A Public Alchemical Working
Starting with the first dark moon after the winter solstice, the combined works of image, text and commentary create a map through which transformation can be walked.
Pearl Button practices a form of chaos alchemy and as such any undertaking of the Great Working will be made easier through commentary and an introduction. Alchemy is not the easiest of practices; tarot, by its nature is deeply referential, and Pearl, bless the Seer's heart, loves the chaos part of her practice and so does not hold back just because her visions and interpretations are esoteric and materialistic simultaneously.
Hence, these few lines precede, and the commentary for each moon follow the Seer’s text. We felt that providing a paddle for the upcoming journey could only support Worker efficacy.
As we talked about her process in preparation of this text, Pearl would often tell stories to illustrate her points. To some extent these are the genesis of appended commentary. However, discussion amongst the Weavers has led to disagreement with respect to meaning. It is important with any Chaos Work, to keep the energy associated with alternative interpretations so these disagreements are honored within the commentaries.
As to methodology, according to Pearl, she cast 13 cards for the coming 13 dark moons. Each card acts as the Signifier for the alchemical stage that each moon circumnavigates. The sections start by naming the Signifier and its direction of focus. The Seer said that the alchemists who begin a new Working could better follow the road if they knew the place of beginnings.
A note here about Pearl’s use of the “direction of focus” in her prognostications and interpretations: whereas many Workers and Weavers using cards (or other forms of
focus objects) utilize the concept of “reversed”, the Seer is quite adamant that such a metaphor is heavy with moral judgment, and because of this, does not suit the contemporary alchemist. The world has changed, she says. Magick changes with it, since it is of the world. Logic dictates that the Magician goes along, or is no longer a Magician.
It should be clear that since the world with its Prima Materia is the beginning for all alchemists and all Workings, if the world has changed then the practice must also change, or so Pearl often says. We are evolving, according to the Seer, moving from a triumvirate to a quaternary power structure. These 13 Moons speak to that, and as such seem to point to an imminent turning in our shared road.
Back to the direction of focus: rather than forward and reversed, instead, a card with its head facing away from the force of the action and meaning must be focused upon the material and social systems which affect any Working an alchemist undertakes. For example, if Cups is predominant in a reading and the head of the card faces away from the reader, then the querent must take emotional action in the world of real people, material events, conditions and forces.
Sometimes facing down a villain is best done by actually facing the villain.
Sometimes facing down such fears is really the task of re-arranging an internal (emotional, for example) set of beliefs. In such case, the cards would have an inward focus – the head of the card would face the querent.
Before each section, or Dark Moon, the magickal intent of each alchemical stage has been distilled down into the sigils presented with the Seer’s words. Along with naming the Signifiers, this distillation allows each participant in this Working the added power of the sigil, and as much autonomy of action as we can achieve in time-space. Having said this, it is well to remember that Pearl’s understanding of reality rests upon the interconnections rather more forcefully than it does upon the illusion of an independent and free-floating Being. How she puts this: there is no spider, and no web either.
Despite howls and other audible protestations of confusion, she insists upon this, but has agreed, for the purposes of this Working that we can consider the spun fibers as universal forces, such as gravity and spin. Of course, Pearl would not let it
rest there, saying: sometimes the forces look like a web; sometimes they look like a spider; sometimes a fly. Given the text that follows, it seems rather more useful to consider the spider a horse, the web, the hill upon which the Red Mare runs. Still, the point of mutable metaphor is made. What matters are the interactions between different weavings of energy and material form, or wave and particle, to put it more accurately. Regardless, it is these weavings that create and temporarily sustain shape, and what we humans consider identity.
Does the fly suffer, someone asked The Seer. Yes. This knowledge, she says, is great power. What is not real in any human-meaning sense is the very “thing” that creates meaning―creates everything real. What creates reality is not itself real. This is, of course, why alchemy exists and why we begin The Working.
SIGNIFIER |Six Swords, with an outward focus
There is a peace in the darkest time of winter. These days the valley billows in the dark. Shadows burgeon and bloom. Dark has its finest growing days here. Crops of dreams will be dried, stored for the worst of the sun-blasted days to come. Here in the peaceful valley of winter, in the dark of the moon, understanding unbuckles from the sun's direction. Ecstasy harbours here. This is the chimp returned at last to her forest. This is the isolated elephant finding her sister after 30 years of performance art for peanuts.
Mind roams freely in the unwound yarn of the year. Here thought's symbolic DNA zips together; creates sulfur's seeds for the year to come. First Matter bears in the dark. Salt joins sulfur in spinning life's threads. Mercury is the first Weaver known to the alchemist. Here in the first dark moon, the inner and outer weave each other into the world.
Let it be known: All that long sun-high-sky, the moon rides hidden above the horizon, slides above the stones, the snow, the moving mountain. To know what comes from beyond the valley, find three blades that ride with the dark moon at noon. To know what will rush past without pausing, find the three
Six thoughts in the dark. Six needs divided become 12 wants. Heat makes and breaks the sweat stones. This is the reason for the alchemical fire. Going into the dark of the sweat lodge, hidden stones seek knowledge best suited to the wide skies of a pendant day. Therefore, must all stones be counted, put through the fire.
The mountain creaks in the dark. Small stones hide under the lowest boughs of snow-bearing pitch pine. Strung on sinew between cones and clouds, white blades clink against the setting moon. The badger sleeps but the cougar leaves tracks on the water. It is between the marks left by left front toes that truth for the year rolls laughing.
that pierce the clouds ˈround the midnight moon hidden behind the earth. Once to hand, hang them all clinking on a line and sing with them. Sing until the song falls crystalline and glistening from your mouth into the snow, then release it, fin flapping in the winter waters circling under quiet cat feet.
