Unicorn of the Stars

The Practicus of the Golden Dawn has the eponymous title, Monokeros de Astris, ‘Unicorn of the Stars’. This is best explained through the name of the Titan, Astris (Αστρις), which means, ‘Starry One’. Astris was born from a marriage of the Sun and the ocean (Moon or sea-foam), alchemical types of fire and water. The Practicus degree corresponds to Hod (Mercury), the Water Temple that receives the fiery solar influence from Netzach (Venus).

Unicorn of the Stars: Sokar BoatThe Initiate of Hod, Unicorn of the Stars, has first to traverse, at least symbolically, the fiery paths of Shin (31st) and Resh (30th) before entering Hod, the Water Temple. Hod is thus seen in every way as a sphere of transmutation. Although Hod sometimes symbolises the concrete mind, as ‘form-building’, it is not the goal of Initiates to become detained by the limits of ordinary reason. In fact, Hod, the 8th path or sephira from the Crown or root of the Tree of Life in heaven, is traditionally called the Stellar Light, and is also the ‘Seat of the Primordial’. This is usefully affirmed by the Greek value of Monokeros de Astris, which is 1,175. As 29 x 75, the unicorn’s horn corresponds to the ‘Divine Pillar of Nuit (or the sky)’. The 29th path corresponds to the Hebrew letter qoph, which is the ‘head’ or ‘pinnacle’, while 75 is a number of Nuit (NVIT).

This article is abridged from Nu Hermetica—Initiation and Metaphysical Reality [Ordo Astri books].

While it is true that the letter qoph is more frequently referred to as the ‘back of the head’, owing to the shape of the letter, it is a misleading and possibly incorrect attribution. Qoph is not merely the ‘back of the head’ as the complement of resh as the ‘front of the head’. Resh refers more to the ‘chief’ or ‘leader’, which is also the ‘first’ or ‘highest’ in an order of hierarchy. But qoph (or quf in Arabic) is more specifically the skull or cranium, and as such it has a special meaning of indicating the gate of egress from the cosmological sphere to the heavenly or primordial sphere. For this reason Christ-Jesus was crucified on a hill called ‘Place of the Skull’ (Golgotha).

The Unicorn and Sokar

The primordial is variously symbolised as a pillar, mound or mountain—for there is nothing beyond the peak of a mountain except the sky or heaven. The unicorn’s horn points straight upward to heaven, and is spiralic. The Arabian white oryx is the original type of the fabled unicorn. The higher end of the ancient Egyptian hennu sky-boat of Sokar is fashioned in the shape of the head of an oryx. The unicorn’s singular horn is not descriptive of the beast itself, which has two horns, but is an esoteric assignment for the Primordial Pillar, as well as the upward ascent of consciousness, as in yoga. Sokar, it may further be noted, is frequently depicted as the head of a black hawk, a symbol of the primordial in the very particular sense of the unmanifest or ‘dark’ state, which necessarily comes first, or is greater than, all dual manifestation. Both the unicorn and the yearly rite of carrying the wooden boat of Sokar around the temple’s location, symbolises the circumpolar revolution of the ‘seven’ around the ‘eighth’ or Pole Star. The Pole Star marks the visible axis of the universe and the height of the visible heavens.[1]

The Unicorn and the Flower of Mind

The oryx is reputed to dig a bed out of the desert sand with its hooves, to lie in and keep cool. This explains the attribution of the one horn, for the shifting sands of desert dunes have always symbolised the Abyss that lurks on the upper limit of human reason. The penetrating horn of mind (reason) must be made concave, so to speak, on the abysmal threshold that closes in upon the limits of human reason. Over time, through yoga, contemplation and devotional Tantras, the Flower of Fire (or Mind) is cultivated as the ‘fruits’ of the flower are rejected in favour of pure receptivity to the intelligence from beyond.[2]

It should be noted that the Gnostic term, ‘Flower of Mind’ or ‘Flower of Fire’ is not the mind or intellect in the ordinary sense; it may be likened to an essence that is drawn out and upward. The Egyptian ‘flame’ hieroglyph has both a physical and a metaphysical level of interpretation. It carries all the meanings of a fire, flame or luminosity, and that of a ‘flame of flames’. The latter is comparable to the yogic realisation of atmadarshana of Advaita Vedanta.[3] In the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, II: 27, the oracular voicing of Set-Hadit in his aspect as the Serpent of Knowledge conveys a warning:

There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason.

