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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.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sagittarius and the Crowley-Thoth Tarot

The Tarot trump for Sagittarius was traditionally titled Temperance XIV. It depicted an Angel pouring liquid between blue and red vases. In the modern Tarot of Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris, the card has been retitled Art XIV. It is the art of alchemy that is portrayed in the Tarot card.

Art XIV Thoth Tarot Atu

The signs of the zodiac are best understood as pairs; Gemini is the opposite and complementary sign to Sagittarius the Archer and Centaur. In the Tarot trump for Gemini, The Lovers VI, pairs of opposites were shown: black and white, silver and gold, good and evil, male and female. The red and white tinctures of alchemy were symbolised by a lion and an eagle. In the trump for Sagittarius all these opposites have exchanged places; the red lion has become white, the white eagle has become red. The Angel, clothed in green and wearing light and dark masks, pours fire and water into a golden cauldron. Into the cauldron are mixed drops of blood from the paw of the lion and tears from the mouth of the eagle.

The link between Gemini and Sagittarius is the Arrow of Will. A stream of light, guided by an arrow, rises upwards from the cauldron until it reaches the heart of the Angel; from there, the light branches into a rainbow that falls over her shoulders like a cape. Whereas the card for Gemini depicted a mystic marriage, the card called Art symbolises the consummation of that mystical union. The spiritual idea as expressed by Crowley in his The Book of Thoth (pp. 103) is that an incomplete element is spiritualised only through the assimilation of its equal and opposite.

The means of accomplishment is written in gold lettering upon a large orb, shining like the Sun behind the Angel: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum. “Visit the interior parts of the earth: by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone.” Alchemists described the stone of the wise or universal medicine variously as a stone, a powder or a tincture. It may be divided into silver and gold or red and white, but its essence is always the same. The law of this wisdom, which cannot be understood by the intellect alone, also governs astrology and magick. As it was written on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus:

That which is Below is like unto that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the Miracle of the One Essence.

© Oliver St. John 2012 

Books by Oliver St. John