"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Zodiacal Images: The images associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac were originally linked with the constellations. The signs are symbolized graphically by means of sigils, which accompany these images taken from a translation of a 15th-century Arabic text.

Mankind has always been fascinated by the stars. The ancients were intrigued by the motions and configurations of heavenly bodies, associating them with the mystic powers that governed human fate. In modern astronomy, the old deterministic views of the universe are falling into disfavour, and our awe of the cosmos remains undiminished.

In the earliest, tribal communities celestial phenomena were of great practical significance. Seasons were measured by the succession of longest and shortest days and the times of year when day and night were of equal length. This simple calendar became the basis of planting and hunting. As increasingly detailed celestial records were kept, stars were grouped together into constellations, and the movements of the heavenly bodies were monitored. In time, the constellations became associated with particular objects, animals and mythical figures, and human and divine qualities were projected onto the motions of sun, moon and planets. The skies came alive with imagery of gods, creatures and heroes, and a host of stories relating to this imagery was handed down through the generations. These tales gradually acquired deep mystical significance in explaining mankind's fate, and later still in analysing human character. 

These connections between earth and universe become more credible when we remember that the ancients saw creation as a vast web of interconnected forces. Nothing was uninfluenced by what took place around it, no matter how great the distances concerned. The entrails of a sacrificial animal could indicate the outcome of a battle taking place in a far country; the future was foreseen in dreams; and a handful of stones cast on the ground could guide a person's actions. Human lives were a reflection of the realities written in the heavens. 

Zodiacal Man : The idealized body of celestial man was regarded as a microcosm of heavenly principles, and each sign of the zodiac was associated with a particular bodily function. Events above, such as the position of a planet in a sign, were mirrored below in a person's physical and mental well-being. Zodiacal man was a common theme throughout medieval literature (this image is from a 15th-century French manuscript): by the 16th century the relationship between astrology and the human body was well developed, and a patient's "humour" and ailments were diagnosed according to his or her birth sign. 

Astrology - the Divinatory system based on the interpretation of planetary configurations - had its earliest roots in Babylonian civilization. Tablets dating back to the 7th century BC set out the influence on human affairs of four celestial deities - Shamash (the sun), Sin (the moon), Ishtar (the planet Venus) and Adad (the weather god). Over the centuries, these Mesopotamian divinatory principles were transmitted through the Middle East, India and China, where they then developed independently, but it was not until the Hellenistic age that further significant advances were made in the science of astrology. In the 2nd century AD Ptolemy named the constellations as we know them today. Improved methods of observation then allowed Greek scholars to map the movement of the planets relative to fixed coordinates in the celestial sphere (the visible heavens), rather than to the local sphere (the four compass bearings). The constellations thus formed a backdrop against which the apparent motions of the sun, moon and planets (five of which could be seen in ancient times) were charted. The sun and planets appeared to move (relative to the stars) within a narrow band of the sky, and this belt (or zodiac) was divided into twelve arcs of 30°, each corresponding to one of the twelve zodiacal signs. The signs were originally named after the most prominent constellations that fell within them. However, as a result of the natural "wobble" of the earth on its axis over the millennia, the constellations have shifted out of their signs. So, for example, at the beginning of the year, the sun no longer appears in Capricorn but in Sagittarius.

In the development of astrology, celestial movements were matched with terrestrial cycles, and the zodiac acquired a system of symbols that denoted conditions on earth according to the part of the sky in which the sun appeared. For example, at the height of summer, Leo (the lion) signified the sun's fiery heat. This sign is followed by Virgo (the virgin), symbolic of the harvesting of seed for next year's planting. Libra (the scales) represented the equilibrium between summer and winter, the time of the autumnal equinox, when day and night are of equal length. 

Even in Ptolemy's time, the Greeks noted that people appeared to fall into categories of personality governed by the season of their birth. Gradually there evolved descriptions of twelve personality types corresponding approximately to the signs of the zodiac, and from these came the idea of individual horoscopes based on time of birth and various other more complex factors. Fatalistic astrology has persisted to this day in more or less the same form.