The ‘dogs of Reason’ is a word for those who cling to the threshold and exalt the reasoning faculty above all else, either for personal gain or power or simply because they are ignorant of the true state of affairs. In so doing, they deny the possibility of the Flower of Fire, or its ‘child’ born in Silence, called Hoor-paar-kraat, symbol of the incommunicable mystery and true initiation. Veritably, the threshold to the post-abysmal Mind of Minds is fiercely guarded and barred. The role of guardians or ‘watchers’ such as Anubis, and other Setian creatures including the crocodile and jackal, as well as the Cherubim in various traditions, is complex. They are guardians of the gates, ferociously attacking or even devouring those who would enter. At the same time, they symbolise the drawing forth of the bolt, which is the means by which the gates are opened.[4] The action of the bolt symbolises both ‘opening’ and the image-making or phallic power withdrawn or inverted, which is a reversal of the usual flow of consciousness.[5]

The door of the sky or of heaven is not opened by any mortal man but, for example, it was the office of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, the priest and scribe of the Stele of Revealing, to literally ‘open the doors to the sky’. He performed the ritual of opening the doors to the roof of the temple at certain times of the year, so the image of the Goddess, taken from the subterranean vault below, could observe Sirius rising.[6] As declared in the Book of the Law, III: 37,

For me unveils the veilèd sky, the self-slain Ankh-af-na-khonsu whose words are truth.

Sirius (Σθις), the Star of Egypt and of the Order, symbolises both Isis (or Hathoor) and her ‘son’ or divine child, born of the ascent of consciousness arising from the depth. Hathoor was also known as the ‘Divine Pillar’ at Iunet in Egypt, which has the same meaning.


1. The three-yearly Jubilee of the Pharaoh coincided with the rite of the ‘round’ of Sokar, proving an identification between Sokar and Set or Saturn, and also the primordial mound. Thus the unicorn, as a horned creature, has an association with both Saturn and the Pole.

2. See G.R.S. Mead, The Chaldean Oracles.

3. It is impossible for Egyptologists to construe ancient Egyptian sacred texts, as they cannot admit to the existence or even the possibility of an esoteric level of interpretation. They are thus dogged by the limitation of their reasoning faculties. They then produce nonsensical ‘translations’ of the texts, and say it is nonsense because the ancient Egyptians were themselves confused and irrational!

4. See John Anthony West, Serpent in the Sky, pp. 149–157 (on Spell 316).

5. Phallus (Greek φαλλος) literally means, ‘image’ or ‘image-making’.

6. This is explained in detail in ‘Star and Snake of Egypt’, pp. 150 Babalon Unveiled.

This article is from the book Nu Hermetica—Initiation and Metaphysical Reality.

The hennu boat with oryx illustration is a detail from the Egyptian Tarot of Thelema.

© Oliver St. John, 2020, 2021

Books by Oliver St John

Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal

Temple of Babalon YouTube Channel (podcast)

Visit Ordo Astri (or return to Home): Thelemic Magical Collegium

Maat: Daughter of the Lords of Truth

The Daughter of the Lords of Truth is the esoteric title of the Tarot trump Justice VIII. The Tarot and path correspondences of the Tree of Life are ingenious. There is a special relation between Leo and Libra-Maat. Leo and Libra revolve about Virgo, while Aquarius and Aries revolve about Pisces.

