Presenting Scorpio in a solidly good light is an infamously rare event. Dane Rudyhar attempted to do the sign justice in his humanistic astrology. He writes in”The Pulse of Life: “The condemnation heaped upon Scorpio, “the accursed Sign,” has paralleled the identification of sex and sin, which has conditioned so much of our Christian Western civilization. The subject, therefore, has become invaded by “complexes” and set attitudes, not easily transformed even by the most acute analysis.”
I find this deeply ingenuous as well as tendentious. The is no doubt a great deal of truth regarding cultural views of sexuality in relation to particularly monotheistic religions. They are in fact mostly negative and undeniable. It is however rather cliche to ‘blame it all on the system.’ There are two glaring problems with Rudyhar’s position, First of all, it tells us virtually nothing about Scorpio itself. The ensuing paragraphs are highly abstract and so laboured that one has to ask if he believes it himself. Secondly, he doesn’t adequately explain why it was known as the accursed sign in the first place and this beyond the realms of Christendom
The majority of classical texts put far more emphasis on planets than signs, However, here is the testimony of Avraham Ibn Ezra on Scorpio who is not Christian, but Jewish:“he is ugly and has no voice nor pleasant speech, and he has many children, He is destructive, treacherous, irascible, liar a gossip, depressed and intelligent, cunning and deceitful.`(Beginning of Wisdom p. 57,)
I want to make it very clear that Ibn Ezra breaks the sign down into several subcategories such as Face and Sect, the worst reports are from a diurnal nativity because the cholera of Mars is magnified during the day and is cooled by night, Still, there isn’t anything particularly savoury under any conditions. For all intents and purposes, we are confronted with an accursed sign. Notably, there is no specific mention of sex, in spite of the fact that the sign of Scorpio is assigned to the genitals.
This is actually more useful in medical astrology. We would not say that Taurus is explained by its association with the neck or Capricorn with the knees. The information is relevant and helpful but doesn’t pretend to define the sign as is usually the case with Scorpio.
Seasonally it is getting ever darker and light will not wax again until the Solstice. Festivals such as Samhain, All Soul`s Night. Day of the Dead and many others are celebrated during this time. It is said that the veil between the worlds is at it`s thinnest at Samhain, What emerges is not predominately sex, but death and our ancestral relations.
We live in what must be the greatest death denying culture ever imagined. Many people don`t want to talk even about what might lie in the hereafter. We could say that death is the substratum of all fears. The irony is that in modern astrology it is sex, not death that defines Scorpio. Traditional astrologers have actually not been much better in `giving the Devil his due.“
The implications for the misunderstanding of Scorpio are deep and widespread. Modern astrology has given the Eighth, not the Fifth House as concerned with sex. Death is mentioned, but the french term *petite mort* for the orgasm is weakly held up as the great connection between sex and death
This is where a revisiting of the works of Traditional Astrologers might be very useful. Scorpio stares down mortality. It beings reverence to our ancestors and allays many of our fears. Some Hispanic cultures, notably Mexican. have made an art out of celebrating the close relationship between life and death. Lanterns and candles are lit to guide the ancestors home. This, it seems to me is at the heart of Scorpio, yet the sign has been maligned for centuries.
In light of comments made on Facebook and elsewhere, I would like to clarify what I mean by Scorpio. I’m referring to the sign itself and not to Sun sign Scorpios per se. When discussing personal traits, traditional astrology is primarily referring to the Ascendant. It should be needless to say however that the qualities and nature of Scorpio may be applied to any of the planets, luminaries and more, It may seem a fine point, but traditional astrology doesn’t refer to people by sign itself. For example, there is Aries, but we wouldn’t say that person over there is *an Aries* at least nor exclusively Again, this may seem subtle but is a very significant change in meaning that allowed for the blight of newspaper Sun Sign Horoscopes,
Always enjoy reading your thoughts Peter.
Scorpio’s reputation as one of the “bad boy” signs goes way back to Hellenistic times. Most notably we would have to quote Vettius Valens. In his Anthology he writes:
“Scorpio is the house of Ares, feminine, solid, watery, prolific, destructive, descending, mute, slavish, unchangeable, cause of foul smells. subtractive of one’s belongings, a place for eclipses, diverse.
