Equinox of Maat: Balance of the Year

When the Sun enters Libra at the Equinox of Maat, the days and nights are equal in length. Soon the days will be shortening and the nights lengthening as we, in the northern hemisphere, journey towards the winter solstice. In the southern hemisphere the situation is reversed; the days will be lengthening and the nights shortening, as the journey begins towards the height of summer.

Maat Equinox: Thoth Tarot Adjustment VIII

The Thoth Tarot trump for Libra is Adjustment VIII, depicting the Egyptian goddess Maat. A young woman is masked and bearing on her forehead the uraeus serpent. She is crowned with the ostrich plumes of Maat, and is perfectly poised upon her toes. In her hands is a magical sword, with the point downwards. She is The Daughter of the Lords of Truth, the Ruler of the Balance. She represents the absorption and transmutation of all experience in the flowing forth of continuous manifestation. She is the mistress of creation and destruction, and the balance of light and darkness. She is cosmic law, and the law of nature: truth, twofold, and the immutable law of the universe. Her powers are the works of Justice and Equilibrium.

Black and White
Day and Night
North and South
East and West
Let us find Ma’at in all things![1]

The Oracle of Maat

Behold! I am the Eye of my father, Ra. I am the one in whom the word is accomplished. I am the Bride of Tahuti and the Measure of the Universe. I am truth, and the feather is my symbol. To pass my door, you must justify every part of your soul, and you must visit the beautiful fields of the grasshoppers. You shall bathe in the pool where the Sailors of Ra in his sun-boat bathe. Purify yourself in my name, and come before me as Horus Triumphant. For I stand upon one side of Ra in the ark of the heavens and Tahuti stands upon the other. And unless you have found the flint that is hidden in my furrow, then you shall not pass my gates. But if you know all these things, and if you have found me that dwells in the heart of Ra, and if you are pure—then Tahuti shall call your name! And you shall be known in the palace of the starry ones, and shall live forever and forever.[2]

Maat is the goddess that presides over the weighing of the heart ceremony, and is the ‘Straight One’, the principle of Perfect Truth and the Balance of the Universe. She is clothed in emerald green and wears the crown of double plumes. The feather is her symbol, and the Ankh of Life. Maat is the Eye of Ra, the Sun, and is the bride and consort of Thoth or Tahuti, the Egyptian Hermes-Mercury, the god of magick and of magick words and writing—the Word or Logos.

The Neters or Gods are the personification of impersonal principles. Maat, especially, is a cosmic principle. The ancient Egyptians loved puns, the play on words. Maat says, “If you have found me that dwells in the heart of Ra…” One of the epithets of Maat is ‘The Me’, the Measure of all things. One must find the measure, the ‘me’ that is Maat, in the heart, the centre of all.

Maat is the Eye of Ra, and the secret hidden in the heart of Ra—she is his daughter, and so the apple of his eye. As with students, a good pupil is as that which is in the centre of the eye. It is emptiness, yet beholding all—therefore receptive. Also it is one who hears—for the human ear was shaped by sound. The heart itself is the void place of spirit. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the heart (Ab) is a pot or vessel. The handles are the ‘ears’. The ‘eye’ is the emptiness inside—the necessary condition for true meditation. Nuit wears a pot on her head, which is the hieroglyph of her name, ‘Nu’; she is the Holy Graal.

The ‘emptiness’ or spaciousness of absolute Nuit is not equal to ‘nothing at all’.  As it is put, cryptically, in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, II: 2:

There is division hither homeward; there is a word not known. Spelling is defunct; all is not aught. Beware! Hold! Raise the spell of Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Far from being nothing at all, or ‘nothingness’, Nuit’s spaciousness is everything! The one true power in the universe is the power of attention. The all-seeing eye of Ra is the eye of the beholder. In Liber AL, I: 28:

None, breathed the light, faint and faery, of the stars, and two.

Everything concerned with Maat is double. The ancient Egyptians usually had two of everything, including pairs of male and female gods or neters. Maat presides over the Neophyte Hall of Dual Manifestation. Everything in nature is double; there is ‘no-one’ in truth. The power of Egyptian magical spells is in the words; to know they are true, and to speak them truly, is the perfection of Maat.

