Finding Balance with the Cancer/Capricorn Polarity

According to Safron Rossi, astrologer and mythologist at Pacifica Graduate Institute, the psychologists James Hillman and Carl Jung were fascinated with the tension of opposites and the unions of ‘the same’. Astrology, this equates to zodiacal signs in opposition to each other. In this respect this duality provides essential information about the qualities you need to bring into balance in your life. 

At first, this seems an impossible task; after all opposites are, well, opposites, right? Do not underestimate the tension inherent in confronting that which we are not (i.e. the ‘other’). Keep in mind that the zodiac signs that play a prominent part in your charts format your perceptions of life. Yet another person will see things differently than do you. Can you both be right?

The short answer is yes and it is your job to constructively engage with this tension. When you do, you will have taken your first step toward psychological wholeness. This is because the themes inherent in the opposites of polarity not only highlight your blind spots but also offer you hidden gifts.

For example, I have Cancer rising and a whole lot of planet in my 4th natal house. This means that the following three essentially Cancerian themes significantly format the way I lead my life. 

  • Creativity – is a key theme for Cancer, especially feminine creativity relating to fecundity of the Great Goddess and the Moon’s monthly cycles of birth, becoming, and death. Think of the Greek goddess, Artemis, who although considered a virgin (i.e. sovereign unto herself), was closely associated with childbirth. Her associated myths suggest the daimon of Cancer is the need to make something manifest from the watery images of the lunar realm, which can occur in any number of ways. My preferred method is through writing fiction, which makes perfect sense considering that my personal Moon is in Gemini, the zodiac sign of journalists. My hidden gift in Capricorn is the ability to write in a way consistent with my own set of personal values as well as to keep faith and find the strength to persevere in the face of disappointment and rejection, which of course is an essential experience of all novelists. Capricorn brings his inspired visions into form through mastery.
  • Privacy – is another key theme for Cancer, which needs a solid and secure ‘home’ or ‘shell’ into which she can periodically retreat in order to rest and recuperate. The lunar cycle of constant change can make one weary. Little wonder then with all Cancerian and 4th house energy that I’ve spent a large part of my life searching for a place that ‘feels’ like home (Cancer is a water sign and so connected with feelings rather than thinking). This, no doubt, is how although born and raised American, I found myself rather happily living and working in England. I’ve been told that I’ve had many happy past lives here. I can believe it for it certainly feels like home. In Capricorn, I find the gift of securing a sturdy structure (bricks and mortar) that provides just the right balance of social integration and solitude. After all, writing good fiction is requires both an essential understanding of human nature and time spent with pen and paper.
  • Self-reflective consciousness – a final key theme for Cancer is to come to know herself as a differentiated individual. In this regard, this the natural progression from Aries (‘I am’) to Taurus (‘I ground’ the spark of Arian potential) to Gemini (‘I see’ through exploration and making of connections. The Moon is the planetary ruler of Cancer and the light of the Moon is reflected from the Sun. Thus the job of Cancer is to reflect make from her memories and experiences and come to know herself for the individual who has developed from those memories and experiences. This is not as easy it as may sound. The creativity of Cancer necessarily involves the constant giving of oneself. In this respect, Capricorn offers the ability to create boundaries – build walls – place restrictions on the how much Cancer gives away to ensure that Cancer has enough of herself for herself. How else is she to become a that differentiated individual? To this, I can relate. My 4th house planets are all in Libra and thus unless I call in the gifts of Capricorn, I’m all too likely to give everything I have to ‘others’ to keep the peace. Sometimes, you just need to say ‘no’.

The Poison Garden

The beginnings of a fantasy tale:


The gravel path winding up the steep slope narrowed. Our progress was further hindered by rivulets of rain. As the downdraft pitched toward its icy crescendo, I zipped up my parka and shook my head. The late autumn sky, a slab of blue grey shot through with pure white, promised worse to come. As we’d planned this essential research project more than two years in advance, I could only imagine how much Boreas, that cruel north wind, was enjoying his show. 

“Atropa Belladonna, she is deadly nightshade,” droned our guide, a pimply-faced lad whose Latin was far better than would ever be his English. He pointed to a purple flower flapping like a flag atop a stalky green pole.  “Here on left is Aconitum, he is wolf’s-bane, and if you drink his juice, you forever fall asleep, amen.”

As my colleagues inched forward,  I held back. I was desperate to add a sketch  of Aconitum to my collection. With a single sweep of my charcoal pencil, I captured the essence of the two upper petals peeking out from beneath their hood. From experience, I knew that at their crown was a hollow spur filled with ambrosia, their honeyed nectar. I leaned closer. Might I not just once break the rules and push back that damson-coloured cap to gain a better view?  Reluctant to fall further behind in such bad weather, I elected, instead, for artistic improvisation.

