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Greater Arcana Study Group—The Star

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Greater Arcana Study Group—The Star


A great, radiant star of eight rays, surrounded by seven lesser stars—also of eight rays. The female figure in the foreground is entirely naked. Her left knee is on the land and her right foot upon the water. She pours Water of Life from two great ewers, irrigating sea and land. Behind her is rising ground and on the right a shrub or tree, whereon a bird alights. The figure expresses eternal youth and beauty. The star is l’étoile flamboyante, which appears in Masonic symbolism, but has been confused therein. That which the figure communicates to the living scene is the substance of the heavens and the elements. It has been said truly that the mottoes of this card are “Waters of Life freely” and “Gifts of the Spirit.”

The summary of several tawdry explanations says that it is a card of hope. On other planes it has been certified as immortality and interior light. For the majority of prepared minds, the figure will appear as the type of Truth unveiled, glorious in undying beauty, pouring on the waters of the soul some part and measure of her priceless possession. But she is in reality the Great Mother in the Kabalistic Sephira Binah, which is supernal Understanding, who communicates to the Sephiroth that are below in the measure that they can receive her influx.
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One of the most persistent questions regarding this card is what do the stars represent. While it’s impossible to say for sure without some clear reference from Waite or Colman-Smith, I believe there are good reasons to believe they have something to do with Rosicrucianism. The Golden Dawn Adeptus Minor 5 = 6 is a Rosicrucian Grade and Waite retained this in his Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. The Ritual involved the legend of Christian Rosenkreutz and it took place within the “vault,” the symbolic tomb of C.R. As far as The Star is concerned, it’s of interest that the vault was seven-sided and measured eight feet high. The similarities don’t stop there. C.R.’s original group consisted of four people—C.R. and three of his former monastic brethren; eventually it grew to eight—C.R. plus seven others—and never got any larger.

The fact that the stars are eight-rayed is also important. Recall Waite’s statement: “The star is l’étoile flamboyante, which appears in Masonic symbolism, but has been confused therein.” I believe Waite is here referring to the fact that the Masonic Blazing Star has five points while his have eight, a reference to Christhood as he understood it. In his FRC Adeptus Minor 5 = 8 Ritual, after recounting the legend of C.R., Waite has this to say: “Such was the beginning of our Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, incorporating at first four persons only, being the number of our natural humanity, but afterwards increased to eight, the number of the Christhood.” Recall also, the many instances in other cards of the eight-spoked Wheel of Spirit.

To me this seems like a card of Grace, especially where Waite says, “Waters of Life freely” and “Gifts of the Spirit.” This too is of interest: “The summary of several tawdry explanations says that it is a card of hope. On other planes it has been certified as immortality and interior light.” He contrasts the first (tawdry) with the second (on other planes). I infer from this that the themes of “immortality and interior light” were things he had in mind for this card. This works well with what he says elsewhere, “The figure expresses eternal youth and beauty.”

There’s something in this sentence that stands out: “That which the figure communicates to the living scene is the substance of the heavens and the elements.” That which is being communicated is Divine substance from above to below, or more likely, from the center outward as this is entirely symbolic. That substance is described by Waite as, “The type of Truth unveiled, glorious in undying beauty, pouring on the waters of the soul some part and measure of her priceless possession.”

To me it looks very much like the bird is the sacred Ibis. I think the Ibis symbolism on the Star possibly derived from the GD Queen of Cups which has two Ibises. The Queen represents Water of Water (two water jugs) and Ibises are water birds. The tree is on “rising ground” hinting at the possibility of rising waters. There’s probably a lot more regarding the Ibis and the tree to be unearthed.

