The Tarot is full of symbolism. To what extent some symbolism has always been in there, we do not know for sure but is not likely. The Tarot seems to have been designed primarily as a game, as an artistic gift in honor of marriages of the high nobility and perhaps to promote Renaissance thought. What we do know is that the occultists who have been working with the Tarot since the 18th century, did add a lot of hermetic and occult symbolism to the Tarot. Eliphas Levi, Arthur Edward Waite, Paul Foster Case and Aleister Crowley are some of them who have indulged themselves in particular.
When you study the Rider-Waite-Smit deck carefully, you will see that not a single penstroke was done by chance! Some Tarotists don’t find it helpful to dig through all this symbolism. Others find it too far-fetched and implausible. I personally really enjoy doing it and it really helps me interpret the cards. This way, I am able to empathize more and see the cards come to live in front of me…
In this article, I would like to share an insight about the angle in which the Fool’s staff is positioned. It is exactly 37 degrees! 37 degrees is the average ‘normal’ body temperature of man. So “human” seems like an important keyword. When we look up this number in the reference books on Gematria, we come across many interesting associations that refer to “The Fool”!
All the power that once was and will be, is here, now
Paul Foster Case
Let’s start with the number Zero, since that is the number of the Fool. The 0 is nothing, but at the same time it symbolizes the potential to become something. The ‘seed’ that has yet to grow and develop. The number 0 comes before all other numbers and therefore symbolizes (new) beginnings. It is nothing, but at the same time it is everything, for it is infinite. The 0 is the absolute ‘unity’, because it is not possible to divide something by 0.
When you add the 0 to another digit or number, it is multiplied by 10! So the 0 is a magical or divine number. 10 is the number of the Yod, an expression of the divine. 37, the number of degrees of the angle of the Fool’s staff, is also 10 (calculated in pythogaresis way as we do in the Tarot: 3 + 7).
Gematria and the number 37
In Gematria, numerological values are assigned to letters and hence to words. There are several tools on the Internet for you to use and calculate the values. The problem, of course, is that it depends very much on the language that is selected. The values will be different for each language. The Golden Dawn used ancient Hebrew letters and they can also be seen on some Tarot decks. The connection with the Tarot can be found in various Gematrial reference books and in Kabbalistic books (including by Lon Milo Duquette). See below some gematric associations with the number 37.
One word that is assigned the number 37 is ‘air’ or ‘breath’ (הבל). Hindus call this ‘Breath of Life’ (Prana). The Greeks called this breath ‘Pneuma’ and in Hebrew it is ‘Ruach’. The Golden Dawn assigned the element of air to the Fool.
God, or the Divine
The Aramaic name for God or Allah (אלאה) is also connected to 37. In the Tarot we believe that the Fool has a “divine” spark inside him (or her) self. The Fool is the ‘pure self’ or the ‘cosmic soul’. Hindus call this ‘Sattva’ and in Hebrew it is linked to “Yechidah” (higher self, divine soul).
As humans, we use 5 senses, which in ancient Hebrew are linked to these five letters: הוזטי. The gematric value of these five letters together is 37. This seems to be a subtle hint at the “physical world” that the Fool – at the beginning of his or her journey – will soon have to deal with.
לוא means ‘Nil’, ‘ Not yet’, ‘Nothing’ and has the gematrical value of 37. The Fool, who is nothing and at the same time everything. Where the potential is already present but is not yet conscious.
הבל is an Aramaic word for ‘heart’. It has even more meanings, including “The Lord” and “Christos” (chosen one, one who has “god in his heart”).
Books meant to be read and beautiful dresses should be worn
בלה is a word that has two meanings: on the one hand, it means that something can wear out, decay, rot away. But on the other hand, it also means using something, enjoying something. The word indicates that something may have a limited lifespan, but that you should use it because it is useful or enjoyable. Just as books should be read and beautiful dresses should be worn, you use your physical body to live (and enjoy it a bit).
Numerologically spoken, the number 37 includes both the divine and ‘being human’. The value is assigned to the spiritual (god, soul, sanctuary) and to the earth (senses, breath of life, physical body). In the New Testament, Jesus calls himself “Son of Man” 37 times. Symbolically, like the Fool, Jesus finds himself between a “divine” and “human” state. The Fool has all the possibilities in his bag that is attached to his staff. The journey can begin!