Those so born are treacherous, knavish, rapacious (someone who lives by preying on others, like a wolf), murderous: traitors, unchangeable, those who are liable to have their belongings taken away, secretive plotters, thieves, perjured, desirous of the things of others, privy to murders or sorcery or malicious doings, haters of their own families.”
This reputation follows Scorpio into the medieval Arabic astrology. Abu Ma’shār follows this reasoning and describes those under Scorpio as,
“…of many children, liable to anger, a liar, occupied in evil, good-looking, generous, mute.”
Dorotheus upholds this “tradition” of bad boy nature by saying,
Scorpio indicates that… “his nature and his character are of embezzlement; he has little diffidence or reflection on matters, but hastens to his affair; he is not pleasing and his reputation is disgraceful.”
Now in Traditional astrology the house indicating the nature of a person is the Ascendant, so when we find Scorpio on the Ascendant then Firmicus tells us for example,
“Those who have the ascendant in Scorpio are clever, bad-tempered, and active in early youth, but encounter many kinds of misfortune in life… Because of friends they will always be meeting troubles or dangers; and after much grief from loss of children, they will again be gladdened by offspring.”
One might wonder just why Scorpio became a “bad boy” of the signs. Just speculating I might be inclined to look at the fixed stars that made up the constellation of Scorpio. Ptolemy writes:
“Of the stars in the body of the Scorpio, the bright stars on the forehead act in the same way as does Mars and in some degree as does Saturn; the three in the body, the middle one of which is tawny and rather bright and is called Antares, the same as Mars, and in some degree, Jupiter; those in the joints, the same as Saturn and, in some degree, Venus; those in the sting, the same as Mercury and Mars; and the so-called cloud-like cluster, the same as Mars and the Moon.”
What we find is the predominance of the malefics, particularly Mars in these attributions along with Saturn and Mercury mixed in.
In the head of Scorpio we have the star Akrab and was known to have the nature of Mars and Saturn and causing extreme malevolence, mercilessness, fiendishness, repulsiveness, malice, theft, crime, pestilence and contagious diseases.
Al Las’ah, or ‘the Sting’ had the nature of Mercury and Mars, traditionally an unfortunate and unlucky star, reputed to bestow danger, violence, immorality and an affiliation with poisons.
The most notable star of course is Antares, it is also known as Cor Scorpii – ‘Scorpion’s Heart’, or the ‘Fire Star’, on account of its notable red colour. Deborah Houlding tells us Antares was,
“A Royal star, likened to the influence of Mars and Jupiter, Antares offers extremes of success, good fortune, danger and malevolence. It clearly indicates the potential for great power, but where this is simply ‘power of will’ without integrity or wisdom, it carries the threat of ruination.”
So to put it mildly, the constellation in itself bode ill so perhaps it is not so strange that what it bestowed on humankind in nature was also malefic.
I forgot to mention that regarding “death” we have to look to the Egyptians who used Antares as a symbol of Isis as well as the scorpion-goddess Selket. Selkets role was to protect the souls of the dead.
Thanks for all your comments, Steven. They are always much appreciated
Isis is the goddess with a thousand names. Her association with Antares is well known, but her primary connection is with Sirius, particularly as she relates to Osiris, god of the dead among other things.
The larger theme though is death and the possibility of redemption or resurrection. I really think that the sign itself scares people because it reminds them of death. Only those really fear death will insist on his sting as being entirely malefic, Death is part of life,
So your comment, “This, it seems to me is at the heart of Scorpio…” was rather pertinent considering Antares was “The heart of Scorpio” :-).
Yes, the heart of the matter is the sting of death. Perhaps I should clarify that
Thank you for this article. It makes a lot of sense that the negative associations with Scorpio have to do with the seasonal association of death. In the Deanist/Filianist tradition, This is also the season of Tamala, which is a similar celebration to Samhain and the Day of the Dead. This is also the recognition of the destruction of the world at the end of time/inbreathing of the world back to the Divine Source.
I think, if I remember correctly, the dual association of Scorpio with the Eagle as well as the Scorpion is an Ancient one though, isn’t it? We see it in the Judeo-Christian written tradition along with the symbols for the other fixed signs, the Lion, the Ox/Bull, and the Man/Angel. I tend to think of the story of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables as a very Scorpionic story, both in the depth of his sin and in his redemption.
Oh dear. This seems to have become a rather rambling comment. Anyways, thank you again for the article. It is a lot to think about!