The Worth of a Scorpion

Once upon a time, a great warrior went hunting with the goddess Artemis and her mother, Leto. During the hunting, he boasted that he would kill every beast on Earth. The Goddesses were not happy, and so they decided to create a Scorpio to do battle with this great hunter. It is told that it was an epic battle. So mighty it was, that it caught the eye of Zeus itself. In the end, the mighty warrior fell and the scorpion won.

After the battle was done, Zeus decided to honor the victor and place it in the skies, among the stars. When Artemis and Leto knew about this, they asked Jupiter to also raise the fallen warrior to the skies, which Zeus ended up doing, as a cautionary for humans about the dangers of excessive pride. The hunter’s name was Orion, and you can easily see both constellations in the sky. Interestingly, Orion and Scorpius appear on opposite sides of the celestial sphere and they’re best seen on different times of the year: Orion in the northern winter; Scorpio in the summer. But never both at the same time, just in case Orion gets boastful again and that nasty Scorpio is somewhere near…

The bringer of Death and the gatekeeper of Darkness

The idea that a small, crawling beast like the Scorpio can kill a hunter capable of “destroying all the creatures of earth” is an amusing one. There are echoes of that story of David and Goliath, with the small, puny scorpio being able to take down such a mighty warrior like Orion. Now all scorpions have venom and this venom is enough to paralyze or even kill its intended victims. But only a few species have a venom capable of killing a human being.

Even so, the Scorpio is equated with death. Orion’s death is not the only one credited to this tiny animal. Another example is the story of Mithras, the Persian god of light who slew a bull so that its blood could fertilize the Universe and thus create life. However, the evil Ahriman, sent a scorpion to sting the bull’s testicles and thus, destroy all life.

From Egypt, comes the story of Isis and the 7 scorpions. According to the myth, these seven scorpions have all sworn to protect both Isis and Horus, who were fleeing from the killer of Osiris (husband of Isis and father of Horus). One night, Isis and Horus, along with their seven guardians arrived at the Delta Town of the Two Sisters. They seemed shelter there for the night, at the house of a rich woman. This woman, however, was not convinced by the scorpions and refused them lodging, making them all take refuge at the home of a poor, but well-intentioned woman. The 7 scorpions, however, would have none of that and decided to take matters into their own hands.

Six of the scorpions lent their sting to the seventh, a large bold scorpion by the name of Tefen. Tefen crawled its way back to the rich woman house and stung her son. The son died and immediately the house burst into flame and water fell from the sky, even though this happened outside the rain season. The rich woman was completely distraught. She ran throughout the village, crying and asking for help, but no one would come. As she had refused help before, so help was now being refused to her. Eventually, Isis heard her cries and relenting, restored the child’s breathing by reciting the names of the 7 scorpions, sons or Serket and her guardians. The poison died; the child lived and both the fire and the water stopped. As for the mother, realizing what had happened there, donated all her wealth to the poor woman who had welcomed Isis in.

In China, the scorpio’s venom was part of a formula to create something truly potent: gu poison. Spiders, centipedes, scorpions, toads and snakes would be put in a jar and forced to fight each other in a highlander-styled competition where only one could survive. It was believed that this survivor possessed such a concentrated toxin, it could kill a men in a matter of days.

In old Babylonia, scorpio men were employed by Tiamat to guard the gates that give entrance to the Land of Darkness, to which the sun god goes each night to rest before rising the next day.

As below, so above

These stories are just a few examples of the type of narratives that were built around the Scorpion animal and that ended up being reflected on the star sign of Scorpio. Which is why when people speak about the themes of this star sign, they will usually mention death (and eros, which is never too far behind), the journey into the underground and even their sense of justice.

And Power. Power is big with Scorpios. As you saw in the first story, a scorpion was powerful enough to take on Orion and kill him. But not only that, his power caught the eye of Zeus itself who decided to celebrate the animal and its accomplishments, by getting him a place in the sky to shine upon us all. In the second story, a scorpion is responsible for a house starting to burn and for rain to fall down from the sky on the dry season. Power. Scorpios have power to correct misdoings and power to kill as they please. Now that’s something!

