Monday, 28 December 2009

Planets as Symbols

Firstly, I want to reiterate what I said at the beginning of this blog. The daily or weekly Astrology columns you see in the paper are not truly representative of astrology. They are based on very general planetary influences and are just a taste of how we can be influenced by the heavenly bodies. When you have a birth chart drawn up we look at the planets in the sky at the moment you were born and examine where they are in relation to each other and to you on planet earth. The chart is a template or a map, if you will, and reveals a story or a description of who you are, where you have been, and what you have chosen to learn about in the lifetime.


Yet why do we attribute these powers to the planets at all?

Carl Jung coined the term Archetype to explain the idea that there are recurring and universal motifs that represent various aspects of human nature. He found these were repeated in stories and myths from all over the world as well as in people's dreams. He felt that by exploring these motifs we can perhaps glean a bit about the human psyche. Ancient cultures used the symbols or motifs woven into their stories as tools to teach daily lessons and impart universal truths. I highly recommend A Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell, in which he elucidates some of Jung's theories about how myths can reveal a tremendous amount of information about human nature and culture.

Astrology can therefore be can be seen, in relation to this idea of universal themes, as a symbol system which uses archetypal language to explore and perhaps explain something about the forces within us and around us. Some astrologers hold to the Jungian idea that we project these attributes onto the planets, and that although they are valuable in revealing clues to our own inner psychological makeup, the attributes we give them exist solely within our own psyches.

Another approach is based on the belief that the planets each have an actual energetic field that radiates out toward the earth. In this way each planet is seen to have its own unique signature or energy…and depending where we were born and where the planets were in the sky at our time of birth, we each have a particular “sign” and an individual map or chart based on the grid of the intersecting lines of energy emanating from the planets.

We know that the gravitational pull off the moon affects our weather, our tides, etc. Farmers used to plant by the cycles of the moon (some still do)( ... root crops when the moon is waning, above ground crops when it is waxing etc). Sadly, in our drive to dominate and control everything, we have become disconnected from nature in an illusion that we are separate from it. Yet we are made up of the same molecules as everything around us.

In astrology, the moon, as it waxes and wanes, is said to represent our changing emotions and our deep unconscious... as well as the mother. The word for women’s' monthly cycle (month -moon...) is menstrual which also comes from the word moon. The length of a month is based on the full cycle of the moon from empty to full… (or was until the Romans forced it into a rigid format.) Originally there were 13 months based on the 13 moon cycles in a year. It’s not a huge intuitive leap to see the connection with birth and mothering. The watery amniotic fluid is connected to the unconscious as well as to the tidal effects of the moons pull. We may think that these are all vestiges of superstitious times, but there is a symbolism and power that exists in astrology that defies that simplistic explanation.

BTW: Have you ever wondered why the number 13 is considered so unlucky that even today many buildings do not have a 13th floor? This false propaganda came from the patriarchal Christian effort to suppress the goddess religions that honoured the feminine principal. In the pagan calendar 13 was/is a sacred number due to this relationship to the mother/feminine principal/fertility etc. The number 13 was subsequently invested with so much negative associations to influence people away from their so-called pagan beliefs and toward the control of the church.

Anyway, back to those funny round objects floating in the sky. I agree with the Jungian vision of a symbolic system reflecting aspects of our individual and cultural psyches. At the same time I also accept that the movements of the planets does seem to have a profound and fascinating effect on both our individual personalities and also on world events. My own personal interest is in the psychology of each individual; then in how we interact with others and with the world. Astrology can reveal so much about our self, our tendencies, our habits, our ways of reacting to life etc and however one decides it works, the main thing is that it actually does.


In the next blog I will start to look at the attributes of each planet and sign and how they represent aspects of our individual experience.

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