“I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind” (1819; line 54)
If you find astrology interesting and you were to take a gander at my natal chart, you’d notice the fun stellium of planets (Venus and Uranus take center stage, so you know it’s a good time) giddily aspecting each other in my 8th House, the dark closet of sorts where subjects not meant for polite conversation in the light of day such as sex, other peoples’ money, and death get thrown in to be dealt with at a later time, when company leaves.
Given the piercing, uncompromising, obsessive, and covert Fixed Water energies of Scorpio, whose natural domain is the 8th House, and Scorpio’s planetary ruler of powerful Pluto (though, traditionally, Mars was thought to rule Scorpio as well), it’s easy to see how the convergence of sex–and the entire emotional spectrum associated with it, from ecstasy to shame and self-loathing–as a representation of life force energy with death, ostensibly the cessation of that energy (but really, its transformation instead) fuels a fixation upon power. Upon control. It’s only natural, for, as human beings, our mortality scares us. American literary critic Harold Bloom maintains that the whole purpose of literature is to hold up something of an existential shield, quasi-spiritual in purpose, in defense against the Medusa-like horror of the absurdity of existence and its “final absurdity,” to borrow the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, death.
But for those of us on a metaphysical path, neither existence nor its absence are absurd; both resound with blessings and mysteries. Any tarot reader will tell a querent, if the Death card were to show up in a reading, that physical death is usually not indicated (everyone’s fears of mortality loom large when that card is drawn); rather, the querent is on the cusp of a rebirth experience, a spiritual awakening. Many tarot decks capitalize upon this interpretation in their symbolism of the Death card; I really like the one from The Tarot of the Old Path. (Sadly, I think I’m the only Pagan I know who likes that deck. But that’s the subject of another blog post!) Notice that the Grim Reaper figure is wispy, ethereal. Illusory, one might go so far as to say. But the baby, the heron in the pond, the everyday such-ness of Mother Nature going about Her business, well, they’re as concrete as can be.
But make no mistake about it: Death itself is full of life force energy as embodied in Eros.
Spiritually, this is a concept that is wonderfully brought to life in the African Diaspora faiths that fall under the umbrella term of Vodou, whether we’re talking Beninian (where Vodou began and where an annual festival draws believers from the Americas), Haitian, or New Orleans-style tradition. In Vodou, there are many families or nations of spirits, known as lwa. They manifest among their devotees in ceremonies and bestow benedictions and prophecies while dancing, consuming offerings, interacting with the congregants, etc. Perhaps the most delightful Vodou nation of spirits are the Ghédé spirits–spirits of the Ancestors or a retinue of the dead who behave very raucously and bawdily. They’re dressed in tattered tuxedos or purple and black, their trademark colors, and enjoy puffing away on cigars, drinking very strong rum and cordials, and, dare I say it, dry-humping a congregant or two.
Led by the wily and fun-loving Baron Samedi (literally, “Lord Saturday,” as the day to tend to the dead is Saturday, which is exactly what is taught in Serbian culture too) or Baron Cimétierre (“Lord Cemetery”), who tends to sport an erect penis in addition to his ever-present walking staff or giant cigar (paging Dr. Freud!), the Ghédé are a walking, collective Memento Mori: reminders that our human lives are all-too-short and the graveyard home of the Ghédé will someday become ours as well. But since we can experience the pleasures of sex and the full mysteries of the 8th House–interestingly, another term for the Ghédé is “Les Mystères,” The Mysteries [my boyfriend, an avid comic book reader, might not be surprised to know that they are also called “The Invisibles,” one of his favorite graphic novels]–while we live, we are encouraged to do so whenever possible. And fortunately, if it’s our destiny to become a class of spirits our descendants, by blood or spirit, can call upon, we’ll have the ability to carry over the pleasures of life into the next world as the Ghédé do.
Not a bad deal, if you ask me.
So I encourage you, the next time you’re lost in sexual ecstasy with a partner, as the 8th House is definitely a House of relating to others, to meditate on your mortality. Perhaps you can grin as you climax, especially if you’re a male-identified person, as ejaculation was said by the medieval French to be “le petit mort,” the little death, as the discharge of life force in the act of squirting your seed somehow inferred an irretrievable loss of vitality. And if you’re female-identified, I strongly encourage you to put on your Dark Goddess Apotheosis Thinking Cap and experience how your consuming orifices and deluge of fluids take, consume, reap, and mysteriously transmute in your active/receptive Darkness the dance of Life and Death, Death and Life. You are the gaping maw, insatiable, clamoring for more. You are the scythe of the harvest. Roar with delight and take it all in.
Make Pluto proud.