Reorienting on the Night, Devotion in the Dark

Dear Friend and Reader:

Writer Jeanette Winterson ‘gets’ the allure of Scorpio, even if she never mentions the sign in her recent piece for The Guardian about why she adores the night. I am tempted to paste her entire piece here, because it is so gorgeous in its imagery, and in its seductively simple understanding of why the long nights of late fall invite ways of understanding ourselves that the long days of summer cannot provide.

Jupiter and the Milky Way shine above the prominent figure of the constellation Scorpius, while Babak Tafreshi, a photographer from Tehran, Iran, sets up another shot. Photo by Babak Tafreshi.

For example, she writes that there is a complicity in darkness when it provides the backdrop for late afternoon lovemaking; the “slow extended time of love and night” creating a different kind of bonding with the body of your unseen lover; a contentment that is warm and heavy.

Winterson acknowledges the alchemical contrast between the cold darkness outdoors (or cold dark of your bedroom) and the warmth and light of a fire in the hearth. Or between the limited, insulating glow of a candle illuminating only what is immediate, and leaving a vast expanse of frosty night around you — extending even to within your home. In the cooler months of shorter days, dusk signals sleep and dreams much earlier than our electrically powered lives will allow us to observe.

The night opens its arms to our dreaming. Regarding the value of the dreamtime to human wellbeing (such as for solving difficult problems), Winterson writes, “The night allows this dream time, and the heavier, thicker dark of winter gives us a chance to dream a little while we are awake — a kind of reverie or meditation, the constellation of slowness, silence and darkness that sits under the winter stars.”

Winterson’s love of the darkness of this season even extends to food:

“When friends from London arrive, high on electric light, like hamsters on a 24/7 wheel, I slow them down by feeding them food with darkness sealed in it: deep red venison stewed in claret, carp from the bottom of the river, root vegetables grown in rich black earth.”

“Rebirth (Pt. 1)” by Aldous Massie;

There is something in her essay that has described to me the beauty of Scorpio. This sign holds mysteries in its very vibration, as does the night. Fittingly, Scorpio is a ‘night’ sign (though there are five others around the zodiac, and six corresponding ‘day’ signs); it is the ‘night house’ of Mars, while Aries is the ‘day house’.

It should perhaps be no surprise, then, that the mysteries of sexual surrender — or of the surrender of life, which we call death — cannot be unlocked to equal effect in the brightness of the spring (Aries) equinox. Even though spring holds the magic of new life. Yes, people die and make love in all seasons, all weather, day or night. That’s not what I mean.

I mean that, as Winterson points out, the daylight orients us on our external experiences. It is the night, the darkness — Scorpio — that compels us inward: to our secrets; to the subterranean well of our emotions; to the existential fear of annihilation we all face when nothing is able to mirror us back to ourselves. Are we dead in that moment? No; but we face the abyss of the unknowable to which we all, at some point, must succumb.

That can be terrifying. Perhaps there is something about Scorpio’s intimacy with the dark that fuels this sign’s (often undeserved) reputation for sharpness, cruelty and possessiveness (its shadow side). One could see it as a kind of reaction to the darkness in less-evolved Scorpionic souls; when we lack an inner stillness, do we lose our sense of oneness with the abyss?

And yet… There is much comfort to be found in the dark, in the reprieve from always being “on” just like a fluorescent light bulb. The darkness gives us a space that the light cannot — a space that can be generative and womb-like. (Winterson describes that ideas come to her in the dark that would have no chance against the distractions visible with the lights on.)

The one and only Aleister Crowley.

Scorpio does rule the generative system (the genitals), by means of which we come into the world. Why shouldn’t the seed of an idea need darkness to germinate, just like the seed of any other fruit?

But how does Scorpio as a zodiac sign hold up in practice against these musings about the dark — its ability to hold as much comfort as fear; the promise of renewal alongside the threat of annihilation?

