Friday, October 28, 2011

The Sacred Rites of Scorpio Season

Ah, Sex and War, Love and Death - the essential elements of any lasting narrative. In the western hemisphere, the sacred co-mingling of Mars, all sweaty from battle, and Venus, full of oysters, injects red life force into earthly vegetation each Spring (Aries and Taurus, but also planet Venus in Aries). In Autumn (Libra and Scorpio, but also planet Venus in Scorpio), they unite again in death, Venus committing sati on the bonfire and lonely Mars turning into a wolf that will eat the sick and weak who can't survive the winter. Adieu, until next time around. The cycle begins, ends  and begins again with this union of opposites. Or, as the tantric, Indian Goddess, Lalita puts it, "Like the Sun and Moon coming together in an eclipse,  consciousness comes into being via orgasm." (Funny how the first and last letters of that word spell  OM). 


                                            Two versions of Indian Goddess Lalita,  Babylonian 'Queen of the Night' 

Lalita means 'she who plays.'  Her many incarnations include Lilith, Lilitu, Lili, Layla, Lola, Lulu, Lolita, etc,  all having nocturnal, sexual or demonic connotations. As Hebrew Lilith,  she is Adam's first wife, the serpent in the Tree of Life who teaches him (or Eve, depending which version) "carnal" knowledge,  i.e. the mysteries of sex,  life and death.  She is not made from his rib,  either,  but from earthly muck. When God expels her for her independent spirit (refusing to lie beneath her husband in missionary position), she flies away to where the wild things are, and, finding it preferable to subservience, becomes the prototype for sexual demoness, vamp and devil-humping witch, eating babies and seducing holy men in their sleep. Independent yes,  but also deranged.  Her name means 'screech owl' or 'ghost.'
The cycle of existence is hard-wired by desire, Scorpio's raison d'etre. During the Sun's passage through Scorpio/the 8th house (sex, death, regeneration, energy, healing, shared resources, financial obligations and the occult),  from Oct. 23 - Nov. 22,  we honour the sacred dead and all taboos associated with them. During the few days of Samhain,  All Soul's Eve,  Hallowe'en and Dia de Los Muertos,  the veil between worlds is as thin as a spider's web, allowing spirits to attend graveyard picnics and inhabit jack-o-lanterns. On Armistice/Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, we pause to honour those who, in the spirit of Mars (traditional ruler of Scorpio),  sacrificed their lives in battle. This year, it will fall on 11-11-11,  a date many are getting excited or apprehensive about,  considering the power of master numbers 11 and 33.  [See Sept. "11 Power and Twin Towers" post

The word 'taboo' originally meant sacred, and indeed, sacred things were kept under veils (where we get the word secret).  It later came to mean something forbidden by society.  Incest, cannibalism,  bestiality and patricide are examples of common taboos. Then there are cultural variants, like the untouchability of the bereaved or of menstruating women, both considered 'unclean.' Even today, a woman may refer to her period as 'the curse' and drugs are routinely prescribed for blocking messy menstruation altogether. The very essence of sex and death,  menstrual blood is even more powerful than blood spilled in battle, therefor extremely taboo. 

                      Teenage menstruation fears gone haywire in Carrie, wise-bloody Goddess, Kamakhya Temple, India

While the mysteries of womb and grave may be a secret, they are not the property of anyone.  They are universally inherent in our DNA and as individually expressed as the infinite forms of nature. Yet, those who govern societies do not want people to be in charge of their own sex, death and regeneration. Whoever owns the rights/rites to these forces has all the power. Therefor, strict rules and guidelines for birth, sexual practices,  soul redemption and corpse management are imposed on the populace (while those at the top often practice the complete opposite).  Some of these are necessary for health reasons, or simply to protect people - it's probably not a great idea to eat the deceased,  for example, and forced sex with anyone is a violation of natural law - but mostly it's an 8th house issue of controlling other peoples' resources.  It's all energy,  just like money or food. 


     Plutonians harnessing Venusian power in  Eyes Wide Shut,  Castro Hallowe'en revellers owning their sexuality.

Another attribute of Scorpio is that of the collective nemesis or shadow.  Since Scorpio is a feminine sign, this usually means feminine shadow - the harlot, devouring mother or hag - witches who channel the untamed forces of nature. And so we are divided, according to what's deemed permissible. It is not just women who are affected by the censorship of essential parts of our being, either, since we are all composed of both masculine and feminine, feminine being the soul. Dreams, theatre and film portray our disconnected parts as characters in conflict and resolution. Ancient Greek drama was, essentially, group therapy. In the theatrical tradition of Hallowe'en,  it's socially acceptable (and fun) to dress up as our shadows or alter-egos and parade them proudly, witches being by far the most common. In recent years, Zombie Walks have become hugely popular, with thousands of participants of all ages. (I guess eating braaaaiiins must be therapeutic for a populace so dependent on artificial  intelligence). 

