Encyclopedia > Quincunx

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The word quincunx has several uses:

1. It is an old word for the arrangement of five units in the pattern corresponding to the five-spot on dice, playing cards, or dominoes. This is a quincunx:

2. The name Sir Francis Galton gave to the machine he invented for demonstrating the normal distribution. Also known as the bean machine.

3. The Quincunx pattern originates from Pythagorean mysticism. It is the pattern which can be discerned at the heart of the Pythagorean tetkratys, a pyramid of ten dots. To the Pythagoreans the number five held particular significance and it was represented by the Quincunx pattern. The quincunx is the pattern upon which Sir Thomas Browne moulds his mystical Discourse 'The Garden of Cyrus'(1658) upon. 'The power of the Pythagorean mysteries is based upon a mystical understanding of the mathematical order of the Universe which could be summed up in visual representation of such numbers as the Tetkratys (10) and the Quincunx (5)'. -Robert Graves 'The White Goddess'

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