Aries, the sign of the vernal equinox and first sign of the zodiac marks the uprush of Spring, new shoots thrusting through the soil, pure instinctual germination and delightful abandoned activity. Embodying the proverb ‘he who hesitates is lost’ and in defiance of its negation ‘look before you leap,’ Aries leaps into the fray trusting its instinctual and intuitive attunement to the present moment. Eager, assertive, direct, and forceful, Aries seeks excitement, adventure, and ever new challenges against which to test its strength and experience its own being and aliveness. This is true whether lived out in the physical, creative or intellectual spheres.
This is a sign of strong initiative that needs to do things its own way, and now -- a sign of action rather than relationship, but at best showing a pioneering out-in-front type of leadership. In the relationship arena, Aries may be perceived as overly direct or pushy, insensitive, unaware of others needs, competitive or at least non-cooperative -- yet s/he tends to be rather ingenuous and certainly not coming from a desire to control others. Lacking a sense of situational appropriateness, an important life lesson for Aries is to become more aware of the larger gestalt within which s/he is operating -- this, without losing his/her drive, enthusiasm, and instinctual spontaneity, without becoming excessively self conscious or self inhibiting.
With such eager enthusiasm and an innate urge to action, Aries is a great starter but not such a good finisher, tending to have too much on his/her plate or inclining to boredom when the stage of sustained or disciplined effort is called for in any project. Quick to defense or attack, forever aimed toward the new, the new goal, the new challenge, the new fascination, Aries does not hold on to past resentments; emotions arise and pass, anger comes and goes, all-absorbing tasks and adventures of the moment tumblingly unfold -- but often lacking is the necessary patience and the ability to carry-through.
The Aries archetype represents the dynamic aliveness, the pure joie de vie, the dynamic spontaneity and spirit of adventure within us all. It is a primal and libidinal sense of personal power, self confidence, upwelling desire and the capacity to ecstatically celebrate life. But this dimension tends to get extremely damped down in most of us in the process of growing up and becoming conditioned to fit into ‘civilized society.’ But a process of increasing self control, responsibility, self discipline, cooperation with others, sensitivity, patience, forethought, consistency and commitment is necessary for maturation. It is, then, a fundamental issue how such a process, first of parental control then self control, can develop without repressing and suppressing the childlike Arian ‘elan’ -- thar dynamic and creative spirit in us all. This is the fundamental issue that is seldom dealt with successfully. It is why civilized people are so divided against themselves.
Yet we cannot go back to being children, nor can we, as a society, get back to our tribal roots. The only solution is the ‘way on through,’ forging an unknown and unmarked path in that truly indefatigable Arian fashion -- the path of the mature ‘warrior’. And this is the optimum or higher meaning of this sign, the development of a reborn dynamic, strong and courageous individual not stuck in the past, able to pioneer ahead, able to meet life's challenges head on, undaunted, willing even to die in the battle for one's own soul. Is it possible to liberate this vitality and dynamic aliveness once the burdens and beliefs of adulthood have set in? This is the 64,000 dollar question of psychology. But no therapeutic process can be considered successful unless it can help a person help themselves to discover a new connection to this dynamically alive 'inner-child' allowing him or her a greater uncensored expression.
At best the fiery Aries type can maintain some of this childlike and rather ingenuous vibrancy and uncensored self expression while learning the lessons of growing up. This can be their gift. Indeed they often need (except those Sun/Neptune or Mars/Neptune types) to develop more sensitivity, cooperation, self restraint and patience while at the same time trusting their instinctual and intuitive know-how, their hunches and drives, their expressive intensity, their indomitable and adventurous spirit, their need to find their own path through the ways and byways of our often mystifying and uncertain yet fascinating and exciting world!
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If Aries symbolizes the hunter-gatherer living in the moment, forever on the move, then Taurus symbolizes the farmer, firmly established, tilling the soil, cooperating with nature so as to store grain for the winter, to produce a surplus of wealth to guarantee future security. Taurus, in its steady, determined and unhurried manner, is the most sensual and grounded of the earth signs, the closest to the rhythms and pulses of nature. Practical yet not ambitious, Taurus will work hard -- at its own pace -- but also knows how to stop and enjoy the fruits of his or her labour. This sign is easy going and non-aggressive yet notoriously stubborn, resistant to being pushed around or coaxed from its deep ruts of security, comfort or habit.
Psychologically, the sensual and physical Taurean is in love with the earth, generally patient, capable of firm commitments, steady, unhurried and possessing a good common horse sense around basic life issues -- survival, security and the enjoyment of the 'good things of life'. No head in the clouds, unrealistic ideals, and cravings for glamorous 'beyonds' will be found here. Although Taurus (a Venus-ruled artistic sign) resonates to the beauties of nature, the pleasures of the senses, there is a plain and simple, down-home no-nonsense quality that eschews artifice, pretension, high culture or idealism -- a 'this-worldliness' rather than an 'other-worldliness'. In fact, this sign's perspective and world view can often tend to be rather narrow and stifling, believing only in what is solid enough to be seen, tasted, or kicked. Of course, there are intellectual, highly cultured, or spiritual Tauruses, but the tendency is, even in these more exalted realms, to bring things back to the tangible, the concrete, the simple, the basic, the foundational, and ultimately to the natural in all its beauty.