Sekhet and Maat: Leo and LibraThe original type of lamed, the letter ‘L’ of the Law of Thelema and 22nd path of Libra or Maat, was the ancient Egyptian ‘sickle’ hieroglyph. According to Golden Dawn Isis-Urania founder member, Wynn Westcott,

“VIII Justice [corresponds to] Lamed and Libra, and Strength [to] Teth and Leo—which causeth a transposition for these are cognate symbols. But at one time the sword of Justice was the Egyptian knife symbol of the sickle of Leo whilst the Scales meant the Sun having quitted the balance point of highest declination. So the female and the lion gave the idea of Venus, Lady of Libra repressing the Fire of Vulcan (Saturn in Libra) exalted. But earliest was the lion goddess to Leo and Ma to Libra with her scales, and this is better. Also Libra was given to Horus at one time.”[1]

The Golden Dawn changed the order of trumps to fit on the Tree of Life. La Force or Fortitude was usually numbered 11 and Justice 8. MacGregor Mathers and Westcott elected to swap the numbers round so the order of paths and letters and signs is the same as the order of trumps. Leo then corresponds with teth the serpent, the letter of path 19, and Libra to lamed and path 22. What Westcott was driving at in his lecture was the interchangeable relation between the Lion (ma’a) and the Woman with the Sword (ma’at). This is comparable with mutual reception in astrology, where the attributes are held in common through ‘dignity’. If we place the Scales of Maat on the Tree of Life then inevitably the beam will fall across the 19th path. Maat has a natural affinity with Gedulah, and Sekhet with Geburah: THE LION OF TRUTH. Furthermore, the esoteric title of the Lion of the 19th path is Daughter of the Flaming Sword.

The next step in the perfection of the Tarot came a few years later in Cairo, 1904, when Aiwass, conveying the oracle of Nuit (Liber AL, I: 57), tells Aleister and Rose Crowley that,

All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.

This greatly perplexed Aleister Crowley. It took him years to work out that the idea is to counterchange the positions of the Star and the Emperor. Presumably he got to this by meditating on the earlier counterchange of Justice and Fortitude by Mathers and Westcott. He next found that we can show the perfection of the arrangement with the diagram, ‘Double Loop of the Zodiac’.[2] He thought to revert the numbering of the Tarot to that which it had always been, Justice VIII and Fortitude XI. Otherwise he would have needed to number the Star as IV and the Emperor as XVII, which disrupts the integrity of the Tarot sequence. So the numbers of the Tarot, the ‘Book T’, are unchanged; only the locations of the two cards change on the paths.[3]

Maat and the Lion of Truth: Double Loop of the ZodiacIt happens, though Crowley never mentioned it, that this method of placement reconciles the Tropical Zodiac with the Sidereal Zodiac. By Alexandrian astrology, Aries is the sign of the spring equinox and Libra that of the autumn equinox.[4] This is so natural and right that it cannot be argued against sensibly. In the present precessional epoch, by Sidereal reckoning, the Sun aligns with Aquarius on 21st March, and with Leo on 21st September. So there, with our Tarot and Tree of Life schema, we have the perfect reconciliation—and the magical images, the Woman and Beast both in time and outside of time.

The original title given to the Cairo transmission, the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, was Liber L. By Qabalistic values, the letter ‘L’ corresponds to Libra and the Scales of Maat, ‘truth’, having the value of 30. The letter lamed is derived from the Egyptian ‘sickle’ or ‘scythe’.[5] It is literally ‘the Measure’ of Maat. The sickle hieroglyph means ‘truth, justified, true vision, true-speaking and true-seer’.[6] It also spells LION. Mau or Sekhmet is the principle of love in the most powerful or dynamic aspect, the love of truth. Thus Sekhet (power) and Maat (truth) are inseparable to our way of thinking. The Book of the Law, which is the Book of L, might be better named, the Book of the Seer (Soror Ouarda, Rose Edith Kelly).

