On a circular disk a brilliant eight-pointed star, blazes low on the horizon; the vertical and horizontal rays are foremost and yellow; the diagonal rays are behind and red. Seven smaller pentagrams in disks (colored violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red, clockwise from lower left) shine around it in the early morning sky; one is aligned with each point of the large star, except with the lowest point.
In the background we see the back side of the tholos (beehive mound) that appeared in XIII.Death and XV.Tower, except that the Tower is gone from its summit, on which new grass now grows. A white cypress tree grows on the right, close behind the woman, from the roots of which a spring feeds the pool; on the left, in the distance, a dark cypress grows beside another pool. Behind the white cypress is the pink dawn sky; elsewhere, especially behind the dark cypress, the sky is light blue, and an old crescent moon is barely visible. A lion-headed bird is perched in the white cypress, and a serpent (red and black banded, its head half black and red) is entwined three and one-half times around the trunk of the dark cypress.
The Star, Moon and Sun are symbols of the orderly progress of the cosmos, and therefore of inexorable fate and destiny. Therefore XVI.Star heralds the Triumph of Eternity, the final triumph of the Major Arcana. From now on the trumps are not so much concerned with the transitions in an individual life, as with how individual lives fit into the pattern of the cosmos, that is, how the ego submits to transpersonal destiny. The iconography of XVI.Star shows an ordered, harmonious cosmos comprising the five elements in their natural forms: earth (the ground), water (the pool), air (the atmosphere), fire (the stars) and spirit (the woman). Furthermore, they are arranged organically, not mechanically, as they were in VIII.Victory. (Nichols 296, 300, 303-4)
We thus see a progression in the rulers of four tetrads that comprise the body of the Major Arcana: I.Magician, Lord Luck, offers opportunity to individuals; X.Fortune, Lady Luck, causes their inevitable rise and fall; XI.Old Man, Lord Destiny, brings the end of all things; and XVI.Star, Lady Destiny, guides them through eternity. As the personal triumphs yield to the universal triumphs, so Mercury and Fortuna, the agents of transformation, yield to Saturn and Rhea, the regents of a new Golden Age.
The star represents a guiding force: sailors use the stars to set their course, farmers use them to tell the seasons, and astrologers use them to chart the course of history. When the Sun has set and the Moon is dark - in psychological terms, when we have neither solar nor lunar illumination - then the stars are our only guide. They are the "inner constellations" (the chakras), which are always there, but invisible in the glare of consciousness. (Nichols 299, 304)
Since the star guides us through the darkest times, it is a familiar symbol of hope and promise. Indeed, this Star of Hope is born from the glowing ashes of the demolished Tower. XVI.Star also represents the Star of Isis (Sothis = Sirius), whose rising heralds the return of the rains and the rebirth of the Nile, and so of all things, for Isis is the Queen of Heaven who governs the cosmos. Since the cosmos cannot be rushed (or delayed), the woman shows the appropriate attitude: she waits, serene with inner calm, accepting the conditions necessary for eventual change. Thus the Star has connections to both XII.Hanged Traitor, who also waits in suspension, and to XI.Old Man, who teaches the value of time. (The old crescent moon in the Star's sky recalls the shape of the Old Man's sickle.) (Cooper s.v. star; Gad 271-2; Nichols 310; Sharman-Burke 107; SB&G 70-1; Pollack 112; Walker 119)
Moakley (106) thinks it appropriate that XVI.Star follows XV.Tower (Hellmouth), since after Dante emerged from Hell in the Inferno, the first thing he saw were the stars, a welcome sign of hope and rebirth.)
The Stella Matutina (Morning Star) is also a sign of hope, for it heralds a new dawn, a time of renewal, the rebirth of the sun. Thus the Morning Star, which is associated with Aphrodite, Isis and Ishtar, is also called Phosphoros or Lucifer (Light-bringer). Venus as the Morning Star also establishes a connection between XVI.Star and II.Empress. (Gad 271; Sharman-Burke 107; Walker 118) (The connection to Venus, the Cuprian, is shown by the coppery complexion of the woman; see also II.Empress.)
