The Crowley-Harris Thoth card was renamed The Universe giving us both an ancient and very modern scientific perspective on the card formerly called The World that focused on Earth as the center of the Universe. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn emphasized this fact by its correspondence with the planet Saturn, related on the Tree of Life to Binah, the Great Mother. Saturn, being the furtherest planet that can be seen with the naked eye, was called “the ring-pass-not” and represented the furtherest reaches of what is known and the outer barrier of human existence.

World x3.jpgThe standard image of the wreath in most cards is said, among other things, to represent the plane of the ecliptic forming the constellations through which the planets travel and also the wheel of the year. The figure at the center seems to dance within the limitations of material existence. She can also be seen as giving birth to herself out of a cosmic vesica pisces shaped womb.

This figure is most often identified as some amalgam of Isis/Hathor, Sophia, Shekinah, Aimah Elohim (the plural feminine name of g-d), Gaia, and the Anima Mundi, or Soul of the World, who unites all opposites. Waite equated the image with what the alchemist, Thomas Vaughn described in Mysterium Magnum, as “Nature personified and redeemed.” (quoted by Waite in his book on Vaughn).

This theme of Nature appears in the Thoth deck at the bottom of the card via an early 20th century periodic table of the elements according to their atomic weight (identified by Lon Milo DuQuette; see Marcus Katz’s forthcoming Secrets of the Thoth Deck for details of this and other symbols).

However I believe the Thoth Universe card illustrates the creation of the universe that resulted in those raw elements depicted at the base. Crowley makes no mention of what I’m about to say. So this may be taken as one of the astounding examples of Carl Jung’s theory of the archetypes of the collective unconscious.

Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths (available cheaply used) opens with “The Pelasgian Creation Myth,” the most archaic of that peninsula’s creation myths, featuring Eurynome (whose name means “wide wandering”) whom Graves relates to the Sumerian goddess Iahu (“exalted dove”). Although Graves published The Greek Myths in 1955, it is likely that Crowley was familiar with the same sources used by Graves. I’ve truncated the story because of copyright. I highly recommend you read it in its whole.

Crowley Thoth Universe

In the beginning, Eurynome, the Goddess of All Things, rose naked from Chaos, but found nothing substantial for her feet to rest upon, and therefore divided the seas from the sky, dancing lonely upon its waves. She danced towards the south, and the wind set in motion behind her seemed something new and apart with which to begin the work of creation. Wheeling about, she caught hold of this north wind, rubbed it between her hands, and behold! the great serpent Ophion. . . .

Ophion, grown lustful, coiled about those divine limbs and was moved to couple with her. Now, the North Wind . . . fertilizes. . . . So Eurynome was likewise got with child. [She then laid the Universal Egg.] Ophion coiled seven times about this egg, until it hatched and split in two. Out tumbled all things that exist. . . .

[Ophion] vexed her by claiming to be the author of the Universe. Forthwith she bruised his head with her heel, kicked out his teeth, and banished him to the dark caves below the earth.

Eurynome then created the planets, setting a Titan and Titaness over each: Rhea and Cronos for the planet Saturn. Cronos (Time) went on to murder his father Uranus/Ophion with a sickle given him by his mother Gaia/Eurynome. 

And so we have a story that includes the dancing maiden, the serpent, all creation (the stars and celestial bodies detailed in Graves’s tale plus the table of elements), the four winds, stepping on the head of the serpent and the sickle. The egg with a serpent coiled around it, from the myth, appears in The Hermit and can be related to Phanes, another figure of early Greek myth who could be at the center of the Universe card.

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All that’s missing in the Pelasgian Creation Myth, but found in the card, is the radiant eye and the “twisted torus” shape in the background. If it is some kind of torus, then it is worth considering that some physicists propose the shape of the universe that immediately followed the Big Bang as a torus, while others see the universe as still being that shape today.