Saturday, February 19, 2011



Early Christianity had recognized what the early Chinese revered for thousands of years prior to Christ:

The gnomon and the art of numbering is what links Heaven and earth.  Secondly, magic squares were considered to be divine arrangements of numbers that could be used in magic, prognostication, and divination.

Examples of incorporating calendrical numerology and magic squares into the Christian ideology are demonstrated by the works of Hrabanus Maurus (780 – 856 AD), the archbishop of Mainz, Germany.  Hrabanus was a Frankish Benedictine monk during the Carolingian period known primarily for De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis (In Praise of the Holy Cross), a masterful collection of 28 poems that feature his unusual and enduring style of poetry that incorporated imagery onto the manuscript.  The letters that are enclosed within the image(s) form an additional miniature poem, that is, poems with in a poem. 

Hrabanus adhered to the Church’s formula for sacred geometry as his imagery incorporates:

  • A cross – in – square pattern 
  • The four quadrants
  • An axis mundi
  • Numerology associated with the four seasons, lunar or solar cycles

This formula for sacred geometry generates the quincunx, a geometric symbol that is used to identify the most sacred of objects, most commonly, illuminated manuscripts. 

Poem 9 from De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis

Poem number 9 from De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis is composed of 41 lines and columns of letters.  These numbers, 9 and 41, correspond to the 9x9 magic square (in the Luo Shu format) that has 41 as its center.  This is only noteworthy because the 9x9 magic square corresponds to the Moon in alchemy and magic.

Therefore, it may be possible for an illiterate person to somewhat understand the message of the poem through the (numerical) imagery and the association of the numerology with the Moon and the four seasons.

Poem number nine mentions time, the revolution of the sun and the moon around earth, order and prosperity, the crucifixion;  but mostly the poem is about the glorification of the cross. 

What is noteworthy in the prose is the role of the light of the sun and moon upon the cross and the resultant shadow of information.  Hrabanus is describing the tradition of the gnomon.

The poem can be read by substituting the gnomon for the cross.

Example:  Lines 1 – 9:
1.   Sun and moon, praise god Jesus Christ.
2 .  The cross (gnomon) is your honor, enduring light, peace-bringing order,
3 .  glory, goodness, succession, and light for all ages.
4 .  Within this space of time (i.e. 365 days) you (the gnomons) measure night and      day
5 .  And ply your (the gnomons) course according to its perfect rhythm.
6 .  The four branches of the stem (the gnomon) contain in its
7 .  Thickness six times ten, five times one, and ten times thirty.
8 .  For indeed it is recognized that this is the way the sun and the moon are  restricted in their circular   motion;
9.   and the whole year goes around once through all the seasons;
And lines :
               20.  Altar and scepter of the high god,
21.  you (the gnomons) link in a strict order the underworld and the lofty sky;
22.  for the cross (gnomon) is the glory of the world.
The most intriguing feature of the poem is the imagery of four hexagonal shaped figures that are inclusive of some of the letters.  It has been determined that the number of letters included in three of the hexagons numbers 91, while the fourth numbers 92 for a total of 365.  Therefore, Hrabanus has managed to incorporate the following calendrical numerations:

The lunar cycle of 28 days
The solar cycle of 365 days
The four seasons
The number of days in each season, 91
The number of weeks in a year, 52
The four parts of a day

John North in his The Ambassadors Depart (2002, p. 284 – 287) comments:

Some of the doctrines developed by Rabanus here help to explain an even more remarkable exercise in mysticism for which he is responsible.  Praise of the Holy Cross (De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis) combines theology with mystical mathematical symbolism.  While in outward form it is a literary work, it has a strong figurative element…….The verses made up from the letters inside the hexagons refer to 365 as the “universe of time”, the 3 times 91, and 91 plus one.  Just how intricate the scheme is only becomes obvious when we count the numbers of letters inside the hexagons, for they represent those same numbers, the days in a season……

Hrabanus incorporates the same Chinese/Platonic/Pythagorean principles that we have seen before:  the quincunx, the use of magic squares that correspond to a planetary sphere, calendar numerology, the gnomon, the solar and lunar cycle, prosperity and agriculture.  All of these themes are referred to in this forty one line poem. 

Furthermore, it was stated earlier that De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis was a collection of 28 poems.  The number 28 corresponds to the lunar cycle because:
  • The synodic revolution of the moon, that is, from new to new or full to full is 29.53 days, and
  • The sidereal revolution of the moon, that is, the time it takes the moon to return to its same place among the stars is 27.33 days.  
These periods are always out of step but the average of 28 served convenience.
And numerologists would take delight in the peculiarities of the number 28, that is:

The sum of all its divisors, 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28
The sum of the first seven numbers, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 = 28

Magic squares were obviously a great influence on the monks throughout Europe during the Carolingian age.  The Coptic Gospels from Fayum, Egypt (c. 800 AD), the works of Hrabanus Maurus (810 AD), and the upper cover of the Lindau Gospels (c. 875 AD) represent the primary evidence of the use of magic squares in Christianity during this period.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Mathematics are most necessary in magic, for everything which is done through natural virtue is governed by number, weight, and measure.  Pythagoras said that numbers have more reality than natural things, hence the superiority of mathematical magic to natural magic.

Frances Yates  Giardano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964)

The above magic squares are from the book De Occulta Philosophia by Henry Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486 – 1535), physician, magician, and Secretary to the Emperor Maximilian I. 

De Occulta Philosophia had the distinction of being the most authoritative book on magic and the occult arts during the early Italian Renaissance.  The book circulated in manuscript form since 1510, was published in 1531, and expanded to three volumes in 1533.  Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528) and Hans Holbein (1497 – 1543) could have been influenced by such a work and the magical influence of numbers. 

