Libra: Egyptian Tarot Maat VIII

The Egyptian Tarot trump for the twenty-second path of Libra is Maat VIII. Venus, the Glittering Splendour, is the ruler of the sign and Saturn is exalted therein.

Libra Equinox: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Maat VIIIMaat is here depicted as a young woman clothed in green and blue, the colours of the key scale of the twenty-second path. She has little in the way of ornamentation and is crowned with the flowering reed, which declares ‘Truth’, her name. She bears the ankh of life and lotus sceptre. She stands between the two pillars of dual manifestation, or Form and Force. In ritual magick these are also called Knowledge and Wisdom. They are shown here as silver and gold, indicative of the Moon and Sun as the governance of spirit acting upon the Zodiac through the four classical elements of nature. Lotuses surmount the tetrahedronal caps of the pillars to show that all life pours forth from the power of dual manifestation.

The hieroglyphic name of Maat is shown at the top of the Tarot picture. The first letter is the sickle ma’a, ‘truth’. The two trumps for Leo and Libra are counterchanged on the Tree, as are the trumps for Aries and Aquarius. The straight edge hieroglyph confirms that Maat is the ‘Straight One’. The phonetic ‘t’ and goddess determinative complete the name.

The Neteru, which we call ‘gods’, are the personification of impersonal principles. Maat is the embodiment of truth and justice, natural law, balance or equilibrium. Hence Justice is the traditional title of the 8th Tarot Atu, while Daughter of the Lords of Truth: Ruler of the Balance is the esoteric title. Maat is the goddess of the scales of the balance. She is the mistress of creation and destruction and the balance of light and darkness. She is the regulator of the stars and the seasons, the ‘times’. She is immutable cosmic law and the law of nature. Thus Saturn is the (Shakti) power behind Venus, the principle of love or union.

The Rituals of Maat

The Sun enters Libra at the autumnal equinox and balance of the year, when days and nights are equal in length. It is the gate of winter. In the southern hemisphere of the globe this is reversed and the vernal equinox heralds the gate of summer. At the ceremony of the equinox, the officers sound four threefold knocks, twelve in all, as they declare in turn,

Black and White!
Day and Night!
North and South!
East and West!
The Equinox of the Gods is here![1]

All ritual magick comes under the auspices of Maat. Everything in a temple must be balanced and harmonious. Likewise, the mind itself is set straight, purified by study, the essential discipline of the path of knowledge. In Maat all things are made equal and harmonious. According to a papyrus dating from the Middle Kingdom, she declares,

I have given bread to the hungry and clothed the naked.
I was a husband to the widow and father to the orphan.[2]

Everything concerned with Maat is double and so it is with all of nature. There is no ‘one-alone’ in truth. The power of Egyptian magical spells is in the words. To know they are true, and to speak them truly, is the perfection of Maat. As the daughter of Ra, Maat makes order from chaos by overcoming her counterpart Isfet, literally ‘unbalance’. She thus makes it possible for Ra to come forth from the primordial mound. Maat presides over the Hall of Neophytes or Hall of Dual Manifestation. In the ritual of the initiation of a Neophyte it is declared of the pillars,

Knowledge and Wisdom, their two-fold Might,
Rolling asunder Darkness and Night.[3]

Maat is the absolute rule of cosmic law, as was clearly set forth in the Pyramid Texts dated to more than 4000 years ago.[4] At a later time, all goddesses were paired with male gods. Maat is most often paired with Tahuti, known by the Greeks as Hermes-Thoth and to the Romans as Mercury. Notably, the twenty-second path of Libra on the Tree of Life mirrors the twentieth path of Virgo ruled by Mercury. The addition of the paths gives 42, the number of the Assessors in the Hall of Maat. Tahuti himself is frequently described as the ‘One who reveals Maat’ or the ‘One who loves Maat’. To love Maat, to perform true actions and to speak true words, is to receive Maat. A word must be heard before it can be uttered.

Daughter of the Lords of Truth

The twenty-second path of the Tree of Life connects Geburah, the sphere of Mars, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun. The path is called the Faithful Intelligence, and it is said that this path increases the spiritual powers. Furthermore, it is said, “all dwellers on earth are under its shadow”.[5] The path conveys the spiritual strength and power to realise every thought, word and deed as the expression of the light of God. This requires the practice of discrimination essential to yoga.

The practitioner must not confuse the personal will, prone as it is to conditions and modifications, with the True Will, which is perfectly free from all conditions since it is the unseen cause of all conditions.

The magical powers of the twenty-second path are Works of Justice and Equilibrium. The yoga practitioner must maintain constant vigil. The stilling of thought (dharana) is essential before true meditation (dhyana) can be achieved, let alone Samadhi (union with God or the Absoute).