There is a popular New Age notion that any affliction suffered in this life must owe to some ‘karmic debt’ incurred in a previous life. Let us dispel this myth, for the rule of Maat is not in any way a moral or ethical law. The law of nature is exact; we must not confuse this with any notions of human justice based on morality—if we do then we confuse this idea of karma and make little tin gods of ourselves. Furthermore, ‘reincarnation’ is a self-limiting modern myth, based on rationalist determinism.[3]


1. The Oracle of Maat is taken from ‘Ceremonies of Nuit and Ra’, Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light [Ordo Astri].
2. Oracle of Maat, Ritual Magick [ibid].
3. See ‘Lapis Philosophorum’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].
© Oliver St John 2013; revised 2018
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Lion-serpent of Babalon

Lion-serpent of Babalon: Here is the main entry from our Sepher Sephiroth for the 19th path of Leo the Lion.[1]

Lion-serpent of Babalon: Lust-XI, Crowley-Harris Thoth deck

The 19th path connects Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter, with Geburah, the sphere of Mars, and is imaged forth by the Tarot key Lust XI. The path is called the Intelligence of the Secret of all Spiritual Activities or the Occult Intelligence. The 19th path is the first that is wholly beneath the Abyss when descending, and the last before the Abyss when ascending the Tree. It is therefore the secret ruler and governor of all that is below, even as it receives the influence (mezla) from that which is above. The earlier versions of the 11th Tarot trump, such as the first printed Tarot of Marseille, depict a curious form of what the ancient Egyptians termed as the ‘Opening of the Mouth’. The woman appeared to be forcing the mouth of a lion or other beast open. This is an image of the tearing open of the Gate of Knowledge, Da’ath—something that requires great spiritual strength and courage to do without suffering calamity, since there is a high risk of obsession by the flow of images on this high-powered path. The secret of the path is that visible nature veils or conceals the numinous source of all. The magical power of the 19th path is the Power of Training Wild Beasts.


The Training of Wild Beasts is the art of deriving oracles from snakes and women. The power of hypnotism is also associated with the snake. The snake of light extends from the base of the spine to the medulla oblongata where the spinal column enters the brain at the back of the head. Occultly, the serpent then forms the third eye chakra. The secret of the 19th path is known to magi, and has been intuited by those that have travelled the intellectual path to its limits. To those seeking the realms beyond the Abyss, every bodhisattva is a lion in the road, an obstacle to the attainment of Gnosis. To be saved by Crowley is no better than being sent to hell by Jesus. Below the Abyss, should the adept fall (and so fail), “There is help and hope in other spells” (Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, II: 70).

There follows a fuller (though abridged) exposition on the magical nature of the Lion-serpent, the 19th path.[2]

Lion-serpent of Teth: Mystic Tarot

Over the course of time the letter teth evolved so that it came to mean ‘serpent’, although the serpent of old times was always nahash, the letter that was banished from the 24th path. The early Semitic and Cretan forms of the letter teth depicted the circle cross or Mark of the Beast, a symbol identical to that used by the ancient Egyptians to show a terrestrial or astral location:

Lion-serpent: Circle-Cross

The Mark of the Beast was also used as a protective amulet by the Egyptians, and was associated with Sekhet the lion goddess and Tauret the keeper of the Net, the starry cosmic matrix. The serpent and cross have always enjoyed a special relationship. The crossing of the 13th and 19th paths of the Tree forms the shadow or inverse reflection below the Abyss of the Calvary cross. The crossing of the two paths of the Moon of the Priestess and the Sun of the Lion-serpent form the special Mark of the Beast in the centre of the Unicursal or Alchemical Hexagram, a type of the Rosy Cross:

Lion-serpent: Unicursal or Alchemical Hexagram with Elements

The Moon was the earliest calendrical device. As the signature of time, periodicity, the Moon was the crown of Thoth or Tahuti [pronounce, djehuti]. Thoth gave knowledge and magick to Isis after she followed the advice of her dark sister Nephthys and stopped the flow of time by appealing to Ra the Sun God. At the cessation of time at the crossroads where the essences of the Woman and Beast intermingle (the 13th and 19th paths), Thoth was able to descend from heaven to earth in order to whisper magical words and spells into the ear of Isis.

The tale was replicated, in corrupt dualistic terms, in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which describes how the sons of the Elohim descended to earth to copulate with the daughters of Eve. The sons of the Elohim then stayed with the women and taught them the knowledge of magick, alchemy and sciences. The congress produced a race of giants or ‘lofty ones’, called the Nephalim.

