Alphard, The Heart of the Water Serpent Talisman

Alphard, The Heart of the Water Serpent Talisman

The creation of these talismans was an intense and immersive experience that unfolded over three months during Venus’ transit through Leo in 2023, including her stationing at the projected degree of Alphard as well as her retrograde period. It began with two taxidermy snakes, which I cast and molded. From these molds, I injected wax, then cut and reassembled the pieces into new serpentine shapes. I was directed to craft each talisman individually in wax. This process was slow and methodical, involving daily hands-on work of long hours spent in co-creation, which included much devotion, reflection, and writing. I made at least a hundred waxes, cut them up and put them back together. The tail of each serpent wraps around to become a setting for the garnet. The working culminated with the heliacal rise of Alphard before sunrise on the 16 September 2023 in Olympia, Washington. My friend Vanessa Irena created an invocation in recorded song form in collaborative spirit which I played on repeat during the ritual. I engraved images into garnets and ritually bathed both the serpents and the garnets in volcano water before consecrating them. I must note that during ritual the electricity was palpable and immediately following we began to have electricity disturbances that continued for at least two weeks. Repeated reoccurrence of lights and appliances turning ON, (not off) beeping and strobing - most commonly at the witching hour. 

 

 

The Hydra Constellation

The Hydra constellation is the largest in the heavens, the serpentine form spans from Cancer to Libra. The name Hydra derives from the Greek word for water serpent and while we find Her stories within Greek mythology, the Hydra constellation predates the Greeks and Her origins can be traced back to the celestial maps of the Mesopotamians.

Unlike many other constellations that have been divided into smaller segments over time, Hydra has remained intact. At the heart of Hydra lies Alphard, the Alpha star, located at 27 degrees 36 minutes Leo when projected onto the ecliptic. Alphard, derived from the Arabic "al-fard," meaning "the individual," is also known as the "backbone of the serpent." The Latin name, Soheil Solitarius, translates to "the bright solitary one," speaking to the star's brightness in an otherwise dark section of the sky.

In Vedic astrology, the Hydra constellation corresponds to the Ashlesha nakshatra, which is ruled by the nagas and spans from 16 degrees 40 minutes to 30 degrees 00 minutes of Cancer in the sidereal zodiac. 

 

 

The Grecian Hydra

In Greek mythology, the Hydra is a monstrous creature, the daughter of the serpent-gods Echidna and Typhon. This giant serpentess is depicted with multiple heads, commonly shown with five or nine, though poets sometimes describe her as having fifty or even one hundred heads. For every head that is severed, two more grow in its place. Among her many heads, only one in the center is immortal, often depicted in human form in later artworks.

It was during the Alcyone working that I received an indication to create Alphard talismans. This call came to fruition with the heliacal rise of Alcyone. The inspiration arose while reading Jung’s Red Book. I recognized the spirit patron of the Alcyone talismans in Jung's descriptions of a spirit he met within the Imaginal who presented themselves as Elijah. Elijah describes himself to Jung as forethought: “He knows the deepest mysteries. His wells hold healing water, and his eyes see things of the future.”  The vision of forethinking belongs to Alcyone just as it does to Jung’s Elijah, as the alpha star of the Pleiades cluster is known for gifting us with the heavy burden of sight.

To Jung, Elijah appears both as a saint and a serpent, always accompanied by Salome, his counterpart. Salome is known as the prophet be-header and is also depicted as a serpent. In Jung's imaginal realm, they are united as a family but represent each other's opposites. Elijah and Salome explain to Jung how they need each other. Elijah embodies foresight, while Salome represents desire, and their balance is achieved through their union.

It was here in the passages of Jung I saw the serpents of the Pleiades in a dance with the serpents of the Hydra:

"The place where Salome and Elijah live together is a dark space and a bright one. The dark space is the space of forethinking. It is dark so he who lives there requires vision. Pleasure goes away from the door. Forethinking stands at the door knowing the entrance to the mysteries. Therefore, desire melts into the many if forethinking does not direct it and force it towards its goal. Desire without forethinking gains much but keeps nothing, therefore his desire is the source of constant disappointment. If I follow my thinking, I forsake my pleasure. If pleasure is united with forethinking, the serpent lies before them."

This interplay of foresight and desire, mirrored in the mythological and imaginal realms, made me understand the importance of following the Alcyone talismanic working with Alphard. One led to the other and completed the other.