Ours is increasingly a ‘virtual age’ where substance, quality, durability and reliability have given way to leaky condos, manufactured images, endless promises, hypnotic and chimerical rainbows; an age where our natural, familiar and simple foundations are dissipating into the insubstantial ether of ever more sophisticated knowledge and information. Even basic livelihood, the foundation of all life, is no longer guaranteed, and where it exists it has increasingly more to do with advertising, persuasion, image making and paper shuffling than with the satisfaction of creating a beautiful, life-enhancing and real product, a product which sells itself. In short, we have something important to remember from contemplating the larger meaning of that 'good old solid down-to-earth' sign Taurus.
So basically Taurus has to do with building the solid and lasting foundations of life. It is connected to the good earth, the rhythms of nature, basic survival and, then beyond that, to the deep satisfactions and enjoyments of those simple pleasures that are given to us in abundance if we are present enough to enjoy them and if, in our retreats into our cities and into our own abstracting minds, we haven't lost touch with the organic immediacy and life-supporting cyclic rhythms of a life lived in tune with nature and the body. The mind that is out of touch with the instinctuality of the body is not a healthy mind. Likewise the society out of touch with nature, and out of touch with real human beings, is not in the long run, a viable society.
We can see Taurus, in its lower form, reflected in our modern world as a sinking to the level of pure hedonism, greed, mindless consumerism, an essential laziness which seeks convenience and maximum gain with minimum output, money making money while it falls to others to pay the piper. But getting more in touch with our lost roots, we may come to appreciate the higher manifestation of Taurus -- the importance of work and productivity, a common sense but not a closed approach to things, intelligent planning for the future, putting forth effort if we are going to reap a good harvest, doing our best job, creating real value and quality prior to purely monetary worth, cooperating with, rather than exploiting nature. With honest work comes the capacity to enjoy the deserved results, because the work has been carried out with love in a spirit of simplicity.
On this foundation we may then pursue the more sophisticated aesthetic pleasures which culture brings, to creatively participate in the complex values and structures provided by the educated mind which adds dimensionality to tribal or peasant life, but without losing touch with our basic, organic and natural humanity.
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Gemini is a sign of physical and mental agility, constant movement, change and lively interests that branch or scatter in all directions. There is excitement at discovering the new and making all sorts of connections on mental, physical, or social planes, but some difficulty with concentrating on one path, unless that path proves so rich and multidimensional as to provide constant new discoveries and fascinations. For Gemini, life is a complex and subtle dance, a kaleidoscopic light show of shifting moods, thoughts and intentions, a rich fabric where nothing is simple, nothing is easily decided, where questions abound and answers produce ever new questions. Gemini is a sign of ideas, words, and communications which relate and interconnect numerous parts like the nervous system itself, the media, or society's web of transportation and communication. Whether it be on a verbal/cerebral level or on the more physical/practical plane, Gemini possesses dexterity, adaptability, agility, freedom of movement and a youthfully alive interest in the numerous features and facets of any operation.
Geminis are hard to pin down, resistant to commitment. They are constantly moving -- mentally, physically, or socially -- and, like mercury sliding through a pitchfork, they avoid what they perceive as entrapment by anyone who wishes to know exactly ‘where they are at.’ Try and ask these often eternally young looking folk what they feel and they will tell you what they think, though pinning down even what they think can sometimes be difficult. Just ask them what firm decision they've reached? Hope you're a good listener....
The advent of computers, the internet and e-mail is indeed a Geminian delight opening lines of contact previously undreamt of, instant communication among disembodied minds, a dance of pure information (but yes, you probably have a Geminian friend who prefers his books, and grumbles about the intellectual vacuousness of chat groups and the misspelled inarticulate trivia flashing back and forth among uneducated cyber-addicts --that's Gemini too!). The uniquely human world is the world created by the human mind, by curiosity, by language, by the exchange of information and ideas, by constant movement and discovery, the ongoing invention of new games with new and more complex rules, ever new knowledge. Now more than ever before, information -- not gold, not even food -- has become our main currency, our supreme symbol.
The power of the symbol and the concept, the word and the belief is unsurpassed. Human beings live and die not only in the natural world but in the world of culture and ideas; they live and die for their beliefs. Interweavings of synapses and cerebral pathways extended through the technologies of communication encase the globe, but human brilliance alone lacks the wisdom for harmonious living as individuals and as a species. For all its intelligence, there is always something of the monkey mind in Gemini, a mischievous out-of-control frenetic play, an orgiastic delight in details and an inability to grasp the larger picture. Human reason and language is shot through with conflict, either/or, duality, contradiction, strife and argument. Reasons are not always reasonable. Conclusions are often rationalizations. Science, the most rigorous and proven of all knowledge systems, leaves out some extremely important human dimensions which have nothing to do with words and information such as love, caring, mercy, morality, spirituality. The most intelligent and knowledgeable are sometimes even the most dangerous.
Whether we are Geminis or not, we need to know how to develop our minds, to become informed, educated, able to think logically for ourselves, to articulate our thoughts and communicate well with others, to make ever new connections among ideas and with one another, to ask appropriate questions, to stay young and vital in all our movements, both mental and physical. But we also need to directly witness the limitations of thought, to see how ideas are ever chasing ideas, how we are controlled by excessive thinking, that inner stream of chatter that never shuts up, that constant worry and fretting, endless questions and explanations, indecisions and altogether too much head tripping.
