imagesThe Babylonians believed Saturn, or Kronos, to be the ghost of a dead sun and hence the oldest spirit in the heavens. Saturn is thus considered the place where ‘created matter’ first manifests; it symbolises the laws defining and delimiting material manifestation.

The alchemist’s journey is focused on breaching these laws – or passing through the so-called ‘serpent’s circle’ of Saturn – in order to break through transient time and return to the Golden Age of eternal youth and divine benevolence.

In ancient lore, references to this Golden Age are numerous.

Hesiod tells of:

A golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Kronos when he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil: miserable age rested not on them . . . The fruitful earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint. They dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things. . . .

Similarly writes Ovid in the sixth book of his Metamorphoses:

In the beginning was the Golden Age, when men of their own accord, without threat of punishment, without laws, maintained good faith and did what was right. . . . The earth itself, without compulsion, untouched by the hoe, unfurrowed by any share, produced all things spontaneously. . . . It was a season of everlasting spring.

The messenger of Saturn is the black crow. It symbolises the beginning of the ‘Black Phase’ of alchemical transformation, or Nigredo, the period when light gives way to darkness.black crow

It is in this darkness that we find the fertile soil of new birth. Indeed, the word Saturn comes from the Latin – serere – meaning to sow or plant. Because Saturn marks the boundary between personal and transpersonal (cosmic) powers, it is the alchemists most important planet being equated with both the beginning and end of the Great Work.

Psychologically, Saturn forces acceptance of the limitations of human mortality. Paradoxically, we are unable commit to life until we can face ‘who’ and ‘what’ we really are rather than that which we’d like to imagine. This in turn bring us to the threshold of whole new phase of life, or octave (Saturn being the 7th ring and hence transgressing it ushers in the next octave); each phase or octave leaving further behind the gross material of bodily incarnation in favour of the more subtle matter of our spirituality.

pitagorat1Astrologically, it is with Saturn transits/progressions (especially Saturn returns) that we often commence the ‘Black Phase’. Inevitably this is easier for those with Saturn in the air and fire signs (Gemini, Leo, Aries, Sagittarius, Libra, and Aquarius) for these individuals are more able to keep the ‘faith’ that in the end, everything will be OK.

However for those like my heroine, Judith Shakespeare, who have Saturn in earth signs (Virgo, Taurus, and Capricorn) or water signs (Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio) the Black Phase is much harder because these individuals are too close – too emotionally wedded – to their EGO needs and desires that are being swept away.

I’m amazed at the way everyone’s carrying on about the phone hacking scandal and such.  Are they really so naïve as not to realise that disreputable behaviour is nothing new?

But then while digging deeper into the characters for my new memoir (Astro-Sex and Lies), my own naivety was painfully highlighted.

Cor was a great friend of mine – even if – sadly – we have now lost touch.  Actually, he was much more than that.  He was the counsellor and ‘trainer’ who taught me the ‘white-magic’ ways to self-empowerment.   Over the years, I’ve spent many hours working with him.

I always knew about his black magic past.  He’d been upfront.   Cor had been born into a group of real-life wizards in the wilds of the Belgian Ardennes.  They did things to people that would make Harry Potter’s toes curl.  But Cor had ‘reformed’ after waking up in the woods with 3rd degree burns over most of his body.  Apparently, his wizard opponents had left him for dead.  He sent out an anguished cry for help on the astral plane and got it – in the form of a lovely woman, Nelly, who was a nurse.  She helped him get back on his feet in more ways than one.

But the last time I saw him, there’d been developments.  Cor was no longer a young man and health issues had put an end to his counselling practice.  Not having saved enough for retirement, he was now ‘pyramid-selling’ natural health products.  I couldn’t help thinking that he’d returned to his ‘old ways’.  Looking at his natal chart again, I realised for the first time (if you can believe it), that he shared many ‘power’ aspects with Alistair Crowley.

I was forced to face the ‘concerns’ I’d always had about Cor.  While calling him a great friend, I’d secretly suspected he was a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’.  While on one level I was quite prepared to believe that he was a thoroughly honourable man (he was very kind to me when my chips were down), on another level my survival instinct had warned me to keep my distance.   For example, I never spent time with him unless Nelly was around.

Now who’s the naïve one who refuses to realise disreputable behaviour is nothing new?  At least it isn’t when it’s in your own back yard.

As transiting Neptune slides into Pisces, many will become more interested in the occult.   If you decide to dabble in anything more strenuous than practical household magic, it’s worth keeping in mind one point that just might save your life.