 

The Alcyonian Lake

I am not the first to find my way to the Hydra through Alcyone. Just as Jung describes in his passage that “Forethinking” – meaning Elijah – stands at the door knowing the entry to the Mysteries, we find the Hydra within the Alcyonian Lake, about which the Greek geographer Pausanias from the second century CE wrote this warning:

"There is no limit to the depth of the Alcyonian Lake, and I know of nobody who by any contrivance has been able to reach the bottom of it… The water of the lake is, to all appearances, calm and quiet, but, although it is such to look at, every swimmer who ventures to cross it is dragged down, sucked into its depths, and swept away.”

We find the Hydra in Greece at Lerna, within the deep recesses of the Alcyonian Lake, where she resides guarding the entrance to otherworlds. Here, she dwells, guarding her treasure – the entrance to the underworld. This is where Dionysus descended to Hades to retrieve Semele. Pausanias describes the limitless depths, which are of the nature of Alcyone, the alpha star of the cluster known for gifting us with wisdom and spirit sight. The vision of forethinking belongs to Alcyone just as it does to Jung’s Elijah.

And just as Jung said in the Red Book that “forethinking stands at the entrance to the mysteries,” so does the Alcyonian Lake stand between us and the Hydra. To enter into the Alcyonian waters is to find passage into Her mysteries.

 

The Mesopotianian Basmu-serpent

In Babalonian astrology, the Serpent is principally used as a name for Saturn. In the star-lists we find two 'serpent' constellations: the Basmu and the Mushussu. Both serpents were born of primordial chaos and are counted among the Creatures of Tiamat. Basmu means ‘serpent with a womb’ and is syncretised with the Hydra serpent. Like the Hydra this giant serpent acts as a guardian of the entrance to the underworld and shares nearly the same celestial location and orientation.

The regent of Basmu is Ningiszida, a god of the underworld, depicted with a pair of horned serpents rising from his shoulders. "Babylonian Star Lore," Gavin White explains that Ningiszida’s serpents express his true nature: “A hymn praises him as the pure magician, the venomous snake, and when his mystical 'word' is revealed to those who have knowledge, he appears in the form of a great serpent-dragon”

The Basmu-serpent also features in the Mesopotamian creation myth, the Enuma Elish. Tiamat, a multi-headed, serpentine embodiment of the ocean and primordial chaos, and her husband Abzu, were the first beings. They created the gods, but Abzu plotted to kill them when they displeased him. The gods discovered this plot, and Ea killed Abzu instead. Enraged over her husband's death, Tiamat birthed multitudes of monsters, including the Basmu-Serpent, to fight against her husband's murderers. A great war ensued, and Tiamat was slain by the gods’ champion, Marduk, who sliced her in half, creating heaven and earth from her body. Marduk also killed her champion and new consort, Kingu, and Ea created humankind from Kingu's blood.

In this story, the Basmu-serpent plays a minor role as one of Tiamat’s monsters. However, it is noteworthy that the Grecian Hydra, while syncretized with this serpent constellation, bears a physical resemblance to the primordial creatrix as a multi-headed serpent.

Serpent creator myths are not isolated to Mesopotamia; they also appear in Aboriginal Australian lore, as well as Fijian, Mesoamerican, Chinese, Indian, African, and Greek mythologies. The serpents of creation are often understood to be primordial gods of chaos, with chaos being the mythological void state preceding the creation of the universe.

Creatrix cum Monster

We can speculate that over time, serpents came to represent everything about the world that humankind sought to conquer and control, beginning with chaos itself. Serpent gods were replaced with anthropomorphic ones, and the serpents became the monsters. We see the story of the Hydra in the motif of Chaoskampf.

Chaoskampf is a German word meaning "struggle against chaos." It is a ubiquitous myth depicting a battle between a hero and a chaos monster, most commonly in the form of a serpent or dragon. This clash between the forces of order and chaos reflects the human endeavor to impose civilization and symbolic order over the wild and chaotic elements of nature.

In mythology and art, this theme is pervasive. We find triumph of order over chaos  depicted through the imagery of humans standing on the heads of serpents or dragons. This symbolism conveys the victory of rationality, structure, and civilization over the untamed and unpredictable forces represented by these primordial creatures.

In Greek mythology, the Hydra is a prime example of this transformation. Initially, serpent deities and creatures like the Hydra might have been revered or feared as powerful symbols of the natural world's mysteries and chaos. Over time, as human societies developed and sought to assert control over their environment, these serpents were reimagined as monsters to be defeated by heroes.

This struggle is not unique to Greek mythology. Similar narratives can be found across cultures, reflecting a universal theme in human consciousness. From the Mesopotamian stories of Tiamat to the Norse myth of Jörmungandr, the world serpent, and the Christian imagery of Saint George slaying the dragon, the Chaoskampf motif underscores the enduring human quest to master the chaos of existence and impose order through civilization.