The 19th path, along with the 20th of the Hermit and the 21st of the Wheel of Force, is worked by the Adeptus Major. The Adeptus, having attained the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, the ‘five equals six’ degree, must now reverse this formula and make the six of the Macrocosm equal to the five of the Microcosm. This requires works of alchemy and evocation, summed up by the magical formulae of VITRIOL and ARARITA.

The Unicursal Hexagram is alchemical, depicting the four elements of Fire, Earth, Water and Air, equilibrated by Spirit under the governance of Sol and Luna. ARARITA is a notariqon for,

One is thy Beginning. One is thy Spirit. One is thy Transmutation.

VITRIOL is Latin:

Visitae Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum.

The Adeptus is exhorted: “Go ye forth into the hollow hills of the earth. By rectification, there ye shall discover the secret stone of the wise.” The philosophers stone is thus found in the interior places of the earth, or Malkuth, hidden among the roots of the Tree of Life. Rectification means extracting the subtle from the gross, the gold from base metal and the elixir of life from among the poisons of the mind, which are as the excretions of the body.

The Quintessence of all, summed up by ARARITA, is also known as the magical AZOTH, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end expressed in three languages. The end of time is with the beginning, and vice versa. AZOTH consists of Alpha and Omega, Aleph and Tav, A and Z:

Lion-Serpent: AZOTH

The Sun cradled by the Moon is a form of the Holy Graal, the cup of our Lady BABALON. On the 19th path, Nuit and Hadit, cosmic principles of space and consciousness, attain their material expression as Babalon riding the Lion, the Woman and the Beast or Lion-serpent. Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden is a kindred image. The Egyptian ceremony of Opening the Mouth (of the deceased) enabled the King or Initiate to pass through the underworld and traverse the fragrant paths of light that lead to the starry bowers of the garden of Nuit.

Some have described the Lion-serpent image of the 11th Tarot key as a woman closing the mouth of a lion, and from there comes the association with the magical power of The Taming of Wild Beasts. The ability to converse with and understand the secret languages of wild creatures is listed among the powers of the ‘fallen angels’ or Spirits of The Goetia. The Goetic Spirits are conjured by ceremonial evocation—one of the most glamorous sword and sorcery operations of magick. The Goetia is at the same time considered to be highly dangerous by many occultists. However, it is not necessary for those with developed faculties to evoke any Goetic Spirits in order to converse with birds and other wild animals. The method, which involves a sensitive understanding and practice of the magical Law of Thelema, is not one that can be taught or learned in the ordinary way. Those that imagine Nuit’s declared law to be merely a formula for using sexual magick to serve personal or political ends are naturally excluded from such conversations. Human consciousness is not at all the crown of creation, though man very much likes to think that it is; neither is man the only sentient creature on earth, let alone among all the other worlds that are and shall be. The sevenfold ARARITA and VITRIOL express a secret written and concealed in the sevenfold Law of Thelema:

Love is the law, love under will.


1. The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, entry for the 19th number [Ordo Astri].
2. From Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity, “The Lustre of Teth” [Ordo Astri].
© Oliver St. John 2013; revised and extended 2018

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Solstice Chariot to the Stars

Cancer 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. The 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.

Thoth Atu VII Chariot to the StarsThe 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 are the keys 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 (Vision and the Voice, Aleister Crowley).

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. This 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 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.

The magical discipline is such that powers of the mind are directed towards the building of a ‘Chariot’ (merkebah), as depicted in the Tarot trump. In mysticism, this is called the resurrection body. The Holy Ghost and Holy Graal are cognate terms: the Cup of Babalon or Binah is the receptacle from which the feminine spirit, the Egyptian Khu, is imbibed. The resurrection body is introduced in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 8, “The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs”.

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 Egyptian 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 pseudo doctrines of the New Age movement are accepted. Crowley, who was heavily influenced by Madame Blavatsky and her ‘Secret Chiefs’, 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. The doctrine of Thelema is identical with the Setian Gnosis of ancient Egypt, and in particular, of the Setian cult of Menthu 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. Thelema, as according to Liber AL vel Legis, 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]


1. This passage and the previous were 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).

3. See Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs for 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.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018
Khephra Scarab drawn by Jeff Dahl

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