Aquarius and the Nightside

The Tarot trump for the 15th path of Aquarius is The Star XVII. The esoteric title of the path is Daughter of the Firmament: Dweller between the Waters.

Thoth Tarot The Star XVII Aquarius

Aquarius Invocation from Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light:

Thou art the Daughter of the Firmament, the Dweller between the Waters. Thou art eternity. Thou art the Star of Nuit. Thou art love, and the lamps of Venus! Thou art the window of heaven and the destiny of man to attain. Thou art the Holy Graal itself, and the amrita with which it is filled, thou art ambrosia of the Gods. Thou art the Waters of Space and thy cup is Binah on the Tree of Life. Thy veil is the Abyss betwixt the great sea and the fertile earth, the clouds that are broken up and drop down dew. Thou art the goddess of Infinite Space, and Babalon thy daughter. Thine are the Marks of Space, and thine art is Occult. Thy magical weapons are the Censer for the perfumes, as clouds carry the distillation of the water of earth and the Aspergillum for the sprinkling of the lustral water. For this is alike as to the shedding of the rain from the clouds. I invoke thee, whose number is eleven! I invoke thee, continuous one of Heaven!

The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth Volume One:

1. The placing of The Star XVII on the 15th path is to end the ages old confusion between the blood of material generation and the pure essence that is the substance of spiritual regeneration. The 15th path of Hé connects Chokmah, the sphere of the Zodiac, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun. The 15th path is called the Constituting Intelligence because it is the essence of creative force that arises in pure darkness; the word used for “essence” is etzem, which has the same root as OTz, “tree”, from whence the Tree of Life. The same word etzem can mean “bone”, “body”, “life”, “substance”.

2. The power of manifesting or begetting is the primal power of the Goddess, which is that of division into two; the path therefore corresponds to the Goddess of the Stars. As declared by Nuit in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 59:

My incense is of resinous woods and gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.

3. Chokmah is the chakra of the Zodiac, as separate and distinct from the fixed stars, which are the domain of Kether and the North Pole of the universe. The Zodiac is the belt or girdle of Venus, the planetary symbol of Nuit in her manifestation as visible nature. Incense and fragrance are ancient metaphors for pure spirit or essence—that essence of creative force that arises in pure darkness. The darkness itself is a metaphor, since it is more than merely an absence of light. Visible light is a veil, an appearance that clothes the nakedness of Nuit, whose essence is the ‘Not’ of space. There were two trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life or visible light, and the Tree of Death, Night or Nuit—the invisible light of Non-Being. ‘Blood’ is the self-replicating power or energy that moves through all incarnated creatures, yet the oracle of Nuit asserts that her creative essence has “no blood therein”. It is therefore necessary to counterchange the Tarot trumps on the 15th and 28th paths, for Aries, previously assigned to the 15th path, is the sign of the fire of blood, the blood of the Lamb as depicted in Christian mysticism. Aquarius, on the other hand, is the sign of the Waters of Space, typified by the Egyptian hieroglyph of two streams of water or radiation.

4. Nuit is the Star Goddess particularly concerned with the occult or hidden side of nature; her mysteries are those of sex and generation—not the generation of physical progeny but the generation of the magical ‘child’ that is the true son or Sun-Star of Nuit.

5. The magical power of the 15th path is that of Astrology; the starry wisdom of the 15th path should not be confused with popular notions of astrology.

Aquarius and the Qabalah

Aquarius, the Waters of Space, is a fixed air sign ruled by Saturn, the principle of limitation and form. The letter hé of the fifteenth path of Aquarius on the Hermetic Tree of Life means “a window”, and has the value of 5. The window of ‘five’ is the image of the starry goddess Nuit, The Star, through which the seer perceives the primordial wisdom. The path begins in Chokmah, associated with the ajna chakra or third eye, and terminates in Tiphereth, the beauty of all the sephiroth in radiant harmony. While Chokmah manifests fully as Mazloth or the Zodiac, in visible nature Tiphereth appears as the Sun, the life-giving spirit that animates the 12 signs through the course of the year. The key to the Zodiac is the Sun acting through Spirit in governance of the four elements, Fire, Air, Water and Earth.

