the use of the lunar signs as a calendar because of the difficulty of knowing when the moon was in a particular lunar station during the daytime because of the brightness of the sun and the difficulty of determining the position of the moon by primitive peoples using their early means of stellar observations. Moran postulated that using Saussure’s system would necessitate setting the lunar stations according to existing holy days or seasonal feasts. Moran saw flaws in the theories of the scholars who preceded him in their research of this stellar subject.

A similar astronomical and astrological system was spread across the ancient world, but who first created it? Egypt is often cited as the oldest of early civilizations, but Babylon is often credited with creating the first astrological system. The Sumerians are credited with inventing the earliest form of writing, but not the alphabet. The civilization of Egypt used a form of hieroglyphic writing, but alphabetic writing has recently been discovered in Egypt as well. Moran quotes Professor Hermann Ranke, who states that Egypt had commonalities with Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean, but that there were definite Semitic influences upon the language of the early Egyptians. (The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, p.31)

Moran investigated the signs of the lunar and solar zodiacs and their correspondences to the early alphabet. The Chinese lunar zodiac which is represented by the “lunar stations” or signs is postulated to have originated before the solar zodiac. Moran postulated that the lunar signs might have been selected for phonetic use and that the twenty-eight lunar signs somehow matched up with the twenty-two horary signs on an early Chinese calendar stone or P’u Pan divining board. Moran provides diagrams of how some lunar characters were derived directly from the constellation that they represented, using the example of the Chinese character 'ching', which means ‘a well’. Ideas or concepts such as ‘empty’ and ‘peril’ are also associated with the Chinese constellation signs, providing evidence that the constellations were not always referred to as nouns or objects. Is this similar to Major Arcana Tarot cards that portray ideas or concepts such as Justice or Temperance?
- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)


Strange and wonderful correspondences

In The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, Moran found evidence that some lunar characters and solar characters had an exact correspondence, suggesting that they were somehow related. Moran delves into the dualistic nature of the constellational symbols, which later scholars tended to ignore, disguise, or distort according to their interpretation or religious agenda. Sexual connotations were often ignored or rejected as being obscure or incongruous when they did not fit into the accepted belief structure of the researcher who sometimes saw morality and gender in symbols from a Western point of view and not from the original Chinese tradition.

Moran investigated the many ‘dipper’ characters found in the Chinese symbols or characters and how those astrological primitives were combined to form complex concepts such as ‘to compare’ or ‘opposed’. The combinations of those ancient astrological primitive symbols gave rise to hundreds of characters with hundreds of meanings that became the basis of the great Chinese system of writing. Primitive astrological symbols were combined to create a vast array of characters that often had multiple meanings depending on their combination with other characters. The Chinese language began to find its expression in the multitude of constellational characters.

Moran found many strange and wonderful correspondences between the primitive Chinese symbols and the celestial phenomena that it represented. Moran is able to explain how a bear with six paws is simply a portrayal of an unusual constellational configuration and not an actual animal, which was the hsiung, a small black Chinese bear. Absurdities are explained in ordinary terms when seen from the perspective of an early astronomer drawing outlines in the constellations using well-known things.

Some of the primitive Chinese symbols appear quite often on the P’u Pan board, such as the five elements, the ten stems, and the twelve branches, all of which go into the formation of the 44,000 Chinese characters. The twenty-eight lunar stations are also called asterisms or constellations, although they are quite different than the Western constellations used in modern times. Moran noted that the Chinese horary characters known as the ten stems and twelve branches equal the number twenty-two, which is the exact number of alphabetic characters used in the ancient alphabet, and incidentally the exact number of cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot. Moran also noted that the Chinese horary characters were used phonetically to indicate the pronunciation of the more complicated Chinese characters.

Moran goes on to wonder why there were twenty-two symbols in the Hebrew and Semitic alphabets and postulates that there could have been religious reasons such as the number of pillars around the temple court or that the number was part of a sacred series of numbers that was revered in the ancient world. Moran suggests that the first twenty-two signs were considered favorable and were pressed into use for the alphabet. He goes on to elaborate on the discussion of Francois Lenormant, an early French Assyriologist who compares Assyrian words to Hebrew root words and Latin meanings, and finds that the Chinese dipper symbols might be somehow related. Is there evidence that the Tarot was used as a religious calendar or for the marking of feast or festival days? Next, the ten stems and twelve branches in the Chinese astronomical system.
- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)


The ten stems and twelve branches

The lucky and unlucky days of the ancient calendars might also provide clues as to why only twenty-two symbols were used instead of the full twenty-eight Chinese lunar asterisms. The in-depth investigations of ancient numerological correspondences to days in the calendar month sheds light on why the ancients possibly chose twenty-two symbols, but it is difficult to comprehend the complexity of the subject without training in those ancient languages, their writing systems, religious observances, and numerological beliefs. That there are some possible parallels between the Chinese P’u Pan board and the old Babylonian calendar is as much as a neophyte in this discussion would need to know.

The ten stems are the Chinese horary stems that represent the ten circumpolar constellations, or in other words, the ten Chinese constellations that surround the pole star. These ten stems are shown in example drawings that picture them in their current form drawn by brush, their more primitive forms, their Mandarin phonetic value, and the meanings ascribed to them. The constellations that the ten stems are drawn over are not specified or shown in drawings, but Figure 9 and Figure 11 in the book have the constellation outlines drawn over the polar stars using the Chinese astronomical-astrological system. This omission makes it difficult to pursue a more through investigation of the Chinese ten stems and their relationship to the alphabet without graphical investigation. The twelve branches of the Chinese zodiac are seen in Figure 5, but the symbols are not shown drawn over the constellations of the zodiac. This omission makes it difficult to pursue a more through investigation of the Chinese solar zodiac or twelve braches and its relationship to the alphabet without a graphical investigation.

Moran describes the ancient Chinese zodiac characters found in Figure 5 of the book and explains that only a few of the Chinese zodiac animals correspond to the Western zodiac animals, but that the zodiacs from India and Burma have more correspondences in form and symbolic meaning. The constellations of the zodiac are approximately the same in both the Chinese and Western systems. The twelve zodiac signs or twelve branches are used as horary signs and have correspondences to the months of the year, the sixty-year astrological-historical cycle, and the hours of day and night. Horary signs refer to the hours of the day and are an archaic reference to the horary circle of hours such as found on a round clock. Moran notes some similarities between the Chinese, Western, Burmese, Hindu, and Mexican zodiacs, but that investigation is more fully explored by David Kelly in his section of the second edition of the book.

Moran attempted to find some correspondence between the primitive forms and symbolic meanings of the alphabet to the Chinese ten stems and twelve branches, but could not find a correlation that satisfied him. It would have taken breaking the order of the alphabet or Chinese stems and branches to get an alignment. Moran speculates that the precession of the equinox may have had an effect on the order of the alphabet in relation to the Chinese characters, but can only find several instances that offered any meaningful correspondence.

However, in my theory the precession of the equinox is a major reason for the creation of the alphabet and the Tarot. Next, more about the ten stems and twelve branches.
- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)