Death
 
Death

XIII. Death

This text is from Crowley's Book of Thoth.

This card is attributed to the letter Nun, which means a fish; the symbol of life beneath the waters; life travelling through the waters. It refers to the Zodiacal sign of Scorpio, which is ruled by Mars, the planet of fiery energy in its lowest form, which is therefore necessary to provide the impulse. In alchemy, this card explains the idea of putrefaction, the technical name given by its adepts to the series of chemical changes which develops the final form of life from the original latent seed in the Orphic egg.

This sign is one of the two most powerful in the Zodiac, but it has not the simplicity and intensity of Leo. It is formally divided into three parts; the lowest is symbolized by the Scorpion, which was supposed by early observers of Nature to commit suicide when finding itself ringed with fire, or otherwise in a desperate situation. This represents putrefaction in its lowest form. The strain of environment has become intolerable, and the attacked element willingly subjects itself to change; thus, potassium thrown upon water becomes ignited, and accepts the embrace of the hydroxyl radicle.

The middle interpretation of this sign is given by the serpent, who is, moreover, the main theme of the sign.[1] The serpent is sacred, Lord of Life and Death, and its method of progression suggests the rhythmical undulation of those twin phases of life which we call respectively life and death. The serpent is also, as previously explained, the principal symbol of male energy. From this it will be seen that this card is, in a very strict sense, the completion of the card called Lust, Atu XI, and Atu XII represents the solution or dissolution which links them.

The highest aspect of the card is the Eagle, which represents exaltation above solid matter. It was understood by the early chemists that, in certain experiments, the purest (i.e., most tenuous) elements present were given off as gas or vapour. There are thus represented in this card the three essential types of putrefaction.

The card itself represents the dance of death; the figure is a skeleton bearing a scythe, and both the skeleton and the scythe are importantly Saturnian symbols. This appears strange, as Saturn has no overt connection with Scorpio; but Saturn represents the essential structure of existing things. He is that elemental nature of things which is not destroyed by the ordinary changes which occur in the operations of Nature. Furthermore, he is crowned with the crown of Osiris; he represents Osiris in the waters of Amennti. Yet more, he is the original secret male creative God: see Atu XV. "Redeunt Saturnia regna."[2] It was only the corruption of the Tradition, the confusion with Set, and the Cult of the Dying God, misunderstood, deformed and distorted by the Black Lodge, that turned him into a senile and fiendish symbol.

With the sweep of his scythe he creates bubbles in which are beginning to take shape the new forms which he creates in his dance; and these forms dance also.

In this card the symbol of the fish is paramount; the fish (Il pesce, as they call him in Naples and many other places) and the serpent are the two principal objects of worship in cults which taught the doctrines of resurrection or re-incarnation. Thus we have Oannes and Dagon, fish gods, in western Asia; in many other parts of the world are similar cults. Even in Christianity, Christ was represented as a fish. The Greek work IXThUS, "which means fish And very aptly symbolizes Christ",[3] as Browning reminds one, was supposed to be a notariqon, the initials of a sentence meaning "Jesus Christ Son of God, Saviour". Nor is it an accident that St. Peter was a fisherman. The Gospels, too, are full of miracles involving fish, and the fish is sacred to Mercury, because of its cold-bloodedness, its swiftness and its brilliance. There is moreover the sexual symbolism. This again recalls the function of Mercury as the guide of the dead, and as the continuing elastic element in nature.

This card must then be considered as of greater importance and catholicity than would be expected from the plain Zodiacal attribution. It is even a compendium of universal energy in its most secret form.


