For no special reason (other maybe than that the last Uranus-Pluto square of the recent series occurred in the early hours of today) I found myself this morning thinking of the IAO formula while dozing in bed.

This is a rudimentary occult formula which I learnt from Israel Regardie books many years ago, but it is so useful that I think it is worth restating. It is based upon the Osirian scheme of the killing and resurrection of Osiris, in which Set (who is culturally demonized by this point) kills Osiris, and Isis brings him back to life.

The IAO formula as I learnt it stands for three phases, represented by Isis, Apophis and Osiris (thus IAO).

Isis here represents the innocent phase of experience or an undertaking, the honeymoon phase in a sense. All is well (at least we remember it that way), but it is also naive, unconscious, unrealized. Isis and Osiris are together in a natural state.

Apophis is the crisis phase, the toxic and challenging part of the experience, the failure, the poison, the long dark night. This is where Set kills Osiris and Isis grieves, but also where she must learn how to revive Osiris and restore him (and their relationship) to wholeness. Confusingly here Apophis and Set are not the same at all, though they share certain associations, such as storms and solar eclipses, and the northern night sky. But Apophis is an unremittingly destructive force, whereas Set was in his time recognized as a magnificent god, and this memory seems to live on in his position as the only one who can defend Ra against the monster Apophis in the Sun god’s daily journey under the Earth towards dawn.

Osiris is the resolved, realized phase, having gone through the disillusion, the destruction, the trials, we emerge transformed, more conscious, more self realized, more whole in self and relationship. Osiris is restored, but in his new form.

I think many people can recognize this basic patterning of experience, where we go through trials and experiences from which we not only learn, but which change us to make us more conscious, more whole, more completely ourselves, or in deeper relationship.

The astrological, qabalistic and tarot associations of IAO are:

I – Virgo, Yod, The Hermit – potential and nature

A – Scorpio, Nun, Death – transformation

O – Capricorn, Ayin, The Devil – realization and mastery

Crowley considered that the formula could be updated for the Aeon of Horus by adding the Hebrew letter Vau in front and behind, giving VIAOV (or FIAOF). Interestingly, Vau is associated with the Tarot card The Hierophant, and the sign of Taurus, thus completing the triad of earth signs in IAO (with Virgo and Capricorn), and being opposite the pivotal Scorpio of the formula (the “A”).

Set was also known as “The Bull of Ombos“, so is Set in the F’s or in the A, or both? Is Set our Cain, or our monster slaying hero? How does the story unravel? Who you gonna call?

Take a deep breath of the fragrant air. I can feel Summer licking at the gates of Spring.

Bull Oostvaardersplassen by Rex, used under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia Commons. Image cropped and digitally altered.

Bull Oostvaardersplassen by Rex, used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia Commons. Image cropped and digitally altered.


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