The Depth and Mystery of Scorpio Part I
Scorpio takes us into some of the deepest and most complex of energies. These energies often remain a mystery to many because they are traditionally labeled taboo. Religious admonitions are ingrained in the collective that ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ is forbidden, yet Scorpio must deal with these issues. Is it any wonder that people born under this sign sense a lack of understanding on the part of others; even at times a fear?
These taboo subjects and realms are all ‘Scorpio-ruled’: power, sex, money (because money often equals power), and death. The truth is that they are endless sources of fascination for most of us! Scorpio, however, must go through a life immersion course in some, if not all of these arenas, and ultimately become changed at the deepest of core levels because of this journey into the forbidden realms.
This sign begins as Autumn is at its peak around October 23rd, and ends around November 22nd as the Sun is swiftly losing its strength in the northern hemisphere and the nights are becoming longer. Decay is rapidly occurring as leaves fall from the trees, plants wither and die, birds migrate south, temperatures drop dramatically, and the silence and coldness of winder approaches. In the southern hemisphere we have the opposite effect, thus teaching us about the polarity of this sign of death and re-birth.
Even in ancient Egypt the zodiacal sign rising during May was Scorpius, which for them heralded the blazing heat of the Sun as it scorched the earth and withered the plants, and brought migrations of scorpions into their midst with their deadly poison. What we can conclude from each scenario is that Scorpio is a time of extreme change.
This is known as a fixed, water sign. Cancer was the first, implying an original water source giving forth expression of feelings. Scorpio represents water that can become solid through freezing, or even stagnant through lack of movement such as murky, swampy water, or perhaps deep water appearing tranquil on the surface yet concealing great turbulence farther down due to earth tremors or even volcanic activity. These signatures can translate into the personality of a Scorpio as introversion, reserve and depth of strong feelings, or even a certain impenetrable quality difficult for others to perceive and completely understand.
Those born during this time of year with their Sun sign in Scorpio have the directive of first discovering the hidden depths of subconscious feelings and patterns acquired early in life that are often the frozen constellations of ancestral patterns which have long been buried and left to sit somewhere deep in the collective unconscious. As these feelings and patterns emerge into the psyche of the Scorpio individual they then have the task of separating their conscious self from these ‘complexes’. This may involve a separation from certain key members of their family of origin, and later experiences involving their intimate partners where they will also have to deal with these issues revolving around the taboo areas of life; money, sex, and power. This journey, almost always involving both the simultaneous urge to merge, and the equally strong urge to separate, will take them into various life-altering dramas that are intense, confrontational, and ultimately transformative.
What is meant by transformation? This is a term that we find associated with Scorpio over and over again. According to Webster’s, ‘trans’ means ‘across’ or ‘through’. Perhaps Scorpio must journey across one form to another, or through one form to another. Transform in Webster’s is defined as changing form, appearance, or structure. There is no particular ethic or moral code implied in this term. A Scorpio can choose to make whatever change of form, structure, or appearance they so desire. Yet the symbolism of Scorpio, from an astrological perspective, has come to imply a movement of consciousness that evolves from the most ancient and primal—the Scorpion and the Snake—to the most mystical and spiritual—the mythical ‘Phoenix Bird’. To understand this we need to go back in time to ancient origins.
Ancient Stories and Symbols
The common thread running through Babylonian, Sumerian, Egyptian, and Greek tales of Scorpio was always one of connecting the sign with the ‘Underworld’ whereby a personally painful journey forced the hero or heroine to confront the demonic and thus find from that descent into the darkness and depths a return upwards, again, towards the light and resurrection. Much of this occult wisdom was embodied in a four-fold process involving first anger (the Scorpion and it’s sting), then introspection (the lizard or snake who moves between the inner earth and the outer realm), the rebirth process (the soaring eagle’s flight towards the Sun), and ending in the realm of some kind of Holy Spirit (the white-winged dove and/or the mythical Phoenix bird rising reborn from it’s own self-made funeral pyre).
