The Scorpio Myth
Let's look at the figure which symbolizes Scorpio. In very ancient astrology - Egyptian, Chaldean and Hebrew - Scorpio was represented not by the familiar scorpion, but by the serpent. This is a profound symbol which tells us a lot about Scorpio. Firstly, the serpent sheds his skin cynically, and was thought by the ancients to be immortal and capable of constant self-renewal. Now this pattern of outgrowing a skin, sloughing it and growing a new one runs through Scorpio's life. Often his life breaks up into distinct chapters, as he moves through one cycle after another. All come to ultimate destruction. Then he rebuilds and starts again.
The serpent is also, in ancient mythology, a symbol of the wisdom of the earth itself - timeless, ancient, knowing the secret of life of all things. He moves close to the ground, and hears the secrets of the roots of things. In Biblical lore the serpent is the Devil, the Father of Lies, who tempted Eve in the Garden. He is Lucifer, the fallen angel. You can see that he has a double face. You can take him as dark or light, good or evil, for he contains both. And so does Scorpio. He has equally great power for good or evil, healing or destruction. Goethe (who had Scorpio rising) created a typically Scorpionic figure in Faust, caught between the extremes of heaven or hell.
The Scorpion, a more recent development traceable to Greek astrology, is in some ways a less descriptive animal. But he can give us some valuable clues about the Scorpio temperament. Firstly, he is an isolated animal. You don't find herds of scorpions roving the desert munching flies together. Scorpio, the human being, is also not a collective creature. He usually dislikes crowds, mistrusts loud, extroverted parties, and prefers a small circle of trustworthy friends or a single lover. Secondly, although the scorpion is a deadly creature (not all varieties have a fatal sting, but they all give nasty bites), he is completely nonaggressive. Scorpions will not attack other animals. On the other hand, if you are silly enough to step on one, well, it's your problem, isn't it? You should have watched what you were walking on. Attack this tiny creature and he will move in for the kill no matter how much bigger you are. Scorpio people have an acute sense of justice. They don't believe for a minute in all that sentimental stuff about turning the other cheek. You give back as good as you get, for it's the only way to survive. Scorpios make bad martyrs - unless, of course, like Ghandi, the posture is necessary to prove a point.
There is a fascinating legend about the scorpion: if you corner him, and give him no avenue for escape, he will sting himself to death. This sounds a little apocryphal. But I have seen it happen. Once in the south of France I watched a group of children surround a small brown scorpion with sticks, so that it was completely trapped. It committed suicide. The message here is that Scorpio would rather destroy himself, and go down in flames by his own hand - literally or psychologically - than submit to another's ultimatum or control. It's that damnable pride again. 'Better to reign in hell,' as Lucifer says in Milton's Paradise Lost (Milton had Scorpio rising), 'than to serve in heaven.' If Scorpio ever truly bows his head, he has learned one of the most valuable lessons of his life. More likely he'll go through the sham of bowing, and pay you back threefold later. He will usually, in