Scorpio the Scorpion

Aries | Taurus | Gemini | Cancer | Leo | Virgo | Libra | Scorpius | Sagittarius | Capricornus | Aquarius | Pisces

Who keeps an arrow in his bow?
And if you prod him, lets it go??
A fervent friend and subtle foe ???
It is the Scorpio !!!

sign symbolism & general traits | traditional rulerships | famous Scorpios
Sign symbolism

Scorpio the Scorpion

by Deborah Houlding

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Scorpio boasts of being the most sexually magnetic, smoulderingly charismatic and psychologically enigmatic of all the zodiac figures. Wonderful! Ah, but there is a catch (no sign gets it all). It has also garnered the most derogatory collection of keywords for traits, a predilection for subtlety and self-preservation never far from an inference of craftiness, cunning, betrayal, and deceit.

Throughout history, Scorpio has been associated with all forms of beetles, insects and crawling venomous creatures, and has suffered a heavy onslaught of slanderous attacks. Considered a dark, defensive sign, with subterranean drives and a powerful reservoir of emotional energy, its astrological signification is associated with liars, backstabbers, traitors, thieves, lechers, and all sorts of dubious users and abusers! In medieval times scorpions, emblems of occult power, danger, death, and the serving of self-interest, were used to represent Judas in Christian symbolism because of the deadly treachery implicit in the sting.1 Fortunately, given such disparaging suggestions, Scorpios are also known for impenetrable defences and the ability to beguile opponents into underestimating their resilience and the fixity of purpose that fuels their interminable self-will.

The dark and heavy emphasis of traditional texts leaves an unbalanced, one-sided view of Scorpio’s elemental dynamics. Whilst the essence of darkness permeates this feminine, phlegmatic, nocturnal and autumnal sign in all facets of its symbolism, the value judgements we place on celestial motifs are often inappropriate. No sign depicts the negative end of a moral trait; it is only bound to represent an archetypal theme and to bring both extremes of that narrative into focus. With Scorpio, the inference of deceit picks out the theme of falsity versus truth – as we might expect, those with the acuity to be masters of deception are also best equipped to recognise it when they see it.

In their gift of realising duplicity, rejecting hollowness and seeing through facades, Scorpios are not afraid to expose reality for what it is; they are the emissaries of a more complete sense of truth than many of us can contemplate, the penetrating aspects of it being too pointed or sharp for everyday comfort. The paradox of Scorpio is that when it is fooling you, it is not acknowledging you at all. Real communication with this sign means engaging with honesty, in all its candid, sordid or painfully direct forms. Cheat you it may, but this means nothing; when something matters, Scorpio will not fool or be fooled and will not mess around with pleasantries or mind games.

Traditionally governed by Mars, Scorpios are genuinely capable of seeming destructive and intimidating (as much towards noble ends as self-centred interests) because where Mars dominates there is little interest in compromise. The impulse is for sharp attack or strategic defence, whatever it takes to avoid yielding one inch more than necessary. But the direct, active principle of Mars is sublimated in its nocturnal expression, so, like all water signs, Scorpios seldom instigate attacks, preferring to hold their power in reserve. This undercurrent of unexpressed energy is the basis of an almost tangible magnetism, a sense of power embedded in the aura that reveals itself expressly once their acute defensive instinct is stirred. It is worth remembering that, contradictory as it seems, Scorpio’s strongest line of attack is always in defence, where their fixity brings enduring patience and determination, and their natural resilience makes them seem practically impassable. Consider the role of scorpion gods in ancient symbolism and myth; invariably, their function is to act as guardians, custodians and protectors; oblivious to external distraction but ferocious in the cruel retribution unleashed on those who break their ever-watchful sentinel.

When Scorpios do engage in conflict, their modus operandi is perfectly illustrated by the terrestrial creature that is their celestial motif. All scorpions are venomous, and all are predators, but they never actively hunt or chase down prey; instead, they patiently sit and wait, months if necessary, proceeding to ambush only when their quarry is close enough to lose all chance of escape. In business and battle Scorpios are menacing adversaries, particularly in positions where they can calculate, control and hold back a concerted effort until its execution realises greatest impact. Consequently, Scorpios excel at military leadership, board room politics and courtroom disputes. Second World War leaders Patton, Montgomery and Rommel were all Scorpios, locked in a game of cool, calculated planning geared towards maximum damage for minimum effort. The capacity to hold the nerve and strike without hesitation serves equally well in the battleground of politics and the business world too.

