“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light. And I’m frightened by those who can’t see it.”The Avett Brothers
As the days grow shorter and the nights long, Libra’s airy balance descends into Scorpio’s dark mystery school. The sun entered Scorpio on October 23, and the New Moon occurs at 5:14 pm ET on November 4th.
Scorpio is the 8th Zodiac house 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 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 abducted by Pluto and taken to the Underworld to be his wife. The Descent of Inanna, one of the earliest recorded myths, is another. 1
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. 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.
Seven is a significant number. In the Bible, God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. In the New Testament, seven symbolized the unity of the earth’s four corners with the Holy Trinity. Ancient eastern and Israelite culture characterized seven as a sense of “fullness” or “completeness.” The Hebrew שבע “seven” is spelled with the same consonants as the word שבע “complete/full” which explains the pervasive appearance of “seven” patterns in the Bible. 2
Inanna’s passage is the initiatory experience where we lose the things we think are essential and stand humbled before the great force of death and destruction. Ereshkigal kills Inanna and hangs her on a hook to rot, symbolizing what is putrid within us; our obsessions and attachments, superficial cravings, and jealousy.
Inanna does not remain dead. In 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 our grief and darkness 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.” 3
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.”
All spiritual traditions teach that something of us must die before we can transform and be reborn. 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 cannot be thought and is therefore not a rational product but a supernatural or divine manifestation.
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, younger than I am now. Despite a five to seven-year life expectancy, 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.
I have Scorpio rising in my astrological chart. It’s the ruler of my first house and the sign ascending the eastern horizon at my birth. From my earliest memory, my life has been marked by pervading darkness balanced by light only in the last two decades. Like Inanna, I’ve gone through my own seven gates this year, selling the small farm that was my lifelong dream and losing something precious at each gate. Seven of the animals I brought to the farm died this year, and I had to give up the remaining three to sell it. This was a hard-fought decision and came with significant suffering. Yet, in Scorpio fashion, the hidden blessing came too. Exactly seven years later, I returned to the lakeside cottage I rented when I first moved to Pennsylvania. I did not know this gift was waiting for me when I began the dissolution of the life I’d spent years building. Instead, I’d rented a different cottage in the same community, wonderful in its own right but no measure to the one I’d called home and hermitage many years before. That I sit here now is a gift for which there are no words. Scorpio’s resurrection and my own Phoenix, rising like the fog off the lake.
“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
“In this high placeDavid Whyte
it is as simple as this,
leave everything you know behind.
Step toward the cold surface,
say the old prayer of rough love
and open both arms.
Those who come with empty hands
will stare into the lake astonished,
there, in the cold light
reflecting pure snow
the true shape of your own face.”
1. “The Descent of Inanna”: The Twelve Houses. Howard Sasportas.
3. “Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul”. Stephen Jenkinson