Legendary occultist Aleister Crowley writes, in The General Principles of Astrology, that the Scorpio native is “easily aroused to anger and makes a most dangerous enemy.” Yet all signs have their positive and negative expressions. Immediately following, Crowley remarks how tremendous contrast is possible between the evolved and the un-evolved Scorpionic soul:

“But it is doubtful if any sign in the zodiac illustrates so markedly the contrast between the spiritually awakened soul and its opposite. Crafty and cunning, with intense passions and jealousies, and with a vindictiveness which will wreak insatiable revenges, the Scorpio becomes, under higher impulses, indefatigable in his desire to help mankind, and his coldness and insensibility to the sufferings of others is transmuted into devotion and self-sacrifice. The coolness of demeanor and stern sense of justice and integrity, together with uncontrollable desire for freedom, may degenerate into harshness, selfishness and discontent, or blossom into efficiency, sympathy and true generosity.” [Emphasis mine.]

It is all too easy to fixate on the ‘shadow side’ (in the Jungian, psychological sense) of any sign, especially those that tend to express with particular intensity. If Scorpio has earned its reputation mainly based on its shadow expression, rather than for its more creative, productive and soulful potential, we might consider how easy it is to be provoked in this world we live in.

We hurt each other — whether through intentional betrayal or the inadvertent failure to be compassionate — all too often. For some, the lesson is to learn to stand up for oneself; for others, it is that vengeance is not the same as justice, and that ultimately it harms both parties.

Speaking to the shadow side of Scorpio, Alice A. Bailey, in Esoteric Astrology, reminds us that, “the worst kind of cruelty is not of a physical nature but is more mental in character.” Bailey’s writings represent just one viewpoint on astrology; I myself am not a Bailey scholar, but have taken my cue from notes on Esoteric Astrology provided by Eric.

Award-winning author Jeanette Winterson has a Virgo Sun, not Scorpio — but something in her chart must connect her to the essence of that sign. Read her mini-bio in her own words on her website. Photo by David Rose / The Telegraph UK.

Regarding the quote above, I would note that most people, regardless of their sign, have at one point or another allowed their painful, difficult-to-handle emotions to express as words or actions intended to hurt another person. It is an option and a choice; it is not ideal, but it can be learned from. In learning from it, you have an opportunity to forgive yourself, to heal, and to acquire tools so that you might choose differently in the future.

Bailey also describes Scorpio’s “tests of appetite,” by which she seems to mean “control.” In other words, that mind over emotion, or the mental regulation of emotion, is the core ‘test’ of Scorpio, as Eric has explained it to me in an email exchange.

Bailey adds, “The keynote of Scorpio, however, is triumph. That is its major expression upon the physical plane.” We hear this echoed in Crowley’s description of this sign’s indefatigable nature and pursuit of justice.

Scorpio is traditionally ruled by Mars — hence the combative impulses, the competition, the doggedness in pursuing what is desired (whether that be sex, punishment, justice or something else). In our modern-day culture of never-ending war and sexual chaos, it can be easy to relegate Mars to the status of pugilist or sex addict (or both).

However, Bailey also notes that it must “never be forgotten that Mars establishes relations between the opposites and is a beneficent and not a malefic factor, as is so often supposed.” She adds that Scorpio is about “the process of reorientation.” But reorientation on what?

I Came Unto Myself In a Dark Wood by Paul Benney; oil on canvas.

It is worth remembering that Scorpio’s modern ruler, Pluto, is just as necessary an ingredient in our lives, despite our extreme discomfort with it (or outright fear of it). One of Pluto’s key phrases is “change or die.”

Even taken at a metaphoric level — the “death” of some old way of being or behaving — this scares people enough that many try to avoid it at all costs. Our culture is rife with ways to numb yourself to any impulse to change that might be desperately trying to push though your consciousness.

Speaking of consciousness: right now, the Sun (ego, awareness) and Mercury (intellect, communication) are both in Scorpio, providing the filter through which we experience the rest of the sky, shading the tones of our consciousness. Incidentally, Mercury is the esoteric ruler of Scorpio, according to Bailey.

I have a few friends who simply adore the themes and energy of “Scorpio Season,” in the same way Winterson relishes the long nights this season hastens in. To bring this Scorpionic contemplation full circle, a couple of the astrological aspects germinating as we end the week relate directly to the images she paints with her words.

The first is a trine between Mercury in early Scorpio to Neptune in early Pisces, exact Friday at 9:39 am EDT (13:39 UTC). Here is your invitation to submerge yourself in the dreamtime, whether asleep or in a waking reverie, as Winterson describes. We need the dreamtime, as we need the darkness, for our wellbeing on all levels.

Photo by Amanda Painter.