SIGNIFIER |Chariot VII, with an inward focus
A fine red-coated mare stands on a green hill.
Not far from the fine black hooves, a blue sea;
fish rush a white cliff. The green body of the leonine earth
rests under the Emperor's shattered eye.
The World coruscates with the blown sun. Each yellow petal
of the devastation bears salt's elixir: sweet alfalfa on the tongue
and miles of fragrant skin, earth upon which to run.
These are the things of the World,
things upon which and in which the alchemist dwells.
Horse dreams under a dark moon of late winter.
The red mare paws at the snow.
Kicks aside what she can to gain the dried grasses
bent under cold, the weight, last year's expectations,
crystals & raging winds. She is pregnant upon the hill.
In another moon she will give birth to twin foals.
One black. One white. Both will live,
run the summer green. But to get there,
red mare must force aside the snow,
eat the past. Again and again
she must eat, and at the same time
she must find shelter, for her foals will be wet, vulnerable
when they leave womb-sleep.
They must skin-dry; their fears gel into resolve.
SIGNIFIER |Strength XI, with an outward focus
Courage in the face of absurdity.
will not matter, and yet nothing else will do.
This doubles the need for distillation,
for mercurial constancy. Alchemy does not matter,
nor does salt. And yet
life is to act, to create meaning, and in that, things
begin to accrete mercury, and constancy achieves itself.
Things begin to matter to themselves.
Outside this, life and death are for nothing. The Red Mare
makes life mean by digging the snow with her black
hooves. The badger makes by digging warm burrows,
The alchemist makes by seeking to change the world.
Each their own ululation answering the green lion's call.
And yet, the woman's hand in the lion's mouth
will eventually get punctured. This is the nature
of First Matter's transformation.
A fish with an eye goes to live in the dark.
A blind fish leaves the dark and swims in the open river.
The mountain travels down the river and becomes the sea bed.
The sea bed bows to the traveling mountain and is lifted into the sky.
The joyous trilobites defined animal waters and still they died away.
The triumphant lizards stomped and promenaded through their temporary reign.
What work is it to think golden lions and hairless apes should forever wander?
This error will betray the alchemist to the lion's sharper tooth.
Change means that one fish loses its eye and another gains.
In the Working, the alchemist swims through all these things.
Whether an eye is gained or lost depends upon the birth
of the Fourth from Salt, Sulfur and Mercury. In either case,
it will not matter unless made so in the act of transformation.
SIGNIFIER |Three Pentacles, with an outward focus
In the wood pile one log rests above two others. This triangle of promise assumes that life continues into the future cold.
Such a promise is meaningless, and yet of central importance to the alchemist. This is the little work that done well fires the Working.
The woodshed's roof promises shade for splitting in late summer, also promises rain safe passage in the spring, and snow a resting place in winter.
Such generosity of spirit should always be attended. It is a lesson in grace and the correct approach to braiding white with black horse hair to suspend the alembic from the rafters in preparation for distillation.
If this working of mundane earth is taken seriously then the Working will surely move through space-time's great river.
The badger's kits will begin to roam the valley, lion will leave paw prints on dry mountain ridges, mare's foals will learn to run with knees still knobby with youth. The alchemist will begin to understand the nature of the love between salt and sulfur.
This will be tested, and sometimes broken. Do not mend it, and the Working fails. The dark faces trail by light. Should the dark quail, the Working fails. In this case, the Red Mare's hooves become soft and dull and the badger loses her way home.
SIGNIFIER |Knight of Swords, with an inward focus
The test of a blade is not its shine but whether it will cut.
The test of a belief is whether it can be proved in the arena of shared existence and action.
The green lion must use its own claws to comb its tail.
Faith's edge will kill through blunt force trauma.
The alchemist aligns sulfur with salt before mercury can be added to begin yet another step in the transformation. Just so the badger must dig the surface before the depths.
Hanging prayer-ties on the rowan tree rewards the unknown passerby without irritating the tree. This is the manifestation of a good belief.
The mountain lion does not require belief because evidence is the lion's only option. The alchemist is not so lucky. To achieve what the lion comes to understand through the gifts of salt, the alchemist must produce through adherence to the Working.
Faith's belief in spirit's material existence gouges even the hardest of steel, shatters obsidian, cuts down the tree to honor life.
The foals can die from a lion's well-placed tooth, the alchemist from an absent-minded article of faith.
Understand matter through belief. It is faith that contends the passivity of Prima Materia. The alchemist has disproven this, as has First Matter itself. Faith still contends.
Hence, understanding dies from a blow to the head. Just so, the rowan tree dies when the root cannot reach the crown.
SIGNIFIER |Five Pentacles, with an inward focus
in the interior dark of the dark moon matter moves with grace like the red mare's mane in the wind as she runs with her colts matter becomes matter
like the snow on the woodshed's roof becomes steam in the woodstove matter becomes matter just as faith, when tested becomes belief or dies, and finally understanding what matters matters
Do not forget the four lobed world : salt is to sulfur is to mercury is to the fourth unnamed, is to mercury is to sulfur is to salt, and so it goes. The Red Mare knows this, as does the Green Lion.
Understand : matter becomes matter. The shape of the rowan tree can be seen in everything. This is why the sighted fish seeks the dark, and why the blind one seeks the open river.
