Solstice Chariot to the Stars

Cancer, Chariot of the Sun, is the 18th path on the Hermetic Tree of Life and is the intelligence linking the Understanding of Binah, the throne of Saturn, with Geburah, the energy of Mars. The esoteric title of the path is Child of the Powers of the Waters: Lord of the Triumph of Light.

Thoth Atu VII Chariot to the StarsThe Thoth Tarot trump is The Chariot VII, depicting Binah as the Holy Graal and Geburah as the furnace of the Sun, which is the blood or energy poured into the Cup by the magician.The sixteen subquadrants of the elemental Watchtowers of the Universe are depicted as composite sphinxes drawing the Chariot forward. The letter of the Tarot Atu is cheth, ‘fence or enclosure’. Cheth spelled in full (ChITh) is equal to 418, the number of Abrahadabra, which is emblazoned upon the Chariot’s canopy. Aleister Crowley’s solar interpretation of Abrahadabra as ‘Father-Sun-Hadit’ conceals a lunar formula, which is that of the magical spirit-body called the Khu in ancient Egyptian sacred texts and in Liber AL vel Legis. In cosmic aspect the Khu is the ‘company of heaven’ referred to in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis I: 1–4:

Had! The manifestation of Nuit. The unveiling of the company of heaven. Every man and every woman is a star. Every number is infinite; there is no difference.

The 18th path of Cheth is called the Intelligence of the House of Influence. Cheth means ‘a wall or enclosure’. From the interior of Binah, runes of secret knowledge flow forth via the Abyss. Secreted in these shades or stars is the key of union with Nuit, the Queen of Space. The power or intelligence of the 18th path is experienced as consciousness that flows like water from the innermost depths, symbolised as the walled City of the Pyramids.

Secrets of the Chariot

Much of the labour of the Great Work is to make the frail human personality a suitable vehicle for the influx of cosmic consciousness that would otherwise overwhelm it. The preliminary work is to train the mind and increase the power of concentration—to hold an image steady in the mind like an unwavering flame. The mental powers are then applied to the building of a chariot or Merkebah, as depicted in the Tarot trump. The chariot is the vehicle of will, called the resurrection body in mysticism. By this vehicle, the secret paths of the Hermetic Tree may be negotiated. The Holy Ghost and Holy Graal are cognate terms. The Cup of Babalon or Binah is the receptacle from which the feminine spirit, Khu or Shekinah, is imbibed, producing divine intoxication—not to be confused with ordinary drunkenness. The resurrection body is introduced in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 8,

The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.

The magical power of the 18th path is the Power of Casting Enchantments.[1]

Khephra Scarab by Jeff-DahlTaken at the most superficial level, the Power of Casting Enchantments is suggestive of the kind of magick usually associated with witchcraft or voodoo, where village folk consult with their shaman to settle a dispute with their neighbour, get revenge on someone that has slighted them, or perhaps cook up a potion to help them seduce someone. More seriously, the ancient Egyptian image for Cancer is the scarab beetle, Khephra. Khephra, or the sun at media nox, is the supreme totem of enchantment and of all transformations. Khephra is the neter (principle) of Becoming. Khephra is self-created, self-born, self-becoming, ever-changing and ever-living. Khephra is the Becoming—the magical transformative principle itself. Through this principle the soul is able to pass through the underworld and undergo transformation into a radiant Khu or Phoenix—the resurrection bird or Chariot to the Stars.

Influential occultists of the 20th century were deluded by the pseudo doctrine of the Theosophists, where the individual ego is supposed to ‘reincarnate’ for life after life. Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and others readily embraced the Theosophical notion as it provided almost limitless possibilities for story-telling. Fictional characters could travel back and forth in time; a magician could be anything they want to imagine in a ‘past life’—very often a priest or priestess from the sunken isle of Atlantis with incredible supernatural powers, or a mysterious adept endlessly reincarnating into new earthly lives to fulfil a supremely appointed destiny. If taken in any way seriously this is flattering for the individual while leading the aspirant into a spiritual cul-de-sac. The misinterpretation of ancient Greek and Hindu scriptures was later packaged and sold to naïve Westerners by New Age entrepreneurs.

