You’ll Know Them By Their Signs

At the first PHASE conclave held by Project Hindsight in Berkeley Springs in the early 1990s, I had the rare opportunity to be sitting around in my favorite cafe — Tari’s — with a group of other astrologers. I decided to take a poll and asked each one to describe in a singular way how they thought of themselves astrologically. I was surprised by the answers. Nearly every person defined themselves in planetary terms — either as a dominant planet (“I’m a Mars person”) or a planetary aspect (“it’s all about my Neptune/Sun conjunction.”) I was virtually the only one who thought of myself in terms of my sign. “I’m an Aries.” And I’m such an Aries it’s hard to imagine myself in any other way.

For nearly 30 years of astrological study, the signs of the zodiac have always seemed to me to be the most revelatory part of personal astrology. In his most recent brilliant exposition of the emerging secrets of Hellenistic Greek astrology, Robert Schmidt explained how the Greeks did not delineate the planets in each sign the way modern astrology does. However, they did understand that sign placement modified the expression of the planet in that sign. That means that the type of “Mars person” you are depends on the sign in which Mars finds itself.

The Greeks appear to have understood the signs as literal divisions of the cosmic map, postulating that a planetary being would behave differently depending on whether it was in a familiar domicile (ie. Mars in Aries) or an unfamiliar one where the planet was uncomfortable or disfunctional (ie. Mars in Pisces.)

There is lots more in Schmidt’s explanation of the Hellenistic approach to the signs but this was enough to reassure me that exploring personal astrology through the signs of the zodiac was a beneficial path.

A full exploration of the domicile furnishings of each of the twelve signs fills countless pages of hundreds of books. What I offer here is a single tidbit or insight for each that I’ve stumbled on over the decades. For further study, I always recommend two books to my students: Dane Rudhyar’s “Pulse of Life” with its helpful examination of the seasonal amounts of light and dark in each sign; and Alice Bailey’s “Labours of Hercules” which offers marvelous examples of the esoteric task for each sign. Both of these books, as well as doing Full Moon meditation work, provide what I consider the single most important reality for comprehending the zodiac: the fact that the twelve are developmental, each deriving meaning from its unique place in the inalterable order of the signs. They mark the cycle of the soul.

For Aries, the critical point of understanding is its compulsion to keep from being sucked back into the cosmic unity of Pisces. It’s the job of the soul in Aries to define itself as an individual. Hercules behaves in typical Arien fashion in his first labor — he starts the job, leaves it for someone else to finish and his friend ends up dead.

Taurus lives for me in the fact that within its literal star pattern lies the hidden Pleides and the secret of Divine purpose — to infuse matter with spirit. Taurus explains desire and its prime role in attracting spirit to matter. It’s not love that makes the world go Oround, it’s the glue of desire. Taurean materialism is a spiritual quest — how to find the Divine in cash and real estate.

Geminis are interested in everything but have the attention span of a fruit fly. They are devoted to keeping the energy moving so they never stop talking. Content is far less important than the very act of saying it. To some, that quality seems like lying when in fact, it’s just the Gemini way of hearing how something sounds, trying it out.

The task I assign all Cancers is to enlarge their circle, their tribal boundary. I tell them that for a Cancer, everyone inside their circle is family and owed the ultimate loyalty. Everyone outside may as well live on another planet. The growth step is to make their circle the circumference of the globe. Since Cancers will never be among the first intergalactic travelers, I can wait a few lifetimes before having to expand my image.

When I understood the connection between Leos and drama, it was very helpful in advising interpersonal disputes. For a Leo, life needs drama and if it doesn1t come naturally, they’ll create it. The other Leo insight is that respect fuels their world. Treat them with disrespect and you are banished from the kingdom forever.

The Virgo insight I like best is that they truly grasp how to move matter through time. They understand bits of time and know what a second means. Virgo as the priestess in charge of the detailed rituals of life — the ones that must be done exactly correct, in exactly the right order and at exactly the right time — pinpoints the inner truth of the sign.

The fleshing out of Libra’s relationship to the issue of balance brought some insights that proved very valuable to those “living” in the domicile of Libra. Balance is not about being in the middle but about finding the midpoint between two extremes. It is a dynamic spot. Libras often find themselves positioned in a relationship at the opposite point so as to induce a place of balance in the middle. The result, however, is that they are out on a limb.

Scorpio is a treasure chest of meaning and the esoteric material provides the best insights. Alice Bailey’s “Esoteric Astrology” brands Scorpio as the battlefield between good and evil. Hercules’ Scorpio labor outlines the battle plan: don1t cut off the monster’s head because two more pop up. Instead, find the strength, sink into the muck and lift the monster into the light where it shrivels and dies.

For Sagittarius, I like to meditate on the glyph of the arrow and the notions of direction, purpose and distant connections. I particularly encourage using Sagittarian times as ones made for quests. The other guarantee for Sagittarius energy is the element of luck. Depend on it.

The esoteric threads are critical in a deeper understanding of Capricorn and can be seen in the visualization and seed thought of the Full Moon material for this sign. The soul struggles to climb the mountain of evolution and life, and when it reaches the top and gazes upon the Light, it realizes that to serve truly, it must turn its back and return to the fray below. Sun gods through history have been born in Capricorn.

Aquarius brings us back to Hercules again. In the Aquarian labor, Hercules solves an intractable problem with a flash of clever intution and then doesn’t get his promised reward; in fact, he doesn1t even get thanked. Best of all, the labor is clearing away the accumulated filth of centuries — every Aquarian’s fantasy.

Like Aries at the beginning, Pisces is best understood by its position as the end. Yet, what most Pisceans need to know to survive this harsh and cruel world, is that they wear their nerve endings on the outside of their skin. Escape is an almost essential pattern for survival.

The expression of astrology’s power comes as much in the fortune cookie approach of a single gem of wisdom as in the detailed studying of its endless depth.