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Modern Views & Old Associations by Deborah Houlding

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 !!!



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Sun's Transit:
24 Oct - 22 Nov

(cool and moist)


Star lore

Where is the

A horary review by
Deborah Houlding

Scorpio the Scorpion Scorpio symbol

Personality Traits | Dignified Planets | Typical Features | Traditional Rulerships | Traditional Definitions | Famous Scorpios


Personality Traits

Scorpio holds the enviable reputation of being the most sexually magnetic, smoulderingly charismatic, and psychologically enigmatic of all the zodiac figures. Wonderful! … But there is, of course, a downside (no sign gets it all). Scorpio has also garnered the most derogatory collection of 'keywords', with its predilection for subtlety and self-preservation never far from the inference of craftiness, cunning, betrayal, and deceit. Throughout history, Scorpio has been subjected to ongoing slanderous assault: Considered a dark, defensive sign with subterranean drives and a powerful reservoir of emotional energy, Scorpio has often been used as a significator for liars, backstabbers, traitors, thieves, lechers, and all sorts of dubious users and abusers! In medieval times scorpions were emblems of evil, death, and the serving of self-interest, used as a token for Judas in Christian symbolism because of the deadly treachery implicit in their sting. [1] Fortunately - in view of such disparaging associations - Scorpios are also known for their impenetrable defences, and for their ability to beguile opponents into underestimating both their resilience, and the fixidity of purpose that fuels their interminable self-will.

The dark and heavy emphasis of traditional texts leaves a very unbalanced, one-sided view of Scorpio's fundamental dynamics. Whilst the essence of 'darkness' permeates this feminine, phlegmatic, nocturnal and autumnal sign in every aspect of its symbolism, the value judgements that we place upon astrological motifs are often inappropriate. No sign ever falls on the negative end of a moral trait; it is only bound to representing an archetypal theme and bringing both extremes of that theme into focus. With Scorpio the inference of deceit picks out the theme of falsity and truth; and as we might expect, those with the acuity to be masters of deceit are also the best equipped to recognise it when they see it. In their gift of realising deception, rejecting hollowness and seeing through shallow facades, Scorpios are not afraid to expose realty for what it is; they are the emissaries of a more complete sense of truth than many of us are prepared to contemplate, the penetrating aspects of it often being too painfully sharp for comfort. The paradox of Scorpio is that when it is fooling you, it is not really acknowledging you at all. Real communication with this sign means engaging with honesty, no matter how candid, sordid or direct. Cheat you it may - that means nothing; when something really does matter Scorpio won't be fooled and it won't mess around with either pleasantries or mind games.

Traditionally governed by Mars, Scorpios are genuinely capable of seeming destructive and intimidating, (towards noble ends as well as self-centred interests), because where Mars dominates there is little interest in compromise; the impulse is for active 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, and 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 when their acute defensive instinct is stirred. It's worth remembering that, as much as it may seem a contradiction, Scorpios strongest line of attack is always in defence, where their fixidity 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 sentinel.

When Scorpios do engage in conflict their method of operation is perfectly reflected by the terrestrial creature that defines their celestial motif - all scorpions are venomous and all are predators, but they never actively hunt or chase down their prey; instead they patiently sit and wait, months if necessary, proceeding to ambush only when their quarry is close enough to stand little chance of escape. In business and battle Scorpios make inestimable adversaries, particularly when they take up positions where they can calculate, control and hold back a concerted effort until its execution will realise maximum impact. Consequently Scorpios excel at military leadership, board room politics and court room disputes; Second World War leaders Patton, Montgomery and Rommel were all Scorpios, locked together in a game of cool, calculated planning geared towards maximum damage for minimum effort. No doubt the capacity to hold the nerve and strike without hesitation has served Scorpio Bill Gates equally well in the battle ground of the business world.

The ability to penetrate superficial gloss is a trait that Scorpio shares with Virgo, a sign to which it is tied in sympathy, albeit often with the inequitable viewpoint of Scorpio being the perpetrator of worldly-wise experience, and Virgo, the victim of purity born from naivety. Their affiliation is revealed in the similarities of their glyphs which represent the intestines and illustrate that both signs are highly sensitive 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 to be self-contained, but revealing a need to receive and allow itself to be drawn out in order to gain completeness. With Scorpio the glyph is outwardly extended, blatantly phallic, depicting an 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 easy, expressive discharge of internal energy; and since Scorpio is of the phlegmatic temperament it is even more driven towards internalisation. In order to penetrate it must first draw towards it: Scorpio doesn't walk into your territory, it doesn't flirt and cajole, it merely let's its own energy attract, and 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 upon a Mercurial process of analysis and integration, Scorpio relies purely on its gut-reaction, its lack of quick mental assessment more than adequately compensated by heightened emotional/psychic sensitivity and a compulsive fixation upon a problem until its actual dimensions are finally exposed.

Like all water signs, Scorpio finds a natural habitat in the world of feelings and instincts. Its emotional reservoir is incredibly strong 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 using astrological symbolism to identify locations, the 'fixed element of water' is used to represent 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 mud-slides. In drawing an analogy between water and the realm of human emotions, we can see why this sign has a natural attachment to depth-psychology: Scorpio has a very rich and fertile insight into the underbelly of life, and even in the definition of the sign as 'autumnal' we are reminded that the emphasis is taken away from that which exposes itself on the surface, to the need to withdraw back to the fundamental root. 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.

