Ishtar & Aphrodite – Part I

It seems particularly apr to begin this article with a reference to Gustav Klimt’s “The Die Jungfrauen” (The Virgins) 1913  shown above because it celebrates the stages of a woman’s life and the intertwining rhythms and themes which I would like to explore in reference to the understanding of Venus.  This work isn’t to read as a single moment in time, but as depicting the evolution into womanhood. The curator at the Klimt Museum notes that there ” are six women in the painting (or one woman with four sides to her persona) and all of them seem to be intertwined. The lines are clear and the human themes of love, sexuality, and regeneration are obvious in the circular cyclical shape of the work. In painting The Virgins the different life stages are represented by the same woman. Dislocated body parts in outrageous poses move as if underwater. The empty shell of a woman’s dress at the bottom gives birth to a child (the next generation) via a cascading waterfall of colour.”

In order to understand the essence of a thing, it behooves us to discover and contemplate its origin. But Aphrodite is not a thing, she is an archetype used to inform us of the meaning of the planet Venus. For those wishing to avoid a psychological approach, Plato’s Forms will adequately explain the relationship. Not everyone will be happy when I suggest that the better an astrologer understands the essence of the signs and planets, the better astrologer he will be. . I would suggest that it isn’t enough to say that astrology is a symbolic language. It is that too, but one needs to know what the symbol points to in all its wealth of meaning.

There is a view among some so-called traditional astrologers that astrological delineation is a more or less a mechanical process. Any reference to myth or spirituality is seen as a betrayal of tradition. I think the reverse is true. The history and expression of astrology since earliest antiquity, and indeed even during the Paleolithic period, has always been imbued with a soul and I contend that it should be approached in this spirit.

Contemplating the origins of astrology fascinates me personally, but this is something that astrological thinkers have to do a great deal of. In order to know why there are twelve houses with specific significations, we need to go back to the beginnings of horoscopic astrology and indeed to that which preceded it.  The same is true of the signs.

Most constellations look nothing like what they are purported to represent, yet the record shows us that for the most part there was a surprising degree of agreement on what they were. Why is that? We also gain a great deal by studying the earliest interpretations of the planets and the cosmologies that inform them.  However, the understanding we have cannot be universal, unless we can truly understand the root essence of the meanings allocated to planets. Authentic astrology is rigorous and works on more than one dimension. As will become evident, with Venus the core meanings are in the Venus cycle and her associations with the feminine.

The Evening Star – Venus in the Pleiades star cluster April 3, 2012.© 2012 Alan Dyer

In the case of Venus, most modern and contemporary astrologers subscribe to the European understanding of the Roman Venus. She is absconded from Greek mythology to Rome. from Aphrodite to Venus. Not much else changes and she seems not just rather domesticated but separated from some of the most basic elements of the real feminine.  This is the Venus we see in the newspaper columns and in popular star sign books, where Venus is almost always spoken of romantic. But even serious modern astrologers have a very narrow view of Venus. Presumably, William Lilly only had access to Classical and Medieval sources.

Lilly wrote: “”[QUALITIES OF MEN & THEIR PROFESSIONS.] Musitions, Gamesters, Silk—men, Mercers, Linnen—Drapers, Painters, Jewellers, Players, Lapidaries, Embroiderers, Women-tailors, Wives, Mothers, Virgins, Choristers, Fidlers, Pipers, when joyned with Moon, Singers, Perfumers, Semi lers, Picture—drawers, Gravers, Upholdsters, Limners, Glovers, all such as fell those Commodities which adorn Women either, in Body (as Cloaths) or in Face, (as Complexion-waters.)”

The list contains musicians, indeed all the decorous arts, and among the Venusian professions we have wives, mothers, and virgins. The portrait is suitably one of harmony, peace, and beauty. There is absolutely no doubt that all this belong to Aphrodite, but it is missing key feminine qualities on a grand scale. This is a somewhat sanitized version of the feminine and I’m reminded of the old English nursery rhyme: “sugar and spice and all things nice – that’s what little girls are made from.”

