Four of Swords (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on January 5, 2020

January 5, 2020

Four of Swords

We began with the protective practice, and reading from Revelation 9:10-12.

– The image is very united. The weaving is more complicated. There is a cross in the center of the weaving—is it from Candlemas? A Celtic cross of some sort? It is St. Brigid’s cross:  

Image result for st brigid's cross

St Brigid’s Cross

St.Brigid, also known as “Mary of the Gael”, is an abbess and patroness of Ireland. She is furthermore the founder of the first Irish monastery in County Kildare, Ireland. Born in Dundalk in 450 AD, St Brigid is accredited with first creating the unique cross which bears her name. This cross is normally hand created from rushes however occasionally straw is also used.

The distinctive St. Brigid’s Cross design, made from woven rushes, is thought to keep evil, fire and hunger from the homes in which it is displayed, however the tale of its creation is somewhat confused, and there is not one definitive version.

The tale as we know it is as follows….

There was an old pagan Chieftain who lay delirious on his deathbed in Kildare (some believe this was her father) and his servants summoned Brigid to his beside in the hope that the saintly woman may calm his restless spirit. Brigid is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him and it is here that she picked up the rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. Whilst she weaved, she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain and it is thought her calming words brought peace to his soul. He was so enamoured by her words that the old Chieftain requested he be baptized as a Christian just before his passing.

Since that day, and for the centuries that followed, it has been customary on the eve of her Feast Day (1st February) for the Irish people to fashion a St. Brigid’s Cross of straw or rushes and place it inside the house over the door.

There is something akin to the swastika/root chakra symbol with this Cross.

Image result for root chakra swastika

It isn’t only the woven hilts that are blue, but even the seemingly empty space between the hilts is also blue. Similarly, the “empty space” between the yellow sections of the swords/sheaths is yellow. 

– There is a distinct transition from the beginning of the Swords, with the image of the Sword and an implicit Vesica Piscis in the eye/crown above it. Then the vesica piscis develops in the Two and Three—now it takes on a life of its own, a degree of complexity, weaving itself of itself. 

– Without knowing these are Swords/scimitars, would one really notice or know what they are meant to be? They look more like reeds/basket weaving (like St. Brigid’s cross). And the gap being filled in with color is new, and only accentuates this weaving activity. This is a new object or feature that is linking the two sword symbols—ironically, it is an act of binding rather than cutting. It makes one think of these curved objects as more like scabbards or sheaths, containers, rather than swords. 

– Last year when the Parks went to see Revels, a traditional Celtic sword dance was integrated into a story about the witch Louhi from Kalevala, in which seven swords had to be woven into a seven-pointed star in order to trap her in a cave. A sword as magical object, where the weaving together of swords as magical rite is the form of battle rather than using the sword as a weapon.

Swords woven together is not at all practical from the point of view of traditional weaponry, but as magical deed—that is a different story.

– The yellow portion almost looks 3-dimensional, like the sides of a tunnel, or stairs heading down. Usually a visual feature like that can be inverted—i.e. one should be able to see it as stairs leading up to a platform, or as stairs leading down into a tunnel, but in this case it really seems to only work one way, as stairs leading down. It just doesn’t look right to think of them as leading up. This is definitely a tunnel, a descent. Swords are unequivocal. This brings us back, in a way, to the Ace of Swords emerging from what’s above it. Here we have steps into a tunnel.

There are two ways at looking at the transformation of the yellow portion of the Sword Arcana. One could see it as the Two and Three of Swords showing a doorway, and entering farther into this doorway or portal in the Four. Or stepping backward out of the Two and Three, the end of the Tunnel, and seeing where one has been by the time one gets to the Four of Swords. The “end of the cave,” so to speak, would be further away in this sense in the Four of Swords. 

Either way, there is a movement, a movement forward and backward through space. Although in the Ace, this movement is up and down, either the Sword coming out and down, or going in and up. Perhaps the Ace stands as a reminder that back to front in the remainder of the Numbered Swords is actually up and down—that perhaps we are lying down, flat on our backs, as we pass through these portals? Are we levitating?

– It seems clear that the flower is lying down flat in the Four of Swords. From that perspective, this is clearly either a platform or an amphitheater (steps leading up or down). But steps leading down is the natural fit. A flower lying in the center of an amphitheater-like structure. The flower is not in the foreground, it’s in the distance. The Two and the Three lack this same depth due to there only being two swords framing their central objects.

– Perhaps we could view it this way: the Ace is point the way to an entrance. The Two is the curtain over the entrance. The Three’s Sword cuts the curtain. And now the Four is the tunnel/stage etc. The first step into the tunnel.

– We’ve just remembered that a year and a half ago, when discussing the Four of Coins, we also saw in this image a stage, an altar, a performance, a theater. We also saw it as either the Gates of Hell or the opening of a tomb, the raising of the dead to life. 

We would never have made this common association (of the Four with performance) without Tarot conversation.

– The Four of Coins conversations were happening right around the July 27 eclipse, which kicked off the landslide of Phillip’s whole situation since then. And now we’re having the Four of Swords conversations right in between a Dec 26 solar eclipse and a Jan 10 lunar eclipse. 

Maybe that was also marking the beginning of the Saturn/Pluto conjunction orb, and now we are exactly at the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto (January 12).

