Here is a card whose image often first invites terror, and secondly superstition, until understood by the initiate. First, it is important to understand that this is not a "physical death" card. The path of Nun connects Tiphareth (Beauty) with Netzach (victory) and is about the flow of Personality from the Higher Self (Tiphareth is the Energy Intelligence of the Christos) into the Imaginative Intelligence which is the seed of all thought-form. What many of us forget, is that all form is comprised of the First material---Thought!
The fish is the ancient traditional symbol that represents the first matter. Which is appropriate since all though-forms come from Binah, the Great Mother Ocean of Conscious. Hence, the Fish Symbol is also the ancient symbol for the Vesica Pisces. In this Crowley card, we see a serpent wrapped around the fish, this is because the Activating Principle of Vibration---The Father Fire/Electric force is shown as serpentine. This activates "thought-form" into "living form".
Therefore, the esoteric title of this Death card is, TheLord of the Gate of Death. Pointing out that this card isn't the Transformation itself, but directs the personality "downward" into incarnation. It is the Path of the Flaming Sword, meaning that this is the path of emanation of the Lower Creator-Energy into matter which was shown in Genesis, as the Archangel Michael herding Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, with his flaming sword, often errantly depicted as punishment for sin, a propaganda ploy.
Almost comically the Thoth Tarot, features a Skeleton galloping about, swinging it's Scythe of death, which represents the Transformational aspect of the first law of thermodynamics," One energy that cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed" . Hence, this card is about the Transformation of the Real Person as it proceeds downward from the Higher Self into the illusion of the World of Matter. The Death-Key 13-The Path of Nun, is not easily understood by the survival based self-conscious of the body. The skeleton represents the inherent body structure that allows movement and change within our self expression as well as, it is the bones of who we are and represents our ancestral lineage and our commitment to grow and evolve through birth/death cycles.
Nun,means Fish, and is a simple letter of movement that describes the first matter as a "fish in the Great Ocean of Binah" who is the Mother of Consciousness, known as the Universal Collective Unconscious by followers of Carl Jung.
To further expand this tarot card's meaning: The Qabbalist know this Path of Nun as the path of which the Solar Energy of the Son (Sun) of God is transformed into the first sphere, or pattern of energy known as the "liquid light of the Astral", underlying the physical-material world. This part of the Great Work involves psychological re-orientation where there is a perceptual change about the nature of reality and about what constitutes Self. In other words, the Astral world of liquid and/or Magnetic light, is the reflective mirror of Self-Image and/or Self-reflection and therefore, holds our material forms together as our magnetic boundary of Self of Image! Yet another aspect of our Transformational nature that points out,"That how we see the outside world, is merely Self viewing itself." The Psyche using the soma, to examine identity. Therefore how we mentally/emotionally identify ourselves, becomes our psychosomatic "outer image"! What we must remember here is that all eye sight is "I"sight and we cannot see what we don't see as ourselves! I AM is the power that creates our "reality". How I identity myself ---is what I see as "Me"!
Netzach, the 7th Sephiroth on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, is the progenitor of Desire Nature, as the name Victory, if examined, will reveal. The Tarot path upward from Netzach to Tiphareth (Beauty), is Key 13 Death, representing when the personality's very will to live and/or function in the sensory condition of the body, is abrogated on the Path of Death. Here the temporary nature of the sensory illusion that the personality thinks it is, is correctly self-perceived and the personality surrenders itself to the Real Person (Soul). On the upward trek, toward the Path of Nun, the personality undergoes a "willful" death, surrendering everything that it perceives itself to be to the "Great Unknown" i.e. "The Darkness" of the Universal Collective Unconscious . This is the Most difficult surrender --the total surrender of life to the Creator of Life, "The Great Dark Womb of Binah" but it must be done to achieve cosmic awareness (Your Divine inheritance), which begins the process that is often called "Born again" and is a rebirth of the Personality in a expanded and liberated state that some would called "Saved". For in truth, when one lets go of the possessive sensual self....they step out of the Karmic wheel of Personality death, into one of incarnations remember, and Cosmic Inheritance accepted as a Higher Self expression, The Real Person, into Form operation and are no longer "captured by sensation". However, do not make the error of thinking sensation is a bad or lesser thing, for to know its purpose in the Great Work, is to "Know Thyself". When we Know that Imagination is our inherited creative Conscious, and that we Imagine ourselves into Self; we as Real Persons, know longer seek blame for our inner pain, emotional dysfunctions, i,e, our "Feelings". Instead we know that we think a "feeling" and then the body enacts it. If we thing ill thoughts, we get ill feelings, and the body becomes the manifestation of that illness! How we felt is no one's fault but the Personality Program within the body. Our reaction to other's actions, is our own feeling and is not a creation of another.