The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa is the sixty-third Tablet of the Astronomical omen series Enuma Anu Enlil. The tablet records the heliacal risings and settings of the planet Venus (Ninsianna) for a period of twenty-one years. (British Museum).

The original ‘Venus” was Innana or Lilith and was associated with the planet Venus and her phases. She was the Queen of the Night with a ferocious libido and her story passed down to us in the Babylonian sources is one of the earliest and most articulate representations of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Hers is a chthonic force that has no truck with the rational. She is a Kali – dishing out death while giving birth. – a goddess of Creation, Destruction, and Power. Indeed, the two are so similar, that it’s quite plausible that they derived from the same source.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Innana travels to the underworld, dies and is resurrected. This is a reference to the Venus cycle. Her period of visibility, including her passage as morning and evening star, is very close to the traditional period of the gestation cycle of 260 days, associating her with creation and childbirth. She is not visible for about three months of the year (about 105 days) which would correspond to Innana’s ‘death’ or passage to the underworld.

When Innan rises (as does Venus) she is rising before the Sun, ready for war. During this phase, she is also known as Lucifer and Phosphorous. This fire turns to more sensual pursuits when she is the evening star, behind the Sun. Here we once again see the Garden of Hesperides. The Mayans also placed multiple significance on the Venus cycle, identifying it with the gestation cycle and the growing cycle of maize. I recommend an article by Erika Reiner and David Pingree that provides a great deal of detail on this matter.

There is an important distinction to be made regarding Innana and her ‘successors.’ Inanna is not a Semitic deity. This is of some importance because of the cultural milieu. The early Sumerians clearly had a goddess-based religion. It is in her and her closest forms that the feminine has the capacity for its fullest expression. The more Patriarchal cultures of Greece and Rome to some extent recreated Venus in their own image – or more precisely in the image of a domesticated feminine who could occasionally be quite naughty, but a not a woman who occasionally expressed herself as a raging volcano. This is why the cultural milieu is always relevant in deciphering these things. What is most striking is that the traits of the physical planetary Venus have been minimized. Classical or Hellenistic astrologers and those who followed did take the phases of Venus into account and this was true until at least the 18th Century. But Innana has been stripped of her chthonic and primal nature.

Kali_Devi 1770 Print Colored etching on paper,

The writer in the Encyclopaedia Britannica states: “Ishtar / Innan’s primary role in Sumer was that of fertility. However, she evolved into a far more complex character, with association with death and the underworld and all kinds of catastrophic disasters in short order. She was a goddess of contradictory connotations, of comfort and wrath. fire and fire-quenching, rejoicing and weeping, justice fair and enmity. As a goddess of Venus, delighting in physical pleasure,  she was the protectress of prostitutes and patroness of the alehouse. Part of her cult worship almost certainly involved temple prostitution.”

With the inception of Islam, there is a monumental shift in the meaning of Venus. Illustrations of the Islamic Venus, lack any real sensuality. She has the image of a beardless man and is mostly associated with music and dance, although she is considered the lesser benefic and Islam is said to be “under Venus,” in the same sense that Judaism in under Saturn.

Venus is the star in the Crescent of Islam. If we also consider Isis as an element of the Primordial Goddess, we can see how these Semitic, Mesopotamian. Egyptian and Roman manifestations of the goddess inform the culture as well as show how the feminine force was interpreted. Some cultures hold the goddess as a divine creator, while others perceive her in a more subservient role. No doubt this is a reflection of cultural views of women. Nevertheless, I would say one ignores or underestimates the power of the feminine at their peril. It is not an irony that an acceptance of these traits enhances the more traditional ones. It is easier to understand Venus as the evening star if you know where she has come from and where she will return.

