An Underworld Journey

The twists, turns, and insights of a Scorpio lunar cycle

By Tere Parsley Starnes

New Moon: Seeding October 27

Life is delicately balanced with Death. The closer death comes, the more alive we can feel. In the Scorpio season, we notice the thin membrane separating the massive forces of life and death. As we draw near this veil separating the worlds of seen and unseen; living and dead; and now, was, and will be, the stronger we sense the Mystery surrounding us. It’s more noticeable in Scorpio. This is the potent season, when we dare to do our deepest magic. The only requirement is to let it all go. This magic is bittersweet. We can only manifest the heart pang that nothing lasts forever. This truth reveals even greater truth about what and how we love, about how to live more fully even with the bittersweet flavor of death all around. 

Contrast evokes the crossroads. We stand in the space between choices. Two aspects in the chart of the new Moon bring us to the crossroads. The Sun and Moon in Scorpio are opposed exactly by Uranus in Taurus. Taurus is the life force that always returns. It is the body memory of life. Uranus, in Taurus from 2018 to 2025, is asking us to remember and fight for this life. Uranus in Taurus brought us Greta Thunberg, the Extinction Rebellion, and the wildfires in California. This Scorpio new Moon seed contains the opportunity of this moment to love more fully the things we are losing. It is the opportunity to let that love wake us up. How much pain can you stand? How much does denial take from you? This magic is potent and the only thing we can manifest with it is the body wisdom that nothing lasts forever.

Mercury is preparing to station retrograde in Scorpio on Halloween and I’m looking forward to the weird time that this transit will evoke. I just spent a week at a Reclaiming Witchcamp in Texas, where we worked with the twining threads of Wyrd time. Past, present, and future are more mutable than we think. In our magic, we explored how our descendants are now sending healing to us as we send healing to our ancestors. Time flows in all directions. The threads of potentiality for this lunar cycle expand as Mercury helps us move into Wyrder time.

Hekate is a goddex of the crossroads. She witnesses the passage through the crossroads of the dead and living, the parts of us that are dead and living. She holds the keys that change everything. Through her, we have a moment in our busy lives to stop and witness all of our parts—to remember that nothing lasts forever. How will you love? This is my magic for the new Moon: to stop and remember my beloved dead, the passing of life forms from the seen world, and to stand in the Wyrd time of pasts and futures and presents merging. From this place of power, may my choices serve life.

Crescent Moon: Germinating October 31
Traditional Samhain

Hermes, the Greek equivalent to Mercury, has many roles—messenger, diplomat, thief (that’s a role), inventor, god of travelers and of merchants … There really isn’t anything Hermes wasn’t good at and called upon to perform, including guide of souls on their journey to the underworld. And that is the side of Mercury that shines on this Witches’ Sabbath. Mercury stations retrograde in Scorpio. That is a statement of power. The godd is present. As the veils thin between the realms of the living and dead, Mercury offers themselves as guide.

I’ve been on my own underworld journey for the past year due to an intense Pluto transit. Such a journey asks us to go to the core of self, unmasking layer upon layer of stored trauma. The underworld journey is about getting to the source, surrendering all the schemes we have devised to control or ignore our deepest pain. I feel spread open to myself. I rarely write so personally in these forecasts, but this transit, this Scorpio season seems a good time to do things differently. To unmask myself. You might be on a similar journey. Is there something about this Mercury station on Samhain that offers itself as healing or help? Will Mercury be the guide?

It requires surrendering outcome. The journey requires we give up control. Mercury often teaches this during retrograde periods. We can’t control the technology that breaks down, or the missed connection, or the unintended miscommunication, or the order that collapses into chaos. In the underworld journey, we can’t control life or death. We are along for the ride. Mercury is about to take us for a ride. The journey has purpose. This is what I take as faith even when I don’t believe it. The journey has purpose and we can return. The opportunity is to heal. As guide, Mercury possesses the secret wisdom we need to return. Deep in my own darkness, I pray for Mercury’s guidance. Perhaps you do too.

