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.[1] The Practicus degree corresponds to Hod (Mercury), the Water Temple that receives the fiery solar influence from Netzach (Venus).[2]

Unicorn of the Stars: Sokar BoatAccording to our tradition, a symbol may have a host of related meanings. We do not seek to make concrete definition from that which can only be conveyed through symbol and analogy, for that renders the symbol lifeless and inert. The concretisation of all knowledge, rendering it exoteric and dead, is shown forth in the tale of Osiris, where he is tricked by Set to lie in a coffin. As soon as he does so, the followers of Set promptly nail shut the lid and seal it with molten lead. The situation can only be rescued through Isis giving birth to the magical ‘child’, Horus or Hoor-paar-kraat.[3]

Unicorn: Esoteric Key

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 hennu boat of Sokar, the hawk-headed Lord of Resurrection, is fashioned in the shape of the head of an oryx. The unicorn’s singular horn is not descriptive of the beast, which has two, but is an esoteric assignment for the upward concentration of mind, as in yoga. The unicorn symbolises the circumpolar revolution of the ‘seven’ around the ‘eighth’ or Pole Star, which marks the visible axis of the universe and the height of the visible heavens. The oryx digs a bed out of the desert sand with its hooves, to 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, 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.[4] The ‘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 esoteric, and comparable to the yoga trance of atmadarshana in the Eastern Tantras.[5] In AL, II: 27, the oracular voicing of Set in Serpent-form 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, is complex. These 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.[6] The action of the bolt symbolises both ‘opening’ and the image-making phallic power withdrawn or inverted, which is a reversal of the usual flow of consciousness.[7]

The two doors of heaven are not opened by any mortal man but, for example, it was the office of Ankh-af-na-khonsu 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. As declared in AL, 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 magical child, born of the ascent of consciousness arising from the depth.


Notes

1. Monokeros de Astris adds to 2,175 or 29 x 75, ‘Moon (or child) of Nuit’.
2. The Initiate of Hod also has first to traverse the fiery paths of Shin (31) and Resh (30) before entering Hod, the Water Temple. Hod is thus seen in every way as a sphere of transmutation. Although Hod also symbolises the concrete mind, it is not the goal of Initiates to become detained by the limits of ordinary reason.
3. The tales of Isis and Osiris, as recounted by Plutarch.
4. ‘Flower of Mind’ or ‘Flower of Fire’ is a Gnostic term. It is not mind or intellect in the ordinary sense, but may be likened to an essence drawn up. See G.R.S. Mead, The Chaldean Oracles.
5. 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 exaltation of the reasoning faculty above all else, for they then produce nonsensical ‘translations’ of the texts, and say it is nonsense because the ancient Egyptians were themselves confused and irrational!
6. See John Anthony West, Serpent in the Sky, pp. 149–157 (on Spell 316).
7. Phallus (Greek φαλλος) literally means, ‘image’ or ‘image-making’.

This article is from Nu Hermetica, Unicorn of the Stars, a work in progress.
The hennu boat with oryx illustration is a detail from the Egyptian Tarot of Thelema.

© Oliver St. John, 2020

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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.


Notes

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.

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Aries Equinox: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Hrumachis IV

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for the 28th path of Aries is Hrumachis IV. Hrumachis, the Egyptian Sphinx, has various names, including Hormaku, Horakhty and Ra Hoor Khuit. The esoteric title of the Tarot trump is Son of the Morning: Chief among the Mighty.[1]

Aries Equinox: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Hrumachis IVThe Egyptian hieroglyphic name of Hor-em-akhet, from which the Greek Hrumachis is derived, is at the top of the Tarot picture. In the centre is Ra-Mentu or Ra Hoor Khuit, based on his image depicted on the Stele of Revealing. As Hrumachis, Horus is fully raised to the sky or heaven. The Sun and Serpent crown affirm his identity with both Ra and Typhon-Apophis. He wears the leopard spots, emblematic of the ‘space-marks’ or stars and the gift of divine prophecy. His nemmys is night-blue, the colour of the body of Nuit, which encompasses the whole horizon.

