Secrets in a Chessboard

Chessboard at Klekolo

Originally uploaded by anselm23

I found this chessboard set up recently at the coffee house that I regularly visit. Thanks to my friend Bill Sullivan, I know that W.B. Yeats saw a tremendous amount of metaphysical information encoded into the squares of the board.

For Yeats, the four squares at the center represent the four elements, and the four seasons. The twelve squares around those four are the twelve signs of the Zodiac. I don’t know what the 20 squares in the next ring out stand for, but they are there… The next ring out has 28 squares in it, which (again, for Yeats) stood for the 28 Mansions of the Moon, which I’ve been working with as an art project.

If you extended the ring out beyond the 8×8 grid of the chessboard, one discovers 36 squares — the number of Decanates in the Zodiac, which are the number of 10° windows in the sky, three to each sign of the Zodiac. Each of those signs has a traditional image associated with it, and those Decanate images, and the signs of the Mansions of the Moon, can be used as a Palace of Memory.

Half of the board, of course, is ruled by the dark pieces, representative of the dark half of the year, from Fall Equinox to Spring Equinox. The light pieces represent the light half of the year, from Spring Equinox to Fall Equinox.

There’s other information encoded into chessboards that I haven’t learned yet (I still don’t know what those 20 squares stand for!), but I think it’s interesting that there’s a set of deep symbols on display here, which most people have no idea how to read, nor do they care to.

This kind of hidden information can often help people derive meaning in a complex and not-always-easy existence, and yet we neither teach it in school, nor believe it to be valuable, nor regard it as ‘truthful’.

What stuns you, my readers, about ordinary things in plain sight that are rich with symbolic meaning TO YOU, that most people seem to have not a clue about?


  1. Making a wish on a certain digital clock number–but got what I wished for a while back and have not looked at these numbers the say way.

    I used to tap off the gas tank around significant historical dates–was that guy in class who could rattle off dates in history class–but that was before the war(s) when gas was much cheaper and I had a VW.

  2. The symbols for play back controls on everything from VCRs, DVDs and iPods:
    Play (Triangle)
    Pause (two vertical bars)
    Stop (Square)
    I don’t know their origins, but these are symbols we see everyday and understand their meaning with little explanation.

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