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The Alethiometer

How to Read

Definitions

History



Definitions of Symbols
of the Alethiometer


Hourglass
Time
Death, change ...
Sun
Day
Authority, truth ...
Alpha and Omega
Finality
Process, inevitability ...
Marionette
Obedience
Submission, grace ...
Serpent
Evil
Guile, natural wisdom ...
Cauldron (crucible)
Alchemy
Craft, achieved wisdom ...
Anchor
Hope
Steadfastness, prevention ...
Helmet
War
Protection, narrow vision ...
Beehive
Productive work
Sweetness, light ...
Moon
Chastity
Mystery, the uncanny ...
Madonna
Motherhood
The feminine, worship ...
Apple
Sin
Knowledge, vanity ...
Bird
The soul (the dæmon)
Spring, marriage ...
Bread
Nourishment
Christ, sacrifice ...
Ant
Mechanical work
Diligence, tedium ...
Bull
Earth
Power, honesty ...
Candle
Fire
Faith, learning ...
Cornucopia
Wealth
Autumn, hospitality ...
Chameleon
Air
Greed, patience ...
Thunderbolt
Inspiration
Fate, chance ...
Dolphin
Water
Resurrection, succor ...
Walled garden
Nature
Innocence, order ...
Globe
Politics
Sovereignty, fame ...
Sword
Justice
Fortitude, the Church ...
Griffin
Treasure
Watchfulness, courage ...
Horse
Europe
Journeys, fidelity ...
Camel
Asia
Summer, perseverance ...
Elephant
Africa
Charity, continence ...
Crocodile (caiman)
America
Rapacity, enterprise ...
Baby
The future
Malleability, helplessness ...
Compass
Measurement
Mathematics, science ...
Lute
Poetry
Rhetoric, philosophy ...
Tree
Firmness
Shelter, fertility ...
Wild man
Wild man
The masculine, lust ...
Owl
Night
Winter, fear ...


Each symbol has one primary meaning and a range of subsidiary meanings, which is potentially infinite. However, the subsidiary meanings are all related by association to the primary meaning. So, for instance, the sun symbolizes (1) day, because it is during the day that we see the sun. It also symbolizes (2) authority, because the sun is the most powerful thing in the sky. Another meaning is (3) truth, because by the sun's light we can see the true forms of things. The sun range continues:

(4) kingship (or political authority of any kind), because the king is the sun around whom the court or the state revolves;

(5) a particular king or leader (in the context of a query to the alethiometer, it will be obvious which one is meant);

(6) Phoebus Apollo, and thus rationality and the intellect, as opposed to the baser emotions;

(7) archery (Apollo's bow and arrows) and thence

(8) the power of administering punishment at a distance, including

(9) plague;

(10) the creative arts (through Apollo's patronage of the nine Muses);

(11) the laurel (through Apollo's love for Daphne), and thence

(12) honor, prizes, fame, through Apollo's awarding of the laurel wreath;

(13) divination and prophecy (through the Delphic Oracle);

(14) pastoral husbandry (Apollo's flocks and herds), and thence

(15) a particular farm, and thence

(16) a particular beast;

(17) homosexual love (Apollo's love for Hyacinthus);

(18) gold...

And so on, infinitely. No one has ever reached the end of a symbol range, even though some have been explored to the depth of a thousand or more meanings.

Each symbol is thus capable of expressing a multitude of ideas, but each subsidiary meaning carries with it some quality of the primary one, even when it may appear to coincide with a meaning in another range. For example, the meaning "sea" appears both as number seven in the dolphin's range and number four in the anchor's, but it signifies different things in each. In the dolphin range, it means "the sea as wide, nourishing home", and in the anchor range, the sea as danger and unpredictability." A skillful reading of the alethiometer would have to take into account not only the meaning itself, wherever it comes within the range, but also the significance lent it by the range itself.