We greet the ancestors in this turning and opening time. Another source of strength is found. Another offering of healing is sent. When the Moon moves into Capricorn, a sign naturally concerned with ancestry and tradition, our ears are attuned to their messages. This is a time of connection and memory as we remember and recommit to carrying on the whole lineages in our ancestry, and we seek healing for the lineages that need repair.

First Quarter Moon: Sprouting November 4

“The ways of the Underworld are perfect and may not be questioned.” Inanna, Sumerian Queen of Heaven was told this when she took her own journey into the underworld. At each gate leading down, she was told to surrender a part of her identity. And she was told there was no returning. The journey down is a journey of surrender. There is no bargaining with the underworld. It is perfect. The Scorpio season evokes underworld journeys. This fixed water sign naturally seeks more soulful experiences like water seeks greater depth. In the depths, as we surrender more and more of the exterior world, we come to know our true selves—that which is left when all else is gone. At this first quarter phase of the lunar cycle seeded in Scorpio, we may notice resistance or a turning point in our journeys down.  We may need to reach for help.

In my own dark journey, I’ve been reaching for help in Tara Brach’s dharma talk on surrendering. https://www.tarabrach.com/path-spiritual-surrender-pt-1/

She outlines three steps to find peace in times of surrender.

Notice and set aside obsessive thoughts.

Feel all the feelings.

Remember belonging.

None of these stages are easy. Inanna didn’t find it easy, either. Each step is a surrender. As I enter each gate, it feels as if I have no choice but to continue stripping down. The ways of the underworld are perfect.

Gibbous Moon: Budding   November 8
The Sun in Scorpio links arms with Saturn in Capricorn and Neptune in Pisces. Sometimes the great planet of illusion, Neptune, can actually yield insight and wisdom. Sometimes we can separate wishful thinking from intuitive gems. Today is that day. The Scorpio Sun encourages the illumination of our depths. Neptune encourages healing. Saturn encourages commitment to the processes of illumination and healing. This is last time that Saturn and Neptune will make this encouraging sextile aspect in this series that began in January. We’ve been wrestling with illusion, fake news, and lack of faith in leadership and we’ve been in a process of learning how to trust what we know and what we value. There is no perfection, but today with the Sun’s illumination, what do you notice about trust and values? What do you know that you know?

At this phase of the Moon we are perfecting intention, even when we know there is no such thing as perfection. Under positive Saturn influence we are feeling right now, there is a sense that we can try harder and that trying harder can create the change we desire. Perfection is always a tricky motivator. It’s too easy to attach to an outcome or outward measure that will tell us we are OK. In the Scorpio season, we notice the ways we try to control change and the ways we can never control change. Change is another word for Death. Death is the teacher in this season. Personal change and death-like experiences in this lunar cycle has brought me to my knees. I have been humbled by the change I have no control over. I have been learning what remains when I surrender everything else. I wonder what will be revealed at the Taurus full Moon on November 12. I wonder how the ways of the underworld are perfect. I wonder what new clarity is coming.

How will you prepare yourself for your own illuminations? This phase is preparation. The Aries Moon today brings encouragement, even when we aren’t sure what we doing. Mercury transits during this phase represent the core of this retrograde period. Mercury in Scorpio is revealing how we adapt to change. When exteriors are stripped away, what core remains? This knowledge is precious. Be that courageous.

Full Moon: Blossoming   November 12

If the Scorpio season draws death near, then, Taurus as the opposite sign, brings renewal. Oppositions are opportunities for integration. Full Moons are opportunities to integrate seasonal wisdoms and power. The word, integrate, means to put back together. Things that have become separate are now rewoven. This full Moon in Taurus reweaves death and life. If the work of the Scorpio season concerns surrendering to the inevitability of change, then what is the work that follows? What brings about rebirth? How do we know the work of death is done? How do we come back into life? Knowing the answers to these questions is the soulful work of a Witch—those who follow energy, those who attend to the cycles of the Earth. Those who know.

