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Astro-Tarot Series

Arcanum 12: Pisces and the Martyr

Elbert Benjamine

Sacrifice and Love

Other things than the prominence of the sign Pisces undoubtedly are involved when a birth chart shows unmistakable signs that the individual to whom it belongs will have many sorrows and disappointments, will suffer through the influence of secret enemies, or will be persecuted for living according to his own high ideals. For such indications we must chiefly look to heavy afflictions in the twelfth house. Yet so far as signs and planets are concerned, because Pisces is the ruler of this twelfth house in a natural birth chart, none other is so closely associated with these particular afflictions.

In some measure, everyone has experiences of this sort; they mark one distinct and important department of human life. And had the ancient Masters who passed on to us the Wisdom of the Stars neglected to comment on these secret influences which beset our lives, that admirable work which we call the tarot would have been less instructive than it is. But instead of such neglect, they designed Major Arcanum 12, called The Martyr, specifically to explain this twelfth house association of the zodiacal sign Pisces, and the manner in which secret influences work remorselessly not merely against those with Pisces dominant in their charts of birth, but against the welfare of the human race.

Martin Luther King Jr.
While Martin Luther King Jr. Sun is
in Aquarius, his Moon is in Pisces.

In some manner it is probably true that Pisces people, when they take a stand to uphold some high ideal, tend more than do others to attract persecution. One cannot read the biography of George Washington, who had the Sun in this Pisces sign, without being struck by the long series of disappointments which attended his efforts to free his countrymen from what he considered a burden of oppression, the bitter denunciations from many of those he sought to help, and the ingratitude which while he lived was so largely his reward for shouldering this responsibility and carrying it to a successful end.

Perhaps it is also true that those unscrupulous more often pick Pisces people to use in the attainment of their ends, recognizing in them those to whom a tale of distress or an appeal to ideals will most readily find a sympathetic response. Even those with no other thought than to relieve themselves of pent up emotions, tell their troubles more readily to those of the Pisces sign.

Arcanum 12

One swallow does not make a summer, nor do a few birth-charts picked at random prove a point. But those who designed the tarot pictures clearly gave instructions relative to the sorrows caused by others in connection with this Pisces sign. Two trees are shown, even as the constellation in the heavens is pictured by two fishes; and as the two fishes are tied together by the ribbon of love, to express the fortunate side of Pisces, in which the ideals are realized, the two trees are joined by a cross-bar, running from the branches of one to the branches of the other; but the vines climbing thereon have not yet joined, ideals have not yet been attained.

Michelangelo Tree of Knowledge

It was not that they thought of Pisces only in connection with certain difficulties that they devoted the tarot picture to explaining how these might be recognized and avoided. It was because already in the symbolical pictograph of the constellation they had explained the advantages and the blessings of the sign. Virgo represents the Garden of Eden, which contains the Tree of Good and Evil. Yet information alone, no matter how comprehensive, is not sufficient to attain everlasting life, as is clearly implied in Genesis 3:22:

Tree of Life

And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.

Just where this Tree of Life is located the Bible does not say, but the tarot picture shows it in association with Pisces, the sign wherein is exalted Venus, the planet of love. That is, as Love and Wisdom are polar opposites, so in Pisces, the polar opposite of Virgo, may be found that principle of ideal Love which is the complement of the knowledge gained through partaking of the Tree of Good and Evil.

Cepheus: 1st Decanate of Pisces

That this is the Tree of Life may be recognized by the grapes that hang from the vine which about each bole spirally reaches upward, the juice of which since time long ago has symbolized the vital forces. Cassiopeia: 3rd Decanate of PiscesIn the constellation of the sky, because more clearly it pictures the process by which eternal life is gained, and because a tree would not be a suitable emblem in the water where the Fishes swim, no tree is shown. Yet the Pisces-decanate of the sign presents a scepter made from the branch of a tree, held in a ruler’s hand, signifying he is king over life and death. And the last decanate of the sign is pictured by a queen, who holds a branch of a palm tree in her hand, very much as Virgo does.

The Martyr

That Pisces is the sign where the physical cycle of life must end is indicated in the tarot picture by all twelve branches, one for each house of the horoscope which maps a distinct department of life, being cut off. If there is to be still further life, as given promise by the vine and grapes, such as indicated by the new cycle commenced in Aries, those processes which lead to revitalization should be commenced before the time of transition thus indicated. These are the processes so clearly indicated by the ribbon which binds the two Fishes of Pisces into an indissoluble union.

We are familiar with the fact that two elements united often produce a chemical compound with possibilities tremendously more significant than the same two chemical elements possess when not so united. And we are aware that through specialization of parts, which cooperate each with the others, well illustrated by the mechanics, statesmen, farmers, writers, artists, etc., which make possible that complex organization which we call our social system, that advantages are acquired which the separate parts could never possess without such cooperative union.

And the designers of the constellations, when they pictured the two Fishes of Pisces united into a single system by a flexible line, had more in mind than merely to suggest that this line could be used to bridge the way from the end of one cycle into the next. Even the bar across the tarot picture, uniting the six branches of one tree with the six branches of the other, implies a possible bridging across of life’s forces from one half the zodiac to the other, although the vine of those forces has not yet closed the space along the avenue which the more rigid physical had made easily available.

