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THE ZODIAC & THE SIGNS

Leyla Raël

The Zodiac, in one formulation or another, represents the basic realization that the quality of life on earth perpetually, rhythmically, and seasonally changes. Our modern conception of the Zodiac is a geometric, two-dimensional representation of the dynamic, three-dimensional series of relationships between the Earth and the Sun. These yearly series of relationships between the Sun and the Earth are what cause the seasons, and the experience of seasonal changes in weather, flora and animal activity formed the foundation for the most ancient concepts of the zodiac. Ancient peoples attributed these earthly changes to the motion of the Sun through the various sectors of the sky, which became the 'signs' or divisions of the zodiac.  

Like the seasonal year, the Zodiac is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant or season begins with an equinox or solstice. An equinox is the day the Sun on the ecliptic (its apparent path around the Earth, actually the Earth's orbit) crosses the equator and moves toward the Earth's north (vernal equinox) or south (autumnal equinox) pole. Days and nights are of equal lengths at both equinoxes. A solstice is the day the Sun reaches its greatest distance north (summer solstice) or south (winter solstice) of the terrestrial equator. At the summer solstice, days are longest and nights shortest in the Northern Hemisphere; at the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere the longest night meets the shortest day of the year. (The reverse occurs at solstices in the Southern Hemisphere.)

Equinoctial and solstitial signs are called cardinal signs because when the Sun enters them a new season begins. Signs following cardinal signs are called fixed signs, because when the Sun passes through them the quality of the season becomes set or 'fixed.' Signs following fixed signs and preceding cardinal signs are called mutable signs, because when the Sun passes through them there is a transition from one season to the next. Each season thus has three sub-periods during which conditions on earth challenge human beings to initiate (cardinal) a new set of seasonally appropriate activities, substantiate (fixed) them, and make a transition (mutable) to a new set of seasonal conditions.

The pattern of the Zodiac is also divided according to the ancient scheme of four elements fire, earth, air and water of which all life on Earth was thought to be composed. Fire signs are dynamic and actional; earth signs, productive and practical; air signs, relational and mental; water signs, assimilative and of a feeling nature. In modern psychological terms, this schema means that in addition to the threefold, sub-seasonal rhythm of cardinal, fixed and mutable signs, human beings also operate according to a fourfold rhythm of dynamic activity (fire), which produces concrete results (earth), from which we learn (air), and to which we respond emotionally (water). When we super-impose the four elemental types of signs upon the threefold rhythm of qualities, each sign emerges as a unique combination.

For modern astrologers, however, the Zodiacal signs represent more than the seasonal challenges to which human beings respond as the Sun passes from sign to sign each year. In their togetherness, the signs of the Zodiac represent human nature's spectrum of responses to all possible conditions. The ancients recognized this in their own way when they formulated solar myths based on the Sun's motions. In these timeless stories, a great hero, symbolizing the process of self-actualization, has to meet and pass through a series of tests and challenges. Each task represents a particular aspect of human nature to be mastered so the whole personality can be dynamized and integrated.

For astrologers today, the signs of the Zodiac still represent twelve aspects or types of human nature, all of which are present to a greater or lesser degree in each person. Inherent in each sign or type are certain capacities which must be awakened and developed, certain problems which must be solved to develop a truly whole and integrated human being. Those especially pertinent for any individual are represented by the signs of the Zodiac the Sun, Moon and planets were traveling through at the time he or she was born.

 


 

  Aries

Our calendar year begins just after the winter solstice when the Sun is in Capricorn, but the seasonal, astrological year begins more logically at the vernal equinox, when the Sun enters Aries. (The change in the calendar was made in 1580 by Pope Gregory XII, because he wanted to remove the pagan associations of the New Year with the equinox and associate yearly renewal with the birth of Christ, which had been celebrated just after the winter solstice since about the fourth century.) Aries is the cardinal fire sign of the Zodiac. The Aries type is thus the pioneer of the Zodiac who, like the somnolently coiled and waiting vernal germ, responds to the cardinal challenge by springing into action.

In Aries we thus have the drive simply and spontaneously to do - and just as exuberantly, to overdo or to begin more projects than we can even optimistically hope to complete. It has been said that Aries is immensely self-confident and therefore overly aggressive. While Aries may indeed be assertive, aggressiveness is a compensation for personal insecurity.

The challenge of Aries is therefore to develop a sense of identity and certainty, so that action can be mature and well focused, rather than a compensation for a sense of personal lack.

  


 

  

The Sun's passage through Taurus 'fixes' the impetuous zeal of Aries by investing it in material forms. As is hoped for all investments, Taurus' concern is to make its resources grow. These may be financial, or they may be talents and relationship.