When Jupiter entered the sign of Scorpio last week, all I could think were the stories. Specially the one about the Death of Orion, as it involved both parties: Jupiter (as the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Zeus) and Scorpio. While most texts that I chanced upon stressed how important and revealing this transit would be or what the consequences were of the movement of the Lord of Expansion (Jupiter) into the Realm of the Underworld, I continued to think that Jupiter is entering the House of an animal he admired so much he placed it (again, as Zeus) in the sky. True, there is the revealing and the raising the whole dark / shadow / repressed part of oneself, but still…

Orion died at the hands of the Scorpion, because he was too boastful and attracted the attention of the wrong people. Orion died, because what he bragged around didn’t correspond to the truth. And Orion died because the truth that that Scorpio represented ended up being too much for him. In the end, Jupiter elevates the Scorpion, not only for its power, but also for being a reflection of a Truth so mighty most people don’t resist. Scorpios love Truth and they will wield it as a weapon against you if need be. Be aware of that, the next time you provoke a Scorpio; remember Orion and how lucky you were by not being killed by their sword play.

The entrance of Jupiter in the World of Scorpio could then be seen as a two movement dance: the first act would be the confrontation with the issues that need to be handled / killed, which will obviously lead us into Shadow work territory and all that it entails. But the second act would the the ascent of the Scorpio to the heavens itself, as a recognition of the qualities that make Scorpions such powerful animals..

Now shadow work will most probably take us to those places where we lock everything that we deem not fit for our daily life: emotions, impulses, desires, fears, and more all get buried far away from the light, in the Underworld. Confronting these issues will undoubtedly takes us through these Nether realms, something that — as stories warns us — is not an easy thing to do. The fates of Inanna and Orpheus should be enough to shine some light on how those journeys can change those who end up doing them. But these stories also shows us something else that we might already have intuited with the title: there are great riches in the Underground and now that Jupiter — Lord of Expansion, Sovereignty and Abundance — entered the House of Scorpio is the time to go after them and bring them up to the surface.

As we do this, and again taking the myth of the death of Orion as a guide, we will draw the necessary attention from the outer powers to elevate us to the stars. By killing that which needs to be killed, we are opening the door to something bigger, more powerful. But to achieve this, we need to be faithful to who we are. It is a time of sharp truths and unpleasant honesty which, like the Scorpion in the story, we will be called to face.

What do the cards have to say about Jupiter in Scorpio?

IMG_3225-3a

The idea is to go deep inside oneself and to emerge from this cycle in balance. There are some common elements in the cards of the World and the Hierophant, like the four elements at the corner and the two center figures. So the background remains the same. However, the woman is no longer wrestling with the snake, but has, in the Hierophant card become the sage. The serpent is also transformed into a shadow-person and now lies peaceful at the feet of that very sage. But to achieve this, we need to pass through the Hermit. To walk along the dark corridors of the mind, looking for those things we have left encased and forgotten.

Looking at both the World and the Hermit, it’s easy to see why this cycle has been seen with caution: the shift inwards implies that we have to face ourselves and whatever lies inside us. The horizon turns pitch dark and not even our weapons can shed some light here. You can see exactly that in the card of the 3 of Swords.

But while things doesn’t look good, what exactly are we being asked to deal with? Our motivations and expectations for once (as seen in the King of Cups and the King of Coins). Well… that’s to be expected. If indeed, the Lord of expansion goes Underground, then luck and abundance will get buried. Whatever you might think, this is not that bad. Riches have always been underground. Our food, water and everything else we might need also comes from the earth. So our focus has to change and turn into the earth. To get to those riches, we need to use our roots. Which takes us nicely into that third card, the 8 of Coins: we stop expanding, trying to reach higher planes. We stand our ground, and that’s it. There is a need to be cautious, for sure (5 of Wands) and centered (4 of Swords) while we deal with the naked truth that comes to meet us (Prince of Disks) and how it binds us.

All of this just to say “stop defending yourself from yourself, and open up to what’s inside  of you”. As below, so above. As we turn into ourselves and deal with what’s inside of us, so too does the world turns to us and extends a hand or two to ease our way up. The first thing that comes to us is a sense of lightness, that we’re so light we can almost escape the ground and fly. And why wouldn’t we fly? We’re dealing with the excess luggage so now it’s time to rise. To move up. So off we go.