The Hebrew word for Zodiac, Mazloth, provides a key to understanding the transmission of consciousness that is veiled by the symbolism of the fifteenth path. In The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, we find under the number 251 the Greek word imas, the thong, strap or girdle of the goddess Venus:

Esoterically the green line or girdle of Venus is the belt of the zodiac or ecliptic that encircles the earth; the planetary or mundane chakra name of Chokmah is Mazloth, the Zodiac.

Under ChKMVTh, 474 (equal to DOTh or Da’ath), we find:

Chokmah the second sephira is the sphere of the zodiac, Mazloth; the starry wisdom is the primordial gnosis, the secret kept by the Sethians or Typhonians, the builders of the oldest pyramids. The root of Mazloth is MZLA (78), a type of influx or influence from Kether or the North Pole of the universe.

The influx or Mazla is described thus, under the number 78:

MZLA has the meaning of flowing, to flow down in drops; it is a whirling or spiralic, radiant force. As MZLVTh is the name of the Zodiac, MZLA refers to the stars of Draco and Thuban at the North Pole. The Dragon constellation is named thus because at one time it coincided with the Nodes of the Moon, Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis. It is therefore a cosmic symbol of the Kundalini or Serpent Power, embodying the polar electro-magnetic force of the universe. The idea of “flowing” and “drops” (as in dew drops) suggests that Kether is to be regarded as feminine or neutral—the sahasrara chakra of the Tantras is described as a Moon or moonflower, turned downwards.

As declared by the Goddess Nuit in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 9:

Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!

Aquarius and the Nightside

Nuit is depicted in the Tarot trump numbered 17 not as cosmic space but as visible nature, her manifestation. The esoteric title of the trump is Daughter of the Firmament: Dweller between the Waters. The ‘waters’ are symbolised by the two cups that Nuit bears, gold for the blood or energy of the universe and silver for the dew of the stars, the elixir of life. The seven-pointed star in the Crowley-Harris image is that of Venus; esoterically the number seven also relates to Set or Sirius, the Sun-behind-the-Sun.

Kenneth Grant, who devoted his life to an exploration of the Nightside of the Tree, is the primary source for a study of the ‘dark’ aspects of the path that is both detailed and imaginative. In his book Nightside of Eden, concerning the fifteenth Tunnel of Set, he says that:

Seven, or Sevekh, was the primal goddess of the seven stars (Ursa Major) of the planisphere, and these stars or rays were the seven heads of the Dragon of the Deep that later appeared in the Christian myth as the Beast of the Apocalypse. The Star of the 15th kala is therefore the Star of Sothis or Shaitan, and is concealed in the feminine generative essence known as the soul or blood of Isis.

Grant then goes on to note, regarding the magical power of the fifteenth path:

The magical siddhi associated with this kala is Astrology which—on the other side of the Tree—has a very different connotation to that which it usually obtains, for it is there the genuine science of the stars, or kalas, and differs from the popular conception of astrology as does the Tarot from the vulgar playing-card game.

That which Kenneth Grant terms as “stars, or kalas” are not the visible gems of the night sky—though they have their correspondence with them. More often than not he is referring to the nodes and constellations of a matrix—perceptible to the seer as a shining gossamer web—that extrudes from the body of the consecrated Shakti. The Sri Yantra of the Eastern Tantras is a geometric symbol of this matrix. The same matrix was displayed in ancient Egyptian depictions of the Goddess, especially the polymorphic variations of Nuit and Hathoor, by networks of five-pointed or five-fingered stars. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the radiation of light or transmission of energy is identical to the astrological wave-glyph for the zodiacal sign of Aquarius.