Samhain season is the season of Witch’s work. In this work, we midwife the transitions between life and death and life again. We don’t do such work alone. The living Earth and the beloved Dead are with us, as well as our teachers and communities. The Scorpio season is a time to touch and repair the web of connection that holds all things and all time. We’ve been doing deep work. The Taurus full Moon is the blossoming of understanding that comes from the touching of these strands. What have you learned about change and connection during this lunar cycle? Have you remembered how to come back into life?

Taurus reminds us of our bodies. How our bodies hunger, how they experience pleasure, how they inform, how they work, how they touch, how they heal. Our bodies tell us how to come back into life. We remember we are animals. Taurus also reminds us that we depend on a living planet for our own lives. We are waking to new obligations in this relationship as Uranus moves through Taurus for the next six years. A Witch knows that a cycle of death is not complete until we’ve felt all the emotions that come with change. To come back into better relationship with the Earth, we need to grieve and moan and rail against the harm that has been done. Uranus is here to remind us this will take a while.

This full Moon feels like a turning point in our experiences with the underworld. The call back into life is expansive, although we need to be aware that illusion and wishful thinking may fog the clear messages we’ve received this lunar cycle. Approach lofty revelations with a grain of salt—salt being a good Scorpio ingredient. A sextile between Jupiter in Sagittarius and Mars in Libra tells a similar story. We are eager to get on with life. Doorways are opening. However, in our impatience, we could lose track of death’s greatest lessons. Slow down. Trust equanimity. Trust compassion. Cultivate patience. However, messages and insights keep coming. Mercury retrograding through Scorpio has been on a reconnaissance mission to the underworld.

When we let go, a spacious presence opens up. Death can bring this spaciousness, but only when the time is ripe. Notice your timing. Notice the ways of the world. Notice what you wish to stay with you. How can we remember to honor death even as we come back to life?

Disseminating Moon: Fruiting   November 16

If you were to bottle the essence of this lunar cycle, what medicine would it include? What have you encountered in this intense Scorpio season? How has your life changed? The Moon in Cancer tells a story about the emotion-filled journey of the last two and a half weeks of this lunar cycle. The journey began with a call to the underworld. Like Inanna did in the Sumerian story, we turned our ears to the great below, surrendering at each gate an essential piece of self. Laid bare in the realm of ghosts, we were challenged to feel all the feelings. We listened to the beloved dead. We were offered the gift of belonging. Did you take it? Are there emotions left to feel? The Cancer Moon calls us home, but the journey back requires self-honesty. And radical self-acceptance. My friend Grey Doolin of Radical Wayfaring (https://m.facebook.com/radwayfaring/) has been talking about the formula of an underworld journey:

Moving what is out of awareness into awareness
Plus
Radical acceptance of whatever that experience is
Equals
Reclamation of power

Inanna came back to reclaim her throne. What are we reclaiming? What is the medicine? The point is not to return to business as usual, to take up our lives as if we had never been laid bare, but to come back more powerful because we were laid bare. And we remember. All the feelings. All the acceptance.

The underworld is a water sign journey. A grand water trine of Mercury in Scorpio, Neptune in Pisces, and Moon in Cancer evokes all the stages of this journey.  Scorpio, as fixed water, has the unflinching gaze into the depths of emotion. The Scorpio season opens the door to those depths. Pisces, as the mutable water sign, helps in the surrendering process. The above ground life dissolves away. Constructs of time and self fall away. Laid bare without defense, Cancer, as cardinal water, turns on the homing signal. And it turns on more emotion through memories of loss, feelings of isolation, and a strong yearning to return to belonging. The underworld is a place to reclaim power. This is the power of belonging in spite of our deficiencies and in spite of our sorrows. All of the unloveable parts of ourselves get to belong and we rise with power.

