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Atu XIII - Death

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Atu XIII - Death


I have been neglecting my studies lately, but have returned to them, and thought I would share some reflections about this great card. My study of it isn't finished yet, but I'm getting there. Usually I have a question, but this time I'll just jot down a few things, get my thoughts in order.

Firstly, looking at this path on the Tree, we gain some valuable insight about it. In a way, Death is a lower form of the Fool, in that both are game-changers. The Fool seemingly creates from nothing, he is the base (of nothing) that all of the other cards lean on. Death is another such mid-station, it creates something from something, in quite a unique way. While the idea of rebirth etc. isn't inherent in Death, it is implied, as it takes the ideal material of Tiphareth and continues the inevitable process of chemicals interacting, and so creates new combinations. We also see the significance of the proximity to Fortune; if Atu X is the machinery and impetus of creation, XIII is the means by whlch this is achieved (I have discussed the connection of the triad of the Hermit, Fortune and Death to IAO elsewhere, so I won't reiterate it here).

Crowley says of Death that it is the culmination of Lust, and despite the snake, I had trouble understanding why, but I think I'm getting it. Lust depicts the ecstasy of union, while Death is what breaks down separations, the fluids are mixing. Putrefaction is the stage of decompostion when proteins lose their cohesion, and are liquified, and devoid of morbidness this is a description of a pretty good time that is had. This also connects us to the "little death" of orgasm, when one is at union with the All.

Scorpio, of course, makes an appearance here, and in looking up the mythology associated with it, a clear theme seems to emerge. Orion boasted that he would kill all living creatures, and Artemis and Leto sent the scorpion to kill him, which it eventually did. Phaeton rode high to the heavens on the sun-chariot, and was frightened by the scorpion, who had already ascended. Both of these stories suggest the inevitability of hubris being curbed. However strong a hunter you may be, however high you may ascend, Death will always be there, not only in its physical aspect but also in its aspect of change. On a higher level, Death also mirrors Adjustment, by which I take that whatever one does, one always goes forth and comes back to Adjustment. Everything ultimately springs forth from the primordial goo which you create, use and then create again.

I'll have more sometime, that's all I've got for now.
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A simple approach to the cards can be useful sometimes. So here's a few thoughts.

XIII Death sits between Tiphareth and Netzach. It represents the interaction between the enlightened spiritual self and an aspect of the personality. In this case it's desire. Desire grasps and holds on tight in the same way our personalities hold onto their sense of 'self'. Processes and events that appear to threaten the security of this 'self' are not welcomed by the personality level Netzach that has not yet opened up to Tiphareth. From this clinging, possessive, restrictive perspective the energetic process of Death looks catastrophic and horrorfying.
But the 'desire nature' of Netzach can be redirected away from it's own self interest. Most of us are familiar with the softening of the walls of the ego when we are attracted to another person. That burning desire to join with them and allow ourselves to be changed and transformed through Union with them overwhelms the habitual reflex actions of the over protective ego. In spiritual development terms this amazingly desirable 'Other' that helps us 'let go' is the HGA.
(That answer may also go some way to explaining why the HGA is externalised. Quite simply our minds work that way.)

This is a bit OT but it's useful to compare XII Death with XV The Devil. Both cards have similar functions because both are interface connections with the ego-self and the HGA.
The intellect of Hod sorts reality and experience into things it likes and things it dislikes. X is good, Y is evil. We constantly edit and cherry pick our perception of reality to suit the 'wants' of the ego. So long as ego is allowed to filter and censor perception we fail to see the influence of the HGA in ALL aspects of our lives. If we instinctively turn away from the things we fear or things that make us uncomfortable how can we ever hope to receive the guidance of the HGA? IO PAN!
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Thank you Aeon, you gave me a lot to think about, although I haven't been back in this thread for a while. I did ultimately arrive at some of the things you speak of, albeit by a different route. I'm almost done with the card, I guess I have another few days of work, give or take, if I'm disciplined (which I'm not).

Anyway, looking at the different emblems of Scorpio I found this page which quotes liberally from Liber Aleph, which I have begun reading in earnest. One question I have though, is why isn't there a dragon anywhere, if the symbol of the dragon is so important, the merging of the snake and the eagle, etc?
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Chasing the Dragon


Quote:
Originally Posted by closrapexa View Post
One question I have though, is why isn't there a dragon anywhere, if the symbol of the dragon is so important, the merging of the snake and the eagle, etc?
I don't know. But the Dragon is a composite symbol. Is it really necessary to include it on the card if all the component parts are already represented?
But on page 275 of the Book of Thoth - diagram 8, Crowley clearly labels Scorpio the Water Dragon.

Having said that though.....

Get your Death card. Rotate it 90 degrees to the left. Now Look at the 'odd' jaw of the skeleton, the spinal column, and the ..... ahem ...... rib-wings. Yes I know it's all a bit subjective, but the dragon is linked to kundalini.