In the wreckage of the old world of beliefs, symbolized by the Tower, logical planning and activity have little chance of success; the wheels of destiny turn, but we don't understand the principles of this cosmos. The Astral (Star) Woman shows us the proper stance: she waits humbly, and has no rational plans or expectations for the future. However, she has hope, and the will to live, to go on, and to achieve a new level of integration and health, no matter what path destiny takes. Intuition and courageous acceptance replace logic and futile attempts at control. (Pollack I.112; Sharman-Burke 108; SB&G 70-1)
The well-known myth of Pandora and the jar explains how Hope came into the world. Superficial interpretations of the story ignore its inherent mystery. The ills were impotent so long as they were in the jar, but Pandora released them. On the other hand, she replaced the lid before Elpis (Hope) could escape, which would seem to imply that although all the ills are free in the world, Hope is not. One explanation is based on the observation that Elpis means "expectation" more than "hope." The myth shows that we are better off without expectation of future improvement, which only leads to further disappointment; "hope without expectation of improvement" is the positive outcome from Pandora's mistake and quick recovery. This might appeal to the Greeks who said, "Count no man happy until he is dead." (Gantz 157)
More positively, giving up expectation could be interpreted as living in the present moment, without hope or worry for the future, and without nostalgia or regret for the past. These are the remedies she pours from the two drinking horns, Ambrosia and Nepenthe. Ambrosia, the drink of the gods, comes from ambrotos (immortal), and when we drink it, we forget our fate. Nepenthes grants relief from penthos - grief, sadness, mourning, sorrow; it washes away regret. (LSJ s.vv. ambrosia, ambrotos, nepenthes, penthos)
In Greek myth, as in Genesis, the first woman is the agent of humanity's promotion from the blissful unawareness of the first Golden Age, to the self-conscious struggle of human existence. In Hesiod (W&D 42-105), as in Genesis, the woman is set up, entrapped. Indeed, Hesiod tells us that the Pandora affair was a direct consequence of Prometheus stealing the celestial illumination of Zeus and giving it to mankind. Pandora's mistake is a consequence of her curiosity, a characteristic of humanity which is dangerous, but also the force behind many of our accomplishments. Thanks to curious Pandora, thoughtful Prometheus, and even impulsive Epimetheus, we are human, though life might be less stressful if we were still the blissfully ignorant pets of the Olympians.
"Pandora" means "all giver" or "all endowed," and even Hesiod says that Athena gave her skill in the crafts, and Aphrodite gave her charm and attractiveness. (Her failings - shamelessness and treachery - are credited to Hermes.) She is also called Anesidora, "Sender-forth of all Gifts," which is a name of earth goddesses. Indeed, Pandora was probably originally an earth goddess; in some early representations we see her emerging from the ground like Kore, and it is said that she was created from clay and water. But she was an earth goddess of a special kind, for she was made (by Hephaistos, Prometheus, or Epimetheus, in different versions). Thus the myths stress the close connection of women and the earth, but also show that the feminine was a cooperative creation of primordial humanity and the earth. By this creation, humankind was completed, and we came into the ills and opportunities of our full humanity. (Gantz 163-5; Kerenyi, Gods 219-20; OCD s.v. Prometheus)
Fortuna, Lady Luck (X.Fortune), and Pandora, Lady Destiny (XVI.Star), are complementary aspects of Shri Lakshmi, the Indic goddess who is the source of all good things (Dexter 80).