By the time I’d caught up with the rest of the group, our guide was relating how the most dangerous of the ninety-six poisonous plants currently in residence at Hermaia Gardens were housed in giant cages made of a secret alloy of gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Nothing could get in; nothing could get out. Voila, more or less instant immortalisation. There is, however, one drawback.  From the myths of old, we all know  that immortality equates to invisibility. The placard said the Cherry Laurel, prunus laurocerasus, in this cage was from Thebes in Boeotia. If we could see it, we’d fully appreciate that this specimen was more than two-thousand years old.

“It’s a lie.” Nychois, one of my least clever colleagues, pushed forward. “There’s nothing in there. It’s an empty cage.”

“It…it transparent”, stuttered our guide.

“There’s only one way to find out,” declared Exapatas. “Go ahead, touch it, Nychois.”

“No,  not, touch,” shouted our guide. “It kill you!”

“I tell you there’s nothing in there but even if there were, we’re all botanists,” replied Nychois. “Not only are my  gloves bullet-proof but we each carry every possible antidote right here in our bags.”

“This one old,” insisted the guide. “No cure.”

“Nonsense,” prompted Exapatas. “Go ahead, Nychois. I dare you.”

As Boreas kicked into gale force,  my colleague knelt and rattled the cage. He turned to stone. Exapatas fainted. The remainder of our group turned and ran. Squeezing shut his eyes, guide stood tall, his hand clasped in prayer. Madly, I rummaged through my antidote bag for something, anything, that might counteract what I reasoned must have been a practical joke, gone wrong. Little could I have known that coming to terms with what had just happened would consume the next twenty-three and one-half years of my earthly existence. 

(to be continued, maybe…)

A Feminist Reading of Jason & his Heroic Argonauts

For a course, I’ve been revisiting the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, which most of us will remember as a heroic tale of adventure and courage in which the charmingly handsome Jason undertakes a dangerous quest with his fellows to recover the Golden Fleece. 

Most of us may also remember that however heroic and courageous Jason might be, he could never have succeeded without the help of the princess, Medea, who lucky for him is a powerful witch. In gratitude, Jason takes Medea home and marries her but then, tiring of this part of his adventure, seeks a new one in marrying a different princess. In a fit of anger and revenge, Medea turns against him and for all involved, things go terribly wrong.

There are many ways to look at this story and what it might mean for us today. Just for fun, I’ve chosen to take a feminist approach – let’s see how that might go, shall we?

One of the primary concerns of feminist literary critique is how socially constructed gender roles contribute to ‘self-making (i.e., what makes someone who he or she is). In this respect, it is important to remember every text brings to itself some form of sexual politics – i.e., an assumed relationship between male and female because however portrayed, ‘otherness’ is always implicit. 

The goal of feminist literary critique is not to destroy thousands of years of western literary tradition but instead, to reinterpret and rethink it especially in regarding stereotyping and the collusion between audiences in maintaining covert stereo-typed assumptions about gender roles. 

As Natalie Haynes points out in her recent book, Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, if Clytemnestra is the worst wife in Greek myth, Medea lays claim to being the worst mother. From the start, Haynes reminds us, Medea, who is a barbarian, is dangerous; she’s clever, foreign, female, and magical. Haynes also reminds us that there were few things that alarmed Greek men more than a clever woman and arguably, Medea is cleverest of all. 

This lays the groundwork for Medea to be portrayed as a scheming menace to society. Arguably, she is more much more dangerous than the warrior race of women, the Amazons. At least put all their cards on the table along with their (male-inspired) weapons. As the result, doubtless hundreds of generations of readers have taken on board that women are dangerous – especially witches. For confirmation of this, you don’t need to look much further than the witch trials (and laws against witchcraft) both in Britain and New England to understand exactly how that has played out.

Imagine the negative self-image foisted upon women as the result – especially when, as did Medea, she might be considering using her ‘special gifts’ to help herself out. Talk about stereotyping; Jason says it all when he proclaims  that ‘women are so unreasonable: they cannot tell what is good for them’. The ‘otherness’ implied here is that, as a man, Jason is reasonable and knows what’s good for him but, as it turns out, he doesn’t. Nonetheless, in most versions of the story, Medea absorbs a larger share of the blame than Jason, right?

But today, we are able to ‘rethink’ the message inherent in Medea’s story. For example, as self-proclaimed witch, Laurie Cabot, made clear in her bestseller – The Witch in Every Woman – all women possess the primal courage and strength of the Witch and so can use these special talents (she provides pages of spells and recipes and rituals) not only to improve their own self-image but also get what they want – the  name of the game as Cabot puts it is the Reawakening the Magical Nature of the Feminine to Heal, Protect, Create, and Empower. But did Haynes mention that? No, she didn’t, and I challenge you to name more than a handful of authors who choose to put (Medea’s) witchcraft in equally as positive a framework as has Ms Cabot. 

