Shape Magic: Lemniscate, Analemma, Möbius strip

analemma

These symbols are cousins to each other.  I have a new Tarot class starting, and I’ll be speaking about the lemniscate – the horizontal figure-8 symbol for infinity – found on some cards.  In the Major Arcana, the Magician and Strength often contain lemniscates, and the Two of Pentacles traditionally incorporates a large lemniscate entwined around the two discs.

RWS-01-iRWS-08-viii

The shape dates back to Greek Neoplatonist philosopher-mathematician Proclus.  He called the shape a hippopede, or “horse-fetter,” the twist of rope used to hobble a horse.  One loop around each front hoof and voila!  The horse’s power is commanded, which can play into potential Tarot meanings.The analemma is the same shape in grand, celestial terms.  It’s the figure-8 found on the side of a globe, its northern- and southern-most ends – at the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, respectively – marking the solstice extremes of the Sun’s motion, where the Sun “turns around.”  More spectacularly, the analemma is also the Sun’s motion as seen in the sky over the course of a year.  Viewed daily, same time and vantage point, the Sun’s position shifts higher and lower, farther east and west.  Over the year, we see a lop-sided figure-8 emerge, as in the photo above.

By comparison, the Möbius strip is simple, earthy, physical.  It’s just a strip of paper, its ends joined to create a ring but – vital! – with a twist in the paper so that the outer side becomes the inner, and vice versa: It has no end.  Find Möbius strip details here.  Flattened out, the Möbius strip is the origin of the recycling symbol.

So far, these symbols may read like math or science, but spiritually their meanings expand: The Sun’s motion and our ability to track it and celebrate its turning points; the perpetual continuity found in the lemniscate and the Möbius strip; our awareness of our earthly presence, expressed in the recycle symbol, and so much more.  Symbols are our visual tools, and in these, What goes around, comes around.

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Analemma photomontage credit to Jailbird, via Wikipedia Creative Commons shared use.

More on the spiritual applications in the Night Sky and Math for Mystics books.

More analemma action: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap120920.html

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One thought on “Shape Magic: Lemniscate, Analemma, Möbius strip

  1. Thanks for this fascinating bit of info. I heard of this in high school and adopted the lemniscate as a personal symbol of integrity and sustainability. Recently I decided to write about the experience but went to research “lemma”. I had forgotten the term “lemniscate.” This is great stuff. (Try to write a poem with the word “hippopede” in it!)

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