Images of the Zodiac: Contemplating Scorpio


Johfra Bosschart, Scorpio

There has been so much Scorpionic energy this month that it has been very hard for me to translate all that subconscious, emotional intensity and tension into language. Also in my personal astrological line-up, Scorpionic energy abounds and is going to intensify in the near future. I understand very well now that Scorpio much prefers highly charged silences to any verbal outpourings. A small collection of symbols would be enough to capture its essence – that was probably Johfra’s rationale for the ascetic feel of his Scorpio image. It seems to be a contemplation of danger, degeneration, death and spiritual renewal. As early as in the ancient Babylonia, the scorpion was a harbinger of death. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, as Gavin White writes, a Scorpion-man and a Scorpion-woman are guardians to the mythic mountain under which the sun sets every night. Gilgamesh descends under the mountain, through a tunnel and into the underworld on his quest to find immortality.


Scorpions are magical creatures. Putting their symbolism aside, it is enough to take a look at their habits and properties to feel sheer awe and amazement. I was encouraged by James Hillman, author of Animal Presences, to look at the real creature before I proceed to petrify it into its symbolic meaning. Hillman does not write about scorpions, unfortunately, because I would really welcome his brilliant insights. In my research, I have managed to come across some amazing facts about scorpions. Scorpions are very ancient creatures. The oldest fossil scorpion is 400 million years old and looks exactly like the modern one. Scorpions once existed along with dinosaurs. The ancestors of our scorpions once dominated the oceans and they could reach the length of eight meters (9 feet). The modern scorpion is extremely adept at survival: some species can live a year without food or water, and survive a few weeks under water. When food is scarce, they hibernate but become fully alert and ready to attack the moment they detect their prey. What is more, their detection skills are unsurpassed: they sweep the area like radar and can feel the tiniest flutter of butterfly wings. They are not fussy eaters: they would eat anything that falls into their clutches, including other Scorpions, which they kill instantaneously by injecting venom into their nervous system.


They are masters of energy conservation, which they achieve by building spiral tunnels where temperature and humidity remain at a constant desirable level (Scorpio is a fixed sign after all: it strives to concentrate energy). However, their mating dance can last for hours and their courtship rituals are quite extended, including “a cheliceral kiss,” which involves the male injecting the female with a small amount of his venom. When the mating is over, the male retreats quickly and does not look back, perhaps for fear of being cannibalized. Along with cockroaches, they are the only species able to survive a nuclear attack and deadly doses of radiation. Like other arachnids, including spiders, they have eight legs, fittingly, as Scorpio is the eighth sign of the Zodiac. They are nocturnal creatures; bright light is extremely unpleasant for them and that’s why they spend their days hidden in burrows, crevices and under buildings. They dislike the sun and the wind because it interferes with their sensitive detection devices. They cannot survive in environments that have no soil because they are burrowing animals.

All of the above are scientific facts, but they go with the symbolism of the Scorpio extremely well.


Rudhyar, with his talent to encapsulate the universe in one sentence, wrote this about Scorpio: “(Scorpio) deals with all that is at the foundation of being human…. It is dark and heavy, as roots are dark and deeply embedded in humus which is the product of disintegration.” He continues: “In Scorpio the individual is forced to touch bottom. He must be willing to surrender his individual uniqueness and individual prerogatives. As he does so, he descends in consciousness into the common Root of the group. He learns to live in terms of humanity as a whole. In a sense, this is symbolized by Christ’s descent into hell. Through such a descent the human depths are “redeemed;” that is, they are made significant. They are given an individualized meaning and a conscious value by this descent of the individual.” Scorpio is a sign opposing Taurus in the Zodiac. Do you remember the Taurean image ( – the Spring in full bloom, lush green hills, Life thriving. The rich Taurean soil rests upon the dark, heavy and moist Scorpionic mud, the “long-accumulated sediment, water trapped by the coldness of ice or the heaviness of mud.” (Deborah Holding). The landscape here is stark and deathly: definitely not a place to nap, relax and unwind. In a landscape like this, one needs to stay alert and ready for a fight or a flight. This is the fundamental root, the underbelly of life, the materia prima of alchemy.

“Here destruction and creativity meet together, causing a tremendous alchemical reaction between attraction and repulsion, a transmutative force which deserves the highest respect since a negative or uncontrolled release is capable of destruction, just as a positive, controlled discharge is imbibed with the power to sweep away all boundaries of resistance. …

The Egyptians, who accorded great honour to scorpions and beetles, recognised the spiritual alliance between the creatures that dwelt beneath the earth and the magical, alchemical processes of life, death and regeneration. The most blessed state was to be born in a ‘rich compost’ of power, and the black, fertile mud of the Nile delta was their Prima Materia, the bubbling melting pot of creativity where decomposing elements underwent an attractive reaction that allowed the emergence of new life. Their word for this black, muddy earth was Kemit, adopted as khemia by the Greeks, and eventually forming the basis of the word alchemy which has dropped its spiritual dimension – but not its power to transmute and create – in the modern word chemistry. Whilst all the water signs are known for their fertile potential, it is with dark, still, muddy Scorpio that we encounter the truly powerful creative potential.”