To what extent anyone wishes to take this to heart is, of course, a personal matter.  Nevertheless, the full spectrum of Venusian power will be better appreciated by examination of the essence and roots of the archetype and the close relationship to the planet Venus, in all her phases.  I suspect it may also cause some to more closely examine the phases of Venus, which has been a core element in traditional astrology from the very beginning. Discussion of this subject can only provide a deeper understanding and illuminate both tradition and cultural bias.

Clearly, the main elements of this article require a later expansion – for example, the Venus phases themselves.. The Lunar cycle and the Venus cycle are intertwined and to a lesser extent, so are the phases of Mercury. is the c The intent of this article is to raise some of the main issues regarding the interpretations of Venus.

Father Christmas & The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

The Longest Night must pass before the waxing of the Light. A Blessed and Merry Yule to all my friends, family and associates. At the time of the Solstice, we have the image of the Centaur giving way to Capricorn with the Holly King, appropriately riding a Goat.

St. Nicholas magazine cover art by Canadian-born illustrator Norman Price, Christmas Number, December 1912

There are some variations on the theme of the Holly and the Oak Kings. First of all, they are two faces of the same life force, with strong natural, seasonal, agricultural and mythical significance. Form a traditional astrological point of view, the two signs of Saturn oppose both luminaries – Capricorn opposes the domicile of the Moon and Aquarius the domicile of the Sun. It is, after all, a dark time of year with the seeds of the waxing light.Beyond all other considerations, the celebrations taking place cross-culturally and around the world celebrate and exalt this seed of light.

The story of Pan and his contest with Apollo is an archetypal portrayal of Saturn vs the Sun. Pan is remembered for competing with his flute against Apollo’s lyre. Rhe contest was judged by Timolus to be inferior to Apollo’s lyre. Everyone present agreed with the judgment except for King Midas, who considered it unjust. For his insolence, Midas acquired, by the will of Apollo, the ears of an ass, which he tried, unsuccessfully, to conceal under a turban.

I’m also reminded of the passage by C.S. Lewis wherein Mr. and Mrs. Beaver tell the children that Narnia is under the spell of a malevolent despot. There is neither joy nor peace. Narnia has become a land where hope is little more than an act of folly and oppression is the order of the night,  Every day is as if it is “always winter but never Christmas.” Not long after, there is the sound of sleigh bells and it becomes apparent that the dark force is losing its strength.

Lewis is drawing from ancient sources and a theme that is ubiquitous. Christmas is, of course, a Christian festival, but The Oak King and the Holly King each rule for half the year. The evergreen holly and the sacred oak symbolically vanquish each other every six months, to rule for half the year. In reality, they are two sides of the same force. Indeed, the etymology of the word Holly in Latin means the holm-oak or evergreen oak (Quercus ilex).

These battles are usually considered to take place at the Solstices, but this seems to be the result of a misunderstanding regarding the nature of the seasons.

The battles take place at the Equinoxes – Samhain, and Beltane so that the Oak King is at his strongest during Midsummer or Litha, and the Holly King is dominant during Yule. In the Celtic tradition, Samhain is the end of Summer and the beginning of a new year. Beltane is a time of new life – a celebration of mating and regeneration. The association of Pan with Capricorn shouldn’t be missed. At his peak, the Holly King is very much like the Lord of Misrule, thriving as he does under two consecutive Saturnine signs.

Pan and Daphnis 4, the inventor of the bucolic poem. 7222: Gruppo marmoreo di Pan e Dafni. Collezione Farnese. Forse da un prototipo dello scultore rodio Eliodoro. National Archaeological Museum, Naples.

I think Lewis is also pointing to a parallel tradition in which a faun might be interpreted as a child of Pan. In the engraving above, Father Christmas or the Holly King has an unmistakably lecherous grin and he appears to be well- stocked up with wine. The goat is synonymous with lust and of course, Pan himself is half goat.  We have a mischievous  Father Christmas who could also be seen as the Lord of Misrule, found at the center of Saturnalia. The Holly Kings is also merry. The mythic elements are also decidedly chthonic and celebratory of nourishment found in barren places. Goats thrive in the most hostile environments due to their extraordinary sure-footedness and ability to find food even in the most remote places, including high elevations and extreme temperatures.