Saint John of the Cross described this journey of Personality in Spirit ( a journey that applies to all three paths to the Higher Self).." although this happy night brings darkness to the spirit, it does so only to exalt it and to raise it up; and although it impoverishes it and empties it of all natural affection and attachment, it does so only that it may enable it to stretch forward, divinely, and thus to have fruition and experience all things, both above and below...."
The term "Dark night of the Soul" refers to the darkness of unknowing, where the psyche is striped of the desire/survival nature of the personality. This leaves a dreadful emptiness, almost a complete disinterest in everything. The individual personality, upon experiencing these Three Paths of the Dark Night, The Devil (key 15), Art (key 14) and Death (key 13), has only a thought of despair repeating over and over again, abolishing any other desire or thought. For me it was, " I can't be YOU, You must be me"! The Higher Self (The Secret Lover within) responded to that by sending my " skeletal awareness" directly to the Great Mother Binah, who then broke down and reassembled the Personality into that of the Divine Child, THE REAL PERSON and I awoke as the "Will to Be" and/or the Desire of the Great Mother of Form who is a combination of Will to Force (he) and Will to Form (she).
For an individual, this inner falling into the abyss of the Dark Womb, is a very hard journey to explain and it requires one not to be concerned with living or dying. The journey starts in some sort of joy before, One becomes a mechanical motion, pushing ahead with great faith. As Life's processes begin to have no value, one still mechanically crawls towards the Higher Self; moving "forward" in a total darkness, inch by inch, the Soul (Psyche) begins the process of "putrefaction", believing, but not always so sure, that there will be light that will eventually appear and lead the way.
It was a Red dot of light that appeared to me out of indescribable Scarlett darkness that is The Great Red Binah, representing the purifying Force of resurrection. She Bathed me, loved me, sending me from the numbness induce by unendurable psychic pain into indescribable ecstasy that sent me back down the Tree into Tiphareth and the Fiery Light of the Higher Self. Once a Divine Child always a Divine Child and the Divine Creative never forgets "you"....somehow we've forgotten that, and thus disinherited ourselves by giving our persona up to outside false authority "others" and becoming a cultural personality out of fear of punishment, i.e. Pleasure/pain training.
Again: this path of "enlightenment" is most difficult to realize, because of our survival self conscious mind that insists that the sensual personality of "reaction", is truth and believes in physical victory over enemies, as a character positive. Lucky for us, "Old Sam" (Samhiel), Death, intervenes, and frees us from the self- inflicted tyranny of survival thinking and we realize that the enemy we seek to conquer has always been our indoctrinated selves! It is to be noted that our individual personalities (some call ego) are not permanent, they are recyclable, as the root word Persona, meaning mask, dictates. It is known that we can recycle them best by giving them directly to the Higher Self/Soul who created the "Beautiful Person" before they became "ugly in their own feelings". This is the "Willful death of the personality", and the way to go about achieving it is without burden and/or "en-lighten-ment" ...The Hermetic Qabalah's way of traveling. One of the constant "loops" of the "new software of unburdening" that I run in my brain is; " I am neither right nor wrong; I AM". Best run whenever, one thinks seriously about being right, or feels shame of being wrong, for both are dangerous traps of survival thinking.
Therefore Gnostic/Hermetic Qabbalah is one of those journeys up the paths of Enlightenment, where our "Me-ness" is reclaiming our Divine Family Inheritance of "I AM ME". If you will examine the Death card, you will notice that at the end of the Scythe swing, bubbles of new life are forming showing us that The Transformation is not an end, it is a beginning into a new and greater adventure! This Tarot card has many Alchemical means, Spiritual meanings and Psychological meanings, and requires a great study and much skrying, before you can willingly "die" as a personality and be reconstructed by the "Sun of God" as It's Person. We must know that as a personality, we cannot Know the full extent of the "Christ/Buddha within"----but the Christos knows us!
Hence,To "Throw thyself into the Abyss" is to trust your "inner creator" absolutely. After all, I am made manifest, which could only mean that Originally I was a Loving Expression of the Greater Self...but the constant manipulation of my definition by culture, religion, propaganda-media, and misinterpretation of sensations, has made the personality lose sight of itself and become lost in the Forest of babble were it blames the trees for its fear. The Tree in that forest we should know, is the Tree of Life, and upon finding it, we Know Ourselves and never again shall we experience bafflement.