To keep the mind alive and active, yet to be master of the mind -- this is the challenge. The Eastern paths of meditation were devised to quiet the mind so that deeper more sublime realities could be experienced. This is not to bludgeon the mind into submission, but to become more subtly attuned to the spontaneous ways of thought, to witness the source of each thought as it arises. This is the higher Intelligence of which the great traditions speak, the mind's highest potential out of which the deepest of insights can emerge. Like Shiva, a Tai Chi master, or for that matter Fred Astaire, such a centering within the rich and complex movements of the dance of life is not the overcoming of thought, but its most sublime Geminian fruition.
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Cancer, ruled by the Moon, is the sign of home, family, mother, children, roots, emotional security and belonging. A highly sensitive, caring, loving and nurturing energy, it can be rather touchy, cautious and self protective, seeking safe spaces or a home away from home where one can warmly express oneself and enjoy intimate connectedness to special others. There is a sense of nostalgia and sentiment, a need for a continuity with the past, a need to know where one belongs, and sometimes a tendency to become too emotionally attached or not allow the other enough space or independence.
As much as needing to nurture, Cancer needs to have been nurtured as a child and continue to receive nurturance, otherwise s/he may be sucked dry -- if so the resentful face of the 'used mother', or the taken-for-granted caring spouse may emerge. Cancer can be run by moods and feelings that ebb and flow like the tides in an intuitive and imaginal realm that lies beneath the more rational and controlled surface of things. This intensely personal water sign is in touch with the deepest instinctual level of life and needs to trust its hunches and intuitions, its felt sense of any situation, its subtle attunement to the feelings and emotions of others that hide behind their words.
We could say that the Cancerian dimension of intimate connectedness -- the whole cluster of needs around family, roots, belonging, continuity, security, sensitivity, empathy, caring, nurturing and trust -- is the very foundation of society. For the Cancerian type, these life issues are so central that a failure to deal with them effectively is highly detrimental to the person's flowering.
It is not only a matter of seeking satisfaction of these basic needs, it is also a matter of developing a capacity to love without over-attachment, clinging or smothering, to be able to establish intimate connections without inordinate insecurity and possessiveness, to deeply care and sympathize without sentimentality or over-emotionality, to nurture without too many emotional strings, to interact without touchy defensiveness, and above all, to feel basic self love. Of course, if one has been loved and nurtured as a child in a safe and supportive space, one will be a better parent, more emotionally mature, capable of loving and trusting relationship. But if we weren't so lucky, it then becomes our task to find ways of healing ourselves and becoming more whole. For the Cancerian, this often means moving from deep emotional insecurity, overwhelming moodiness, touchy self-protectiveness, jealousy, clannishness and parochial thinking or over sentimentalized attachment to objects which may function as a substitute for love and belonging. As we come to terms with our sensitive emotionality, our moods, our personal clingings, we come to support the independent freedom of our loved ones -- in nurturing them, we allow them to grow up into healthy independence.
Not every Cancerian will choose the traditional domestic life, yet their determinedly nurturing feelings, caring spirit, their need to belong, despite an essentially private nature, will need to find expression in their profession or community life through the way they nurture their chosen human family. Within the inner realm of sensitivity, emotional responsiveness, intuitions, ‘irrational’ yet astute impressions, lies the higher capacity for attunement and responsible love and caring upon which all life depends.
Cancerians must first and foremost feel at home within themselves, to open and trust the inner ebb and flow of feelings and responses, the intuitive and immediate gut level perception of things. From that foundational self trust, they can then reach out beyond their subjectivity and all-too-human limited perspective to warmly appreciate and participate in the larger world.
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Leos are generally described as dignified, proud, sometimes regal and haughty, authoritative, confident yet sometimes over confident, needing centre stage, hungry for acknowledgment and appreciation more than many folks, rather self centered, but warm, responsive, big hearted, shining, and even inspirational when they receive the juice they need. The motive force of Leo is the need to express oneself strongly and significantly within the social situation, to be better than mediocre, to command respect and receive acknowledgment for special gifts, achievements and creations. Life is meaningful and one is worthy only if one can find excellence at some pursuit through which one can make a recognized difference, find something and/or someone worthy of full love and devotion. As for the not so uncommon introverted Leos (the ones that say of the confident and the successful, ‘I'm not like that’) those same issues are simmering away under the surface. In these Leos, the same primal need for social acceptance and respect carries with it the fear of social ridicule or failure which constrains these shy lions from spontaneously expressing themselves.
What is it that Leo is most fundamentally needing and looking for? We can understand what is behind these common manifestations by considering in what way the sign Leo represents a universal developmental human need. As each sign represents an archetype of the human experience, Leo is the insistent call for us to develop a strong sense of individuality, self-determination, strength of character, confidence and belief in ourselves -- the courage to stand up and be who we are -- fully empowered, effective and empowering. Although the ‘spiritual’ New Age view -- largely imported from the East -- tends to make a big thing about transcending the ego, there is another important piece of current Western psychological wisdom that we also need to take seriously; namely, the building of a healthy basic self esteem, personal empowerment and a strong sense of self. And as far as the spiritual dimension goes, you can't get rid of the ego until you have built a good strong one.