The Astral Woman has emerged from the unconscious depths, to which she will eventually return. She is a complement to the Self, the Anima of a man, the Shadow of a woman. Formerly she was imprisoned in the Tower (the overactive ego) "by cruel King Logos," but was freed by a bolt from the blue, which caused her to fall into the Abyssal waters, from which she emerges reborn. The devastating bolt, actively transforming the world, contrasts with cool, quiet starlight, passively guiding those who choose to peer into the darkness. The stars have crystalized around the puridia, the sparks of heavenly illumination scattered by the bolt (see XV.Tower). (Nichols 296, 299, 301, 306, 309)
In IX.Fortitude we also saw a triumph of the feminine anima over the masculine logos, however, there the anima was a component of the individual Self in the realm of the personal triumphs. In XVI.Star we are dealing with the Transcendent Self, for the Astral Woman is the cosmic anima, and the unversal triumphs. Further, the Abyssal waters confronting the Astral Woman come from a much deeper layer than the primitive, animal instincts of the lion, who lives above ground. (Crowley 110; Nichols 301-2)
Unlike the clothed figures ejected from the Tower, the reborn Astral Woman is naked; she is, in an appropriate Tantric phrase, "skyclad" (digambara), as expected of a Star Woman. Like Isis Unveiled, she is Naked Truth, unselfconsciously exposed and without pretense, feeling no necessity to hide behind a persona (mask); no ego conceals her from the world. Nor is she protected from reality, for she is in full contact with Nature, "exposed to the elements" (all of which are represented in this trump in their natural forms: ground, pool, air and stars). She is like Inanna (Ishtar), emerging naked from her rebirth in the Underworld, which is below the Abyssal Waters (see also the Eights in the Minor Arcana). She has united heaven and earth, spirit and matter, by descending from Heaven into the Abyss and returning. (Black & Green s.v. underworld; Gad 266, 269, 271-3; Nichols 295-6, 301, 303-4, 310; Sharman-Burke 107; Walker 118) Butterworth (Tree 75-8) argues that nakedness is characteristic of the "ecstatic, trance-like or visionary state" through which one attains "exalted, god-like knowledge."
The Astral Woman is out of this world; hers is not the linear time of the bolt or of XI.Old Man (Time), but the cyclic universal rhythms (rhuthmoi) of Rhea (Nichols 301). Together, they govern all change, for all change can be described as a combination of cyclic and linear motions. This can be shown mathematically (any physical motion is a superposition of complex exponentials), but it was also explained by Aristotle: the only fundamental motions are circumferential (revolving) and radial (up or down). Pherekydes says (Gantz 740) that all the gods descended from Time (Chronos) and Earth (Ge or Chthonie), that is, Lord and Lady Destiny, who are responsible for progressive and cyclic change. This is why Chronos is an old man (XI.Old Man), but Rhea (XVI.Star) is a young woman: he get progressively older but she is cyclically reborn.
Rhea is the Great Mother; she was called Meter and is identified with both Demeter (explained as De-meter = Ge-meter = Earth Mother) and Cybele, who was originally the goddess of caverns. It's also possible that the name "Rhea" derives from an early word for Earth, and she is said to be the daughter of Gaia. We may also distinguish Demeter, goddess of the cultivated earth, from Cybele and Rhea, goddesses of the natural earth. (Gantz 43; Larousse 150) Finally, Graves (39.8) identifies Rhea with Pandora, the All-giver. Indeed, like Fortuna (Lady Luck), we often see Rhea (Lady Destiny) holding the Cornucopia, which, like the Grail and Ceridwen's Cauldron, is never empty, for it was Rhea who on Mt. Ida nourished the infant Zeus from the Horn of Amalthea, the Capricorn (Gantz 41).
Rhea (the Lady of the Tree of Life and the Water of Life at its roots) also figures in the story of Pelops' shamanic initiation. As is usual, he was initiated by his father Tantalus (son of Zeus) by being cut into pieces, boiled in the Purifying Cauldron and given to the gods to eat, though only Demeter ate a part, his shoulder. Zeus blasted Tantalus' castle on the peak of a mountain sacred to Rhea (Ida or Sipylos), where the banquet took place (cf. XV.Tower). Thereafter Rhea drew the regenerated Pelops from the Cauldron of Rebirth, whole except for an ivory shoulder, which became his badge of participation in the Underworld. This ceremony of rebirth, with its symbolic Teknophagia (Eating of Children) took place during the Saturnalia, the New Year's carnival that is the framework for the Major Arcana (for more on the Saturnalia, see the Introduction to the Maj. Arc., 0.Fool and I.Magician). (It will be recalled that when Tantalus tried to become a god, he was punished for his hybris by being forced to stand in the Water of Life below the Tree of Life, without being able to reach either the water or the fruit of the tree.) (Butterworth, Traces 135-42, 144-5; Eliade, Sham. 36-8, 53-66, 328; Gantz 531-2; Harrison, Themis 243-6, 248-51)
The large star is the ancient symbol of Ishtar/Inanna, the Lady of Heaven, known for her descent to the Underworld, of which her sister Ereshkigal was Queen. She is Venus, the Morning Star, which heralds the new dawn. She was often depicted with a surrounding nimbus of stars, as in my image. She is frequently seen nude, and was identified with Aphrodite and called Goddess of Beauty and Love. (Black & Green s.v. Inana) Parpola (177-8) identifies her with the Sefirah called Tiferet (Beauty) or Rahamim (Compassion, Love). (See XVII.Moon for an explanation of how the Sefirot correspond to last ten trumps.)
We can recognize the Astral Woman in the description of Siduri (or Shiduri), a manifestation of Ishtar/Inanna (Gardner & Maier 211), in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which I have paraphrased here from the tenth tablet of the Middle Babylonian version of Sin-leqi-unninni. (Column and line numbers of tablet X are given in brackets; see Gardner & Maier for the text.)
As Jung explains, the eight-points of the large star represent completeness, in this case of the Individuated Self; it is the Star Shield of Inanna, a mandala of wholeness, arising for the first time from the stable center in the depths of the pool. Its substance is shown by its colors: red for emotion and yellow for intuition. Its motion is shown by its form, which like Fortune's Wheel comprises the four qualities (yellow rays, intuition) and the four elements (red rays, feeling) generated from them, and rotates to effect the alchemical magnum opus, which is the process of Individuation. (It is worth noting that the Visconti-Sforza Tarot and other early decks have an eight-pointed star; some decks of the eighteenth century and later have five- or seven-pointed central stars.) (Case 177; Gad 266; Kaplan, Vol. I, index s.v. Star; Nichols 296-7)
The five points of the lesser stars show the incompleteness of the corresponding faculties, for each is only a part of the psyche. They are the fragments of our personality, represented by the planets, which revolve around the eight-rayed sun-wheel, the stabilizing center. They are the Pleiades, the Caryatids, the seven priestesses who attend Artemis Caryatis and other goddesses, the Seven Sages; they are the archetypes that influence our lives, and which are destined to merge into the celestial illumination of the integrated Self in the center. Indeed we see that, together, the seven pentagrams do form a whole: 7 X 5 = 35, and 3 + 5 = 8. (Case 177-8; Nichols 296-7, 300; Walker 118-20)
The lesser stars also represent "The Seven" (Babylonian Sebittu, Sumerian Iminbi), an important group of Mesopotamian deities, who may have been the children of Ishhara, who was often identified with Ishtar. They were represented by "the seven dots" (in two parallel rows of three and an extra seventh) or by "the seven stars," the Pleiades, both of which correspond to our seven pentagrams in disks. They surround the eight-rayed star representing Ishtar/Ishhara, their mother. (Black & Green 162) (For examples of the seven dots in association with the eight-pointed star of Ishtar, see Black & Green, figs. 87, 151, 159.)