Sickle Maat Leo and Libra

Venus rules Libra, Saturn is exalted therein. The path of the Lion connects Jupiter (Maat) and Mars (Sekhet). Sekhet and Maat, Fortitude and Justice, are cognate symbols. The sickle hieroglyph is identical to the astrological glyph for Saturn, save for the tau cross-bar. Saturn is the ‘power behind Venus’, as Set-Hadit (the stellar Sirius) is the manifester of the seven stars of Ursa Major: Love is the law, love under will. Lamed is the sickle of Saturn and Sekhet, and as we know, this means both ‘true-speaker’ and ‘true-seer’. To speak truth and to see the truth through the eye of beholding are one and the same. The sickle has a dual function. Firstly, it is needed to clear the field for ploughing the furrow in which we seek the flint or jewel of Maat. It is the Opener of the Ways. Secondly it is needed to reap the harvest, which is analogous with the emergence or ‘second birth’ of a justified soul.

Scales of Libra-Maat: Knowledge and Power

The twin pillars of Maat are sometimes named, ‘Knowledge and Power’.[7] It is also quite common to hear it said that ‘knowledge is power’, and that the whole purpose of the magical arts is to gain knowledge and thereby increase power. This rests on the assumption that power is something that can be acquired, purchased, gained or lost—as though it were a thing in itself.

There is much made of the term ‘empowerment’ in New Age literature and academic (or psychological) occultism. Yet, with all this careless use of jargon, one seldom if ever finds anyone taking the trouble to define the term, to say what they mean when they use the word, ‘power’. The first definition in the Oxford Dictionary is, ‘the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way’. Very well then; so if we understand power as ‘the ability or capacity to do something’, then what is the source of such an ability or capacity? The emphasis with this common definition is on the verb ‘to do’; it is all about doing and acting. Yet all such doing, moving, going about the place, is merely the observed effect, the appearance. The exoteric concept of power then owes to causal determinism, where one thing or event is caused by another that preceded it, and so on for perpetuity. If we seek for the cause, the Will, we find that we know nothing whatsoever about it. All we know is effect or appearance, and we mistakenly judge this to be a cause. This whole idea of power then collapses in upon itself, revealing nothing. The solution is really quite simple. In Liber AL, II: 3–4, Hadit (Will) declares his nature:

In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.

To use a geometric analogy, the circle of all possibility (Nuit) is determined by the hypothetical point (Hadit). If we move the point, the curvature changes. Yet the point only exists by virtue of the circle. Neither comes first or second; every event is simultaneous and spontaneous. The ‘Will’ is esoteric. The ‘Effect’ is exoteric.  Hadit will not be known because he is the Knower, consciousness itself, which causes things to appear. Rational thought stops short, reaching its ring-pass-not at causal determinism.

What then is true power? For example, do politicians really possess a thing called ‘power’? They may produce acts of governance, and those acts may be enforced by the power of the State via the police and military forces. But if politicians seemingly have the power to command forces, from whence does that power originate? In the case of the politician, it depends entirely on the bargains, the deals they have made with others behind closed doors. It depends on the confidence of their financial backers. Warfare, the inevitable consequence of financial greed and lust for power, may depend on the weather, as evidenced by the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Blind forces move modern economic systems, which is called a ‘market economy’. That power owes much to the chance element of the roulette wheel. The gamblers feel powerful on winning, powerless when losing, especially if losing all, in which case they may be seen sky-diving from an apartment window twenty floors above the ground. What then is the real meaning of such power?

There is only one true power in the universe. That power is the power of attention, observance. Every creature on earth but one exercises that power continually and with utmost precision, not being deluded for one moment into thinking that it can be won, lost, acquired, given or received. The one creature that alone confuses power and will is the human creature. The isolating doctrine of scientism and psychological determinism has ensnared the modern esoteric movement and thwarted its true purpose. Initiation, direct knowledge, is the remedy for the ill. The foundation of true initiation is not in learning what to think, but how to think differently—through the mode of analogous thought, which is the method of communication used by the ancient mystery schools.