The ability to penetrate superficial gloss is a trait Scorpio shares with Virgo, a sign to which it is tied in sympathy, although with the inequitable viewpoint of Scorpio being the perpetrator of worldly-wise experience and Virgo the victim of a purity that borders on naivety. Their affiliation is revealed in the similarities of their glyphs, which represent the intestines and illustrate that both signs are susceptible to gut reaction. Impetus derived from the guts rather than the brain is emotive and instinctive, ‘gut-instinct’ being a potent motivator in the decision-making processes and emotional responses of both these signs. Yet with Virgo, the glyph is closed off and recedes into itself, symbolising barrenness, an urge towards self-containment, but revealing a need to receive and allow itself to be drawn out to gain completeness. With Scorpio, the glyph is outwardly extended, blatantly phallic, depicting energy that is not so easily constrained; its impulse is to penetrate, invade, and when it does so, its manner is unswerving and focussed.

Both of these are feminine signs, so neither is comfortable with an abundantly expressive discharge of emotion or casual release of internal energy. Since Scorpio is also of the phlegmatic temperament, it is even more inclined towards internalisation. To penetrate, it must first draw towards it: Scorpio does not walk into your territory, it does not flirt and cajole, it merely lets its own energy attract; when penetrating your secrets, it does so, having lured you to a place where resistance is low. Like Virgo, Scorpio has an analytical gift: it probes the depths, breaks apart, identifies the dross and eliminates the wasteful or insincere. But whereas Virgo draws on a Mercurial process of analysis and integration, Scorpio relies purely on its gut reaction, its lack of quick mental assessment adequately compensated by heightened emotional/psychic sensitivity and a compulsive fixation on a problem until its actual dimensions are fully exposed.

Like all water signs, Scorpio finds a natural habitat in the world of feelings and instincts. Its emotional reservoir is powerful since its fixed nature is resistant to easy movement, allowing the watery element to seep into rarely accessed depths that are not easily stirred, processed or purified. Within the practical application of astrological symbolism to identify locations, the ‘fixed element of water’ represents long-accumulated sediment, water trapped by the coldness of ice or the heaviness of mud. It is moved only by great effort and force, signifying torrents, flooded land and destructive mudslides.

In drawing analogies between water and the realm of human emotions, we see why this sign has a natural attachment to depth-psychology: Scorpio has a rich and fertile insight into the underbelly of life, and even in the definition of the sign as ‘autumnal’ we are reminded that emphasis is taken away from what is exposed on the surface, as focus withdraws back to a fundamental root. Here destruction and creativity merge, 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 creatures that dwell 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. 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. This eventually formed 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 fertility, it is with dark, still, muddy Scorpio that we encounter a truly formidable combination of creative and destructive potential.

Similar analogies are revealed through the relationships between signs of the zodiac and the body parts they signify. These are never ad hoc connections, so allow another route to explore the deeper motive of each sign. Scorpio governs the groin area: the ‘private parts’ which contain the reproductive and excretory organs. Reproduction expresses the drive towards continuance, ‘seed’ being symbolic of latent life force and reserves of as yet unexploited power. Excretion demonstrates the need to eliminate what has served its purpose; so in the bodily processes of procreation and elimination we see the metaphysical reflection of the Scorpionic dance through attraction, creation, destruction and regeneration.

For Scorpios who lack conscious direction, this can seem an exhaustive ongoing process, a life of highs and lows, passion and pain, with the zenith and nadir of experience expanding with each successive turn. Such a fulsome experience undoubtedly involves suffering, hardship, distress and agonised emotions. The ‘private parts’ relate symbolically to the depths of the hidden, unlit realms, where the raw, gritty and disquieting elements of all that is unpleasant and socially unacceptable take place.

