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.

Sagittarius: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Neïth 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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Scorpio: Egyptian Tarot Sokar XIII

The Egyptian Tarot trump for the twenty-fourth path of Scorpio is Sokar XIII. Mars is the ruler of the sign of Scorpio; Uranus is also given here as Lord of the Kerubic signs. The esoteric title of the trump is Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death.

Scorpio: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Sokar XIIISokar is here depicted as a hawk-headed god, with black nemmys and white apron. He bears the was or Set-headed sceptre and the Ankh of Life. He is standing upon the hennu boat of the sun’s journey through the night and the underworld. The boat is shaped like a sledge with runners and was never intended to sail on water. It was built to be carried, and was said by some to be steered by the dead. The navigation took place among the stars, for the hennu boat is an astral vessel. The higher end of the sledge is fashioned in the shape of the head of an oryx, a species of desert antelope and the original type of the unicorn.[1] The hennu boat was in the charge of the high priest of Memphis called Ur-kherp-hem, ‘Great One of the Hammer’. The title is a reference to Ptah the cosmic creator god, with whom Sokar was identified.[2]

In the Tarot picture the boat’s runners rest upon an ark, which in turn rests upon the pure white mound of Sokar. Depictions of Sokar in the hennu boat sometimes show his hawk’s head only, while his body is completely covered in a white, luminous shroud. One may wish to note that Scorpio has three symbols: the snake, the scorpion (Scorpio) and the eagle. On the day of the festival of Sokar, the high priest raised up an ark or small wooden shrine at the moment of sunrise and placed it on the hennu boat. The shrine and hennu boat was then pulled along across the sands in a circular procession about the temple of the god, mirroring the revolution of the sun, planets or celestial bodies.[3] As always, one must remember that a true symbol does not represent earthly or even celestial things, but both point to metaphysical or principial truth.

The fiction writer Algernon Blackwood was able to convey some insights into the soul of Egypt, and of the vast expanse of the desert wilderness. In ‘Sand’, his writing was inspired by his experiences of the desert near Cairo.

Through this sand which was the wreck of countless geological ages, rushed life that was terrific and uplifting, too huge to include melancholy, too deep to betray itself in movement. Here was the stillness of eternity. Behind the spread grey masque of apparent death lay stores of accumulated life, ready to break forth at any point. In the Desert he felt himself absolutely royal.

And this contrast of Life, veiling itself in Death, was a contradiction that somehow intoxicated. The Desert exhilaration never left him. He was never alone. A companionship of millions went with him, and he felt the Desert close, as stars are close to one another, or grains of sand.

Power of Scorpio: Will and Word of Sokar

Sokar’s name is spelled in hieroglyphs at the top of the Tarot picture. It means ‘pure will’, or ‘word of power’. Sokar is sometimes shown adorned with the two plumes of Ma’at surmounting a solar crown. The plumes emphasise the True Will, or sacerdotal ordinance. The first hieroglyph of Sokar’s name is the sekhem wand or sceptre of power. The centre of the wand is a stylised form of the horned beast, usually a bull, indicative of the Ka. One may wish to note that Taurus, the Bull, is the opposite and complementary sign to that of Scorpio. The Ka is a vital reserve of strength required for the transformation of the soul into the eternally living Khu, the fabled phoenix bird, and which in turn reflects the radiance of the principial ‘star’, itself a symbol of both the human individuality and the supreme Atma, as it is called in Sanskrit.

Sokar is called the ‘Great God, he who came into being in the beginning, he who resteth upon darkness’. Sokar was ancient even when the Pyramids were built, as are his rites, if we view such a beginning in terms of time-bound consciousness. In metaphysical terms, that darkness is the primoridal or undifferentiated ground or ‘substance’, from which manifestation emerges. Sokar is also ‘Lord of the gates of the tomb’ as the opener of the sealed entrances to the labyrinthine Necropolis. Sokar is and has always been Lord of the Saqqara Necropolis near Memphis and Giza. In predynastic times, a labyrinth was dug out of the desert sands beneath the Saqqara complex. Finely fashioned, highly polished granite arks weighing upwards of 50 tons were placed in cavities there. The arks or vessels are cathodic, for they are polished like glass on the inside. There are no historical records of the builders of these impossible artefacts but they are thought by some to be the ‘old ones’ or ‘elders’ referred to in sacred texts, or their descendants.

The Great Old Ones is a term used in scriptures referring to an elder race that pre-existed that of the human, indistinguishable from gods. They are referred to in the book of Genesis as Nephilim or ‘giants’, the ‘men of renown’. Between Memphis and the Saqqara Necropolis was once a sacred acacia tree. One of the Egyptian names for Memphis is Ankh-Tawy, ‘Life of the Two Lands’. Thus the Tree of Eternity spreads its roots and branches between the worlds of the living and the dead. However, we should not be too hasty in drawing conclusions as to which world is that of the living and which is that of the dead.


Notes

From the forthcoming book and Egyptian Tarot deck.

1. The hieroglyphic determinative for ‘oryx’ is frequently mistaken for that of a goat. The Egyptian name is ma’au hetch, denoting the bright white colour of the Arabian species of oryx and the straightness (ma’at) of its horn. The Aramaic re’em is translated in the King James Bible as ‘unicorn’. The same word was translated into Greek as monokeros (μονοκερως) in the Septuagint. In Psalm 22: 21, the word karen, meaning ‘horn’, is written in the singular form. A legend has it that Noah strapped the long, sharp horns of the oryx to the Ark so the animals inside could breathe. Thus the tale of Noah’s Ark is not without antecedents as  true symbolism conveys the primordial wisdom.

2. Memphis was the location of the temple of Ptah in Lower Egypt, called by the Egyptians, Ankh Tawy, ‘Life of the Two Lands’.

3. Budge, Gods of the Egyptians Vol. I, pp. 504–505.

© Oliver St. John 2020, revised 2024

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