Yet the reality of that story is that in the end, Jason lost, and Medea won. In all the gender politics in play, we tend to lose sight of that. One way or another, he ended up dead or clinically depressed or on skid-row as she rode off in her grandfather’s solar chariot toward a new future. Was this because she was of divine birth, and he was not? It is my view that is not made entirely clear. Most portrayals of her are as a barbarian princess, not a goddess. Let us not forget the damage that language like that does without us even realising it. Although the word ‘barbarian’ today is defined as a ‘rude’ and ‘uncivilised’ person, to the Greeks it meant only that she was not Greek.

The covert message here is clearly that whilst men can use everything in their power to get what they want, women cannot. If you think that has changed much over the centuries, consider the antics of former American president Donald Trump regarding his treatment of ‘threatening’ women. Like Jason, in Trump’s eyes Trump should be revered as a hero and Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi dismissed as ‘nasty’ (rude and uncivilised) women. He even goes so far as to suggest the American legal system is engaged in a ‘witch hunt’ when they make rulings intended to shed light on some otherwise very potentially dark shadows regarding him. If we think that people are not colluding in stereo-typed gender messages centre stage in that ancient story of Jason and Medea, consider how close Trump came to being re-elected as president.

A Simpler Life – ancient Greek style

As an inhabitant in the world of Homeric mythology, unless I were a slave, my moral goal would have been to be αγαθός, which although oft translated as ‘good’, meant something very different than we might think of as good today. In that world, there was no overriding concept of good or evil (Morales, 39), terms that are much bandied about today yet virtually impossible to define (MacIntyre, 257). Might αγαθός offer a refreshingly simpler life than we enjoy today? I argue that it could.

I would be αγαθός by behaving in the way that successfully discharged my allotted social function (MacIntyre, 6). If, for example, I were a married woman, then I would be αγαθός if I were faithful to my husband (MacIntyre, 6). It matters not if the requisite αρετή (virtues) to be αγαθός are otherwise unjustified, dangerous, or even antisocial (MacIntyre, 11). Likewise, I might engage in similarly unpleasant behaviour and still be αγαθός. For example, when dissuading Agamemnon from stealing Briseis from Achilles, Nester tells Agamemnon ‘do not, αγαθός though you be, take the girl from him.’ (MacIntyre (8).

It is irrelevant whether αγαθός is impossible to achieve. In Homer’s mythical world, we encounter an idealised form of life (MacIntyre, 8) in which successful performance – a factual statement – of the requisite αρετή is all that matters. Helen is not faithful to her husband. It matters not why; therefore she is not αγαθός.

In such a world, it would be in my best interest to be αγαθός. If I failed then at best, I would be made to feel αίσχος, or ‘shame’, as was Paris when Hector found him in bed with Helen instead of fighting with the troops– ‘at the sight of him to shame him’, Hector gives him a lecture (Hom. Id. VI:88-91). As MacIntyre (8) reminds us, αγαθός for a warrior requires public display of courage and by being ‘aggrieved in private’, Paris fails the required display. It is through shaming, that Hector forces Paris to acknowledge his failure. At worst, I could end up dead as were Penelope’s hapless suitors upon the homecoming of Odysseus. MacIntyre (7) suggests that however horrible, their slaughter was morally justifiable because they had failed to display xenia, the αρετή (virtue) required of guests. As Odysseus points out, they ‘fleeced my house’, ‘raped my slave girls’, and ‘flirted with my wife’… ‘while I am still alive! (Hom. Od. 22.36-38 – emphasis added). Definitely not xenia.

Offering little personal freedom and allowing for no defense (MacIntyre, 7), being αγαθός may not appear desirable to modern westerners. We are used to something quite different. Nonetheless, aspiring to αγαθός, I would never be in doubt as to what I should do. Likewise, I would take no personal responsibility for the unforeseen consequences of my actions. Helen’s lack of fidelity was a significant cause of the Trojan war. Yet she is responsible for that infidelity and not for causing a war. As Priam tells her ‘you are not to blame, I hold the gods to blame for bringing on this war’ (Hom. Id. III:63-65).  

I suggest that by the ‘sloppy shoulders’ standards of a 21st century western citizenry burdened by exponentially expanding complexity and the existential angst of too much freedom and responsibility, αγαθός could offer a desirably simple alternative.

 

_____________________

Bibliography

Blundell, Sue. (1995). Women in Ancient Greece. London: British Museum Press.

Homer., Fitzgerald, & Homer. (2008). The Iliad. Oxford. Oxford World Classics. 

Homer., Wilson, E.R. & Homer. (2020). The Odyssey. New York; London: WW Norton & Company.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. (2002). A Short History of Ethics. London; New York: Routledge Classics. 

