October 23/24 - November 21/22
Fixed Water: Death
Ruler: Mars (co-ruler: Pluto)
Objectively: The freeze. Sun drives slowly, steadily south below the horizon, into the depths. Personality returns to its instinctual source. It gives up the ghost of individual importance and merges with a collective purpose.
Subjectively: The daylight of self-consciousness yields to the unconscious night of instinct. Ego becomes the vehicle of a hidden Will. It dies, painfully or ecstatically, as the price of rebirth.
Scorpio: Transformation. Metamorphosis. Death. Rebirth.
In Scorpio the beautiful colors of year's autumn and day's sunset disappear. The world darkens. Brisk chill turns to deadly cold.
Libra portrays the marriage of self and society, ego's commitment to a community. Scorpio consummates that marriage in naked passion.
Marriage serves as a public ceremony, a time honored ritual of grace and beauty that confirms relationship. Its actual consummation explodes in private ecstasy. Private here means not alone, but in conjunction with an outer other half. Sexual union with a physical partner involves a behavioral experience. It mirrors a deeper psychological merger with a hidden inner side. That reaches a climax at the end of life when personality reunites with soul in death's release from the separate self.
Scorpio means fusion with the Other. Out there, or in here. Scorpio transforms consciousness as it incorporates an initially foreign perspective, whether met in the objective world or the subjective depths. Ultimately they are the same. Truly meeting the world really changes the self.
Scorpio describes absorption into something intrinsically different from a known and safe reality. It especially mediates a conscious confrontation with our dark side, the Shadow. We usually think of the Shadow as repressed or denied psychic contents too hot to handle. It also holds unclaimed, even disowned, potentials. And alien values that shock a comfortable worldview.
A planet, Saturn, symbolizes the Shadow, a symbol of our mortality, weakness and limitation. The Scorpio energy field integrates that Shadow into a now irrevocably changed identity. Will its menacing presence devour ego? (It often does.) Or will psychological courage transmute the energies of a former fear into a larger sense of life?
Scorpio is driven because of its contact with the Shadow's terror. It instinctively feels the proximity of inevitable death. It is constantly alert to the unconscious forces threatening a fragile sense of being. Thus it lives in a permanent state of psychic mobilization, an existential 'fear and trembling.'1 This survival instinct focuses into a probing intensity that cannot rest until it fully understands and thus becomes empowered in relation to that provocative reality.
Scorpio must penetrate to the core of anything it encounters. It tears away the veil to discover basic drives, urges, cravings. Strips naked whatever, or whoever, it becomes involved with. Scorpio feels an elemental need to test everybody and everything to see what they are made of. It will find the answer, on its own level of comprehension. The issue then becomes what will it do with this knowledge? How will it apply its insight?
Scorpio always centers on conflicts of motivation. Its emotional insight is a given. An ability to sniff out secrets, reveal subtleties, know what makes the other tick comes naturally. This can lead to real relationship based on profound insight, a surgical precision of healing honesty, a sensitivity of tough love. Or to cynical manipulation based on a nose for weakness, a vicious degradation of real or imagined enemies through skillful exploitation of their human flaws and foibles.
Scorpio rejects disinterested contemplation. It seeks a highly charged, even erotic, union with whatever it engages. It aggressively pushes the limits, relentlessly interrogates its qualities. Libra weighs the other with a judicial temperament, in a spirit of balance and reciprocity. Sagittarius perceives it in the context of an overriding principle. Scorpio meets it with raw passion. Merge or purge. Absorb or eject. Fuck it or kill it. Are you offended by the four-letter word? Which?
Scorpio has a need to control. It must own whatever comes into its awareness. Owning can mean possessiveness. Or taking responsibility. A different psychology contains qualities and strengths that one lacks. Thus it evokes jealousy. Envy can spark emulation: a difficult struggle to acquire those abilities. Or, more commonly - both in the sense of more often and at a lower level - it seeks to undermine and destroy those who have what one doesn't. Scorpio clearly understands that a perceived rival is superior in some respects. And weaker in others. It can use this knowledge to eliminate the competition. Or to stimulate its own potential.
Ultimately Scorpio's quest for fusion with peers on its own level leads to the challenge of transcendence: fusion with soul on a higher dimension. Scorpio requires subordination of personal will to a collective or cosmic Will. Initially that larger purpose appears hostile because its ego-stretching demands are inimical to a small sense of private happiness. Will Scorpio accept that bitter loss in service to a more inclusive destiny? Or will it shrink from too challenging an identification with the greater Self?2 If so, the lure of vengeance for such inferiority becomes an urge to dominate others.
This substitute for self-control is made all the more delicious by its ease. Scorpio instinctively understands the secret sources of influence: erotic charisma, mental intimidation; the subtleties of emotional blackmail or of political pandering. Its psychological sophistication seduces its targets into eager complicity with their own corruption. Scorpio exerts an invisible command; calls the shots from behind the scenes.3
Scorpio's passionate nature tends towards extremes. 'Assimilate or eliminate' means an intense projection of will. The unknown can be seen as threatening; associates as unworthy. Scorpio's essential purpose is to seek out and destroy the devil within. Instead it can strike out at scapegoats in preemptive paranoia.
