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Astro-Tarot Series

Arcanum 13: Aries and The Reaper

Elbert Benjamine

Healing Energy

Those of the olden time, as well as investigators more modern, had become convinced that life is an unending succession of experiences in constantly evolving new forms. The destruction of the old was, in reality, also the commencement of the construction of the new; and both destruction and construction, in their more active expressions, were ruled by the same planet, Mars. This is the planet of energy, relating to war. But it equally relates also to the healing art and to surgery, by which those who otherwise would perish may be given opportunity to live.

This is not just a theory derived from symbolism and tradition; for The Brotherhood of Light, in the analysis of 100 birth charts of people whose time of birth is known, and who also know the date when they suffered some rather serious accident, found that at the time, all 100 of them had a progressed aspect to Mars in their charts. And the analysis of the progressed aspects present when people undergo surgical operations, irrespective of whether they recover or not, reveals that at the time, there is practically always a progressed aspect to this planet Mars.

Mars energy may express as life or it may express as death. But even when it thus does result in the dissolution of one form, a new form immediately springs into existence. Those of an ancient day watched the passing of the seasons. In the autumn they witnessed the grass dry and wither, and many trees lose their foliage. But with the coming of another spring, the earth that had appeared so dead, again grew verdant, and the bare-looking trees put forth new leaves. These things coincided with the annual progress of the Sun.

But their interest was not confined merely to existence in the physical. They traced the advancement of life also upon the four-dimensional plane. Their psychic perceptions witnessed there the continuation of the life-form which through physical death had passed from the earth.

On this inner plane it underwent a period of gestation, and after further experiences with four-dimensional life, it returned to earth to occupy some higher form for which its experiences now fitted it; or in case of a human soul, to an interior realm in which the opportunities for expressing its ideals, thoughts and emotions were immensely greater than it could ever hope for under the limitations of an environment of only three dimensions.

Thus the ancient masters came to look upon what we call death as merely the completion of one cycle of life, which was also the commencement of a new cycle of existence. Birth into a physical body resulted when a cycle of four-dimensional experience had been completed by the life-form. And, as they had amply demonstrated that the vitality of the body, and therefore its recuperative power, is ruled by the Sun in a birth chart, they correlated their teachings about the cycles of life with the cycles of the sun.

Celestial Equator

The celestial equator, coinciding on earth with the earth’s equator, divides the earth astronomically into north and south polarity. And it has been found experimentally that the relation of the sun to this division of the earth determines the relation of the earth to the various sections of the field of force through which the planets move. In other words, the signs of the zodiac owe their peculiar vibratory quality to the definite section of the heavens they occupy relative to the positions of the sun and earth. And the determining factor in this is the distance along the apparent path of the sun from the point where it crosses the celestial equator, and thus changes polarity.

The sun each year apparently moves north from the southern celestial hemisphere to the northern celestial hemisphere, bringing with it the summer season. It does this because its path, the ecliptic, is inclined at an angle of 23 degrees, 26 minutes, 51 seconds [changing slowly over time, 23 26 05 at May 2015] to the plane of the earth’s equator, the projection of which in the sky becomes the celestial equator.

That is, as the ecliptic and celestial equator are not identical and not parallel, they must meet and intersect each other. The line of their intersection is called the equinoctial colure. The points where the sun, following its path, the ecliptic, crosses the celestial equator are called the vernal equinox and the autumnal equinox. They are called equinoxes because when the sun reaches these points the nights are equal in duration to the days.

Vernal Equinox

While this may seem a bit technical, everyone is familiar with the changes of the seasons from winter to spring and from summer to autumn. These are caused by the sun changing polarity in crossing the equinoctial colure, crossing from the southern celestial hemisphere to the northern celestial hemisphere about the 21st of March each year, and from the northern celestial hemisphere to the southern celestial hemisphere each year about the 23rd of September.

Of these two points, it was noted by the ancients, as well as by moderns, that the one where the sun crosses the celestial equator in spring is the most important, and constitutes the commencement of the zodiac. Although it is a circular belt in the sky along the apparent path of the sun, the zodiac thus has a definite starting point. This starting point is not determined by any of the stars or constellations, but by the place among the stars and constellations, during any given year, where the sun crosses from south declination to north declination.

Out of Death comes Life

This is called the vernal equinox, and also the First Point of Aries. As the beginning of the sign Aries marks the change of polarity of the sun which ends one astronomical year and commences another, and as the sun was known to be the ruler of the vital forces of life, the ancient wise ones who designed the tarot felt it appropriate to explain, in association with this sign of the sun’s annual birth, their findings that the death of one form always constitutes the birth of another.

Furthermore, as the most important cycle influencing the events which happen to cities and nations is mapped at the exact moment the sun changes polarity, and thus enters this sign, in the tarot design relating to the sign Aries, they also sought to convey knowledge regarding the influence of cycles in Mundane (Global) Astrology.

