Sagittarius: Egyptian Tarot Neith XIV

The Egyptian Tarot trump for the twenty-fifth path of Sagittarius is Neïth XIV. Jupiter, the Sapphire Star, is the ruler of Sagittarius. Neptune is also figured as inverse governor of the mutable signs.

Egyptian Tarot Neith XIVNeptune is also figured as infernal governor of the mutable signs. Neïth is depicted here as a young woman clothed in blue, with yellow ornaments and trim. She bears a green ankh of life in her left hand and priestly was sceptre or phoenix wand in her right hand. She wears a fillet armed with a serpent. Neïth’s hieroglyphic name is shown at the top right of the Tarot picture. The first letter is net, the ‘shuttle’ determinative. Next comes the hieroglyph for the ‘sky’, identical to that of Nuit. The name completes with the phonetic ‘t’.[1]

Behind Neïth stands a composite symbol formed from the djed pillar, the shuttle, which spells her name (net), and the Arrow of Sagittarius. The Egyptian djed is possibly a precurser of the Hebrew and Arabic letter samekh, which defines the path of Sagittarius. The djed pillar is comparable with the spinal column, which is in turn analogous with the subtle channel for the special fire (shushumna) of Kundalini yoga. It also signifies spiritual strength and endurance. Further comparison may be made with an alchemical retort for the transmutation of iron, the metal of Mars, into gold, the metal of the Sun and invisible radiance of spirit.[2]

Neïth was one of the earliest creatrix deities, the weaver of the web of the worlds, and comparable to the Hindu Maya. She was a personification of the waters of the primordial nun, the abyss from which all life issues forth, and which existed even before the birth of Gods such as Ra.[3] ‘Before’ is not meant here in the sense of time, which is a common confusion when the word ‘creation’ is used in relation to the cosmos. As with the biblical ‘in the beginning’, the real sense of this is in principio, ‘with the principle’, which is to say, the supreme ineffable, which is without beginning or cessation, without birth or death; in Itself it is eternal, changeless, indestructible and infinite.

As goddess of the crossed arrows (not shown on the card), Neïth is guardian of the Abyss and of all crossroads or thresholds of initiation. The ‘x’ symbol is the primal signature for any place or location. It marks the formless substance or radiance from which all life comes forth or is manifested.[4]

Sagittarius and the House of the Net

The foremost shrine of Neïth was called the ‘House of the Net’ (Net-Het) at Sàis in the Delta. It was here that a great annual festival was held in honour of Neïth and Isis. The festival resembled the rites of Candlemas or Imbolc, the crossquarter of the year between the winter solstice and spring equinox where cakes are made and eaten in honour of the Goddess. Lanterns are kept alight all night and carried in processions coinciding with the full Moon. According to Herodotus, some curious rites were performed in Sàis, near a row of ancient monoliths. A small shrine was hollowed out below ground level and covered with an ornately carved stone slab. The walls of the shrine were also decorated with fantastic carving. From the account given by Herodotus it is certain that the shrine was used for night-long vigils for the purpose of initiation. No one would be allowed to enter or leave until the morning, by which time the person thus prepared would have encountered their Daemon, or Neïth herself.[5]

Neïth was called the ‘House of the Net’ from earliest times. The root of the name ‘Net’ is phonetically identical to the name for any god or natural principle, neter; spinning or weaving is a traditional analogy for the emergence of worlds and creatures from the ground ‘substance’ (Sanskrit prakriti). According to the Hindu doctrines, Maya spins the worlds from her own essence. It must here be understood that essence and substance symbolise a self-polarisation of the eternal, non-dual principle, so that manifestation can come about and be known as existence.

Neïth and the Path of Sagittarius

Temperance is the traditional name of Tarot Atu XIV; Daughter of the Reconcilers: Bringer-forth of Life is the esoteric title. The Tarot of Marseille depicts an Angel pouring liquid between blue and red vases. The art of alchemy is shown there—Sagittarius is the mutable and so changeful fire sign of the Zodiac. The path connects the Moon, which always symbolises mind, with the Sun that symbolises spiritual ‘gold’, and the centre of intelligence. The silvery lunar water and golden solar fire is fused into the stone of the wise, lapis philosophorum, or the philosophic egg, in which cosmos is likened to embryo.[6] Fools attempt to apprehend the immortal stone through physical means—similarly, a child might seek to capture sunshine in a bottle. While the child may be rewarded with a faery song, the materialist will get nothing but pain and suffering in return for the soul, his birthright, that he has abandoned.

The twenty-fifth path crosses the veil called Paroketh, marking the division between the world of appearances and the invisible world of spirit. As such, the path is called the Intelligence of Probation or Trial. The mind’s intelligence has its foundation in Yesod, domain of the natural soul. It is only by dint of sacrifice of the labour of the work done that the harmony and beauty of Tiphereth or spirit can be fixed as a permanent reflection in Yesod, as the sphere of mind. To be a foundation for beauty, the psyche must undergo the purification of study, the organisation of the thoughts through concentration of the mind. Likewise, the body must submit to the beneficent astringent of the discipline, including rituals and practice. The aspirant practices indifference to phenomena, refusing to self-identify with the actions of the self and events that seem to be taking place. This must not be thought of as lack of attention; the level of observation is intensified through meditation practice. Neïth, the spinner of the worlds, fires the upward Arrow of Truth that spells dissolution of ego and entrance to higher states of being. World renunciation begins no sooner than a foot is placed on the path, for in control of body and mind there is already the shutting out of all that would otherwise obstruct the path. For that reason the Intelligence of Probation is likened in Christian mysticism to a Dark Night of the Soul.

The magical power of the twenty-fifth path is that of Transmutations. In yoga, this refers to subtle changes in the mental state that are only perceptible to the experienced yogin.


Notes

From the forthcoming book and Egyptian Tarot deck.

1. The name ‘Neïth’ may be pronounced approximately as nyet.

2. Mars is physical strength and so the corporeal state, whereas the Sun is light-intelligence and all that transcends the former. In alchemical texts it is sometime said to be the transmutation of lead into gold, lead being the metal of Saturn, which  symbolised time and death by classical times.

3. The term ‘abyss’ is often incorrectly identified with ‘chaos’ in the sense of confusion, disorder, which is in itself a profane misunderstanding of the original meaning of ‘chaos’. The primordial nun is the depth.

4. The formless light or radiance that clothes Neïth is the particular attribute of the Priestess of Atu II. The thirteenth path is an axial continuation of the twenty-fifth, so the same ideas are resumed on a higher arc. By comparison, the thirty-second path at the base of the Tree, Great One of the Night of Time, is usually imaged as anima mundi.

5. The comment by the ancient Greek traveller Herodotus proves that psychology was not the invention of Freud, for he drily dismisses the vigils conducted in honour of Neïth as mere fantasy: “Herein everyone encounters the shadows of his own affections and fantasies in the night season, which the Egyptians call Mysteries.” The commentator thus reveals his own lack of knowledge, unless he was simply pandering to his sceptical readers.

6. Cf. Hiranyagarbha, the ‘world egg’ of Hinduism, which is itself a symbol of Pure Being, Ishvara or the Lord of the Universe.

For the complete Qabalistic notes on Sagittarius and the twenty-fifth path, plus all other paths, see Thirty-two paths of Wisdom.

© Oliver St. John 2020, 2024

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