Its positive capacity is thus substantial productivity, and its search is for material security. The Taurus type is thus essentially conservative, in both a traditional and non-wasteful sense of the term. But it must also be patient and willing to wait for results. In mid-spring the time for harvest often seems far ahead.

Taurus is usually methodical and devoted to its endeavors, and herein may lie the roots of the difficulties it has to face. Method stubbornly applied becomes rigidity or dogmatism; too exclusive a devotion may become a demanding possessiveness.

   


 

   

Gemini is the mutable air sign of the Zodiac. Air is the ever present, never directly seen element that connects all breathing life on Earth we all breath the same air, over and over again, as it rapidly circulates around the planet. The Gemini type also rapidly circulates, pulled hither and thither by this interesting fact and that curious find.

Its drive is to gather information and experience at the mental level, to catalog data and communicate with others. Gemini is like a breeze quickly changing directions, and its mutability is both its glory and the difficulty it has to face. Positively, Gemini is adaptable, well informed, and ingenious; negatively it is fickle, superficial and eclectic in a way more conservative types deride.

Gemini's task is to develop the intellect into a finely honed mental tool, to go beyond surface intellectuality by integrating the mere facts and figures it gathers and talks about into meaningful wholes.

This it does when it develops the capacity to transform information into wisdom. Gemini's is the search for intellectual security.

 


 

  

Cancer is the cardinal water sign of the zodiac. It may seem like a deep lake whose surface has become rippled or agitated by Gemini's brisk breezes. Cancer stores Gemini's data in a retentive memory and assimilates information by intuitively feeling things out. Indeed the Cancer type feels keenly and deeply about nearly everything.

Nevertheless, others may encounter difficulty in penetrating to Cancer's depths, for the Cancer type often guards its inner life closely. It does so because Cancer's is the drive for the kind of emotional security which forms the central core of an integrated personality. Its search may either be belied by defensiveness or over-sensitivity, or covered up by a seemingly tough exterior.

When emotionally secure, the Cancer type is protective and nurturing, hospitable and attentive to the needs of others. When uncertain it may become overly maternal, clinging or possessive. The Cancer type may feel most comfortable at home, amidst a cozy clutter of collectibles. In its most insecure moments it may turn nostalgically homeward or past-ward for solace, but its noble depths of feeling should be guarded against a tendency to maudlin sentimentality.

 


 

  

In Leo the fire element reappears, but it is now in its fixed mode. The creative drive animating all the fire signs should reach a more focused and stable expression, for Leo builds upon the personality integration Cancer seeks by expressing what previously operated only in the depths. As much as Leo is touted for its self-expressive capacity, beneath it lies a yearning for self-validation.

Leo's search is for the kind of social security success and the admiration of others can bring. In this quest, the Leo type may compensate for a sense of social inferiority by being cocky or arrogant, self-indulgent, or by playing to the crowd instead of acting on the basis of personal integrity. When mature and secure, the Leo type can afford to be and is magnanimous indeed regal. When immature and still developing real confidence, it may be overly sensitive to anything that seems to affront its personal pride.

Leo truly meets its challenge when its pride and the aura of authority it loves to project are based upon real accomplishment.

   


 

  

Virgo repeats the earth element and is the second mutable sign. The fixity of Taurus (the first earth sign) and Leo should give way to a more flexible attitude, while Virgo also represents a stabilization of the first mutable sign, Gemini. The results of Leo's expressions provide Virgo with a kind of feedback, which it must consider in order to apply its capacities for analysis, constructive criticism and improvement through the skillful practice of appropriate, well-learned techniques.

Virgo's is the search for perfection, which may be spurred by inner dissatisfaction or discontent. But Virgo's should be the kind of 'divine discontent' that spurs it ever onward, rather than the kind of petty restlessness that blames others. When insecure, the Virgo type may be harping; when mature it is discerning and efficient.

It may solve long-standing problems by being intellectually secure enough to question assumptions others have taken for granted. But Virgo's attention to details may make it lose sight of the proverbial forest for the trees. Virgo is fulfilled when able to apply itself diligently and with self-discipline to matters at hand.

 


 

  

With Libra the first half of the Zodiacal pattern ends and the second begins. Libra is the cardinal air sign. What began actionally and personally in Aries, the first cardinal sign, must start again in active relatedness. As the second of the air signs, Libra is closely related to Gemini, the first air sign. But while Gemini's drive is to relate impersonal facts and figures, Libra's is the task of relating human personalities, which were integrated around a feeling-core in Cancer, made socially successful in Leo, and refined and stabilized in Virgo.

Libra is thus the sign of cooperation, partnership, romance and marriage. The Libra type facilitates these by being diplomatic and charming. When insecure, however, the Libra type may be overly influenced by others, or self-seeking and opportunistic in relationships.

To compensate for insecurity it may be self-effacing, but sooner or later this policy of appeasement leads to a sudden about-face, and the previously peaceable Libra type may declare open war on whomever it now feels took advantage of it. Libra's is the search for security in interpersonal relationships.