In his excellent book, The Philosophy of Magic, Arthur Versluis reminds us that in both Eastern and Western traditions, Magic has always been worked for the grace of God – not for ego-gratification.

Sadly these days, however, the situation is quite the reverse.

“As a result, one can see today a situation arising which involves the greatest possible danger to those who misguidedly become involved with ‘pseudo-traditional mysticism’ or ‘neoshamanism’, not recognizing that these are, for reasons we will discuss later, but ‘inverted’ images of the traditional, be it Buddhism, Islamic or Christian, and can well lead to the psyche becoming irremediably lost in the labyrinthine confusion of the ‘second world’.”

At the foundation of Western magic, lays a Platonic universe consisting of three inter-connected spheres.  According to the Corpus Hermeticum, after being created in the image of the highest sphere – The Divine – man descended through the starry heavens to the planet of illusion – the moon – whence he landed with a resounding thud.  It was there while gazing in a pool of water, that man fell in love with his own reflection thus binding himself like a slave in chains, to the lowest sphere – the material world.

Since then, man has worked through magic to transcend his ego (which through an illusion of immortal permanence in a constantly changing mortal world, keeps him firmly earth-bound) and ascend back up through the spheres to be reunited with the Divine.

According to Versluis, in correct magical practice, the magus transcends to the higher spheres when his ego is subsumed by celestial realities.

However most modern magical practices work in reverse – keeping the ego firmly in charge.  As Versluis points out, the dangers of this are significant and real.

“…(i)f the visualization is of the Divine, enclosed within tradition, then one ‘ascends’ and radiates beneficence.  But if the visualization is, inversely, governed by ego, outside tradition – then one ‘descends’ and is overwhelmed, destroyed by the infernal and malignant.”

As an example, he cites the experience of the Belgian spiritualist Alexandra David-Neel who during a ritual in Tibet created a small round-faced monk who was greeted by others as quite real.   The monk, a product of David Neel’s own mind, eventually became so independent she could no longer control him and it was with great difficulty that he was dissolved.

“This story carries within it the implicit danger of ritual visualization, for the ritual changes the very nature of one’s relationship with the celestial world.”

Some years ago while innocently dabbling in Wicca (with what I believed was proper supervision),  I myself had a similar experience that made me physically ill for many months.

The lesson to be learned here is to take great care when following any ‘spiritual path’.  Without proper grounding and years of trainingwithin that tradition – you might just find yourself getting more than you bargained for – dumped head first into the proverbial deep end unable to swim.

Today Mercury, the planet of connections and communication, moves into its sign of ruler ship, Gemini, where it remains until the end of this month.

We may think we already know all there is to know about connections and communication – after all we’re post-modern aficionados with our iPods and iPhones and of course… there’s the internet.

But for the next fifteen days, the message of Mercury isn’t just about texting your friends where to meet up for drinks.  Instead it’s about how to make connections in a completely different realm – that of the Gods.

Long ago, a Zen master put it this way…. “(t)his floating world is but a phantasm.   It is momentary smoke.”

Mercury is represented by the second of major arcana tarot, The Magician, also known as the Creator and Trickster.   In this aspect, Mercury relates the creative principle behind duality – black and white – right and wrong.    Mercury’s truth lies beyond appearances – Mercury’s truth is that all elements and energies are one.  Air is fire, is earth, is rabbits, is pigeons, is water, is ONE!  All are whole and all are holy.

The implications of this are massive.  Once we come to grips with Mercury’s message, we no longer spend our days filled with the fear of tomorrow and the regrets of yesterday.  Instead, once we’ve integrated the message of Mercury, we are free to live in the creative moment of the ever present now.  Know that it’s only in the now that we can touch the timeless world of the Gods.

Such is the power of the human intellect and imagination – which for the next two weeks will be enormously fertile.  During this period we are instinctively attuned to what some may call miracles – those astounding instances where the inner workings of our psyches collide with actual events in the material world.

For the next two weeks, Mercury asks you to pay special attention to events that seem to happen out of the blue – perhaps an unexpected letter from a childhood friend or a job offer arrives from thin air.  Be rest assured there’s more to these coincidences than meets the eye – never, ever take them at their face value.  Mercury requires you to do whatever is needed to puzzle through them; this could take some time.  But be rest assured that something of great value rests within them; make whatever effort is required to find it.

An old alchemical maxim teaches: “(w)hat the soul imagines happens only in the mind, but what God imagines happens in reality.”

With Mercury in Gemini, the hidden truth behind the “momentary smoke” of our Zen master erupts into consciousness – giving you a treasured glimpse into of the world of the Gods.