The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for the 17th path of Gemini is Shenut VI. Mercury, the Stellar Light, is the ruler of Gemini. The Twins of Gemini are here portrayed as ancient Egyptian sacred dancers, expressing the mobility and fluidity of Azoth, the Hermetic Light in dual expression.
The esoteric title of the Tarot trump, traditionally called ‘The Lovers’, is Children of the Voice: Oracle of the Mighty Gods. The ‘voice’ is the oracle of Understanding and Wisdom. On the Tree of Life, these are Binah and Chokmah. The primary cosmic duality is personified in pairs such as Babalon and the Beast, Sophia and Logos, Eve and the Serpent.
In the centre of the Tarot picture are two Egyptian dancing girls, based on the tomb painting of Nebamun Osama. The hieroglyphic name Shenut, goddess of dual manifestation, is at the top of the Tarot picture. Related terms are shni-t, ‘spell’, ‘curse’, and shnem, ‘to unite with’. When the hieroglyphic determinative of a bird alighting is used, as shown here in the lower half of the Tarot picture, the word means ‘dancers’, or a company of dancers and musicians.
The goddess Shenut was revered in the swampy Delta region of Lower Egypt. Over time, she became indistinguishable from Isis, Hathoor and other feminine deities. In the Delta, Shenut was identified with the acacia or Tree of Life from which the gods are sprung. The ancient Egyptian name of the acacia tree, shent, also has the meaning of ‘thicket’ or ‘bush’. Thus the word of dual manifestation issues from the sacred bush or pudenda of the goddess. The word shent also has the meaning of ‘a seal’ or ‘impression’. The children of the word-vibration, the Oracle of the Mighty Gods, form impressions in the Astral Light by the power of magical utterance.
As ChNT, the value of the name is 67, equal to the letter zain of the 17th path of Gemini, ‘a sword’, spelled in full (ZIN). ChNT has the meaning of ‘magic’, ‘spells or incantations’. The root of the word is khen, ‘to dance’, which is etymologically related to kheni, ‘love songs’, ‘to flutter’, ‘to alight (as a bird)’. The ancient Egyptians associated dancing with birds and sky, all that is ‘high’, ‘above’. Thus Shenut is a goddess of the sky and space. The act of dancing is to describe space, to define it, both geometrically and through movement, giving birth to form and the visible appearance of things.
A further related term is khnem-t, ‘friend’, ‘companion’, also ‘mistress’. Gemini, the Twins, is the Zodiac sign of friends, lovers and companions. To utter a word, a word must be heard. The duality of the 17th path of Gemini is expressed as Sol and Luna in alchemical terms. The Tarot trump images this forth as the dancing Twins of Gemini, called kheter in ancient Egyptian, a word that also has the meaning ‘friends’, ‘marriage’ and ‘union’. The word is identical in sound to that of Kether, the first emanation, for there is no ‘singular intelligence’ in reality, only the principle of union. Esoteric Thelema declares that duality is no longer to be thought of as evil, for the polar twins each contain the germ of their complementary opposite. As declared by Nuit in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, I: 29,
For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union.
Gemini, Zain and Set
The word kheter has the Qabalistic value of 217 (ChTR), equal to ChRT, ‘magick; engraving or impression’. The ‘twins’ or magical children of Shenut are thus affirmed as the weavers of magick between the worlds, the dancers or serpents of the Caduceus of Hermes-Thoth. The number 217 is also that of the god Set, whom the ancient Egyptians identified with Mercury.
“Through the ages, the god Set, who was identified with Mercury, became increasingly demonised in Egypt; his more positive attributes were gradually transferred to Thoth, whose totem animal is the Ibis. Thoth is the male counterpart of Maat. Together, Thoth and Maat oversee the transmission of the divine Word or True Will.”
Zain, the letter of the 17th path, symbolises the sword of discrimination, which is both divisive and unifying. The name of Set is related to Sept, ‘seven’, the value of the letter. The primary division is that between man and his Holy Guardian Angel. The Mercurial power is to utter the divine Word, the Oracle of the Mighty Gods. When such a word is received, the “chance of union” is realised.
Set is the ‘cutter’, the divider into two. As the only begotten child of Nuit, he causes her appearance. AVRI, also 217, provides a key to the magical means, for it signifies ‘fiery; shining or lustrous; of light’. DBVRH (Deborah), 217, is the honey bee, the principle of vibration and the shakti medium of vibration in the depths. Honey is the food of the gods, or the nectar of immortality, and the honey bee is the symbol for the dissemination of knowledge. Sirius or AVRK (227), the ‘home of the gods’, is the light substance or honeyed emanation of Set-Hadit. Thus Set is the magical means of transmutation.
The division referred to in AL, I: 29, primarily takes place on the 12th path from Kether to Binah, corresponding to Mercury and the Magician of the Tarot. Set appears on this path as the Egyptian Ass, typifying the practitioner of magical arts. Below the Abyss, the Magi are Black Brothers, believing in a unitarian intelligence, Monad or singular selfhood.
On the 17th path of Gemini, the division is reconciled in the harmony of Tiphereth. The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian is thus central in the Great Work, for the principle of union here implies a mystic marriage of soul and God. Theos (feminine theia) is the root of the True Will summed up in the word Thelema.
As Children of the Voice, the Dancers of Shenut echo the love-play of Nuit and Hadit. The 17th path of Gemini issues from Binah, the supernal Eden and Matrix, to reify in Tiphereth, the full beauty and radiant glory of the Sun. Thus, the oracle or transmission is fleshed by the divine word or utterance from the Throne of Isis. The Eye of Ra the Sun, otherwise Horus, is intimately associated with the goddess Hathoor, who appeared in the previous trump for Taurus, and who is the sovereign of music, song and dancing.
On the way of return, the 17th path crosses the abysmal threshold of human reason to find its root in the depth, silence and mystery of Binah, sphere of Understanding.
In the Sepher Yetzirah, the 17th path is called the Intelligence of Sensation or the Disposing Intelligence. It is also called the Foundation of Tiphereth in the plane of the Supernals—since its root is in Binah and its termination in the centre of the Ruach intelligence. The 17th path of Gemini is the seventh from Aleph. The letter zain (or zayin) is the sword separating the subtle non-material matrix into twin streams of time and space that pour forth from the Abyss. The sacred dance or Shenut expresses the resolution of reason through the union of love under will. It is the creation of the world and its magical recreation through the Great Work.
The magical power of the 17th path of Gemini is the Power of being in two or more places at one time, and of Prophecy.
1. E. A. Wallis Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary Vol 2, pp. 745, 747. Budge transliterated the word as ‘Khenit’ (see Vol 1, pp. 549). In later times, the ‘k’, pronounced much like the Aramaic cheth, was superseded by the phonetic ‘sh’. The letter is symbolised by a rolled and tied scroll, indicative of ‘secret things’ or ‘mysteries’, or otherwise, as shown here, as the shen knot of eternity (see Vol 1, pp. 525).
2. Vol 1, pp. 748 [ibid].
3. Khenit = ChNT; see note 1.
4. Vol 1, pp. 551 [ibid].
5. Vol 1, pp. 520 [ibid].
6. The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga, ‘Zain’, Glossary.
Qabalistic notes are adapted from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, comment on the 17th path.
© Oliver St. John 2019