Notes

For more on Draco and Thuban, the Pole Star of antiquity, see Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light (Ordo Astri). The Tarot image of The Star XVII is from the Crowley and Frieda Harris Thoth deck. Nightside of Eden by Kenneth Grant forms a part of his nine volume Typhonian Trilogies (Starfire Publishing) and deals with all the paths of the Nightside or Tree of Knowledge. Quotations are from Part Two, Chapter 5.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018
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Capricorn: Angel, Devil, Dweller on the Threshold

The 26th path of Capricorn is called the Renewing Intelligence. The Tarot trump assigned to the path is The Devil XV. The esoteric title is Lord of the Gates of Matter: Child of the Forces of Time. The Devil portrayed in most Tarot decks is a hybrid creature with bat-like wings, somewhat akin to Baphomet, the goat-foot God said to be worshipped by the Knights Templars.

Crowley-Thoth Tarot The Devil XV Capricorn

Capricorn the Devil

Aleister Crowley’s design identifies this Devil with Pan, the All-Begetter, and it is a brazenly phallic portrayal. The devilish goat has a third eye in the middle of his forehead. At the top of the Tarot trump is shown the rings of Saturn—for Capricorn is ruled by that planet in astrology. Saturn may also be identified with the ancient Egyptian Set, the ass-headed God of the desert. The desert is a symbol of the spiritual wilderness that seekers of truth and knowledge have entered into since time immemorial. The Hebrew name for the planet Saturn is Shabbathai—and from that word was derived the legendary Sabbath of the Witches. The image of Capricorn represents creative energy in its most material form. To quote from Crowley’s The Book of Thoth:

The card represents Pan Pangenetor, the All-Begetter. It is the Tree of Life as seen against a background of the exquisitely tenuous, complex, and fantastic forms of madness, the divine madness of spring, already foreseen in the meditative madness of winter; for the Sun turns northwards on entering this sign … In every symbol of this card there is the allusion to the highest things and most remote. Even the horns of the goat are spiral, to represent the movement of the all-pervading energy.

From Volume One of The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth:

The 26th path of Ayin connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Hod, the sphere of Mercury, and is imaged forth by the 15th Tarot key, The Devil. The title of the path afforded by the Sepher Yetzirah is the Renewing Intelligence, referring to the renewal and perpetuity of all created forms. On the human level, the renewal refers to the adaptation that is required so the intellect does not atrophy—for the identification of the personal ego with the forms or constructs that appear in Hod increases the limiting or restricting power of Saturn, the ruler of the zodiacal sign of Capricorn. As it is written in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 41:

The word of Sin is Restriction.

It is the desire to become free of material limitations that drives man to seek freedom, yet it is necessary to understand the principles of nature and their operation in the world before any limits can be transcended—the prime limitation being man himself, and his ignorance of natural laws. The magical powers of the 26th path are the Witches Sabbath (so-called) and the Evil Eye.

The Dweller on the Threshold

Saturn or Set has many forms and can be viewed from infinite perspectives. His nature is something of a paradox. The Tarot picture for the month of Sagittarius, Art XIV, depicts an Angel, while the Tarot Atu for the month of Capricorn commencing with the solstice, depicts a Devil. This Angel and Devil are two sides of one coin, a dual expression of the soul and of that very quaint appellation, the ‘Holy Guardian Angel’. The trickster, the shapeshifter, the adversary, the opposer, the shadow, the stranger, the ‘other’ are all names for Set, Saturn or the Devil, whose role in Initiation is so central that sometimes he is termed as simply, the Lord of Initiation. Another epithet is the Dweller on the Threshold. The following is an instructional piece on the Dweller on the Threshold, reproduced from our course in practical Qabalah:

While it is true that aspirants to any contacted magical Order are tested by what are poetically termed the Lords of Initiation, our students are not asked to take any oath or obligation that would incur a trial by fire. Nonetheless there is something that we call the Dweller on the Threshold. As soon as a foot is placed on the path, the Dweller on the Threshold will appear. The shape or form of this Devil is unique to each individual since it is a phantom produced by the person’s karma.[1] While this deters many from continuing the work they started with such enthusiasm and inner-conviction, it is in fact the first stirring of real Initiation.