Sun and Moon : Both sun and moon are regarded as planets for the purposes of astrology. The moon represents the imaginative and reflective mind, while the sun symbolizes the true essence of being. The dark part of the lunar disk, invisible when we see the bright crescent, is a symbol of the unconscious. The moon is often associated with the sea, and this 15th-century Italian miniature shows it guiding sailors on their voyage.

Planetary Influence : Mercury depicted here in a 16th century edition of the The Shepherd's Kalendar ,was seen as a male planet,influencing communication.Those born under mercury were believed to be alert,quick-witted,fluent,with a tendency towards science.

The twelve signs of the zodiac are arranged into four groups of three, and each group is associated with a particular element (fire, water, air or earth) and with a particular quality and gender. The fire signs (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius) are linked to thrusting, energetic characteristics; the water signs (Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio) to emotional and intuitive traits; the air signs (Aquarius, Gemini and Libra) to characteristics of logic and intellect; and the earth signs (Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo) to practicality and dependability. Fire and air signs are, in addition, seen as extroverted, and water and earth signs as introverted.

The qualities of the signs, or quadruplicities, are either cardinal, fixed or mutable, reflecting the three basic qualities of life - creation (cardinal), preservation (fixed) and destruction (mutable). Cardinal signs are active and initiate events; fixed signs are passive and hold events on course; mutable signs make way for change. The signs are also divided according to gender, alternating between -"masculine" and "feminine".Finally, the twelve signs can be divided into six pairs or “polarities" (Aries - Libra, Taurus - Scorpio, Gemini - Sagittarius, Cancer - Capricorn, Leo - Aquarius, and Virgo - Pisces), with each pair existing in balance. The influence on earth of the heavenly bodies was thought to depend on the positions of the planets within the signs; and because the planets were seen as the driving forces behind people and events on earth, they were closely linked with the gods. Each planet (ten in all,as the sun and moon are counted as planets for astrological purposes) has a symbol and said to "rule" one or more the signs.The position of the planets relative to one another,as seen from the earth,determine the interaction of the forces which the planets represents : these forces can work together when the planets are in approximately the same place in the sky (in conjunction), or against each other when the planets are separated by 90°.
For the purpose of casting a horoscope, the sky - that is, the local rather than celestial sphere - is divided into twelve units or "houses" relative to the horizon. The houses are numbered rather than named, and give clues to aspects of an individual's life, such as personal relationships, health, work and creativity, dependent upon which signs and planets are located within them. The characteristics of each sign, the planetary influences and the areas defined by the houses, work together to produce a complex web of interrelationships, some complementary, some in opposition, all of which are said to determine the fate of mankind. Science has denied these connections for centuries and has held that the constellations which the ancients identified consist of heavenly bodies distanced from each other by vast tracts of space, and so remote from our own world that the possibility of their having any connection with our lives is out of the question. Astrology is thus seen as a pseudo-science, at best a crude forerunner of modern astronomy. Yet the belief that our destiny is in some ways bound up with the stars persists. Clearly the symbolic system which astrology represents has a powerful hold upon our consciousness.

Certain recent trends in scientific thought are less dismissive. For example, modern physics no longer takes the view that the universe consists of a collection of separate bundles of matter. Creation is seen increasingly as a web of interconnected energy forms, an idea akin in some ways to the world-view of the ancients.And although the gravitational pull and the light from all heavenly bodies other than the sun and moon are too feeble to exert any influence upon us, it is by no means certain that this is true of other electromagnetic sources out in space. Powerful magnetic fields exist throughout the solar system, and the earth's atmosphere is constantly bombarded by the solar wind, a stream of subatomic particles from the sun. The solar wind and the magnetic fields of the various planets in our solar system seem to influence each other in a variety of subtle and as yet imperfectly understood ways. Farther afield, the background radiation in what was once thought to be empty space is now believed to be a remnant from the "Big Bang" of universal creation. Thus, the argument that there are no scientific mechanisms to account for any influence the heavens may have upon the direction of human lives is becoming less plausible, particularly when the ability of fish, birds and other life-forms to navigate by the earth's magnetic field indicates that the nervous systems of living organisms may be highly sensitive to electromagnetic influences.

