Published in The Twelfth House Magazine, October 2003
Halloween arrives with the brisk autumn wind, when our sensibilities are undergoing the same subtle but profound changes as Nature herself. The energy in the air is ambivalent, prickling with unease but alive with the promise of connecting us to life in a new way, a deeper way. Halloween reminds us of the existence of powers we cannot see, and yet still somehow understand.
The keen sense of nostalgia many of us feel at this time of year may be due to cellular memory, which keeps us in touch with Halloween’s long, rich history. Archaic collective imagery of a very special kind re-awakens every year when the sun is in Scorpio, sweeping us under its spell.
The last secular festival remaining in the Western calendar, only Halloween has cleaved to its magical, primordial roots. It is a holiday that fascinates without requiring us to believe anything. Its allure is not intellectual, but visceral, dating back to a time when people explored the non-physical realms — the Other Worlds — as a natural and normal function of human experience.
For untold millennia before the Julian Calendar, Halloween, or Samhain (pron. SOW-wen) to the ancient Celts, marked that poignant moment at the golden end of the warm season when the veils between the worlds are thinnest. Back in the days when people timed their lives by the birthing of their herds and the ripening of their harvests, Halloween served as a solemn gateway to winter, the Dark Time (Dark meaning, not bad, but hidden). This was the point in the wheel of the year when ancient Europeans slowed down their activity, gathered up what they had sown literally and figuratively during the long days of summer, and turned their attentions within.
Before the modern era, the unseen worlds were considered very real. Ancient practitioners of Halloween believed in the afterlife as a matter of course; they would have found incomprehensible the idea that cultivating a relationship with the dead was wrong or evil. Nor did they think they had to go through high priests to do it. Ordinary people sought wisdom through exploring the dimensions beyond death, before death, and between lives; an exploration which had not yet been declared taboo. Moreover, the cult of rationalism had not yet come along to condemn intuition as being inferior to mental logic, a development which was henceforth to embarrass into silence those who believed in ghosts. For our ancestors, the souls of the departed were felt to be as worthy of respect as any other souls, and Halloween was when people communicated with them.
Old Samhain has suffered centuries of ignoble trivialization. Too powerful for the Church of Rome to vanquish entirely, the profound rites of All Hallow’s Eve have been reduced to a candy blow-out for children, and increasingly, an ever-more-commercialized costume party for adults. Popular culture has held onto the iconography of witches (originally, tribal wise women) and bats (thought to embody souls of the departed), but without any understanding of what they signify. As a culture, we have forgotten the deeper meaning of Halloween and have become estranged from the part of ourselves that needed it. This state of affairs is especially unfortunate for people in whose charts Scorpio or Pluto is highlighted.
In the zodiac, the power of Halloween is represented by the sign Scorpio. People with strong showings of Scorpio in their charts ((The relative strength of the Scorpio archetype is gauged by its appearance among the ten planets, by the aspects to and house placement of Pluto, by the activity in the eighth house, and by the activity in that house where Scorpio is on the cusp.)) are the descendents of the keepers of the Samhain rites held sacred by the ancient world. Making this connection will expand our understanding of why Scorpio has been called the sign of secrets.
Mystical scholarship has been conducted in secret for most of recorded history. First, because it was thought that these inquiries were too subtle for the uninitiated mind to comprehend without distortion; and second, because as alchemy and other esoteric arts became outlawed by the Church, they were pursued at great risk. Scorpionic people come from a noble lineage of clandestine activity.
The modern world, too, can be a difficult place for people with these sensibilities. Our literalistic culture is skeptical of Scorpio’s subtle intuitions, with the result that many Westerners — astrologers among them — regard the sign with suspicion. Most contemporary philosophies fear and spurn the Dark Mysteries (among them, death, sexuality, and the psychic realms), having no framework for understanding them. This can lead Scorpionic types to distrust their own essential nature. Individuals with this signature in their charts would do well to question our society’s continued demonization of the occult (the word means covered or veiled), a form of spiritual inquiry which in its pure form has nothing to do with self-aggrandizement. The true occult power of Scorpio lies in its ability to connect with the invisible dimensions of life, celebrated so long ago at Samhain.
All astrological symbols have layers of meaning, from the metaphorical to the prosaic. Scorpio and its planetary ruler, Pluto, govern all kinds of secrets: classified information, detective novels, lost objects. Those with Moon in Scorpio can pick up on hidden motives or unexpressed emotions. People with Venus in Scorpio excel (when they want to) at keeping confidences. Mercury-in-Scorpio individuals can communicate more by what they do not say than by what they do say. In a natal chart with no planets in Scorpio, the house which has Scorpio on its cusp shows us where the person is most privy to the mysteries of life.
Even more telling is the house occupied by the planet Pluto, which indicates what types of situations bring out a person’s sixth sense.
Pluto, ruler of the sign Scorpio, represents the power we all have to pierce beneath the surface of something in order to know its truth. Because this kind of perception is rarely validated by the culture we live in, most of us have grown up either minimizing our psychic proclivities or dismissing them entirely. But Pluto has much to teach those who value the human ability to fathom those areas where intellect alone cannot go.
Pluto’s house placement shows where we feel a profound drive to understand Natural Law, which exists beyond personal likes and dislikes, and beyond societal value judgments. When approached with the proper understanding, Pluto opens up even the most everyday experiences to deeper reaches of meaning, satisfying a hunger in the soul. People with Pluto in the sixth house, for example, are often extraordinarily insightful in diagnosing an illness, going beneath the level of symptom into the psycho-spiritual root of the malaise.
The season that is now upon us opens up cracks in the wall dividing the mortal sphere from the sphere of the Mysteries. There is no better time to celebrate, with humility and respect, the things in life that we know not from knowledge but from knowing. This Halloween, take a moment to light a candle to souls that have departed the physical plane. Take note of the placement of Pluto in your chart, and use the information to begin reclaiming your psychic ability. Identify which house of your chart has Scorpio on its cusp, and work your X-ray vision accordingly. In personal relationships, resolve to listen between the lines.
There are worlds out there — and within us as well — which are and always will be outside of the realm of our conscious comprehension. This may strike the proud Western mind as an affront, but our deep psyches accept it with equanimity and relief. Let us express gratitude this Halloween that the Mysteries exist, and take advantage of the perfect moment to honor them.