1. Westcott, ‘Tarot Lecture, Part 4’, The Complete Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscripts, Translated and Edited by Darcy Küntz [Holmes Publishing Group, Washington, 1996]. The transcript is in note form and we have taken the liberty here of inserting parantheses and punctuation marks to clarify the meaning.
2. See Crowley, The Book of Thoth pp. 9–10, ‘The Double Loop in the Zodiac’.

© Oliver St John 2018
This essay appears in the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.
The dual Sekhet-Maat illustration is from The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema, created and drawn by Oliver St. John. Sickle-Maat-Lion hieroglyph and ‘Double Loop of the Zodiac’ drawn by Oliver St. John.

Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal
Visit Ordo Astri (or return to home): Thelemic Magical Collegium
Temple of Babalon YouTube Channel (podcast)

Pisces: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Khonsu XVIII

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for the 29th path of Pisces is Khonsu XVIII. Khonsu is the ancient Egyptian god of the Moon, the Sky Traveller.

Pisces: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Khonsu XVIIIThe esoteric title of the trump is Ruler of Flux and Reflux: Child of the Sons of the Mighty. The 29th path of the Tree of Life extends upwards from Malkuth (the Kingdom) to Netzach (Venus). Khonsu’s hieroglyphic name is at the top of the picture. The hawk-headed god of the Moon is at the centre, going forth between two pillars. He bears the priestly was sceptre in his right hand and the Ankh of Life in his left.

Khonsu is regarded as the son of Mut and  Amoun, and he is closely identified with both Tahuti and Horus at Thebes (Egyptian Waset). The crown of Khonsu is the full disc and crescent of the Moon; it is not a coincidence that the shape formed from this composite glyph is identical to that of the hieroglyphic Eye of the Moon or Left Eye of Ra. The human psyche is reflective as the shade of the Moon; to see Ra with clear or pure perception is to know God and (therefore) to be known by God—the Ever-Becoming.

The Moon has three faces: white (or silver), black and red; she is white at the full, invisible in the dark phase and scarlet at the eclipse. The globed capitals of the pillars and lunar crown of Khonsu are also suggestive of the supernal triad of the Tree of Life, where Kether is the ‘higher moon’.

The figures are skryed through the domed hieroglyphic Gate of the Moon. This is a stylised version of the Egyptian determinative for ‘foundation’. In the lower section is the telesmatic name of Shad Barshama’ath Shartathan, the Spirit of the Spirits of the Moon, as drawn on the Kamea of the Moon. The name adds to 3,321, the sum total of all the squares on the Kamea and can be translated, ‘Elemental Child born from the Oracle of Joy’.[1] If the name is looked at Qabalistically, it yields some fascinating nuances. Barshama’ath can be construed as ‘Spirit of clear-seeing’, viz., clairvoyance.[2] Barshama’ath also has the meaning ‘pure name’, and Ma’at is the Lion of Truth.[3] Yesod, the sphere of the Moon, is called the Pure Intelligence.

Shartathan denotes Thoth as Chief of Scribes. Thoth, or Tahuti as known to the Egyptians, was originally a god of the Moon, like Khonsu. The Moon is typically associated with magical mirrors, skrying and clairvoyance. The magick ‘writing’ of Tahuti is that which appears in the clear mirror of perception.

The astroglyphs for Pisces and Jupiter, the ruling planet, are at the lower edge of the card. Qoph, the letter of the path, is to the right. The shape of Qoph emphasises the back of the head where the spinal column joins with the medulla oblongata. It is here that the most ancient memories are stored, including those vital for biological functions. Thus, the 18th Tarot card corresponds to Pisces and the Moon as regulator of organic life.