The eight stars in our image form an augmented hebdomad, that is, a 7+1 structure, or an ogdoad in which one element is distinguished from the rest. Thus the Archetypal Person (Anthropos) is said to have seven souls and one body. Often, in an augmented hebdomad, either the one is the source from which the other seven emanate or the seven find their completion in the one. Recall also that the Pythagoreans call seven the Hidden Monad, so there is a relation between the two Monads. (We may also have combinations, 1 to 7 to 1, or 7 to 1 to 7, or an oscillation between the 1 and the 7.) So, for example, we have the Seven Liberal Arts as emanations from Philosophia, and in Gnostic tradition the seven Archons or Demiurges as emanations from Sophia, who is the Mother over the King(s) of the Seven Heavens, or from Ialdabaoth, her son. (Neumann 326, pl. 165; Pagel & Winder 1969)
The stars in our image represent the Kabiroi (Cabiri), the mysterious ogdoad of Great Gods of Samothrace. They were pre-Greek, possibly Phoenician; Herodotus called them Pelasgian. The Kabiroi were smiths, but also magicians and ecstatic dancers who initiated people into their mystery cult. They are apparently the practitioners of the sort of spiritual metallurgy that Eliade sees as the origin of alchemy (F&C chs. 1-9, esp. pp. 102-3). Orpheus and Odysseus are both said to have been initiated into their mysteries. (Kerenyi, Gods 86; Gantz 346; OCD s.v. Cabiri)
There are various myths about the Kabiroi. Some say they are the sons of Hephaistos and Kabeiro, who was identified with Rhea and Aphrodite (i.e. sons of XIV.Devil and XVI.Star). They were also called Hephaistoi (or Vulcani), because they are his sons and represent different aspects of him, and they were called "Masters of the Furnace" and "Mighty in Fire." Another story (from Pherekydes) says Hephaistos and Kabeiro had six children, three sons and three daughters, who with their parents constitute an ogdoad. (Eliade, F&C 102;Gantz 148; Kerenyi, Gods 86-87; Pagel & Winder 1969)
Pagel and Winder (1969, p. 131-2, 136) have drawn the analogy between the eight Kabiroi and the Eightness that is the source of all natural objects, according to the Paracelsist Gerard Dorn (Physica Genesis, 1613). It comprises four fathers and four mothers: the four astral semina (star seeds) are male, and the four elemental semina (the elements: the matter/mater/mother seeds), are female. The universal genesis arises through an eternal circulation between the Above and the Below, in which the couples join and separate. To confirm the identification, Paracelsus compares the planets to smiths, for all our natural wisdom and skill is born from the union (the hieros gamos - sacred marriage) between our astral and material bodies (astral and elemental semina).
In the nineteenth century Friedrich Creuzer claimed, based on Herodotus, that the Kabiroi were the seven planetary rulers, the sons of Phthas-Zeus, the primordial father: a "one into seven" augmented hebdomad. Against him, F. W. J. Schelling (Brown, ST) argued that they were an ascending series, of which Zeus was the culmination: a "seven into one" augmented hebdomad. "They were thought to be magicians who guided the transcendent world into everyday reality" (Pagel & Winder 1969, 125), much as the Astral Woman does. (There is a passing reference to the Kabiroi in Goethe's alchemically-inspired Faust, Part II, ll. 8071-7.)
Finally we note that Prometheus is sometimes counted among the Kabiroi, and on a black-figure vase we see him and his brother Epimetheus wielding hammers in the creation of a giant Pandora, who emerges from the earth. (Kerenyi, Gods 219; Oswalt 60)
What are we to make of this complex of ogdoads, planets and smith gods? The eight-pointed star is the Star of Isis, symbol of Aphrodite, Rhea, or Sophia. Hers is the complete psyche, from which emanate the seven lesser craftsmen, corresponding to the planets and chakras, who each contribute a part of our wisdom. By their cooperative work, by shaping the water and clay, the Astral Person is born from the Earth's Abyssal womb, as Pandora was created by Hephaistos, Prometheus, Epimetheus, or other Hephaistoi. As in the Orphic grave tablets (4th-3rd cent. BCE) she proclaims, "I am a child of Earth and Starry Heaven," and begs, "Give me quickly the cold water flowing forth from the Lake of Memory" (Cornford 60).