Acceptance of the Theosophical doctrine has prevented Crowley and his followers from interpreting the Book of the Law on vital matters, such as, ‘‘What happens to the soul after death?’ ‘What must an Initiate do to prepare for this?’ Even the aim and purpose of a Great Work becomes obscure once the nebulous philosophy of the New Age movement is accepted. Crowley, who was heavily influenced by Madame Blavatsky, proclaimed that Thelema is a ‘New Law for Humanity’. It is in fact the very ancient law and eternal truth that governs Initiation and soul survival. Esoteric Thelema is identical with the Setian Gnosis of ancient Egypt, and in particular, of the Setian cult of Mentu in Thebes of the 26th Dynasty.[2] Egyptologists have served to further obfuscate the truth by placing emphasis on the late dynastic Osirian mummification process. Yet even The Egyptian Book of the Dead (so-called) reveals a consistent ancient Egyptian doctrine of the afterlife. The work of one unique incarnation determines whether the soul survives the second death or suffers annihilation through the dispersive forces of the underworld. Esoteric Thelema continues the ancient Egyptian Setian Gnosis where magical initiation and the life of the soul after mortal death are notions so intimately related as to be identical.[3]


Notes

1. Adapted from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

2. The source of the Thelemic transmission mediated by Rose Crowley in Cairo in 1904 was the Stele of Revealing, the funeral stele of a priest of the cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, Thebes, 26th Dynasty (around 500 BCE). See Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

3. See Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs for Esoteric Thelema. The book includes new translations and commentaries on spells from The Egyptian Book of the Dead. The ancient Egyptian and Thelemic doctrine of the afterlife is there fully explained.

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for Cancer Solstice is Atet VII. The card and its description may be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

© Oliver St. John 2013, revised 2019
Khephra Scarab drawn by Jeff Dahl

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Taurus: Magus of the Eternal

Venus, the Egyptian Hathoor, is the ruler of Taurus, while the Moon, the Lunar Flame, is exalted therein. The Thoth Tarot Atu for the 16th path of Taurus on the Tree of Life is The Hierophant V. The esoteric title of the 5th Tarot Key is The Magus of the Eternal.

Taurus: Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot The Hierophant VThe 16th path of Vav connects Sophia or Chokmah, the sphere of the Zodiac, with Chesed the magnificent or glorious sphere of Jupiter, and is imaged forth by the 5th Tarot key, The Hierophant. The path is called the Triumphant or Eternal Intelligence, since it is the way of return to the Garden of Eden. The Hierophant or Way-shower veils the instruction that is received from the deepest levels of the subconscious, for to hear this ‘voice’ or Word is to commence the glorious return implicit in the path’s title from the Sepher Yetzirah.[1]

The descent of the path is aptly figured in the letter vav, where the creative seed or essential fire is carried downwards towards manifestation. Looked at another way, the vav is the head and stem of the phallus (or spinal column), which, in the cosmic sense, is the pillar of the light or consciousness of Aur that stands in the void. The letter’s name means ‘a nail’ or ‘pin’; it is the power of fixing an image in consciousness, an act of will on the level of pure mind. The power of imagining is an attribute of Venus, the planetary ruler of Taurus and the earthly form of Nuit, depicted on the previous 15th path. The Moon is exalted in Taurus and the lunar nature of this path is that it reflects the dark radiance that pours forth from the Ain Soph into the pool of cosmic memory in Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter.

Taurus: Magical Power

As the Way-shower, inner teacher or higher intuition, the Hierophant reminds us that if we follow the Word-vibration back to its source in the infinite, all phenomena cease to exist. The oath of crossing or passing through the Abyss is therefore “to interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul”. Adepts are then untroubled by the flow of events in space-time, since they instantly recollect that all phenomena are apparitions arising on the dreaming face of the deep.

The magical power of the 16th path is the Secret of Physical Strength. The secret bears no relation to athleticism, for it is the knowledge of that which animates all things that live and move and have their being (the Word, Hadit)—it is no less than the secret of life itself.


Notes

1. Qabalistic details adapted from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for Taurus is Hathoor V. The card and its description may be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2017

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Mystery of Sokar

Sokar (or Seker) means ‘pure’. Depending on how the name is spelled, there is also a link with the principle of power itself (sekhem), for Sokar is Lord of Death and Resurrection. He is sometimes depicted as a mummified hawk and at other times as a white mound or shroud surmounted by a black hawk’s head.