The July 27, 2018 eclipse also involved Mars: Full Moon and Full Mars. Both Moon and Mars were in very close proximity to the Earth. Joel had a dream earlier in the year, where both the Moon and Mars seemed enormous in the sky, an apocalyptic dream. 

– The Four of Swords is certainly gentler, more feminine, and has more depth and mystery than the Four of Coins—which has a more explosive/masculine gesture.

– Note the complexity of the weaving, and the complexity of the central flower. It is so well-balanced, yet has some very subtle asymmetries that lend it a real grace. It is much more beautiful than the flower in the Two. It is like the Queen of the corner flowers, of the same type but more more elegant. It has seven petals rather than five around the collar. Each feature of this flower is like a kind of fulfillment of elements that have come before: berry, leaves, etc.

– With the Four of Coins, we experienced the shock of “where did this new, complete form come from? How? Why?” It seemed unprecedented vs the prior Arcana. But this is much more natural, gentle, appearing mystically and gracefully.

No blaring trumpets, as in the Four of Coins. More like we should gather around silently and take our seats. Like a church service. As one of Joel’s housemates often says, “When you die, my dear, I’ll give you a flower.” This flower in the middle could be one laid on a tomb or a coffin.

– The Ace of Swords was the opening of a portal. Maybe the Two and the Three combined show the dual nature of the entry through that portal. The Two, with its poinsettia as a heralding crest, expressing the state of one’s entrance. By what right one can enter. 

Whereas the Three shows the power, the act one must perform in order to enter. The sacrifice or donation that one must pay, now that we are in the realm of Swords after collecting the Coin. The Two names the price, the Three shows the payment. Putting these two together into one circle, it’s like swinging doors to a barroom or something—each one is a way in, but part of a whole.

Now with the Four, the mystery deepens, the richness is more potent. Showing us what lies beyond the entry. 

In the sense of price and payment, the Two and Three combined into the circle brings us back to the nature of Coin, even down to the geometry of the circle—the circular shape as Coin. A progressed/evolved expression of Coin. 

If one were to turn the crown all the way around, rather than just tilted, it would be circular. Maybe there are two ways of connecting all of the numbered Arcana.

One can have 2/3/4 side by side, creating expanding loops horizontally:

Or one could have 

Here the Ace is the entry, the One.

Then the Two and Three show us the dual nature of the One.

Then the Four and Five show us the dual nature of the Two.

Six and Seven would be the dual nature of the Three.

But then Eight, Nine and Ten all have four swords as the border. Here we have the Three natures of the Four.

This feels something like what Friedrich Weinreb lays out in the first few chapters of Roots of the Bible. Something akin to our rhythm of YHVH, where the second H becomes the next Y. But different. It’s more like a rhythm of 1, 2, and 3, wherein the 3 is a “twin,” contains two aspects at once, and hence is also a four. Then there is another iteration of 1, 2, 3/4, but in the light of the number 2. Consider the first 6 days of creation from this point of view. 

The corner flowers have something of this gesture going on, with the single bud in the center, and then a two-fold yellow petal on each side, with a third rounder petal in the center. But then a collar of five blue petals??

– We’ve never seen this degree of complexity in the flowers of the Coins in comparison to this central flower. Even the central flowers of the Coin Arcana were still pretty geometrical and symbolic, whereas all of the Sword Arcana are more naturalistic/realistic, not so archetypal. 

– Going back to Weinreb, and the systematism of numbers. When he discusses Genesis 1:1 he more or less states that there is a fundamental unity that is never named in Genesis, but is only implied. We begin already with a twofoldness of “the Spirit of God hovering over the Waters.” Yet the presence of the two (and the letter “Bet,” which is two, with which the Bible begins) implies the presence of a silent/invisible One (aleph) preceding the Beginning. 

Can’t we see this in what we laid out above? That there is the Ace as One, but then Two and Three are the dual aspect of the One. There is a One before the Twofold One (the integrated binary) that stands apart and above from the rest of the sequence. This is somewhat like Plato’s unwritten doctrine, about the experience of the One, that is The Good, from which all has been created, but it cannot be written, it is reserved for the right conditions, to be experienced in conversation between a group of people prepared to share this experience of the One. 

Steiner stated in January, 1916 that the invention of the printing press was a huge triumph for Arhimanic black magic. Everything that is put into print—or lecture form!—is more or less a tool for black magic. Yet he stated that Anthroposophy must bear this risk, it must be propagated through print and lecture in spite of this danger, as the benefit far outweighs the risk. But what if there is something that can never be put into print? Like the Archangel Jesus being held back, what if there is something that must be preserved? The experience of the One cannot be put into print. It must be preserved by and set aside for the intimacy of conversation. 

Weinreb reminds us that Letter emerges originally from Number, which is the language of Proportion, which is the substance of Spirit. All spoken language bears a mantric potency. Sounds are directly connected to spiritual properties, they invoke them. They allow the power of the spiritual world to coalesce and be expressed in a heightened way. Truly everything spoken potentially has such a depth to it, but we’ve forgotten this. We are caught in a labyrinth, we’ve forgotten. Print cannot carry the Word, the true Power of the Word, in the way that living Speech between two or more can. The root of true conservatism and Tradition is found here: striving to make the manifest world serve the Word from which it originated—the unwritable Word. 

(We are, at this moment in the conversation, in the inner sanctum with Sophia, acknowledging her in her true form in some way. Through Speech and Image, not print…)

We closed by reading aloud the third stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation.