Michael Tsarion

Sister of the Eclipse

I am all that has been, and is, and shall ever be, and my robe no mortal has yet uncovered

The eighteenth card of the Tarot is called the Moon but, despite the name, it corresponds with the sign of Pisces and not Cancer.* Its planet-archetype is actually Neptune and it demarcates the month of March, the period prior to the Vernal Equinox. In the Thoth deck we see the scarabeus beetle (Khepra) pushing the orb of the sun toward the eastern horizon of the Equinox. The sign of Pisces closes the round of the zodiac. It is the place where the sun reposes prior to emergence in the sign of Aries (arising). In Pisces the sun-god (Horus, Osiris, Arthur, Lazarus, Christ, etc.,) is in utero, dreaming of his resplendent awakening. Pisces may be described as the sepulcher of the zodiac, or likened to a great undulating abyss or alchemical cauldron where the other twelve archetypes come to die, co-meddling in the protean waters which dissolve their identities. Into its depths must fall Robin's flaming arrow, Merlin's dragon wand and Arthur's stern Excalibur.

Through this ordeal the godly men, those with authentic existence, remain intact while the wicked or inauthentic are dissolved - Edward Edinger (Anatomy of the Psyche)

The solar-hero's subterranean transit, purgatorial languor and resuscitation are seminal mythological motifs. Moreover, as was later camouflaged, the entire process centered not only on the discovery of his own inherent powers, but on his relation with the feminine principle, be it in his consorts or within himself. In fact, his rite of passage, particularly through the underworld, was overseen and charted by the agents of the feminine goddess, agents which he often mistakes for temptresses and adversaries at various points of the cycle. Though in later history we find the sign of Pisces given over to gods like Poseidon and Neptune, etc., the original deities associated with this sign and its attributes were primarily female; Artemis, Cassiopeia and Persephone for the Greeks and Nun, Nut and Neith for the more ancient Egyptians.

She was the World Body, the Primal Abyss from which the sun first rose...She was the spirit behind the veil, whom no mortal could see face to face - Barbara Walker (The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myth and Secrets).

An ocean infinite in extent and of fathomless depth, bearing the germ of all kinds of life - Barbara Walker

Another seminal symbol of Pisces is the fish. Many Celtic, Grecian and Oriental deities have the fish as an ideograph. The early Semites had their prophet Jonah being swallowed by a whale. The "whale" is Cetus, a giant constellation in Pisces, and Jonah represents the sun which must frequent the Duat (underworld) to face the shadows it had cast when in regency during the spring and summer seasons past. The word fish comes from the Sanskrit Vishnu, the name of the supreme creator god of the Hindu Trinity. The fish is the means by which the hero transits from one level of reality to another.

The deceased assumed this form to cross the waters in the netherworld - Gerald Massey (Egypt: Light of the World)

The imagery of the sun god in relation to the protean waters of Pisces was not lost on the early Christians who methodically incorporated Piscean motifs into their problematic "biography" of Christ. We have Christ selecting his disciples from fishermen, we have him "walking on the water" in the manner of sunlight. We have him washing the feet of his disciples (feet are ruled by Pisces) and we read of him making his chosen ones "fishers of men." Additionally, there is the feeding of the 5000 with two fishes (symbols of Pisces) and the incorporation of the fish-headed miter worn by Bishops and Popes who also wear the "Ring of the Fisherman." The common rite of baptism has its origins in the sacred immersion of the lower self in the maternal uterine waters of initiation.

Although Christianity did its best to suppress it, this matriarchal symbolism has survived, and not only in the cup of the Last Supper or in the mythical Grail...The plunge bath...became in Christianity the baptismal bath of transformation that...is a return to the primordial egg of the beginning - Erich Neumann (The Great Mother)

This beautiful but strange card shows the moon with a female visage. Luna is weeping and her tears fall toward a desolate domain with a river, twin pylons and two baying jackals. The tears are oblique references to the divine menstrum, called Khu by the Egyptians. This is where we get the modern letter Q, which is esoterically associated with this card. In Alchemical writings the menstrum was known as "Starfire," or even "Wise Blood." It is also the "Sang Grael" of the Arthurian Legends, carried by three maidens. In the orthodox canon it appears obliquely as the red wine of the Christian Eucharist. Moreover, the word "blessing" comes from bloedsen which means bleeding. Additionally, in this context, the word secret (in relation to esoteric teachings, etc.,) comes from secretion connoting, again, the female menstrual cycle and its various occult permutations.