This 1835 drawing depicts “Father Christmas” being ferried by a goat.
Wikimedia Commons / University of St Andrews Library

It would be naive to interpret the Holly King as a Santa Claus, but the fact is they will forever be associated with most of the same themes that we associate with Christmas and Yule and the dozens of other festival occurring at the same time. Pan is the Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Syd Barret, a Capricorn, chose this title for Pink Floyd’s first studio lp. No doubt, he got the namer and the inspiration from ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame; illustrated by Nancy Barnhart and  Published 1913. The Piper goes back much further, however, and he was the subject of Pre-raphaelite artists.

Pan’s is a primal music and his nature is the origin of the word ‘panic.’ But authentic music is not merely cerebral. It evokes other states of consciousness – some sweet and some dark

The Season is a celebration of Peace and Good-Will as much as it is a recognition of our most primal nature and the transmutation required to embrace both. We are all the Piper at the Gates.

Inanna & the Eternal Feminine

inanna (2)


The above artwork is from an unknown source. If anyone knows the identity of the artist, please drop me a line. It’s a great interpretation of a goddess who often looks more like a harpy in some of her traditional representations.

The attributes are all there, from the grain sheafs to the eight-pointed star, the horns of the Bull of Heaven, the lapis lazuli in her hair as well as the lunar symbols. Her gaze has something of a hypnotic quality and there is something disquieting about the whole thing, with her dark, hollow eyes, she has a decidedly nocturnal countenance.  She is fierce as well as strangely beautiful. There is nothing ornamental about her in the Venusian sense. She is the primary Sumerian goddess and Queen of the Night and Queen of Heaven.

If you’ve followed this blog over the last two years or so, you have seen me return to the theme of the early Middle Eastern, Sumerian, Babylonian and Pre-Islamic Arabian archetypes of the powerful Feminine deities which are more fully developed origins of Aphrodite and Venus. The record is very clear that what we consider the Classical deities associated with the planets and luminaries are the result of a devolution of original archetypes and, to some extent, made far more superficial than most astrologers realize..

Table of Venus

Mayan Venus Table from the Dresden Codex

This kind of research is problematic. We find that what is Classically known as Aphrodite and the planet Venus is represented in Sumer by a goddess that might be associated as well with planets other than Venus, including Mars and the Moon. There is also a Moon god, so things get complicated very quickly.

The Classical Venus is not without nuance of course, but when we compare the understanding to Inanna, I think it safe to safe the archetype has been drained of much of its potency and the raw  power of the Primal Feminine. Inanna , also known by the later Babylonian and Mesopotamian names of Ishtar and Astarte,  is not primarily a goddess of love, but one who embodied war, wisdom, agriculture, sex, fertility, prostitution and lust, as well as a representative of the vegetative cycle itself and the traveler to the underworld. In Classical mythology, Mercury is the psychopomp, the guide to the Underworld.

Inanna is an active heroine. The recognition of the archetype immediately associated with Inanna goes as far back as far as 8,000 years.

Modern astrologers rarely, if ever, take into account whether Venus is the Morning or the Evening Star. We have a ‘one size fits all’ goddess who is prone to misunderstanding.

The Venus cycle is of crucial importance and to ignore that is to risk running amok in interpretations. The two primary phases of Evening and Morning star have very different qualities, but Inanna encompasses both in any case, making her a representative of the Feminine in all her guises.

Some Feminist astrologers have suggested that the goddess only took on the qualities of warrior much later when the Middle East had become more violent. There are two problems with this.

There never was a time of anything much more than fleeting peace. The dream of an ancient society permanently at peace under a matriarchy are just that. In any case, in the earliest written work, Inanna is already a fully developed warrior of Heaven, the Earth and the Underworld.


