This blog continues my examination of archetypes, so make sure you read Part One first if you haven’t already – and catch up with the video that goes with it. Now I’m moving on to discuss how archetypes connect with the astrological traditions.
Watch the video as well!
Gods in the heavens
The earliest astrological records go back to Ancient Babylon, when the stargazers recorded, very precisely, the movement of the planets. They experience the gods and the stars as divinities – as having energetic qualities that could affect worldly events. They named the planets as gods – and, rarely, as goddesses. I’ll go into Babylonian astrology a bit more in next week’s blog. For this week I want to focus on the Greek gods, because they were also associated with the planets and we find them as key players in astrological lore.
The planetary gods
There were many, many gods and goddesses in the Greek pantheon, and they overlap with Roman mythology. The Sun and the Moon – the two chief ‘luminaries’ – are included ,but technically they are not planets. The Greek word from which our English word ‘planet’ derives means ‘wanderer’. This is because the planets, unlike the ‘fixed’ stars in the constellations, wander around the sky when viewed from Earth. They move through the heavens according to certain cycles, some of short duration lasting a few months, others lasting a few years or decades. The most significant for our present investigation are:
As you can see, for the most part our modern planetary names are derived from the Roman, Latinised versions, not from the Greek.
So here we have seven deities – they are the heavenly bodies visible to naked human eyesight. When we invented telescopes we discovered more, but that’s for a later blog! We have seven archetypes here, and they represent very significant qualities we should recognise as our own potentials. What is very obvious is that only two are feminine, although Mercury/Hermes is considered to be a ‘cross-dresser’ (we get the word ‘hermaphrodite’ from a combination of the names Hermes and Aphrodite) . In modern times, astronomical researchers identified and named several large asteroids, many of which are named after Greek goddesses. But right now I want to focus on these seven, fundamental archetypes.
Please note – in the image shown above we can see seven planets, including the Earth and the Moon. (In astrology, the Sun and the Moon are counted as planets). We can’t see the Sun. The eighth ‘deity’ here is Earth, often called Gaia, another Greek name. We will come back to Earth later. In the meantime, we are viewing the ‘heavens’ from where we find ourselves, feet firmly on the ground.
The twelve signs of the Zodiac
The wandering deities move around an area of the sky called the ecliptic, and astrologers record these movements as if our Earth, where we stand, is the central point from which we take our line of sight. It has to be the centre – even though we discovered, eventually, that the Sun is the centre of the solar system – because we have to view the heavens from our own perspective. (Although the 16th-century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus is usually credited with showing the Earth rotates around the Sun, this idea was actually proposed by the ancient Greek mathematician Aristarchus of Samos in the third century BCE, although nobody believed him at the time).
In the astrological system, the 360 degrees of the ecliptic are divided into twelve equal sections, the zodiac ‘signs’ – each of which is named after a constellation. Many of the constellations are named after members of the animal kingdom, which is why the word ‘zodiac’ is used, which comes from the Greek zōidiakòs kýklos, meaning ‘cycle (or circle) of little animals’. As the deities move around, they enter these signs and, according to astrological lore, each sign allows the deity to perform its spiritual duties in a certain manner. In traditional astrology there are very specific rules about which signs of the zodiac give a certain deity the potential to be happy and effective, and which signs inhibit them. For instance, the magnificence of the Sun god will be diminished when he passes through a wintery sign like Capricorn or Aquarius, while but Saturnus truly enjoys these opportunities. It’s helpful to think of the deities/planets as actors, and each sign as a costume.
Archetypes in your birth chart
You can easily have a simple birth chart created using one of many free websites. If you use horoscopes.astro-seek.com/traditional-astrology you can get a free horoscope using only the traditional planets. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a birth time. Your birth time gives you the ascendant (rising sign) and you don’t need that for this exercise, although the Moon can change signs during the day, so a rough idea of the time can be helpful. However, when you follow this exercise you may come to some conclusions about what ‘costume’ the Moon was wearing when you were born, and in that way you may discover roughly what time it was.
With this birth chart, check where the seven traditional heavenly bodies were when you were born: just find out what signs they were in. The side bar gives their positions according to signs and shows the symbols used. (Ignore Node, Fortune, Spirit and Syzygy). Make a list of the seven archetypal deities and the signs they are wearing as costumes. These ‘actors’ play significant roles in your inner kingdom – in your personal psyche.
Your personal sovereignty, for living life with passion.
Your emotional life.
Your mental life: your capacity for accruing knowledge, skills, wisdom.
Your desire for beauty, harmony, balance, love.
Your need to get what you want in order to grow.
Your potential for expansion and abundance.
Your opportunity for solid development, grounding and manifesting.
Now explore the zodiac signs as explained in my simple Guide to the Natal Chart. It’s designed for anyone, regardless of astrological experience, and can be downloaded here. (Pages 2 and 3 are most relevant for this exercise). Have a think about all those archetypal drives represented by the deities (planets). At this stage, we keep it very simple and we don’t look at the conversations going on between the deities – these are the ‘aspects’ in a chart. That’s more advanced. You may already know some of these rudiments of astrology but, even if you do, my goal is to lead you towards understanding the planets as archetypes that can appear in different guises in your life. These archetypes may be driving all your life choices, without you being consciously aware of their dynamics and opportunities. You may have cards in your hand you haven’t even been aware could give you advantages in life, if you play them right.
If you look closely at the images below, taken from 15th century Italian miniatures depicting the planetary gods in De Sphaera (Of the Spheres, author unknown), you will see which zodiac signs the different planetary archetypes ‘rule’ – in traditional astrology these are called their ‘domiciles’, the ‘homes’ where they feel happiest.
The Sun’s domicile is in Leo, while the Moon feels best in Cancer. The other archetypes have two possibilities – Mercury: Gemini or Virgo; Venus: Taurus or Libra; Mars: Aries or Scorpio; Jupiter: Sagittarius or Pisces; Saturn: Capricorn or Aquarius.
For some readers this might be ‘nursery slopes’ astrology. However, I’m putting it in place here for those less experienced and, even for those with a good background in astrology, because next time I’m going to move on to the Archangels and how we can see the cross links with the archetypal gods.
I’ll be back next week with Part Three on Archetypes.
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