Mercury-Neptune trines can be inspirational, poetic and creative, and indicate psychic or mystic aptitude — note that the veil between the worlds is still thin (in fact, the Sun reaches the midpoint of Scorpio on Saturday).

I make no promises about anything you try with a ouija board. But there are other ways — more internal and less performative — to explore your sensitivity to the subtler aspects of life.

Your dreams and visions could be of great benefit to you; they may carry a practical idealism to them right now. As described above by Crowly, Scorpio is a persevering sign — and Bailey uses the word “triumph.”

The second aspect is Venus in Virgo (a Mercury-ruled earth sign) opposite Vesta in Aries (a Mars-ruled fire sign), exact Saturday at 7:13 am EDT (11:13 UTC). In her essay, Winterson juxtaposes the chilly bedroom and frosty darkness outdoors with her roaring fire and flickering candles, reveling in the sensual, invigorating frisson produced by the contrast.

Astrologically, Venus-Vesta in these signs shows us a cool, detached desire to serve confronted by the active embodiment of devotion: the hearth itself, the blazing erotic core at the center of each one of us.

Fire, water, darkness, emotion, sex, death; all of these things might ask us to surrender. Perhaps Scorpio, like Vesta, really asks that we surrender to devotion. Could that be the “reorientation” Bailey speaks of? Let me know if you find out.

Yours & truly,

Weekly Horoscope for Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, #1074 | By Len Wallick

Aries (March 20-April 19) — It’s not likely anybody is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, even though it’s always possible. Neither is it necessarily true that you are in denial, although it can happen to the best of us on occasion. It does appear, however, that you are missing some information you need to see the whole picture. As a result, you must make a decision about what decisions you can make right now, and what situations require more data. To simplify things, ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen, and plunge ahead to get things done when the risk feels acceptable. If the risk feels too great, ask yourself if you can hold the tension while doing some detective work to get the whole story. Either way, being in action is the key, above and beyond what or how you decide. — by Len Wallick

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — If you are not in a partnership now, there may be one looking for you. Should you already be navigating through an existence of co-mingled assets and mutual aspirations, you might soon need to adjust your style of participation so things work better for everybody involved. Either way, it would be a good idea to go back to basics and be fully aware of what you are either getting into, or working with. Here’s a primer: partnerships are neither independence nor dependence, at least ideally. Rather, there are elements of both. Two heads are better than one, unless those heads are butting. Labors shared are also less burdensome, so long as they are shared fairly. Communicating your values and keeping your balance are the crucial skills either to acquire or to enhance. — by Len Wallick

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Everybody has their limits. It’s what you do with your limits that distinguishes you from everybody else. Perhaps nowhere else do limits show up more vividly than the nexus where relationship and career meet. Assuming you have both a private life and some sort of public life, now would be a good time to patrol and inspect that border to be conscious of what you have there. If there is a fence between the world and your world, try to remember how it got there, what purpose it now serves, the state of its repair and whether a more open border would define you better on both sides. If there is a hedge, it would be a good idea to meditate on the difference between it and a fence. If there is no demarcation at all, you might want to at least know where the line is, should you ever need to cross it or draw it. — by Len Wallick

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Time is of the essence for you, but probably not in the usual sense. Rather than a constant focus on making every minute count, you may want to lift your head and look longer term. It might do you a lot of good to place yourself in the history of the world, even if you are currently of little note. It may well be more than just an exercise to draw your family tree and identify whether you are the root, trunk, limb, branch, an offshoot, a leaf or the fruit relative to your relatives. Finally, think about what you do. It would not be an idle pursuit to find out where, when, and with whom your skills originated, while also recalling how you first learned them. This could be vital. Indications are that you have been a long time coming, and that you are more than you have ever given yourself credit for being. — by Len Wallick

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Fun need not be frivolity. It’s possible to apply yourself while also having the time of your life. Many are resigned to work and fun being separate things, but there is no need for you to go down that path unconsciously. Better to know that you have a choice, and take it with awareness even if you ultimately elect a road more often taken. As a matter of fact you now appear to be approaching a crossing where you can safely turn off onto a different road if you want. It’s probably not a lighted intersection, however, so it would help if you know the signs. This is not so much about right livelihood (as good an idea as that is). Rather, you may want to think about what distinguishes righteous from merely right. Most of all, you will want to be in touch with what makes and keeps you feeling lively. — by Len Wallick