SIGNIFIER |King of Wands, with an outward focus
When the alchemist breaks open, a new solution must be generated. The black foal and the white will never recombine. A severed leg will not walk again, but, nevertheless, movement, and the future, achieves itself; a new red mare will be born in the future from the offspring.
The Green Lion speaks and says: If the gait is crooked then the path must reflect the need.
A belief, once proven non-material, becomes faith. Proceed to dismember belief. Understanding follows a crooked path. Watch for snags of red hair amongst the yellow thorns beside the road. By this the alchemist maps the Working's movement and direction.
Lay the path with stones cooked in the birdtail fire. Pain in sudden recognition, the mirror glimpsed nailed to a rowan tree along the way. This is the phoenix returning to ashes. Such impromptu discovery lies often and well.
Nothing is final. The Work is done best under the black moon, just as Hermes works long in the dark, without thanks, without notice, without light.
This is the role of the King, as it is of the alchemist who runs with the Red Mare leading the way. The Green Lion stalks them all.
SIGNIFIER |Four Cups, with an outward focus
Mark this moon's transit in celebration.
A feast is called for, not only of food, not even primarily, but of pleasure shared with others in the world.
Even the most happy of clams must open its shell to receive the sea.
The foals have graduated to grain, and the Red Mare's womb begins to gestate the quiet of the final elixir.
Cups that bear the birdtail wine are formed from a marriage of earth and water. In celebration, two pairs of two allow the uncoupling that is the nigredo. The pairs pull apart, recombine, then like a catalyst return to their first form, transforming matter around them. In this way the vessel itself is transmuted.
Salt is made to move from broken grains to slow, sure crystals.
The power required by the alchemist to recognize the last stage of the elixir's reformulation requires the balanced flow in and out of the waters of feeling, and yet, such power comes also from containment.
Water without the surrounding clay returns to cloud.
Even the greatest of seas is cupped by the earth's crust. Power comes lastly from the recognition that one can choose whether or not to use it.
Emotional control is the cup of the Alchemist's ability to transform, and power of this sort is only ever recognized by the arc it makes between the alchemist and others.
SIGNIFIER |Ten Swords, with an inward focus
The Red Mare kicks open the Knight's wall. He must shore it up before going again to war.
This is the price paid for allowing the blade to become dull.
Very little time remains now that the sun wanes. The Working, between breaths, comes to fruition.
Without a sharpened blade the Knight will be unable to cleanly sever the Unnamed Fourth's umbilicus from the gently heated alembic.
The dying back has begun. The seed must be freed from the husk, and the husk ground into meal for the waking dark.
Lose no time. Hone all ten blades until the white gleams like a rose under the moon in a night garden.
Go back to the simplest of lessons. Hang the blades, let them sing, go with them into the dying.
The salt and the sulfur dance to mercury's windy pipe.
SIGNIFIER |Wheel of Fortune X, with an outward focus
Take a sharpened blade and cut two slits in the withering husk of light.
The year's blood will replenish.
Reunited will be the triumvirate but with room to spare.
It is only now that the new key of the Unnamed Fourth will fit into the reconfigured Three.
Despite the Wheel's incessant turning, those clung-burred to its side forever face away from Fortuna.
It is the same for those who cling to the placenta and not the babe.
Out of aged shit, the rose blooms.
The rose dies and its petals become grass eaten by the Red Mare.
There may be an end point to this, but it is not now, and not for the alchemist.
The ring of gold is above all else a ring.
Do not winter over a plant that cannot bloom again in spring expecting anything other than leggy greens and woody stalks.
SIGNIFIER |Three Cups, with an inward focus
fruits, late summer celebrations the Green Lion has left her mane upon the earth, yellow thorns
soften once the winter rains begin birdtail fires have cooled to red embers, stones on the path ice
dark's eyelid opens
A marriage of three, the alchemist, the year, and the Red Mare, run through the cut fields tilting
an uneven stool tumbles without the fourth leg so long without a name outside the calling, but singing
badger digs in for the winter squirrels gather, as do solemn trees seeds of one stored upon the other
dark's eye turns, gazes upon the unnamed, from the last cup standing
drinks the light
SIGNIFIER |The World XXI, with an outward focus
The unnamed learns to walk in the world. The black and white foals run alongside whinnying with glee. In the cold fields, under the early winter rains, the unnamed digs for treasure and finds it with last year's leaves, finds the first earth out of which it sprouted. All the others attend to their own business. They go to the hills looking for songs. They have heard them calling these last moons, and now it is time to go out seeking. For despite the unnamed's new wealth, the earth will tumble through the dark, a nut temporarily loose from the squirrel's tooth.
The gold ring of the earth's haloed run rounds the sun, the same of the sun round the galaxy, the alchemist runs round ambition, desire. These are not impurities. They—the red, the yellow, the white, the black, balanced finally—need to visit the walking mountain the Red Mare, the badger, the Green Lion, the alchemist—companions—and returned, aware, awake, and sentient. In the blossomed dark, the world finds itself a pearl.
SIGNIFIER |The Emperor IV, with an outward focus
To his dirtiest servant, the Emperor gives a pearl.
In the dark of the winter solstice, the dark moon triumphs. The Emperor sits to table, white knives ready to plate. He eats last. His household fed, his horses with deep troughs, his hounds knuckled to bones, a chimp eats from a crystal bowl of grapes.