Morales, Helen (2013, online). Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford; Oxford University Press. 

The Hermeneutics of Allegory – Homer’s Odyssey in Context

I’ve long been fascinated by the idea that texts like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey carry hidden meaning beyond that which is simply symbolic. Naturally, it’s important to understand what a piece of literature or poetry or art might mean (symbolically) – but then comes the next question – what am I meant to do with that? 

Over the centuries, there have been many approaches to answer this question but one that I really like is a four level of hermeneutic approach (traced back to the 3rd century as a method for Christian thinkers like Origen and Thomas Aquinas to grasp spiritual meaning from the scriptures).

Let’s assume that the Odyssey is an allegory (extended metaphor) about ‘finding one’s way back home’ – not unlike the theme of many popular stories/ films like The Wizard of Oz which, themselves may be underpinned with Biblical messages about returning ‘home’ to the utopian Garden of Eden. 

Application of the four levels of hermeneutical interpretation to the allegory this allegory might go along something like this:

  1. Literal – the letter teaches you the facts – this level presents that which is an objective truth to be observed and verified. On the way home from ‘work’ (the Trojan war), Odysseus got lost and although he really wanted to get home (and ‘see the smoke that rises from his homeland’) this didn’t prove to be easy because the gods blocked him at every turn.
  2. Allegory – what you should believe – this level expands the literal sense by pairing observed objective truths (see above) to subjective life events. ‘Home’ is a factor in all our lives although not all cultures think of ‘home’ in the same way. But usually we consider ‘home’ as a safe place where we ‘feel’ that we are ‘wanted’ and where we ‘belong’. In this sense, the concept of ‘home’ usually carries lots of emotional baggage and so with that comes the concept of nostalgia – bittersweet memories and longing for that safe space. The word nostalgia comes from the Greek words (1) nostos or ‘return journey’ and (2) algos or ‘pain’. Lots of people get lost – it happens every day – and although more often than not they aren’t too happy about it, they do tend to remember the experience for the rest of their lives So what might we gather from that? A quote by Henry David Thoreau might shed light – “Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” Put Thoreau together with notions of ‘home’ as a place where we feel we belong and the idea arises that being homeless carries painful (nostalgic) feelings of being ‘left behind’ and ‘left out’ and that we might not have appreciated what ‘belonging’ really meant to us (‘the infinite extent of our relations’) until we experience this.
  3. Trope –  how you should act – this level reveals the context of the interpretation and allows you to interact with it. The term ‘trope’ comes from the Greek tropos, to turn, as in the tropic of the Sun’s turning at the Solstices.  Moved by the literal and allegorical ‘truths’ you’ve observed and interpreted, you now turn toward that ‘truth’ and take the necessary actions to implement it. Odysseus was in a difficult situation – ‘a fish out of water’ – he wanted to return to feelings of ‘belonging’ – but some force more powerful than him (i.e. the gods) denied this to him. What actions did he need to take to overcome the gods? I suggest that he had to become ever more cunning and crafty than ever before – and in this regard, the cunning and crafty goddess Athene helped him. In other words, he needed to learn new skills and develop certain aspects of himself that he might have otherwise ignored and/or disregarded. The idea might be that when we feel lost and alone – presented with obstacles we could never have expected – we need to turn within and with divine help take stock of our personal strengths and weaknesses, polishing up the former and shoring up the latter. 
  4. Anagoge – what to hope for – this level, signifying the symbol as something through which the turn of the trope turns, is reflected in our desire to predict.  Here we enter the world of the daemon which manifests as a power from outside rather like providence or fate. Because the Greek word anagoge suggests a “climb” or “ascent” upwards, there’s a higher spiritual meaning in play here relating directly to mankind’s destiny in the greater scheme of thing. What then, might we expect (or predict) for ourselves from the homecoming that Odysseus? Most certainly it did not manifest as he’d planned. Although he was finally ‘home’ in the sense that he could now ‘see the smoke that rises from his homeland’, he is still a fish out of water. At least he’d been warned by the ghost of Agamemnon (murdered by his wife and her lover when he returned home from ‘work’ – the Trojan war). But still it isn’t easy. As one commentator notes, the homecoming half of The Odyssey is the least read because it is so gruellingly painful. Whilst people love reading a tale of adventure (the first half of the The Odyssey), they don’t like reading about about mass murder and civil unrest. Yet this is exactly what happened. We might be tempted to say that Odysseus brought this on himself and, at some level, that may well be true. But remember that here we’re looking for some spiritual meaning in regards to what mankind might expect as the result of undertaking an odyssey such as did Odysseus. Returning to parallels of this story to that of returning ‘home’ to the utopian Garden of Eden, we must remember that in Greek, the world ‘utopia’ means ‘nowhere’. Escapist illusions leading to embracing utopian ideals – i.e. there is a place called ‘home’ to which if only we might return, our lives will be shiny and bright again – usually lead to serious disillusionment. Whilst it is true that ‘there’s no place like home’, the Moody Blues made an important point in their hit song from the 1970’s – ‘You Can Never go Home’. Check out the lyrics and let me know what you think what this might mean.