Egyptian God SokarAccording to EA Wallis Budge, Sokar was “originally a power of darkness, or of the night”.[1] As such, his attributes are identical with those of Set. Sokar is called the ‘great god, who came into being in the beginning, he who resteth upon the darkness’. As such he was ancient even when the Pyramids were built, as are his rites. Among other of his titles are ‘He who raises up in the desert’ and ‘Dweller in the secret place, king of eternity, power of the everlasting’. The region of the underworld particularly associated with Sokar is Imhet (or Amhet), meaning ‘Abode of the Desert’. He is also ‘Lord of the gates of the tomb’ as the opener of the sealed entrances to the labyrinthine Necropolis. As lord of transformations in the underworld he is depicted as winged and standing on the back of a serpent. He is sometimes depicted as crowned with a disc and the twin plumes of Ma’at.

Sokar’s chief cult centre was at Memphis, which was also the principle cult centre of Ptah. Sokar was frequently merged with the attributes of Ptah, the self-created craftsman of the gods. Silver bowls and artefacts made from metal were frequently consecrated in his name. He was associated with agriculture as well as irrigation. His cult followers did rites of purification and embalming in his name.

The fiction writer Algernon Blackwood was able to convey some profound insights into the soul of Egypt, and of the vast expanse of the desert wilderness. In ‘Sand’, his writing was inspired by his experiences of the desert near Cairo.

Through this sand which was the wreck of countless geological ages, rushed life that was terrific and uplifting, too huge to include melancholy, too deep to betray itself in movement. Here was the stillness of eternity. Behind the spread grey masque of apparent death lay stores of accumulated life, ready to break forth at any point. In the Desert he felt himself absolutely royal.

And this contrast of Life, veiling itself in Death, was a contradiction that somehow intoxicated. The Desert exhilaration never left him. He was never alone. A companionship of millions went with him, and he felt the Desert close, as stars are close to one another, or grains of sand.

Hennu Boat of Sokar

Of all the rites of Sokar the procession of the hennu boat is perhaps the most striking and unique to him. The Sokar boat or hennu represents the sun’s journey by night through the underworld. The image of the hawk-headed Sokar was placed in a boat shaped like a sledge with runners. The boat was never intended to sail on water, it was built to be carried, and was said by some to be steered by the dead. If so, then the navigation took place among the stars, for the hennu was an astral vessel.

Depictions of Sokar in the hennu boat sometimes show his hawk’s head only, while his body is covered in a white, luminous shroud. According to Antoine Gigal, the shroud was made of special luminous cells.[2] The luminosity is the covering of ‘all that is created and all that can ever be created’. On the day of the festival of Sokar, the high priest raised up an ark or small wooden shrine at the moment of sunrise and placed it on the hennu boat. The shrine and hennu boat was then pulled along across the sands in a circular procession about the temple of the god, mirroring the revolution of the sun, planets or other celestial bodies.

The higher end of the sledge was fashioned in the shape of the head of an oryx, a species of desert antelope and the original type of the unicorn. The hennu boat was in the charge of the High Priest of Memphis, called Ur-kherp-hem, ‘Great One of the Hammer’, a reference to Ptah as cosmic creator god.

We associate Sokar with Scorpio and the month of October, which according to the alchemists is the only time when iron can be turned into gold.[3] The desert oryx, a gentle creature unless attacked, seems an unlikely association. However, Scorpio’s twin sign in the Zodiac is Taurus, denoting a horned beast, and October embraces the Sun’s entry into Sagittarius, the Centaur.

‘Oryx’ is an anglicisation of the Greek ορυξ, derived from the Libyan orus, ‘digger’. The white Arabic oryx is known to dig out a bed in the sand to keep cool. The desert beast can survive for long periods without water, like the camel. It can detect rainfall at a great distance and can travel thousands of miles in pursuit of the water.

Sokar Boat: Oryx maau-hetch hieroglyphsThe hieroglyphic determinative for ‘oryx’ is frequently mistaken for that of a goat. The Egyptian name is ma’au hetch, denoting the bright white colour of the Arabian species of oryx and the straightness (ma’at) of its horn. The ma’au is cognate with ‘truth’, ‘regularly and always’, ‘purity’ and ‘a gift’. According to Budge it is also the name of ‘a star’ and ‘a god’.[4] Taking all into consideration the star may be Regulus, heart of the Lion constellation. Ma’au is the name of Apep in the form of a lion-serpent, the most ancient astroglyph for Leo. The lion-serpent image combines Leo (lion) with Scorpio (snake). The eagle is a further symbol of Scorpio frequently paired with the lion in alchemy. Hetech means ‘white’, ‘shining’, and the name can be spelled with a stylised staff and shen loop for ‘eternity’. The name is etymologically linked with ‘elders’ and ‘nobility’. The Egyptian name of the oryx is usually spelled in hieroglyphics with the sickle ma’a, ‘Lion of Truth’. The same hieroglyph, in combination with the hetch mace, denotes any sharp instrument as well as the action of digging or piercing.

