An Aquarius by any other name…
One of my problems with modern astrology texts, and by extension, most modern astrologers, is the lack of critical thinking involved in the practice. Most people today read the modern texts off the shelf of Barnes and Noble, or order them from Amazon, and assume that what’s in them is correct. In my first six months of studying astrology, years ago, this was the process that was available to me too. And the few classes that I took were taught by astrologers who were working from these same texts. We often assume today that if it’s in print, then it must be true, or at the very least, written by an expert on the subject. With the arrival of easy internet access, this approach is even more pervasive today; even the light-weight, poorly-written texts take on the weight of authority, simply because they have made it into print, and aren’t merely virtual (online) texts.
One example of this is the sign of Aquarius. Modern astrology erroneously ascribes “rulership” of Aquarius to the planet Uranus, while classically, the ruler is Saturn. I won’t go into the crazy (really, crazy) reasons for this rulership in this post, but let’s look at some examples of the repercussions of this.
Surfing on over to astrology.com, their website says the following of Aquarius:
“…these folks can be quite fixed in their opinions, in keeping with the Fixed Quality assigned to this sign.”
“… which is why they focus much of their energy on our social institutions and how they work.”
“If it’s new, radical and rebellious, Aquarians are all over it. “
“Some might call their behavior eccentric.”
“They are truly the trailblazers of the zodiac.”
Over at astrologyweekly.com, we find:
“Aquarius’ planetary ruler is actually a combination of Saturn and Uranus. The two together form a curious duality: Saturn’s influence can be seen in an Aquarian’s cool level-headedness, while Uranus’ pull is in the need to be unique, modern, and unconventional.”
“As a sign of the people, you refuse to be placed on a higher level than your friends, even though you may deserve it. You distrust and dislike hierarchiesâ€”you’re a true democratâ€”so inequities of class and race fuel your ardor all the more… Despite your social passions, you’re actually very solitary and independent more than people realize.”
What seems to escape people who read this is that the whole idea of being Fixed is contrary to the idea of being radical and rebellious. I’m not sure why people don’t see this more clearly.* What’s going on here is the “blending” (a term used often in modern astrology) of the traditional keywords for Aquarius (fixed, stubborn, opinionated, socially-focused, new-structure oriented, democratic, refusing hierarchy) with the invented keywords for Uranus (rebelliousness, individuality, radical change, solitude, uniqueness, unexpected actions and reversals). These are contrary energies. But most modern astrology texts mix them together, and the reader often swallows it with no further reflection.
Now for those who eschew the use of the modern planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto), this confusion is even more problematic, since according to Traditional astrology, Uranus has no place in astrological delineation anyway. (The keywords used above and in general for Uranus were taken from their original associations with the Sun and Mars, despite Uranus’ purported status as the “higher octave” of Mercury. See Lee Lehman’s The Book of Rulerships for an excellent explanation of how this happened. See also Sue Ward’s well-researched “Uranus, Neptune and Pluto: an investigation into the sources of their symbolism.”)
Now here’s the catch: Some Sun-sign Aquarians are independent, rebellious, and chaotic. However, this is not due to their Sun being in Aquarius. First of all, read my previous post, part of which is about how the Sun sign is not where one would look for personality, in traditional astrology. It’s the Rising Sign that’s more important here. So having the Sun in Aquarius, unless it is somehow accidentally configured to the personality and physical body/happiness, is completely irrelevant to whether a person is rebellious or not. In addition, as I’ve been arguing, it’s not Aquarius that makes one rebellious anyway. If a person who has the Sun in Aquarius or Aquarius Rising is rebellious and independent, more than socially oriented, there is something else going on in their natal chart that is accounting for this. Every time I’ve had a Sun-Aquarius try to tell me how independent and brilliant they are, I have discovered that they have something like Mars conjunct or square the Ascendant, or the planet that rules the Ascendant. Of course, in many cases, these individuals are neither very independent nor brilliant, they just think that they are because they read it in an astrology book. What’s amazing to me is that many of these people have themselves been professional, modern-style, astrologers. Overlooking Mars (or some other major factor) as the real indicator of their unique and chaos-loving selves. Hmm. If they couldn’t even see that a planet like Mars was the culprit/reason, then it’s no wonder that they haven’t arrived at an accurate understanding of Aquarius. As my mother used to say, whenever we couldn’t find something that was right in front of us, if this (Mars) had teeth, it would have bit them in the face.