Similar analogies are revealed through the relationships between the signs of the zodiac and the parts of the body they rule. These are never 'ad hoc' connections, and allow us 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 power as yet unexploited. Excretion demonstrates the need to eliminate that which has served its purpose; thus 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 full of highs and lows, passion and pain, with the zenith and nadir of experience expanding with each successive turn. There is no doubt that this full exposure to experience involves pain, 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. Most Scorpios have encountered the harsher realities of the world at some level or another, and being fixed in disposition they retain their experiences - even the most in-depth, transpersonal counselling techniques can only help to bring acceptance and understanding, they do not erase the memories. Through Scorpio we are drawn to confronting and conquering such demons, a journey requiring an honest acceptance of how we contribute towards, as well as suffer from, the issues that underlie corrupted patterns of behaviour. It has been said that no one has a true understanding of any brutal, distressing event until they have experienced it in full. Who can claim to understand or even try to break any pattern of abuse 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 the needs of 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 around 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 in their sarcastic sense of humour Scorpios have a way of reminding us that we may laugh at life, but we should never be too flippant about it.

If, as the Egyptians thought, 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 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; they four also had the face of an eagle [Scorpio]. (Ezekiel 1 verse 10).

Saint John's book of the Apocalypse (Revelation 4, v7) also alludes to the vision, of which Fred Gettings, in The Secret Zodiac, 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 conveying the essence of patience and penetration, but capable of flight and height, brings together the theme of destruction and renewal as a story of evolution. The argument that the constellation Aquila the Eagle took its name from the time it coincided with the summer solstice - the bird of greatest elevation assuming the symbolism of the summit of the Sun - supports the view that in this respect the eagle is representing the 'Scorpionic myth' 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 worm that grows from the bones and marrow of the carcass. [3] All Scorpios feel themselves to be on this spiritual quest of transformation and it should be remembered that their depth of mind is as equally attracted to higher philosophy as it is to depth psychology.

Being committed to such a purposeful journey, Scorpios may well seem too intense to many, immensely secretive regarding private matters, unforgiving, jealous and 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. Their relationships are seldom relaxed and easy-going, as sexual attraction is often the means through which they explore their own emotional power and transformational journey. Once passion is lacking they are capable of an almost cold-heated detachment and reserve which can leave an acute sense of abandonment in the partner. Ultimately they follow their own path, and yet they remain intensely loyal to those to whom they give their allegiance, take their responsibilities 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' or 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 first of power. People tend to love them or hate them; either way Scorpios are always a force to be reckoned with.

Dignified Planets

Planets Dignifed in Scorpio:
Mars   as ruler of the sign and triplicity in both diurnal and nocturnal charts. (Modern astrologers have assigned the outer planet Pluto as a co-ruler for Scorpio but this is disregarded in traditional techniques which require use of the full dignity scheme).

Planets Debilitated in Scorpio:
Venus   by detriment
Moon   by fall

More on planetary dignities and debilities 

Typical Features

Scorpio typically gives a well built, corpulent body with a strong constitution. Where the body is large, it is nonetheless 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 the water signs relate to the direction north - Scorpio relates to 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 diseases are associated with ruptures, inflammations, ulcers and acute pain caused through abrasions and blockages. Diseases that fall under the signification of Scorpio include ureteral stones (bladder stones, blockages in the penis); strangury (painful discharge of urine); priapism (prolonged, painful erection); inflammatory 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; hemorrhoids 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 generally 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 an hidden, occult or unknown origin. Raphael also claims that Scorpio signifies scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitimin C, which prevents the healthy absorption of iron from the intestines.
Places:  Ruled by the malefic planet Mars, many of the 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, Messina and Frejus in Italy, Vienne in France, Ghent in Belgium, and Frankfurt in Germany.
Colours  Generally defined as brown, although 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.

Traditional Rulerships of Mars 

Traditional Definitions:

Fruitful:  Unless afflicted, Scorpio shows a propensity for large families, many children or easy pregnancy. Scorpio is the least promising of the fruitful (or 'fertile') signs however because where it is afflicted, it can indicate many pregnancies that fail.
Mute or slow of voice:  Scorpio is not known for verbal dexterity, and suffers from an inability to communicate openly and freely.

Famous Scorpios:

Prince Charles
Born: 14 Nov 1948
  View biography & chart
Winona Ryder
Born: 29 Oct 1971
  View biography & chart
General George Patton
Born: 11 Nov 1885
  View biography & chart
Henry Charrière 'Papillon'
Born: 16 Nov 1906
  View biography & chart
Bill Gates
Born: 28 Oct 1955
  View chart
Martin Luther
Born: 19 Nov 1483
  View chart

Notes & References:

  1 ] George Ferguson, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, Oxford University Press, 1977, p. 24.
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  2 ] Fred Gettings, The Secret Zodiac: The Hidden Art in Mediaeval Astrology, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. (London), 1987, p. 43.
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  3 ] 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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Constellation mythology and star lore of Scorpio 

© Deborah Houlding, October 2004

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