Beauty's compassion breaks the Beast's spell of duality,  Scorpio Winona feels Dracula's pathos.

In Tarot, the Devil is shadow or dark twin to our solar self, banished to the underworld of our unconscious.  Our repressed impulses live there, like creatures of the night, creating disquieting thoughts, illusions and dreams. Traditionally the shadowy, lunar feminine presides over these, but with Pluto and Neptune now on the scene, we can't be blaming the Moon for everything.  (Plus we've now an astrological,  Dark Moon Lilith). 
The chained doppelgangers in card 15 represent our dual nature, which must ultimately be reconciled. This is really the theme of Tarot's visual narrative, with the climax - a complete breakdown of the ego, followed by a period of grace, darkness and rebirth or 'dark night of the soul' - occurring between these two cards, mirroring conception.  In ancient astrology, the sign of Gemini was ruled by the Sun.

In extreme cases, the doppelganger can take on a life of its own and prey on the energies of its other. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, which came to Robert Lewis Stevenson in a dream, is one such cautionary tale. Another is, of course, Dracula, the promiscuous, cannibalistic, murdering necrophile and most beloved Hallowe'en persona. Babylonian lilitu and medieval succubi were early inspiration for vampire lore,  but it was Phillip Burne-Jones' painting of a female vampire, inspired by Bram Stoker's 1897 novel,  that started the whole 'vamp' thing in popular culture. After viewing the painting, Burne-Jones' cousin, Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem, The Vampire, which later became the script for A Fool There Was, the silent film that gave Hollywood's myth-making industry it's own Lilith, Theda Bara. Even her name - an anagram for Arab Death - relates back to the Babylonian demoness.  (Venus in Scorpio until November 1 is the Vamp).

                                                   Man-made vamps: Burne-Jones' gothic,  Fox's lady, Theda Bara

Some Scorpios have been accused of vampirish tendencies, thriving on the life energy of others. Though Scorpio expresses the urge to dominate/have power over life, it's higher resonance is redemption through love,  so it has multiple symbols: 
Scorpion - basic instincts are fear and desire. It amasses power for it's own gain and stings itself when cornered. (Charles Manson would be an extreme example).
Eagle - sees from the heavens,  rather than the ground and amasses power in order to redistribute to the whole. (One could make the argument for Bill Gates). 
Phoenix - rises from it's own ashes,  symbol of self-regeneration par excellence.  (Like champion amputee skier, writer and inspirational speaker,  Bonnie St John). 
Dove - redeemer or Christ figure of eternal,  pure love/light. I can't name any famous Scorpios who fit this description entirely - perhaps having to carry the collective shadow means the dove nature has yet to fully evolve.  
Most Scorpios are a mix of scorpion and eagle (or of all four) and all are redeemers in one way or another, for better or worse. 


Thoth Tarot Death card,  devouring Mother Kali

The modern ruler of Scorpio is Pluto, named after the God of the Underworld and wealth. it has only completed 2/3 of an orbit since it's discovery in 1930, but already has accumulated some pretty heavy mojo. In astrology, Pluto represents total recall/death, transformation/rebirth, power, the underworld (organized crime) as well as urges and obsessions from our deepest, darkest unconscious. Psychoanalysis must have developed under Pluto's influence to help process this stuff.  We are sure to uncover more as we bring forth what is within us,  lest it should destroy us. 

Indian vedic astrology has not rushed to adopt Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as the new rulers of Aquarius, Pisces and Scorpio. It also still uses the sidereal system (tropical is commonly used in the west,  relying on seasonal equinoxes rather than constellations)  and the traditional calendar combines both solar and lunar cycles.  Between mid-October and mid-November,  it's Libra season there and Hindus world-wide celebrate Diwali,  a five day 'festival of lights' celebrating the triumph of good over evil,  during which moral order or karma is restored. There are more variations than I'm qualified to write about, but the worship of Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth, wisdom and happiness is the main event. Lakshmi's four arms represent the four principals of Hinduism - Dharma (duties/philosophy), Samsara (cycle of rebirth), Karma (right action/cause and effect)  and Moksha (liberation from Samsara).  She also wears red and rides an owl.

Two versions of the Goddess Lakshmi

Happy Diwali and Hallowe'en ! Happy Birthday Scorpio !


Lhasa de Sela's beautiful intro to her song 'Soon This Space Will Be Too Small':
And the hauntingly beautiful song: 

Carl Jung on Death:

The Silent One: 

Photo credits:  Los Muertos trio reblogged from misanthropoet
Menstruating Goddess photo by kulasundari