Alchemical glyphs on Wheel of Fortune


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Alchemical glyphs on Wheel of Fortune


I was boning up on the symbols on the Wheel of Fortune and found myself questioning the alchemical symbols on the spokes. Water is at the bottom (6 o’clock position) represented by the two wavy or zigzag lines. The other symbols represent the three primes in alchemy and the remaining elements. Mercury (air) is at the top (12 o’clock). The symbol for sulfur (fire) normally has a triangle pointed upwards, but since it is in the 3 o’clock position, it has been rotated 90 degrees so that the triangle is pointed to the right. The symbol for salt (earth) is a circle with a horizontal line through it, similar to theta. Since salt is in the 9 o’clock position, the symbol should be rotated 90 degrees to the left, turning the horizontal line into a vertical line. I have noticed, however, that there is no vertical line depicted within the circle. The placement of the glyph on the spoke makes it unclear if it would represent saltpeter (circle with vertical line), gold (circle with dot in center), or something else when oriented correctly.

So, any thoughts on this? Is this merely a ‘continuity error’ with salt depicted upright rather than rotated as with sulfur? Does it represent something else? Does it mean anything? Guesses, speculation, and actual knowledge are all welcome.
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The spokes of the wheel run all the way through the glyphs. If this were done with the salt glyph rotated 90°, it would be a circle with a cross inside, which represents the sun. I think the salt glyph was left unrotated in order to preclude such an ambiguity.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard View Post
The spokes of the wheel run all the way through the glyphs. If this were done with the salt glyph rotated 90°, it would be a circle with a cross inside, which represents the sun. I think the salt glyph was left unrotated in order to preclude such an ambiguity.
That does seem logical, although still somewhat ambiguous. Now that I've noticed it, it kind of bugs me.
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Then get out some 'white out' and a pen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard View Post
The spokes of the wheel run all the way through the glyphs. If this were done with the salt glyph rotated 90°, it would be

* a circle with a cross inside, which represents the sun. *

I think the salt glyph was left unrotated in order to preclude such an ambiguity.
Dont you mean : 'if this were done ... the card would be showing two earth symbols ' ?
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I think there may be two possible explanations here:

1. The left symbol is for saltpeter, not salt. However, a majority of the sources I read state that the four alchemical symbols are indeed, from the bottom one counter-clockwise: water, sulfur, mercury, and salt. These would represent the Water of Dissolution and the Three Principles of Alchemy (sulfur, mercury, and salt), so for the sake of a unified idea and the many resources that say so, I would posit that the left glyph is indeed salt.

2. I agree that the left glyph is salt. However, notice that in the sulfur symbol, he let the line bisect the triangle, even if the actual alchemical glyph shows a clean triangle with no line inside. In the same way, he could have let the horizontal line bisect the salt symbol, and still added the (now vertical since it is rotated) original salt glyph line. In this case, it would look like a circle with a cross inside. However he does not want to do this, because a crosed circle is also the symbol for Planet Earth, and not salt (which signifies elemental earth). This would be confusing since we already have mercury on top, and the alchemical glyph for the planet Mercury and the chemical element mercury is basically the same. People versed in symbols might confuse the two alchemical glyphs for mercury and salt to the planetary symbols for Mercury and Earth, so Waite and/or Smith may have decided to just dispense with the rotated vertical line in the salt glyph and let it stay as it is now.

Btw as Richard said, a crossed circle also represents the Sun, although other people prefer a circle with a dot in the center as the solar symbol and assign that one to planet Earth. In any case, it'd still be as confusing (if not more) if a crossed circle is used.
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By the way, I guess it is OK to assign fire to sulfur, air to mercury, and earth to salt, but according to some alchemical texts this would be a bit misleading. The Three Principles of Alchemy (sulfur, mercury, and salt) are different from its Four Elements (fire, air, water, and earth). They actually state that Sulfur = Fire + Air; Mercury = Air + Water; and Salt = Water + Earth.

So instead of the four alchemical glyphs in the Wheel of Fortune representing the four elements, it might be more apt to say that they represent the Water of Dissolution plus the Three Principles of Alchemy. But of course, the Tarot is personal, and whatever floats your boat and appeals to you personally is fine.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EmpyreanKnight View Post
By the way, I guess it is OK to assign fire to sulfur, air to mercury, and earth to salt, but according to some alchemical texts this would be a bit misleading. The Three Principles of Alchemy (sulfur, mercury, and salt) are different from its Four Elements (fire, air, water, and earth). They actually state that Sulfur = Fire + Air; Mercury = Air + Water; and Salt = Water + Earth.

So instead of the four alchemical glyphs in the Wheel of Fortune representing the four elements, it might be more apt to say that they represent the Water of Dissolution plus the Three Principles of Alchemy. But of course, the Tarot is personal, and whatever floats your boat and appeals to you personally is fine.
The four figures (lion, bull, man, eagle) surrounding the wheel represent the four elements. That wavy glyph is a symbol of Aquarius and as 11th sign of the zodiac it refers to the 11th state in alchemy, dissolution.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ravenest View Post
Dont you mean : 'if this were done ... the card would be showing two earth symbols ' ?
It would be a solar cross, but yes, it also would be an earth symbol and is used for disks/pentacles in the GD decks. The only other earth symbol on the card is Taurus.

I just have a problem with Aquarius (air, or possibly water) being associated with sulphur, mercury, and salt.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samweiss View Post
The four figures (lion, bull, man, eagle) surrounding the wheel represent the four elements. That wavy glyph is a symbol of Aquarius and as 11th sign of the zodiac it refers to the 11th state in alchemy, dissolution.
The four figures may also mean other things. Since the Rider-Waite-Smith admittedly has Judeo-Christian undertones, it can stand for fhe Four Evangelists who are known for their corresponding symbols: Matthew (man), Mark (lion), Luke (bull), and John (eagle) (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four...elists#Symbols) . The fact that they are winged creatures (seemingly angelic) who lounge suspended in the heavens suggest this.

Alternatively, they may also stand for the four Fixed signs of the Zodiac (as opposed to Cardinal or Mutable): Aquarius (man), Leo (lion), Taurus (bull), and interestingly Scorpio (depicted as an eagle). If we are to assign the elemental attributions of these Zodiac signs to the four figures, an argument can be made that these figures may derivatively represent the four elements.

As for the wavy glyph, I believe (along with many sources) that it represents the element Water. Although water is traditionally represented by an upside down triangle in alchemical texts, ancient texts also represent it as a wavy glyph (see the fourth glyph in the top row of the very first image here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/pnm/pnm92.htm). Also, the Wheel of Fortune card is generally considered to have the planet Jupiter as its attribution, while the zodiac sign Aquarius is assigned to The Star card. It would seem to be inconsistent if the other three glyphs in the wheel are alchemical while the fourth one suddeny becomes zodiacal.

Just to be consistent and as supported by many sources I read, I believe that the four glyphs are all purely alchemical (water, sulfur, mercury, and salt) as opposed to being part zodiacal or part planetary. I would of course respect it if you are persuaded otherwise.
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