The moon under foot in the night, a halo in the day the alchemist takes a bite, returns his knife to the table. From the wounded meal comes a song, its seed rising as sound, the Emperor listens, head sparrowed, his eyes half closed. He smiles when the wind circles, seeks feathers to lift.
Stones crack buried deep in summer's stored heat. The Green Lion rests to the fire's side. Outside on the hill, the Red Mare seeks the Yellow Stallion. Finds him under squirrel's tree. Beyond them all, the mountain creaks as it comes to rest, watches Time pass along its roads.
The year and the moon dance by, laughing.
“there is peace in the darkest time of winter”
Pearl told me that her greatest need is human silence, sometimes even non-human animal silence when their sound comes from screaming. She says that silence of this kind has many ways of being known to the body. The Seer says that her greatest power is her ability to listen to this silence, and that often what she hears comes to her as movement instead of sound. For this reason the interpretation in this commentary rests upon the notion that from the dark and the slow life of winter comes an opening into that peculiar mindset from whence comes visions.
Other Weavers disagree and point out that Chaos has long been associated with the Dark, and suggest that the Seer’s focus on the 13 dark moons of the coming year argue for an interpretation based on accepting, and then breaking, old ideas of “dark ways” to allow for the better use of social energies tied up in the fear of Chaos.
“the valley billows in the dark”
A summer lake where the winds flutter the water's skin, the curved lines where the air and water meet, these markings are tattoos made with the ephemeral ink of movement. Pearl says that this is one of the 6 knives of the signifier, and of this first dark moon of the Working: to listen to the ink being laid upon the lake's skin, to the sound the ripples make once winter holds the dark in its mouth.
In another text the Seer has said “petroglyphs are lithic tattoos / the earth is my body”. Because of this, the line may be taken literally as a movement of the earth, which, like bodily movements are meaningful.
“the mountain creaks in the dark”
One year, Pearl spent the winter on the edge of a small mountain valley, in a 10X12 wood cabin with a wood stove for heat and for melting snow. She would work for part of the day, each day, to get wood, melt enough water to make tea and soup, to wash her face and hair. The rest of the time she spent listening to the mountain speak to the wind. Pearl said that this kind of hearing is what makes a good alchemist. What makes a good alchemist a chaos practitioner is believing the story told by the wind to the mountain.
“the cougar leaves tracks”
Pearl says that this small mountain valley becomes a crystal ball in the silence revealed in the absence of screaming and the human voice. She tried to describe the tangible nature of what surfaces. She said “the future billows in the dark like salmon spume amongst the gravel of a mountain stream.” “Here” she said, “the 6 white knives of need meet the coming year. Roads are cut.”
“the year rolls laughing”
Having achieved a moue of neurological self-awareness, human beings can choose not to follow a specific road cut by time. In such cases these roads become crevasses for the unwary, but they are also new slits into which the wind can press itself.
“six thoughts in the dark”
Pearl insists that the winds are enamored of change, and that they delight in any resistance around which they can curl. The Seer insists that moving air forms a new thing, this river which lifts that which feathers itself against its own throat. As a new “thing” it carries its own swirling power quite different from that of sleeping air.
“six needs divided become 12”
This new power is what makes it a two-bladed knife, and it is why the Seer’s blades are as they are, and why alchemy is a difficult practice. Alchemical knives are cold hammered into shape under the weight of attention. The greater the attention, the more precise the shaping blows.
“the Emperor’s shattered eye”
One of the most innovative of Pearl's perceptual interpretations can be seen in her analysis of what is often thought of as “reversed” tarot cards. Pearl says there is no such thing, just different spins on things, but that these spins can make all the difference.
The Seer insists that human beings are relational animals. Like the word “far”―what it means depends entirely on position and perspective. Just so the cards. Pearl says that most people are focused on either the persons outside them, or the persons inside. This way, a card's head facing the outside world is read as having to do with the querent's relationship to the material world, including those we call “others”. When the head of a card faces the body of the querent, then the card is largely to do with their inner state of affairs.
Other Weavers agree, but press further insisting on the equation between the old-style solar or masculine forces and the “blown sun”. Following this connection, the energy of the First Matter is being broken down to allow the form to break. The text then becomes a sort of recipe for dissolution.
The Seer says that often those who come to her for readings are shattered by the idea that there is no backward, no forward, only here. When the ruler is shattered, a new reign is necessary.
Other commentators argue that the key to this phrase is the shattered alembic and the recognition that there is only an inside and an outside of the alchemical vessel.
“the blown sun. Each yellow petal”
After the first month of focusing on the alchemist’s mental relationship with the material world, of sorting needs out from the pressing desires of wants, the February dark moon spins the world back into the hands of other's needs. With this moon it is time to focus on the internal drivers that are at work when you are faced with a conflict of true needs. Do not deny another's needs; do not deny your own. Rather accept the conflict, and in that acceptance, find unseen roads of resolution. Attend to the fallen petals as you perceive them.
“the red mare paws at the snow”
The road will be turbulent; your horses of want and need will pull in different directions as you learn the skills of awareness and moderation. It is crucial to spot and dismember old notions, old paradigms, old knowings. Received wisdom must be cooked in the fires of a new life, a new moon, for it to be a useful nutrient.
“bent under cold, the weight”
To provide an image: Pearl told me about a time when she was running happily in a back alley. There was an earth bank to her left, up atop of which was wild rye grass, backed by a forest. She ran pell-mell up the alley and around a bend into another longer lane. She said she felt as if she were alone in a world full of endless joy. Coming to the end of the lane, where it met a road running into the small township, which itself edged a larger place, someone, another girl, a distant cousin, shot her. So life goes, twisted but still joyous in the running.
