Some of you know that I’m a co-host of a podcast called Fortune’s Wheelhouse, along with my friend Susie Chang, where we talk about the esoteric symbols in tarot. Recently Susie and I were interviewed by Ryan Peverly, the host of another occult themed podcast called Occulture. You can check out his Patreon page or find him at all the podcast places. Episode 70 comes out on March 6th, 2018 and in the episode we talk about all sorts of topics like esoteric tarot, colors, magick, art, divination, and the use of symbols. We talk a little about this Quartered Circle, or Quartered Cross symbol. Oddly enough, all three of us on the show have been drawn to that symbol and have stories about it, so have a listen. We will put a link on our Fortune’s Wheelhouse Patreon site too.
The Quartered Circle (aka Circled Cross) and how it means just about everything
For the Tabula Mundi Tarot, I was given the inspiration to use the quartered circle as its logo. It seemed to be one of those things that was received divinely, or from the muse, which is the same thing. But what does it mean, or mean to me? I’ve been asked that and what it comes down to, is that it means everything. It just might be the oldest known divine symbol.
So I was inspired to try to write down exactly how it is that I can say that this symbol means everything. Here is an attempt to list some of the ways.
“Establish thyself firmly in the equilibrium of forces, in the centre of the Cross of the Elements, that Cross from whose centre the Creative Word issued in the birth of the dawning Universe” (Liber Librae)
Everything that is part of a natural order, that is about Creator/Creation, or is about wholeness, is usually divisible into four aspects, or four stages.
- the four elements
- the four directions and four winds
- the four seasons
- the four suits of the tarot and the four court cards and their familial relationship
- the four Qabalistic worlds
- the four fixed signs or Kerubic beasts
- the four Royal watcher stars
- the four powers of the Sphinx (who is Man): to Will, to Dare, to Know, and to Keep Silent
- the four solar stations of Liber Resh: sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight
Crowley spoke of Liberty, Love, Life, Light; transmuted to Law. If you mirror and rotate them, these four L’s combine to form the quartered circle: the sun cross or the earth symbol of Malkuth. The four powers of the Sphinx gradually build the four sides of the Pyramid of Initiation, in ever higher and subtler manifestations until reaching the apex. These powers are developed on the material plane (Malkuth), which is both a beginning and an end.
There is also something of the “circle squared” about it; the circle combined with four corners, but on the inside.
Keep in mind that whenever all four divisions are present, a fifth element of unity is implied, at the center. This idea of a stillness at the center of everything is part of the meaning. It’s the hub at the center of the wheel.
This Quartered Cross symbol looks much like a wheel. It’s been called a Sun Cross, Sun wheel, or solar wheel. If you look at the symbol of the Sun, a dot within a circle, and imagine that dot as a point of light radiating out towards the circumference, it becomes the quartered circle.
The quartered cross is also the shape an astrology chart is drawn on, with the four arms representing the ascendant-descendant axis on the horizontal, and the Midheaven/Nadir axis on the vertical. Rotated so the circled cross is on the diagonal, it is a symbol of the Part of Fortune, which in Astrology is composed by combining the three most important parts of an astrology chart: the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant. Fortune also reminds me of this card’s connection to the tarot card Fortune, the Wheel. That card’s number is 10 – a one and a zero, a line and a circle, or in roman numerals it is X – a cross. A 1 and a zero – an axle and wheel, a cross.
Because the quartered circle or circled cross is a combination of circle and line, or 0 and 1, we also might want to consider the cards of the Fool and the Magus. The Fool comes out of nothing, the great zero or void, and the entire sequence of the rest of the tarot is contained within the Fool or emanates from him, just as from the point of Kether the rest of the Tree of Life descends. The Fool’s seemingly empty bag is said to contain the four winds or four elements.
As the first step in the Fool’s Journey, he transmutes into the Magus. The Magus has on his table, the four suit symbols of the Wand, the Cup, the Sword, and the Disk. He wields these four powers by the force of his Will.
Call to mind the Hebrew letter of the Fool: his Hebrew letter is Aleph, meaning Ox. The letters O and X, or a circle and a cross. Aleph is also shaped like the thunderbolt or swastika, a solar symbol that when swirling, traces this sign.
A circle and a cross is also implied in the rose cross, and the Ankh ,the crux ansata Egyptian symbol for life. If again we think of a line and a circle, we can think of the circle as a circumference, and the line as a point, extended through space. Like the idea of Nuit, Hadit, and Horus. The Star, the Hermit, the Aeon.
It can also represent Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur: Nothing, Nothing Without Limit, and the Limitless Light.
One could also think of this symbol as the union of male and female, the pillar in the void, or a zero, a plus sign and a minus sign.
+1 -1=0 ⊕
This symbol is also a symbol of the Universe card. Take a look at almost any Universe card, in any tarot deck, and you will see a maiden within an ellipse, a sort of circle, surrounded by the four Kerubic beasts. The Hebrew letter of the card is Tau, the cross. Once again, a cross within a circle. The Universe or World card, is not only Saturn (Binah) but also Earth.
In astrology, the Earth is symbolized by the quartered circle. It’s the point directly opposite the degree of your Sun in your astrology chart. This symbol of Earth, the quartered circle, also represents Malkuth, the sephira of Earth and the material plane, and the Princesses of Tarot, otherwise known as us.
One can imagine being a divine being at the top of the Tree of Life, in Kether, peering down at the lowest world of Malkuth, and seeing the circle quartered, representing the four Qabalistic worlds. If you have Tabula Mundi Tarot, take a look at the card backs. That’s the viewpoint.
The quartered circle is also a symbol of LVX or NOX, depending on how you rotate it: light in extension and the darkness of the great sea of Binah. It also looks like a crossroads. If we think of it as a cross roads symbol over a circle, one could think of crossing the circle of the Abyss.
This quartered circle symbol of the cross roads was also placed at the center of ancient Roman encampments. This design was placed where the north-south path (Cardo Maximus), crossed an east-west path (Decumanus Maximus) at the center of the town, and was considered a holy place. It represents sacred space at the center, a great glyph for the light within.
If the straight up circle cross and the rotated one with the cross at a diagonal are combined, it can also represent the eight directions of the compass, and is similar to the eight rayed star symbol of Chaos magick, a symbol meaning “infinite possibility”. The eight spokes of the wheel of the year are the sabbats of the Year: the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarter holidays.
Speaking of Chaos Magick, the circled cross is the most useful symbol in the history of sigil magick. For every single letter of the alphabet can be traced on it, and most of them in both capital and lower case form. Think about it. Instead of writing out your intention ie “It is my will to have the strength of a tiger”, crossing out the repeated letters, and drawing a complicated sigil, all you need is the quartered circle, for any phrase whatsoever. How better to allow yourself to forget what each sigil represents? It’s the most powerful sigil, and the most meaningful symbol, in the world, encompassing all.
In a sense it means everything, from the beginning to the end. It’s the light, and the darkness, going from the Fool to the Universe, from Aleph to Tau, from space as the four corners of the world, and in time as in the passage of four seasons of a year.