Although,The Thoth Tarot- Key 13-Death, seems a most sinister foretelling of our future in physical manifestation. However, it is a compendium of Universal Energy in its most secret form, i.e. Putrefaction. The technical name, putrefaction, is from the adepts of Alchemy, and describes a series of changes which develops the final form of life from the original latent seed in the Orphic egg.
To Reiterate: The Hebrew letter Nun is attributed to this card and means-fish. Fish is the symbol of life beneath the waters and/or of life traveling through the Astral Waters of the Unconscious. We also know that the Fish is a Oceanic- metaphor of Life itself. For the fish is entirely composed of Ocean and Sun, and the fish is how the Ocean "knows itself", by flowing through its own creation of Self Identity. A definite simile to Spirit and body.
Zodiacal this card is attributed to the sign Scorpio, who is ruled by Mars, a planet of fiery energy in its lowest form. Scorpio is one of the two most powerful signs in the zodiac. Leo is the other, but in this case, Scorpio is divided into three phases and lacks the intensity of Leo, therefore an impulse is needed. In formal astrology, Scorpio is divided into three parts:
Thus we have the three representations in this card of the three stages of putrefaction. Hence, we have the transformation of a dangerous earth-crawling creature, to a serpent which symbolizes the Astral Light, weaving its way upward to become an Eagle (behind and above the figures head) that sours above all heads filled with indoctrinated consciousness. What the astrological sign of Scorpio helps us understand is that life/death are two aspects of the same state of being. Alive is life-death, as form is time-space, there are no divisions. Therefore, this card represents the Universal Principle of Letting Go and Moving On. As Crowley stated: " The Universe is Change; every Change is the effect of an Act of Love: all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy. Die Daily. Death is the apex of one curve of the snake Life: behold all opposites as necessary compliments, and rejoice."
The Thoth Deck -Death card, illustrates the trans-formative dance of Death, that is a Saturnine symbol of both Skeleton and Scythe that is also depicted on the Barbara Walker Tarot-Key 13. Seemingly strange , because Saturn has no overt connection to Scorpio; However, Saturn represents the essential structure of existing things, as does the skeleton. Saturn is known to the ancients, as the elemental nature of things that is not destroyed by the ordinary changes which occur in the operations of Nature. Movement is the primary activity of the Mars force that rules Scorpio. The Emperor-Key 4 , is the Mars force during day light while Death,key 13, is the Mars force in the dark of night. Nun, is one of the three paths to the Higher Self (the others are,The Devil, and Temperance) this is again the "Darkness of unknowing",i.e. "The Dark Night of the Soul".
Furthermore, the Thoth- Dancing Skeleton wears the crown of Osiris, "The Dying God", representing Osiris in the waters of Amennti (good myth to research), The Divine Creative Unconscious. Yet more, he is also the original secret creative male god, whose tradition has been corrupted by the propaganda of Changing Religions, to that of "Lord Dread", a fiendish and senile symbol of Time. Therefore,The Crown represents expanded consciousness; where one has conquered the survival mind of the animal who fears death. To be honest all of us know we don't survive this manifestation. We move on to expand and liberate Life!
Again, it is to be noted here, that the Sweeping Scythe, is producing bubbles that represent the dancing new life forms produced by the putrefaction of the old forms. Their dance, is the new motion of life that arises, as if gas bubbles freeing themselves from the putrefaction of the old forms, who reside in stasis at the bottom of the Amniotic fluid of the Sea. This conceptualization is continued in the Fish symbol, that is a paramount illustration on this card.
A scythe, is a harvesting tool that is also a symbol for Time. Time is under the control of Saturn-Binah, the giver and destroyer of Life illustrating another dimension in this card. The sweeping scythe of Time, harvesting souls, and the trans formative bubbles of new life in its wake; all of which, support this analogy of life giving and life destroying.
The skeleton is also the frame work that holds the organs and can be seen as a seed of the body as the minerals that are attributed to bone are the "seeds" of organic forms.