Man’s Relationship with his Gods

Reading Homer’s Iliad, it is clear that not only did the gods – or immortals – meddle in every aspect of the lives of important men and women – but that those men and women were quick to blame their misfortunes on the gods, often failing to take any personal responsibility for their lives, as we might be expected today.

So what might have might have been going on?

I suggest it’s all to do with man’s perceived relationship with his gods. Further, I suggest that this is nicely explained in Julian Jaynes’s book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. In that work, Jayne’s proposed that until about 3000 years ago, human consciousness consisted only of voices that, because the two hemispheres of the brain didn’t communicate, were perceived as coming from the gods.

In essence, these ancient men lacked self-consciousness as we know it today. They could not perceive themselves as separate from – and thus ‘in relationship with’ – the gods. Instead, they had a type of cosmic consciousness which gave them imaginal – almost telepathic – access to the greater cosmos. Everything they saw and heard was to them, objectively real.

Jaynes suggests that in effect these ancients were what we might call ‘signal-bound’, responding constantly in a stimulus -response manner, completely controlled by cues. To get a sense of what this means, we need only to look at artwork from this period. I am most struck by the early Cycladic art, which I suggests demonstrates these people had a symbiotic relationship with their divinity, the Great Goddess and Earth Mother. This was the Age of Taurus, one in which men and women moved with and through the flow of nature, at one with the natural world.

Jaynes suggests this bicameralism began to break down during 2nd millennium BCE  – about the time of that the Trojan War is thought to have occurred. This was the Age of Aries and so during this time, the focus shifts to individualised achievement and conquest. The world was no longer slow moving and rural, but hierarchically organised and maintained by brute force. This required a cold, hard, calculated response. The gods no longer spoke to every individual, so the truths of cosmic consciousness were expressed in the form of the great narrative epics and divine commandments, of which the Old Testament of the Bible and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are excellent examples.

After mankind’s ‘fall’ from the garden of Eden, which you might view as a loss of cosmic consciousness, men had to become increasingly devious in order to survive. Again, when we look at the early artwork of the ancient Middle East at the beginning of the period, we see kings standing side by side with their councillor gods effortlessly gaining divine wisdom. But by the end of that age – ‘after the fall’ – the kings were on their knees begging for guidance.

Thus consciousness of ‘I’ – as separate and ‘in relation with’ the gods developed and the rational problem-solving man, with which we are familiar, is born. It’s interesting that our familiarity with our humanity increased as our familiarity with the gods decreased.

Next, the distant imperial divinities were replaced the local gods and great mythic narratives. The old cosmic consciousness had nearly faded from memory, although it was revived from time to time by mystery religions.

Here we find the right brain intuition just starting to interact with the left brain thinking, although even today we can’t be sure of the degree of the quality of such interaction. It’s not surprising that this period produced such a diametrical divinity like Jesus Christ – a mortal man who died – but didn’t really die- and because of that, was worshipped like an immortal God. This was the Age of Pisces.

What might we expect next, in the coming Age of Aquarius? I suggest that man will reposition himself vis a vis God through scientific endeavours.  In essence, man reaches for the stars –  not so much by playing God – but through creating reality. It’s ideas that drive us. We’ve always known this. But until now, we’ve been held back by our mortality.

In the post-human era, characterised by artificial intelligence and uploaded consciousness (or the transfer of the human mind to an artificial substrate), we will eliminate these distinctions, which interestingly were all man made in the first place.[1] .

Hence in the post-human era, we will transcend our bodies and become immortal like the gods. Aquarius is all about communication and through it the three aspects of the mind, cautiousness, unconsciousness, and super-consciousness will seek simultaneous expression. If we look carefully at the glyph for Aquarius – two parallel WAVY lines – I suggest that represents our new status with God.[2]

Nor surprisingly, this idea has already been presented by Nietzsche in writings about the Ubermensch or overman, in which he suggested that ‘man is something that must be overcome’ and that the highest truth is being born within man through the self-creating power of the will. To accomplish this, man’s present limited ‘self’ must be destroyed. The truth isn’t to be proved or disproved but instead, to be created. Nietzsche believed that man’s striving toward the future will result in the birth of a new being who would incarnate the meaning of the universe and thus impose redemptive order on the chaos of a meaningless universe without the gods.


[1] At the beginning of the Piscean age, Plato first formatted the distinction between the sensory (the earth plane) and the eternal world (of ideas).