Childhood and adolescence are all about building a strong, confident, socially courageous, and creative sense of identity. In fact, the stronger the ego is, the less egocentricity there is. And this is one of the issues we will find in the typical Leo. Where there has been a healthy self development, there is a natural dignity, a shining self confidence, creative force and personal strength. But often, the development of a healthy ego is not supported, so there can be a sense of insecurity about one's worth, an over concern about the other's responses and a self conscious need to make an impression.
Where one's upbringing has not affirmed the ‘self,’ one needs affirmation and acknowledgment from others, not just in the normal socially interactive way, but insatiably, in order to shore up a weak sense of identity and self worth. One may display arrogance, pomposity, pride, and opinionatedness simply because one is not sure of oneself. Since these identity needs are the fundamental and necessary condition for Leo's all-around self actualization, the insecurity lying behind the outward display will be particularly emphasized.
For other signs, although the same universal needs are present, the negative effects are seldom so pronounced, since a person's self actualization and fulfillment is built around other issues, e.g. Cancer's need for empathy and closeness or Capricorn's need for solid competent earthy achievements. Not dealing with these life issues, Leo stays stuck -- just as Cancer would shrivel up without intimacy or Capricorn could not flourish without concrete success and achievement. When Leo develops self esteem while learning to mutually exchange acknowledgment and appreciation, he or she becomes an exemplar of authentic self expression, social courage, and inspirational empowerment.
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Practical, precise, critical, astute, analytical and orderly in both thought and action with a conscientious need to accomplish any task with skill, mastery, and craftsmanship, a strong sense of duty and responsibility, an ability to attend to details and to provide essential service with little need for the limelight -- all these fine qualities are essential features of the Virgo character structure. Virgo is a sign of self criticism, introspection, discriminating awareness, where personality expression (that Leo part of all of us) undergoes modest self effacement, considered self restraint, sometimes resulting in a social shyness or awkward self consciousness. As valuable as it is, such an objective, pragmatic, critical, skeptical, and judgmental approach to things may constrain spontaneity and fluidity of expression and limit the play of imagination. Virgo can be 'right', all right, but it can also dampen the spirits, the heart, and our capacity for simple appreciation. Along with a need for order, attention to virtue, organization, craftsmanship and good work habits, there is a need in Virgo to develop good health, diet, exercise and moderate living practices. A failure to develop in this way can have rather critical consequences for a Virgo's health, but a self actualizing Virgo as skilled practitioner can become an exemplar and teacher of ‘right living‘.
Behind the descriptive features of meticulous and organized Virgo, the deeper psychological and archetypal meaning of the sign needs to be illuminated so we can better understand just what it is that motivates Virgo. In the cycle of development represented by the zodiac, the earth sign Virgo follows the sign Leo, that fiery sign which seeks acknowledgment and appreciation and is concerned with the development of a confident self sense, a strong and expressive ego and adequate self esteem. No longer motivated by the primary need for acknowledgment, in the Virgo phase we encounter the social feedback to our self expression. Such feedback evokes a keen awareness of what we put into the world and how we effect others. Seeking to improve ourselves, to change for the better, we hopefully develop a more mature sense of responsible behaviour, a moral self determination which goes beyond simple conditioned conscience and social conformity.
Life is about more than just expressing and fulfilling ourselves. This stage necessitates a set of complex adjustments to society and to the world. We are required not only to accept criticism from others, but to become more honest and critically self aware, to appropriately modify our own behaviour, to become more skillful and competent in all facets of life -- personal, social and practical. At issue is the nature of self awareness, self knowledge, self criticism, self improvement, a degree of humility, serving others as well as oneself, dedication to the performance of a task for its own sake -- an apprenticeship to life.
Of course, the normal human manifestation of this archetype can often look like obsession with details and order, fussiness, pickiness, too much self criticism and a controlling judgmentalism toward others. Virgo can become crippled with too much introspection, endless analysis, worrying and fretting, shyness and self consciousness and a general lack of intuitive and expressive spontaneity. At times, perfectionism and self effacement can manifest in Virgo with the accompanying resentment toward those who get the accolades while the Virgo is called on to do the necessary and tedious ‘behind the scenes’ logistical work because ‘you do it so well’!
Ultimately Virgo is seeking the middle way, the path of moderation, of mind and body balance, of bodily and mental health. Virgo is so often capable of that daily, regular self discipline and tireless practice of good habits that the rest of us envy. At best, Virgo concerns the development of a discriminating awareness rather than a critical judgementalism, a natural humility rather than neurotic self effacement, a skillful and dedicated craftsmanship and practical competence, an astute self awareness -- and without setting impossible standards of perfectionism, a dedication to improving and perfecting one's way of living.
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Libra, the sign of the autumn equinox, represents the foundation of our social development. This romantic and pleasant air sign is motivated by a concern for the other, a need to cooperate, to harmonize, to respect social ritual, to create a peaceful, gracious, and civilized environment. Libran types typically resonate to the beautiful, the harmonious, the balanced, the fair and just. Above all, they would avoid conflict, competition, confrontation, the vulgar, the selfish, the not so ‘nice’ shadowy features of life which keep cropping up and spoiling the beautiful picture. The beautiful picture is the point of it all! They will sometimes deny the shadows, vacillate and wobble astride the fence, or accommodate and compromise themselves out of existence for the sake of preserving the picture. In order to keep the peace, Libra often avoids expressions of anger or direct, even though sometimes called-for, confrontation.
