Guillaume Postel's "Key"


Waite's Wheel of Fortune is largely based on Levi's "Wheel of Ezekiel" from his Magical Ritual of the Sanctum Regnum, which in turn was inspired by an image in a 1646 edition of Postel's Key of Things Kept Secret from the Foundation of the World. But deciphering exactly what was Levi's meaning isn't the easiest task, so I was extremely excited when I ran across this article.

It reveals Levi's source and deciphers the "keys" to the Key itself. It also clears up a lot of BS that has come down from Levi.

The picture in the article isn't that great so I located a much better one.

After reading the article it's easier to understand what Waite may have had in mind for his Wheel. There's also another very tantalizing clue to Temperance in the square and triangle of Postel's Key.


Didn't Waite debunk (correctly) the idea that Postel's key had anything to do with the tarot?


Yes he did. But according to the article, both Postel and Franckenberg were Christian mystics and Rosicrucians. Though Waite borrowed heavily from Levi's imagery, I'm thinking his intended meaning may have more in common with Postel/Franckenberg, or at least more than with Levi.

In his description of his Wheel in the PKT, Waite says, "In this symbol I have again followed the reconstruction of Éliphas Lévi, who has furnished several variants. It is legitimate—as I have intimated—to use Egyptian symbolism when this serves our purpose, provided that no theory of origin is implied therein." He incorporated Levi's imagery without admitting any agreement with him on the meaning of the symbolism or its origin.


The head of Franckenberg's illustration shows the word intended is ROTA, not TARO. For Waite it may have had an additional meaning, TORA, or "Law."

Here's a pic of Levi's key from the frontispice of his La Clef des Grands Mysteres, 1861. The caption says, "The Absolute Key of the Occult Sciences, given by William Postel and completed by Eliphas Levi." It only superficially resembles the Postel/Franckenberg key and has occult symbolism as opposed to that of Christian mysticism.


For what it's worth, Paul Foster Case had the following to say on the subject:

By transposition, the letters of TARO may be arranged to make the following five words: ROTA TARO ORAT TORA ATOR. "Ator" is an old Latin form of the name of the Egyptian goddess Hathor. Thus this rather barbarous Latin sentence may be translated, "The Wheel of Tarot speaks the Law of Hathor (the Law of Nature)."


In the PKT Waite says, "The transliteration of Taro as Rota is inscribed on the wheel. . . ." "Transliteration" doesn't seem the best choice of words to me, as it's not so much a transliteration as a transposition. However you look at it though—transliteration, transposition, or translation—it doesn't change the meaning really. The phrase "as Rota" shows his primary intended reading is ROTA.