Whether Initiation really takes hold or not is largely determined by the way the person responds to the Dweller on the Threshold. There will be help if that help is recognised for what it is. There will most certainly be hindrance, obstruction and even seduction—the powerfully compelling voices that urge us to give this up as it will do us no good, that we have made the wrong choice or there is a better, more authentic discipline further down the road. The Dweller on the Threshold may take the form of some perceived or genuine misfortune, or a general sense of unease or misgiving. It may take the form of a migraine, one of those ‘flu viruses that is hard to shake off, the incessant demands of a spouse, a difficult child, a manipulative mother, a bullying father or boss at work. Money can be a considerable ‘Dweller’—whether there is too little, or too much of it. An outbreak of supernatural phenomena quite often occurs with those that have awakening psychic sensitivity—the ‘things that go bump in the night’. The Initiates are those who persist, that possess the will and the resolve to keep on. Perhaps there is something else too, the “factor infinite and unknown” referred to in Liber AL vel Legis, II: 32. It is said that many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22: 14). Paradoxically it is the aspirant that must use their free will to choose in the first place.

One must strive to understand the Dweller on the Threshold. There is a caveat: The Oath and Task of a Magister Templi is “to interpret every phenomenon as a direct dealing of God with my soul”. The New Age movement with its voracious appetite for assimilating and trivialising the threads from all wisdom traditions has tended to encourage its followers to adopt that particular jnanamudra without any training and preparation and without any supporting philosophical basis or structure. To apply such a method at the beginning of the study and work will bring that study and work to a swift conclusion.


Notes

[1] The Sanskrit word karma means “action”. It generally refers to the phenomenon of cause and effect that appears to govern the machinations of the material universe.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018
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Thoth Tarot Spread

Our Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread is also presented below: jump to the Alchemy Tarot Spread.

The Fifteen-card Tarot spread is sometimes called the “Thoth” Tarot spread, as it seems to have been devised by the publisher of some early editions of the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck. The advantage of this spread is that cards are read in sets of three, so the elemental dignities of the Tarot can be applied. The method of laying out the cards is very attractive, since a widdershins spiral is formed, outward from the centre. Numerically, there is a strong relationship with the Pentagram. The number 15 is the grand number of the pentagram as 5 multiplied by the trinity. It is also the Mystic Number of the Pentagram a the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 5: ∑ (1–5) = 15.

Thoth Tarot Spread: 15-card Thoth Tarot Key

The three centre cards represent the question and the questioner. The upper left cards are a future development of the upper right cards, if the two sets agree (see the example below). If the upper left and upper right cards do not agree, then the upper right position represents the course of action the querent would naturally take, and the upper left cards an alternative course of action that changes the natural outcome. The lower left cards represent the attitude of the querent or psychological basis of the question. The lower right cards represent destiny, spiritual forces or karma that is beyond the control of the querent; as such, these three cards are to be regarded as advice.

The Fifteen-card Thoth spread has six cards (centre and lower left) that represent the questioner. This can produce surprising insights, since it is often not realised quite how much the question and its likely outcome is determined by the spiritual, mental and emotional state of the questioner. Here is an example of the cards on the top right and the top left in agreement, from the journal record of an actual divination:

Thoth Tarot Spread: Thoth Tarot Example (detail)

The cards Adjustment VIII and The Priestess II mirror each other; they are both feminine figures, represented by Libra and the Moon respectively. The Five of Disks mirrors the Prince of Disks; the Ten of Wands mirrors the Nine of Wands. Since the two sets of cards are clearly in agreement, there is a flow or natural development of the future, reading from right to left.