The 10 stars on the platform of the throne are the sephiroth in Malkuth of Assiah. The 22 stars grouped around the rectangular symbol of the Golden Mean (phi ratio) on the throne, the Foundation of the Universe, are the 22 scales of the Serpent of Wisdom. The god bears the Set-headed was sceptre of priestly will, ordinance or authority in his left hand. With his right hand he sends forth spiritual power.

The hieroglyph in the lower section of the picture depicts the akhet lion or Sphinx, who gazes eternally at the equinoctial point on the horizon. The horizon is akha, or ‘sun in the horizon’. This has various meanings, which include ‘moment in time’, ‘appearance’ and ‘ordination’. In Liber AL, I: 52, Nuit conveys a warning concerning the divination of space-marks:

If this be not aright; if ye confound the space-marks, saying: They are one; or saying, They are many; if the ritual be not ever unto me: then expect the direful judgments of Ra Hoor Khuit!

Space-marks have cosmic and earthly import; in the body of the Shakti or Scarlet Woman such ‘moments’ may equally be termed as ‘colours’, ‘kalas’, ‘shades’ or ‘emanations’.

The astroglyphs for Aries and the Sun are shown on the border at the top of the card, for the Sun achieves his exaltation in Aries at the vernal equinox. On the lower edge of the card is the astroglyph for Mars, the ruling planet. Next to that is the symbol of alchemical Sulphur.[2] Tzaddi, the letter of the 28th path of Aries, is to the right of the title. In the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, III: 34, Hrumachis is the name of Horus as risen Khu, or Sphinx.

But your holy place shall be untouched throughout the centuries: though with fire and sword it be burnt down and shattered, yet an invisible house there standeth, and shall stand until the fall of the Great Equinox; when Hrumachis shall arise and the double-wanded one assume my throne and place.

Hrumachis is the ‘Lord of the Double Wand of Power’ of Liber AL, III: 72.

I am the Lord of the Double Wand of Power; the wand of the Force of Coph Nia—but my left hand is empty, for I have crushed an Universe; and nought remains.

The word is uttered at Thebes (Waset), the Place of Ordinance in the South. The sonic vibration or 93 Current is sent forth upon the light-flowing stream of the Nile until it is received by the priests of Heliopolis (Aunnu) in the North. There, in the holy city dedicated to the mysteries of the Phoenix, Hathoor gives birth to Horus by divine parthenogenesis (i.e., without the intervention of a father). Likewise, Nuit gives birth to Set, her star of manifestation—As above, so below. Horus ascends to the sky or heaven as an immortal Khu. Likewise, the soul achieves resurrection by the magical power of utterance.[3]

The mysteries of Hrumachis, the enigmatic Sphinx, are further revealed in the hieroglyphic name: Hor-em-akhet, ‘Horus in the horizon’. The variant form, Horakhty, is literally, ‘Ra who is Horus of the two Horizons’. The akhet, or aker, is a gateway or door. The double lion-gate of the sun’s ingress and egress to and from the underworld (spring and autumn equinoxes) refers to Horus as the abstract principle of the horizon itself. It is a particular part of the sky—for example, where the sun rises at the equinox—and an equivalent portion of the Egyptian underworld. The name of Horus as ‘horizon’ or ‘dweller in the horizon’ relates to the circle as does his eye. The horizon symbolises the primordial boundary or limit. It is the division or utterance (Logos) by which we define the shape and meaning of the universe. The horizon also designates the boundary or crossing, the way of passing all liminal thresholds.

Hrumachis was often depicted as a lion with the head of a woman as with the Sphinx of the Giza plateau. At other times the neter took the form of a hawk or ram—especially when linked to the god Khephra, the rising or emerging sun at dawn.

Hrumachis is sometimes called HU, ‘authority’ or ‘will’ in the Egyptian hieroglyphic texts. In some passages of the Book of Coming Forth into Light, Ra is said to divide himself into two parts, HU, Will, and SIA, Mind (Greek Nous).[4] These are Chokmah and Binah of the Qabalah. Kings of Egypt were ‘Sons of Ra’ (Horus) from at least the 2nd Dynasty onwards.

