Vi veri universum vivus vici
Due to the popularity of Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta, the phrase has been incorrectly though commonly attributed to Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, but the source of this attribution, as well as the origin of the phrase itself, appears to be Aleister Crowley's "The Cry of the 4th Aethyr". Since in the Latin alphabet, there is no distinction between U and V, the phrase can be abbreviated V.V.V.V.V., standing for Vi veri vniversvm vivvs vici. In the 1998 revised edition of Crowley's diary, the list of abbreviations describes "V.V.V.V.V" as Crowley's "8°=3° A∴A∴ motto".
The phrase is apparently first mentioned as Faust's motto in Robert Nye's novel Faust (1980). This attribution is taken up in V for Vendetta (1982–1988). Here, the initialism "V.V.V.V.V." appears embossed in an arch of V's hideout the "Shadow Gallery" — the character of "V" explains that these stand for the phrase Vi veri veniversum [sic] vivus vici, attributing the phrase to "a German gentleman named Dr. John Faust". In the film adaptation (2005), the same phrase appears instead on a mirror, also inside "V"'s Shadow Gallery, and the character "V" says the quotation is "from Faust". The phrase used in the book and film is incorrect, as veniversum is not a word in Latin.
The phrase also appears in Alan Moore's Promethea, issue #20, "The Stars Are But Thistles" when Sophie Bangs and Barbara Shelley encounter a woman, Alice, who might be Aleister Crowley, riding a camel on Route 13, gimel of the kabbalistic Tree of Life - the path from Tiphareth to Kether. Alice points to the markings behind her - V.V.V.V.V. - and notes them to be like five footprints of a camel.
Notes and references
- "The Cry of the 4th Aethyr", Biskra, Algeria. December 16, 1909. 9–10:30 a.m.
- Alan Moore and David Lloyd, "V for Vendetta", vol. II of X (October 1988), p. 11, p. 43.
- "The Cry of the 4th Aethyr" (16 December 1909) in: The Vision and the Voice, Thelema Publishing Company (1952), revised edition: The Vision & the Voice With Commentary and Other Papers: The Collected Diaries of Aleister Crowley, 1909-1914 E.V. Volume 4, Issue 2 of Equinox, New York (1998).