Foreword from Numen Naturae: Dismantling the Tower by Jenn Zahrt
Welcome to the second volume of Casandra John’s ambitious twenty-two-volume project, Numen Naturae. The first volume of Numen Naturae explored the intersections of the Magician card and Yarrow. This volume now takes us in a markedly darker direction, to the Tower card and its juxtapositions with Devil’s Club and the planet Saturn.
When Casandra approached me to write this foreword, the first image that came to me was the crisp Tuesday morning in Manhattan the day the Twin Towers fell, street pigeons suddenly becoming PTSD triggers as their flight patterns intersected with other façades against the impossibly blue sky. My lingering grief longed to see what she was putting together, to see if there would be a balm inside these meditations, something else I could learn. I agreed.
This volume emerged while the planet Saturn transited the tropical zodiac sign of Sagittarius—the twelfth sign in order from its first home, Capricorn. The “twelfth place” is traditionally known as a place of self-undoing. True to the subtitle—“Dismantling the Tower”—Saturn undoes itself within these pages, a figurative tower crumbling before us, revealing its anatomy in various planet and plant archetypes, revealing, in short, its secrets. This work could not have been accomplished at a more apt time.
As a practicing astrologer, the planetary ramifications piqued my curiosity the most. Casandra’s choice to posit Saturn next to Devil’s Club, and not Mars, evokes aspects of the plant that are perhaps overlooked, and here we get a chance to explore them. Traditionally, plants are ruled by more than one planet, and all parts of plants correspond to the seven visible planets. Thorns, common to Mars, give way to bark (Saturn) that protects soft flesh underneath. When we speak of Devil’s Club and Saturn, we must interrogate the spiky bark and the boney roots. In these pages, elements of Mars still creep in and hints of Uranus play a role with that Promethean lightning strike of revolution. It is up to the reader to discern (Saturn) what is martial, uranian, and what is, in fact, saturnine. Other planetary associations recede to the primacy of examining in what specific ways Saturn constellates. For example, protection, discussed with frequency in these pages, can be associated with Mars or Saturn: Mars as sentry or sentinel versus Saturn as a barrier, a coat of armor that prevents the injurious blade from penetrating. Suddenly we find ourselves comfortably back in the realm of the Tower. This is how Numen Natuae works.
While reading this work, I was reminded of Rilke’s poem, “The Panther,” who paces in his cage, world weary, trapped. I have always interpreted those “thousand bars” of the cage to be lines of text. Through them, through sentences that threaten to trap us in logos mentality, we see vulnerabilities peeking through. “An image enters in… and plunges to the heart.” More than one author discusses liberating oneself from perfectionism—the strictures of Saturn’s demand for mastery at all costs—and yet, by contributing here, these authors demonstrate strength and mastery. Other authors discuss trust, and having patience to not know what comes after our personal towers have been dismantled. The mythical figure of the Phoenix is evoked.
One image that stands out as an emblem for these intersections is this: When a stalk of Devil’s Club falls, this becomes a rhizomatic reproductive moment, revealing an asexual fecundity that relies on toppling, returning the high to the low without intermediary. Towers topple; Saturn’s shit supplies essential nutrient for new structure to rise.
I first met Devil’s Club in the middle of the Olympic National Rainforest with a friend. As we made our way deeper in, we came upon a stand of Devil’s Club, the broad leaves of the stand soaking up the mottled Sun coming through the taller evergreens. The path took us straight into the heart of it, and we found ourselves inside a makeshift shelter propped up by strong thorny stalks. This was a place to dwell, a hut inside nature’s cathedral. Before learning its name, I took to the thin thorns adorning the stems, fell in love with the green of the backlit leaves that popped out from the darker mosses and needles. Just a few weeks later, at the Plant Medicine Gathering in Portland, Jon Keyes reintroduced me to this friend, placing a freshly shorn wand of it in my hand. Devil’s Club. Tell me everything.
May this volume in your hands be a pathway taking you straight to the heart of a stand of Devil’s Club, to your own personal Tower, and your Saturn, so that you may examine the productive and destructive overlaps as they play out in your own life. With the second volume of Numen Naturæ you are invited to dismantle yourself and renew yourself for the future.
Jenn Zahrt, PhD
September 8, 2017
Jenn Zahrt holds a PhD in German literature and film from the University of California, Berkeley. Zahrt is a professional astrologer, writer, and an established editor of esoteric scholarship, including titles for her own press, Revelore Press, as well as the Sophia Centre Press, Red Temple Press, Ouroboros Press, Three Hands Press, Viatorium Press, and more. She currently lives in Seattle, WA. www.jennzahrt.com.
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