The Lake of Memory in front of the woman is the Abyssal Womb of Rebirth (Re-collection), from which she emerged and to which she will return. In psychological terms the pool holds the waters of the collective unconscious, which flow, deep and dark, beyond the control of any individual. The woman fills her vessels from the pool, taking whatever the unconscious has to offer, and, after consciously blending and decanting the insights offered, returns the water to its source, aerated and refreshed. Though she cannot divert the strong current of the Abyss, she can make her small contribution to its substance and flow. She is Mnemosyne rejuvenating the waters of the Lake of Memory. (Case 175; Nichols 295, 305-7; Pollack I.111; Sharman-Burke 107)
As we see her, the Astral Woman has emerged from the Abyss and sits, high and dry, grounded in physical reality, the world of sensation. But she hovers on the boundary of earth and water, where individual reality meets the collective unconscious; here the two may interact creatively, for she is perched on the threshold of consciousness. (Gad 268; Nichols 295; Pollack I.111; Sharman-Burke 107)
In general, duplication symbolizes conscious discrimination, and we see that it is ubiquitous on the solid earth of consciousness: two vases, two trees, two pools, two animals, etc. (Nichols 298)
The Astral Woman kneels with her left foot on the earth, which shows that she is thoroughly grounded in reality and the world of the body (and the five senses). However, with suggestive symbology (which appears, it seems, as early as the Lando tarot of 1760), she balances herself with her right foot on the surface of the pool, thus she gets her balance through subtle contact with the collective unconscious. Further, because she kneels with her left (unconscious) leg but balances with her right (conscious), we see that she is instinctively grounded, but makes a conscious effort to lean on the collective unconscious. (Case 179-80; Kaplan I.150)
The two rhytons (drinking horns) contain two forms, each with its own purpose, of the same spiritual essence, represented by water, the Aqua Permanens (Enduring Water) or Alkahest (Universal Solvent) of the alchemists, Ambrosia and Nepenthe, which releases us from the bonds of the past. Jung called this essence libido (desire), and defined it as the general (not only sexual) psychological and vital energy (Jung, EJ 17, 51). In psychological terms, this is the emotional energy that fuels everyday life, and the woman has dipped it out of the pool, the stream of the collective unconscious. (Gad 267-8; Nichols 299, 301-2)
The left (unconscious) hand holds the silver vessel and pours the more passive force, spiritual libido, the impulse to know, into material consciousness and the world of sensation; thus the force divides into the five streams of the senses. This input of unconscious, spiritual energy nourishes the intellectual seeds hidden in the earth, where they will germinate unseen by consciousness. The water loosens the earth, so that the seeds can sprout more easily, bringing insights and intuitions into the light of day; the water makes the soil malleable, unlike the hard-baked bricks of the Tower. The earth symbolizes the integration of this unconscious energy into body-wisdom. (Case 175; Crowley 109; Nichols 299, 302, 305; Sharman-Burke 107)
The right (conscious) hand holds the golden vessel and pours the more active force, physical libido, the impulse to live, into the subconscious pool. The concentric ripples integrate the center with the circumference, and represent the circumambulation of the unconscious around the integrated Self. Since the woman pours water into water, which symbolizes procreation, we see that this energy is essentially sexual. (Crowley 109; Gad 272; Nichols 299, 302, 304; Sharman-Burke 107)
In this case the energy returned to the unconscious stream has been aerated and refreshed - revivified by its circulation through the individual conscious mind. In particular, active imagination and meditation can be used to accomplish this recirculation. The resulting effect of individual thought on the collective unconscious is miniscule but real. (Case 175-6; Nichols 295, 305-8) The figure of the Astral Woman recalls Aquarius, the water bearer, which is ruled by Saturn (her husband). Her meditative mixing and remixing of the waters of the unconscious is characteristic of the Aquarian Age. (Crowley 109; Nichols 304) The drinking horns in 16.Star are the same ones held by 7.Temperance (note 1 + 6 = 7), but there the mixing was accomplished at the personal level; here it is at the cosmic level (Nichols 296).