So most Scorpios have encountered the harsher realities of the world at some level and, being fixed in disposition, they retain their experiences – even the most in-depth, transpersonal counselling techniques only bring acceptance and understanding; they do not erase the memories. Through Scorpio, we are drawn to confronting and conquering such demons, a journey requiring honest acceptance of how we contribute towards, as well as suffer from, corrupted patterns of behaviour. It is said that no one truly understands any brutal, distressing event until they have experienced it in full. Who can understand or try to break any cycle of trauma except those that have acknowledged their part as both abuser and abused, and then – having risen outside of the circle – brought the wisdom of experience to those still suffering within it? Scorpios that are in, or have worked through, this cycle naturally find it hard to be lightly chatty about it. Any attempt to skirt issues, whatever form they take, smacks of insincerity and avoidance; and Scorpios have seen too much, and worked too hard to deal honestly with the darker sides of reality, to engage in a world of pretence. Even their sarcastic and acidic humour implies that we may laugh at life, but should never be too flippant about it.

If, as the Egyptians believed, scorpions represent initiation into the sacred mysteries, we can consider the sign’s other related creature, the eagle, as a higher expression of Scorpio power. Many ancient and historical astrologers, including Ibn Ezra, recognised eagle symbolism as valid to this sign since the biblical prophet Ezekiel described a vision, believed to be drawn from Babylonian astrology and representative of the ‘fixed cross of matter’:

As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man [Aquarius] and the face of a lion [Leo] on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox [Taurus] on the left side and also the face of an eagle [Scorpius].
(Ezekiel 1:10)

Saint John’s Book of the Apocalypse (Revelation 4:7) also alludes to the vision, of which Fred Gettings writes:

The eagle of St John is the eagle of Scorpio, which sign (alone of all the twelve) has two images, the eagle, the symbol of the redeemed and spiritualized Scorpionic nature, the scorpion its fallen, unredeemed and earth-bound nature.2

Transcendence from the crawling scorpion to the soaring eagle, still predatory, still epitomising patience and penetration, but now capable of flight and height, turns the cycle of destruction and renewal into a quest for evolution. The constellation Aquila ‘the Eagle’ takes its name from an ancient alignment with the summer solstice, the bird of greatest elevation symbolising the summit of the Sun.3 From beetles to eagles, the Scorpionic solar myth is that of the phoenix, which self-immolates after turning its nest into a funeral pyre and (according to the Roman historian Pliny’s report) rises again, initially as a small grub that grows from the bones and marrow of the carcass.4 All Scorpios feel themselves to be on the extreme edge of a spiritual quest for transformation – the eagle reminds us that their probing mind is as equally attracted to higher philosophy as it is to depth psychology.

With an instinct to discover whatever lies beneath the surface or is raised out of reach, Scorpios are naturally disinterested in the obvious, but lean to what is hidden, occult or out of the ordinary. This purposeful paranormal journey adds to a reputation for sometimes seeming too intense: secretive regarding private matters, unforgiving (or at least unforgetting), possessive of their territory, and instinctively hostile to those who stand in their way. Their emotions are strong and passionate, but they run deep and are not easily expressed. Relationships are seldom relaxed and easy-going, as sexual attraction is often the means through which they explore their own emotional and transformational power.

If both passion and interest decline, the natural reserve of the Scorpio can generate a sense of abandonment in an ardent partner, or what seems like cold-hearted detachment. This may not be intentional, but ultimately Scorpios are following their own path. And yet, they remain intensely loyal to those to whom they give their allegiance; they take their responsibilities and commitments very seriously and respond positively to trust that is sincerely invested in them.

Their personal magnetism draws many towards them and if they chose to take up a position of leadership their motivating will bears strong influence upon others and their persistence usually guarantees success. But they will often shy away from positions that involve long periods of being the centre of attention – bright light is stark and inhospitable to them. Although they enjoy pulling the strings of influence, they prefer to do so ‘behind the scenes’ in such a way that ensures their personal privacy is preserved. Scorpios have subtle, crafty fingers, but never forget that they are attached to an iron fist of power. People tend to love them or hate them; either way Scorpios are a force to be reckoned with!
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Dignified Planets

Mars: ♂   - as sign and triplicity ruler.

Debilitated Planets

Venus: ♀  - by detriment.
Moon: ☽ - by fall.