Pregnancy is the second blood mystery. According to the primitive view, the embryo is built up from the blood, which, as the cessation of menstruation indicates, does not flow outward in the period of pregnancy - Erich Neumann

The Hebrew letter for Q is Qoph, which comes from Egyptian Khat meaning vagina or womb. The Hebrew denotation for the letter was "back of the head" which is, esoterically, actually a reference to the unconscious mind. Q may, in fact, represent the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. It is the master gland which controls the other glands in the brain and body. The design of the letter Q, can connote the spine entering the brain, or even the sperm entering the ovum at the time of conception. It is the letter we associate with "Queen" and was a signature denoting the Sophic principle. Prior to the discovery of Neptune, the ancients associated the unconscious with the Moon, and the conscious mind with the Sun. This accounts for the naming of this card and why it bears the image of the moon.

The imagery of the card relates to the pantheon and cosmology of the Egyptians who attributed numinous qualities to rain, to the dew and to the waters of the Nile which, they believed, were the tears of Isis who wept for the loss of her consort Osiris and who, after his betrayal and dismemberment, went searching for his corpse. Her tears were meant to possess magical properties. Upon falling to earth they lay dormant beneath the soil, to later fertilize the germinating seeds of the seasons to come.

Luna secretes the dew or sap of life...The Luna is the sap of the water of life which is hidden in the Mercurius - Gerald Massey

The renewer of the water from the beginning was female...In the legend of..."The Night of the Drop"...a miraculous tear was supposed to fall from Heaven onto the Nile, and according to Pausanias, it was taught that the rise of the river was dependent on the drops that fell from the eyes of Isis - Gerald Massey

The ancients believed that when we die the soul is interned in the Moon before the judgment and  journey on to other lives. In the Kabala, the zone of the Moon, called Yesod, sits directly above the earth zone and is the first realm that we enter on the road of self-development. In Yesod our higher self is conceived, born and nurtured. In the Egyptian myths we read of the internment of the Solar Hero in a bower or place of repose where he slowly recovers from his wounds and becomes potent again. The Lunar Maiden preserves his light (phallic potency) in her dark womb, as the physical Moon seems to do at night, during the absence of the Sun.

At the disappearance of Osiris...the internment of the deity, the Egyptians constructed, by way of a memorial, a remarkable machine, and ark in the shape of a crescent or new moon, in which the image of Osiris was for a time concealed - Arthur Dyott Thompson (On Mankind: Their Origin and Destiny)

...the Archetypal Feminine is not only a giver and protector of life but, as container, also holds fast and takes back; she is the goddess of life and death at once...The Feminine contains opposites, and the world actually lives because it combines earth and heaven, night and day, death and life...The vessel character of the Feminine not only shelters the unborn...but also takes back the dead into the vessel of death, the cave or coffin, the tomb or urn - Erich Neumann

Accompanying Isis on her quest to rediscover the dismembered body of Osiris was Anubis, the jackal headed god of the underworld. He was the god of all portals and of the cardinal points of the zodiac, which were always likened to doorways of the sun, moon and planets. The imagery of card 18 directly encapsulates the cosmography of the Egyptian Magi.

In the zodiac of Denderah the two jackals of the south and north, continued in the solar mythos, are figured opposite each other. These represent the two forms of Ap-Uat, the opener of the ways, who was imaged as a jackal, the seer in the dark - Gerald Massey

The gods Anubis and Thoth and, indeed, the very Pharaoh himself, were deemed ambassadors of the feminine goddess. They are her agents. The goddesses Hathor and Isis were commonly seen wearing the lunar crescent as a headdress. Like the female physically, the moon esoterically, was the means by which disincarnate souls take birth into corporeal existence, and then return again to the abode of the gods.