Scorpio means creative destruction. Or just destruction. Scorpio expresses the grim, ominous side of the unconscious. Only thus can the energy locked down there be liberated. It raises a sickness, a decayed function or talent, to the surface for redemption. Or to infect the ego. Conscious personality can become paralyzed by its real horror. Or mesmerized. Scorpio always tempts with an evil presence. It exposes degenerate desires and sadistic angers, infused by a horrible glee. But facing, fighting and freeing these forces constitute Scorpio's true agenda. They hold a buried treasure, a paralyzed quality, protected by a sinister enchantment. Scorpio must break the spell and take back its power.
The unconscious strongly resists becoming conscious in defiance of its own nature. It lashes out in underhanded ways, seeking to divert conscious purpose, to deflect the light. This leads to a subterranean struggle in the psyche. Will will become ensnared in a spider web of lies, its energy hijacked by blind appetites? Or can it illuminate the depths and activate their frozen potentials?
Scorpio comes alive during Sun's death dive, its Fall into autumnal night. Just as the dead vastly outnumber the living,4 so too one's latent talents far surpass known abilities. They are wrested from instinctual inertia and brought to life only through mortal struggle, akin to the birth agony. Failure means soul death, for if ego proves inadequate to the unconscious forces it has aroused it will be pulled under.
Real transformation always involves extirpation of an outworn quality in order to release its binding energy. Will Scorpio fixate on the morbid fascination of a rotting attribute ripe for change? Or feed on the heat of its disintegration? Or accept its doom as the condition for new life?
Scorpio cuts away festering psychic sores and inflated ego tumors. It willingly pays the pain price. To do so takes an iron will. Scorpio's intensity often turns to obsession. This can focus energies. Or drain them. The negative aspect of compulsion is that it can't let go. Scorpio means liberation from once cherished, now cancerous, opinions, loves, ambitions. It can also be about fear of that necessary extinction. Then it symbolizes the undead, those who cannot live and will not die; vampiric souls who suck the joy from life, and the vitality of its fellows, to prolong a decomposing existence.
Scorpio is no fun - it is not interested in anything so insipid. It goes for ecstasy: the savage thrills of extermination or an exalted joy of rebirth. Ten out of twelve signs affirm life, each in its own way. They describe the substance and meaning of our brief and precious passage on this Earth, while Pisces seeks compassionate redemption of its sorrows. Scorpio is different. It connects with the other side, an utterly unknown mystery that will claim one for all eternity. It does so as a dying unto self to embrace soul. Or in a living death of malignant fear.
Death freezes life into a final portrait. That was it; there are no more possibilities. All future hopes are dismissed to past certainties. Unless and until an inexplicable grace stirs the dark waters and calls forth a rebirth.
Scorpio feels a sense of hopelessness in the face of such irrevocable fate. The next water sign, Pisces, will convert this into living faith. Scorpio does not believe. Its acute recognition of negativity makes naive trust impossible. It can only create courage by an act of will; a resolve to accept the devouring mystery of death with gratitude for the unearned miracle of life. To embrace annihilation in a spirit of love, without expectation of future reward, to give all to the All, constitutes Scorpio's supreme achievement.
Death: a cosmic orgasm? Or blackout into nothingness?
Scorpio is the darkest and scariest of signs - not because it is bad but because it dares to face the bad. Scorpio descends into the underworld and drinks of its poisoned waters. Thus it becomes venomous itself. Or transmutes them into holy water, a spiritual wine, the blood of Christ.
In medieval times Scorpio was called the 'accursed sign.' Modern humanistic astrology tries to avoid pejorative judgments. The fact remains that Scorpio introduces the socialized persona to a demonic alter ego. One can surrender to it, and often does so, for evil has an alluring glamour. Or suck up its pain by integrating this energy into the total Self.2 'You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.' Scorpio breaks the ego to feed the soul.
Scorpio embodies an eruption of primeval energies from deep within. And a corresponding ability to manipulate the same unconscious forces in those who cannot acknowledge them. These instinctual energies result from eons of evolution. They are primitive and vital. They hypnotize because they draw upon an inheritance of collective power far greater than any individual endowment. Scorpio must break the spell and release their trance. Scorpio demonstrates, or develops, soul by its response to these impersonal forces. They overwhelm, or devastate, the ego. Can it then rise from the ashes, transformed by passing through the fire?
Scorpio means purifying ordeal. Purgatory. The Hell of undeniable sins. The wrathful deities of a guilty conscience. Will one flee from them? Or embrace their loathsome charms, the fascination of obscene indulgence, the bloodthirsty lust for cruelty? Or endure their shriveling shame, an acid baptism of mortification that destroys a false self-image and brings salvation through suffering?