The Sky Goddess : In Egyptian mythology, Nut was goddess of the sky. She was often depicted as a woman with an elongated body, touching the earth with her fingertips and toes and bending over the globe, thus forming the arch of the heavens. The Milky Way was believed to be her star-covered belly. Nut became protectress of the dead, and her image was often to be found on the inner lid of sarcophagi. This wooden coffin from the early 2nd century AD shows Nut surrounded by signs of the zodiac, watching protectively over the mummified body. 

Star Maps :  Star charts date from the earliest of civilizations. Primitive calendars were based on celestial records organized according to groups of stars, or constellations, that were easy to recognize. These stellar groups were overlaid with representations of animals or mythological characters familiar to that particular society. Ptolemy later catalogued more than 1,000 stars into 48 constellations, and Greek astronomy was transmitted to India via Sanskrit manuscripts, which included star maps such as this one. Ptolemy's system forms the basis of modern cartographic representations of the stars.


The Fire Signs


Aries Dates: March 21st - April 19th 
Symbol: The Ram 
Ruler: Mars 

Aries is fire in its primitive form - impulsive, energetic, dynamic, initiatory, exploratory, but potentially uncontrolled and destructive. The energy of Aries needs some outside force to help channel it, and this is provided by Mars, the sign's ruler, which symbolizes a person's consciousness of himself, his individual nature which distinguishes him from the rest of humanity. The sigil (below) is a representation of the ram's horns, or of the human nose and eyebrows, the latter symbolizing our individual nature. The ram's qualities are well known: brave and fierce, it puts down its head and charges with great determination at things that arouse its attention. The rushing ram also represents the first burst of growth in the crops at the onset of spring. Aries is the renewal of solar energy, and is traditionally seen as the first sign of the zodiac. The Arab astronomer Abumasar believed that Creation occurred when the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were all in conjunction (in the same part of the sky) in Aries.


Leo Dates: July 23rd - August 21st 
Symbol: The Lion 
Ruler: Sun 

Leo is fire in its controlled, fixed aspect, burning with a steady glow that illuminates and warms all who come into contact with it. The lion symbolizes life, strength, vigour, regal dignity, pride and courage. It is the king of the beasts, ruled by the most powerful of the planets, the sun. Leo denotes a clearer, steadier kind of authority than that of Aries, and is also linked with ambition, which in extreme forms can manifest itself as tyranny. The lion is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of power, masculinity and leadership, as evidenced by its presence in countless coats of arms. Leo, a fixed sign, maintains the heat at the height of summer, which ripens the crops ready for harvest. The sign thus represents the life-giving, all-seeing Father at the centre of things, whence all energy flows and all life issues. The two circles in Leo's sigil (below) represent the link between the divine will and that of mankind. 


Sagittarius Dates: November 22nd  - December 21st 
Symbol: The Centaur/Archer
 Ruler: Jupiter 

The third of the fire types possesses the qualities of the other two, but in a more purified and expansive form. Thus, Sagittarius has the initiatory power of Aries, but the ways in which that power is put into effect are more directed and refined. The ambition and dominance of Leo are turned toward more spiritual, less egotistical ends. The immortal Centaur represents the combination of the higher mental powers of mankind and the physical strength of the horse. The sigil (below) represents the moral foundation on which civilization may be built, the arrow of inspiration. The archer symbolizes a purposeful nature, the ability to hit the target - the bow and arrow are symbols of power. Like Aries and Leo, Sagittarius is a leadership sign, but is also associated with sensitivity, an openness to the needs and ideas of others. Sagittarius embodies a restlessness that comes partly from the exploratory spirit shared with Aries, but also from the questing, spiritual side of the Sagittarian character. It is the last sign before the New Year and marks the transition between autumn and winter. 