 

Chaos and Order

Our Chaoskampf hero is represented in the concept of symbolic order, which refers to the set of symbols and meanings that a culture creates and uses to maintain a shared sense of reality. The symbolic order controls desire and the rules of communication. It is language that establishes the laws and restrictions that create and uphold the symbolic order. As a source of power and control for the dominant culture, it shapes the beliefs and behaviors of the people within the culture.

One of the most ancient known mythologies tells us that everything comes from Chaos. To the Babylonians, the entire universe was created from the great primordial mother serpent. We find echoes of this story in ancient cultures worldwide, where female, serpent, and beast deities abound. We also find a commonality in the usurping of power, with anthropomorphic gods and heroes driving down the serpent and beast deities. This is a story of mankind conquering ‘nature’ and elevating humans above the rest of the ‘natural’ world. The primordial serpent creatrix was banished to the depths of the earth, for she has no place within the symbolic order.

We have not succeeded, however, in vanquishing Her from our bodies. Mythology tells us that She made us and that we come from Her body. She is the river, and science tells us that we are made primarily of water. While this creation myth has been replaced with newer ones that uphold the symbolic order and would have us created by an anthropomorphic father god or evolved from apes, we still, even with all of our scientific advancements that push us closer towards the cyborg, are unable to escape the inherent chaos of the body. When we dare to reach deep inside, we can all but feel the sticky black void within—a pre-verbal place of chaos where emotions churn and desire burns. This is a place we so often reject within ourselves lest we be pathologized by the symbolic order. But what if instead we were to perceive this dark swampland interior as the source of all life and creation, the womb that nurtures the divine spark within the human and all of its alchemical potential.

At first, there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.
 All this was only unillumined cosmic water.
 That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,
 arose at last, born of the power of knowledge.
 In the beginning desire descended on it -
 that was the primal seed, born of the mind.

- The Rig Veda

...She reminds us that we are all creators, She is within us, and we each have our own unique perspective and creative gifts to birth into the world through our courage and love.

This is section is continued and included in the pdf booklet for those who purchase talsimans. 


Alphard in the ancient Magical and Astrological Texts

“Gives riches and wisdom and resists poisons”
 
- Agrippa

“The Water Snake (Hydra) namely, a Snake having over it the Cup . . . if engraved upon a stone conferring riches, is said to confer riches and wisdom and protection against harm”
 
- Albertus Magnus

A figure of snake with a cup on his back and a crow above its tail, carved on stone; its wearer will have abundance in everything, and be sharp witted and astute” - “Its nature is Saturn and Venus. Its virtue is to increase riches and to confer wisdom and protection against harm. It is said it is heat resistant.”
 
- Speculum Lapidum by Camillo Leonardi

In ancient astrological texts, specific stars hold significant influence over those born under their heliacal rise. These influences, known as ‘born under’ delineations, suggest that the life of individuals born during the heliacal rise of a star are significantly influenced by the star's attributes. This connection can be considered to extend to talismans created during these periods.

“Those born under its favour will have mastery over the secret influence of minds and thoughts. It is of the nature of Venus and Saturn.”
 
- Abu Mashar and Sahl, translated by Dr. Ali Olomi

And if someone should be born when… the bright star of Hydra should mark the birth hour… since this star is a mixture of Kronos and Aphrodite, when they are rising at the natal hour they make those:
- born fortunate, with many possessions, and most notable, but passionate, or effeminate in speech…
- also fond of dance, but foul mouthed concerning sexual pleasures…
- those who when they are advance in age partake in certain priestly services, those who are held in honour because of religious practises…
- they also come to love the beauty of the heavens
 
- Anonymous of 379 translated by Robert Schmidt for Project Hindsight 

Alphard, as the Heart of the Serpent, carries the symbolism of the great serpent of creation and thus can easily manifest in our turbulent world as violent, untamed energy and/ or emotional outbursts and even chaos. Nevertheless, to this of Alphard in this purely violent way is misleading, for when its driving force is submerged in the unconscious with its expression be murderous and violent. It’s preferred expression is through conscious passion focussed, even obsessively, on a desired goal with strength and determination. It is the creative emergent energy of the void or chaos. 

- Bernadette Brady

 

The Alphard talismans were handcrafted in sterling silver and set with garnets engraved underneath with the corresponding talismanic image as described in the Speculum Lapidum by Camillo Leonardi. The garnets are set with snakeshed and dried rhododendron flower. Volcano water was also used in this working. Each talisman is slightly different. They come with a 22” or 24” sterling silver chain. Each talisman comes with a PDF booklet containing the full write-up as well as a link to the Alphard invocation created by Vanessa Irena. You can aquire the talismans [here]

 

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