To be human is to be Janus-faced -- at once to be called on to be strong, independent, autonomous, ‘to thine own self be true’ and, at the same time, to consider others, to cooperate, to connect, to compromise, to be part of a team. This ever present juggling act of life is symbolized by the equinoctial signs, Aries and Libra. Yet there is a typically strong sense of purpose in both these signs so that even the gracious and considerate Libra displays an indomitable determination directed into the social sphere. With its idealism Libra can be powerfully strong willed and controlling. Through the force of Libra’s gracious personality we feel compelled to conform to the prevailing milieu, mind our manners and be considerate and cooperative. (Not a good sign for letting it all hang out!) Where Aries is the dynamic thrust of individual survival and proliferation, Libra is the force behind civilized and cultured society forged from the raw materials of nature.
When we approach the nearly always imperfect situation from the ideal of how things ‘should be’, we are at once expressing what is most noble in human nature -- the capacity to transcend primitive instinct to create more exalted forms of life -- and what is most dangerous, the imposition of pre-formed and emotionally disconnected ideas upon a complex and multidimensional reality. But life is far from the ideal; Libras needs to check their ideals against reality to avoid painting preconceived principles upon an unwilling canvas. Above all, they must stay attuned to their own deeper nature so they can artfully compose their dynamic human montage with true Libran elegance and grace.
We all know Libras who can be surprisingly argumentative and even confrontational, but we need to be alert to the motive here. There is a strong will behind the grace and diplomacy, and that is the insistence on order, fairness, harmony and balance. When perceiving an imbalance, a person arguing too forcefully for one side of the picture, or a group tilted to left or right, Libra will take the others side in order to bring things back to the centre, to re-establish balance. Situational balance being a primary motivation, this sign of the scales can just as easily switch sides since it is rarely attached to any particular viewpoint.
At best we need to attune to the essential harmony and beauty latent within a situation, bringing it to fruition. We can recognize that what is unique about human reality is that we are called on to create it -- it isn’t simply given to us as it is with the animals. The capacity to ‘create reality’ in accordance with genuinely higher principles and possibilities within society and relationship marks the creative self actualization of the sign Libra. It is not what ‘I’ want or what ‘I’ think that counts, it is what we can think together, what we want to do together, what is fair for both of us, what is the true median or balance between my wants and thoughts and yours. In short, there is no truth that does not have to take account of its opposite -- the highest truth is synthesis, elegance, balance and beauty. Hence, Libra, the natural mediator!
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Scorpio, the time of Halloween and Guy Fawkes, evokes a sense of drama and intrigue, of the secret and magical underworld, of romantic and dark shadowy figures, shamanic rituals, or Holmesian unraveling of labyrinthine mysteries. Mysterious and inscrutable with a calm almost placid surface concealing complex and unfathomable depths -- this captures the essence of the Scorpionic personality. Instinctually attuned to the subtle nuances and sensual/emotional vibrations among people, secretive and self-controlled rather than spontaneously expressive, Scorpio seeks to live intensely, to push edges, to plumb the depths, uncover secrets, to taste and experience life to the full whether in physical action, adventure, love, or creative self expression. Secrecy, obscurity, or words that resonate with hidden meaning may be called forth by a mistrust of the hidden motives of others or from a need to test the waters. More often, the Scorpio seems inscrutable because the profoundly imaginative, mythic, and visceral quality of the Scorpionic experience is not easily put into words; rather, it needs to be creatively acted out or artistically expressed.
Archetypally, Scorpio denotes a universal dimension or archetype -- in this case that of the rich and creative Underworld of the Greeks, the paranoid and repressive Hell of the Christian Middle Ages, the magical and transformational realm of the alchemists and Wiccans, and in our day, the symbolically rich and psychologically enriching encounter with Jung's 'Collective Unconscious'. The challenge and the opportunity of this dimension concerns how we best relate to the realm of human passion and urges, the instinctual and the primitive which connects us all (even as we imagine ourselves to be distinct individuals) impelling us together in love and war, for better and for worse. We best meet this intense and powerful realm with reverence, awe and respect from a rational and enlightened viewpoint without repression or suppression.
The darkness and negativity traditionally associated with all things Scorpionic is not in the essence of Scorpio itself but more in how we approach and experience it -- whether with fear, suspicion, repression, a need for control, or with the courage to face the darkness, to heroically fight the inner battles. Like Theseus with the intelligent aid of Ariadne and her thread, we must boldly enter the labyrinth and slay the Minotaur. If we do not face the inner darkness, the shadow, our roots in nature and the animal, and as many believe, the ‘karma’ of our past lives, then we project the shadow upon others who we then must righteously destroy in the name of good and truth.