Notes

From the forthcoming book and Egyptian Tarot deck.

1. From ‘Ritual for Sun entering Libra’, Ritual Magick—Initition of the Star and Snake [Ordo Astri].

2. James P. Allen, p. 116, Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. One should beware of superimposing a modern socialistic or moral interpretation on such ancient texts, as some will do that are unable to understand symbolism.

3. From ‘Liber 930’, The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation [Ordo Astri].

4. The Pyramid Texts of Unas are currently dated to around 2375–2345. Their source is thought to be far more ancient even than that.

5. Sepher Yetzirah. For commentaries on these ancient texts on the thirty-two paths, see Thirty-two paths of Wisdom [Ordo Astri books].

© Oliver St. John 2020, revised 2024

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Virgo: Egyptian Tarot Isis IX

The Egyptian Tarot trump for the twentieth path of Virgo is Isis IX. Mercury, the Stellar Light, is the ruler of the sign of Virgo and is exalted therein.

Virgo: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Isis IXThe trump depicts the twin sisters Isis and Nephthys giving life to the inert soul, which is suspended in the watery abyss called Aukert.[1] By uniting all dualities, the twin powers of the soul create the star-flower of immortality, shown here with ten rays or petals. Thus the soul’s essence is re-united with its integrality. The twin sisters are placed in the Garden of Eden, which was at one time manifested on the earth as the gardens surrounding the Temple of Neïth in the Delta region, the House of the Lady of Sàis. The image at the same time recollects the legend of Isis as recorded by Herodotus, when she raised Horus to life after he was poisoned by Set in the form of a scorpion. The card thus depicts the three powers of the twentieth path: Parthenogenesis, Invisibility and Initiation. These are reflected in the staff, cloak and lamp of the conventional Tarot designs.

The twin sisters Isis and Nephthys are depicted in the centre of the Tarot picture. We know them from their Greek names but the Egyptians knew them as Iset and Nebhet. Their names literally mean ‘Throne’ and ‘Lady of the House’. The hieroglyphs for these form the crowns of the goddesses. They both wear a fillet, tied at the back, and from the front the erect cobra serpent protrudes over their brows. The uraeus is the royal emblem and symbol of the Kundalini or Serpent Power, the power of divinity and of life.

Isis and Nephthys mirror each other here, so while Isis salutes with her right hand, Nephthys salutes with her left. In the other hand each bears the Ankh of Life. Isis forms a waxing lunar crescent on the right hand side of the Tree of Life and Nephthys forms a waning lunar crescent on the left hand side. Together they are the forces of manifestation and life, symbolised as the dual serpents entwined about the Caduceus staff of Mercury or Tahuti, the word-bird and Logos. Tahuti in the form of a bird such as the white ibis, or sometimes the phoenix, conveys the sense of cyclical return, in which case he is Lord of the Universe

Isis and the Garden of Eden

Between Isis and Nephthys is the hieroglyph for ‘Garden of the North’, the Delta region. The same was used in descriptions of the Temple of Neïth at Sàis (Egyptian Sait), which was originally surrounded by sumptuous gardens and waterways, and among these the royal bee hives. The honey of the bee is the food of immortality. The bee symbol is inseparable from that of the honeyed fields of Sekhet A’aret, the gardens of paradise or Fields of Eleusis.

Beneath the feet of the twin sisters is Aukert, the region of the underworld where the soul is neither truly dead nor alive, suspended in a watery abyss. The gift of Isis and Nephthys blooms above in the form of a flower or star. It symbolises the awakening to the new life of integrality. The star is composed of superimposed upright and averse pentagrams forming a flower of ten petals in all. The sum of the petals plus the calyx makes eleven, the number of the perfect unity of the macrocosm and the microcosm, respectively six and five.

The Hermit is the traditional title of this Tarot card, typifying the sage that wanders alone through desolate, abandoned places and that thirsts only for the knowledge of God. The legends of Isis include her hiding in the Delta swamps to give birth to the divine child Horus. While she is out searching for food, Set assumes the form of a scorpion and stings Horus to death. Her sister Nephthys then cries out to heaven and stops the sun boat of Ra in its tracks. The cessation of time enables Tahuti to whisper in the ear of Isis the spell, the ‘moment in time’, that will resurrect Horus to immortal life. The tale has multiple levels of meaning; the soul must be receptive to wisdom, a word must be heard. In the same story Isis commands seven scorpions to bow down their heads that she may pass. They are obedient to her command because she is Isis—they belong to her.[2] The practitioner must be obedient to the path. The Setian Ass or human ego must be willingly sacrificed to the Great Work, otherwise initiation is impossible. The account given by Herodotus ends with the exhortation, “And these words are true and a million times true”. A true word must be heard ere it can be uttered. Thus the esoteric title of the Tarot trump for Virgo is Prophet of the Eternal: Magus of the Voice of Power, for there is close affinity between Isis and Tahuti (or Thoth).

