Atu XIX: The Sun
Letter: ר Resh (R)
Proximity: Sephira #8 (Hod) to Sephira #9 (Yesod)
Pent #30 “Universal” – Water of 坎 (K’an) The Abysmal, Water (Above/Below)
Water of 震(Chên) The Arousing, Thunder (Without/Within)
Berashith: “Elohim said be fruitful and multiply”
(Upper right) Fire: Hex #4: 蒙 (Mêng) Youthful Folly
(Lower left) Air: Hex #3: 屯 (Chun) Difficulty at the Beginning
(Upper left) Water: Hex #50: 鼎 (Ting) The Caldron
(Lower right) Earth: Hex #49: 革 (Ko) Revolution/Molting
Keywords (Dignified): Solar, Radiant, Clarifying, Penetrating, Illumination, Nourishment, Agitation, Restlessness, Inspiration, Power, Drive, Motivation, Enthusiasm, Vitality, Strength, Beauty, Illumination, Banishing, Triumph, Awakening
Keywords (Ill-Dignified): Irrationality, Pessimism, Ingratitude, Delay, Arrogance, Loneliness, Solitude, Worries
Historical: The Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo Visconti-Sforza card depicts a triumphant looking putto on a dark cloud carrying a disembodied red glowing head. He flies high over a walled city and mountains. This head is supposed to be the sun but it has connotations to the soul-transmigration cult of Orpheus, father of songs. The deep purple scarf around the putto’s neck is shaped like a lyre, the sacred musical instrument of Hermes’ invention (made from the shell of his beloved pet turtle!).
Orpheus used this instrument it to charm all living things including stones, and is said to have completely mastered it, along with poetry and song. The founding of the cult of Dionysus was attributed to him. Orpheus is often depicted with a phrygian cap, like Mithras, and like Mithras, surrounded by a circle. In Orpheus’s pictures there are twenty animals of different types around him, and this parallels the doctrine of the tetractys (2×10).
Considering the evidence it is difficult not to associate the Visconti Sun with the Cult of Orpheus, which is very ancient and dated to at least the 5th century B.C.. Elements parallel Pythagorean belief structures.
Most importantly Orpheus was a sun-worshipper, towards the end of his life, having abandoned the cult of Dionysus. The development of Mithraism and the Sol Invictus cult was deeply entwined with Orphic mysteries. He was killed by Maenads for not worshipping Dionysus, and this has caused speculation that he was an avatar of Dionysus himself, due to the nature of the Dionysus cult.
In later decks the Sun is treated as merely the Sun, and these ancient mystery cults of the Greeks and Romans are largely shelved, unfortunately.
Golden Dawn: Called The Sun, Lord of the Fires of the World, The Sun card corresponds to the planetary Sol and places between Sephira #8 (Hod) and Sephira #9 (Yesod) in the Golden Dawn system.
Two putti or youth are the subject of the card in many Golden Dawn tarot packs. The mid-20th century Golden Dawn pack The Hermetic Tarot associated the sun with Heru-Ra-Ha. Flowers are often present, responding with photosynthesis. The Rose is in the center of the sun. This rose appears all over the place in the Golden Dawn cards. I’ll explain what I think about it just this once and then leave it alone. It isn’t a remarkable symbol, but it is prevalent. So prevalent that one could waste a lot of time wondering just what all of the emphasis on the silly thing is. It’s not as important as it’s made out to be, and is just a device that became popular to symbolize certain ideas about the pure essence of Vitriol and subjects pertaining to Cabbala (the Christianized Jewish Kabbala as opposed to Hermetic Qabbala). One can also see a poor facsimile between its more contrived forms and Eastern magickal symbols, such as Tibetan Thangkas (the cosmos on Mahakala’s belly or the cosmic tortoise’s back for example) We’ve dispensed entirely with it in this deck because it is too stupid to continue to be used by serious students of the occult today, and because it was never necessary before the 17th century. Far too much emphasis is placed on it, and the Rosicrucians and Golden Dawn alike are apologists without ever actually explaining plainly what it is, so that we’re left to assume it’s a vagina or something. If in the unlikely case it is supposed to be the blood red head of Orpheus-Apollo-Dionysus, then one is left to wonder why they can’t explain that by now to everyone in the 20th-21st centuries.
Thoth: Surprisingly perhaps, Crowley changed very little about The Sun, it reflects the same imagery hundreds of other packs over the centuries have used in The Golden Dawn. The scallops of the rose are there in the center of the sun, and the kids are still butt naked, symbolizing pure innocence. Crowley waxes melancholy over the state of the world in the text, and given the fact he was bisexual this is unsurprising given Lady Harris’s unfair reproach of homosexuals and Modern Art in the correspondence letters of the Thoth pack. Perhaps he was trying to teach her a lesson.
At first glance the hexagrams seem tumultuous. Difficulty at the Beginning in Air signifies new growth, birth and new ventures. Youthful Folly in Fire reinforces the idea of a toddler or child. In Water and Earth we have the idea of a young nation or a teenager. So the general idea of The Sun is of youth. This is closely aligned with the force and energy of Hermes. It could not be more in tune with the old imagery. The bright spring growth and children are a perfect match. Again Mutational Alchemy is validated as a behemoth in the occult that will continue to batter down old stereotypes and build new and lasting connections with all of the old authentic systems of the occult.
In Youthful Folly we have a description from Confucius that indicates the annoyance an old sage has with a young and inexperienced neophyte with no discipline. The young thing has not learned the value of “Perseverence Furthers”. In this we are reminded that the Sun is like a Father, very ancient and strong. It does not deign to talk to the young or foolish, but only speaks to people when it is very important that they listen to what it has to say. One needs to be modest and receptive to it when it talks. The Sun can represent any kind of teacher, from a parent or grandparent, or even the star Sol itself which does have a high intelligence as one can find out for themselves. Even more than these attributes, Youthful Folly tells us to be thoughtful, and thorough. “If you are not going to do something right, don’t do it at all” as the old saying goes. While this is not true at the best of times, in this case it is really sound advice, except it would be better if it said “If you are not doing something right, persevere until you get it right.”
Difficulty at the Beginning seems to only serve to reinforce the advice from Youthful Folly, without the young ones. It tells us again to persevere and do things in the right way, but acknowledges especially difficult situations, and tells us to get helpers.
In the Water Hex #50, The Cauldron, we have the enticing promise of a reward. There is something worth having at the end of the labor and the frustration. It also tells us that the work itself is the good fortune, like The Great Work. Furthermore 50 is the number of Nuit and has a connection to the star nature of Man. Here to is a warning to be correct.“Thus the superior man consolidates his fate; By making his position correct.” (Richard Wilhelm, Cary Baynes, The I Ching Princeton University Press) The image is of a fire over wood. One can learn more about the nature of this image by building, tending and watching an actual fire.
The combative Hex #49 Revolution is the image of Fire below Lake, it’s a steamy and tumultuous mess. But here is the alchemical process, and the work being fulfilled. It has a special connection to actual political upheaval. The pentagram is supremely life-affirming, and may be a clue to the nature of the revolution. it is for life, fighting entropy, like the sun blazing in the darkness.