Human history is a long story of projection of the shadow as human self consciousness and intelligence arose attempting to understand and control the mysteries and uncertainties of nature. We see the rise of patriarchy and the denigration of the passions, the earth and women, the ancient persecution of the Christians, and later the Jews, the scapegoating of the witches and on and on. There can be no change until the individual owns the inner Scorpionic depths -- the very source of one's life, vitality, creativity and dynamic aliveness which, as William Blake described it, had become imprisoned within humanity's ‘mind-forged manacles’. When we try to figure out these depths and control them with words, knowledge, science and pure reason, we fail. Rather, we need to plunge into the depths and bring up into the light those ‘monsters’ which dwell in the darkness which is ours.
The Jungian therapist and noted astrologer Liz Greene relates the myth of Heracles who attempts to destroy, in a plausibly rational and effective manner, the swamp dwelling multi-headed Hydra by slicing off its heads. But it responds like the sorcerer's apprentice's proliferating brooms, sprouting ever more heads until the hero remembers that the Hydra cannot stand the light. When he crouches down and lifts the Hydra into the light it shrivels up and dies except for one sacred yet now manageable head, for in the light of truth our ‘own’ ignorance and darkness cannot survive. Yet when we seek to vanquish the darkness that we see only in the face of the other, we succeed only in perpetuating the human melodrama.
Unlike so much of Western history which has trampled the earth, the feminine, and the instinctual, upwardly and onwardly striving for a transcendent heaven, Scorpio reminds us that the way to ‘truth’ is a courageous and intelligent inward journey into the labyrinths of the Underworld and thence to the light.
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Freedom-loving, outgoing and expressively exuberant or, on the more introverted side, thoughtful and philosophical, a seeker after life's greater meanings, spontaneous Sagittarius spreads its arms to embrace multitudes and articulate its inspiring and enriching visions of our higher human social and cultural possibilities. With the power to rise above the mundane details of life which normally stifle the creative soul with their routine drudgery and with the capacity to attune to the larger meaning and pattern which connects the seemingly random chaos of events, Sagittarius beholds the grand view, surveying the landscape from its exalted perspective to teach and inspire or sometimes to preach and pontificate.
Reason, inspiration, truth and vision awaken us to our higher nature in God or, if you prefer, to more spiritual levels of being. Yet the dark face of such outflowing and upwardly reaching fiery confidence is sometimes arrogance, fanaticism, righteousness and proselytism, manifesting historically as the expansive imperialist quest to convert the infidel, to unite and universalize all local diversities in the name of a higher 'Truth.' Although well meaning, personable, lively, and friendly, Sagittarius can sometimes lack sensitivity, be cruelly blunt in the name of truth telling, more concerned with ‘greater things,’ higher callings, or more glamorous happenings than the daily demands and restrictive commitments of personal relationships. Given to grand generalities, large gestures, grandiose visions and exaggerations, an inflated Sagittarius can stumble on those concrete and logistical details of life which tend to prick the balloon that yearns to rise aloft into the stratosphere.
The Sagittarian archetype involves the evolution of what we now somewhat ambivalently call ‘civilization’. Direct relationship, family, marriage and tribe -- the concrete instinctual and blood level of human interaction -- is symbolized by the two previous signs, Libra and Scorpio. In the cosmopolitan, universalizing Sagittarius we move beyond the personal and relational level of blood, instinct, clan and tribe. Historically, it is here that we witness the growth of monotheism out of matriarchal tribal magic and polytheistic myths and Great Mother rituals. Families, tribes and villages were united into cities, empires and later the modern nation states under the social and political form of Patriarchy. From our source in the Greeks and the ancient Hindus, and united through reason and culture which has transcended, for better and worse, the instinctual and parochial level, we now stand at another crossroads calling for a renewal, a renaissance to take us beyond patriarchy and old institutionally atrophied forms of religion, values and philosophy.
Especially if we have Sagittarius or even a strong Jupiter in our birth charts, we need to look for the greater meaning and purpose behind ordinary things. In order to function healthily, we need to reach beyond ourselves to realize and fulfill higher possibilities, to know that life is forever a joyful striving to transcend itself, to evolve, to struggle from falsehood toward truth. Above all we need to be motivated from a bred-in-the-bone optimism and creative vitality against the cynics, nihilists and skeptics by the faith that there indeed is a truth, a better and higher way of being and doing.
As we seek those greener grassy pastures, we should remain vigilant to the pitfalls of many of our dreams and longings. We need to become aware of the impersonal and often destructive nature of our highest utopian ideals, of the hypnotic allure of exotic places, of the heady air of high culture and the hubris of humanity's most exalted and noble flights of reason, of the destructive shadow of ideologies and 'isms', of the ingenuous righteousness of the truth-seeker and of the dangerous glamour of the seer.
To reach for the stars yet to remain solidly planted on the earth, to be free to fly though not, like Icarus, too close to the sun, to see the forest yet always to come back to the trees, to reach to the Spirit yet not to forget our Mother the earth, to seek for and tell the truth but always sensitively and heartfully -- these are the challenges and the opportunities along the Sagittarian path.
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With the solstice that begins the sign of Capricorn, winter is established, the skeletons of trees stand in bold relief while crystalline patterns and Jack Frost paintings starkly reveal the exquisite form and geometry at the very heart of things. Exemplifying this metaphor (precise, mathematical, logical, dry, bare bones) the quintessential Capricorn is pre-eminently the fully socialized and responsible citizen dedicated to mastery of the wheels and levers of society in all its structural and institutional complexity. Matter-of-fact Capricorn's basic security is founded on the orderly functioning of human society. For this serious, conscientious, and most ambitious and achievement oriented of the practical earth signs, reality is the objective, demonstrable, sensible, and secure world established by common consensus. Expert authority is valued over subjectivity or personal needs for self expression or individual freedom.