The two libidinal forces manifest in the knowing life and the active life, which are represented by the light blue and pink color, respectively, of the sky. These abstractions are brought to earth by the two cypress trees, for the dark cypress (with its serpent) is the Tree of Knowledge and the white cypress (with its bird) is the Tree of Life. (An even more material manifestation appears in the blue and red roan horses of VIII.Chariot, q.v.; unlike the horses, which struggle at cross-purposes, the trees are firmly rooted in their own place.) (Butterworth, Tree 79-80; Nichols 298-9)
The overall scene may be compared with a gold seal ring found by Schliemann at Mycenae (Butterworth, Tree pl. XXIIb). A goddess sits in front of a tree on the right. In the sky above a young crescent moon on the left is open toward the sun on the right. This is an unnatural arrangement that obtains at the World Naval.
The two trees represent Eros and Eris (Love and Strife) as forces of transformation. The dark Tree of Knowledge represents the impulse to know through intellectual strife and division, which is embodied in the masculine elements air and fire. The white Tree of Life represents the impulse to live through emotional love and union, which is embodied in the feminine elements water and earth. In particular we see the libidinal water being used to break down the shoreline and open the boundary between the conscious (shore) and unconscious (pool). All component of the psyche are revivified by the Water of Life flowing from the roots of the white cypress. (Nichols 306, 309)
The dark cypress (the kishkanu tree) is associated with Enki (Ea) or Hermes, King of the Abyss, who shows the dark way, the night-time path, into the underworld. The white cypress is associated with Ishtar (Inanna) or Aphrodite, Queen of Heaven, who shows the bright way, the daylight path, into the heavens; it is she who pours the double libation at the pool. (Butterworth, Tree 68-71, 215-6; Nichols 302) (The lunar and solar paths are traversed in XVII.Moon and XVIII.Sun. Recall also that Hermes and Aphrodite are the parents of Hermaphroditus, the alchemical androgyne.)
According to the Orphic grave tablets, the deceased is to proceed to the pool by the dark cypress and drink there the water of oblivion; this is the path to the Underworld. The deceased is forbidden to drink from the pool by the white cypress, the Tree of Life, which is the way to Olympus, for this would confer the immortality of the gods. This pool contains the Water of Life, which flows from the spring in the roots of the Tree of Life. (Butterworth, Tree 144-5, 215-6; cf. the "Myth of Er" in Plato's Republic) (See XIII.Death for more on the two cypress trees.)
Both trees are symbols of interconnection. Since a tree grows from earth down into the underworld and up into the heavens, it connects the three worlds. It represents "as above, so below" (as in heaven, so on earth) and "as below, so above" (as in the underworld, so on earth). The tree is also a symbol of the embodiment of the macrocosm in the microcosm, of the transpersonal embodied in the personal, for each tree has a unique, individual shape, yet manifests a universal pattern of growth and development by which the four elements (soil, water, air and light) are incorporated into its substance. (Nichols 298)
The bird is in the white cypress, the way of day, associated with celestial ascent, the sun and the Pingala-nadi; the serpent coils around the dark cypress, the way of night, associated with chthonic descent, the moon and the Ida-nadi (Butterworth, Tree 215-6; see also XIII.Death).
The tree on which the bird perches is the kishkanu tree, the tree of rebirth sought by Gilgamesh in the Abyss. (Butterworth, Tree 159; cf. Black & Green 108)
The lion-headed bird is the Zu bird (the Amar-Anzu or Imdugud) of Sumerian and Babylonian legend, which nests in the sacred Halub tree planted by Inanna, and stole the Tablets of Destiny, which are on a sprig of the Tree of Knowledge and give order to the universe. These tablets belonged to Enki (the teacher of humankind, i.e. Hermes-Thoth) or to the primordial serpent Tiamat. The black color of the Tree of Knowledge represents destiny and is associated with Saturn/Kronos/Chronos, Lord Destiny, who is Hermes Senior (Black & Green 107; Butterworth, Tree 201, 205-6; Cooper s.v. color; Cotterell 56-7; see also I.Magician on the connection between Hermes and Saturn)
The Zu bird is equivalent to the Indian great eagle Garuda, which attacks the Tree of Life (Butterworth, Tree 12). Butterworth (Tree 83) observes, "Garuda represents the flight of the spirit into freedom on its liberation from the dominion of mind and body," a spiritual elevation beyond that achievable by the Kundalini serpent.
