“The crucible for meaning in your lifeStephen Jenkinson
is how you wrestle
with the way things are.”
Despite an interlude of temperatures in the high 70’s last week, the seasons and cycles continue. Libra’s airy balance has dipped, and we descend into Scorpio’s dark mystery school. The sun entered Scorpio on October 23, and the New Moon occurs at 12:07 am ET on November 15.
Scorpio is the 8th Zodiac sign and a water sign, indicating emotion and depth. Scorpio is ruled by Pluto, the Greek God of the Underworld, or Hades in Roman Mythology. The symbol for Scorpio is the Scorpion, a crawling insect who hides in dark places and can harm from both sides with pincers in the front and a poisonous tail behind. Scorpio is the creature that can simultaneously sting itself while fighting a perceived enemy. Scorpio is also associated with the Phoenix, the mythical bird of death and resurrection who burns and then rises from its ashes.
Scorpio is the house of shared resources, deceit, craving, jealousy, sexuality, mystery, and the occult. It is about adapting to what we cannot control, and where we encounter initiation, the mystical journey of losing oneself to find oneself. While Scorpio is often associated with suffering, it paradoxically contains hidden treasure too. Finally, with Pluto ruling it’s depths, Scorpio is the house of destruction and death. From the loss of things we cherish to the small self/ego’s mystical loss to the loss of physical life – Scorpio is both henchman and teacher.
Two myths characterize Scorpio/Pluto energy well. The more well-known is the story of Persephone, who is kidnapped by Pluto and taken to the Underworld to be his wife. Her mother, Demeter, mourns her absence so deeply that she cloaks the earth in darkness and cold, which becomes Winter. Through a series of Godly interventions, Persephone is allowed to return above ground for nine months each year. Spring’s brilliant color and new life reflects her glorious return and all the season’s follow until she dies to the earth and descends again.
The Descent of Inanna, one of the earliest recorded myths, is another. Inanna is the Goddess of the Heavens who radiates health and light. Her dark sister, Ereshkigal (the lady of the great place below), rules the Underworld and is the matriarchal form of Pluto. In this tale, Ereshkigal’s husband has died, and she is grieving. Inanna travels to the Underworld to attend his funeral. Though Ereshkigal greets her cordially, she requires Inanna to pass through seven gates and to strip off an item she is wearing at each one. This is the initiatory experience where we lose all the things we think are essential and stand humbled below the great force of death and destruction. Ereshkigal then kills Inanna and hangs her on a hook to rot, symbolizing all that is putrid within us; our passions and obsessions, superficial cravings, and jealousy.
Inanna does not remain dead. In true mythic fashion, two little androgynous men called “the mourners” save her. While still grieving her husband, Ereshkigal is also in childbirth and great pain. Instead of chastising her for Inanna’s death, the mourners come close and commiserate, join and honor her suffering. She is so grateful she resurrects Inanna, for it is compassion and companioning grief, not denying or resisting it, that preserve us . This is Scorpio’s first gift.
While it may seem the climax of the story is Inanna’s resurrection, it is in her death – the loss of all she wore and was – that Pluto reveals his final hidden treasure. Stephen Jenkinson describes this encounter with the God of the Underworld, or the Angel of Death as he calls it in “Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul”:
“When an angel comes to call, very little of your life is untouched. From that moment on, if you work hard at it, your life will never be the same. That is the great labor of the thing, to let your life be changed utterly…when all and everything around you is counseling steady as she goes, business as usual, as normal a life as possible under the circumstances. Whatever of your former life is left standing, and there is always something left standing, is probably the part that is most what you were born to learn about and be faithful to. Whatever of your life that is still standing is probably you.”
The Mystical Law of this house is All Suffering Comes from Craving, and from what more do we often suffer than the craving that things be other than they are? Scorpio initiates us by destroying what was or destructing our idea of what should be. As Stephen Jenkinson writes, if we wrestle these angels with grief, wonder, and sorrow we can make a proper place for them, welcome them to our table as we would any guest, and “try to get to know something of the holy during our life.”
These cycles of death/rebirth, or order/chaos/reorder are not only natural and constant but necessary and beneficial. While damaging and hard to endure, the natural cycles of destruction always bring new growth and life. Ecologists have long since studied and recognized the natural world’s inherent pattern and that even as things die and decay, because things die and decay, new life emerges, and the circle goes on.
While we’re all under the global/collective force of Pluto’s energy this month, here in the United States, we are in an extended and intensive cycle as we approach the Pluto Return in February 2022. Pluto is the furthest planet from the sun, and its orbit takes approximately 250 years. While no person will experience their Pluto Return, societies and countries do.
President-Elect Joe Biden, born under a Scorpio sun, appears to be the leader who will guide us through this time and beside him; finally, the first female elected to high office. The Plutonian influence has yielded its power and anguish many times throughout his life, and one can’t help but hope that the lessons of this encounter and its grace of compassion will accompany them both as well.
All spiritual traditions teach that the ego/false-self must die before we can meet God or attain enlightenment. Carl Jung wrote about the emergence of “the unifying symbol” that comes out of crisis or conflict, and certainly one could attest that any dying experience classifies as such. By its numinous nature, this symbol can not be conceived or conjured with the mind and is therefore not a rational product but a supernatural or divine manifestation.
It seems to me that there is a unifying symbol that comes when we “wrestle with angels,” as Stephen Jenkinson says, and I think this symbol is love. Not the transient love of physical existence but the enduring love of losing someone and then finding them in memory and presence again and again. My mother was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s when she was 54, the age I am now. Despite a five to seven-year life expectancy and assisted-living recommendations, she lived at home for twenty-three more years. Like Inanna, she lost everything until what remained was merely her bed-ridden body, relying on my father’s love, which was probably why she lived so long.
While Scorpio energy is certainly not sentimental, it seems to offer one last hidden treasure – that when we leave everything behind at the seven gates, what remains is not just ourselves, but ourselves as love.
“But Love laughs at the end of the world because Love is the door to eternity. She who loves is playing on the doorstep of eternity, and before anything can happen, Love will have drawn her over the sill and closed the door. She won’t bother about the world burning because she will know nothing but love.”Thomas Merton
“The Descent of Inanna”: The Twelve Houses. Howard Sasportas.
Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul. Stephen Jenkinson