Matter and Spirit: Deconstructing the Court cards and our Solar Year
Part III of XVI, the Prince of Swords: the Star seen through the Pylons
(the previous article on the Queen of Disks can be found here)
This is a story of the Star and the Dove, the Sextant and the Orrery, and the rug of the Tao in the vault. The Prince of the Chariot of the Winds sets forth from between the Pylons, in pursuit of the star in sight.
I may be a little too close to this guy, as in my personal astrological chart, both my ascendant and Moon fall within the decans of Aquarius he rules. But I’ll try to step back, with Aquarian logic and detachment, to see the bigger picture and the longer view. Writing this post is also difficult as so much has happened in my life since I put up the post for the last card, the Queen of Disks, and none of it has been easy. The time from Solstice until now has been bruising. In fact I’m quite heart sore, but keeping on. So though I should have a lot to say about this card, this might be a shorter post as I’m a bit shell-shocked.
Around January 11th the Sun passed into the last decan of Capricorn, and stays in the sign until around the 21st. It’s a time of consolidating our power, perhaps even hoarding it a bit. The Sun may very well be undying, but the sap is still underground here. There is a sense of guardedness. This is the shadow decan of the Prince, the fortress he retreats to in times of trouble. This rigidity is not the normal state of this most airy of cards; for how can there be a breeze in a vault? The Four of Disks, Power, tells a tale of the Devil and the Sun in his strong-room, transforming him into the Green Man that guards the Gates of Matter, the dragon that sits upon his pile of gold.
This Prince carries a sword and a sickle; with thought he can create (with the sword) or destroy with the sickle of Saturn, Aquarius’ traditional ruler. Aquarius says “I know” and exemplifies the best and the worst of intellectualism. He’s an idealist, a humanitarian, and a visionary; though he can be unreliable, unrealistic, and too much “up in the air”.
The Prince of Swords is one of the four court cards that personifies a letter of the divine name YHVH. These are the Knight of Wands (Fire of Fire) as the Yod, the Queen of Cups (Water of Water) as primal Heh, the Prince of Swords (Air of Air) as Vau, and the Princess of Disks (Earth of Earth) as Heh final. This is the Prince of Princes! The Sword of Swords. As such there is a connection to the HGA. His Hexagram is 57 “Wind, Gently Penetrating”. This hexagram is associated with both power and gentleness, which is interesting considering two of his decans: the Four of Disks, Power, and the Five of Swords, Defeat, which is a card of Venus the gentle dove. Yet even the subtle and gentle passage of air can wear down a mountain given enough time, revealing a star on the horizon. There is no need to meet violence with violence, but one must remain steadfast, ever moving gently towards the goal. The Tau Te Ching says “The Way of Heaven is not to contend and yet to be able to conquer. Not to declare its will and yet to get a response. Not to summon but have things come spontaneously . . . .Tao produces all things . . . . It produces them without holding possession of them and raises without lording it over them.”
The next decan, from around the 21nd of January until the around the 30th, is the first of the sign Aquarius, shown by the Five of Swords, Lord of Defeat. The Dove on her nest is attacked by a rapacious raptor. Pacifism and gentleness are fine things, but one also has to stand up to the Nihilists, thugs, and tyrants or they will piss on your rug, even if it is a case of mistaken identity. The Dude abides, yet he wants his fucking rug back. It really tied the whole room together. This aggression will not stand!
Interestingly, in the movie the Big Lebowski, the Dude tells Maude that he was one of the Seattle Seven “that was me…and, uh, six other guys” who drafted the Port Huron statement, a political activism manifesto written in the 1960s. Here’s an excerpt:
“Men have unrealized potential for self-cultivation, self-direction, self-understanding, and creativity. It is this potential that we regard as crucial and to which we appeal, not to the human potentiality for violence, unreason, and submission to authority. The goal of man and society should be human independence: a concern not with image of popularity but with finding a meaning in life that is personally authentic; a quality of mind not compulsively driven by a sense of powerlessness, nor one which unthinkingly adopts status values, nor one which represses all threats to its habits, but one which has full, spontaneous access to present and past experiences, one which easily unites the fragmented parts of personal history, one which openly faces problems which are troubling and unresolved; one with an intuitive awareness of possibilities, an active sense of curiosity, an ability and willingness to learn. This kind of independence does not mean egotistic individualism–the object is not to have one’s way so much as it is to have a way that is one’s own. Nor do we deify man–we merely have faith in his potential.”
Sounds like Aquarius to me. In the middle decan of Aquarius (Jan 31st thru Feb 9th), Lord of Science, we set our course for the star on the horizon, using our mental and moral faculties to move towards that which is ideal, the hope of humanity. The sextant shows the way and the orrery the positions. As Magus’, we can plot our path through the starry night, for the powers of reason and expansiveness can prevail. With clear views we can achieve every possibility. In spite of it being Winter here, this is one of my favorite decans of the year, as here we get a little glimmer of hope upon the horizon, that Spring will indeed come.
There is a Thelemic holiday called the Feast of Stars, that celebrates the birth of Nuit. It corresponds to the pagan holiday Imbolc in this period, falling around the secular celebration of Groundhog Day around February 2nd. This is the time of quickening, a stirring of the soul as all else still slumbers. You can read more about it in the post below from the same time last year, called The Feast of Stars.
Until then, “take ‘er easy” pardner, for “One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever.”
PS In the latest newsletter, I mentioned the circled cross symbol found in the ruins of the lost city of Ucetia, but forgot to give you a link.
To read the next article in the series on the Princess of Swords, go here.