The lore of Life, Leaf & Stone:
part 3, the Wisdom of Life
In earlier articles (see left) I have examined the history of the so-called Tresco manuscript and the structure of the wisdom traditions contained in the works collectively known as the Book of Visions. These traditions are based ultimately upon the 36 letter-forms of the Tengwar alphabet. My aim now is to present the Wisdom of Life in a way both accessible and relevant to the modern reader.
The Wisdom of Life is divided into two parts: a numerological discipline and the 'Wheel of Visions'. The former derives individual archetypes - the LIFE-vision and Year-visions - which reflect the lessons and challenges relevant throughout a person's lifetime.
The Wheel of Visions works on two levels: these are known respectively as the Outer and Inner Wheels. The Outer Wheel relates the thirty-six Vision archetypes to the cycle of the year; the Inner Wheel does the same thing to a person's growth and development throughout each period from one birthday to the next (the growth year).
These four elements - the LIFE-vision, the Year-vision profile and the Outer and Inner Wheels - can be seen as expressing different cycles and rhythms within the lifetime of an individual.
The Wisdom of Life thus forms a framework within which you can explore your experiences. Working with the Tengwar / Vision archetypes in this way can yield insights into how you relate to yourself, to others and to the world at large. The basic analysis can be done on behalf of another person, but here we concentrate on using the Wisdom of Life to explore your own life experiences.
The methods for determining your LIFE-vision, Year-vision profile and Wheel of Visions are described and illustrated with worked examples. Suggestions are given as to how the different strands of 'Life Wisdom' can be integrated with one another. Using the Wisdom of Life in conjunction with the divinatory 'Lore of Leaf & Stone' will be discussed in a later article.
Most of the calculations and exercises suggested in this article call for written records to be kept. This is best done in the form of a workbook, so that your notes can be kept together and in order. There is no need for anything formal or expensive: a spiral bound A4 notebook is ideal.
If you already keep a personal journal or diary, you might feel that this is the best place in which to record your ideas. Others might prefer a loose-leaf binder. This has the advantage that pages can be inserted, removed or rearranged as required.
Calculating your LIFE-vision
Your LIFE-vision provides an overview of your life as a whole. It is calculated by applying the following formula to your date of birth:
Day of the Year + Year of the Age + Age of the World
'Day of the Year' is the numerical position of your birthday in the year, starting with the first of January at position 1. It can be found by looking up your date of birth in the tables in Appendix A, taking care to note whether the year of your birth was leap or non-leap. (Any year exactly divisible by four is leap: the first year of a century is leap only if exactly divisible by 400. Thus, 1980 was leap, as will be 2000, but 1900 was not).
'Year of the Age' is simply the year in which you were born, up to / including the year 2000. For years 2001 and greater subtract 2000.
'Age of the World' is six for years up to / including 2000 and seven for years 2001 and above.
These three numbers are added to give the 'Date Total'. The Date Total is reduced by summing its digits, and reduced again if necessary to give a value less than thirty-six. The final number is your LIFE-vision, which applies to your life as a whole. The Vision corresponding to any Date Total between 1994 and 2398 can be found directly by using the tables in Appendix B.
The author's LIFE-vision is thus 12, BRIDGE.
Arthur's LIFE-vision is thus 6, GIFT.
Using your LIFE-vision
Your LIFE-vision is a 'summary' of your life as a whole, in so far as anything so broad and rich can be summarised. Exploring your LIFE-vision can help you understand some of the themes, challenges and lessons you have met, or will meet in the future. Note, though, that it will - and can only be - the work of a lifetime to fully understand the purposes and value of your existence.
As with any new discipline, it is bound to take some time before you feel fully confident about using the Vision archetypes to investigate situations in which you find yourself, and to appreciate the kind of insights they can reveal.
Your LIFE-vision is probably the best place to begin working with the Visions, and you may find the following ideas helpful in getting you started. Remember, though, that they are only suggestions: you are free to adapt, improve - or reject - them, as you feel is appropriate to you.
It can be instructive to repeat these exercises at intervals - perhaps yearly on or around your birthday. Alternately, the ten day period (decan) ruled by your LIFE-vision in each year would be an appropriate period during which to reassess what the archetype means for you. These days can be identified from your Inner Wheel of Visions (see below). Record any insights that come to you, whether they seem to fit in with what you have previously learnt or not, for this is one way in which your perceptions may be expanded.