Enkidu – Wild Man, Stronger Than Lions

She also demonstrates that there is no hell like a woman scorned, probably more than any woman before or since. In Tablet VI, Inanna desires King Gilgamesh, but Gilamesh turns her down, citing the horrific fates of all her previous lovers. She goes into a blind rage and demands of her Father that she be allowed to release the Bull of Heaven t gore Gilgamesh to death. Her father refuses at first, pointing out that Gilgamesh might have a very good point. Her threats become ever more horrible and daddy eventually surrenders to her rage. In this, she can seem all too human, but she is in a trinity with the Sun and the Moon and she is of inestimable power.

It gets worse. The Bull is killed and Enkidu throws it back into the heavens to form a constellation, thus adding insult to injury.

It seems normal that her traits would display a degree of androgyny. She is courageous, quick-tempered, fertile and wrestles to create justice and balance in the most sublime, as well as the most savage.way. Her association with the  scorpion and owls make her seem more like Lilith than Venus. In fact, Lilith is her adversary in the Sumerian creation myth. Lilith poisons the tree that Inanna had nurtured. More properly, we can say that Lilith is parasitic, as we shall see.

The poem begins: “when what was needful had first come forth,” when bread first started to be baked in ovens of shrines, and when the first separation occurred, that of sky and earth ” (Frayne 2001:130; Wolkstein & Kramer 1983: 4). A violent tempest uproots a huluppu tree, which  Inanna rescues and plants in her own “sacred grove” at Uruk (Frayne 2001: 131).

Unfortunately, three beings settled in the tree: in its roots “a snake which fears no spell”; in its trunk a lilitu, a female spirit; and in its branches the Anzu bird.

Unable to rid herself of these intruders and parasites, Inanna is reduced to tears and calls upon her brother Utu, the sun god for help, but he refused, The hero  Gilgamesh, Uruk’s warrior king, agreed to assist. Gilgamesh  “smote” the snake, the others fled.  Gilgamesh felled the tree, taking the branches for himself, The trunk was given to Inanna in a gesture that is difficult to fathom.

Presumably, it means that Inanna got the roots of the tree, In another version of the story, Gilgamesh uproots the tree, thus severing the connection of earth, heaven, and the underworld.

The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi

The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi

There are few passages in ancient literature that could out-do the erotic courtship of Dumuzi and Inanna and I’m certain there was never a better-crafted story of the descent to the Underworld on Tablet VI.. The imagery is stark., terse, vivid and terrifying. She is visiting her sister, Ereshkigal and makes elaborate preparation for the descent.

The following is from Table VI  Descent Of Inanna Wolkstein – Kramer edition.

“Naked and bowed low, Inanna entered the throne room.
Ereshkigal rose from her throne.
Inanna started toward the throne.
The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her.
They passed judgment against her.
Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guilt.
She struck her.
Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall….

Then, after three days and three nights, Inanna had not returned,
Ninshubur set up a lament for her by the ruins.
She beat the drum for her in the assembly places.”

She has become dead meat hanging on a wall. Her return to life by way of the intervention of Dumuzi is if course nothing short of a resurrection. With Venus in mind, we may well consider this as a metaphor for her stages of apparent and concealed visibility as part of her cycle The problem is first and foremost the specificity of three days from a culture well aware of the Venus cycle. In any case, the subject matter is quite unlike what we usually refer to as Venusian.

Quite simply, Inanna, Ishtar and Isis don’t have all that much in common with Venus at first blush. The Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn could all be described by her nature.  In fact the only luminary / planet that doesn’t fit is the Sun. By comparison, the Greco-Roman Venus seems rather thin and limited.

In the ancient Near East, Ishtar was an important and widely worshiped mother goddess for many Semitic* peoples. The Sumerians* called her Inanna, and other groups of the Near East referred to her as Astarte.