In the stark, dark yet austere and compelling beauty of winter, gone are the impetuosities of Spring, the extravagances of Summer, the softenings and mellowings of Fall. The essential foundation and solid ground of all things now stands revealed. With no time for the vanities of personality, the fripperies of merely ‘subjective’ feelings, absolutely independent, self-reliant, exceptionally capable and startlingly realistic -- behold the no-nonsense and business-like Capricorn of the rather serious countenance, the deftly balanced mountain goat of high places, those eternal Himalayas of our social traditions.
But in our time which values subjective expression and personal sharing, good old fashioned solid ‘reality’ now seems to have become whatever we care to make it; one person's opinion is as good as another; what I am experiencing is more important than the time-honoured and time-tested ‘truth’ of tradition. Our Capricorn, for whom the objective world of consensus is always more real than those personal, ever-changing feelings and fantasies, seems strangely out of place. For Capricorn, work is play and shows of personality are downplayed along with any desire to share personal feelings which are generally kept under control and are never as important as the task at hand. Although individual Capricorns can always gain by attuning a little more to their feelings and giving freer reign to their imagination, this sign, in its largest archetypal sense, has much to teach us, for example, about what needs to be changed and what needs to be preserved -- and how to make a better job of it!
These days, an increasingly anti-government and anti-institutional attitude in general pervades our thinking. This is directed against the negative Capricornian tendency to seek institutional control with its excessively conservative, traditionalist, hide-bound and authoritarian motive. The mystique and authority of governments is crumbling; bureaucracy, patriarchy, tradition, centralization and even ‘the world according to science’ no longer command ready agreement. The Soviet Union collapsed -- but in its place came chaos, reminding us that things are better changed slowly and mindfully. But in the so-called ‘free world’ a more subtle process of collapse may be occurring where those institutions which democracy has so slowly built and established are, in this climate of a rugged self-interested individualism, increasingly powerless against the global winds of profit-driven marketeers, at home in no land, rooted in no community, loyal to no one.
When institutions become oppressive, it is not only the forces of conservatism which are to blame; it is more often the failure of individual human beings to effectively carry out their duties and to rationally respond to the need for gradual modification and improvement. Institutions fail when human beings lack integrity or a true sense of public responsibility for both current and succeeding generations.
It is the healthier or higher Capricornian instinct to work within the structures, understanding the need for social stability and continuity underlying civilization, to operate with complete integrity and serious public responsibility, disciplined mastery and hard-won 'know how', to effectively manage in order to bring out the greater potential of our institutions -- public and private organizations, or the community's customs and practices. Such 'old fashioned' values are absolutely indispensable to balance and complete society's quite legitimate movement toward individual human rights. And, at its best, the Capricornian viewpoint reminds us to always respect and uphold the best of, and the best in, our institutions. We must indeed call those individuals to task who are self servingly derelict in their duties, but without calling for the end of the institution itself from the mistaken belief that the only solution is to build radically new and better institutions on the ruins of the old.
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Although the traditions, social institutions, and organized efforts of Capricorn have built our society into a stable infrastructure supporting civilized life with its much-valued goods, there comes a time when reforms and changes to our entrenched institutions, values and customs become necessary. Institutions are made for people, not people for institutions. Fired by a progressive spirit and a humanitarian vision, such quintessentially Aquarian embodiments of the idealistic and reforming spirit as Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens and Franklin D. Roosevelt have powerfully and constructively helped awaken human beings from their complacency to liberate them from their oppressed condition. Some argue that society is the way it is because of human nature and, ‘you just can't change human nature!’ But from the Aquarian point of view, despite peoples' instinctual greed, irrational passions, parochial narrowness, prejudice and privilege, human nature is by no means only selfish, nor is it fixed and ultimately resistant to change. To excuse or justify the way things are by appealing to the limits of human nature is anathema to the Aquarianly inclined. We are always in process, always struggling, always having to become more self-aware, to bring out the best in 'human nature', to become more informed and mentally expanded. We must always be striving to be better. We are morally responsible for the way things are since neither God nor Nature is to blame. Furthermore, we have the collective power and the moral obligation to improve life and uplift society. There is a profound discontent in Aquarians with the way things are; things could and should be so much better.
Sociable, friendly, yet airily cool and rather idealistic, Aquarians are moved to get out and participate in the community, and to inject something of their progressive, democratic, highly individualistic or even idiosyncratic approaches and ideas into the dynamics of the group. The trouble is, such congenitally social people are sometimes in danger of becoming misunderstood misfits or eccentrics, which is a shame, since they often have much to offer. It is just that despite Aquarius' conviction to the contrary, many or even most people really are resistant to change, to the truth, to the ideal, to the larger rather abstract and yet-to-be-materialized universal vision. Such large abstractions fail to fire up many people who are more concerned with immediate and concrete practical, personal and family issues.