Typical Features

Scorpio typically gives a well built, corpulent body with a strong constitution. The body is usually solid, robust and active, and generally quite hairy. The complexion, hair or features tend towards darkness, and the eyes are often dark and penetrating. The face is characteristically square or broad with a short neck, often giving a squat appearance.

Traditional Rulerships

Direction:  All water signs broadly relate to the north; Scorpio specifically signifies north-east.

Anatomy:  Scorpio principally governs the groin area, from the bladder to the anus. It is related to the excretory system, reproductive organs and the genital regions.

Illnesses:  Although Scorpio is considered a fertile sign, in decumbiture charts it signifies afflictions to the womb and both the internal and external reproductive organs. Governed by Mars, many of its traditionally associated diseases are related to ruptures, inflammations, ulcers and acute pain caused by abrasions and blockages. Diseases that historically fall under the signification of Scorpio include ureteral stones (bladder stones, blockages in the penis); strangury (painful discharge of urine); priapism (prolonged, painful erection); inflam-matory bowel disease and such diseases as lead to fistulas (ulcerations that form channels of infection) in the lower intestines and genital regions; sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea and syphilis; haemorrhoids or piles (swollen veins in the rectum and anus which cause painful burning and itching); testicular diseases and all illnesses that lead to pain in the lower abdominal, genital or perineal area.

Scorpio is also historically associated with viruses or afflictions that come from bites, stings or poisoning. Raphael claims it signifies “all secret and virulent diseases” and it has often been ascribed to illnesses of a hidden, occult or unknown origin. Raphael also claims that Scorpio signifies scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C, which prevents the healthy absorption of iron from the intestines.

Places:  Ruled by the naturally malefic planet, Mars, many places signified by Scorpio suggest a hostile environment, resonating fear or threat, or characterised by a lack of light and restricted movement. These include habitats where vermin, reptiles or insects gather and, according to Al Biruni, deserted places, prisons and places of grief and mourning.

As the fixed member of the water triplicity, Scorpio also relates to locations where water collects and stagnates: muddy or swampy grounds, bogs, marshes, sedimentary deposits and quagmires. Modern authors have suggested that the fixed aspect of water is perfectly representative of ice or snow, whilst Lilly suggested “stinking lakes” and “ruinous houses near waters” and Raphael proposed “receptacles for filth and vermin, sewers, drains”. Al Biruni mentions black mud and underground conduits, but also captured the destructive martial power through his association with drowned (flooded) land and torrents. A further illustration of Scorpio being linked with mud is his suggestion that in furniture it signifies artefacts made of clay.

Inside the house Scorpio points to locations that are cold and dark, low down or underground, or near water used to eliminate waste. These include sinks (and the cupboards underneath them that contain poisonous cleaning agents), toilets and drains (inside and out); cellars, pantries and larders (being cold and dark), undeveloped basements, areas that suffer from damp and decay, or have been left untenanted and remain in need of renovation or demolition. In the garden Scorpio will represent muddy areas, compost heaps, the sunless north-facing wall, inaccessible areas, pot holes, puddles and stagnant ponds.

Countries & cities:   Include Northern Bavaria, Norway, Algeria, Morocco, Catalonia and Valencia in Spain, Urbrino and Messina in Italy, Frejus and Vienne in France, Ghent in Belgium, and Frankfurt in Germany.

Colours  Generally defined as brown, but sometimes described as dark red, grey red or black red, from which we can assume a dark, blood-red brown.

Stones & Metals:  Stones and metals fall under the rulership of planets, not signs, but through its association with Mars, Scorpio is often linked with iron, ocre, bloodstone, jasper, red lead or vermilion.

Animals:  Scorpio is traditionally associated with reptiles, aquatic animals, destructive wild beast of prey, many-footed animals like Scorpions and wasps (and poisonous insects).

Traditional Definitions:

Fruitful:  As a water sign, Scorpio is defined as ‘fruitful’ and associated with multitudes and multi-faceted things (note the association with “many-footed animals”). Unless afflicted, Scorpio shows a propensity for large families and many children, although Scorpio is the least promising of the fertile signs because of its rulership by Mars. When it is afflicted, it can indicate a propensity for easy conception, accompanied by the problems of pregnancies that fail.