Inanna is a highly complex deity, combining the characteristics, both good and evil,of many different gods and goddesses. As a benevolent mother figure, she was considered the mother of gods and humans, as well as the creator of all earthly blessings. In this role, she grieved over human sorrows and served as a protector of marriage and motherhood. People also worshiped Ishtar as the goddess of sexual love and fertility. The evil side of Ishtar’s nature emerged primarily in connection with war and storms, much of it born of jealousy and rage. As a warrior goddess, she could make even the gods tremble in fear. As a storm goddess, she could bring rain and thunder, these events are now connected primarily to the Moon and Jupiter.

The eight-pointed star of Ishtar appears at top left, the crescent moon of the Moon God Sin is at top center, and the symbol of the Sun God

The eight-pointed star of Ishtar appears at top left, the crescent moon of the Moon God Sin is at top center, and the symbol of the Sun God

In the story of Inanna she is the daughter of the male Moon god Sin and sister of the sun god Shamash. Others mention the sky god Anu, the Moon god Nanna, the water god Ea, or the god Enlil, lord of the earth and the air, as her father. Most myths link her to the planet Venus.

There are a few things one can do with this comparison. The simplest and probably least disruptive would be  to take a closer look at what we mean by our mythical association of Venus with the planet that bears her name and also what we mean by the Feminine. Venus is a goddess with tremendous limitations. But perhaps the greatest of these is that is not a mother goddess. Whereas earlier depictions of the feminine, whether it be Ancient Near Eastern or Celtic represented her in three phases: the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, Venus pretty much remains on the first stage, allowing the Moon to take the other attributes.

Of course, astrology uses the Greek and Roman Pantheon as metaphors for the planets. However. it’s all too easy to forget that and our understanding of the planet itself is likely to suffer. The price paid during the advancement of civilization can  be significant and I think it’s quite fair to say that the Greek and Roman Pantheon has little of the depth and earthy honesty of earlier cultures.

I’m certainly not suggesting that we give up on Venus, but we do well to remember the vast heights and depths that are found in abundance in earlier sources when it comes to more complete representation of the Feminine. This article does little more than introduce some issues regarding Astrology and the Feminine. I hope it sparks some interest.

Magic and the Occult in Islam: Ahmad al-Buni

What follows is a very fine lecture by Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad (Department of Arabic and Islamic Civilizations, American University in Cairo) delivered at the Warburg Institute, University of London, May 2003.

This is an important lecture in it’s own right, but I’m also posting this as an introduction to my next post, regarding the decoding of a manuscript using astrological elements such as Lunar Mansions, Constellations and significant stars; while making reference to the Picatrix. I’m delighted to see so much research and scholarship brought to bear on the astrological tradition and it’s association with Alchemy, Geomancy. & Theurgy.

Pisces – A Bridge Between the Worlds

Matsya_avatarI have wanted to write a short piece on Pisces for some time. There have been a few reasons holding me back, not least the fact that I’m a solar Pisces and could be considered biased.

However, I have no interest in elevating Pisces beyond its station. That would serve no useful purpose. I also find my self at odds with one or two classical writers. In any case, my argument holds true for all signs to a greater or lesser degree.

My intent is constructive and corrective. I’m writing as a Traditional astrologer who knows that valuable elements of the Tradition have been lost I would like to make some small attempt to correct that.

It is “every astrologer’s duty to avail himself, with the utmost of understanding, of all knowledge that is applicable to the science, whereby to arrive at the true and correct explanations which alone can bring the improved technic that will enhance Astrology’s value to society.” (Nicholas DeVore: Encyclopaedia of Astrology)

The crux of the matter is an obvious problem with Traditional astrology. It tends to fall down and fail us when it comes to the spiritual and the emotional.  I have chosen the Sign Pisces to demonstrate what I mean for fairly obvious reasons — a particular spirituality and emotionality are strong in Pisces.