The Reaper

Circling the zodiac, the sun each year returns to the commencement of Aries. Its crossing the celestial equator to enter this sign, cuts off the old cycle of its life, even as in tarot Major Arcanum 13, The Reaper cuts down with his scythe the ripened grain. Aries is a Mars sign, and the cutting of the harvest by the grim skeleton, portrays in the language of symbolical pictograph, the destructive influence of Mars upon the vitality of the cycle of the sun just completed. Death, as pictured by the skeleton, inevitably claims its own.

This, however, is but one aspect of the picture. The other shows the bow of bright promise in the sky; while in the wake of The Reaper there are human hands, representing works, human feet, representing understanding, and human heads, significant of thoughts. Here we have, not merely the destruction by Mars, but the promise also of its constructive power. The sun, entering the Mars sign, Aries, has had the vitality of its previous life-cycle cut off; but this gives birth to a new cycle of life, birth to new thoughts, birth to new understanding, and birth to new works, which the sun now has commenced to vitalize.

Connecting with the Dead

Mundane Astrology

Thus is there pictured in Major Arcanum 13 a philosophy which denies that death is the end, and which gives to the thoughts and works of man a significance in the realms of the future. Not only will the vital forces represented by the sun acquire a power and increase when the individual is born through so-called death into the afterlife, but it will be springtime also for thoughts and understanding, and for the work which he will start in that region.

But in addition to a philosophy regarding the life of the soul being a succession of cycles, each in a more progressive form, Major Arcanum 13 also explains the important factors which should be used in the practice of Mundane Astrology. The death and birth there pictured relate not to one individual, but as plainly indicated by various types of human heads, to groups of people. And Mundane Astrology is the science of the influence of the heavenly bodies as they affect the world, nations, cities, communities and other groups of people.

Power Distribution among the Houses

Graphic demonstration of house influence in the USA natal chart.
Produced using Horoscope Report Generator Version 3.1.

Any organization of individuals functioning under a common governing authority constitutes an entity. As such it attracts to itself fortunate and unfortunate events in a manner quite similar to that in which like events are attracted into the life of man. Both have birth charts which, if known, correctly map their characters; and both are influenced by picking up, radio fashion, four-dimensional vibrations through changes in their finer structures, such as are mapped by progressed aspects.

Power Distribution among the Planets

Graphic demonstration of planetary influence in the USA natal chart.
Produced using Horoscope Report Generator Version 3.1.

As indicated by the heads in Arcanum 13, the individuals are the thinking units within the body of the community, even as the thought-cells are the intelligent units within the unconscious mind of man. And when, through progressions or other positions of the heavenly bodies, certain of these units receive an additional energy supply, this causes them to be proportionally more active, and thus pronouncedly to influence the thoughts, the behavior, and the events attracted, into the life of the individual or group of which the units form a part.

The community birth chart indicates the character of the community as a functioning whole. As progressed aspects form to the birth chart and progressed planets in this community chart, thought trains are released. These link certain individuals of similar motives and ideas together in a manner that enables them, and the thought-forms they generate, to perform the same function performed by a temporary stellar aerial stretching across the astral body of individual man. Through this thought-chain, and those persons who act as receiving terminals, because they have so completely tuned in on certain planetary vibrations, additional planetary energy finds its way to various members of the community. These feel in a particular way in reference to community effort, depending upon the type and harmony or discord of their respective characters, and the type and harmony of the new energy thus received from the planets.

It is according to the way they feel and think and act, in response to the new energy thus picked up from the planets, the determines whether the event attracted through their activities is harmonious or discordant. And the department of life, which becomes the object of their thinking and activity, is the one that is that is chiefly affected, instead of some other.

Yet a nation, or a section of the country, responds so pronouncedly to Cycles, such as Arcanum 13 indicates, that even when the birth chart of a nation is known, these should receive special consideration. And as the correct birth-charts of most countries and cities are unknown, in the astrological determination of the events which will transpire in relation to them, we are compelled to rely upon the current planetary aspects in the sky, the charts erected for major conjunctions, which have an acute and precise influence, but only over a very limited period of time, and upon the cycle charts of the various planets.

The cutting off of the old influence and the birth of a new regime, as pictured by The Reaper, takes place in so far as the sun is concerned when, through passing from southern declination to northern declination, it changes magnetic polarity. It does this not because it enters the sign Aries, but because the sign Aries ever must start at the point in the heavens where the sun thus changes polarity.


The rainbow above in the picture shows the promise of that which is to come, and in so far as things in general are concerned, a chart erected for a given place for the moment the sun crosses to north declination, about March 21, reveals what will happen affecting a city, nation or other group entity whose governing authority is at that place, during the following year. Thus also each house of this chart, as representing a different department of national life, could be considered in turn and the whole summed up as the different general trends of events during the year.