Last Quarter Moon: Re-seeding  November 19
Mars, the traditional ruler of Scorpio, enters that sign today just when we might be thinking the Scorpio season was winding down. Transformative underworld experiences ramp up again. There’s more to feel. There’s more to reclaim. Mars’ governance of this fixed water sign reminds us how robust Scorpio is. We aren’t lulling around in the underworld this season. We are penetrating its depths. We are getting to the bottom, fiercely and potently. There’s a lot of life in the death world. Mars in Scorpio is passionate, sexy, and intense. The Scorpion has pinchers and a stinger. This side of the water sign is anything but passive. It takes skill to wield this Scorpio intensity well. The first step to skill is to fully recognize that we all have hidden feelings. The kind of emotions that we see so well in others, but is so much harder to accept in ourselves. Feelings like jealousy, anger, disgust, and even fear can be hard to claim. Yet, even these feelings serve a purpose. They help us know ourselves and our desires. Mars in Scorpio can be formidable. There’s a lot of power in knowing ourselves this deeply.

Astrologer Dane Rudhyar described the last quarter Moon as “Crisis in Consciousness.” The first quarter phase was called “Crisis in Action.” The heroic nature of Mars responds well to crisis. Mars, as ruler of Aries, dares to break free through action. Mars, as ruler of Scorpio, dares to go beneath to see. Beneath our actions we look for the source. Consciousness, in this sense, describes our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that are the source of action. Passion is one way to describe this consciousness.

The last week of this lunar cycle packs a punch. Mars enters Scorpio, Mercury in Scorpio stations direct (November 20), and Mars opposes Uranus in Taurus (November 24). Scorpio reactions can be explosive if we’ve kept our emotions bottled up for too long. What is your true passion? This could be the passion of pain and it could also be the passion of pleasure. All passions co-exist. All passions can feed each other, bringing hidden medicine and resource. The magic of this week involves accessing passion to heal ourselves and the world.


Balsamic Moon: Composting   November 23
The Sun has moved on into Sagittarius, leaving behind the remains of the Scorpio lunar cycle. Of course, there is no separation. The Sun hasn’t left us behind, but you could be feeling that split between lunar interiority and solar expansion. Internal work continues, even if it is below the surface of consciousness. This last phase of the lunar cycle is important. This is when we receive the nutrients of the composted cycle. As the cycle withers away, death returns life to the place of potentiality—that rich soil beneath our feet.

The Moon returns to Scorpio at the very end of this day (central U.S. time zone). The season of death continues to teach about death in the dying phase of the Moon. Death is the teacher. Death teaches from afar. It teaches up close. It teaches as we go about forgetting. It teaches when we remember. It teaches about surrender. Life exists in relationship to death. Life is a teacher too. If death teaches surrender, life teaches how. In this last phase of the Scorpio lunar cycle, what are you learning about how to surrender?

The body of a plant is metabolized in the compost pile. Compost is post-death, isn’t it? It is what happens after the final surrender. There is still so much life left in the particles of the dead body (plant and human). Life takes death into itself, metabolizes everything to feed itself. In this phase of the lunar cycle, we are metabolizing everything hoped for, fought for, lost, attained, and surrendered. If we feed the compost pile the right sort of ingredients, it can speed up the metabolization or slow it down. What do you need? To move on or to rest awhile longer? Sometimes we consciously choose this, sometimes it is chosen for us.

The Moon in Libra feeds the expansive nature of the Sun in Sagittarius. The Moon makes challenging aspects to Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn, and favorable aspects to Venus and Jupiter in Sagittarius. We can speed up, or we can slow it down. The tension between these choices is the hardest part. What have you learned about surrendering?

The Sun makes a harmonious trine to Chiron in Aries. The Aries wound, which includes self-doubt, isolation, pointless belligerence, receives balm from Sagittarian optimism. We fall down. We get back up. Fire signs can do that. The falling down doesn’t look so good. The getting back up is miraculous. There is a lesson here in the dance between death and life. We are not in charge of this dance. Whether we look foolish or we look like heroes, it isn’t about us. It is about life. And maybe that is comforting.

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