Addendum: Also look at the base of the spine. Is it just me or does that part of the pelvic bone look like the letter Tzaddi? Another connection to raising kundalini perhaps?
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I don't actually see those things, but I'll look again at home on a larger screen. Although the dragon doesn't have to be there, it seems to fit. My theory is that it is actually hiding in plain sight, in the form of the Caduceuses littering the deck. Looking for a European dragon yields nothing here, but a snake with wings fits better. This is a big stretch, don't think I'm adamant about it, but it seems, somehow, to fit the general feeling of what the dragon is supposed to be. The double crown also seems to be another as it had Wadjet the snake and Nekhbet the white vulture, one symbolizing interaction with the other symbolizing ethereal purity (extrapolation, like I said I'm not on sure footing here).
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Quote:
Originally Posted by closrapexa View Post
One question I have though, is why isn't there a dragon anywhere, if the symbol of the dragon is so important, the merging of the snake and the eagle, etc?
The first thing I was wondering about this was dates; the directions to Frieda as to what to put on the card and the date of Liber Aleph. Some of the latter findings and realisations are not incorporated at the time of publication of some things .... later they can all appear as part of the same system and don't seem match up.

I seem to remember more than one conversation here (a while back) about that ... why some tables don't correspond with other things .... and the omission of the 'Tzaddi is not the star', etc.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ravenest View Post
The first thing I was wondering about this was dates; the directions to Frieda as to what to put on the card and the date of Liber Aleph. Some of the latter findings and realisations are not incorporated at the time of publication of some things .... later they can all appear as part of the same system and don't seem match up.
It's difficult to say where Liber Aleph is concerned. It was originally written in 1918 but was posthumously published in 1962 by Karl Germer and Marcelo Motta. But it was meant to be published in 1939 and was in press when Crowley died in 1947. That places it pretty much in the same time frame as the Thoth Tarot project.
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"Eagle" wouldn't by any chance mean all birds, right? I keep thinking of "There is the dove, and there is the serpent."
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It seems that the lower one gets on the Tree, the more difficult to understand the cards are. Death is one I had particular trouble with, almost similar to the Hanged Man. I think that one of the reasons for this is that even if I tried to approach it with an open mind, the Osirian mindset is so ubiquitous about this subject, and these two cards especially, that it is that much harder to divorce one's self from it. This is part of why I spend so much time with each card, about three months on average, since knowing what it means isn't understanding it. When Crowley says that this card must be considered beyond simple attributions, he wasn't kidding. It really is the difficult cards that challenge you personally, and expose you to yourself. Paul Case's entry on Death was especially helpful, as was looking at the story of Eden.

I ultimately was helped by remembering when this card was important to me (very important) and a story I wrote last year in Chat about the homeless year I had. I still have a few loose ends to tie up, but I'll be done with this one in a day or two.
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Such an amazing card, stunning how beautiful an idea it represents. If I studied all the disparate elements before, it is only in the connection of all those threads that I really get it. A few last words about it seem to be in order.

Three emblems of Scorpio, all relating to the quality of Love each symbol gives out. The scorpion is suicidal and sees a very finite view of death. This is the basest, most ego-driven form of death, the escape because external influences have become unbearable. In a sense all humans are like this, grasping on to life, fearing death whether we are morbidly obsessed with it or suppress it completely. This view almost tries to see death as an anomaly of nature, something that exists but shouldn't.

The next emblem is the composite snake and fish, both symbols of creative power and fecundity. Sex, but not so simplistic as mere boning. The pre-ejaculate little death of orgasm is what this is about, the tearing down of boundaries whether internal or external. Here, death is not limited to the paltry Alpha and Omega, but is constantly undulating between seeming polarities (although they aren't really polarities) of Life and Death. Not only does Osiris dance, but the snake does, too. It dances the seductive dance of Salome, luring one to death.

Now, the eagle... well, the eagle is what it's all about. It represents that which is beyond the physical and goes directly to Death's placement on the Tree. This is the ultimate death of the ego, putting the Will inherent in Tiphareth beyond all else, the utter "becoming" into the HGA. Death of the ego might feel like our poor scorpion, but it is a necessary step. You cannot see the face of God without dying, there can be no comfort zone when all that is not Will is stripped from you. It truly is leaving it all behind and being born (not reborn!!) into your Will. The bubbles of life issuing from Osiris's penis illustrate how, like a butterfly, one undergoes changes throughout existence, but whoever you become (assuming, for the moment, reincarnation) is still the essence of you. You may not even recognize yourself in your new form, but it is you nonetheless. It only feels like death when you're low on the ground; from the eagle's point of view little or nothing changes, it is all a reflection of the One, and Will is eternal and unchanging (in its endless changes).

Wow!

Quote:
Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever. Nuit! Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength & Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star & the Snake.
Quote:
Write, & find ecstasy in writing! Work, & be our bed in working! Thrill with the joy of life & death! Ah! thy death shall be lovely: whososeeth it shall be glad. Thy death shall be the seal of the promise of our agelong love. Come! lift up thine heart & rejoice! We are one; we are none.
Quote:
Ah! Ah! Death! Death! thou shalt long for death. Death is forbidden, o man, unto thee.
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter!
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