Calculating your Year-visions
Just as a your date of birth derives your LIFE-vision, the date of each birthday is used to derive a Year-vision (your LIFE-vision is also the Year-vision for your first year of life). Each Year-vision provides a clue to how you might choose to respond to the events, lessons and challenges that come your way in the growth year to follow. Looking at individual years can yield a lot of useful information, but it is generally of more value to follow the profile of Year-visions as it develops over a longer period of time.
The method is the same as that described above for the LIFE-vision. The Date Total of your birthday in each year is calculated, using the 'Day of the Year + Year of the Age + Age of the World' formula. The total is then reduced by adding together its digits, to give a number under thirty-six which identifies your Year-vision for the coming twelve months.
Using your Year-visions
Your YEAR-visions can be used in a number of ways. Plotted over a number of years, your Year-vision profile emphasises the cyclical nature of your life experiences, and the years where you are changing from one phase to another. Each growth year can be related to its ruling Year-vision, and to previous years which have fallen under that archetype. Conversely, through your Year-visions, the events of your life enable you to build a personal understanding of the Vision archetypes themselves.
As you approach each birthday, you should be aware that one cycle - one growth year - is coming to an end, and that a new yearly cycle is about to begin. The degree to which this is manifest will vary. Where both the 'old' and the 'new' years are ruled by the same Year-vision (which will occur every four years if your birthday falls on or after March 1), the change in emphasis may not be greatly pronounced.
Where one Vision gives way to the next in numerical sequence (for example, a year under Vision 8, TREE being followed by one under Vision 9, PILGRIM) you should feel a sense of natural progression in the workings of your life.
This applies even where your next year falls under one of the 'Key' Visions 12, BRIDGE, 13, GATE or 16, TOWER (see below). The change is more likely to be felt if you have reached the end of one of the (usually nine year) Year-vision series, such that your sequence of Year-visions makes a 'jump'.
Each Year-vision sets the tone for the twelve months ahead, and should be born in mind throughout the year. The decans of the Wheel of Visions (described below) provide day-to-day guidance but you should not lose sight of the year as a whole, to which the events and experiences of each day belong.
Your perception of your Year-vision and how it relates to what you are experiencing will change, and this should be reviewed from time to time. Appropriate times to do this would be at the quarters of your growth year, also during the ten day period assigned to your Year-vision on the Inner Wheel of Visions (see below for details of how to calculate your Inner Wheel dates). As with the other exercises suggested, you should record your thoughts in your workbook, so that they are available for reference in the future.
In all this work, it is important to remember that the Visions can manifest in various ways, some more positive than others. A central part of this lore is that life is not all 'sweetness and light'. To deny the dark is to reject one half of human experience. There is potential in the most mundane and desperate of your experiences, if these can be seen as part of a natural, unfolding cycle of challenges, lessons, growth and becoming. Neither, of course, should you overemphasise the dark.
Remember that the Year-visions are not divinatory in themselves: that is, they do not predict events (divinatory uses of the Visions will be covered in a later article). The fact that the last year ruled by your current Year-vision was one you would rather not repeat does not mean that you will experience the same things as before. Their value lies in helping you to structure your approach to whatever is happening around you.
Work with, but do not feel restricted by, the suggested meanings and techniques. There are a multitude of means by which the basic message of any archetype may find expression in a lifetime or be realised by an individual.
Your own life experiences provide the most immediate and personally relevant arena in which to explore the meanings of the Vision archetypes. Such work will provide new insights and correspondences, extending the 'standard' meanings into the most effective lexicon for you, whether you are working with the Wisdom of Life or performing readings with cards or stones.
However, great care must then be taken when interpreting the Visions for others. In such circumstances it is imperative to distinguish generally applicable meanings from personal references which may not be valid for anyone else.
Your Year-vision profile
The sequence of Year-visions you have calculated is best presented graphically: a 'lifetime' chart covering, say, sixty years is easily constructed. Appendix D contains a chart suitable for such a purpose, also a sample Year-vision profile completed for the author.