Pisces Constellation

In the sky, the Fishes are not thus united rigidly, but by a long ribbon which permits each Fish to move about without undue restriction from the other. Each thus seems to be permitted the exercise of its own initiative; but belongs to a system from which it cannot separate. They are really Cupid and Venus, according to Greek legend, who were placed in the sky to commemorate their escape from Typhon. They unexpectedly met this selfish monster, typical of Saturn, as one day they were strolling along the bank of the river Euphrates, and to avoid his clutches leaped into the water and transformed themselves into the two Fishes now seen in the sky.

Venus and Cupid are personifications of love. The Fishes into which they were transformed are denizens of the water, and thus represent the emotions. Yet while love has a binding power, the ribbon by which the two Fishes are united, to be true to the rulership of Neptune, must represent an actual invisible energy which unites them, but which does not greatly hamper the movements of either.

The conditions which are most favorable, when the natural requirements are present, for strengthening this endless belt of finer energies between those who are deeply in love, are the desire to be as helpful and beneficial to all creatures as possible, having a common work by which this is chiefly accomplished, and the cultivation of tenderness and sympathy one for the other.

Those who cultivate this highest expression of love on earth, such as the united Fishes depict, find it advantageous to idealize all they do. Whatever is undertaken which they feel is worthy, in its accomplishment they keep the image of their loved one before them and feel that they are doing that thing, not because of duty, but for the sake of the other one.

All that is accomplished is thus done for love. And the love motive, under such cultivation, becomes so powerful that hardships are not recognized as such, the life is filled with joy, and there is high accomplishment.

Furthermore, the energies engendered by such devotion to ideals have a spiritual power that makes Faith, even of the size of a mustard seed, able to move mountains; and bridges without a gap in consciousness or any lessening of initiative, the transition from the physical plane to the next realm of existence.

Thus does the Pisces constellation explain fully the successful maturity of the Tree of Life; but in the tarot picture the life forces as yet have not joined, and the man hanging from the cross-bar has his hands tied together to show his bondage, and coins are dropping from them upon the ground.

The Martyr

The means by which advantage has been taken of him is clearly set forth, as the foot is not merely related to the sign Pisces, but is the old time symbol of the understanding; and he is shown hoisted to his uncomfortable position by one foot. Thus is explained in the language of symbolical pictograph that his understanding has been used to ensnare and imprison him; a thought given further amplification by The Brotherhood of Light Key-phrase for Pisces, which is, I Believe. Obviously his hands are tied, he suffers persecution, and he loses things of value, represented by the coins dropping from his hands, because he is led to believe that which those who thus deprive him desire him to believe.

Then the picture goes on to explain the methods by which he is led into such erroneous belief. The trine, such as made by his hands, is the symbol of spirit, and it should point upward, even as the head of the Martyr, indicating his intelligence, should be up, and not down. The cross, such as is made by one leg bent at the knee and crossing the other is the symbol of material motives and matter. Thus spirituality and intelligence should rule; but in the picture this proper order is inverted; revealing that the predicament of the one thus suspended is due to an inversion of facts in such a manner as to cause misunderstanding.

This has been the favorite method of controlling human conduct for selfish aims throughout all time; not to tell an unadorned lie, because unless such is very cunningly concealed amid much truth, or given wide repetition, it is too easily proved untrue; but to resort to inversion, the success of which depends chiefly upon three factors:

  1. It must present facts that are widely recognized to be true, or which can easily be proved to be true; and if they have a strong emotional appeal, so much the better.
  2. The inversive twist—the misinformation or misinterpretation so well represented in the tarot picture by the twist of rope about the bar by which the Martyr is hoisted — through which the whole matter is made to have a meaning exactly the opposite of its true purport, must occupy so small a part of the whole presentation, or be so cunningly concealed by sophistical handling, that it escapes the notice of all except those with critical faculties highly developed.
  3. This inversive twist — the misinformation or misinterpretation—must be so worded that it can be subjected to no direct and simple test of accuracy. In fact, the more loopholes left by which to sidestep any direct test of its truth the more it fulfills its object.

To give the necessary plausibility, and therefore confidence that it is not a lie, a common method used both by those on the physical plane and those in the astral slums, is to use truth, and just as obvious a truth as can be employed, and within it to insert a very small and inconspicuous distortion of the truth, which cleverly makes the meaning of the whole just the opposite of its true significance.

In the accomplishment of this, for instance, no direct accusations are made against an opponent; for these could be brought to trial. But instead, insinuations are published, which if brought to trial could be said to have meant something entirely different, and to have no derogatory import. Or, in setting forth some matter, so many alternatives are left, any one of which seemingly supports the inversion, that as fast as one is traced down and proved to be a lie, another can be substituted; so that the number of such substitute lies becomes so great that the public has not the patience to follow the efforts of anyone who has the diligence to hunt them down, one after another.