[1]The Qabalists embodied in the Book of Genesis, Caps I and II, this doctrine of regeneration. NChSh, the Serpent in Eden, has the value 358: so also MShICh, Messiah. He is, accordingly, in the secret doctrine, the Redeemer. The thesis may be developed at great length. Later in the Legend, the doctrine reappears in slightly different symbolism as the story of the Flood, elsewhere in this Essay explained. Of course, the Fish is identical in essence with the Serpent; for Fish = NVN = Scorpio = Serpent. Also, Teth, the letter of Leo, means Serpent. But Fish is also the Vesica, or Womb, and Christ — and so on. This symbol resumes the whole Secret Doctrine.
[2]The reign of Saturn returns.
[3]Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book, 1868-69
[1]The Qabalists embodied in the Book of Genesis, Caps I and II, this doctrine of regeneration. NChSh, the Serpent in Eden, has the value 358: so also MShICh, Messiah. He is, accordingly, in the secret doctrine, the Redeemer. The thesis may be developed at great length. Later in the Legend, the doctrine reappears in slightly different symbolism as the story of the Flood, elsewhere in this Essay explained. Of course, the Fish is identical in essence with the Serpent; for Fish = NVN = Scorpio = Serpent. Also, Teth, the letter of Leo, means Serpent. But Fish is also the Vesica, or Womb, and Christ — and so on. This symbol resumes the whole Secret Doctrine.
[2]The reign of Saturn returns.
[3]Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book, 1868-69
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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An Interactive QabalahThe Mother lettersSeven of Swords A Brief Introduction to QabalahNepheshSix of Swords Kether, the CrownNeshamahFive of Swords Chokmah, WisdomThe Veil of ParokethFour of Swords Binah, UnderstandingPermutations of the NameThree of Swords Daath, KnowledgeThe Three PillarsTwo of Swords QliphothThe ProfaneAce of Disks Chesed, MercyReflectionKnight of Disks Geburah, StrengthRuachQueen of Disks Tiphareth, BeautySefer Yetzirah, the Book of FormationPrince of Disks Netzach, VictorySeverityPrincess of Disks Hod, SplendorThe simple lettersTen of Disks Yesod, FoundationWhat is a Soul?Nine of Disks Malkuth, KingdomThe SoulsEight of Disks AlefThe Supernal TriadSeven of Disks BetThe FoolSix of Disks GimelThe MagusFive of Disks DalethThe PriestessFour of Disks HehThe EmpressThree of Disks VauThe EmperorTwo of Disks ZainThe HierophantAdjustment ChethThe LoversAeon TethThe ChariotArt YodAdjustmentThe Chariot KaphThe HermitDeath LamedFortuneDevil MemLustThe Emperor NunThe Hanged ManThe Empress SamekhDeathThe Fool AyinArtFortune PehThe DevilThe Hanged Man TzaddiThe TowerThe Hermit QophThe StarThe Hierophant ReshThe MoonThe Lovers ShinThe SunLust TauThe AeonThe Magus The Qabalistic WorldsThe UniverseThe Moon Atziluth, ArchetypesAce of WandsThe Priestess Briah, the CreativeKnight of WandsThe Star Yetzirah, the FormativeQueen of WandsThe Sun Assiah, the ActivePrince of WandsThe Tower The court cardsPrincess of WandsThe Universe The AcesTen of WandsHebrew alphabet transliterations The KnightsNine of WandsThe Triads The QueensEight of WandsThe Qabalistic Veils The PrincesSeven of WandsThe Name of Names, YHVH The PrincessesSix of WandsAlef The TensFive of WandsAyin The NinesFour of WandsBet The EightsThree of WandsCheth The SevensTwo of WandsDaleth The SixesAce of CupsThe double letters The FivesKnight of CupsGimel The FoursQueen of CupsHeh The ThreesPrince of CupsKaph The TwosPrincess of CupsLamed The 32 Paths of WisdomTen of CupsMem The AbyssNine of CupsThe mother letters Adam Kadmon, the Body of GodEight of CupsNun AlchemySeven of CupsPeh The Alef-Bet in Space and TimeSix of CupsQoph The Ari TreeFive of CupsResh The Astral TriadFour of CupsSamekh The double lettersThree of CupsShin The Ethical TriadTwo of CupsThe simple letters the Flash of LightAce of SwordsTau The Gra TreeKnight of SwordsTeth The 72 Hidden Names of GodQueen of SwordsThe Tree of Life The Tree of LifePrince of SwordsTzaddi The Hebrew alef-bet letter classesPrincess of SwordsVau MercyTen of SwordsYod MildnessNine of SwordsZain The Presence of the Most HighEight of Swords