Another commentator added: “One must live with an accumulation of pain so why not make it useful?”
“She is pregnant upon the hill”
“She was winged”, as the Seer put it. Pearl insists the greatest part of the pain was from the fact that she had no idea she was so hated when she herself was barely aware of the other's existence. It is this, both the hatred and the ignorance, which began the process of putrefaction.
Another Weaver has added that the events around the shooting also made it possible for the Seer to recognize the value of attending to the world carefully, even the parts that don’t seem to matter.
A caveat: attention and fear are not the same thing. We commentators all agree on this. One can attend with joy, or with no feeling at all.
“One black. One white. Both will live”
The two horses of the larger Being are pulling in different directions. They undermine each other. But since they are both drivers as well as horses, there is no appeal to the one great truth. There is only reconciliation through awareness and self discipline.
“she must find shelter”
In the second month the spinning of the chariot's wheel requires the development of a strong core. Just as the stomach and lower back muscles stabilize the human form under the conditions of gravity, strong winds and rushing tides, self discipline stabilizes the emotional body in the fraught conditions of an animal rife with emotional signaling in a world where choices are abundant and wrong ones will lead to ruin.
“their fears gel”
The horses have no reins. The charioteer must train them well, but must understand equine limits and must not expect more of them than is possible for the form. When the horse alone cannot cope, then the charioteer must compensate with planning, cunning, foresight.
“life is to act”
Here emphasized the outward focus of the Signifier. Life is only absurd because in the dark, under belief, in the territory of faith, there are assumptions to which we are heir (e.g. “received wisdom”). These in themselves are absurd. They do not match the world that is the case. As the Seer often says, sometimes changing actions is quicker than changing ideas.
“the alchemist makes by seeking to change to world”
This passage emphasizes the species nature of the alchemist both in its similarities to other mammals and in its uniqueness. Alchemists arehumans firstPearl says. Because we share a set of needs that stem from this fact, we seek that which we think matters – to change the world to suit what we want. The Seer suggests, somewhat dryly, that alchemy is often about changing the alchemist so that his or her needs (and not his wants) get met by the world more often than is currently the case.
“the woman’s hand in the lion’s mouth will eventually get punctured”
Of course the world is a fatal place. We are material, seeking to manipulate the stuff out of which we ourselves are made. This is both beautiful and absurd, but it is always a function of limited time. Still, to become aware of the exact dimensions of the teeth―that holds both promise and power.
“the Fourth from Salt, Sulfur and Mercury”
From the perspective of human civilization and its development, the American continents have become increasingly important since they were settled by those we now know as Native Americans, and of course later by Europeans, Africans, Asians, and others. Pearl says that she has roots that extend far beyond her home in the Salishan Territory. She says it’s like having feet of different colors. “Toesies suck up magick of all different sorts because of it”, Pearl says.The result is a movement in numbers from three to four. This is a kind of metaphorical evolution, the Seer suggests. The Fourth is currently being born, and it is in this next cycle of Dark Moons, that the umbilicus will be cut. Hence, Salt (body), Sulfur (mind), and Mercury (will) must adjust in both meaning and position to make room for a new power, a new aspect of self.
“one log rests above two others”
The Three of Pentacles facing outward in April signifies the need to consider what aspect of the Work you will do next. The phrase asks you to recognize that all moments, powers, insights, actions rest upon what has come before. It is this “triangle” that allows reality to proceed. Such triangles also instantiate the Precession, that will enable the Fourth Unnamed, or the Great Working, its success.
Another commentator noted, “It is not without meaning that the Three of Pentacles appears inside the Fourth Dark Moon.”
“a lesson in grace”
The grass is growing now, and the seeds will come. The foals are born and are running. The red mare no longer paws beneath the snow and yet she must feed her future, protect them from the winter's hungry cougar. The badger is digging anew as well, so the unwary may fall into the hole and break themselves upon the spring ground. This makes meat out of the alchemist, meat that feeds the cougar and the badger and their kits, so it may seem safest to stay still.
Yet, stillness is not an option for the living, nor even the dead. Exchange continues: lunar axial precession does not stop because a farthest point has been reached.
“this working of the mundane”
Only the living can extend their form through time. This extension is called Work. The dead change without will or intent.
“the dark faces trial by light”
The great boon of outward facing cards is the opportunity to transmute faith into belief. The deeply loved in the dark becomes known in the shared light. If the alchemist is an honorable sort, the apparent flaws and imperfections discovered in this transformation will be renegotiated as difference. Without this extension, without this clinging to the first law of Prima Materia―that impurity is not the correct metaphor for the necessity of transformation―then the Working will fail and what was being born as belief with an evidentiary, systemic base, will fall again into faith and the sacred knives will shatter even upon cutting through the mare’s milk.
Another commentator tells of a story told by Pearl. Apparently she once dreamed she lived in a small house with four walls made of grass. On each wall was a shining shield emanating power, smelling of sweet alfalfa. Upon waking, what made her hesitate in the presence of an opening to understanding was that these powerful vortices were nearly invisible in the dream because her attention had been caught by the three dented and dirty armored plates standing on chicken legs between her and the exit to the house―between her and the world from whence came the sweet grass making the walls and roof. Later in the day after the dream, the Seer told the reporting commentator that she understood that the Fourth Unnamed had been conceived and would likely be born in her lifetime. She realized she had much cleaning of house to do before she could utilize the four shields.
