The Egyptian Tarot trump for the eighteenth path of Cancer is Atet VII. The Moon, the Lunar Flame, is the ruler of Cancer the Crab or Scarab. The Atet or sun boat of Ra is here depicted in the centre of the Tarot design.
The motion of Ra defines the expanse of the sky, the reach of heaven. Thus the invisible Sun of Spirit is concealed or clothed in light. The barque or sun boat of Ra is also therefore the marker of time. If the sun boat should be stopped in its tracks, as is told in the legends of Isis, time would cease.
The esoteric title of the Tarot trump, traditionally named ‘The Chariot’, is Child of the Powers of the Waters: Lord of the Triumph of Light. This is best explained through the Qabalistic title of the eighteenth path, Intelligence of the House of Influence. Cheth, the letter of the path, means ‘a wall or enclosure’. The enclosure of cheth is the sun boat itself. It is also the radiance of spirit called the Khu (or khu-t) in ancient Egyptian sacred texts.
The eighteenth path of Cancer the Crab or Scarab is the intelligence linking the Understanding of Binah, the throne of Saturn, with Geburah, the Energy of Mars. From the interior of Binah, runes of knowledge flow forth via the Abyss that marks a separation between the spiritual realm and that of the individual human mind and its faculties of perception. The primordial language communicates the means of return to Nuit or absolute being, consciousness and bliss. The power or intelligence of the eighteenth path is experienced as light that flows like water from the innermost depths.
The Sun is said to enter the house of his mother at the solstice. He is thus at his height (from the point of view of the northern hemisphere). The Atet or sun boat of Ra is the original type of the solar chariot, which during the Age of Kali Yuga became seen as the triumphant vessel of kings and warriors. The Holy Graal or Cup of Binah is reflected across the Abyss in the magnificent sphere of Gedulah or Jupiter, which attains exaltation in the sign of Cancer.
The hieroglyphic name Atet is shown at the top of the Tarot picture. The name is pronounced an-djet, with the soft ‘n’ sounded as in ‘sing’. The hieroglyph for andj is frequently depicted as the shuttle of Neïth, the House of the Net. Thus she is the sky-weaver who spins the threads of light defining heaven and earth, manifesting the worlds that receive life from Ra, the supreme principle.
Ra travels on the Atet Boat of Millions of Years when he is visible in the heavens. His companions include Sia (vision, perception) and Hu (will, command), as well as Heka (magick power). During the evening, Ra sets in the west as Atum or otherwise in the form of a ram, and enters the duat or Egyptian underworld. In some legends he is swallowed into the mouth of Nuit, the sky goddess, and thus his journey through the duat is a journey through her body. In the duat, the sun boat is named Sektet. Apep (Apophis), the opposer of the light, appears here as a great serpent. Every night Apep attempts to stop the journey of the sun boat with his hypnotic stare. Set, who accompanies Ra on the sun boat, assists Ra by overcoming the serpent. By morning, the night boat reaches the end of its journey through the underworld and Ra is reborn from the womb of Nuit.
Secrets of the Sun Boat
Much of the labour of the Great Work is to make the frail human personality a suitable vehicle for the influx of cosmic consciousness that would otherwise overwhelm it. The preliminary work is to train the mind and increase the power of concentration—to hold an idea steady in the mind like an unwavering flame. The mental powers are then applied to the building of a chariot, as depicted in the Tarot trump, by which one may ascend. Such a chariot is shown forth in various traditions as a means of passing through a Journey of the Soul by making contact with various gods, angels or devas along the way.
The Atet is the vehicle of will called the resurrection body in Christian esoterisism. The Holy Ghost and Holy Graal are cognate terms. The Cup of Babalon or Binah is the receptacle from which the feminine Holy Spirit, Khu or Shekinah, is imbibed, producing divine intoxication—not to be confused with ordinary drunkenness. The symbolism of soma or wine in various rites has nothing to do with any material substance but there are no words in modern languages to describe its real meaning, which amounts to a sum total of all knowledge or the knowledge of Universal Being.
Lord of the Triumph of Light
The magical power of the eighteenth path is the Power of Casting Enchantments. The ancient Egyptian image for Cancer is the scarab beetle, Khephra. When Ra is in the underworld, he visits all of his various forms and thus undergoes the transformations that prepare him for rebirth from the body of Nuit.
Khephra, or the sun at media nox, is the supreme totem of enchantment and of all transformations. Khephra is the neter (principle) of Becoming. As self-created, self-born and ever living, Khephra is more than Existence or Being itself. As with all Egyptian Gods, he conceals the supreme principle, changeless, infinite, immutable and so forth. The underworld, or reflected body of Nuit, is the vessel and means of transformation from lower to higher states. At the end of the night, the soul emerges as a radiant Khu or Phoenix—the resurrection bird. It is the accomplishment of the Great Work.
1. At, atu, ‘moment of time, minute, hour, culmination of an act’. At-t, ‘bed, couch, bier’ and ata, ‘boat’. Also, ā-t, ‘chamber, house, place, temple’. See Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Volume I pp. 12–13. The root of the noun is cognate with all senses of the chariot in the various traditions, including the nuptial place of repose for Shiva and Shakti in the tantrik tradition. From it is derived ‘Atu’, the name of the Tarot trumps. In The Book of Thoth, Chapter III, Crowley poured scorn on the notion that atout, the French word for ‘trump’, might be etymologically derived from Atu, ‘House’. However, the Egyptian language is far more ancient than Latin or Greek!
2. Ā(N)TIT (andjet), Budge I, pp. 128 [ibid]. Note also that andj or antech has the meaning of ‘health, well, sound’. All is well when Ra travels in his sky boat.
From the book, Egyptian Tarot of Thelema.
© Oliver St. John 2020, Revised 2023