Hrumachis: Lord of the Equinox

The Sun’s entry into Aries signifies springtime in the northern hemisphere. The full Moon after the equinox is in Libra, marking the first of the two balances of the year. The equinoxes are the aker gateways of the year leading into and out of manifestation. The head of the Sphinx of Egypt points towards the vernal equinox on the horizon; her tail marks the ‘fall’ or autumnal equinox. Thus, Hrumachis is Lord of all Aeons in time and space and that which is beyond all.

Hrumachis: Son of the Morning

The (Thelemic) key-scale Qabalistic correspondences for Hrumachis are of Tzaddi, the 28th path of the Tree of Life. The path extends upwards from Yesod (Moon) to Netzach (Venus).[5] The title of the 28th path is the Natural Intelligence, for it is the perfection of the nature of all things under the orb of the Sun. The desire of Venus reflected into the mirror of the Moon makes impressions upon the Astral Light. Much of the work of occultism is to create new forms as suitable vehicles for the incarnation of the mystic will to transcendence. The magical arts require that key symbols are held and fixed by concentration of will. On the other side of the coin, forms are created to ensnare and enslave the soul, as revealed by the ‘fishhook’ of the letter tzaddi. As such, Hrumachis is the magical power itself. Indeed, there is a close identification between Hrumachis and Khephra when all images are combined into the one image called Sekher Neter, ‘Neter of Neters’.[6]

The magical power of the 28th path is the Power of Consecrating Things. To consecrate a thing is to reserve it for a special purpose; it is to make a thing sacred. Nothing is made sacred, however, that was not already sacred from the beginning. The mystic path thus involves travelling backwards, following the symbol back to its source with all other symbols in the infinite.

The Aries Equinox and 28th path embody the principle of Governance. Horus is the pharaoh or king in his life on earth. As Hrumachis or Hormaku he is all-transcendent. The governance of the life of earth is translated to that of world-systems. As Hrumachis, the Initiate has passed utterly beyond.


Notes

1. The esoteric title of the Tarot trump is Son of the Morning, Chief among the Mighty. Lucifer the ‘light-bringer’ or Dawn Herald is frequently confused with Satan. Lucifer is generally thought to be the ‘son of the morning’ referred to in the book of Isaiah, 14: 12, which is a title of Venus as the Morning Star. The title of the 4th Tarot Atu is incorrectly given in Crowley’s ‘acquired’ work, Liber 777, as Sun of the Morning. The title refers to Venus, not the Sun. Chief Among the Mighty refers to the original Golden Dawn placement of the trump on the 15th path from Chokmah to Tiphereth. Curiously, Son of the Morning adumbrates the change of placement to the 28th path of Tzaddi recommended by Aiwass in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, I: 57. The path has its source in Venus or Netzach, the seventh sephira or emanation.

2. This is one of three Tarot trumps corresponding to the principles of Salt, Sulphur and Mercury: Isis-Urania, Hrumachis and The Priestess.

3. The transformation of the soul into a living Khu, the mysterious personification of Horus the divine hawk, and his relation with the Sphinx is revealed in our translation of Egyptian papyrus Spell 78. The translation and commentary is given in, ‘Liber 364 vel Lux Occulta’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

4. The Book of Coming forth into Light is the more accurate name of the book falsely named the ‘Egyptian Book of the Dead’ by tomb robbers and Egyptologists,

5. Crowley did not revise the tables in Liber 777 in accordance with the instruction of the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, I: 57: “All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.” Therefore in 777, the magical powers, weapons, gemstones and other correspondences of Aries are with the 15th and not the 28th path. The 15th path is properly that of Tarot Atu the Star XVII and zodiacal sign of Aquarius.

6. Neter Neteru, ‘God comprehending all Gods’—see EA Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. One, facing pp. 492.

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.

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