We see this transformational journey in the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh when he encountered the Scorpion-men whose stare would strike death into those who looked deeply into their eyes. They guarded Mashu, the great twin-peaked mountain which, in turn, guarded the rising and setting of the Sun. In order for him to ‘pass through’ he had to first journey deep into the darkness for 12 leagues (a period of astronomical time). His feelings of oppression were enormous as were the feelings of being abandoned. Yet Gilgamesh, who symbolizes the individual’s Solar/heroic journey, kept his strength, courage, and survived his tribulations emerging after 11 leagues to see the light of dawn, and after the 12th league finally found himself in the garden of the gods. The inner meaning of this tale implies a soul’s need to face the journey of descent into the unconscious with courage and strength in order to appreciate more fully the light of consciousness once their perils are over. Reflecting through hindsight brings the realization that the difficulties one passes through are often what are needed to grow and mature.
Three other rich archetypal myths involve this descent into the ‘underworld’, but unlike the lone journey of Gilgamesh they involve a partner with whom the journeyer is closely paired. In one story Ishtar journeys deep into the bowels of the underworld to find her love Tammuz, in another Kore/Persephone is abducted into the underworld by Hades/Pluto, and in the third Orpheus descends into the underworld to reclaim his beloved bride, Eurydice.
All of these mythic stories repeat common themes about Scorpio involving the paradox of the desire to merge, and the necessity to separate so that the individual is forced to master their inner emotional life. The initial bond with one of the parents may have kept them under that parent’s deliberate control. Later, through partnership they must struggle not to repeat that pattern and learn the lesson of gaining personal control in the face of deep emotional bonding.
The young and lovely Persephone (Kore) was snatched from her dream-like existence with her mother, Demeter by Pluto (Hades) and taken to his deep, mysterious world. This was a world of raw and primal sexuality, as well as a new kind of bonding with her masculine counterpart. In truth she gained the power of becoming a queen in this kingdom, while in that other realm of innocence her mother raged with grief at the loss of her child. That she felt torn between the two realms says much about the turbulent energies that Scorpios must experience in their transformational cycles. In the story she could have returned to her mother Demeter’s world had she kept herself untainted by desire. But she just couldn’t resist the taste of the forbidden red, juicy fruit of the Pomegranate (shades of Eve and the Apple) and thus her fate was sealed. She could return for six months out of the year to the surface world of her mother Demeter, but the other six months were to be spent with Pluto. Interestingly, we really don’t know from the myth how Persephone felt about this arrangement, but we get hints that perhaps she enjoyed her growing power as Hades’ queen when we go to the next story of Orpheus.
In this tale the mesmerizing and talented Orpheus falls deeply in love with Eurydice, and they become bonded through marriage. In one version she is bitten by poisonous snakes and is taken from his side into the underworld. His passion, bordering on obsession, compels him to pursue her into that other realm to plead for her return. He meets and charms both Persephone and Pluto, and now we see Persephone as a mature woman equal to her mate. But Orpheus, like those struck by the lightening of early adult love, cannot fathom a life without his beloved. His pleadings are acknowledged and he is allowed to escort Eurydice up and out. Sadly, he does not trust enough to believe that she is right behind him as they are both about to emerge from the underworld. He has been warned that he cannot look back, but he does, so back into the Plutonian world she goes.
These mighty operatic dramas often fill the lives of those born with Scorpion planets highly stressed, for transformation involving such turbulent energies is part of the separation and regenerative processes whereby they evolve. Scorpio just doesn’t do things half-way; it’s all or nothing, and the swings between these two polarities are both extreme and intense.
The Constellation of Scorpio
To the ancients this was one of the largest constellations with the curved tail of the scorpion, poised to sting, containing 62 visible stars including the brightest, Antares, meaning ‘like Mars’ or ‘rival of Mars’ according to the Greeks.
Antares is truly a giant star, 400 light years from our own Sun, and several hundred times its size. Its volume is a billion times that of our Sun, yet a small companion, Antares B, just visible with a small telescope, is 100 times smaller, and is green in color. This is part of the mystery, again, of this sign. Antares, one of the four royal stars marking the equinoxes and solstices, is considered the heart of the scorpion, and the Greeks believed its character to be a combination of the planets Mars and Jupiter; warlike, impulsive, and potentially dangerous. They felt that anyone born with this star prominent in their birth map would achieve great honor through violence, yet if the star was combined with the Moon, they would find favor in business and domestic matters, and also show an interest in philosophy.
