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Reorienting on the Night, Devotion in the Dark 

Thoughts on Scorpio

click to enlarge AMANDA PAINTER
  • Amanda Painter

Writer Jeanette Winterson ‘gets’ the allure of Scorpio, even if she never mentions the word in her recent piece for The Guardian about why she adores the night. I am tempted to paste her entire piece here, because it is so gorgeous in its imagery, and in its seductively simple understanding of why the long nights of late fall invite ways of understanding ourselves that the long days of summer cannot provide.

For example, she writes that there is a complicity in darkness when it provides the backdrop for late afternoon lovemaking; the “slow extended time of love and night” creating a different kind of bonding with the body of your unseen lover; a contentment that is warm and heavy.

Winterson acknowledges the alchemical contrast between the cold darkness outdoors (or cold dark of your bedroom) and the warmth and light of a fire in the hearth. Or between the limited, insulating glow of a candle illuminating only what is immediate, and leaving a vast expanse of frosty night around you -- extending even to within your home.

The night opens its arms to our dreaming. Regarding the value of the dreamtime to human wellbeing, including in solving difficult problems, she writes, “The night allows this dream time, and the heavier, thicker dark of winter gives us a chance to dream a little while we are awake -- a kind of reverie or meditation, the constellation of slowness, silence and darkness that sits under the winter stars.”

Winterson’s love of the darkness of this season even extends to food:

“When friends from London arrive, high on electric light, like hamsters on a 24/7 wheel, I slow them down by feeding them food with darkness sealed in it: deep red venison stewed in claret, carp from the bottom of the river, root vegetables grown in rich black earth.”

There is something in her essay that has described to me the beauty of Scorpio. This sign holds mysteries in its very vibration, as does the night. Fittingly, Scorpio is a ‘night’ sign (though there are five others around the zodiac, and six corresponding ‘day’ signs); it is the ‘night house’ of Mars, while Aries is the ‘day house’.

It should perhaps be no surprise, then, that the mysteries of sexual surrender -- or of the surrender of life, which we call death -- cannot be unlocked to equal effect in the brightness of the spring (Aries) equinox. Even though spring holds the magic of new life. Yes, people die and make love in all seasons, all weather, day or night. That’s not what I mean.

I mean that, as Winterson points out, the daylight orients us on our external experiences. It is the night, the darkness -- Scorpio -- that compels us inward: to our secrets; to the subterranean well of our emotions; to the existential fear of annihilation we all face when nothing is able to mirror us back to ourselves. Are we dead in that moment? No; but we face the abyss of the unknowable to which we all, at some point, must succumb.

That can be terrifying. Perhaps there is something about Scorpio’s intimacy with the dark that fuels this sign’s legendary sharpness, cruelty and possessiveness; a kind of reaction in less-evolved Scorpionic souls, who lack the inner stillness that imparts a sense of oneness with the abyss.

And yet… There is much comfort to be found in the dark, in the reprieve from always being “on” just like a fluorescent light bulb. The darkness gives us a space that the light cannot -- a space that can be generative and womb-like. (Winterson describes that ideas come to her in the dark that would have no chance against the distractions visible with the lights on.) Scorpio does rule the generative system (the genitals), by means of which we come into the world. Why shouldn’t the seed of idea need darkness to germinate, just like the seed of any other fruit?

But how does Scorpio as a zodiac sign hold up in practice against these musings about the dark as holding as much comfort as fear, renewal alongside dangerous annihilation?

Legendary occultist Aleister Crowley writes, in The General Principles of Astrology, that the Scorpio native is “easily aroused to anger and makes a most dangerous enemy.” Yet immediately following, he remarks how tremendous contrast is possible between the evolved and the un-evolved Scorpionic soul:

  • The night opens its arms to our dreaming.

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