Straight Lines and Cycles
One of the most wonderful ways we can learn from astrology is to study the worldview of the civilization where astrology was created. Astrology is a way of looking at the world, and it has a very different kind of perspective and shape than does our usual modern culture. We stand to a learn a lot about the weaknesses and blind spots of our modern world – and the results of those blind spots are becoming increasingly evident in the world around us.
Here I want to talk about how the world of astrology has a different shape than our modern world.
Briefly, astrology looks at the world in terms of cycles, ascending and descending waves, and complementary opposites. Cyclical, circular, wave shaped.
By contrast, our modern world thinks of reality in single direction straight lines.
Much of the world around us behaves in ways that match the shape of astrology – cycles of growth and decay, waves. Meanwhile we’re thinking in terms of straight lines.
And here’s the kicker – when the shape of our thinking mismatches the shape of the world around us we get ourselves in trouble.
Much of my time over the last several months has been spent preparing for a class on Essential Dignities in astrology, that I will be teaching at Kepler college starting this coming July 10. (Here is a link to the Essential Dignities class on the Kepler site if you’re curious about it.)
Preparing for the class gave me a good excuse to spend a lot of time researching the minor dignities and how they can be used. I am finding some really exciting things, and I want to share a sample of what I am finding here.
In this essay I want to give a brief demonstration of how the traditional system of essential dignites can be used to add quite a bit of detail and nuance to the interpretation of a chart.
Traditional astrology uses five different essential dignities. There are the two major dignities, rulership and exaltation, and their corresponding debilities, detriment and fall. Modern astrology still has these dignities, although they are often not widely recognized or used.
In addition, there are three minor dignities, named triplicity, term and face. Each has a different meaning and different level of control. I want to give an example here of how they might be used.
This is the chart of Clara Barton.
She is most famous as the founder of the American Red Cross, and did extensive work in field hospitals during the Civil War. In addition to that, Clara Barton also did extensive work in public education, and also became a major spokesperson for the women’s suffrage movement.
Let’s look at the dignities for a couple of the most important planets in her chart.
Part of the reality of doing astrology today – there is no one astrology anymore, no single recognized set of rules, standards and meanings that all of us subscribe to.
There seem to be a lot of realities out there these days.
Part of spiritual maturity is realizing that there is no one neat and simple set of rules as to exactly what reality is – like it or not we are limited to our own perception, our own understanding, our own worldview – like having a lens surgically implanted into your eye so that you filter out anything that does not match the shape of that lens.
I practice mostly traditional astrology, I think, and by now I’ve got some pretty strong opinions as to the meanings of the planets, signs, houses, and other core concepts of our astrological world. At the same time I am aware of the work of other astrologers, whose work I respect and who seem to be getting good and useful results, who are using techniques and meanings that would be ‘just plain wrong’ if I attempted to transpose them into my own astrology model.
I’ll use specific names here – it helps flesh out the core of what I’m getting at.
The Fine Art of Idol Making
This a meditation about Idols and idol making – what idols are, the purpose they serve, how we create them, how they can enliven and enrich our lives.
How we can become Idolaters.
Please notice that I am using the term Idolater in a very positive sense. This is very deliberate, and it is the exact inverse of the negative connotation most people place on the world in our Western “Christlemew” culture. (The word “Christlemew” is a coinage by Lon Milo DuQuette to refer to the common religious heritage of Christians, Muslims and Jews.) In that context, to be an Idolater is to worship something other than the one, true God. It assumes a monotheistic, single standard religion. Further, it assumes that God stands transcendent, outside of His creation (yes, I said His). Either Idols are not permitted, or only Idols of the God are permitted – for instance, pictures of Jesus, or statues of Mary or the saints.
I want to recover what is good about an Idol, to examine what the word means, and to consider how using an Idol affects how I relate to the world. I also want to consider how astrology can be enlivened by understanding and using Idols.
This is the second of two posts, in which I am examining how the meaning we attribute to the astrology signs has changed through time, and I am focusing on the sign Aquarius for my example. In the previous post, I looked at the meaning of Aquarius in various astrology writers, reaching up to around the 1920’s.