Sacred Ibis

Queen of Cups
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“In the Egyptian sense, it is Sirius, the Dog-Star, the star of Isis-Sothis. Around it are the Stars of the Seven Planets each with its sevenfold counterchanged operation. [The GD Star card has the planetary glyphs of the planets inscribed upon the stars.]
“The nude figure with the Star of the heptagram on her brow is the synthesis of Isis, of Nephthys, and of Athor. She also represents the planet Venus through whose sphere the influence of Chesed descends. She is Aima, Tebunah, the Great Supernal Mother--Aima Elohim, pouring upon the Earth the waters of Creation, which unite and form a River at her feet, the River going forth from the Supernal Eden which ever floweth and faileth not. Note well that in this Key she is completely unveiled while in the 21st Key she is only partially so."
--GD 4=7 Ritual.

“The blazing, eight-pointed star symbolizes the apocalypse of Destinies enclosed by seven seals which are the seven planets, represented by the seven other stars” (Paul Christian). It is related to the eighth day of Creation, when the universe took on life in its totality, after God rested on the seventh day.

The Seven Stars are analogous to the Seven Branched Candle Stick diagram in the 1=10 ritual; also the Seven Seals of Revelations, the Seven Psychic centres of Man (Chakras), and the Seven traditional planets.

In his usual syncretic way Waite describes the Blazing Star in Dictionary of Freemasonry as:
"1) the Star of the Magi,
2) the Glory of Divine Presence,
3) Divine Providence,
4) a symbol of Beauty,
5) a Light from God directing in the Way of Truth,
6) the Sign of a True Mason,
7) an emblem of the Sacred Name of God, and thus a God Himself,
8) the Sun as the Grand Luminary of Nature,
9) the Dog-Star, or Star of Anubis, and in fine
10) it is Nature regarded as a volatile spirit animated by the Universal Spirit.”

The Acacia:
In Masonry, Hiram Abiff, architect for the rebuilding of the temple of Solomon and killed by jealous Masons, is buried,and an acacia marks the spot.
"The sprig of acacia, then, in its most ordinary signification, presents itself to the Master Mason as a symbol of the immortality of the soul, being intended to remind him, by its evergreen and unchanging nature, of that better and spiritual part within us, which, as an emanation from the Grand Architect of the Universe, can never die.*. . . Secondly, then, the acacia is a symbol of INNOCENCE."
THE SYMBOLISM OF FREEMASONRY by Albert G. Mackey (1882).
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Sketch for the Star card in the cipher manuscript:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Esplrv6Kg-...her%2Bstar.jpg

The Star from an original Golden Dawn notebook - from Mather's French lodge - post RWS - note the similarity of the maiden:
https://marygreer.files.wordpress.co...11/gd-star.jpg
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I found a reference in Wiate’s Pictorial Symbols of Alchemy where he refers to a bird in one of the images as the “Bird of Hermes.” This is an obscure reference which apparently comes from The Ripley Scroll. The bird in The Star is obviously an Ibis but Waite refers to it in the PKT as a “bird.” Why didn’t he just say Ibis?

In ancient Egypt the sacred Ibis was a symbol of Thoth, aka Hermes in Greece. The bird may hint at connections with Spiritual Alchemy or Rosicrucianism. “Tree” is a common metaphor for the cross of crucifixion and a cross on higher ground symbolizes the cross of Calvary.
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Star Comparison

I’ve been comparing the Waite-Smith Star with the Waite-Trinick versions and found some pretty cool similarities. First a quote from Waite’s FRC Philosophus Initiation:
“The Symbol of the 30th path [The Star] is an analogue of that which stands first in the present sequence [Temperance, Path 27]. It is Shekinah again in the act of dispensing the powers and virtues from above. The Pillars of Mercy and Severity are represented by their Sephiroth in the form of stars. Tiphereth is immediately above and appears as a star of six points, by reference to the Christ nature. She herself bears upon her breast the star that corresponds to Yesod, and at her feet is Malkuth, whereon her urns of life are emptied. They are urns of Water and of Fire—the rain of doctrine, the dew of Divine speech, the great Water of understanding; and the Fire of the Holy Spirit, the tongues of flame, the splendor of supernal wisdom.
In the color Waite-Trinick version I marked the stars according to the number of points. The stars on the right correspond to the Pillar of Mercy and those on the left represent the Pillar of Severity. The numbers don’t all match the Sephiroth they apparently correspond to but start at the top with one and proceed in order. The star on the figure's chest has ten points as can easily be seen in the image on the right. This doesn’t make sense any way you look at it. According to the sequence it should be eight, and Yesod itself is nine, so this one has me baffled. I entered the same numbers on the Waite-Smith image and it appears to me the same pattern emerges though it’s not as obvious.