The ancient astronomer/astrologers felt most of the stars of Scorpio to be ominous in energies. Today we know that this part of space contains the strongest X-ray source in the celestial sky, including Scorius X-1, a binary star. These x-rays are caused by an acceleration of gas moving to speeds of light and streaming into intense gravitational and magnetic fields.
Interestingly, the boundaries of Scorpio were redrawn in 1928, just before the discovery of Pluto, Scorpio’s more modern ruler, so that today the Sun spends only 9 brief days each year passing through the stars of this constellation, while spending the remaining two-thirds of the month in the constellation of Ophiucus. And, of course, now astronomers (well, a few!) have demoted Pluto from planetary status to some sub-group. Does this mean that our planetary consciousness no longer has struggles with money, sex, power, and death? Hmmm…. Or is this called major denial by the plutocracy?
The Constellation of Ophiucus
This constellation actually sits above Scorpio slightly and today, because of the precession of the equinoxes, the Sun actually spends a great deal of time passing through it. The ancients named it thus because to them it was an image of Asclepius, the healer and honor student of Chiron, wrestling with a giant serpent. Symbolized here is a process. In order to get from Scorpio to Sagittarius one must wrestle with this serpent power, and gain greater knowledge and control of the secrets of life and death which this serpent holds.
Serpent Wisdom is a very specific kind of knowing. This wisdom can only be gained through the realm of feelings (water), and is not really accessible to the left brain of logic. It is feminine wisdom, the chthonic, mysterious, dark, underworld side of the feminine that holds the keys to life, death, sex, and transformation whereby the active Shakti energy of the Devine Mother is released at the base of the spine, and travels upwards towards the crown chakra. This vital, animating force is within every human being, but is not awakened necessarily by sexual activity alone unless the practice is one of sustained discipline through such methods as tantra. It requires strong intention and introspective types of meditation, trance states, shamanic practices, or the sacred use of certain psychotropic plants, mushrooms, or sometimes even snake venom to chemically alter and spark the pineal gland into opening like the lotus flower into full-blown levels of awareness beyond the experience of duality, where the field of consciousness is both creative and unified. This is truly the birth-right of every human being. Why have we allowed it to be shut down by those ‘authorities’ who would prevent us from knowing the ultimate freedom?
Scorpios have a penchant for being able to access these trance-like states of consciousness. Sometimes they are born gifted with the natural awareness, but lose it through the hypnogogic down-loading of ‘civilized’ conditioning. Cassandra, the gifted prophetic visionary, was said to have been left as a child with snakes who were fond of licking her ears. Some children have a natural love of snakes until conditioned fear cuts them off from ther chthonic source of wisdom. Snake goddesses were common and prevalent in many older cultures such as Crete during the Taurean Age. Serpents have come to represent the secrets of life, death, and rebirth. The gifts of prophecy used to be linked to Serpent Wisdom as in the Oracle of Delphi. Patriarchal religions managed to destroy this wisdom by propagating the belief that the snake was loathsome and evil.
Strangely, howver, the snake endures in spite of such overlays. Take a look at the Caduceus again and you’ll see that modern AMA-type medicine continues to work with this powerful symbol even if they simultaneously prefer laboratory produced pharmaceuticals, radiation, and ‘chemical war-fare’ in their treatment of disease. Mechanized views of reality divorce us from the primeval realm of nature, and now our bodies are treated more like bio-chemical ‘machines’ devoid of the life-force animating power of the Kundalini. Some of this lopsidedness is now changing thanks to the merging of East-West philosophies, and quantum physics. Bio-energetic medicine does work with this serpent life-force.
We see in all of this the movement of trans-formation at work. Scorpio is where we move between the realms in powerful and life-altering ways. The occult wisdom of Scorpio teaches us that we must descend time and time again into the primal realms as a path to mastery before we can become fully conscious.
This ends Part I of our Scorpio journey. In Part II I will look at Scorpio’s glyph, the qualities and characteristics of Scorpio people, the parts of the body ruled by Scorpio, the Shadow, Scorpio in relationship, and finally some famous Scorpio people.