The diligent student will note that the serpent and the fish are the two principle objects of worship in cults that taught the doctrines of resurrection or re-incarnation ( Oannaes and Dagon, fish gods of Western Asia). Even in Christianity, the Fish represents the Christ. Even such esteemed scholars as Browning, reminded us that the Greek word, IXThUS,"...means fish and very aptly symbolizes Christ." IXThUS, was supposed to be a Notarikon (Hebrew: נוטריקון, Noṭariqōn) which is a method of deriving a word, by using each of its initials, the initials of this word/sentence, IXThUS meaning, "Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior". Also,The Gospels, are full of miracles involving fish, and the fish is sacred to Mercury, because of their swiftness, brilliance and cold bloodedness.
This again recalls the function of Mercury, the god, who is the guide of the dead, a messenger of divine will and as the continuing lasting elastic element of Nature. This is a card of great importance, that must be understood if we wish to translate the compendium of Universal Energy.
It helps to remember that spirit comes from the Greek root word --Spiro (breath), as does spiral, and in this card we see the "serpentine" force wrapping around the Fish (Alchemical symbol of "First Matter") weaving its way upward to become the Eagle which soars above all heads. As stated: The Scorpion, the serpent and the Eagle are all symbols of Scorpio---its spiral-motion in the Astral Matter (fish) as it soars upward to make the transition between Personality and Higher Self. This "First Matter" defies word description and could be best understood as the quanta of quantum physics, and yet even more invisible for it is "thought", "Mind Stuff", "Dark Matter", although there are even greater mysteries than that in its make up.
All that is involved in creation, relates to sexual polarities (Sexual energies to some). Scorpio rules the sexual organs as Mars rules Scorpio. It is the reproductive forces which is consciously directed in practical exercises such as that of the Middle Pillar, of A. Crowley. The Thoth Deck Key 13-Death, is the card that best indicates this activity.
Dr. Paul Foster Case (creator of B.O.T.A.) wrote in the Thirty-Two Paths of Wisdom: The Twenty-fourth Path is the ..."Imaginative Intelligence, and it is so called because it gives a likeness to all the similitudes which are created in like manner similar to its harmonious elegancies".
The mystery of The Path of Nun is also described in the Gnostic Text-The Nag Hammadi Library--(Gospel of Thomas), where Jesus was quoted as saying to his disciples when asked the question:"Shall we then, as children, enter the kingdom?"
Jesus said to them," When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then you will enter the kingdom."
Since Gnosticism (Jesus was a Gnostic Nazarene) embraces the Qaballah and the Tree of Life....the above quote must be understood before one can successfully travel the Path of Nun to its conclusion in the High Priestess. On the Tree of life illustration, the Path of Nun is the blue-green path from Netzach (7-Victory) upwards to Tiphareth (6-Beauty). Dr. Paul Foster Case (Western Master of Qaballah) also wrote: "Key 13 tells the Secret of Secrets...he who knows the secret has in his hands a power which might be used to overturn the world. Yet no person learns it until he is truly prepared, and more than anything else, this means such ethical preparation that no temptation to misuse this power could ever be sufficient to turn the knower from the Path of strictly conservative and beneficial application of the force he is able to control."
It pays to remember that Transformation is how The One energy moves throughout the Universe of Being and that Death, is a seed to grow yet again.
Upon conquering the Path of Nun, the Soul built personality is reconstructed as the Persona of the Higher Self, and the emptied brain is filled with the Primary Imagination...The will to form and the Understanding of the Great "Womb with a view".
As stated:Mars rules Scorpio. Scorpio rules the sex organs. Thus this Death Card, represents a Sexual energy, a reproductive energy which is consciously directed in a physical exercises such as that of Tantra, or that of Crowley's Middle Pillar, an activity best represented by Crowley's Death Card. The initiate is now following the "Path of the Flaming Sword" , which is both destructive and constructive and not for the weak of character or for those who fear death.
The Barbara Walker- key 13: DEATH: sticks to the more medieval art of the Grim Reaper, also known as Macabre in France.
Waving his scythe, while dancing around in his skull mask and bone suit, the actor of the medieval plays, preformed the dance macabre. Which imitated the Hindu-Dancing Shiva, Lord of Life and Death.
The mask was called a "Grim", and represented the skull helm called Helkappe or Hildegrim, both meaning "Hel's Mask" which supplied the wearer with the ability to come and go through the gates of Hel, into the underworld and back out. It was said that a Teutonic Shaman, who wore the Helkappe, was considered the "Husband" of the Crone-goddess Hilde and/or Hel, who allowed him to visit her Jeweled Palace of Death, and return to life again. Which goes along with the "dark night of the soul" experience.
The Irish called her Scatha, the Norse called her Skadi or Skathi, she was the "dark Venus", Scotia to the Scottish. Always illustrated as being just bones,Death is an Androgynous characterization of a unconscious mystery.
Those who practice Tarot , know this charming fellow as Death- Key 13 and usually think only of "spiritual transformation", somehow forgetting that the body flesh, is Spirit made flesh, and therefore it's death is also a "Spiritual Transformation". But then for many, this is uncomfortable to contemplate
Nevertheless, In the British Isles, he was known as LORD DREAD or DREAD LORD and the end of October is his Holy Day! He/She is also known as the Semitic version of the Asiatic Sana,Samara (Aryan), or Samarium,"the leveler" And most of us know that you can level things very well with a skillful usage of a Scythe; a very particular harvesting tool of this dancing fellow.
He/She is the JUDGE OF THE DEAD, identified with the underworld King Yama and in the Sama Veda (Hindu), he was called the "Storm god", clothed in black clouds. In the Rig Veda, he was Rudra, the god of storms and medicine (shown with three faces), as one knows, medicine of the ancients was particularly nasty!
In Europe and Asia, the black clouds of storms became the usual depiction of this deity, dressed in a hooded black all encompassing robe. The later version of him is called Satan, he was Prince of the Power of the Air, another way to say he has a "Stormy" nature.
The Celts know him as the god of SAMHAIN, the Feast of the dead, Christianized as All Souls day. The Medieval Gnostics called him SAMMAEL OR SATANAEL or at least they were accused of worshiping him as such. But the Worshiping concept is suspect as that was the accusation of those who accused them of heresy.
What is interesting, in early Britain, Samuel had a female counter part, SAMOTHEA (Death Goddess) who seems to have been another form of SKADI or SCATHA. Samothea, was considered to be the goddess of the mysterious (Arcane) land of Hyperborean, the land where Pythagoras traveled to learn the arts of letters, astronomy, and science from this All Wise Lady.
Qabalists know that Hermes/Thoth is the Magician (Magus) of letters, words and sound, while the Art of Forms (astronomy) is definitely the Domain of Binah as the Star card and science from The Art Card...(Alchemy) where He and She combine to make All, making the Dread Lord a Hermaphrodite.
Thus one might say that Hyperborean was the Supernal Triangle of the Tree of Life, known as the World of Aziluth., which is across the Abyss and a place you can only reach after a death of your human realities.
According to the pagan lunar calendar, festivals were celebrated on the "eve' rather than the day. Thus Halloween or All Hallows' Eve, was the original festival that was later displaced to the fallowing day. The Irish called this Holy Night, the Vigil of Saman.
Christian's of the day, described this night as heretical practices, where magic charms and divination', reading the future with Witches mirrors and nutshell ashes and other objectionable rites: Even the unholy act of ducking for apples in tubs of water, which was said to represent souls in the Cauldron of Regeneration.
But Halloween is not just limited to past superstition, even today it is believed that if a girl peels an apple before a mirror, on Halloween, she will see the image of her future husband in the glass.
However, today's celebration of parties, and candy/gift giving actually follows the original version of Samuele's day, as the original divination was considered to be Oracular utterances by the Elder dead (Ancestors) who came up from their tombs on Halloween, bearing gifts for the children of their living descendants.
Sicilian Halloween tradition, states that, " the dead relations have become the good fairies of the little ones." There are many more traditions across Europe. Even in Lithuania, there were burn offerings of domestic animals to their god ZIMIENNIK ( Samanik) , believing that if the Lord of the underworld accepted the offering on behalf of the dead, the spirits would do no harm. ( I often "give burnt offerings to the Gods", albeit unwillingly, on my outside grill and not necessarily on Halloween night.)
The Fact That Death is seen as an active force, relates to the fact that Death, acts like the Dark Energy that pushes the Universe outward, by pushing Life forward.
The objective Spiritual Self, the Mortal Form, may fear it's own demise, but the Subjective Spiritual Self, (that is 99.6% of You) does not. Spirit knows Death to be but a tool that transforms, as is Life, which Transforms Self Concepts in to Self-Reality.
On that note:The celebration of Halloween, should be a celebration of the Spirit who survives mortality, knowing full well, that by owning your own beast-666, you can push your Identity Forward into the Invisible Universe---and be Lord over Death. Thus, the Thoth Deck Death Card is a Rebirth Card, where we drop the old, and become the new.
So Party on "Dude and Dudesses", you are really celebrating your mastery over death! It is only the Fear of Death that enslaves your Soul!
The Key 13 Death Card, during a reading, suggests:
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