The second thing that comes to us is we are now able to operate fully. The shadow-woman who appeared in the card of the Hierophant is now glued on the Pope, meaning that for all intents and purposes, this work was successful and we’ve managed to rise from a split personality to a fully working character where even our “ex-shadow” is called upon to contribute. Which again, goes into the whole theme of Riches in the Underworld. And what could be more precious than that part of us that we decided to lock up in the basement?

In the end, the cards say that this will be a time of personal discovery. It will be a time to get re-acquainted with who we really are, ground ourselves and close every rip we can find in ourselves. The Scorpio is once again asked to kill that which boasts it’s better than the rest of the world, but can’t resist a single creature of darkness. Or a single creature of truth.

 

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Time: Quality Vs. Quantity

That might sound like a very, very boring title. But in fact I think within it is a discussion rich with possibilities, as it regards the magic of tarot and other divinatory practices like astrology.

The inspiration for this post comes from a book I’ve yet to find in English, which was originally published in German and which I read in Italian (!!) and is called Il Destino Come Scelta by Thorwald Dethlefsen (originally published in 1986 under the German title “Schicksal Als Chance”). Dethlefsen is a German psychiatrist and psychoanalyst whose work is grounded in hypnosis, past-life regression therapy and esoteric psychology.

Dethlefsen has written extensively about the law of polarity, fundamentally that everything has an opposite pole to counterbalance it. One of the ideas from this book that has stuck with me since the first time I read it, and made a profound impact, is his assertion (in the context of astrology) that time also necessarily follows the law of polarity. This isn’t original to Dethlefsen, of course, as the concept is probably as old as time itself, but his discussion of the concept was the first time I’d ran across it. Time, while usually measured as a quantitative phenomenon (how much), also has a qualitative function (the nature of the moment itself, rather than the quantity).

In astrology, this is seen in the phenomenon of the birth chart, drawn up as a mandala representing the quality of the particular moment in which a person takes his or her first breath. By examining and delineating the quality of that moment, and holding to the belief as well that everything contains both its beginning and end (ie, seed also contains fully grown tree), one can determine the characteristics of the soul incarnated into body, and its mission for that particular incarnation.

While this might seem like a stretch to some, to me it makes a lot of sense, because divinatory practices seek to give information about the quality of a moment in time, rather than simply report what time it is. In that sense, we can see oracles as giving us information about what a moment holds within itself, rather than simply how much time is held within a moment or its relative position in time (past, present, future).

Now, how does this come back to tarot? Well, one question I often get asked by those who are skeptical of the value of tarot as a practice, is: “But if you did another reading on the same question, immediately after, you’d get different cards. So, how is that worthwhile, then?”

Statistically speaking, yes, if you do two readings in a row on the same question, generally you will come up with different cards. It would be highly unusual to have the exact same cards in the exact same positions two times in a row in a random draw one after the other. Miguel has also commented on this in some of his writing. Also, I’ve known tarot novices and professionals alike who have fallen prey to “not accepting” the cards that came up in response to a particular question (especially when reading for themselves), and so deciding to draw different cards immediately after, seeking a “better” or more agreeable response. Sometimes querents will also ask me, “Has enough time passed between now and my last reading, in order to do another reading on the same question?”

So, I find this concept of quality vs. quantity quite relevant, when it comes to tarot.

My answer usually to querents is that it’s not necessarily important how much time has passed (ie, quantity) so much as what has happened in the time that has passed (quality, events). Have any actions taken place that might change the outcome? Something could happen in the span of mere hours between one reading and another that potentially changes everything. One moment is never qualitatively exactly the same as the next, and even “a moment” is a concept open to definition.

To illustrate this, I’ll offer a practical example from my work.

