Art and Magick of Pisces

The Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot trump for Pisces and the 29th path of the Tree of Life is The Moon XVIII. Here we have a path that is half in shadows and that must pass between two sentinels wearing the foreboding headdress of the Egyptian Anubis, a guardian of the underworld. According to Crowley:

Such light as there may be is deadlier than darkness, and the silence is wounded by howling beasts.

At the top of the picture is the Sun, pushed through the darkness and cold of night towards the dawn by the Egyptian scarab beetle, Khephra. Khephra is, like Amoun, a self-created god. Like the butterfly, the beetle undergoes a series of remarkable transformations where at one point he seems to be completely inanimate, nothing more than a shell or stone. Miraculously, from this inertia comes forth the fully fledged scarab with wings on which to ride the breezes of dawn.

Magick of Pisces: Thoth Tarot trump The Moon XVIII

As we near the end of the cold months, the Sun’s entry into Pisces is a reminder of the darkest hour before the dawn. The springtime is not far away. On the other side of the globe, in the southern hemisphere, it is a reminder that the cooler air of autumn will soon drive out the burning heat of a long summer.

Pisces is traditionally ruled by the planet Jupiter, known to the Greeks as Zeus and to the ancient Egyptians as Amoun. So if you ever wondered where the word “Amen” comes from, that is uttered at the end of Christian prayers—there is your answer. Jupiter, Zeus and Amoun were originally gods of the mountain and of the seas and the rains that come to replenish the earth with new life and growth. The Egyptian Amoun is a very mysterious god. He is self-created and his location, unlike the sky-gods Horus, Hathoor and Nuit, is below the horizon. One of his titles is “The Hidden God”.

The Hermetic Qabalah might throw some further light on the associations between Pisces, the sign of the fishes, and the mysterious operations of a Hidden God. On the Hermetic Tree of Life, Pisces is the 29th path that connects the material universe (Malkuth) with the animating power of Venus (Netzach), the morning and evening star. The magical power of the path of Pisces is The Twilight of the Place. At this time of year, as the days begin to lengthen in the northern hemisphere, the twilight is very noticeable especially with the lengthening of shadows near sunset, when Venus—the first and brightest star of the evening sky—appears in the western sky. The magical twilight is also the special light of a room prepared for ritual, with candles and the smoke of incense providing ideal conditions for the arising of phantasmal or spectral images. The Magical Mirror is the magical weapon or instrument attributed to Pisces.

As the 12th sign and 12th house in astrology, Pisces represents the deeper realms of the subconscious mind. Psychology traditionally gives three types of consciousness:

  1. Waking consciousness or self-awarenes
  2. Subconscious or dreaming consciousness
  3. The unconscious

It has been argued that there is no such thing as an unconscious, since if it is not conscious then it cannot be thought of as any kind of consciousness. We will turn to the Hermetic Qabalah for assistance. The letter for Pisces is qoph or “Q”, which represents the back of the head and the medulla oblongata—the lowest part of the brainstem, connecting the brain with the spinal cord. This is the most primal part of the brain, and in terms of consciousness it is where the earliest evolutionary memories are stored. If one could send consciousness backwards, from the frontal lobes of rational intelligence to the narrow passage of the medulla oblongata, one might be able to see all the way down to the base of the spine. There is evidence that once upon a time, homosapiens had a tail, as do most non-human creatures on our planet. Returning to the letter Q of Pisces, a queue is also a kind of tail. The long, sombre epic of mankind’s existence on the planet, is yet another kind of tale. A tale that has been told in countless ways by many cultures along the evolutionary way.

Pisces and The Flaming Sword

According to The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth:

Path 29, Qoph

The 29th path of Qoph connects Netzach, the sphere of Venus, with Malkuth, the sphere of the visible universe, and is imaged forth by the Tarot key, The Moon XVIII. The title of the 29th path is the Corporeal Intelligence, so-called because it is concerned with the incarnation of all bodies according to the revolution of the Zodiac. The root of the word that is translated “Corporeal” (gosham) implies a violent rainstorm or shower—the “shower of the life of earth” that comes through the seed of the Unborn Spirit, or Holy Guardian Angel, in the ritual called The Bornless. The ‘seed’ is really alchemical and refers to the fluidic or formless fire from which all forms receive their essence.

To understand the “revolution of the Zodiac” and the part that it plays one needs to know that the Zodiac is the image of Spirit working through the Sun upon the four elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth. All bodies are composed of these elements; each creature has a unique astrosome, the symbol of which is the natal horoscope, varying according to the time and place of birth. The twelve signs of the Zodiac are cosmic archetypes, and that is why a person’s nature is not revealed simply by knowing their ‘sign’—for the sign alone symbolises a type, not an individual.

The descent of this path is the incarnation or embodiment of each creature, while the ascent of it implies knowledge of the Occult Intelligences—the knowledge that is hidden from the profane. The magical powers of the 29th path are of Bewitchments and Casting Illusions.

616 ShIMIRVN (Shimiron) Qliphoth of Pisces

“Malignant Women”; the 29th path connects Venus, the lowest sephira on the Force side of the Tree, with Malkuth, the dead-end of matter; the women of malicious intent are the phantasms of decaying (or thwarted) desire, rife with poisoning and corruption; as such, these ‘women’ are no more than blind forces, but they have a tremendous capacity to inflict harm on the unwary human; “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is an aphorism that can apply not only to the human but to the elementar that has been deprived of ‘blood’ or energy; the Intelligence of the path orders the neural and biological patterns that in turn influence the behaviour of species, whether they are supposed to be ‘sentient’ or otherwise; when the human ego identifies personally with the biological urge to procreate or self-replicate—that great force which is, in fact, an entirely impersonal machine or engine—all manner of psychological aberrations occur; the person seeking self-fulfilment in the production of offspring, and finding the result is nothing of the sort, may subvert or redirect the flow of life-force into other objects of desire; typical afflictions are ‘eating disorders’, so-called—for devouring and begetting are dual principles of the Great Mother at the cosmic level; the predatory behaviour of both men and women, especially when it forms part of a group mentality, is another, less specific; alcoholism is yet another trait, since it arises from a desire to be reabsorbed back into the stream of life from whence the organism was formed; yet it is the self-assertion of the ego—maintaining the delusion that it has a separate life and existence of its own—that is the root of all ailments of the soul.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018
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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
All books by Oliver St. John
Tantrika books by Oliver St. John
Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal
Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium