The Serpent and the Thistle: Reflections on the Solstice Moon in Scorpio 22nd December 2019

December 21, 2019

Yuletide traditionally celebrates the retreat of darkness before the light and, this Sunday when the Sun enters the sign of Capricorn, marking the astrological Winter Solstice (or Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere), the message in the heavens is of rebirth and regeneration, with both the Moon and Mars placed in the transformative sign of Scorpio.    



At 09 Scorpio 00, the Moon is within the bounds of the 18th Lunar Mansion known as Al-Qalib; 'The Heart of the Scorpion' derived from this mansion's association with (and former proximity to) the star Antares in the constellation Scorpio.  The image of this mansion, that of a serpent holding its tail above its head, describes its key theme of protection (particularly relating to health): Ruled by Mars (the Lesser Malefic) this mansion shows us that, just as venom is a key ingredient in the antidote to the bite from a snake, so can martial energies, when well dignified and judiciously applied, protect against threatening danger, or provide the necessary energy for defence and recovery. However, just as the difference between poison and cure can often be a mere matter of dosage, such powerful energy must be diligently controlled and applied. 


Similarly, a herb of Mars such as the thistle, of which Culpeper writes; "It strengthens the attractive faculty in man and clarifies the blood", and also guards against infection and "the bitings of venomous beasts",  works in a manner which defends and strengthens, characteristic of Mars at his best. Garlic and onions, also under the rulership of Mars, are similarly highly prized for their ability to support the immune system in defending itself against infection.

The 18th Lunar Mansion is recommended for the performance of magical operations concerning healing, particularly in cases of stomach complaints and poisoning, and for creating amulets to repel venomous creatures.  As Cornelius Agrippa writes; "In the eighteenth, against Feavors and pains of the belly, they made a seal of Copper, being in the image of a Snake, holding his tail above his head, and they perfumed it with Harts-horn (possibly a substance made from red deer antlers or the Mars-ruled anemone), and reported the same seal to put to flight Serpents".  Interestingly, copper is a metal ruled by Venus, and deer are ruled by Jupiter;  the inclusion of certainly one, perhaps two elements associated with benefic planets may have been intended to balance and mollify the pernicious effects of an excess of Mars.  


Just as the Sun moves in to Capricorn, marking the transition to a new season, so the Moon is soon to progress from the 1st to the 2nd decan of Scorpio.  The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn associated Scorpio's first decan with the tarot card 5 of Cups, under the astrological rulership of Mars in Scorpio. 

 The title of this card; "Disappointment" together with the image from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, which shows a black-cloaked figure mourning three spilt cups, whilst apparently heedless of the two which remain upright, focus on the negative aspects of this decan, which speak of loss and regret due to an excess of desire and emotion.  The message of the 6 of Cups far more optimistic:  Just as clear skies and sunshine often follow a storm, this card is ruled by the Sun in Scorpio, which does much to exalt and ennoble the motivations of this powerful sign. 


The Sun is of a similar hot and dry nature to Mars and, like Mars, gems under the rulership of the Sun are much sought after for their protective qualities.  In Vedic astrology, coral is said to come under the rulership of Mars, whilst in Western Traditional Astrology, it is attributed to the Sun.  In his book "Stars and Stones:  An Astro-Magical Lapidary", Peter Stockinger notes that coral, which legend tells us was created from the drops of blood which fell from the severed head of the serpent-haired Medusa, is much valued as a protective charm against the evil eye (Medusa, like the Mars-ruled Basilisk pictured above, could kill with a glance), and, if placed beneath the pillow, will protect the sleeper from nightmares.  ​​




Protection and guidance is a key theme in Pamela Coleman Smith's illustation for the 6 of Cups:  ​​The Rider-Waite-Smith deck features two children tending a flower garden whilst themselves being kept safe by a patrolling guard and the strong walls of a castle keep.  The white flowers (or healing herbs) in the garden each have five petals, like a pentagram, the symbol of wisdom, truth and protection.  The castle wall features a heraldic device, the flag of St Andrew, patron saint of singers, fishermen, maidens, gout and of course, Scotland (whose national flower is the thistle), bringing us  back to Mars and his rulerships again!




Wishing all my readers a safe, peaceful and protected Yuletide!


Charts calculated with Astrogold for Mobile

Astrology by LouiseOfArabia



The Mansions of the Moon by Christopher Warnock

Stars and Stones: An Astro-Magical Lapidary by Peter Stockinger

Christian Astrology by William Lilly

The Book of Thoth (Egyptian Tarot) by Aleister Crowley

The Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology by Vivian Robson

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

Culpeper's Medicine by Graeme Toyne

36 Faces by Austin Coppock 

Rider-Waite-Smith Deck by A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman-Smith

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