The Moon of Pisces

The Sun’s entry into Pisces near the end of the cold months is a reminder of the darkest hour before the dawn. The springtime is not far away. In the southern hemisphere it is a reminder that the cooler air of autumn will soon drive out the burning heat of a long summer.

Pisces is traditionally ruled by Jupiter, known to the Greeks as Zeus and to the ancient Egyptians as Amoun (or Amen).[4] Khonsu, god of the Moon, was thus ordained as the child of Mut and Amoun at Thebes. Jupiter, Zeus and Amoun were originally gods of the mountain, and of the seas and rains that replenish the earth with new life and growth. Amoun is a mysterious god. He is self-created, and his location, unlike the sky-gods Horus, Hathoor and Nuit, is below the horizon. He is the Hidden God.

The Qabalah throws further light on the association between the Hidden God and the mysteries of Pisces, sign of the Fishes. The 29th path connects the material universe (Malkuth) with the animating power of Venus (Netzach), the morning and evening star. The magical power of the path of Pisces is the Twilight of the Place. As the days begin to lengthen in the northern hemisphere, the twilight is very noticeable. This is especially so with the lengthening of shadows near sunset, before Venus, the first and brightest star of the evening sky, appears in the west. The magical twilight is also the special light of a room prepared for ritual. Candles and the smoke of incense provide ideal conditions for the arising of spectral images. The Magical Mirror is thus the magical weapon of Pisces.

Child of the Sons of the Mighty

The title of the 29th path is the Corporeal Intelligence, so-called because it is concerned with the incarnation of all bodies according to the revolution of the Zodiac. The root of the word that is translated ‘corporeal’ (gosham) implies a violent rainstorm or shower—the ‘shower of the life of earth’ that comes through the seed of the Unborn Spirit or Holy Guardian Angel in the ritual called the Bornless. The ‘seed’ is alchemical and refers to the fluidic or formless fire from which all forms receive their essence. The “revolution of the Zodiac” is explained by the operation of Sol and Luna as the governance of Spirit acting upon the Zodiac through the four classical elements of nature. All bodies are composed of these elements. Each creature has a unique astrosome, the symbol of which is the natal horoscope, varying according to the time and place of birth. The twelve signs of the Zodiac are cosmic archetypes. Merely knowing the sign of birth does not reveal a person’s nature. The sign alone symbolises a type, not an individual.

The descent of this path is the incarnation or embodiment of each creature, while the ascent of it implies knowledge of the Occult Intelligences.

The magical powers of the 29th path are of Bewitchments and Casting Illusions. When the light of the Moon is shed upon the earth (as ego), then the mind is bedazzled by magical glamour. It becomes absorbed in its own reflections, attributing objective reality to that which is no more than fleeting shadows. The shades (spirits, shadows) of the Moon may therefore deceive the foolish and profane. The gift of clairvoyance (‘clear sight’), on the other hand, is bestowed on those who truly desire to seek out the hidden stone of the wise. It should be understood that ‘clairvoyance’ or clear-sightedness as intended here has nothing to do whatsoever with any kind of psychic vision.


1. All Qabalistic references are from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth.
2. ShThM, 740, means ‘to open the eyes; to see clearly’.
3. BR ShMATh, ‘pure name’, also ‘first created’, i.e., to see the whole world as new or freshly born.
4. Most modern astrologers have substituted Neptune as ruler of Pisces. They similarly assign Uranus to Aquarius and Pluto to Scorpio, discarding the traditional rulerships and throwing the whole scheme into disorder.

From the book, Egyptian Tarot of Thelema.
© Oliver St. John 2020

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema is an entirely new concept in the field of practical magick, divination and Thelema. The 12 Zodiac trumps can be viewed here. The Tarot is available  as of December 2020. Preview and purchase the Tarot here. More information on our ‘Books’ page may be found here.

Books by Oliver St John
Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal
Temple of Babalon YouTube Channel (podcast)
Ordo Astri Home