Deborah Holding

The traditional ruler of Scorpio is Mars, the modern one – Pluto (the Greek Hades, god of the underworld and the ruler of precious minerals hidden in the earth). He was said to wear a cap of invisibility when he emerged to the surface of the earth. It is interesting that the planetary body that due to its size has lost its planetary status, has a nuclear effect when transiting the vital points in a birth chart. Similarly, the scorpion’s size has nothing to do with the deadliness of its venom; on the contrary, the sting of the smaller scorpions is actually much more dangerous. Stripped of its powers (seemingly) Pluto continues to wield his enormous influence from the underground.

Johfra chose to remain with the old ruler and hence the red Martian colour dominating the painting. To me, that red looks a lot like blood, which immediately calls to mind the motifs of passion, power, and also sacrifice. The scorpionic inferno is the inferno of passions. Blood is life itself, its unceasing rhythm, being in its totality, the vibrant flow of life. One is immediately reminded of rubedo (reddening), which is the last stage of the alchemical opus and which denotes the existence that is both spiritual and material. The final stage of the alchemical opus brings a reconciliation of up-, down-, in- and out- turning impulses that so often tear Scorpios apart.

“In stage four, the alchemist awakens to the desire to return to the earth and to fully incarnate his or her state of “illuminated” consciousness into the mind and body. …Heaven and earth in the alchemist are now united.”

Nigel Hamilton


Three stages of alchemy: Nigredo, Albedo and Rubedo

As nobody puts new wine into old bottles, the chalice of the old life is knocked down and the awakened radiant psyche, the Holy Grail, the philosophical stone, resides in a new chalice. Jung wrote of “anima corporalis that dwells in the blood;” he emphasized that the mystery of psychic transformation is located in matter. The kundalini always rises from the prima materia, the earthly body. Entering a cave is a preludium to being reborn. Caves are the ultimate emblems of mystery and of alchemical furnaces where transformation and transmutation take place. The alchemical rubedo, wrote Jung, is symbolically related to the resurrection of Christ, coming back from his sojourn in the underworld: stepping from the shadow into the light.


In his essay “The Snake is Not a Symbol,” included in his book Animal Presences, James Hillman provides a summary of possible meanings of the snake, warning us, as he always does, that the meaning does not replace the image and, what is more, it can even take away its power. He mentions twelve possible areas of meaning for the snake:

1.The snake is renewal and rebirth, because it sheds its skin.

2. A snake represents the negative mother, because it wraps around, smothers, won’t let you go, and swallows whole.

3. The snake is the Devil.

4. It is a feminine symbol, having a sympathetic relation with Eve and goddesses in Crete, India, Africa, and elsewhere.

5. The snake is a phallus, because it stiffens, erects its head, and ejects fluid from its tip. Besides, it penetrates crevices.

6. It represents the material earth world and as such is a universal enemy of the spirit. Birds fight it in nature and heroes fight it in culture.

7. The snake is a healer; it is a medicine. … It was kept in the healing temples of Asclepius in Greece, and a snake dream was the god himself coming to cure.

8. It is a guardian of holy men and wise men – even the New Testament says that serpents are wise.

9. The snake brings fertility, for it is found by wells and springs and represents the cool, moist element.

10. A snake is Death, because of its poison and the instant anxiety it arouses.

11. It is the inmost truth of the body, like the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous system of the serpent power of Kundalini yoga.

12. The snake is the symbol for the unconscious psyche – particularly the introverting libido, the inward-turning energy that goes back and down and in. its seduction draws us into darkness and deeps. It is always a “both”: creative-destructive, male-female, poisonous-healing, dry-moist, spiritual-material …

Hillman also draws our attention to the extraordinary characteristics of snake obliterating its prey to pulp before devouring it: “… a snake dislocates its jaw to swallow an animal larger than itself, … its digestive system works without chewing…, like a rhythmic peristalsis that squeezes its meal against the snake’s backbones, crushing its prey into a digestible pulp.”

We can just say that the snake is symbolic of energy itself, which can be both creative and destructive. The snake embodies the wisdom of the deeps and is a guardian of deep mysteries. It also relates to the shadow archetype signifying the temptations of matter, the material lust, the lust for power, the lowest instincts and desires, and as such is related to the dragon.

