During the Second World War, Aleister Crowley, working with his friend, student, and artist Lady Freida Harris, created one of the most visually stunning and Qabalistically potent Tarot decks the world had ever seen. Named after the Egyptian god of magic and wisdom, the Thoth Tarot was both mind-blowingly beautiful and brilliantly conceived. In addition, Crowley decided to do something that broke pretty heavily from the Golden Dawn tradition – he switched the Qabalistic correspondences of two cards – the Emperor and Star. He did this due to a mystical text he “received” during trance* known as Liber AL vel Legis, or the Book of the Law. Within the first chapter, dedicated to the sky goddess Nuit, we find the following:
“Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet, hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God.
All these old letters of my Book are aright; but צ is not the Star. This also is secret: my prophet shall reveal it to the wise.”
The Book she spoke of was the Tarot, referred to by Crowley as the Book of Thoth. Crowley racked his brain in an attempt to figure out why צ – Tzaddi – was suddenly not the Star. However, instead of assuming that the card should merely be renamed, he decided instead to take an already Qabalistically assigned card and make a switch.
The Emperor card having been assigned to the Hebrew letter Heh was problematic for Crowley. Within the confines of the Tetragrammaton, that is, the holy four-fold name of God (YHVH/Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh, sometimes transliterated as Jehovah), Heh is used twice, and as far as the Qabalists were concerned, both times were assigned to denote the passive elements (Water and Earth). This made little sense to Crowley, who viewed the Emperor, assigned to the Cardinal Fire sign of Aries, as aggression and machismo personified. In addition, Uncle Aleister then began playing a pretty lame game of sound-association in an attempt to pass his new attribution off as genuine word etymology.
“This card (Emperor) is attributed to the letter Tzaddi, and it refers to the sign of Aries in the Zodiac. This sign is ruled by Mars, and therein the Sun is exalted. The sign is thus a combination of energy in its most material form with the idea of authority. The sign TZ or TS implies this in the original, onomatopoetic form of language. It is derived from Sanskrit roots meaning Head and Age, and is found today in words like Caesar, Tsar, Sirdar, Senate, Senior, Signor, Senor, Seigneur.”
Firstly, apart from a few rare cases of borrowed words, Hebrew is not derived from Indo-European Sanscrit, but from its own Proto-Semitic language roots. This might explain, to begin with, why “Tzaddi” means “Fish Hook” in Hebrew and not “Old Head” or something of the sort. Also, it should be noted that in Hebrew the word Caesar is spelled Qoph-Samekh-Resh**, with the “Tz” of Tzaddi nowhere to be found.
Secondly, even pushing aside the misogynistic notion that energetic aggression is solely masculine, stereotypical machismo itself would be absolutely nothing without a feminine element added to the equation. Isn’t testosterone’s base primary purpose to drive its possessor to secure an ideal mate, no matter who stands in the way? Also, does there exist within our collective minds a single “macho man” who doesn’t have some weird Freudian mommy issues? Crowley’s own Oedipal difficulties certainly shine through his writing fiercely, and the man could become downright petulant in places where “the fairer sex” was concerned.
I feel our Emperor can be as rugged and butch as he wants to be without being embarrassed to hold hands with the Empress in public, or tell his mother he loves her, or spoil his young daughter with gifts. Heh is a perfect letter for him, since it is for such passive elements that he theoretically rises to the occasion time and time again.
Tzaddi can comfortably remain as the letter associated with Aquarius and the beauty of the card once called “The Star”. Aquarius is the water-bearer, but not Water itself. It is the fixed and most stable of Air signs. It is the expansive Sky, the vault of the heavens, that which bears life-giving rains to the soil, rivers and oceans below. It is no wonder that the litany of the Sky Goddess Nuit was where the misnomer was proclaimed, for a star is a mere freckle upon Her skin. Thus, in the Dream Logic Tarot, the card associated with the sign of Aquarius and the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, is named The Sky.
*This is merely one possible interpretation of the events that transpired during Crowley’s 1904 Honeymoon with his first wife Rose. Some say it was Rose who went into trance and dictated the piece, others that the God Horus himself appeared behind Crowley and commanded him to write. Whatever the case, Crowley treated the “received” book with reverence, even to the extent of founding Thelema, a religion (of sorts) with Liber AL as its central holy text.
**This is of particular importance to anyone interested in Crowley and/or Revelations. Certain scholars believe that the ominous Number of the Beast — 666, which held so much importance and Qabalistic significance to Uncle Aleister, was an attempt at transliterated gematria involving the name of Emperor Nero. In Greek, the lingua franca of the Levant at the time, Nero is usually spelled with a final “nu”. Thus NERON CAESAR, transliterated into Hebrew would be spelled NRVN QSR (Nun-Resh-Vau-Nun Qoph-Samekh-Resh), which would yield 666. The oldest versions of Revelations, however, have the Beast’s number as 616, which means the name would have been transliterated from Latin, which did not include the final “n”. The Hebrew “n”, or “Nun”, equals the number 50 in gematria.