...the favored symbol of the matriarchal sphere is the moon in its relation to the night and the Great Mother or the night sky...an expression of her essential spirit - Erich Neumann

The dogs we see depicted in card 18, therefore, represent the god Anubis, protector, gatekeeper and way-shower. The Greeks later re-scripted him as Cerberus, the triple-headed dog of Hades. In the Tarot we also see the Fool accompanied by a canine guardian. But card 18 also connotes dark Hecate (goddess of Hades) who, like Diana, traversed her formidable domain with her two hunting dogs. Another important ancient name for the lunar goddess was Cardea which meant "hinges" and which gives the modern card (as in Tarot) and cardinal (as in the zodiac). The word Isis comes from the root Ast which meant the Lady of Secrets or of the secret places.

The card's number 18, implies the necessary elements for life; water (1 hydrogen molecule) and oxygen (8 molecules). Eclipses of the moon and sun occur in the same sequence after an 18 year cycle. Thematically, however, card 18 has much to do not only with the rites of passage of males but of the females also. In fact, a woman, consciously or unconsciously, initiates herself into a deeper connection with femininity during her various relations with the men about her. Through her love, her conception, her birthing, her nurturing, releasing and even salvation of the male, a woman comes to identify with the Goddess Archetype (the Anima), her biographical life ultimately becoming inseparable from the mythical life. In his masterpiece The Great Mother, Erich Neumann charts woman's rite of passage from virgin to mother to crone and back to her resacralization as virgin again:

...Kore is not merely overcome by the male; her adventure is on the profoundest sense a self-sacrifice, a being-to-womanhood, to the Great Goddess as the female self...achieving union on higher plane with the spiritual aspect of the Feminine, the Sophia aspect of the Great Mother, and thus becoming a moon goddess.

This is the card of the collective unconscious and our phylogenetic memory stretching back to time immemorial. The Priestesses of the past were living "Oracles" able to access this record and thereby counsel the fate of individuals and nations. One may muse that the days of the centuries to come will be terrible indeed if the Oracles are not restored and heeded.

For while the specific achievement of the male world lies in the development of the masculine consciousness and the rational mind, the female psyche is in far greater degree dependent upon the productivity of the unconscious - Erich Neumann

When the Moon card falls for us in a traditional spread reading, or is one of our significators, we undergo our own "alchemical" trial by water, a period of dissolution, loss and retreat. During its season our motto is "this too must pass." We usually have to deal with long periods of isolation, absence and melancholia. Our libido introjects and our interest in the mundane exploits of everyday life wanes. When our search for the real founders we become jaded, moody and laconic. Even the best of us know this state well, the best most of all perhaps.  

A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear, A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief, Which finds no natural outlet, no relief, In word, or sigh, or tear - Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Dejection: An Ode)

Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing.  I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me - Psalm 69

“…he comes forth strengthened out of the depths, a new sun, and shines his light upon men having been cleansed in the water" - Melito of Sardis (Second Century Theologian)

The downside of the Arcanum deals with unexpressed sexuality and the inability to feel open and receptive to the attentions and ardors of the opposite sex. In such sterile times, the days are best spent researching, contemplating and exploring the subtler pleasures, those of literature, poetry, music and nature. The card says it is fine to hide out for a time, and be in the background, be expressionless and, like the moon herself, mirror back the distorted visages and projections of others. The darker influences of the card have to do with paranoia, hypochondria, conscious manipulation, hypocrisy and even evil. More commonly, however, it suggests vicarious living, escapism, addiction and desecration, as well as transgression and gender dysphoria. Positively, it can make for vivid dreams, powerful intuitions and a desire to look deeply at the self and awaken connection to the creative Muse. It is the Arcanum of experimentation, iconoclasm and creative negation. For women it can signal pregnancy and the onset of maternity with its complications and raptures. Biologically, it rules the feet, the lymphatics, the glands and bodily fluids.