The thirty-six rows represent each of the thirty-six Vision archetypes: the columns represent consecutive growth years. In each column, the box corresponding to the appropriate Year-vision is shaded or otherwise marked.
If your birthday falls on or after March 1, leap years result in two consecutive growth years being ruled by the same Year-vision. Whenever this occurs, you have twice the opportunity to experience the lessons associated with that archetype, before moving on to the next.
You will notice that the Year-visions tend to run in 'series', each offset by one Vision from the series before. These are generated by the formula used, and by our decimal ('ten based') counting system. One consequence is that growth years ruled by the same Vision tend to fall nine years apart.
The shifts between one series and the next are important and their occurrence should be related to the events occurring around that time. In general, each series advances one Vision from the series before, although more fundamental shifts can occur. One such shift can be seen in the author's Year-vision profile at age 53/54, where the ten year phase ending with Vision 20, WORLD is followed by 3, RIVER-DAUGHTER.
The significance of any shift is greatly enhanced if it coincides with a year ruled by one of the so-called 'Key' Visions: 12, BRIDGE, 13, GATE or 16, TOWER. Irrespective of where they fall in a person's Year-vision sequence, these Visions mark important 'rites of passage' between one phase of personal development and the next. Their individual meanings can be summarised as follows:
Any years ruled by your LIFE-vision should also be noted carefully. As mentioned previously, such years are important in understanding your broader life purpose.
The next step is to record on your Year-vision profile the major details and events from your life to date: relationships, births, deaths; changes of job, location or lifestyle. Note how these relate (or do not) to the suggested meanings for the corresponding Visions. Certain archetypes will appear several times throughout your lifetime, while others occur less frequently or not at all. Those you encounter most frequently are a good point to start further exploration.
Expanding on the LIFE-vision exercises described earlier, compare past years which had the same Year-vision. What features did the events and experiences of these years have in common with one another, and how do they relate to the suggested meanings for that Vision? What lessons do you feel you have learnt? If the Year-vision is going to recur in the future, consider the possibility that you still have something to learn in that area.
The Wheel of Visions
The Outer Wheel of Visions
On the Outer Wheel, the thirty-six Tengwar / Vision archetypes are related to the changing seasons of the old year, beginning at the winter solstice, December 21. The Outer Wheel is the same for everyone, and can be thought of in different ways.
It is the 'landscape' through which we all journey, visiting in turn each of the thirty-six Visions on a pilgrimage of self-discovery. Or, viewed in more 'astrological' terms, it is the ever-turning cycle of the heavens, with each Vision exerting its influence upon us in its season.
The quarter days of the Outer Wheel, and the date of the first day in each decan, are given in Appendix E. The column headings relate to the calendar year in which the first day - December 21 - falls. Wheel B is used for years commencing December 21 in 'leap-1' years: for example the twelve month period from December 21 1995 (1996 being leap). Wheel A is used for years commencing December 21 in all other years.
The Inner Wheel of Visions
Your Inner Wheel of Visions is simply the Outer Wheel rotated so that it commences on your birthday. It can be thought of as representing your cycle of experiences from one birthday to the next. This birthday-to-birthday period is fundamental to the Wisdom of Life, and is termed the growth year.
Because of leap year corrections, two versions of the Inner Wheel of Visions exist. Wheel A applies to three out of every four growth years. The remaining growth years are covered by Wheel B.
When completed, columns 1 and 2 of the worksheet give the first day of the Inner Wheel decan ruled by each of the thirty-six Vision archetypes. The four Quarters of the Inner Wheel are also shown. The boxes at the top of the columns show when these respective dates should be used:
For birthdays falling Jan 1 to Feb 28:
For birthdays falling Feb 29 to Dec 31:
where 'leap-1' indicates any year which precedes a leap year. For example: 1984 was leap, so 1983 was a 'leap-1' year. The method for calculating the Inner Wheel of Visions is illustrated by means of two worked examples.
For the author, Wheel B applies to growth years beginning March 20 in years preceding a leap year (for example, the growth year from March 20 1987 to March 19 1988). Wheel A applies to growth years beginning March 20 in all other years (for example, the growth year from March 20 1988 to March 19 1989).
