Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Be brave like bull

'Stubborn strength, toil, endurance, placidity, manifestation, explanation, teaching, goodness of heart, help from superiors, patience, organization, peace.' ~ from Aleister Crowley's Book of Thoth

Today's card is the Hierophant. His throne is a rather rambunctious-looking bull. He is flanked by elephants. Why? Because he is the card of the zodiac sign Taurus, with Venus exalted. So that is why the Hierophant in this depiction is enthroned on El Torro and has a little Isis/High Priestess-looking figure standing before him at his feet. (Crowley's ubiquitous 'Scarlet Woman').

We see the pentagram represented throughout as well. The five-petaled rose on the window behind his head. The five-pointed star with the human figure inside it on his chest, and the outline of the upright pentagram suggested as beams of light about his figure, an additional inverted pentagram suggested across his body from under the chin, elbow to elbow and down to the nether region of the little Scarlet Woman before him. DuQuette suggests this is actually the union of a pentagram and hexagram, so maybe that big shape is a meant to be a six-pointed star (though it doesn't look like one to me). DuQuette says that the Hierophant represents the Holy Guardian Angel, a figure that in Crowley's philosophy we are all meant to find and converse with as part of the initiatory level.

The four Kerubic beasts are in the four corners, but not in the traditional order. They represent the fixed points of the zodiac, and are almost always a lion for Leo in lower right, eagle for Scorpio in upper right, bull for Taurus in lower left, and man or angel for Aquarius in upper left. However, in Thoth tarot, the eagle an man are reversed. That's because Crowley decided he wanted the eagle to represent Aquarius and the man/angel to represent Scorpio. The reasons don't mean anything to me but apparently did to Crowley. In fact I would probably not have noticed the switch if it had not been pointed out in Lon Milo DuQuette's Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot.

I usually link Hierophant with established institutions, social conventions, and organized religions, things like that, and I continue to do so even when using Thoth tarot, but there's an added sense here of something a bit wilder. I guess it's the Taurus energy of that bull. After all Crowley's divinatory meanings start out with 'stubborn strength, toil and endurance.' He represents the first stage of the Great Work, I suppose, and not so much traditional authorities such as doctors, lawyers, preachers and teachers that we usually associate with this card. He tells me to stand strong and find the truth within myself, which comes of finding unity. After all, Crowley writes of the Holy Guardian Angel:

Offer thyself Virgin to the Knowledge and
Conversation of thine Holy Guardian Angel!
All else is a snare.

Be thou athlete with the Eight Limbs of Yoga;
for without these thou art not disciplined for
any fight. 

I will take this card as advice to be tough today. Be stubborn, strong, enduring and get on with things. Listen to advice and guidance from those above me. Don't be cowed (pardon the pun) by those who have no authority over me.

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