BASICS OF ZODIACAL SYMBOLISM
The following few paragraphs will attempt to bring you close to the essence of the zodiac, so as to understand and feel the individual signs intuitively and naturally. After that you are welcome to stroll through a short sample walk through the signs of Prague Zodiac.
We shouldn’t view the zodiac as something mysterious. It’s a natural result of observations made by our forefathers: partly from their observing the sky and cyclical processes that happen there; partly from their studying the continuously repeated terrestrial natural processes, including human physiology and psychology; and finally of their realization of the coherence among these processes. The zodiac blends all these observations together and looks at the universe – at the terrestrial or the celestial, at the macro- or microcosm - as at one whole.
The zodiac is a symbolic expression of the sun’s orbit, on which the sun seemingly revolves around the earth during its yearly cycle. Nature, as one whole, proceeds through a continuous change during this cycle. The 12 signs of the zodiac then represent nature’s 12 basic, continuously repeating phases or faces that we meet during this cycle. The meaning of each sign then reflects a certain periodically repeated state of the universe – of the stars, of the earth and man – as it has been observed for centuries. The zodiac hasn’t come into existence by a chance. It rises from the deepest observation and understanding. The symbolic pictures of its signs burst with collective wisdom and instincts. They lie at the very root of human nature.
To begin to understand the zodiac inwardly, we must mention something about its symbolic nature. The most basic experience we have during the year is the experience with the continuous change of light and darkness. Depending on the sun‘s wandering through the sky within the year, light or the day becomes longer to the detriment of darkness or the night and vice versa. Actually, two active powers are in question, two powers that change and transform one into the other continuously. And just this is what we are taught when studying the zodiac: dualism of two opposite poles and their constant mutual transformation. It’s the same principle as the mutual transformation of Ying and Yang energies: one power dominates superiority, but neither power ever vanishes entirely. Both are present all the time. Neither the day nor the night vanish wholly during the year, no matter how short they are. The top of one is only a start of ascension of the other one.
This dualism has countless faces in a general sense: day and night, love and hatred, heat and cold, good and evil, etc., but the principle is still the same. It’s involved in all aspects of life. It’s a fundamental of every experience. Thus, no experience is either good or bad, either constructive or destructive. It’s not “either-or” but “more-or-less”.
It is enough to focus on the polarity of the light and the darkness. They are the most fundamental experiences and they are those which constitute the yearly cycle and then the zodiac. We will call them the power of the Day (Yang) and the power of the Night (Ying). A certain proportion between these two poles characterizes every moment of the yearly cycle and thus every period – or sign of the zodiac. To begin to the meaning of the signs, we will spare a few words about the symbolical sense of the powers of the Day and Night.
During the Day man mostly tries to push his or her individuality through but as it gets darker he or she can feel a subconscious inclination to merge with others. During the Day we are consciously active but during the Night we sleep and dream, dwelling in the realm of unconsciousness.
The power of the Day then relates to individuality. Light reveals a shape, a concrete form. Its beam distinguishes the individual as a concrete and unique expression of the infinity and causes him or her to behave a certain way. It symbolizes a descent of the Spirit into matter. Psychologically, it’s a symbol of individual consciousness, of ego and reason, and of personality.
On the other hand, the power of the Night is a gathering power. It puts together what is individual. Shapes vanish and are dissolved. The matter of individual bodies can’t be seen in the dark; only their collective being can be felt and heard. The power of the Night and the darkness then symbolize the liberation of the spirit from matter and integration of the individual with universality. Here collective values are stressed. Psychologically, the Night symbolizes the collective as the opposite to an ocean of racial and social energies the individual is born into and, in a deeper sense, also the infinite Space all particular objects of the universe appear - absolutely independent of the structures of ego and reason. Thus, the Day can be seen as a microcosm while the Night as a macrocosm.
As mentioned above, everything is a result of this dualism. A certain mutual proportion between the Day and the Night characterizes every sign, including its symbolic significance.
The continually changing proportion between the Day and Night within the yearly cycle is projected onto visible natural processes as well as onto human psychology. Unconsciousness, intuition still oozes through thinking, rationalism is constantly dissolved by irrationalism, concrete by general, human by divine. Human experience is an eternal result of this teamwork. Every human actually acts as one whole: as an individual and – at the same time – as the whole of mankind (… or in a deeper meaning as the nature, as the Universe). Both poles transform one into another cyclically inside of himself or herself. Here the knowledge of human wholeness is rooted. (Knowledge and experience of time in timelessness.)
Every sign of the zodiac is also identified with an element, developing their symbolic meaning. For ancient and medieval thinkers, the whole world consisted of a mixture of elements, which are represented by four basic states of aggregation of matter. Every element is then manifested in three forms: in cardinal (basic), in fixed and in mutual. There are twelve combinations, the same as the zodiacal signs. In addition, according to the elements we can divide the signs into fiery (plasma), earthy (solid), watery (liquid) and airy (gaseous) signs and according to the forms, into cardinal, fixed and mutual signs.