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Just look at you — and in the best light possible. Are you even half as impressed with yourself as some observant and knowledgeable others surely must be? Can you allow yourself to be just a little proud of what you have become since this time last year? You need not worry about a little bit of pride bringing on a fall. Rather, be concerned with not appreciating yourself enough. In order to give yourself something other than criticism while constantly reinforcing a personal awareness of your own evolution, consider bringing your personal environment up to date. Surround yourself with reminders of who and what you are now. Display emblems of where you have recently been, and what you have recently achieved. This is not about showing off; it’s about showing yourself in. — by Len Wallick

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — We each have an array of simple habits we constantly practice without thinking. And why not? Why not put the same leg of your pants on first, day after day? But is it really a question of why? If you change the phrase ‘why not’ to ‘how not’, your life could suddenly become a lot more interesting where it is now most boring. Indeed, you could eventually become more interesting to others if you follow where putting the other leg on first ultimately takes you. To begin with, it will be a very private experience, which requires you to be more aware of what used to be an unconscious moment. Gradually, however, the practice of thinking about the prosaically habitual and breaking its patterns will probably tell you something about yourself that you didn’t know. Where the body goes, the mind must follow. — by Len Wallick

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Somebody once asked poet Robert Frost what word he would purge from the English language if he had the power to erase it from print and memory. He chose “exclusive” to exclude because of how it so often divides and separates people from one another. In your own case, you might want to consider refraining from using the word “mine” for the same reason. First off, if there is anybody who knows that nothing is exclusively yours, it’s you. You know that everything in the material world is ultimately and constantly shared. Deep down inside you also understand that what defines you or anybody else is precisely what you have in common with everybody else. Indeed, if you can bring yourself to use only what words express your inner truth, rather than words that hide or betray it, what you would truly possess could only be called soul. — by Len Wallick

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Most people understand what political freedom looks like. Some folks even choose to practice it by voting, to cite just one example. How you define, understand, experience and practice personal freedom is another matter entirely, because it is not about others or their power over you. It’s about how you refer to yourself. As Nelson Mandela demonstrated by his own example, personal freedom is available even in jail. To become an example for yourself, begin with the phrase ‘I am.’ Whenever one says, ‘I am (something or other),’ it creates a definition of self. Definitions are good, but they can also often limit, or even imprison you — especially if you become attached to them. Therefore, turning things around and experimenting with ‘I am not’ can help to release attachments and open the door to other possibilities. — by Len Wallick

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — There are assumptions that go unquestioned because our physical senses support them. This is sometimes called common sense. Common sense is useful, but it also keeps you within its limits. If there is anybody who is now ready to move beyond the limits common sense imposes, it is you. Begin with the assumption that thought and form are different things. Our physical senses tell us that this is so. Yet can you prove that anything with tangible form is not a thought? Can you argue against the possibility that everything with tangible form began as a thought? To answer those questions, experiment with thinking about yourself, but in a very specific way. Instead of thinking about what you want, what you now are, or what you now do, carry with you a thought of something to be, and watch what form you take as a result. — by Len Wallick

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Regardless of what you think or how you feel about how others perceive you, you might want to at least try some of those perceptions on for size before allowing anybody to convince you that you should buy into them. If what you try on does not fit or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, put it back on the rack. The perceptions others have of you are shaped partly by their own experiences, fears and incomplete understanding of you, in addition to what you present to them; still, it cannot hurt to consider how your actions my have influenced their conclusions. On the other hand, if trying on somebody else’s perception of you makes you think ‘this is me’ or ‘I could rock this’, then you can proceed to contemplate how to tailor it. Calculate the price of owning it. If you do choose to own a perception you’ve received, wear it with pride and confidence while also remembering that at any time you can also choose to change into something you have conceived on your own. — by Len Wallick

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — The idea of earning your own way in the world need not be limited to making enough money to purchase food, clothing and shelter while otherwise maintaining financial solvency. As you have discovered and proven, there are other forms of currency besides legal tender. Reputation is one example. So is authority. Right now you are in a position to redefine what reputation means and where authority comes from, without risking any sort of social or moral bankruptcy. If you so wish, you can now dispense with what previous generations considered to be the right ways to look, live, and work in order to receive respect and gain acceptance. Furthermore, you are now also able to demonstrate by example how others might earn their own way in their own way without having to employ or support a hand-me-down to do so. — by Len Wallick

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