In both stories the celestial bird attempts to conquer the chthonic serpent; though initially successful, it is eventually punished for its hubris. The ecstatic flight of the spirit can win only a temporary escape from death. (Butterworth, Tree 154-5) Nevertheless, the bird is our guide to the spirit realms and a symbol of the spirits ability to ascend into the heavens, for it is the Ibis of Immortality, sacred to Isis (Case 179; Nichols 306-7; Pollack I.111; Sharman-Burke 107).
The serpent is in the same dark Tree of Knowledge to which Prometheus was bound, and the bird is the Olympian eagle, which tears his liver (see XII.Hanged Traitor); we see both in a Laconian black-figure vase painting (Butterworth, Tree 205-6, pl. XXVIII). In each case, the chaos created by the bird is temporary; it lasts until the bird is defeated (by Ninurta, Jimutavahana or Heracles) and the tablets are recovered, so that the cosmos is restored. (Black & Green 107; Butterworth, Tree 49, 82-3, 157-60; Cotterell 56-7; Kramer & Maier 141-2) For ancient depictions of the Zu bird, see Black and Green (107) or Wolkstein & Kramer (8).
The Three Lamps of Heaven are Venus (XVI), the Moon (XVII) and the Sun (XVIII). These planets correspond to the metals copper, silver and gold, so we have a progression of increasing nobility, for in some of the earliest alchemical texts (by Mary the Jewess, earlier than the 1st cent. CE) the Great Work begins with copper, transmutes it (by "whitening") to silver, and then transmutes the silver (by "yellowing") to gold (Taylor 116, 133, 135). (These trumps are also Aphrodite, Artemis and Apollo.)
The numerical value of ELPIS (Elpis, Hope) is 325, which reduces to 5-2+3 = 6 in the Hendecad; likewise H PhOSPhOROS, He Phosphoros, the (female) Light-bringer, equals 2448, which reduces to 8-4+4-2 = 6. Both show that XVI.Star has the character of the Hexad, which the Pythagoreans say is the principle of harmony, since it comprises the dyad and the triad, which together generate all the perfect consonances (the octave, fifth and fourth), and relates this trump to 7.Temperance (Harmonia). The dyad separates but the triad joins; therefore the hexad conquers differences, reconciles oppositions, and unites polarities; so they call it Wholeness, Health and Panacea (All-Healer). The hexad (XVI.Star) is the resolution of the crisis of the pentad (XV.Tower), which destroyed the structure of the tetrad (XIV.Devil). The hexad represents the cosmos delimiting and defining the four directions, above and below, that is heaven and earth, macrocosm and microcosm. It is called the Perfection of the Universe. (TA 43-6, 48-50) (See a discussion of the Sixes in the Minor Arcana for more information about the hexad.)
The hexad, which represents the union of female and male (2 X 3), is shared by VI.Love and XVI.Star; they are in fact, respectively, masculine and feminine manifestations of Eros, the former as a personal triumph, the latter as a universal triumph. (Nichols 298; TA 48)
On the other hand, the ubiquity of ogdoads and augmented hebdomads in our interpretation of the Star, argues for its usual modern position as trump 17 (1 + 7 = 8) rather than our position, 16, which appears in the oldest sources. Furthermore, the Pythagoreans associated the Octad with Rhea and called it Mother, Source of Wisdom, Second Beginning, Paradise Regained, and the Threefold Vessel of Rebirth (see the Eights in the Minor Arcana), all of which correspond to the Star trump. It is an issue that bears further investigation.
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Last updated: Mon Jun 7 20:02:32 EDT 1999