Occult Symbolism
derived from symbolism in literature and the ancient world





Greek Mythology

The Bible

John Senior

Joseph Warren Beach

Joseph Campbell

MIDI  Mars











Of all the religious symbols and spiritual beliefs in the world, NON-BEING and the NO-THING are the hardest to get our minds around. They have been loosely translated as a right to exist issue. Everyone I know wants to exist. They believe in the right to exist even if everything else is coming apart. Yet this idea presents us with a cold hardheaded look at the universe which does not appear to care for us one way or another. The faithful claim that nature abhors waste and yet we are surrounded by it. Even Dr. Einstein refused to believe that God would play dice with the universe. Is this what duality is all about? On the one hand we are loved and folded gently in merciful angels wings and saviors, and on the other we are spat out like a moon calf, wet, ignorant and hungry with nothing but instinct to guide us, and the will of our genetic persuasions and predispositions to give us a hint about what’s going on with us.

The doctors of the past used the stars as a road map to find their way amid the complexities and utter confounding perplexities of human health. Yet one could deduce that it was this road map itself that lead to all the breakthroughs in modern science and medicine. Had they not started somewhere with half a notion and proceeded calmly from one question to the next, there would have been no progress, no enlightenment, no freedom to form an hypothesis. Call them useless symbols from our past, but their importance is critical to our history and ANY new world order. Of course, who cares about history anymore, after all, it’s in the past.

We often repeat past mistakes, so I remember, I am the first in my family to graduate college, the first to practice astrology – but not the first to read Tarot cards. My grandma Gertrude was too ashamed or broke to buy a real deck, so she wrote the symbols and meanings on a poker deck and added extra jacks, jokers and glued on Gibson girls to complete the 78 card series. I doubt, however, that she spent hundreds of hours in the library looking up the symbols, or bothered exploring section 811.5 of the Dewy decimal system to see how the poets made good use of them. T'was there I discovered that Nerval was the first since
the renaissance to re-popularize Tarot and Astrology in modern writing. Everyone from Mrs. Shelley to G. M. Hopkins were toying with local lore generating future billionaires they could not comprehend. Ask a DC Comics exec what he thinks about symbols.

I do not pretend to be a doctor and I shutter from telling anyone to go to one based on the loose interpretation of a card symbol. I have seen relatives die after their significator appears in “the past” column of a card spread, but I do not make phone calls to alarm or upset anyone. They say there is no death arc in astrology, and no death spread in Tarot – that death does not mean death. Since the D.C. sniper and his lack of symbolic knowledge, it seems almost everyone knows that now. But wait, I have seen a death spread. Supposedly mostly swords all pointing at the seeker. Of course death, temperance and the devil are all present. So what happened… the seeker had to break into his mom and dad’s house while they were on vacation … or the goldfish would have died.

You can go to Bodh Gaya for the great enlightenment or Peoria for that matter and the best thing you will find there is yourself. Not the easiest thing to find. People exhaust themselves in the search. The ancient symbols always point to the path of discovery, the one with a heart, the road less traveled. In my case it was the road less drunk. I have recovered from many things including life on the road as a musician. In fact I owe one of my best and most personal symbols to a bartender who translated the significance of an incident that occurred when I was sixteen, where a young girl (a virgin?) at a Sunday dance social, dropped a gardenia into the bell of my saxophone. There are no saxophone symbols to reinforce this event. Pan and his pipe? Big stretch. Flower symbols abound and anything with petals will work. Behold, the bartender announced, for you shall see this flower reborn, coming up out of the bell, glowing incandescent, more alive than ever as your personal symbol of creativity.

Virgins have that effect on people. They may act like twits but their impact is numinous and memorable: like a classic allegorical painting with cloud forms and lightening, the voice of something rumbling in the background, thundering over a northern most mountain. You can’t remember what she was wearing, but you know it went with her hair and shoes. The jewelry might as well have been a crown, her eyes able to see straight through you into a distant chasm of your inevitable doom. Soon, they will chain you to a rock of the sea and a monstrous bird will feed on you for eternity. As actor Robert Blake says, it takes a few minutes to get through that fantasy.