In the earlier meanings, going back to late 19th and early 20th century, the influence of Saturn as sign ruler dominated the characteristics, along with elements of meaning taken from the eleventh house. By the time you get to Charles Carter, there is an increase in Uranian overtones to the meaning given to Aquarius, with the shift of focus to Uranus as sign ruler rather than Saturn,
We will now examine some writing from a major astrology teacher from the mid twentieth century.
Modern astrology is built on the foundation of the psychological meaning of the 12 signs of the zodiac. This is where most modern astrologers start, and we still refer back to it as a kind of quick astrology shorthand.
Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs is a good and typical example of modern sun sign astrology, and her book still reads quite well. Full modern astrology is quite a bit more complex and nuanced than that book, and yet there is a certain core of meaning there that is a kind of foundation, a simple base.
We describe or identify people with their Sun Signs – Hi, I’m a Leo, what are you? At an astrology gathering you might then be asked to add your moon sign and rising sign, but the core is still the meaning of the Sun sign. That is what you are.
This is very much a twentieth century phenomenon.
I want to take a walk through the history of astrology, looking at how the meanings of the signs has changed and evolved over the last few centuries. I am going to focus on the sign Aquarius for my example, since this sign has Saturn as ruler for traditional astrologers, and a different ruler, Uranus, for modern astrologers.
My premise is that the meanings we give the signs changes as we associate different rulers with them, and as we put astrology in different spiritual or psychological contexts.
Earlier this year I did a series of posts exploring the symbolism of Saturn as feminine and as an old Crone figure. This was based on a reference in Dorotheus classing Saturn as one of the feminine planets, and Dorotheus is one of the earliest sources we have for our Western astrology.
Saturn as feminine seems to strike a chord with a lot of people, and I received some strong responses from both readers and friends.
After one of the posts, a comment suggested that I consider looking at how Saturn as feminine could be used in chart interpretation. That is what I will look at here.
As I thought about it, I was surprised to realize that I already had a very good example of Saturn being feminine, in the chart of a client of mine.
This is a personal piece.
I have Sun and Mercury both in Pisces, and five planets in water signs in my chart. I think by emotion, and I feel my way into things. When I am dealing with ideas in astrology I am feeling for a certain sense of symmetry, balance and wholeness.
I’ve always been bugged by the usual definitions of Pisces, traditional and modern both. In some of the older material Pisces is the garbage bin of the zodiac, dissolute wastrels destined to come to an ill end.
In more modern material you will often read about how Pisces is a sign of self-sacrifice, giving oneself over to the larger whole. Part of me completely rebels against that idea. Inside I do not feel like the self-sacrificing type at all.
If anything, the inner feeling is the opposite.
On this coming March 19 I am going to be participating in an on-the-web conversation as part of Kepler College’s celebration of International Astrology Day. The theme for the day will be, astrology and spirituality.
That got me thinking.
I am just off doing a couple of blog posts on rethinking Saturn as feminine and Saturn as Crone, and what that entails. A commenter on one of the posts asked if I had considered looking at how viewing Saturn as feminine works out in chart interpretation.
That also got me thinking, and the two topics dovetailed.
To really get a sense of how Saturn as feminine changes how we do chart interpretatation, I think we need to have a very good grasp of the deep knowing compassion of age – in my last post I labeled that quality, Understanding.
That is the subject of this meditation.
This is the second post in which I am exploring the ramifications of viewing Saturn as feminine, and also considering symbolism related to Saturn as Old Crone.
In my previous post on Saturn as Feminine I quoted a passage from the Hellenistic astrologer Dorotheus, in which Saturn is classified as one of the feminine planets. This created some striking arrangements of Saturn with the other planets, having some of the distinctive symmetry and balance of much of traditional Western astrology.
In this post I want to consider further how the symbolism of Saturn is linked to feminine symbolism.
Here is the quote from Carmen Astrologicum by Dorotheus:
“…the feminine planets are Saturn, Venus and the Moon, the masculine ones are the Sun, Jupiter, and Mars.”
When I first saw this quote I wondered if Saturn might originally have been associated with an Old Crone goddess figure or figures, that then was turned masculine in a later cultural development.
What I want to do in this post is to consider the nature of Saturn and feminine symbolism, and see how they combine.