Egyptological descriptions of Isis focus on the Middle and Late Kingdom mysteries, when many Greeks and then Romans became followers of the cult of Isis. By that time Isis was wedded with Osiris, the Lord of the Dead. With her twin sister, she was seen as the type of the funerary mourner, whose vocalised ululuations led the soul of the dead along the processional route. The tale of Isis giving birth to Horus noted above dates from the same time, for originally Horus was the child of Hathoor. The same sources give the 5th and 6th Dynasties as the time of the first known reference to Isis, or Iset as she is properly known. She is named in the Pyramid Texts, and we know that these in all probability originate from a time far more ancient even than that of the 5th Dynasty. ‘Throne’, her name, has provoked some amusing scholarly speculation. The explanation is simply that Isis is the Foundation of the Universe, the ‘Throne in the Beginning’. Our translation of Spell 78 from the Book of Coming Forth includes this.[3]

Open thou the ways, that I may return through the wheels of thy spinning, that have established the throne of my becoming; that was my seat before my beginning!

The Iset ‘throne’ hieroglyph nearly always depicts a rectangular or square insert on the base of the seat. This declares the phi ratio or Golden Mean, the foundation of the visible universe that is also descriptive of geometric forms such as the pentagram and spiral. Ancient architecture frequently incorporates the Golden Mean in its proportions. Qabalistically, Binah (‘Understanding’) is the completion of the supernal triad, the geometric foundation of form, and is often personified as Isis. The corresponding name in the world of Yetzirah (‘Foundation’) is Aralim, ‘Thrones’, the Foundation of Understanding. As Isis is also the principle of love, we are reminded that there is no understanding without love, and that love and wisdom are therefore inseparable terms. The literal meaning of philosophy is ‘love of wisdom’—would that it was the norm and not the exception!

Nebhet, the sister of Iset, also wears her name for her crown, ‘Lady of the House’. This is formed from the neb, a bowl or basket, placed upon the het symbol for ‘house’, a rectangular enclosure. The house, temple, shrine or abode thus rests on the foundations of the universe, expressed through the proportions of the phi ratio. It is then the ‘House of God’, the chakra, star or flower that is the abode for the indwelling Soul of the Eternal.

Voice of Power

The position of the twentieth path of Virgo on the Tree of Life extends from the azure sphere of Gedulah (Jupiter) to the golden blaze of Tiphereth (the Sun). Gedulah is the natural sephira for both Isis and Ma’at. In Tiphereth, the Magnificent Fountains flow forth to irrigate the radiant gardens of Eden.

The path is called the Intelligence of Will. The yod, bindu, flame or seed-star that is the letter of the twentieth path is, in the absolute sense, Ishvara (the Lord), the giver of Life, the animator of all things that live and move and have their being. The same principle may be seen as Mercury in the modality of the higher intellect. Mercury is the planetary ruler of the astrological sign. Virgo is unique in the Zodiac in that Mercury rules her sign and is also exalted therein. The Intelligence of Will is the stream of light or intelligence forming the innermost structures of mind or intellect in man. It is called thus “because it forms all patterns, and to know this Intelligence is to know the whole reality of the Primordial Wisdom.” The knowledge of the spiritual Will constitutes the full realisation of the cosmic purpose or meaning in all things. On this path arises the possibility of knowing and doing the True Will (Dharma).


Notes

Abridged from the forthcoming book and Egyptian Tarot deck.

1. The ‘watery abyss’, Aukert, is the region of the unawakened dead. The same is also depicted as a lake of fire. Bika Reed has compared this with the alchemical symbolism of the bath or vessel that is heated by a furnace. “The flood of man’s despair has drowned him. The heat of his own rebellion has destroyed him. Fish feed on him in shallow water.” See Rebel in the Soul—a sacred text of ancient Egypt, Bika Reed, p. 119 [Inner Traditions International, 1978].

2. Selqet, the Scorpion goddess, is closely linked to Isis. To the Egyptians, the scorpion was not only a symbol of death but also a symbol of life-giving breath or spirit.

3. P. 74, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Second Edition Revised]. The Book of Coming Forth into Light is called by Egyptologists the ‘Book of the Dead’, a name that was originally afforded it by tomb robbers.

© Oliver St. John 2020 (revised 2024)

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