BREAKING THE WHEEL

 
AfterlightImage 2.jpg
 

Channel Park
2164 S Bay Harbor Trail (Street View)
Boston, MA

In his Book of Imaginary Beings, Borges dedicates a chapter to discussing the angels seen by Ezekiel in his visions, known in the Zohar as the hayoth. These beings:

“…had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle…

“Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel… “

Borges notes a curious argument pertaining to their nature:

“A German scholar, Dr. Richard Hennig, sees the remote origins of these signs in four signs of the zodiac at ninety-degree intervals. The lion and bull offer not the slightest difficulty; the angel has been associated with Aquarius, which has the face of a man; the eagle of John is then tied to Scorpio, though Scorpio is often rejected because of its ominous connotations. In his Dictionary of Astrology, Nicholas DeVore puts forth this same hypothesis, observing that the four figures are joined in the figure of a Sphinx, which may have a human head, the body of a bull, the claws and tail of a lion, and the wings of an eagle.”

If we go to DeVore directly, he takes these parallels even further:

“The terminology of the trigons, or triplicities of Elements, is universal: fire, water, air and earth…

These four Elements, as represented by the fixed type of each group, are symbolized in the figures of the Cherubim, and in the Assyrian "winged lion." Also in the Egyptian Sphynx, in which the Bull's body (Taurus), the Lion's paws and tail (Leo), the Eagle's wings (Scorpio), and the Human head (Aquarius), repre- sent the four types which combine to form the body politic.

They are also embodied in the deck of cards: clubs for fire, diamonds for earth, hearts for water, and spades for air; the black suits representing the positive signs and the red suits the negative signs.”

As most readers know, the French suits are simply substitutes for those which originated in tarocchi. DeVore’s argument extends much further than the minors, however, and is illustrated by the Wheel of Fortune directly. The tenth major contains all four hayoth positioned in its corners, and is centered by a sphinx whose presence is a silent riddle: “just what exactly am I doing here?”

 
AfterlightImage.jpeg
 

The answer lies in its chimeric anatomy: the Wheel of Fortune is an illustration of the ecliptic wheel of stars containing the houses of the zodiac, expressed as the sphinx and its component creatures (who, themselves, are the wheel’s four central spokes). But there is more to this rotary geometry: it orders the four-letter expression TARO in a ring so as to be indistinguishable from ROTA (wheel), interlocked with the glyphs of the tetragrammaton. It’s a clever trick: heaven and earth joined by wheels within wheels.

The hayoth appear again in the four corners of The World, which Waite states to be:

“…the perfection and end of the Cosmos, the secret which is within it, the rapture of the universe when it understands itself in God…”

…it is perhaps more especially a story of the past, referring to that day when all was declared to be good, when the morning stars sang together and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.”

Of course, that day didn’t last, and the balance between heaven and earth is far from perfect in the Wheel of Fortune. There are two significant disruptions depicted: the first is Typhon, presented as a serpent (another culprit in ruining that perfect day), reminding the reader that there are also unions between the earth and its underworld; the second is Hermanubis, the personification of Mercury retrograde, who serves as one of many intermediaries between these two realms. Together, they form an asterisk at the end of “As Above, So Below:” a reminder that there are domains which starlight cannot reach, and that the workings of the gods don’t always go as planned.