Early Christian theologians renamed this external world Heaven with its guiding principle as God. The Christians further borrowed from Aristotle the notion of God as the Prime Mover of the cosmos and the First Cause of everything that exists. Amazingly, those notions had never been seriously challenged until relatively recent by the modern philosophers. 

Take Descartes. When new scientific discoveries made him wonder ‘what can I know for certain’, he came to the famous conclusion ‘I think, therefore I am’. But his matrix still kept God as the first cause of – and the only link between – a bicameral universe where subjectivity – ‘I think’ –  was isolated from objectivity – ‘the world which I perceive’.

Next comes Hume who claims that the only thing that we can be certain of is the fact that there is an unbroken stream a subjective images and ideas. Under his ‘radical scepticism’, we can’t even be certain that there is something called the mind to contain these ideas because the mind is itself just another idea.

For Kant, one could only know the sensory world and only believe in any realm beyond that. Finally, Nietzsche came along and pronounced the ‘death of God’. This was a turning point where we could no longer legitimately argue that anything lies beyond the earth plane in which we live. This was the ‘dawning of the Age of Aquarius’.

[2] In Descartes’s matrix, which still underlies most modern thinking, the problem is due to the difference in kind between the mind and the body. While the non-spatial mind and the mechanistic body shouldn’t interact, they do so in the human body. In post-humanism, this problem is reworked and the distinction between subject and object is collapsed, with the mind considered to be no more than a material function of the body. Thus we will become both creator and the created.

Gateway to the Stars & the Winter Solstice

After dark this Winter Solstice (21 December 2020 at 10:03 GMT) take a walk outside and look up at the stars and think about how our whole solar system is on the move. In the time it takes you to read this post, the Sun, Earth, and all the other planets with which you are familiar (plus their moons) will have travelled 3600 km, or 2200 miles, through the Milky Way ever closer toward the Solar Apex.

The Solar Apex is a position sightly southwest of the bright, beautiful bright star, Vega, which once upon a time, around 12,000-10,000 BCE, was the pole star. Because Vega is found in the constellation of Lyra, the Harp of Orpheus, it cloaks everything associated with enchanting, other-worldly, charisma. Vega is linked with magic and divine spells and that Mozart, considered by many to be the greatest composer in history, was born with Vega rising is a fascinating testament to the spellbinding power of his beautiful music.

But perhaps the most fascinating of all is that like geographers use latitude and longitude to map out locations on earth, astronomers use similar measurements called Right Ascension and Declination to map locations in the skies. Although longitudes and latitudes are determined from the Earth’s equator and the 0 meridian at Greenwich, Right Ascension ‘begins’ at the crossing point of the Sun’s apparent path through the sky (the ecliptic) with the celestial equator, the point otherwise known as the Vernal Equinox (the first day of spring). 

It is beginning with this point that the 360 degrees of the Sun’s annual path are measured in terms of hours and minutes. The Solar Apex holds the position of about 18 hours of Right Ascension, which is the moment of the Winter Solstice, when the Sun enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. 

This is this an important moment each and every year. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the time when the sun turns back toward us becoming increasingly stronger as the days grow increasingly longer. This year, this moment is even more monumental because Jupiter and Saturn come together by conjunction to start their historical shift into Aquarius. 

Least you think that this does not affect our everyday lives on earth, think again. When one of the slower moving planets such as Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto crosses this point, even the stock or share markets react as Christeen Skinner reminds us in her excellent book, The Beginners Guide to the Financial Universe: An Introduction to the Role of the Sun, Moon, and Planets in Financial Markets. Both Saturn and Neptune crossed this point in 1987 and 1988 respectively, with Uranus following in 1989. As Skinner notes, you may wish to refresh yourself on the volatility demonstrated by the Dow Jones Index during those last years of the 1980’s. Least you are not yet convinced, when Pluto (slowest moving of all) crossed this point in 2008, we suffered a global financial crash. Skinner also predicts that when both Saturn and Neptune will be at the apparent right angle to the Solar Apex in 2026 (a highly unusual moment) , we might well expect a sharp decline in index values again over a period of a few months.

What might this all mean for our solar system to be sucked, as if by an enormous magnet, toward Vega, the former pole star, located in the constellation of Lyra the Harp of Orpheus? I don’t know about you, but I’m tempted to guess it might have something to do with ‘Judgement Day’ or a massive reevaluation and realignment. Certainly this is what happened with the financial markets. This is also because in 12,000-10,000 BCE, Vega was also known as Maat, the great Egyptian goddess who, after weighing souls on her scales of justice, moved them from one life to another and by the way, Vega will also be the pole star again in about 11,500 CE. Other-worldly charisma and engagement indeed. 

Happy Solstice!

The Daemon of Carl Jung

In Plato’s Republic(The Myth of Ur), souls cue up to choose their next life and are assigned a daemon – an overseer for that life. In classic astrology, daemon could be determined using one’s natal chart and as the result, it was incumbent upon the individual to establish contact with (or invoke) his or her daemon. In many respects, this was exactly what Jung was doing whilst writing and illustrating the Red Book, which he considered to the ‘prima materia’ for his life’s work.

Daemon can be understood as fate – but not fate in the sense that it comes from outside us. Instead, daemon is our personal unconscious pushing through the creative impulse to encourage us to accomplish that which we are meant to do. Naturally, you may choose to reject or ignore Daemon (or your fate) but there is a price to be paid. Equally, following Daemon (either eagerly or begrudgingly) does not guarantee you an easy ride.

Carl Jung had Aquarius rising. This means that Saturn, the ruler of Aquarius was his daemon, or at least it was in his eyes although not all astrologers (classical or modern) might agree.

When it comes to daemon, it isn’t so much that Saturn the planet was running the show but instead the symbolism surrounding Saturn. According to the 3rd century Neo-Platonist, Iamblichus, symbols are the footprints of the gods, wondrous tokens sent down from above. In this sense, a symbol can never be a man-made design. Symbols pre-exist and hence carry energy that exerts power over us not unlike Jung’s archetypes.

Jung

Jung believed it was vital that he understand his daemon – no, more than that – he was determined to establish a personal relationship with his daemon and it is highly likely this was accomplished through magical ritual.

To that end, the Red Book, Jung communicates with several different Saturnian figures (Elijah, The Old Scholar, The Anchorite, The Librarian, and the Professor) that culminate with Philemon (whose name, Jung always wrote in Greek, most probably for magical reasons).

Several key points are of significant interest regarding these Saturnian figures and as ought to be expected in many respects they are all deeply paradoxical.

  • The Saturnian figures in Red Book are all associated with rocks and stones – imperishable – belonging to and of the earth – present in the beginning of time on earth and presumably present at the end. It is not surprising that this stone/rock motif comes up often in Jung’s writings. He had been fascinated with them since youth.
  • Jung’s Saturnian images are all old men – SENEX – they are also thinkers –seekers of wisdom (as opposed to knowledge). Philosophers. They are magicians, too. This is in keeping with the writings of Marsilio Ficino, a 15thcentury Italian scholar who appears to have heavily influenced Jung’s work.
  • All Jung’s Saturnian images are recluses and sad. These are in keeping with traditional associations with Saturn.
  • Several of Jung’s Saturnian images are associated with religion and more specifically, religious experience. Not all of them are complimentary or supportive of religion. Indeed, Philemon is always shown as lame and this might well be suggesting a connection with the devil. Philemon, after all, did always have a serpent hanging around.
  • Philemon was also connected with Mercury, the hermetic figure and the philosopher stone. Hermes Trismegistus, who controlled both the sun and the moon was semi-divine and he is, in essential ways, very much like Philemon (who was also a magician – possessing his own grimoire). This highlights the importance of the ancient art of alchemy. Saturn is lead, the metal of transformation and redemption.

In The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus, Dr Liz Greene suggests that because Philemon drew together Saturnian ideas and images from a number of ancient disciplines and cosmologies, he allowed Jung to build a workable bridge between the pagan and Christian aspects of his own world view.

Those  of us who are interested in similarly understanding the complexity of our own daemon, or chosen ‘fate’, might be well-advised to perform similar invocations and explorations. Dr Greene reminds us that during that difficult period in Jung’s life, his work with Philemon and predecessors gave Jung a connecting thread of meaning that helped him to understand his situation. Likewise, we may also turn to our daemons for help when things get tough.

Never forget, however, that working with daemons is not for the faint of heart. Jung’s daughter reported that things ‘went bump in the dark’ in the house when Jung was working with Philemon – things that we might well call supernatural.

Jung’s Astrological Moon

Whilst discussing Jung’s Red Book (Liber Novus), Liz Greene reminds us that when interpreting the Moon in an astrological chart, we should keep in mind Jung’s vision of the Moon as a fluid, living principle, always in flux.

HecateTo assume the astrological Moon corresponds solely to Jung’s Anima is a mistake. Equally, it is a mistake to assume that she is solely the nurturing mother. Indeed, Jung saw the astrological Moon as both deeply complex and ambivalent – the archetypal core of which equates to the triple-bodied lunar goddess of antiquity, Hecate.

Consider four of the Red Book’s female personages:

  1. UnknownSalome – the daughter of Elijah, the wise old prophet who presides of the ‘temple of the sun’. Salome, with long black hair and dressed in red, is never pictured without her father. She is associated both with (1) the darkened skies of the ‘blood Moon’ (reportedly visible at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion) and (2) the blood-thirsty seductive temptress, the daughter of Herodias, who demanded the severed head of John the Baptist from her besotted lover. In this regard, Salome is associated with the tarot card, The Hanged Man, who although still possesses his head, is unable to use it (i.e. it is no longer above, but below) symbolising loss of the rational intellect when confronted with realm of the unconscious. Salome is associated with the dark moon. She is bloodthirsty and dangerous.
  2. Unknown-1Old Scholar’s Daughter – imprisoned by her father in an old stone castle in midst of a forest, this pale and ghostly girl is shown with the crescent moon. Like the Greek goddess, Persephone, she is prevented by her parent from developing into a fully-grown woman. Although Jung considers her to thus be unworldly, she informs him that she knows more about ‘real life’ than does he. At the end of their brief chat, Jung has fallen in love with her and she disappears into a shaft of moon light, leaving behind a bunch of red roses. The roses, Liz suggests, links her to Venus, the erotic goddess of the ancient Greeks, who interestingly does not otherwise figure in the Red Book. But unlike with the dangerous eroticism of Salome, Jung had little to fear from this pretty young girl; indeed, she offered him much to learn. Associated with the tarot card, The Moon, the Old Scholar’s Daughter offers a doorway to the unconscious, a scary place in which wisdom resides. It is tempting to equate her solely with the crescent moon, but she shares this ‘honour’ with the Anima.
  3. The Cook – along with the Old Scholar’s Daughter, the Cook is associated with the tarot card, The Moon, but the Cook takes this proverbial walk on the dark side to a completely new and different level. Large and fat and always pushing food, The Cook seems simple enough, the traditional house-frau. But in reality, she is unashamedly two-faced. After eating the food (nourishment) she provides, Jung falls asleep and wakes up in the underworld (‘the realm of mothers’). In this regard, The Cook is more dangerous than even Salome because what you see with her is never what you get. The Cook is associated with the full moon, also a gateway to the unconscious, but under no circumstances is she to be trusted.
  4. The Anima – although Jung never meets with the Anima, he does depict her dressed in blue and kneeling in prayer. She is at once the celestial mother, the chalice or Holy Grail (drink of her and attain immortality), the spiritual bride and mother, as well as the daughter of the stars. In his tarot deck, Waite shows her as The High Priestess, the guardian of hidden wisdom and spiritual mediator between the worlds, above and below. Notice that the High Priestess sits with the crescent moon at her feet.Unknown-2

In summary, astrologers ought not to consider the astrological Moon as either this or that, but instead as a fluidity that morphs over time. The imagery of the classical triple-bodied lunar goddess, Hecate, is in keeping  with Jung’s complicated (and often contradictory) lunar journeys. In the Red Book, the astrological Moon represents the entire spectrum of the lunar myth and cycle, from the dark of the new moon and back again. Unlike classical astrology that divides the planets into either malefic or benefic, Jung’s astrological Moon at once both and neither. She can be dangerous – even treacherous. Equally, however, she offers the opportunity to plumb the depths for the wisdom that resides in the unconscious- the wisdom each of us must someday tap if we are to further ourselves on that all important path to individuation.

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Greene, L. (2018). The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus; Daimons, Gods, and the Planetary Journey. Abingdon: Routledge.

Greene, L. (2018). Jung’s Studies in Astrology: Prophecy, Magic and the Qualities of Time. Abingdon: Routledge.

As I prepare…

In just a few days, I’ll commence my program in narrative coaching. Exciting times. To kick things off, I’ve been asked why I want to be a coach and why I’m chosing narrative coaching.

I’ve studied psychological astrology for many years and have come to appreciate how much it can help us navigate our lives. The problem was that if I were going to share my insights on a wider scale, I would need a platform through which to deliver them. I’d toyed with becoming a therapist or counsellor but unfortunately, because I was working full-time as a lawyer, I didn’t have the time.

Finally, I’ve retired from the practice of law and free to pursue other goals. In addition to writing novels I am reconnecting with those ideas of taking astrology to a larger audience and after much research, I have decided that narrative coaching is the best medium for accomplishing just that.

I’ve long been convinced that we are driven more by our perceptions (i.e. the stories we tell ourselves) of reality rather than kind of objective reality. Astrologically, this is because our view of the world is filtered through our rising sign (the zodiac sign on the leading cusp of the 1st astrological house in our charts).

Ariel_disneyFor example, I have Cancer rising and so I view my world through a Cancerian lens. Hence the myths and deities associated with zodiacal Cancer (mermaids and sea-based shape shifters) map my life and define the types of experiences I will encounter along the way.

The more I understand how I see the world differently than do others, the better placed I am to develop this to my advantage. Although I will never be able to change the types of stories defining my life, I can provide them with new and happier endings.