Scorpio means facing inner demons. These, of course, are fallen angels. They can fly again if one is strong and brave enough to let them. To do so requires a descent into Hell. An immersion into the abyss. This plays out as a heroic quest to fight the dragon, find the treasure, redeem the captive. Or as an embrace of damnation, seduced by the lascivious charms of taboo appetites, hideous pleasure of inflicting pain, lure of the forbidden, cold thrill of evil.
Each of us has a twisted, embittered, toxic creature inside, the product of our own frustrations and of our race's hard history. Scorpio reaches out and touches it. Only to get bitten. Does one transmute its venom into the ambrosia of redemption? Or succumb to its morbid hate?
Its malice can be deflected: if I offer up a substitute perhaps I will be spared. Then Scorpio cannibalizes society to feed a gnawing hunger. Appropriates others' life force, labor, goods and passions to compensate for a cold emptiness. Steals their time to enhance its own.
More often it takes on the evils of its mate, comrades and society in general. Its penetrating insight sees emerging dangers that less suspicious natures miss. And liquidates them. Its secret service, unsung valor, protects an innocence it will never know. Scorpio is the first sign that lives and dies for larger than personal ends.5
For that reason Scorpio also refers to control of collective resources. This can be a fear/greed-based exploitation. Or a heroic marshaling of communal purpose. A directed regeneration of our shared human condition. Just as a lever amplifies an applied force, so Scorpio's disciplined drive channels many individual efforts into a single synergistic focus. It arranges things, usually covertly, to make others subordinate their divergent interests to a common goal. It taxes present pleasure to invest in future power.
The eighth house, Scorpio's subjective correlate, and any planets in it, spotlights a function(s) undergoing metamorphosis. Its normal expression is arrested for a stress test; subjected to hard questioning under duress. The house cusp that the sign of Scorpio occupies indicates the area of transformative ordeals. The position and aspects of Scorpio's ruling planet, Mars, provide insight into the personal circumstances and results of that process. Scorpio's transpersonal ruler, Pluto, reveals its social and spiritual implications.
Scorpio reveals one's deepest nature by killing and (hopefully) transcending its comforting illusions. It reaches the heights by sounding the depths. To do so it pays the highest price, consuming its own life to illuminate a core identity. The rocket that lifts a payload into space must flare out and drop off.
Scorpio always feels the urgency of time, which is short and doomed to end. Thus it demands total commitment to its struggle. It gives no quarter and expects none, knowing that all roads lead to death. It does not do fair play and has only contempt for saving face. It goes for raw emotional intensity. Truth hurts. That pain burns away weakness, the thing Scorpio most abhors.
Finally, Scorpio is about finality. Ego has been weighed in the balance (Libra) and found wanting:
'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.'6
Its faults have been laid bare, its sheer puniness revealed. The penalty is mortality. Not as a distant theory. As a real presence. From Aries to Virgo the individual developed, consolidated, expressed and purified its own attributes. In Libra it found an ecological niche in a collective community. Now, in Scorpio, it faces the most fundamental fact of life: death.
The only thing you have to do is die. That is the single universal truth all humans acknowledge. And none understands. Everybody has a theory: annihilation, heaven/hell, reincarnation. No one knows. Even Christ, in his most human moment at the very end, cried out 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?'7 He felt the emptiness.
Scorpio confronts this ultimate and most intimate personal fact. This certain fate always lurks below the surface. It can emerge at any time. We all feel its fear.
'Where there is other there is fear.'8 There is nothing more Other than death. Scorpio faces that Fear.
1. Title of a work by Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian, 1813-1855
2. The great psychologist C. G. Jung, 1875-1961, described the larger Self as encompassing the conscious ego along with both the personal and collective unconscious. The collective unconscious has both a preconscious instinctual and a transcendent spiritual dimension though Jung did not emphasize this distinction.
3. Consider the Soviet Union, 1917-1991, a Scorpionic superpower. Its secretive Politburo would line up atop Lenin's tomb during their annual public appearance on its birthday, November 7. Foreign intelligence agencies could only guess at its internal hierarchy by noting who stood next to whom. The purpose of this gathering was to review a parade displaying the instruments of nuclear mega-death to an apprehensive world.
4. Although there are many more people currently alive than at any previous time in history (seven billion and counting) the total number of all those who have lived and died over the millennia is estimated at eighty to a hundred billion souls. Each previous generation was much smaller, but passed away more quickly, with an average lifespan of perhaps 30 years in preindustrial times. There have been thousands of such generations in the 250,000 year epoch of modern humanity.
5. Libra defines itself in relationship, but maintains a balanced objectivity and personal space. The last four signs following Scorpio, Sagittarius-Pisces, describe an impersonal universal or spiritual emphasis; the first four, Aries-Cancer, individual psychology; the middle four, Leo-Scorpio, social participation.
6. Romans 3:23
7. Matthew 27: 45-46. In the original Aramaic: 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?'
8. Hindu proverb