The Aquarian archetype expresses the development of human reason for better and worse, where the highest challenge is to integrate material progress with cultural, moral and spiritual progress, something that so far doesn't appear to have been terribly successful. Yet this grand issue is uppermost today among environmentalists, deep ecologists, human rights groups, social advocacy groups, feminists, New Agers and serious new paradigmers. As the sign of human reason, it refers to the capacity of humans to transcend their animal instinctual nature. Aquarius is a cool, rational and objective air sign motivated by ideas, ideals, principles, social visions and a strong sense of justice. Despite their group orientation they may have difficulty with the more personal level since they are somewhat unaccepting of their own all-too-human nature. So typically, Aquarians tend to be too much in their heads, a bit out of touch with their gut level feelings, needs and emotional reactions. Hence, close intimate relationship can be difficult, especially if one’s lover isn't also a mentally resonant and platonic friend.
To be empowered, Aquarians have to creatively participate in the group while expressing their unique individuality -- not an easy feat but certainly possible. They need to align with the forces of progressive change in order to develop ordinary aliveness and a sense of meaning. They cannot function alone. They cannot raise consciousness and work toward changing society, which is what they must do, without aligning with like-minded souls. Aquarians are individualists, but unlike 'rugged individualists' who thrive in a competitive, Darwinian world, they declare the dignity and freedom of all equally in co-responsible partnership and friendship. Their individualism is profoundly tied into the democratic and participatory life of the group and community. Whether or not we stand at the dawning of a more enlightened or a more terrifying technologically dominated age, Aquarius symbolizes the eternal dream of a new age, a longing for a better world where human brother/sisterhood prevails and people have finally transcended their lesser passions and learned to cooperate and work for the common good.
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Pisces, the last sign of the Zodiac, is the most sensitive, receptive, emotionally attuned, empathic, responsive and deeply feeling of all the signs. Whether as artist, poet, dancer, singer, comedian, entertainer, social or spiritual server, or sympathetic listener, the Piscean draws from a deep inner well of creative imagination, intuition, psychic attunement, and a sense of connectedness to others beyond the normal boundaries and divisions. In fact, Pisces lacks a strong sense of ego, forceful ambition, vigorous self assertion or even a clear sense of direction, operating more like a medium for energies and ‘purposes’ beyond her/himself that do not arise from strictly personal desires or goals.
We all know those dreamy, gentle and non-threatening Pisceans, passively drifting hither and thither, selflessly and defenselessly open to the serendipity of the universe, yet somehow 'making it', cared for by invisible all-connecting threads; such an entirely different manner of negotiating reality from their practical and astutely measured zodiacal opposites -- the Virgos. In contrast with more usual modes of self identity -- a house built on a solid rock -- the Piscean psyche is like an undefined region of a great ocean of existence with no clear demarcation between one region and the rest. The life of Pisces is, then, about learning to swim skillfully in the ocean, while relating to the rest of us who at least think we are operating on dry land, yet are always trying to get back to the ocean through our habituated and intoxicating escapes.
There is no clear sense of separation between oneself and others, between one's own thoughts, feelings and needs and those of others. Such a lack of strong self definition can manifest either in deeply spiritual or in neurotic ways -- or, more often, in some combination of these. Where there is wisdom and strength, a lack of boundaries can imply selfless compassion and universal love or, lacking those attributes, a Piscean can easily become a victim, a ‘door mat,’ exhausted by the emotional demands of others or psychologically overwhelmed by others' needs, problems, and suffering. To feel the pain of others, to allow the world deep into one's soul, is a great challenge to spiritual growth but can often result in emotional and even physical exhaustion if one doesn't know one's limits, set one's boundaries, learn what one needs to do for others and what one needs to do to preserve oneself.
Selfless service, compassion, empathy and caring are indeed virtues, but only from a place of individual strength. To get to that strength, sometimes Pisces has to give up its 'being-for-others' to serve itself in a self-renewing, remote and reclusive solitude. From here, it can contact the inner depths of creativity where it may find a profound self actualization and self expression which can then pour forth into the world, reflecting the world's pain back to itself, creating art as a great mirror of the human drama which can help bring people to consciousness.
Archetypally, Pisces refers to the issue of emergence from the womb of nature, from the soul of the world, from the 'anima mundi', and then to an eventual return to the great ocean of existence, but at a higher level. We are called to develop as strong individuals but without losing touch entirely with this ocean where we are all karmically connected with the universal love , the very essence of our belongingness. Upon this foundation, we can experience compassion, practice service and then surrender to that higher and great Unity from a more evolved, mature and stronger state of Being. But the historic drama of Pisces is the history of pain, suffering, the karmic results of 'man's inhumanity to man' -- the whole vast record of the victim and the 'loser' who must eventually be redeemed. Hence, the great and powerful myth of the quintessentially Piscean Christ, the redeemer.
Remembering the endless forgotten corpses plowed under the foundations of proud civilizations, Pisces has gone beyond the lofty constructions of history, the power-driven egos, the worship of idols, the craving for earthly greatness and immortality. It has overflowed the bounds of organized religion yet not lost touch with God. With limitless patience and acceptance, Pisces toils and ministers among the millions crushed beneath the feet of the mighty, mangled in the machines of progress. It is the essence of the living light which shines inside and outside the church, in solitude and in the market place.
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