Mute/ ‘slow of voice’:  Symbolised by a creature that is silent and watchful, Scorpio is not known for verbal dexterity, and is one of the signs that is traditionally classified as ‘mute’. These signs (which include all the water signs) relate more to feelings than words, and so can suffer from an inability to communicate openly and freely through words.

Famous Scorpios
Scorpio - FAMOUS SCORPIOS - Scorpio

Marsilio Ficino 10 Nov 1483 (JC: 19 Nov GC); Eisleben, Germany; 10:46 pm LMT (RR:AA)View bio & chart ⇨
Martin Luther 19 Oct 1433 (JC: 28 Oct GC); Figline Valdarno, Italy; 1:30 pm LMT (RR:A) View chart ⇨
Marie Curie 7 Nov 1867; Warsaw, Poland; 12:00 pm LMT (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Pablo Picasso 25 Oct 1881; Malaga, Spain; 11:15 pm LMT (time from Breton)View chart ⇨
George S. Patton 11 Nov 1885; San Marino, CA, USA; 6:38 pm PST (RR:AA)View bio & chart ⇨
Edwin Hubble 20 Nov 1889; Marshfield, MO, USA; 11:45 pm CST (RR:B)View chart ⇨
Henri Charrière 16 Nov 1906; St Etienne de Lugdares, FR; 9:00 am LMT (RR:AA)View bio & chart ⇨
Indira Gandhi19 Nov 1917; Allahabad, India; 11:00pm IST (RR:A)View chart ⇨
Grace Kelly 12 Nov 1929; Philadelphia, PA; 05:31 am EST (RR:AA) View chart ⇨
Joe Biden 20 Nov 1942; Scranton, PA, USA; 8:30 am EWT (RR:A) View chart ⇨
Billie Jean King 22 Nov 1943; Long Beach, CA; 11:45 am PWT (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
King Charles III 14 Nov 1948; London, UK; 9:14 pm GMT (RR:AA)View bio & chart ⇨
Caitlyn Jenner 28 Oct 1949; Mount Kisco, NY, USA; 6:16 am EST (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Bill Gates 28 Oct 1955; Seattle, WA, USA; 10:00 pm PST (RR:A)View chart ⇨
RuPaul 17 Nov 1960; San Diego, CA, USA; 6:52 pm PST (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Björk 21 Nov 1965; Reykjavik, Iceland; 8:10 am WAT (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Winona Ryder 29 Oct 1971; Rochester, MN; 11:00 am CDT (RR:AA)View bio & chart ⇨
Leonardo DiCaprio 11 Nov 1974; Los Angeles, CA, USA; 2:47 am PST (RR:AA)View chart ⇨


Plate from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, 1690

Aries | Taurus | Gemini | Cancer | Leo | Virgo | Libra | Scorpius | Sagittarius | Capricornus | Aquarius | Pisces

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Notes & References:
1 ] George Ferguson, Signs & Symbols in Christian Art, Oxford University Press, 1977, p.24.
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2 ] Fred Gettings, The Secret Zodiac: Hidden Art in Mediaeval Astrology, Routledge (London), 1987, p.43.
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3 ] R.H. Allen, Star Names, their Lore and Meaning, Dover, 1963; p.56.
For more on the constellation Aquilla see
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4 ] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, trans. J. Bostock and H.T. Riley, Taylor and Francis (London), 1855, Bk.10, ch.2.
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Deb HouldingDeborah Houlding, creator of Skyscript, is based in the UK and has worked as an astrologer since the late 1980s. Founder of The Traditional Astrologer (1993 to 2000) and STA School of Traditional Astrology, she is the author of the STA Practitioners-Level Horary Course, The Houses: Temples of the Sky, and (with Oner Doser) Soru Astrolojisi: Horary Astrology (2015). She is also the editor of a modern retype, annotated edition of William Lilly's Christian Astrology and Griffin's Astrological Judgement Touching Theft.

@ Skyscript. All Rights Reserved. Originally published July, 2003.
Artwork: Deborah Houlding. Top image uses details from an unattributed image of the Egyptian Scorpion goddess Serket. Audio provided by Maria Blaquier, STA DipH (Academia de Astrologia)