The three centre cards represent the question and the questioner. The upper left cards are a future development of the upper right cards, if the two sets agree (see the example below). If the upper left and upper right cards do not agree, then the upper right position represents the course of action the querent would naturally take, and the upper left cards an alternative course of action that changes the natural outcome. The lower left cards represent the attitude of the querent or psychological basis of the question. The lower right cards represent destiny, spiritual forces or karma that is beyond the control of the querent; as such, these three cards are to be regarded as advice.

Tarot Dignities

Traditionally, the cards on either side are used to evaluate the meaning of the centre card. The elemental qualities of classical Hermeticism are used.

Wands and Cups are inimicalFire and Water are contrary
Wands and Swords are mutualFire and Air are complementary
Wands and Disks are mutualFire and Earth are complementary
Cups and Swords are mutualWater and Air are complementary
Cups and Disks are mutualWater and Earth are complementary
Swords and Disks are inimicalAir and Earth are contrary

If (for example) a card of Wands has a Wand on either side, it is greatly strengthened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Cup on either side, it is greatly weakened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Sword or Disk card on either side, it is moderately strengthened by those cards, according to their nature.

If a card of Wands has a Cup (inimical) on one side, and a Sword (mutual) on the other side, it is said that the “Sword takes the Cup to the Wand” and the Wand is moderately strengthened according to the nature of the two cards on either side. But if the Wand has on one side a Sword and on the other side a Disk, it is said that the two cards on the outside cancel or neutralise each other, since Swords and Disks are opposite in nature. In that case the two cards on either side have little or no effect on the Wand in the centre.

Trump cards, as a rule, greatly outweigh the small cards; their operation is on a different plane and in a reading they tend to represent spiritual forces or destiny. One must be careful, therefore, when there is a mixture of trumps and small cards. The trump cards correspond to zodiacal, planetary and elemental forces. Fortune X (for example) corresponds to Jupiter, and so if this card appeared with The Hermit IX, which corresponds to Virgo, the effect would be similar to that of Jupiter in Virgo in an astrological chart. The Tower XVI corresponds to Mars and so if this card appeared with The Empress IV, the trump for Venus, the action would be similar to Mars aspecting Venus in an astrological chart.

The three elemental trumps can be problematical. The Fool 0 (for example) is the primary element of Air. What if this card appears with The Devil XV, corresponding to Capricorn, a cardinal Earth sign? Air and Earth are inimical, yet the trumps are more than elemental; they are composite glyphs that mirror the paths of the Tree of Life. Both cards, in fact, depict an aspect of Pan the All-Begetter. Fortunately the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, can be assigned to the elemental trumps:

Tarot and Outer Planets

The effect of The Devil XV and The Fool 0 together can then be taken as similar to that of Uranus in Capricorn. In any reading one should look first to see if there is a predominance of any element or type. Many Wands in a reading, for example, would indicate much energy and activity. A majority of court cards would indicate that many persons were involved in the question, or there is much social activity. A large number of trumps in a reading indicate forces of destiny or karma involved with the question.

The Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread

The Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread appears, with hints and an example reading, in the “Divination” section of the book:

Stella Tenebrae—Journal of Hermetic Magick Volume One Number 2.

Thoth Alchemy Tarot Spread

We devised the Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread primarily for the purpose of problem solving, though no doubt it has more subtle uses. The three-card groups allow the Tarot dignities to be used. One advantage of this layout is its simplicity; it is based on the idea that Rajas (Sulphur, action) acts upon Tamas (Salt, inertia) to bring about Sattwas (Mercury, wisdom).

Alchemical Salt (5 2 8): The inertia that must be overcome; the problem or any difficulties around the question.

Alchemical Sulphur (6 3 9): Activity; the action that is most likely to be taken by the Querent.

Alchemical Mercury (4 1 7): A synthesis of forces; the solution; that which will come to pass.

If desired, a card may be chosen and placed in the centre of the triad before shuffling and laying the other cards, to represent the Querent.

Notes

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2018
This article on the Thoth 15-card Tarot spread is part of the tutorial on Tarot divination in the book, Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot.

View Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot and all books by Oliver St. John
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