The Water Signs


Pisces Dates: February 20th - March 20th 
Symbol: The Fishes 
Ruler: Neptune/Jupiter 

Water is deep, mysterious, capable of stillness and calm: in modern psychology it symbolizes the energy of the unconscious. Just as Aries is fire in its primitive form, so Pisces is water in its most fluid form. The Piscean character is emotional, sensitive, vague and unworldly, given to the mysterious world of dreaming and attracted to the unknown. At the same time, like water, the Pisccan character is highly adaptable, able to accommodate itself to demanding situations. Water also suggests the flow toward other people, and this too is an aspect of Pisces - a gentle, compassionate nature, which can show itself as vulnerability. Pisces is a time of year when the rains of late winter and early spring prepare the earth for a burst of activity in spring (Aries). At its simplest level, the sigil (below) represents the fishes. In a more esoteric interpretation, one arc represents the finite consciousness of mankind, the other the consciousness of the universe. The line bisecting the arcs is the earth, the point at which the spiritual and material spheres of life meet. 


Cancer Dates: 23rd June - 23rd July 
Symbol: The Crab 
Ruler: The Moon 

Cancer is water in its stiller, more controlled aspect. The Cancerian character, like the Piscean, is sensitive, affectionate and emotional, but less vulnerable in relations with others, and more prepared to communicate socially. Ruled by the moon, Cancer has a temperamental aspect, as well as possessing the depths associated with all water signs. Other qualities denoted by Cancer are independence of spirit, soundness, calmness, clarity of vision and dependability. Stillness suggests a love of tradition, but the sign (like all water signs) has a strong, imaginative, intuitive side. Cancer is the World Mother: in Greek mythology, the crab was given its place in heaven by Hera, the mother goddess. It is the time of the summer solstice, one of the most significant events in the yearly cycle. Ancient philosophers equated Cancer with the "gate of men" through which the soul descended from heaven and entered the human body. The sigil (below) represents the union of male and female principles (sperm and egg).


Scorpio Dates: October 23rd - November 21st 
Symbol: Scorpion/Eagle 
Ruler: Mars/Pluto 

The deepest and most emotional sign of the zodiac, Scorpio embodies the calmness of all water signs, as well as intense powers of self-discipline. Orientated toward the inner world, the Scorpio character has the intuitive abilities of Pisces alongside the steadfastness and clarity of Cancer. The sign symbolizes an intense and often withdrawn personality, tenacious in following its objectives. The scorpion represents an ability to sting others, either through perception of their weaknesses, or through the ability to inspire them. Combining the powers of water and air, the eagle stands for an ability to achieve spiritual transformation, and to reach the heights and depths of inner understanding. Mars brings to Scorpio great strength of purpose, while Pluto can bring jealousy and possessiveness. During the time of Scorpio, a fixed sign, autumn is well established. Animals retreat (from the scorpion) into hibernation through which they are regenerated. The sigil (below) represents the male reproductive organs, and completes the part-serpent symbolized by Virgo.


The Air Signs


Aquarius Dates: January 21st - February 19th 
Symbol: The Water Carrier 
Ruler: Saturn/Uranus 

Aquarius shows the element air in its freest, most pervasive form. This gives the Aquarian character a sense of universality, which leads to good works and helping others. In fact, Aquarius is the most humanitarian sign in the zodiac - compassionate, visionary, hopeful, imbued with a sense of community and shared purpose. Yet in spite of this social dimension, there is also a reticence, partly due to the presence of Saturn in the sign. The water carried by Aquarius is the water of knowledge, and symbolizes a desire not only to acquire learning but also to share it. The two jagged lines of the sigil (below) can symbolize the serpents of wisdom - intuition and rationality - or may be interpreted as waves on the water of consciousness, representing communication. Aquarian love of learning is said to be helped by the presence of Uranus as joint-ruler of the sign. Uranus also contributes an original and inventive turn of mind, a propensity toward science and technology, and a clear-cut approach to problem-solving.


Gemini Dates: 22nd May - 23rd June 
Symbol: The Heavenly Twins 
Ruler: Mercury 

Whereas Aquarius is air in its searching, pervasive aspect, Gemini is air in its changeable, whimsical, mercurial form. Sometimes referred to as the most child-like sign of the zodiac, Gemini exhibits a great need to relate to others. The sign symbolizes contradictions, the twins denoting a tendency to go to opposite extremes. The Gemini character, being adaptable, is content with its own paradoxical nature. Like all air signs, Gemini has stronger links with the intellect than with the emotions. The sigil (below), which resembles the Roman numeral H, traditionally symbolizes duality. The Spartans used it to depict their twin gods as they went into battle. It suggests the joining of two souls, one intuitive, one rational, in order co achieve greater creativity, or the unity of mind and spirit. 