“the test of a blade”
The Seer is wont to say that the best test of any magick is whether it has practical application,of course meaning that compassion and understanding are perhaps the most practical of all human emotional attributes given the normally aggressive and/or defensive nature of the species. Given that the Signifier for this Dark Moon is the Knight of Swords, and that all Knights think and act through their fiery natures, this card could easily run amuck destroying the Great Work.
The card implies movement. This is itself the test. Movement occurs in the realm of Prima Materiaor the very foundation of any alchemical transformation. But like all warriors, the card’s energy, and therefore that of this moon’s, must be guided by considerations greater than movement alone. It is for this reason that the Knight swears fealty, because alone he makes poor decisions despite good intent.
The card facing inward implies that awareness is partly the recognition of the absurdity of acting whilst still possessing the need to act. But, this is the nature of Prima Materia. It moves of its own accord and it has no meaning; meaning is something that occurs as part of the process of distillation.
The chemical and other limitations placed on movement by the fundamental laws of reality are critical to the development of complex forms and forces from First Matter. As the Seer puts this, “a hose is only as useful as its water pressure, and this usefulness exists only as a matter of the relationship between the amount of water and the size of the tube.”
“rewards the unknown passerby”
Regarding the need for limitations: If the limits are alien to the time or place, or to life, then the result will be devastating to that which is the quest of the alchemist.The Seer once told of a winter spent in solitude next to a frozen stream. She pitched camp on a ledge above the highest ruin in the valley. This she reasoned was likely the furthest reach of the sudden coming of spring floods. To ignore this is to ruin the healing of winter in the foreknown onslaught of thaw.
“the gifts of salt”
The Seer is fond of saying “the body thinks, just very quietly”. By this she means that the body of each species comes pre-installed with numerous practical solutions to material problems. These are too numerous to name, but include the ability to recognize distance, change, number, sameness, difference, danger, friendship, hunger, dread and desire.
“gouges even the hardest of steel, shatters obsidian”
There are no true gods. There is no singular truth or self or point of view. The inward Knight aims the sword at the Knight's own false assumptions.
Another commentator adds that even our assumptions of our own magickal past must be broken. This is the meaning of the broken obsidian.
“faith still contends”
It is important to remember that this is the inward Knight. The foe is in the mirror and not in the neighbor.
“matter moves with grace”
This dark moon comes after Beltane but before High Summer. It is a time of good green food, warmth, long light days and often the calm that comes with having enough. This is the great difficulty with vulnerability. Without enough, the alchemist's mind must attend to problems of living and not to the Working. Thus to move with grace through material transformation, the alchemist must attend simultaneously to the Working, the world, and the alchemist.
“she runs with her colts”
So it is true for all those in the Alchemist's neighborhood. No alchemist works alone. If nothing else, there is the history to honour, the glass maker to respect, and the biome which constituted the form of the earth upon which the alchemist eats. This must be attended, also with grace.
“salt is to sulfur”
To recognize what is “enough”, to structure life to purr along with just what it takes to optimize the happy pursuit of understanding, this is a prerequisite to the Hermetic folding and unfolding. But the fives are the most difficult of cards in the Minor Arcana. This is because after the stability and power of the four, the balance of self and other in the six seems leagues distant.
In a world of continual transformation, the rocking of the pentacle represents a position half-way between need and want. Like balancing on one’s toes without a strong core, the emotionally or mentally weak alchemist will always fall to the side of want. Just so this weakness of balance will cause the alchemist to favor
Mercury over Sulfur or Salt. This is a mistake and will lead to the aborted birth of the Unnamed Fourth.
“Understand: matter becomes matter”
This is the great discovery of an inward five of pentacles.
The working of matter is the secret to the blind fish's decision to seek the open river. Knowing without consciousness that the environmental condition of its own body is a perfect alchemical fire, the fish “knows” that sight is already coded into the Working. Unseen, light still speaks to the alembic of the cellular. And yet, the five is the faith we put in what we can consciously know and seem to control; this is a severe limitation. Consciousness alone is a fire not hot enough to proceed with the Working. It is a fire not hot enough to invite Hermes into the hearth.
“the shape of the rowan tree can be seen in everything”
In a long-ago summer, the Seer went to the Lake to learn to drink the waters of dance. She speaks of a dream that sent her to the Badger there with corn and pumpkin, prayer ties and gifts of tobacco for the Rowan Tree and those that would pass by after the Seer left. Eventually, she found the tree from her dream and the badger. She left her gifts. At the end of the summer she dreamed again. She went back to find the tree had been hacked to death, the bits of red ribbon heeled into the ground. Understanding, she picked up a broken limb and danced.
Today that limb has been oiled and goes with her when she takes the life of a plant for her Work. The ones who killed the Rowan will never complete a Working, but they are gift-givers despite themselves. They will, for their lifetimes, live in the shadow of the Rowan. It is because of this that they are alchemically inert and yet still giving. They have become, in themselves, the chemical constituents out of which evolves Prima Materia.
“the blind one seeks the open river”
This is the working of Matter, the working of Magick, and the fundament of Alchemy.
“the black foal and the white will never recombine”
If the Working has proceeded this far, the alchemist has been profoundly changed. The needs of the Working include what has been calledputrefactionor the breaking apart of old habits and patterns of thinking and acting. Although a once-sighted fish can lose its sight, and vice versa, some changes are irrevocable. The egg once cooked can never be a chicken.
