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Oliver St. John is the author of books on Hermetic and Thelemic philosophy, Qabalah, operative magical Theurgy, Tarot and astrology. He is a founding member of Ordo Astri, Thelemic Magical Collegium and has been a member of the Typhonian Order since 2000 e.v. New articles and essays are posted at Tantrika Books.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Scorpio and the Tarot of Thoth

The Sun’s entry into Scorpio heralds the beginning of the Halloween festivities. Magically speaking, the season’s elemental focus comes with the nearest full Moon—nature is not bound by the clock and the calendar in quite the same way that we are.

Death XIII (Scorpio)

Death XIII

The Tarot of Thoth designed by Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris is faithful to the magical correspondences of the Qabalah and Western Hermetic Tradition. The 12 signs of the Zodiac and their astrological ruling planets are therefore depicted in the 22 Tarot trumps. The Tarot is best known as a fortune telling device, but is a vessel that contains, in symbolic form, the wisdom of ancient times. Crowley called the Tarot card for Scorpio, “A compendium of universal energy in its most secret form.” (The Book of Thoth, pp. 101)

The Tarot trump for Scorpio has been regarded, along with the Halloween festivities, with some horror. For one thing the title of the trump is Death. For another, it is the 13th trump. The esoteric title of the card is more revealing as to its true nature: Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death. The dual nature of Scorpio is admirably depicted in the design of the card. A skeletal figure is wielding a scythe. With the sweep of the scythe, bubbles appear in which new forms are created. In nature, life and death are two sides of one coin and so Death is shown as a dancing figure, destroying form and structure while simultaneously recreating it. The card is therefore a symbol of transformation and regeneration, very apt for the autumnal months of October and November. To the alchemists, the figure sums up the chemical changes called putrefaction. It was said that the base metal iron could only be changed into gold during the month when the Sun traverses Scorpio. In astrology the fixed water sign Scorpio is ruled by fiery Mars, the energy that breaks down form into its elements—so that new life can be created.

Scorpio actually has three symbols: the Scorpion, the Eagle and the Snake. While the Scorpion symbolises the voluntary submission to inevitable change, the undulations of the Snake symbolise the dual dance of life and death. The Eagle is said to be the higher form of Scorpio, since it has always represented ascendancy over matter or material form. Putrefaction gives off gas or vapour, and this has its parallel in occultism with spirituous non-material substances that are nonetheless tangible to clairvoyance. Ectoplasm or etheric matter is known to act as a medium between the physical world and more tenuous planes of existence.

The head of the Eagle is used as a symbol for alchemical distillation—it therefore represents the sublimation of gross matter. Scorpio is the 8th house or area of influence in astrology. The 8th house governs matters of sex, death and legacies. It therefore sums up all of our memory and experience; at the same time the very nature of Scorpio urges us towards transformation and change.

© Oliver St. John 2012 

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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Alchemy Thoth 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).

Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread (Ordo Astri)

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.


The Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread appears, with hints and an example reading, in the Divination section of Stella Tenebrae—Journal of Hermetic Magick Volume One Number 2. You may also wish to see our description of the Thoth 15-card Tarot Spread, here.

© Oliver St. John 2012 

Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium
Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal