Hello again, fancy a hike?
Opening the box labelled Capricorn today usually involves the summoning of keywords like conservative, disciplined, cautious, serious, sober, stoic, sceptical, responsible, managerial, directorial, authoritarian, ambitious and materialistic, all valid but somewhat grey and drab words that stereotypically evoke images of people who actually like wearing suits and are deemed coldly unimpressed by emotional displays, shrewd climbers who are hard, tight, perhaps even callous. There is not much here we would generally consider ‘sexy’ or ‘warm’.
But the current influence of Pluto in Capricorn bids us to look deeper into the box than this. There is a hole in the bottom of this box and passing through it we will find ourselves suddenly within an enormous cavern with tunnels branching off in many directions, most of them eventually going high up, but some go down very deep as well. Following any of these paths we will discover some things about this seemingly conservative and tradition bound sign that perhaps shock us. Today I am going to explore only a couple of them with you.
What greets us when we first open this box, then, is a veneer, a fake presentation, a carefully controlled and managed end product that has been plastered over a much more interesting beast, much like the persona of the individual born with the Sun in Capricorn. To pull the modern corporate mask away from this sign we have to reach back into an ancient past, to traditions of lore that are so ancient they have been completely forgotten, reinvented in the pyre of history. For like many signs, our awareness of what Capricorn represents has been diminished as we have lost sight of its essence and this impoverishment of Capricorn itself is the root of many of its struggles. The tribe of the sea-goat is seeking its own identity in these times and Pluto is currently in the process of opening the gates that unleash an inevitable rebirth, a renewed awareness of the significance of these ancient roots. The identity of this sign has been penned in and its potential limited and sometimes corrupted by this containment, but like the goat it inherits half of its astral nature from it is a notorious escape artist and is fully capable of leaping over these boundaries and attaining freedom.
The first tunnel I feel drawn down leads us further into this symbolism, the symbolism of the creature that is Capricorn. In the latter half of the 20th century, particularly the 1980s, it seemed that mainstream astrology was losing sight of this creature by ignoring its aquatic tail and simply referring to it as a goat but this situation now seems to be turning around. This would have been a grave mistake because the nature and origin of the sign is deeply connected with waters as we shall see and so it has almost always been semi-aquatic, most often a goat with a fish tail. So we have to begin with this understanding – it is a creature of two overlapping worlds, two very different but adjacent states of awareness and this makes it complex, a dual sign with a dualistic nature that is synergetic, two parts working together and sharing space in a single entity. To understand this creature we have to understand the individual nature of the two halves as well as the way they function as a whole. In this respect it is kin to Sagittarius.
The goat aspect of Capricorn is frequently attributed the more conscious role in our awareness, in fact it is the architect of the modern perception of the sign – this is the part you often read about in Sun sign descriptions of Capricorn which focus on the ambition, traditional and conservative opinions, scepticism etc – all those ‘dull’ words. But honestly even this part of the sign is being misinterpreted, or more precisely the definition of Capricorn is being skewed by the focus of things in this direction and this means we start to skewer our perception of the goat aspect of this creature and what it represents. So let’s start again with the goat.
Generally, people think of goats as smelly, hungry, edgy animals with a firm bite and an even firmer kick and head-butt, but they produce a flavourful cheese and an alternative to the fat of cows milk, in some countries a lamb like meat, and we maybe think of them on mountain paths chewing flowers with South American farmers and that’s really about as far as things tend to go other than imagining the sound of their bleating. It’s pretty shallow when you think about it – they don’t evoke in us the same range of feelings as say, a scorpion or the multi-coloured variety of fish. They don’t have much mystery or much to endear them to human beings like ‘innocent’ lambs or even ‘virile’ bulls – ‘wily old goat’ is about as flattering as it gets – but of course that’s just us, they have mystery and plenty to adore, we are just not looking for it with much effort, perhaps because we can’t get beyond the fact that they smell pretty bad. We could be seen as a very vain, clumsily cosmetic and prissy creature ourselves, unlike the pragmatic and elegantly nimble and graceful goat – to them it is us who stink of chemicals, perfumes and choking clouds of noxious gas, rather than of truly interesting and informative smells, but there are other possible reasons for why we do not identify as closely with goats as we do with other animals, as we shall see.
Even domesticated goats – most of which are in Africa and China – are feral creatures who take to the wild quickly once released, like cats. They are creatures in love with roaming who will test any boundary for weakness and scalability. They are innately curious and intelligent beings, physically co-ordinated and nimble, natural climbers and masters of balance who unlike sheep find no great need to cluster together but scatter themselves over the field and turn to face intruders face on. The herd mentality of this creature – a trait we have cultivated and encouraged – is very hierarchical, with one male goat literally on top during the breeding season and the others often but not always accepting this pragmatically and remaining bachelors. They are incredibly voracious eaters but in the wild they exhibit the behavior of ascending up slopes as a feeding pattern, so they have a natural instinct to migrate upwards, which is why they can’t resist jumping over and onto fences. This natural instinct to navigate in an upwards direction is a key characteristic which manifests itself formally in horns. These horns are typically more upward pointing and erect than those of the ram (Aries) or bull (Taurus).
So we must attribute to the goat an upwards aspiring instinct, intelligence and curiosity, a roaming or feral nature, nimbleness, independence and a pragmatic nature that faces things head on but is tempered by gentleness and what appears to be a wily form of cunning persistence. These traits are chief among those lent to the zodiacal sign of Capricorn, but there is another we must attribute which has deeper origins in times before the domestication process, which is believed to have begun in Iran at least 10,000 years ago, a trait which relates to the horns and takes us on a sorrowful journey into human ignorance whereby we eclipsed much of these qualities in our collective awareness and utterly obscured the essential meaning of Capricorn in the process.
In my view this part of the tale goat tells is complex but critical to understand, because it feeds directly into what Capricorn means today and it appears to be a significant factor in the dysfunctional nature of human governments. Simplifying this greatly for ease of communication there are basically two points, two ‘horns’ to impale ourselves on in answering this question. One is the matter of sex, the other of what constitutes wisdom and pragmatism.
Curiously, following the sexual thread leads us into some surprising territory. Obviously it leads us to the celebration of sex as a sacred and natural urge, a notion which was watered down by making it ‘sexual reproduction’ in many religious philosophies. So we encounter not only a very pure sexually aroused and lusty nature in the sign as we wander down this forest path with the grape guzzling orgiastic worshipers of Pan, Bacchus and Dionysus and past the Roman rite of Saturnalia (held at the winter solstice, the onset of the Sun in Capricorn), but also all kinds of nature and forest deities as we descend, many of which have horns and all of which have been demonised by religious ideology. We might begin to understand why we feel ‘horny’ and why other words like ‘caper’ and ‘caprice’ have entered our vocabulary, words which seem very far from the usual character attributed to Capricorn but which are clearly entangled with its history, and the thought process behind its attribution to The Devil card of the Tarot in some systems becomes clearer. What the imagery of The Devil tasks us with understanding is the effect of unconscious urges and our need to attain mastery over these impulses, and now we are getting closer to the beating heart of Pan, the madness of the pipes becomes melodic and we can begin to see glimpses of a deeply spiritual centre to the sign.
Given that these hedonistic and highly sexual qualities were once part of Capricorn, we can surmise that changes in our sexual mores are intimately connected with the sign, a somewhat surprising find but one which is there all the same. Specifically, we find that we have used the sign to demonise free sexual expression, to repress it and load it with guilt and shame. Another word we will be finding as we dig further along this path of the story of goat is related to this stream of thought – ‘scapegoat’. This stems from an ancient ritual practice of drawing lots over two goats, sacrificing one and releasing the other into the wild where it was believed to carry with it the sins of the community, (obviously with the slaughter of an innocent goat at the top of that list). Goat has often been seen as a perfect sacrifice. This part of the story of goat tells us that we have blamed it and loaded all of our darkness onto it for a very long time – it has been perceived as a creature of darkness and thus of projected responsibility, so, suddenly, we are back at the surface of the box in traditional Capricorn territory again – interesting that, isn’t it?
Addressing the second matter in the tale of how the horns became evil, the matter of what constitutes wisdom and pragmatism, leads us eventually to connect with the second half of the sign, the aquatic tail, which is where we begin to see the bigger picture in the background. We also begin to proceed into more esoteric areas where we find the greatest of the treasures of Capricorn, the mysteries of manifestation and the secrets of astral animation and of astrally incarnating and disincarnating. All this, connected with corporate Capricorn? Yes, and much much, more, for this sign is greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted. As I said in the beginning it is fenced in, but it is a consummate escape artist, and this trait is only amplified by the fluidity of the aquatic tail.
The origins of this aquatic feature are both mythological and meteorological and lead us to the stars. Capricornus is intimately connected with an area of the sky known as the Celestial Sea, a region which includes itself, Pisces, Aquarius the Water Bearer, The Dolphin, the Southern Fish, Cetus the Whale and the Great River Eridanus. Legends tell us this vast region of the sky is the Source of Life. In the early Bronze Age around 3,000 to 2,000 BCE the winter solstice of the northern hemisphere took place in these stars, a traditionally wet time, and it was known in the northern hemisphere as the Southern Gate of the Sun for the Sun had reached its most southerly point in the skies (the Tropic of Capricorn) and thus began to return light to the world from thereafter leading up to the following solstice.
The stars of Capricornus, ancient beyond our knowing, have their earliest depictions in the Babylonian iconography associated with Enki and Ea, a deity worshipped at least as far back as 15,000BC and considered the father of civilisation who emerged from the primordial waters to create humanity and shepherd it to civilisation. Note that here I use the term primordial waters, indicating something quite different to the oceans or even the Water Element itself – specifically I am referring to the primordial waters of life that are the astral plane, and astrologically to the influence of the stars that make up the Celestial Sea. In modern terms we might think of this as the medium by which nature causes forms to emerge from the complex interactions of individual organisms as demonstrated by fractals and Chaos Theory. There is a form of natural order that emerges (on Earth) primarily in synchrony with the influence of Jupiter and Saturn on the broader scale and the Sun and Moon on the more concrete scale, but it is the stars of the Celestial Sea which magically ‘pour’ this substance over the Earth, they are celestial influences which act as ‘taps’ that pour the astral waters of life upon our awareness. Specifically, the stars of Capricorn are the stars which cause shapes to manifest from the astral, a manifestation of the medium through which natural law forms things into being by the placing of astral attention. I will return to this shortly.
Essentially, Ea or Enki – the two are separate but somewhat conflated – stands alongside the Egyptian Khnum as the principle deity of Capricorn, the oldest known and most enduring of its gods. In the iconography that survives of these beings we see that Ea is associated with a sea-goat (it is placed between his feet) and that Khnum has a pair of goats horns, establishing their credentials as primal deities of Capricorn. Both Khnum and Ea/Enki are the creators of human children, both are connected with divine or celestial waters, both periodically give gifts to humanity from the primordial waters which enable it to advance and both have natures that are described as kindly, gentle, wise, calm and enlightened – the principle virtues of truly benevolent leaders.
The mythology of Ea and thus of Capricornus is that Ea was the protector of his people and that from his place in the sky he set the rivers of life flowing. At certain junctures and periods in human development, Ea, ‘He of Vast Intellect and Lord of the Sacred Eye’, would emerge from the waters to fulfil his mandate to initiate a new level of development and civilisation. He is the ancient lawgiver, the one who emerges from the ocean of the void to bring a new order. According to the Babylonians, the parents of Ea were jealous of their children’s creation of humanity and so Ea had been charged by his brothers to guard and protect the human race. Ea eventually usurps power from his father, castrating his genitals and imprisoning pieces of his flesh, and assumes custody of the Earth from his watery realm.
However, the story does not end here. Ea grows disappointed with his children when humanity begins to fail him, and being unhappy with humans he is eventually overthrown by his brother, who sends a mighty deluge to drown the human race and start a new order upon the Earth. However, Ea grants humanity a reprieve by instructing them to prepare an ark. For this act of mercy he was named Kerubu, which is the ancient root of the word ‘cherub’. Thus he assumes responsibility for not only the progress but also the continued existence of the human race.
So the Goat-Fish has a tail probably because it is connected with an era in which the world was flooded and humanity survived by taking to the water. When they landed, they brought with them from the water the sacred knowledge and technology of their former civilisation and the keepers of this knowledge and technology became the protectors of civilisation. Capricornus, and thus its tropical sibling Capricorn, is the protector of the human collective. In order to protect the human collective from the many dangers it encounters in the river of life it must not only be well versed in the ways and workings of the material world but also immersed in the astral realm of significance, because it must learn to share its wisdom responsibly and efficiently. The tail is for navigating these waters of significance, for sensing the currents moving through it, the spiritual laws which govern the flow of the river of life, and the goat is for passing these impulses on in ways that can be effectively used. Thus, it is a sign with a profoundly spiritual agenda. It is ironic, then, that one half of the sign has given us the religious ideology that has repressed the other half, ironic that it has given us notions of both god and the devil, and even more ironic that when we untwist the story of Capricorn it is just as much the goat that has been repressed by the tail and not just the other way around. In forcing this sexual repression upon ourselves collectively, by attaching shame and guilt to the natural urges represented by goat, the aquatic nature of Capricorn has lost an appropriate direction for its momentum and diminished its connection to its own energy source. It can no longer navigate the primordial waters wisely; it does not even acknowledge they are there, and so the leaders and rulers we elect cannot act with wisdom, nor are they truly pragmatic. They have abandoned the source of the sacred spring and forgotten the trail that leads to its clearing. To be truly wise and pragmatic requires a leap of faith and an understanding of what really matters in life. Genuine practicality is found in things which support our spiritual evolution and provides a consistent and reliable framework for it to adhere to. True security is not found in amassing resources and insurances against inevitable material ups and downs, it is drawn from the wellspring of experience, the stream of natural law and our connection with it. As guardian of the collective, Capricorn is guardian of streams of lore and wisdom which trace back into the mists of time and it must reconnect with that lore in order to truly prosper. Otherwise, the pathway that seems to be the one way to the very top of the mountain takes the Capricorn individual astray, the security gained by attaining the summit hollow.
The Gra Tree of Life, also called the Natural Array, places this sign in its proper context as the process by which astral forms are created and dismantled. This is the path by which we personally determine the form of our personal experiences, a path of subjective self determination. By this path, through the influence of Capricorn, we determine the form of our own life experiences, the necessity of things. If we are personally cold and callous then this will give a specific shape and form to our personality and thus our life, just as if we choose one ambition over another our life goes in one direction rather than another. It is the natural laws of consequence and necessity– karma – that make this so.
The work of Saturn through its rulership of this sign is in shaping the personal experience through these laws as they manifest from astral forms to physical ones and gradually wizening the person into realising they are there. Capricorn is the sign that learns directly from long term experience and personal practical understanding. Its story is one of life growing easier as time goes by because it has gathered more experience and the gathering of more experience automatically means growth in the understanding of realities. This is a mighty gift – many of us have to work hard for this kind of understanding, but for a Capricorn it is a given, there will be a ripening in practical wisdom as more time passes, an increased ability to weather reality. The Capricorn soul will see the consequences of its own actions and those of others and it will come to understand that in nature A is followed by B and C and this understanding of how things work in physical reality translates into solid wisdom as time goes by.
However, this wisdom will in many cases focus on how to get ahead in physical reality, how to reach the mountain top, which path to take to absolutely assure that achievement whatever it might be. Power and mastery are essential but often understated motivations of Capricorn. This is a sign seeking absolute power over astral forms, it seeks to master the way the waters of life flow, to harness and animate them in shaping its destiny and reaching a pinnacle of attainment – the perfect expression of form for its own astral awareness. In other words, it is the sign that seeks absolute mastery and power over its personal affairs, and this is why it often keeps them concealed from the public. It typically presents a stoic goat face to the world (the neutered one, not the lusty one) while concealing any inner turmoil or insecurity.
For this is one of the great magical treasures of Capricorn – the ability to shape the way things are. The sign understands that by focusing personal attention on a goal and working steadily towards it, it must take shape in some form. There is no hocus-pocus involved, at least not often, the Capricorn perceives this as ‘just the way things are’, but with Pluto around them today some may be wondering at last if there is actually something to all of the occult mumbo jumbo about thought and attention preceding reality. Ea was known, among other titles, as ‘Lord of the Sacred Eye’, and the Hebrew letter Ayin, associated with Capricorn, can be translated as ‘Eye’ – it is the looking and witnessing, the placing of attention, that shapes what is perceived of and thus experienced as reality. Want to become the next Bob Dylan? Practice playing the guitar. Want to run the country? Stand for local elections. Capricorn knows this better than any other sign, it knows the ins and outs of all the regulations we concoct to ritualise these journeys better than anyone, the labyrinthine stages you have to go through and where you need to begin, but deeper, more essentially, it knows and understands the laws of reality, both physical and astral, that underpin all success and attainment of mastery and power. It knows how to shape the water as it flows from the endless font of life and catch it in appropriate vessels like Khnum, how to cultivate the land, how to scale the mountain and conquer the mind. It knows the ways of the beasts of the forest and the stream, the instinctive lore of the wild, the complex balance of life in the summer meadow and the way to survive winters chill. It is a survivalist, a master of the roads and a guardian of the collective because it is a natural leader able to act in ways that benefit the whole community but the temptations of temporal power are ever present and need to be given a higher purpose beyond personal satisfaction. For as a Guardian of the Sacred Stream, Capricorn knows the way to wherever we seek to be, it has the wiliness and sureness of foot to ken the path up and out of any swamp, it knows the laws which govern the manifestation of things and it knows by instinct which responsibilities need to be met and in which order. This is why many Capricorn charts – especially those born with Uranus and Neptune in the sign in the early 1990s – now resonate strongly with environmental concerns rather than with political ones – the legacy of Pan buried deep in this box has started piping up again, reminding the sign that time is fast running out to do something about the condition of the planet. The unchecked rise in population resulting from our emphasis on sexual reproduction as a sacred act has contributed to a world threatening choke point, a supreme failure of self discipline and a serious disturbance of the ecosystem, the effects of which we are only just beginning to reap.
Capricorn is the sign that can lead us out of the terrible mess we have made with the past by showing us the natural consequences of our mistakes as well as the path that avoids ever making them again. It is a sign which brings a reality check to any situation it is involved with, a calm and firm statement of what is and what needs to be done, but as I hope I have made clear in this short essay it is also deeply sensual, a sensuality that has been ‘domesticated’ and fenced in by being hitched up to the need to ensure continued propagation of our species, but this was a move which neutered us collectively, cutting us off from a source of sacred wisdom, a spiritual source we badly need to recover. This source is the understanding that there are natural and spiritual laws at work in the material world which must be mastered in order to attain genuine security and genuine practical gains, gains that will outlast lifetimes. At its heart, the dance of Pan offers us the opportunity to throw off the laws which we have made for ourselves in exchange for the ones imparted to us by nature and to do so in both revelry and responsibility, to embrace the instinct we have for the natural laws of the world and to follow them on a journey where we begin to master and shape their emergence around us in the material world. We have that opportunity with Pluto currently in Capricorn, each and every one of us, but especially those with a Capricorn emphasis.
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