Waite’s comment above to Tiphareth as “A star of six points, by reference to the Christ nature” supports his other comment I quoted in my first post: “But afterwards increased to eight, the number of the Christhood.” In the black & white image the star representing Tiphareth is located over Daath, Waite's 8 = 3 Grade in the FRC. It's the highest grade in the order and represents "Christhood." I noticed star number one in the Waite-Smith version is also situated over Daath.
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Eek, I feel like an uneducated plebian stumbling in here...

I've often thought of The Star as being like 'the' star that led the three wise men to the barn where Jesus was born (FYI I'm actually not Christian, but it's a well-known story). As such it often comes up in spreads where people feel "led" towards a destination - very common for people in artistic industries! On the flip side, when reversed, it can indicate for them a period of no inspiration, no guiding light.
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Hi tealily, everyone's input is welcomed.

I agree with the three wise men on one level but with Waite there's always additional, less obvious, layers.

In the Bible story, the wise men say "We have seen his star in the East." In the legend of Christian Rosenkreutz, he sets off to the East in search of Wisdom. After a period of traveling he returns to the West from the East bearing his newly-acquired Truth that he hopes will benefit the whole world.

So it could be the star in the East of the wise men, but more likely than not Waite intended it in a mystical sense, meaning Wisdom is always sought in the East. This differs significantly from a literal interpretation of the Biblical account. The focus shifts from Christ born in a manger to the mystical Star in the East. Some Gnostic and mystic schools teach that Jesus of Nazareth spent his "unaccounted for" years in the East learning from masters there.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Abrac View Post
In the black & white image the star representing Tiphareth is located over Daath, Waite's 8 = 3 Grade in the FRC. It's the highest grade in the order and represents "Christhood." I noticed star number one in the Waite-Smith version is also situated over Daath.
Very interesting about the odd number of points on the stars and the central star being in the position of Da'ath rather than Tiphareth in the b/w version.

BTW, Waite did have grade orders higher than 8=3. They just don't appear in the recently published book and may not have been actually practiced in the FRC. I don't have copies of them as they are in private hands, but I've seen a few small quotes.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tealily View Post
Eek, I feel like an uneducated plebian stumbling in here...

I've often thought of The Star as being like 'the' star that led the three wise men to the barn where Jesus was born (FYI I'm actually not Christian, but it's a well-known story). As such it often comes up in spreads where people feel "led" towards a destination - very common for people in artistic industries! On the flip side, when reversed, it can indicate for them a period of no inspiration, no guiding light.
Tealily, Abrac's comments are right-on. The thing about Waite is that he was a syncretist. He was very open to multiple meanings for symbols as he felt that the Secret Tradition underlaid all the others - being closest to a direct, "mystical" linkage between humanity and Divinity. In essence he was trying to peel away the layers to what he felt was that essential meaning. He recognized the validity of other meanings but, ultimately, they were veils over the essence - what he saw as the "clouds upon the santuary" described by Karl von Eckartshausen. So, all symbols have multiple meanings and we can continue to find such meanings even beyond those he has mentioned. The similarities between Waite and both Jung and Joseph Campbell (his mono-myth) are notable. Ironically, Waite wrote a review of one of Jung's books and found it nonsense, but then I don't know if Waite ever wrote a glowing review of anyone else's books except for the few for which he wrote introductions (like the intro to the Eckartshausen translation).
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