Libra Dates: September 23rd - October 22nd 
Symbol: Scales 
Ruler: Venus 

As the symbol suggests, Libra is the sign most closely associated with justice. The Libran character combines the humanitarianism of Aquarius with the curiosity of Gemini, holding these and other qualities in a state of balance. Like other air signs, Libra embodies the intellect, but its innate balance prevents the strictly rational approach to life from overwhelming the intuitive. It also represents equilibrium between physicality and spirituality. The presence of Venus as ruling planet links Libra with beauty, order, and a feeling for harmony that is the basis for peace-making. The negative side of Libran balance is a tendency to indecision. The sigil (below) represents the sun sinking on the horizon, as night comes to dominate in the yearly cycle. The upper line symbolizes higher mental powers, while the lower line stands for material existence. 


The Earth Signs


Capricorn Dates: 23rd December - 19th January 
Symbol: The Goat 
Ruler: Saturn 

Capricorn is the essence of earth, associated with stability and structure. This renders the Capricorn character cautious, practical and orderly. But the goat also symbolizes stubbornness or, in its more positive aspects, determination and self-discipline. The presence of Saturn provides a calming influence, infusing the Capricorn personality with a deliberate, serious manner - the basis of good scholarship. The ruling planet, Saturn, brings a liking for solitude, and occasionally a dark, depressive side. The mystical side of Capricorn is most likely to express itself as an interest in earth mysteries and the hidden forces of nature. The original symbol for Capricorn - the goat-fish rather than mountain goat - was a mythical creature, which had access to great wisdom from having all the earth's resources - land and sea - at its disposal. The sigil (below) represents the dual nature of land and sea. During the time of Capricorn, the earth proceeds into winter, and life looks inward in preparation for the spring. This is the time of the winter solstice, and Carpricorn is the "gate of the gods", as the sun starts to ascend once more. 


Taurus Dates: April 20th - May 19th 
Symbol: The Bull 
Ruler: Venus 

Taurus is earth in its more visible, above-ground aspect. The stubbornness of Capricorn is here expressed not as defensiveness but as courage and strength. Like the bull, Taurus is fiery, difficult and determined, but at other times the dependable, capable side of the bull comes to the fore. The influence of Venus as ruler means that the Taurean has a keen eye for natural beauty. Venus is also said to contribute a strong sexual motivation; and this, together with the earth aspect and the fertile power of the bull, gives rise to a strong sensuality, held in check only by the natural caution associated with the sign. There is a jealous and possessive side to Taurus, but also a seam of generosity and kindness. The sigil (below) has the form of a full moon and a crescent. The full moon represents the celestial mother with attendant principles of growth and fertility, while the upturned crescent denotes the gathering of material possessions. Taurus depicts mankind bound to the earth. With spring at its peak, it represents also the full realization of the creative forces of nature. 


Virgo Dates: August 22nd - September 22nd 
: The Virgin 
Ruler: Mercury 

Virgo is the sign of application. While Capricorn is associated with the inner places of the earth and Taurus with the surface, Virgo is more concerned with how the earth is made and the uses to which it may be put. It stands for transformation, a taking apart of the earth to study its nature, and then a moulding and changing of its shape to suit human needs. The Virgoan character is analytical, and can often be overly critical. The symbol of the virgin stands for a tendency to discriminate too closely, and thus to reject all suitors on the grounds of their inadequacy, real or imagined. This can make the Virgoan personality uncomfortable for others, especially as the presence of Mercury as ruling planet contributes a restless, nervy tension. On the positive side, Virgo is associated with dependability and sincerity, combining the strength of the deep places of the earth with the fertility and abundance of the surface. It signifies great activity on the land, as man harvests the rewards of his labours The sigil (below) represents the female reproductive parts, or the head and part-body of a serpent. 


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