 


 

   

Scorpio is the fixed water sign of the zodiac. Its task is to stabilize and plumb the depths of feelings. Indeed, Scorpio resonates with the deepest of life's feeling processes and has been associated with the mysteries of death, rebirth and passionate interpersonal union.

Its association with death no doubt derives from the time of year the sun passes through Scorpio. Red and golden leaves reach the zenith of their glory and succumb to inevitable decay, or Indian summer flares to embrace the earth in heated passion one last time. Thus the nature of Scorpio may be either intense and passionate or cool and distant; Scorpio is a sign of extremes. It may be magnetically attractive as well as repellingly vindictive.

When secure, the Scorpio type releases the power of Libra's relationships and the capacity for material productivity of Taurus, its opposite sign in the zodiacal pattern. Its penetrating insight into personal and interpersonal intricacies make it a skillful lover, probing psychologist or formidable trader. When insecure, the Scorpio type may be jealous, conniving, and ruthlessly competitive.

Scorpio's is the search for security in both the heights and the depths of life.

 


 

   

Sagittarius is the mutable fire sign of the zodiac. It thus represents dynamic activity in a state of transition from one level to the next. The Sagittarius type seeks to explore all new possibilities, either physically through travel or limit-pushing sports, financially through big business, or philosophically by exploring new dimensions of being.

Paradoxical as it may seem, Sagittarius' is the quest for security in seeking ever broader, more inclusive frames of reference. It seeks adventure and is freedom loving, optimistic and future-oriented. But it misses the point of its own arrow if it settles for merely quantitative accomplishments or the absence of physical, sexual or psychological restraint.

When mature, it no longer seeks freedom from restriction, but uses its freedom for attaining its high ideals. Like all the mutable signs, Sagittarius is restless. Peace comes for it only when it understands that more will not quiet its inner gnawing; it has to learn to do qualitatively better with less.

 


 

   

As the cardinal earth sign of the zodiac, Capricorn’s capacity is for initiating practical activity. The Capricorn type is the serious minded executive of the zodiac, with the practical know-how to make Sagittarius’ dreams a reality if it dares. Capricorn shoulders responsibility well, indeed it ambitiously seeks it in order to rise to a position of authority: Capricorn's search for security is fulfilled in the responsible exercise of power.

Essentially prudent and cautious, the Capricorn type may however be overly bound by tradition, or limited by a fear of taking risks. When insecure it reacts like a typically frustrated and frustrating bureaucrat, hamstrung by its own rules and regulations, and by its eagerness not to be called on the carpet for anything in its area of responsibility.

When mature, the Capricorn type is an able worker, advancing by dint of conscientious attention to duty. In the fulfilled Capricorn type, industrious efforts are not for self-advancement alone, but for the welfare of the whole.

 


 

  

Aquarius represents the air element in its fixed mode. As with all air signs, relationship is stressed, but Aquarius transcends Libra's preoccupation with interpersonal relationships and concentrates instead upon the kind of impersonal relationship that links all humanity.

Aquarius has been called the sign that loves humanity and hates people. Its cool, detached nature and concern for large, sweeping social movements may make close, overly emotional relationships difficult, especially the kind in which people must be accepted as they are, rather than changed to fulfill an ideal. Aquarius is the zodiac's ardent reformer and espouser of radical causes.

Independent, mentally innovative, and unconventionally imaginative when mature, the insecure Aquarius type may become bound by its own dogmatic bias, fanatically and impractically dedicated to non-conformity, or anarchically rebellious. Aquarius' search for security in transformation must be grounded in a deep commitment to personal as well as social or global change.

 


 

   

Pisces is the mutable water sign of the Zodiac. Here the assimilative and regenerative nature of water is put to its greatest test, for, as the last sign of the Zodiac Pisces' is the task of summing up the accomplishments of all the other signs and tying up the loose ends of all their unfinished business. Its search for security is fulfilled when it transcends the material and psychological concerns of the other signs and experiences an essential simplicity of being.

The insecure Pisces type is impressionable, prone to a sense of guilt, easily victimized and an inveterate rescuer, even of people who don't want to be saved. Its drive for self-forgetfulness may paralyze it in self-destructive patterns or self-pity.

When mature, Pisces is psychically sensitive, loving, deeply religious or committed to a spiritual path. The fulfilled Pisces type sees the universality of human striving and suffering, and is transfigured by being a caring, helpful friend to all who seek its aid.

The Shambhala Astrological Calendar 1982 was written by Leyla Raël and designed by Antony Milner, with the assistance of Ricia Doren, Kathleen Fitzgerald, Sandra Maitri, and the inspiration of Dane Rudhyar.

 

Used with the kind permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill.

 

Mindfire