Virgo is the ultimate symbol of health and human services. My poem to Virgo may poke fun, but symbols and poetry have to be set up just like jokes, according to poet, Robert Frost. You may scoff at the planets as places few want to go, but calling them abandoned cement factories and methane dumps will not sustain you. The starry houses of health are many – each one a different part of the body starting with the head in Aries and ending with the feet in Pisces, the entire body is represented as part of the universe. Oops, it’s a man in the glory of his nakedness. There’s another dark figure out there, the snake grabber, Ophiucus, not clear if he too is a man or a lady with a cat on her head and holding a snake in each hand,  reminding us of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess. Throughout the zodiac (circle of animals) runs a river or a  serpentine monster. Theogony, calls it “deep-eddying Eridanos” in his list of rivers, the offspring of Tethys. In Dionysiaca, the vast monster Typhon boasts that he will bathe in “starry Eridanus. Rimbaud is bathing in the poem of the sea. Who’s bathing in your poem?

It’s all out there, reflecting our classical history, our pagan past. In the background old Eribus, the vacuuming  sweeper dude of the cosmos, works in the very blackness and emptiness of deep space, the most relevant of all, because we find ourselves set against a backdrop of absolute nothingness. No way to determine our character except to peer out and finding nothing, invent our own.

Houses whirl around us by the hour, each one representing something bigger than we are. Do I gather the stones attributed to them, the plants for each one, the animals they symbolize? I’ll draw a big star on the floor and stand inside it. Does magic happen now, can you hear me now? I’m starting to feel powerful. The writer Pico wrote a book about this in the 15th century. He called it  The Kabalah.  100 years later you would be burned at the stake for possessing it. Many Jews and Catholics went up in smoke for believing and practicing this form of magic. Some, like Giordano Bruno were convinced that this was a form of Christian magic, a way to understand the divinity of the universe. What's so bad about that? Of course, he kicked off a 'multiplicity of inhabited worlds' controversy ending in Ancient Astronaut theory.

Is it the faith and belief that makes symbols work, causes them seemingly to cure the ill and disabled? Hospital staff agree that any kind of faith is better than none. They’ve seen the miracles. Faith healing may be anything from the art of distraction, counter irritation, to the art of hypnosis. I don’t have all the answers, but my symbols guide me to uncover the painful experience of my clients. Unfortunately, friendship and revelation do not often coexist. The mirror of self is problematic when you hold it up to someone you love. They can resent you for showing them. “I liked me better before you showed me who I really am. How dare you expose me for a Fool.”

Children on Saipan grew up playing with the bones of soldiers after the war. You have a different perspective on health and fitness when you’re that close to inhuman anatomy. Thanks to grave robbers we have a better understanding today of our bodily processes. The stars can't hurt you anymore, but the hurt is still getting thru.

Examine if you will the background knowledge needed to treat a 16th century Aries patient.


The Head. Aries people are prone to headaches, and
subject to minor injuries around the head and face.

LUCKY DAY  Tuesday




FLOWERS  Geranium, Honeysuckle, and Sweet Pea


ANIMALS RULED BY ARIES  Sheep and, especially, rams

DANGERS  Aries people are susceptible to harm from fire
and sharp instruments. They are also prone to accidents
involving high speed, and tend to get into violent and
dangerous situations.

Practitioners of the Kabalah enabled by this kind of insight and knowledge might think they had power over a person born under this sign and would implore the god to help, would offer sacrifice, bribes and favors. They'd put all of the stones and plants and sheep and ram parts in the star drawn on the floor and see if they could  make something happen. "Oh god of war, planet of action, hear me. Here are my enemy’s teeth. I shall scatter them in the dust. Let them spring up as armed men. Banish all violent and dangerous situations. Make me the victor."

I hope you're beginning to understand how symbolism works. Next we'll look at how Freudian symbolism doesn't work... anymore.