“a severed leg will not walk again”
The Alchemist who loses a limb will return to movement in another way. A prosthesis allows movement but is not a leg. This is neither good, nor is it bad, but such change requires both letting go of what was and adaptation to what is.
Because belief is based on material evidence the successful alchemist must always seek to test his or her own ideas. Without this war against assumption, the alchemist will fall away from the Working.
“without thanks, without notice”
An ill person who constantly reminds others of suffering, adds to suffering. Just so, the Seer reminds us, the alchemist. To add to the Work, remember the Dark Moon. Hide away so that thinking can go forth unmolested by others’ faith. Hide away so that motivations come from a desire to sing a love song to the dark and not to have the ooohs and aaaaahs of others.
“the Red Mare leading the way”
The Red Mare is as much a manifestation of the combined worlds of Salt, Sulphur and Mercury as is the alchemist. What the Red Mare has that the alchemist does not: an equal working share of the Unnamed Fourth. This is why the horse often appears in the dreams of the contemporary alchemist. She calls. It is up to the alchemist if he or she will follow.
“the Green lion stalks them all”
Pearl told a story of a fish that fell from the sky. A group of children were on the bank of the summer creek asking a local how it was that their ancestors spoke to them from the dissolution of death. The children were standing in a circle facing the local. A fish fell from the sky, hit the local on the head and bounced, landing on the ground in the middle of the circle. Pointing to the fish, the local said,this way.
“Mark this moon's transit in celebration.”
Although an apparent directive to action, the Seer maintains that this was a vision of glassware dancing in the lab: “four alembics dancing a gavotte.” The refined nature of this kind of dance suggests the difference between the celebration called for in the three of cups and that from the four. It has been suggested that the steadiness of the number four calls for a more formal celebration, and less of a free-for-all. The Seer said nothing to deny this when such differences were suggested.
“Even the most happy of clams”
Since many of those dedicated to the Work are by experience secretive and spend much time alone in the lab, the requisite outward focus of emotions and species-based social needs that are found in this dark moon and its signifier can be hard to initiate.
Like the clam, the alchemist feels safest with its shell closed. Nevertheless, to take in necessary nutrition, and to excrete that which is no longer necessary, the shell's hermetic seal must be breached. The Seer said, when asked, “If this were not so, this book would not have been written, but remained a card reading, dreams and visions.”
Despite the apparent contradiction to the directive to proceed in silence, the Seer insists that despite the rolling, bumpy movement of a pentacle across a flat plane, it moves with its own balance and grace―when, that is, it does not fall over. The alchemist must strive to do the same―fall repeatedly, but still strive for balance and grace.
Another commentator adds, “ Speaking of one’s Work and achieving necessary species’ social nutrition are not the same thing.”
“the Red Mare's womb begins to gestate / the quiet of the final elixir”
Although the suggestion of parthenogenesis is clear, the Mare's reference to the yellow stallion implies that matter has a choice. Material forms can expand and transform within themselves, or by combining with other forms.
Referring to the transformation color index, this reference suggests that the alchemist transforms through ingestion.
Other commentators have suggested that this is a deeper metaphor for general nurturance, not necessarily corporeal.
“the vessel itself is transmuted”
The alchemist is as simply material as the alembic.
“water without the surrounding clay returns to cloud”
The Seer says “there is no bottomless sea”.
“The Red Mare kicks open the Knight's wall.”
Pearl, when asked about this, said that in a vision initiated by this card the Red Mare was kicking out the remaining foundation of The Tower, which had become the Knight's domicile. Imagine, Pearl said somewhat irreverently, “the guy who got fired, very publicly, very nastily, with his little cardboard box escorted to the street from his corner office in the twin towers the day before 9/11. That's the Knight's very bad day, and what the Red Mare did for him by kicking out what he thought was the foundation of his life.”
“The Working, between breaths, comes to fruition.”
Alchemists tend to love rationalizations, which, by their nature happen ahead of evidence. A puzzle is never solved by changing the clues.
A word lost in the moment can return when the mind is turned to something else.
Patience, according to the Seer, is not so much a virtue as it is the pause between breaths during meditation. Without it, the lungs would burst.
“the husk ground into meal for the waking dark”
That which is discarded often proves of immense value.
Specific to the alchemist, the drawn aqua vitae taken from the putrefaction process is sometimes prematurely discarded. To do this is to invite an end to the Working.
“The salt / and the sulfur dance to mercury's windy pipe.”
The Seer sometimes speaks of Mercury as language, or perhaps better stated, as a still emerging aspect of human life that we now call language. If this is the case then the phrase could be problematic if “dance to” is taken as “controlled by”. The Seer says (emphatically) that this is not the case. “It's more like a three-some. Everyone's getting something out it. Everyone's giving.”
“new key of the Unnamed Fourth”
If Mercury is an emergent phenomenon, then the Unnamed Fourth may well have something to do with what is emerging from the Working. By the fact of material activity alone, a key always emerges when a new lock assembles. A plant grows a nut that's hard to crack? A bird develops a beak that will crack it. Obstacles to any Working are often just opportunities for matter to further transform.
“it is not now, and not for the alchemist”
Purity is not the issue in the transformation of Prima Materia. Purity doesn't exist in any useful sense. Clinging to ideas from broken systems is what the “placenta” references in the earlier line. The alchemist cannot afford to cling here. It would be like the midwife saving the placenta and discarding the infant. The alchemist who would birth the alchemist must let go of three-fold ideas that do not encompass the Unnamed Fourth.
“The ring of gold is above else a ring.”