This process is deeply ironic because Traditional astrology evolved in a highly spiritual tradition. It wasn’t materialistic but I see elements of the art that are becoming so. Much of Medieval astrology shows astonishing ignorance of true spirituality. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s universal, but it is pervasive. This is not actually part of the tradition. It’s something the tradition lost along the way and needs to be reclaimed. . Let’s take a look at what Vettius Valens has to say about the sign PiscesDetail, fish, fountain Piazza Navone, Rome Italy

Pisces is the celestial sign which is feminine, moist, quite wet, bicorporeal, with many offspring, mossy, scaley, sinewy, humpbacked, leprous, two-formed, mute, motile, with rough skin, in conflict with itself because one Fish is northern, the other southern.  It is moist, downward-trending, servile, changeable, with many offspring, bicorporeal, sociable/lewd, with some limbs missing, the cause of wandering, varied.  Men born under this sign are unsteady, unreliable, changing from bad fortune to good, sexy, theivish, shameless, prolific, popular.

As a whole, Pisces is cool and breezy.  By parts it is as follows: the first parts are temperate, the middle moist, the last destructive and worthless…

If you didn’t know what Valens was describing, I’m not at all sure that *human being* would be the first thing to come to mind.  Although there are one or two half truths in his description, he is spectacularly lacking in ability when he tries to describe a complete human., albeit a hypothetical one.. .matsyafish

There is nothing  in what he says that’s really of any use to us at all, unless of course we want a Pisces to jump from a tall building.. In any case, once someone has made the statement that Pisceans are “humpbacked, scaly” thieves who “have some limbs missing” and are “worthless”  it’s very hard to take him seriously.

That is not to say that Valens was not the conduit for some Hellenistic thought and techniques that many find useful. It merely tells us he has no grasp of his subject matter in this case and many others. It has been suspected that Valens was not a practising astrologer and these sorts of things strengthen that hypothesis.  Moreover, the same can be said for his description of  all the signs. I have discussed Valens in relation to Aquarius already. It doesn’t sound like he’s describing authentic archetypes or human beings.

By way of comparison, let’s see what William Lilly has to say:

Pisces is of the Watry Triplicity, Northern, cold Sign, moyst, Flegmatick, feminine, ; nocturnal, the house of Jupiter, and exaltation of Venus, a  Bycorporeal, common or double-bodied Sign, an idle, effeminate, sickly Sign, or representing a party of no action.

I find his description to be correct and believable in all respects. I have no difficulty believing the writer is actually an astrologer with useful information. However, I do not find it complete by any means. The core and essence of  Pisces is its otherworldly spirituality that only *looks* like a party of no action. I suppose one could say the same of virtually any monk or poet  No credible human being has ever accused Pisces of being shallow. There is nothing of the selflessness or finely tuned nervous system, but then Lily’s main work appears to have been Horary. . There is certainly nothing about self sacrifice, Avatars or Messiahs.  This is part of the other side of Pisces missing from many traditional sources, but not all.

I just read an article by a fine astrologer who nevertheless claimed that Jupiter “struggles” in Pisces. I wonder if any traditional astrologer has made the same argument about any other planet in his or her domicile?  How can it be that the Greater Benefic rules such a sign?

David Frawley cites a short hymn to Jupiter:” I worship Jupiter the teacher of the gods and the seers, who has the luster of gold endowed with wisdom, the ruler of the three worlds.” (Astrology of the Seers p. 26). Obviously there is no “struggle” for Jupiter here. This fits Pisces and Sagittarius very well. Frawley’s longer section on the Sign Pisces is a fair balance of positive and negative, weaknesses and strengths.

In Babylonian times and beyond, the constellation was known and named. In Babylon as well as China, the primary concern was calendrical and focused on the position and phases of the  stars rather than constellations ( Glendow Origin of Zodiac p. 28).

Pisces is among the oldest recorded constellations. – and this in spite of the fact that the physical constellation is quite unremarkable and comparatively faint. It was first named the Tails or Shiny Tails. The association of the fish with Christianity is a much later attribution and has in many ways confused the original significance .