But the bow of promise in this pictographic explanation of the influence of cycles is clearly not confined to the action of a single planet. There are really seven distinct lines in the bow, showing that each naked-eye orb, at least, must be considered as having a cyclic influence of its own. And other than the moon, which revolves around the earth and commences its Cycle when it makes the conjunction with the sun, observation proves that each of the planets, as well as the sun, commences a cycle when it crosses from south declination to north declination.

The sun and moon and the things they rule are so important in human life that from the Sun Cycle for each year and the Moon Cycle for each month it is possible to determine much of what is going to happen in a country or city. But if dependence is placed exclusively upon the Ingress Map (as the Sun Cycle commonly is called), and the Lunation Maps (as the Moon Cycles often are termed), some of the most outstanding events will be overlooked; for these relate chiefly to the influence of things ruled by some other planet.

Unlike the Cycle Charts of the sun and moon, the Cycle Chart of one of these other planets does not indicate the influence of a wide variety of things on the affairs of the locality for which erected. Its influence is narrowly confined to that which it is there possible for the things ruled by the planet for which the chart is erected to exert.

A Mars reveals the influence exerted by mechanics, by manufacturing and the military profession, and by aggressive action; but it does not reveal the influence of orthodoxy, of land and basic utilities, of conservatism, or of the farmer and miner. Such a Cycle Chart is the birth chart of the type of influence indicated by the planet for which it is erected. This birth chart continues effective until the commencement of the next Cycle of the same planet. The commencement of a Cycle also tends at that time to stimulate the influence of the things ruled by the planet for which the chart is erected, upon the affairs of the world.

This, or any other Cycle Chart affecting groups of people, is like a birth chart of definite influence over a stated period, revealing the events that will transpire due to that particular influence, but not due to those of other types. And as in the birth chart of an individual, the time when the indicated events will happen is revealed by progressed aspects. But unlike the progressions in a birth chart, the only planet progressed is the one for which the chart is erected, and only as it moves forward by transit to make aspects to the positions the planets occupy in the Cycle Chart.

A Mars Cycle, however, does not indicate the events which relate to safety, economy and poverty, or to the influence of ultra conservative thought, strictly orthodox religion, or to the power in politics of the farm and miner. For these, and measures relating to security, we must look in particular to the Cycle of Saturn. And during this period the outstanding events due to cautiousness, conservatism, economy and fear coincide with the aspects Saturn make as it moves through the sky, to the positions of the planets in this Cycle Chart.

It will be seen that no difficulty should be experienced by anyone who becomes even slightly familiar with the use of progressed aspects in Cycle Charts, in foretelling with precision the times when widespread interest in events of each planetary type will be exhibited, and within a day or two, when important events of each planetary type will come to pass. In fact, by also considering the New Moon Cycle, or Lunation, such events can be predicted to within twenty-four hours of the exact time they actually transpire.

At the commencement of a Cycle the influence is more pronounced while the planet is close to the exact line between north and south declination. But because the physical environment, by its resistance or lack of it, may require accumulated planetary pressures to manifest a given event, the condition indicated by the changing polarity pictured in Arcanum 13, may develop somewhat before, or somewhat, after, the exact moment of change of declination. There is an orb, therefore, of one degree of movement by declination, within which events signified by the Cycle may take place before the Cycle actually starts. [Approximate time to move one degree of declination: Sun, 3 days; Mars, 4 days; Jupiter, 12 days; Saturn, 21 days; Uranus, 49 days; Neptune, 70 days; Pluto, 72 days.]

In a like manner the progressed aspects which form to the places of the planets in the Cycle Chart, also have an orb of one degree from the perfect aspect, within which the event signified happens.

In the Moon Cycle, which is set for the conjunction of the Moon with the Sun, and not for change in declination, because the Moon moves so rapidly, an orb of 24 hours is allowed within which the event signified by the progressed aspect of the Moon happens. Any event which transpires outside of the orb of one degree from perfect, or in the case of the Moon, more than 24 hours before or after the perfect aspect, should not be attributed to the commencement of the cycle or to the aspect.

The detailed application of this knowledge in predicting the events which will come to pass within a community or nation, of course, presupposes a knowledge of common astrological practice; that the progression of the planet through a house causes its influence to be felt in a certain department of life, rather than in others, and that its progressed aspect to a planet in a certain house, causes the things represented by that house to be affected. It is to be recognized, also, that the influence of a progressed aspect to one planet is different than that of a progressed aspect to another planet. These matters, however, are common knowledge to those who practice natal astrology.

But in addition to that which pertains to natal astrology, the ancients, through Arcanum 13 of the tarot, laid down for us the principles of using Cycles in Mundane Astrology. They associated the start of such Cycles with the pictographic explanation of the sign Aries, because the most important Cycle, that of the Sun, commences when that orb enters Aries. And they indicated by the seven promises of the bow, that each of the other planets could be used in a manner somewhat similar.

(This concludes part 14 of 23)

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