The book lists the first seven magic squares and their corresponding Kabbalistic names, signs, and figures to be used in the practice of magic.  Each planet was assigned its own number and several divine names. 

The four magical figures that corresponded to the moon, its spirit, its daemon, and its position in the zodiac.

The above magic squares correspond to the moon, the metal silver, and the numbers 369 and 3,321.

Note of interest:  There are two mistakes in Agrippa's 9x9 magic square.  The numbers 43 and 45 appear twice in the square and we know this violates a basic tenet of magic squares. 

The most common magic square is the basic 3x3 magic square also known as the Luo Shu.  The corresponding planet is Saturn.  This square could be worn as an amulet for protection against the negative influences of Saturn during certain times of the year.  The number 45 corresponds to the planet Saturn.

The Luo Shu, Chinese Magic, and the Dance of Yu
The early Chinese practiced magic and alchemy with the aid of magic squares three thousand years prior to Agrippa's book.  The Dance of Yu was a ceremonial dance mentioned in texts dating from the second century   BC.  The above illustration demonstrates that the steps of Yu are based on the numerical sequence of the 3x3 Magic Square.

The Sigil of the Moon and Greek Coins

The Magic Square, the Moon, the Swastika, and the Quincunx

This example of a Greek coin from Knossos, c 350 BC, seems to incorporate the 3x3 magic square, the symbol for the moon, and the swastika.  
The Greek coin with the swastika has the number five as its center, or axis mundi.  The number five at the center of a cross – in – square pattern with four similar quadrants makes a strong correspondence to the 3x3 magic square.  The four quadrants have the symbol for the moon and the four cardinal directions correspond to the arms of the swastika.   The quincunx can be seen as the axis mundi as well as the four moons around the center or the four arms of the swastika around the center.  The coin also exhibits the circle and square relationship, that is, a square 3x3 grid inside a circular coin. 

Agrippa's magical sigil for the moon also has a quincunx pattern around its center or axis mundi.  The four arms pointing in the four cardinal directions also create the four quadrants where the symbol for the moon resides and just as in the Greek coin from Knossos the crescent moon is pointing in the same direction.  Four circles at the end of each arm form a quincunx with the center circle.  The sigil also demonstrates the circle and square relationship and corresponds with the 9x9 magic square.

The 9x9 magic square demonstrates a cross – in – square pattern as only odd numbers occupy the horizontal and vertical axis.  The center or axis mundi is represented by the number 41 as this is the center between 9 and 92 just as the number five is the center number between 3 and 32.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Art and the Magic Square, Part Three


Numbers represented a language that helped to connect humankind to the Heavens.  The magic square helps to unravel this language.

Another use of the magic square in art was in the form of geometric symbolism rather than an explicit square of numbers.  This was a subtle representation as the cognitive use of the magic square was not intended for the common person.

The magic square was used in art in the form of the quincunx, known as sacred geometry, a pattern that was symbolic of a universal cosmology.

This universal cosmology does not have a known origin.  The early Chinese of more than three thousand years ago developed the Luo Shu into a model that represented their cosmology, as documented in the Yi Jing

The Luo Shu represented a perfect balance of Yin and Yang as the even numbers symbolized female and yin energy, the earth, and the four intermediate directions.  The number four symbolized the four elements: air, water, earth, and fire.  The four quadrants of the magic square symbolized the earth.  The “square” earth was a reference to measuring the earth with a carpenter’s square and the Pythagorean Theorem. 

The cross of odd numbers symbolized male and yang energy, Heaven, and the four cardinal directions.  The circular nature of Heaven encapsulates the earth and is represented by the compass and circle.  In temple and church design this concept is illustrated as the circular dome (omphalos) is placed over a square base. 

The Center

The center is the most important concept in Chinese cosmology; also known as the axis mundi (Latin).  The center number five is surrounded by four odd and four even numbers for a perfect balance.  In the ground plan of early church design the axis mundi symbolized the convergence of Heaven, earth, the transcended human, and corresponded to the central dome and altar (and sometimes a tomb). 

The odd and even numbers (sans the number five) are in a quincuncial relationship with the number five, i.e., the center.   This quincunx of numbers can be translated into a geometric representation using the square and circle:

Detail of the Ambassadors Depart (c. 1498) by Vittore Carapaccio

This sacred geometrical pattern is modeled after the Luo Shu and represents a cosmology that explains the universe.

This pattern is known as the quincunx and was used to identify places or things of political or religious importance.

The Cosmology of the Quincunx: The Circle and Square

The quincunx was the most popular ground plan for churches in the middle Byzantine era.  The quincunx pattern has been commonly used on the covers of the most sacred books, both in church art and for real.  And the quincunx was a favorite pattern of the Cosmati pavements in dozens of the oldest Italian churches.  The pattern was used with intention to mark the most revered places or items of religious or political significance because the quincunx encompassed all the elements that could explain the universe.

The quincunx church
"The center symbolizes the beginning, the origin, the starting point, the pure being, the absolute, the transcendent, in three dimensions, the center corresponds to the axis, which unites a point with the zenith (the North Star), indicating verticality.  The circle - in space, the sphere - represents the infinite, transcendent, and complete, in sum, the divine, god.  The square – in space, the cube – is the symbol of the earth, connected in its order to the four cardinal points.  The cross marks the four points of the compass; it stems from joining the center with each one of the points, establishing the orientation of the point in space and in time.  The cross is the mediating symbol that connects heaven and earth."
Paloma Pajares Ayuela, Cosmatesque Ornament  (2001)


1.  Altar cloth, c. 450 AD 
2.  Lindau Gospels, c. 875 AD
3.  Cosmati Pavement, c. 1150 - 1350 AD
4.  Church drawing, Da Vinci, c. 1485 AD
5.  The Ambassadors Depart  c.  1498  AD