Also words are used which have come to mean those things which are highly desirable to society, and because of the desirability of the things thus generalized come to possess strong emotional power. The unconscious minds of people are so accustomed to responding either favorably or unfavorably to the things designated by these words that the words themselves have come to be symbols that arouse a special type of emotion, regardless of their association at the particular time.

Honest, unselfish, patriotic, benign, high-minded, good, true, noble, divine and charming are words such as may be counted on to bring a favorable response; while selfish, cruel, coward, murder, avaricious, bully, yellow, tyrant, grafter, seditious, crafty and mean are such as may be counted on to incite instant antagonism.

And those who exploit the weakness of the public have learned that if some person, cause, object can adroitly be coupled with one of these words; due to the habit of emotionally associating only things of a definite kind with the words, the unconscious reaction to the person, cause or object thus associated, is that habitually aroused by the word. The emotional reaction, because of the power of habit, is so spontaneous as to lull reason. Before the critical faculties have time to question whether the association between the person, cause or object and the word is warranted, the habitual emotion aroused by the word has taken charge and embraced the whole phrase or sentence in its customary or unpleasant feeling.

This principle too frequently is applied in politics and in selling widely advertised products. If you desire prosperity, you are told to vote for Mr. Windbags. Yet a little analysis of the position which Mr. Windbags will hold if elected would reveal it has no particular influence for or against prosperity.

Or an attractive picture of an athlete is presented from a billboard, with the suggestion that smoking a certain kind of tobacco or drinking a certain brand of liquor tends to build up lung power and stamina. People in general would like to have these qualities, and the association of some product with the well known fact that the individual pictured has them, gives rise to a feeling, on the part of the unconscious mind at least, that the product has assisted in the athlete’s success.

The most resolute people in the world are those who believe they are serving some righteous cause, or are directly guided by the voice of Deity. If such can be convinced, therefore, by a clever inversion, that some act, however atrocious or anti-social it may be, is their duty to perform, they become most effective tools in the hands of those with ulterior motives. It seems likely, for instance, that before Booth assassinated Lincoln, he was brought to believe he was thus rendering a fine service to society.

Pisces, through its co-ruler, Jupiter, is interested in religion. Yet the Pisces religion of the past has suffered many an inversion. The inquisition, the persecution of witches, and the doctrine that to be happy is a sin, are but random examples which well exemplify the tarot picture of the Martyr suspended by one foot.

Also, the inversive forces represented by the twelfth house of a horoscope had wreaked their iniquitous power on America before the arrival of the white man. The ancient religion of Mexico was singularly pure, fruits and flowers being offered to the higher powers as emblems of thankfulness; but gradually the Priests of the Shadow gained dominion over the religious observances of the land.

After a battle it seemed quite appropriate that prisoners of war should be offered as sacrifices instead of inanimate things, especially as the priests told the people they would thus inherit the strength of the victims and could use it against future enemies.

When the custom of making human sacrifices had thus been established, it was then easy to extend it to imply a demand by the gods for more and more victims. Should prisoners of war not be at hand, individuals from the populace must be selected, otherwise the anger of the gods would be visited upon the nation. And when a national crisis arose, still more victims must be had, in order to avert the threatened peril.

Through the inverted twist given by the Aztec Priests of Darkness when after long years they came into power, the populace was made to believe that the efficacy of the involuntary Martyrdom depended upon a particularly horrible method of sacrifice. The victim was spread-eagled, face up, on the altar-stone, each hand and leg held by a priest. Another priest, after appropriate invocation to the gods (bloodthirsty elementals of the twelfth house), with a single slash of a stone knife ripped open the victim’s breast, and with the other hand tore the living, palpitating heart from the shrieking man or woman. He then held aloft the bloody trophy as an offering to invisible beings and for the assembled populace to see. Should it so happen that the victim died before his heart was jerked from his agonized body, the sacrifice was considered ineffectual.

In early Mayan times the offering of fruits and flowers in thanksgiving was a symbolical rite expressing the desire to devote the creative energies, which the flowers represent, to higher, or spiritual purposes, and to make the fruits of life acceptable to the Great Spirit who presided over all. But with the coming of the Toltec invaders, a different type of priestly authority gained control, and the older doctrines were inverted to sanction human sacrifice.

And so far had this process of twelfth house inversion gone among the Aztecs, that just previous to the Spanish conquest several thousand living human sacrifices were made each year, no day passing without its orgy of pain and blood, so that Cortez after the capture of what is now Mexico City, and was the Aztec capital, could with some justification boast that he had put an end to impious practices.

Yet these involuntary Martyrdoms, and the massacre of 40,000 starving Indians by which Cortez ended them, and claimed thus to have contributed glory both to king and God, were made possible because the populace was made to believe they had divine sanction. As Arcanum 12 so ably explains, no method of taking advantage of others is so effective as to invert the facts, and thus gain acceptance for a well selected erroneous belief.

(This concludes part 13 of 23)

To purchase The Sacred Tarot by C. C. Zain student format, hardbound)

To purchase The Egyptian Tarot Cards

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