When we are under the influence of Pisces, or Neptune, we must be exceptionally aware of deception in all its subtle permutations. In worse case scenarios we can be deceived by friends and business associates and, regardless of how morally virtuous we are normally, we may not be able to resist deceiving others. In most situations, trust is harder to come by and, even if we are not involved in open rivalries, we can become our own worst enemies, finding it harder to keep hold of the reins of sanity. Under the nebulous influence of Pisces and Neptune we can become inordinately paranoid and may end up doubting everything and everyone. If the negative influences are unrelenting we can get so disoriented that we cannot perform even simple routine tasks. Our decision making faculties can be adversely affected, and we will require a great deal of concentration to keep our material and emotional life together. For some, however, this season in the abyss, can eventually yield the greatest wisdom. Though we may not want to experience a repeat of the card's negative effects, we can find ourselves greatly benefited by our rare insights into the anatomy of deception. Looking through the dark lens of Pisces affords us more than a preview into the essence and subtle power of evil. One way or another we are sure to never forget our lessons in duplicity, dissimulation and moral corruption. Our only real regret will be that we did not get to read these dire pages in the great Book of Experience a lot earlier in our lives.

The dolphins represent five different groups of people responding to truth. One group runs away from the truth. Another group is searching for the truth in the wrong place. The third group is distracting others from truth. The next group is getting distracted and now watching the false source of happiness. And the last group of dolphins are directly reaching for the truth – Akiane (The Hourglass)

The Piscean Archetype of the Moon expresses itself in those iconoclastic and visionary individuals whose actions and creations fall well outside the confines of rational explanation. We saw the Piscean ideal in high souls such as William Blake, James Joyce, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Rainer Maria Rilke, Sylvia Plath, Lewis Carroll, Kahlil Gibran, Jean Cocteau and Rene Magritte. It moves today in individuals such as Werner Herzog, Jon Vangelis, John Boorman, Terence Davies, Peter Weir and Lisa Gerard. 

The message of Arcanum 18, concerns our penchant for living on the periphery of being and not at its core. It concerns our enslavement to abstract, linear and rational concepts and ideas, and to empirical knowledge and experience. In our quest for answers we habitually turn to the very part of ourselves which has caused our quandaries in the first place, the conscious mind and the left-hemisphere of the brain. We rarely examine the vicarious ways by which we assuage the existential predicament of being unable, or unwilling, to access the inner "wisdom body" or "living oracle." The plethora of addictions and distractions which fill our days are but temporary panaceas, and can only partially alleviate the soul's ache for an authentic participation in life and being. After the carnal infatuations diminish we are left exhausted, unfulfilled and sullied. As card 18 pictorializes, there is a  part of ourselves that is barren, dry and desolate, in which nothing grows and in which there are neither landmarks or shelter. It is the center of oblivion, fossilized and seasonless, an abandoned limbic hemisphere of ruins, twisted bones and malformed skulls. The only substantial creature inhabiting this psychic lunarscape is the virtual wolfen-child within, the twin self we each abandon at birth to the somber, unhallowed wastes of Avernus. We each forbid him entry into our coveted new found kingdoms of light and plenty and never stray into his nocturnal reaches. So debarred, he soon learns that it is useless to cry out or hope for rescue. Amid the towering crags and dry lake beds he makes his refuge. Orpheus-like he fashions a somnolent harp from the skeletons of man's forgotten loves and dreams. His lachrymose songs occasionally echo into your dreams and nightmares and lure you in sleep toward the gates of his charnel domain. But as the dawn approaches your soul retreats again to the luminous theatre of day. Here, in our sphere of necessity, the twelve divisions of time are regular and inviolate. But there, in the bone forests of his dark purgatory, there are no boulevards or glittering fountains. There was no Garden of Eden, Tree and forbidden fruit, no Adam and Eve. The animals have no names, the rivers no courses, the planets no predictable ordinances. There are no clocks nor calendars, no sovereigns nor slaves, no empires to rise and fall. All is languid and immobile. Only once every eighteen cycles is the silence of his piscean ghostscape disturbed by the howling of spectral jackals when, in obliquitous orbit, the albescent Moon Goddess appears overhead, shedding tears on her unblessed one, her incomprehensible, unblinking child lying below, whose obsidian eyes reflect nothing but her sorrow and her passing.

Dark one, I am torn
By your savage ways,
Then, soft as the moon, your gaze
Sees my tortured heart reborn
Charles Baudelaire ~

* This card is misnamed and does not represent either the sign of Cancer or the Moon. However, it is conceivable to astrologically consider it a fairly accurate representation of the Moon in Pisces or, for that matter, Neptune in Cancer.

Title quote - from Plutarch's translation of a Egyptian passage on the goddess Neith

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