The querent wanted to know about her budding relationship with a potential partner. I generally have a more or less standard 5-card layout that I find works well for this type of inquiry, which comes up a lot in my practice:

1-Querent in relationship, their intentions, how they view the partnership
2-Other/partner in relationship, their intentions, how they view the querent/partnership
3-Querent and partner together
4-Potential near future outcome
5-Advice and guidance, what querent should do now

Here was the first 5-card spread:

Queen_Cups9_Cups

She’s pouring her heart out, he’s smug as the cat who ate the canary. Hmm.

Justice3_Swords

Together there needs to be some balance, impartiality, truth needs to surface, no glossing over the facts or letting emotions cloud judgement. Potential outcome: negative thoughts or objective facts that break hearts. The truth cuts through the emotional longing, and it hurts.

Queen_Swords

Advice to the querent? Own it. Speak your truth, don’t mince words, and get over the feelings enough to be able to communicate clearly and coherently, even if it means heartbreak.

Yeah, not so fun.

The next day the querent came back to say that she had spent some time thinking things over, and examined rationally rather than emotionally what she really wanted for herself in terms of relationships, and then followed the Queen of Swords model by voicing her truths to the partner, even if it meant that they’d have to go separate ways due to differing needs or views.

Simply out of curiosity, and to test out this quality vs. quantity idea, I decided to pull 5 more cards, even though less than 24 hours had passed. How would the story potentially change, now that the advice had been followed? How was the quality of the moment altered?

Here are the querent and partner in the second spread:

Ace_WandsPage_Wands

Now that’s quite an energy shift. Not only are the two more on the same page (same suit, and symmetry of the wands themselves), but now we’re in a suit of fiery passion, and some even say love affairs. Robert Place in his book The Tarot calls the Ace of Wands the beginning of an enterprise or a love affair, and curiously, also calls the Page of Wands the beginning of an enterprise. While I wouldn’t necessarily attribute the Ace of Wands myself to a love affair necessarily, I would certainly point out that the energy of the wands has a vibrant charisma, magnetism, and creative energy pulsing through it at full intensity. Also, from a purely visual standpoint, look how interesting things have gotten now. The querent is the Ace of Wands, and the Page is clutching that wand in his hands, looking up at it admiringly. It’s as if the querent and partner have merged into the same card.

Knight_Pent3_Cups

Together now they’re shown as the Knight of Pentacles, a beacon of stability and steadfast loyalty. The most interesting change from the first reading, however, in my opinion, is the 3 of Swords becoming the 3 of Cups. Numerically it’s the same, but from a standpoint of suits, rational thought that caused heartache is now emotional feeling being toasted and celebrated in abundance. Perhaps the act of clarifying thoughts and needs and getting those truths out into the open transformed the situation to one in which the two people involved were able to find a way to harmonize their emotional needs.

Strength

And now, rather than the no-nonsense words of the Queen of Swords, the querent is being advised to take the “soft control” hands-on approach of the Strength card. Gentle, soft persuasion in order to move forward, and, in another bit from Robert Place that I like: “self-mastery through love.”

I think these two spreads serve to show that yes, of course two readings on the same question won’t turn up the same cards, no matter how closely or far apart in time they’re performed.

What we can ponder and keep in mind when working with divinatory systems is that time has a very tangible yet unseen quality to it, and that is precisely what we’re seeking to learn more about and reveal with whatever system we employ. Tarot then could be seen almost like a “watch” measuring the quality of a moment, or perhaps we could call it the energies of that moment, rather than the hour and minute assigned to it.

In conclusion, and returning to Dethlefsen, he counters the argument that certain divinatory systems are less “scientific” than others, for example, that astrology is more “accurate” somehow because it requires precise mathematical calculations while tarot doesn’t. To paraphrase Dethlefsen: “All mantic systems operate on the same principle, only the points of reference change. The value of one practice over another depends entirely on how well the person using the practice is able to translate observations from one plane of reference (the birth chart, the tarot spread) to another plane (delineation, interpretation, reading). That’s why there are infinitely more untrustworthy practitioners than there are trustworthy practitioners in general, and this has nothing to do with whether they are practicing astrology or tarot.”

In this way, we can see tarot not only as a divinatory practice, but as an actual initiatory practice in which the individual grows in self-knowledge, and in so doing, knowledge of the divine nature of the world itself and everything it contains. That “all in all” is what the quality of time can teach us about.