Scorpio is a sign torn between spirituality and sensuality. The next part of my post will speak of initiation but I cannot help thinking that perhaps, as long as we remain on this earth, there is always a possibility of slipping back, being sucked back into the abyss of our instincts and desires. Perhaps the fight with the dragon (the smothering shadow) is a never-ending one. Can we ever purge “the dirty alleyways and swamps” of our souls? – asks Liz Greene. Only the light of insight and consciousness can guarantee victory, but the forces of darkness cannot be conquered once and for ever. That is why the archetypal theme of the hero and the dragon is so characteristic of Scorpio; the battles are not singular but recurring. We cannot forget that the hero and the monster form a unity, a wholeness. Dostoevsky, the most distinguished writer among Scorpio natives, gave a full expression to the energy of this sign in his writing. The Brothers Karamazov contains such a wealth of intense, Scorpionic quotes that it is quite hard to choose. Here is one: “Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don’t want harmony. From love for humanity I don’t want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it’s beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it.”


The mysterious yogi in the background of the image is the awakened one, who has mastered the serpent’s kundalini power. He has made a transition from the crawling scorpion to the soaring eagle, which is said to be the “higher” expression of Scorpio power. Scorpio never forgets, though, that higher does not mean better, since there is no high without low, no heights without depths and roots.

The association of the eagle with the scorpion is derived from the vision of Ezekiel, in which the prophet saw four living creatures, each with four faces: of the eagle, the lion, the ox and the man. The vision is directly related to astrological symbolism and the so-called fixed cross of matter. The four fixed signs: Scorpio, Leo, Taurus and Aquarius respectively correspond with the aforementioned four faces. Also, these four signs are related to the four evangelists and for us today the relevant evangelist is St. John – the eagle. St. John’s gospel is related to the sign Scorpio in its content: it speaks of redemption and the apocalypse (Greek for ‘un-covering’). He uncovers the deepest, esoteric mysteries in his gospel, equaling Christ with Logos. He speaks of Jesus’ Ascension and the redemption of matter through spirit.


St. John

I leave you with a quote of yet another deep “Scorpionic” individual:

“You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart.”– Franz Kafka

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Liz Greene, The Astrology of Fate

Nigel Hamilton, “The Alchemical Process of Transformation,”

James Hillman, Animal Presences

Deborah Holding, “Scorpio the Scorpion,”

Carl Gustav Jung, Psychology and Alchemy

Dane Rudhyar, The Zodiac as the Universal Matrix

Gavin White, “Babylonian Star-lore,”

Related posts:

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43 Responses to Images of the Zodiac: Contemplating Scorpio

  1. shoe1000 says:

    After my first session at Pacifica Graduate Institute, I have developed a deeper appreciation for the work you do and want to say thanks.


  2. Wow, I almost had forgotten that had not written about Scorpio yet. You did my sign justice Monika and clearly you understand its mystery and depth. I really enjoyed your section on alchemy, I see a strong link between Alchemy and Scorpio, particularly Pluto. This fits in so well with my Cosmic Retrograde Challenge that invites one to experiment with alchemy by combining the old with the present to create something different and new.

    If you and Debra could write a book together , it would be stellar!

    love and rebirth,


  3. ptero9 says:

    I have always felt both attracted and repelled by Scorpio energy. My big sister, who I love dearly and am very close to, is a Scorpio (sun sign) and my ascendant is in Scorpio square to my sun sign Leo. I only know enough about astrology to be dangerous, but imagine that therein lies the tension.
    “Similarly, the scorpion’s size has nothing to do with the deadliness of its venom; on the contrary, the sting of the smaller scorpions is actually much more dangerous. Stripped of its powers (seemingly) Pluto continues to wield his enormous influence from the underground.”
    This is very insightful Monika. I felt Pluto got short changed when demoted from planetary status! No way, of course, as you brilliantly point out.


    • Thank you, Debra. There have always been a lot of Scorpionic people in my life, I tend to attract them for better and worse. I think with your Sun in Leo you must be the eagle variety! They are rare of course.


      • ptero9 says:

        Eagle! Maybe that is why Ptero, or wing like creatures are attractive to me.
        On another note, I am reading Liz Greene’s book and just love her discussion on all things Pluto. After reading last night and falling into sleep, I awoke suddenly with a very intense feeling of underworldliness. I had this sense of how vast the underworld is, like the womb of the world and its connection to the great feminine source of creation. I wondered too if Duende is not another way to speak of that source. Hard to put into words, but thank you for the reading suggestion. 🙂
        Her insightful way of deepening the nature of the planets and signs is, for the first time, giving me, possibly a way to understand astrology.
        In the past it has felt like a foreign language.


      • Fantastic, I am happy. I know that her Asc is also in Scorpio – she is capable of reaching amazing depths. I also loved her book on Neptune. I am also very fussy when it comes to astrological writing.


      • ptero9 says:

        I’m hooked Monika, so it’s good to know she has some other books. 🙂


  4. I tend to feel slightly overstimulated, in a good way, by your posts… like visiting a museum and feeling like you could have spent a month studying what your eyes were granted only hours to take in.