The Fishes is a symbol that appears to precede the constellation. They show up in myths that are very similar , even though from vastly different cultures. As such we can fairly call it an archetype. The theme of redemption in one form or another is at the heart of each on the stories.

vishnu matsya

Vishnu – Matsya

The Ikhthyes (or Ichthyes) were a pair of large Syrian river fish who rescued Aphrodite and Eros when they were fleeing from the monster Typhon. Another version of the myth says that the two gods disguised themselves as fish to escape the monster, or that the fish assisted in the birth of Aphrodite. In another version of this myth, the fish “Pisces” carry Aphrodite and her son out of danger. In all versions of the story, they were placed amongst the stars as the Constellation Pisces. It doesn’t mater in the end because one way or another two fish saved Aphrodite and Eros and then became the constellation of the Fishes.

Paul Klee - Around the Fish - Note the Various Symbols

Paul Klee – Around the Fish – Note the Various Symbols from Pentagrams, Cross and Vesica Pisces

Here’s a bit more on the ubiquitous Fish from the deep archetype.  Salmon were sacred to the ancient Celts,  sometimes referred to as the Salmon of knowledge or wisdom. If you caught one with your hands and held it up to your ear, it would whisper wise ranns to you.

Salmon leaping from a river were symbolic of self-transcendence. The Salmon at the bottom of a well is a well known image to anyone familiar with Celtic spirituality. Wells and springs had a special significance as a means to communicate with the waters of the earth. The natives of the Pacific Northwest where I live take the Salmon as on of their main totem animals

Pisces Symbol derived from Vesica Piscis

Pisces Symbol derived from Vesica Piscis

Indian, Greek and Persian astrologers had a great deal of contact  during the greatest days of Alexandria.

According to Hindu belief, it is a Fish who is Matsyu  that warns Manu of the impending flood, urging him to store all manner of grains in a boat. We learn that Matsyu is among  the primary manifestations of  Vishnu. Manu escapes with the “Seven Sages”  and the Fish then pulls and protects the boat until the mariners are safe and the grain is planted on dry land. Matsya may be depicted as a giant fish, or with a human torso connected to the rear half of a fish.

Vishnu as Matsya Returning the Vedas to Brahma

Vishnu as Matsya Returning the Vedas to Brahma

In later versions of this story, the Sacred Vedas are hidden by a demon whom Matsya slays. Manu is again rescued and the holy scriptures recovered.

To find out what Indian astrologers think of the sign, I consulted Vedic astrologers.  Apparently Indian astrologers remember what the Western tradition had forgotten or discarded.

Some of the themes for Pisces were: The veils-scales between Two Worlds  and similarly the Bridge-Pathways to the world of the Ancestors and Private Guidance toward the development of personal, interior Wisdom and Compassion (Guru).  Private, sentient guidance across the bridge from material, waking life to meditative, astral dream life. The contrast, particularly in relation to Valens, is enormous and substantial.

There is  of course much of the standard Piscean traits listed such as: “emotional, expansive, intuitive, and imaginative…. they can be amorphous, hard to pin down … tend toward emotional disorders and have sensitive nervous and digestive systems.” (Frawley p. 125)

These insights are genuinely helpful because they embrace the whole person: body, mind and soul. This is what is lacking in much of  Traditional Western Astrology as understood and practised in the third millenium.

Somewhere along the way the integral spirituality of  Traditional astrology was discarded. It is not lost however. I was very much impressed with Ibn Arabi’s Mystical Astrology and we are amongst several cultures who do not have spiritual amnesia. Indian astrologers have maintained a high level of awareness in this regard. It’s important to know your roots.

If you take the living archetypes out of astrology all you have is dry method, capable of telling you where you lost your credit card, but doing precious little for the soul. Read Plato on the Forms and you may never see the archetypes n the same way.738194_517251011638684_1237929645_o