For Annie, Wheel A applies to growth years beginning January 15 in non-leap years (for example, the growth year from January 15 1987 to January 14 1988). Wheel B applies to growth years beginning January 15 in leap years (for example, the growth year from January 15 1988 to January 14 1989).
Using the Wheel of Visions
Earlier in this article we saw how your LIFE-vision provides an overview of your life's purpose and direction, considered as a whole. We also saw how your Year-visions enable you to monitor and assess your progress.
In this respect, each of your growth years can be thought of as a discrete stage in your journey. However, no matter under which Vision it falls, each growth year is a cycle of experience and learning unto itself. This cycle, encompassing as it does all thirty-six Vision archetypes, is the Wheel of Visions. The Outer Wheel (applicable to everyone) and the method for calculating your own Inner Wheel of Visions have been described.
As we have seen, the Wheel of Visions relates to two different yearly cycles. The Inner Wheel of Visions, running from birthday to birthday, is the fundamental cycle, but it is always perceived against the 'background' of the Outer Wheel, which commences at midwinter.
Thus, for the vast majority of people, each archetype can only be experienced in combination with one or more others. The spectrum of combinations depends upon the date of birth, and thus varies for different people. However, for an individual the combination is the same in every year.
Note that this differs from the LIFE-vision and Year-visions, where an archetype is exhibited in its 'pure' form - that is, directly and unalloyed.
Only for a person born on December 21 are the two Wheels exactly aligned. People born between December 12 and January 30 will experience each Vision 'pure' for at least some days in each decan. For the rest of us, the fact that each day in the year is governed by two different Visions should not be thought of as a problem.
It does, however, mean that care is needed in applying the 'standard' Vision meanings in our day-to-day lives. The caution given earlier against blindly applying personal Vision correspondences to others (for whom they may not be relevant) becomes doubly important here.
Personally deduced correspondences which relate your experiences to their ruling (Inner + Outer) Wheel Visions may well not be valid for someone who experiences their Visions in different combinations.
The first step towards understanding the Wheel of Visions is to write out your day-by-day correspondences in full. Working out these alignments is rather laborious, but once the task has been completed you will quickly be able to identify the correct combination of Inner and Outer Wheel Visions for any given date (remember that this combination is only correct for you, and anyone sharing your birthday). You may find that a blank pocket diary, or a wall calendar, is more suitable than your Wheel of Visions workbook.
For convenience when referring to any given day, the following convention should be adopted:
[ Inner Wheel Vision (day in decan) ] Outer Wheel Vision (day in decan)
For example, on the Outer Wheel February 17 is the eighth day of the decan ruled by vision 5, LORE-GIVER. For the author this is also the first day of the decan ruled on the Inner Wheel by vision 33, MOUTH. This would be written as:
[ 33, MOUTH (1) ] 5, LORE-GIVER (8)
Although they will differ by only a day or two, you should chart alignments over two years, to cover the full leap cycle:
As an example, Appendix G sets out the first alignment (Inner Wheel A, Outer Wheel A/A) for the author, born March 20). The table is applicable for all the author's growth years except those beginning in leap-1 years.
The best approach to using your Wheel of Visions alignments is to remain aware, each day, of your ruling Inner and Outer Wheel archetypes, and explore how the events and experiences of the day relate to the Visions' meanings.
Concentrate first on your Inner Wheel Vision, as this reflects your personal progress through your current growth year. The Vision on the Outer Wheel can be seen as the 'background' influences against which you are moving, or as an outside influence moderating the effect of your Inner Wheel archetype.
In all of this, do not forget that the day is not an isolated period of time. It is one day in both your present growth year and your life as a whole. You should keep your LIFE-vision and current Year-vision in mind at all times, but especially during the periods they rule on your Inner Wheel.
Ultimately, how you use the Wisdom of Life will depend upon you, your temperament, skills and interests. Simply thinking through the events of each day in relation to your ruling Visions can lead to sudden insights. Where these occur, you should note them down in your workbook so that they are not lost.
If you already keep a daily journal or diary, the Wheel can provide a starting point from which to interpret and explore what is happening in your life, and how it may be related to the world around you. Your LIFE-vision, current Year-vision or ruling Inner Wheel archetype might form a focus for a meditation, or a divinatory reading.