The focus has often been on the idea of lead into gold―a metaphor for purification. In fact, the metaphor must now focus on the idea of wholes, circles, loops, squares and systems generally.
“Do not winter over a plant / that cannot bloom again in spring.”
The Seer told a story of keeping her mustard green plants over winter contrary to the normal procedure of pulling the root after harvest. The following spring saw the mustard greens explode in bee-friendly beautiful flower and a wilderness of nearly inedible leaves. “Be careful”, Pearl says, “how you define ‘bloom’. Just because you think you know something, doesn't mean you actually do. Your point of view may not be the only one that matters to the outcome of a Working.”
“yellow thorns / soften”
When asked if the colour referenced the stallion, Pearl merely looked out the window and commented on the difficulties the ground faces when rain torrents. The Seer could not be drawn further.
This references the earlier wine. “Birdtail” is a category of transformative substances and events.
“a marriage of three, the alchemist, / the year, and the Red Mare”
In earlier systems the sacred marriage was between sun and moon. The divine child was a product of a duality and thus was created the world of the sacred trinity. From Two, Three. In contemporary alchemy, the alchemist must face the new world, the failure of the Knight's wall, and its consequences. One of those is the change in marriage forms. No longer merely a duality, the marriage is already a trinity. From Three, Four. The alchemist transmutes into a quartet of power.
“without a name / outside the calling, but singing”
The Unnamed Fourth is necessarily still without a name. And yet, it exists even if the alchemist cannot not yet perceive. The existence of the Unnamed Fourth is heard when listening to the World singing, or so the Seer asserts. Our job is to sever cleanly the umbilicus.
Pearl has been heard wondering how much one tree affects the evolution of another. For example, does the pine tree that hosts the squirrel's acorn collection play a significant role in the environmental spread of oaks? Looking at the product of the Working must occur from more points of view than the merely human. In addition, human action and inaction equals the importance of squirrel’s.
“seeds of one stored upon the other”
If “seeds” is taken metaphorically as “idea” or “life-form”, then the Seer's idea of systems can be more easily understood.
“The unnamed learns to walk in the world.”
A commentator has suggested that this references the apparent directional mutability of matter. That is the Unnamed is constituted of matter. This means that once the Unnamed takes a name it will evolve as do all other named material “beings”. This suggests that at some future point, an alchemist will be Working toward the birth of the Unnamed Fifth.
“they go to the hills / looking for songs”
Pearl talked of her aunts who taught her as a young weaver-to-be. She was told to focus on the material “rosary”, to learn the names of those plants, rocks, animals, rivers, hills etc. that shared the world with her because it was in those developing relationships that she would eventually find her own power and wisdom. For the Seer, power comes through relationships; relationships between human-kind and non-human forms appear to us as songs. She means it literally: Go to the hills. “If you listen long enough, they will sing to you.”
“These are not impurities.”
Referencing an earlier work, the Seer is adamant: “impurity is not the appropriate metaphor”. In other terms Pearl has said, “The goal of the Working is more Aúrum inpérfectus than any ring of power or pure incorporeality.” Prima materia is not impure, it just needs to learn to “walk.” As does any new mountain.
“In the blossomed dark, the world finds itself a pearl.”
Great debate has been made about whether the Seer means herself in any form. No resolution of this has been found.
“To his dirtiest servant, the Emperor gives a pearl.”
In relationship to this comes the Seer's story of an alchemist, who was required to give his very best treasure as the cost of the elixir's secret. He gave his second best treasure. In return he received the elixir's second best effort. The Working did not proceed and matter remained untransformed.
According to another Weaver, the story told this way remains unfinished, because, apparently, in addition to the failed Working, the alchemist also lost his best treasure to a house fire which consumed all his possessions. According to tradition, the fire happened before the next dark moon settled into its crescent.
A final commentator added that the real question here is whether the elixir cared. An important question, but at this point unanswered, and needing further consideration and argument.
“The Emperor sits to table, white knives / ready to plate. “
Life for the alchemist is like all others' lives. The exception is self-awareness and preparedness. Each mouthful of time and experience for the alchemist is an act in the Great Working. It may appear as if the alchemist simply eats, but the alchemist actually Eats.
“The moon under foot in the night, a halo in the day”
In another context, the Seer has recommended students of any Magickal practice acquire a thorough knowledge of where the Moon is at any given time of day or night. Once the student is able to “feel” the presence of the moon, and to point out its physical location even when it is not visible, then, according to the Seer, the air will be as a halo to the alchemist.
“From the wounded meal comes a song”
Any activity done with great respect, with the kind of attention a devoted retainer gives a respectable liege, will result in the development of a relationship, even between the living and the aliving.
From this, power may travel along the created vector aiding both the alchemist and the alchemist's aliving partner.
“Beyond them all, the mountain / creaks as it comes to rest, watches Time pass along its roads.“
It is important for the alchemist to keep the greater system in mind when considering the Working. Done only for the alchemist, the Working will not breathe on its own. Done with attention to the greater system, the Working will walk.
“The year and the moon dance by, laughing.”
“From the corpse of an infant a crocus blooms,” so Pearl says when asked about the general absurdity of living. “It is true”, she said, “Life is absurd, as is death, but that's missing the point. It's also funny and beautiful and here no matter what story we tell of it.” “That's the point” she said. “What is?” I asked. She remained silent, but smiled
For M.C. whose simultaneous belief in magick and the material world sustains from long distances.
The passing of 2016:
Dark Moon January 9, 2016 through December 28, 2016.