    How much more-so now that my sign is up, Scorpio, which until this year represented little more than my furtive answer to the unsettling question, “hey, what’s your sign?”. Why unsettling? people groaned sometimes after I betrayed that info! After awhile I just dreaded the question because I was ignorant anyhow. (: Anyways, I don’t think I would’ve felt stimulation at all if the descriptions didn’t fit to a fault like they do. Illuminating, and for a guy that usually chews on a sentence or two for hours, and an idea for months, sooo overwhelming. Thanks for this great post Monika.


  5. I’m glad you took your time writing this, it has a deep stillness similar to your description of Scorpio. And the timing for me was funny, as when I found it to start reading it I was actually distracting myself with a blockbuster film I was finding to be filled with Scorpio themes and imagery- “Skyfall,” I think the last James Bond movie. There is even a scorpion in a scene, and later there is the connection to the cave like tunnels underneath his family home that he secluded himself in after his parents died, only to re-emerge transformed. Of course your analysis of Scorpio is much deeper than anything in that movie!


    • Funnily enough, my very first post on this blog was dedicated to that movie. I really liked it and tried to find some astrological or archetypal analysis of it online but there wasn’t any. So I tried to write one myself and this is how this blog started.


  6. renatembell says:

    I love this. The mysterious yogi, sitting still and tapped into the inner worlds, deeply knowing yet unaffected while all else acts out before him… I think that’s my favorite part of Johfra’s image, but it is so full, and you expressed this beautifully.

    On the mundane level, your wonderful research on scorpions reminded me of some encounters with them. While camping in Florida, sitting around the campfire one late afternoon-early evening, a scorpion came out from under a rock. This disruption to our enjoyment of the fire didn’t seem to bother me. It was neat to see one, and I understood we were in its territory, invading its space. Contrarily, when I hauled my luggage up to a third floor loft in a Tuscany villa where we were vacationing for two weeks and a scorpion was ‘waiting for me’ in the bathroom, well…I responded with far less detachment. I even felt anger that this creature could spoil my idea of paradise, my dream vacation. How dare it. 🙂


    • Thank you for your kind remarks. I also love the yogi, he is so elusive at a distance. I’ve never seen a scorpion and I am not even sure I would like to, certainly not unannounced. I have also heard they glow in ultraviolet light – they are certainly from another dimension.


  7. Hi Monika. Great post. I found the relationship between Taurus and Scorpio most enlightening.


  8. So much. Excellent! The science was completely intriguing. Thank you for beginning there.


    • Thank you! I was also fascinated by the science bit. Did you know they glow in uv light? Amazing.


      • Wow! Their agelessness is intriguing to ponder in relation to the human psyche. We are the Soul because, at some before Time juncture, we birthed ourselves into the “underworld” of matter/density. The worlds of thought, emotions, and physicality are “below” the the interest of monadic pure Awareness and, as such, are and underworld. Yet, it is this very “moment” that created Time for humanity and created the human kingdom. The agelessness of scorpion and its relation to the depths of psyche, time, the hidden sources of our self are very rich pondering. Thank you for offering your contemplations!


      • Beautifully put, Donna and very insightful. I love how my thoughts spark off yours.


  9. Yipee, it’s Scorpio! Now I am going to read it but I had to come show my excitement! 🙂


  10. Reblogged this on Sindy's Saturday Satsang and commented:
    Scorpio by Symbol Reader


  11. shreejacob says:

    Another great post! I’m not a Scorpion but I found some similarities of what has been happening to me during this November month!
    If I read Edgar Cayce right…his readings leaned towards the concept that it is not so much the effect of the planets on the person / humanity but it’s more a reflection of what is going on within. And then I insert Carl Jung’s thoughts about humanity and it’s individuation process as symbolised in the Bible and I wonder….
    Of course, then I add some of the thoughts which say we are true creators of our world…manifesting the stuff from within…it takes on a whole new dimension…doesn’t it?


  12. bostaj says:

    Beautifully written symbol reader.
    Thank you.


  13. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

    I have been stung so many times this summer by scorpions , I no
    longer get sick…may last one was right before the freeze last week…I think they have the ability to be invisible…for they will appear
    right before you as they are ready to sting, one minute nothing, the next a scorpion staring dead at you…
    you have done Scorpio wonderfully, I neither like or dislike any sign, I only know I I will be a part of all twelve when I am at my last visit here on Earth (my belief anyways)
    I’m attempting to remember some of my charts I did in class where Scorpio is…I will have to see if I can figure it out…
    I have missed coming here,for I always learn something…maybe life has leveled out a bit and I can catch up….
    Thank you for a wonderful read tonight….I enjoyed it…
    Take Care…You Matter…


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