Sokar and the Unicorn

The oryx is mentioned six times in the King James Bible. The Aramaic re’em is mistranslated there as ‘unicorn’. The same word was translated into Greek as monokeros (μονoκερως) in the Septuagint. In Psalm 22: 21, the word karen, meaning ‘horn’, is written in the singular form. According to Jewish folklore, when King David was a shepherd he was carried up into the sky by an oryx after he mistook its horn for a mountain. He is then saved by the intervention of a passing lion, which causes the oryx to bow its head in respect. Another legend has it that Noah strapped the long, sharp horns of the oryx to the Ark so the animals inside could breathe.[5] The transposition of the tale of Noah’s Ark from that of the exceedingly ancient hennu boat is fairly obvious. There were long held associations between the oryx, the lion—with its connotations of nobility—and mountains, as ‘high’, ‘strong’.

The Aramaic re’em (RAM) has the value of 241 and is a metathesis of aramea (ARM), ‘mountain or mountainous place’. It is also equal to ‘speak forth, command or give a word’ (AMR) and is the root of Genesis I: 3, “And the Elohim said, Let there be light: and there was light”. The number 241 is that of Albarah, ‘wings of God’, which is a term used in alchemy for Mercury or Quicksilver. As with other species of antelope, the oryx is able to run at great speed.

The word ‘oryx’ is used as a name for a stonemason’s pickaxe, owing to the strength and sharpness of the creature’s horn, and possibly owing to the fact that the oryx sometimes uses it to excavate the desert sand. In Greek it has the value 630, equal to ‘Holy Spirit’ (RVChA QDIShA) and Seraphim (ShRPIM), ‘fiery serpents’.

The oryx carries the secret of the Lord of the Necropolis in its heart and its name, which is a reliquary for a vast tract of forgotten knowledge. The Golden Dawn named the initiate of Hod, the 8th sephira, Monokeros de Astris, ‘unicorn of the stars’. Hod is the Temple of Water on the Hermetic Tree of Life, and at the same time corresponds to Mercury. The unicorn is thus an apt cipher for the way of returning through the double gates of the underworld to the abode of the Gods.

Lord of the Necropolis

Sokar is and has always been Lord of the Saqqara Necropolis near Memphis and Giza. In predynastic times, a labyrinth was dug out of the desert sands beneath the Saqqara complex. Finely fashioned, highly polished granite arks weighing upwards of 50 tons were placed in cavities there. The arks or vessels are cathodic, for they are polished like glass on the inside. There are no historical records of the builders of these impossible artefacts but they are thought by some to be the ‘old ones’ or ‘elders’ referred to in sacred texts, or their descendants.

The Great Old Ones is a term used in scriptures referring to an elder race that pre-existed that of the human, indistinguishable from gods. Either they, or their descendants, are referred to in the book of Genesis as Nephilim or ‘giants’, ‘men of renown’. Between Memphis and the Saqqara Necropolis was once a sacred acacia tree. One of the Egyptian names for Memphis is Ankh-Tawy, ‘Life of the Two Lands’. Thus the Tree of Eternity spreads its roots and branches between the worlds of the living and the dead.


Notes

1. Budge, Gods of the Egyptians Vol. I, pp. 504–505.
2. The Mystery of the Sokar Hennu Boat, Antoine Gigal, 2013. From Gigal Research—Archaeological and historical researches.
3. The month of Scorpio (October–November) is the ‘death’ of the year in the northern hemisphere of the globe. Thus the Tarot card Death XIII, corresponding to Scorpio, is called Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gate of Death.
4. Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Volume I, pp. 270 A.
5. Robert Graves, Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis, Chapter 7, ‘The Reem and the Ziz’.

The portrait of Sokar at the head of the article is from Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Sokar XIII. The Tarot card and its full description can be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

© Oliver St. John 2019

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