Traditional (classical through medieval) authors don’t give lists of “descriptions” of signs. Generally, they list the qualities, and then the things that the sign is associated with (professions, animals, places, stones, colors, etc.). For example, Aquarius is fixed, airy (therefore moist and warm), diurnal (as opposed to nocturnal), masculine, human (not bestial like Aries or Leo, etc.), vocal (it’s not a mute animal like Pisces or Scorpio, etc.), the primary sign of Saturn, and so on. From these qualities, logical conclusions can be drawn, but they must all accord with these characteristics. So for example, Aquarius would be talkative (human and vocal), stubborn (fixed), intellectual (airy and human), structural (Saturn), and so on. While being a masculine, airy, human/intellectual sign will allow Aquarius to be more forward-looking than, say Capricorn (Saturn’s other sign), this does not allow for a break from the Fixed, Saturnian nature of the sign, so it cannot be rebellious, independent, and prone to sudden and unexpected reversals.
One other example from personal experience. A friend has the Sun in Capricorn with Libra rising, and Saturn in Libra in the first house. This friend often refer’s to his Capricorn nature (dark, strict, formal, etc). In reality, what he is experiencing is Saturn’s influence in Libra. Saturn’s exaltation in Libra allows him to be himself, but on his best behavior. Of course, having the ruler of the sun-sign (Saturn rules Capricorn) in the Ascendant (aka Rising Sign, aka First House) will associate Capricorn with the personality. But most of what my friend points to as Capricorn is really Libra, with Saturn helping. (More in a later post about misunderstandings of signs like Libra.)
As in my previous post, I am trying here to encourage people to go a little deeper into astrology, if they’re going to be quoting it all over the place. To paraphrase myself: we all know that what we read about Sun signs is superficial, but we can’t seem to stop perpetuating it. So before we say that we do such-and-such, or that we are a certain way because we’re “an Aquarius” or any other one astrological factor, we should take a step back and remember that the natal chart, like the person it mirrors is a complex interaction of many factors, and we shouldn’t sell ourselves short (or make excuses) by boxing ourselves into stereotypes.
* For the record, not everything in the description of Aquarius on this web page is wrong, and some of it is quite good, but the ignorant mixing of the accurate with the bogus makes delineating Aquarius, according to these descriptions, nearly impossible.
Sarah · 2010-08-19 at 13:54
You said: 'What seems to escape people who read this is that the whole idea of being Fixed is contrary to the idea of being radical and rebellious'.
Haven't you never met a stubborn rebel? I've met many. I've also met many people who take great security in being 'different to the norm'. Try describing someone with a lot of Aquarius energy in their chart as being 'run of the mill'. Then you'll find out how fixed they can be in their view of themselves. The notions of 'fixed' and 'rebellious' are not mutually exclusive and do not, in my view, necessarily arise from ill thought out astrological analysis.
Chris LaFond · 2010-08-19 at 22:00
Yes, you make a good point on that particular choice of words. There are some who are stubborn in their rebelliousness; so perhaps a better choice of words would have been in order. The point here is that the modern idea of 'radical change' and the traditional idea of 'fixed', are mutually exclusive, and this is precisely what most modern writings on Aquarius say. Aquarius is not about making radical changes in society. Aquarius likes the rules and regulations (of course, it wants them to be a certain way, and likes to be in charge, nevertheless, it is not a chaotic, Promethean energy the way the modern descriptions make it to be.)
sarah · 2010-08-21 at 05:27
Hi again Chris!
Is there no room for evolution in the way astrological energies manifest over time? IMHO, energy that was denoted by the term 'fixed' in medieval astrology has evolved since then. So to judge modern day astrological thought and concepts by medieval standards seems unfair to me.
Surely one of the key messages within astrology is that all things are subject to change and evolutionary cycles. I don't think astrological thought is an exception to this!
Chris LaFond · 2010-08-26 at 16:07
Even today, modern astrologers use the term "fixed"; that hasn't changed at all. And the other three "fixed" signs (Leo, Scorpio, and Taurus) continue to be delineated according to being "fixed/stubborn". The changes in Aquarius itself were due to 1. confusion and ignorance of the system that was no longer in common use, and 2. an agenda on the part of the Theosophists to separate people into higher, lower, and middle spiritual classes. I highly recommend Sue Ward's article on "Uranus, Neptune and Pluto", which is well worth the few pounds she charges for it.
As for "evolution", I believe that too many mistake progress for evolution. Evolution involves one species mutating into something that it is not currently. So while there is certainly room for progress in thought in astrology, it should be rooted in the tradition. If one were to find an axle with a bunch of broken spokes and not realize that they were broken, one might try to construct a circumference of some sort around those spokes. The result would be something wheel-like, and it might even turn with a lot of pushing, but it would not be a wheel, exactly. My whole point is that we need to understand the tradition *before* we attempt to expand it. What has happened amongst most modern astrologers, for many reasons (too many to go into at the moment), is that there was no real effort at understanding and recovering the tradition before beginning to come up with new techniques, many of which duplicate on a very poor level the accuracy of the traditional system.
Carol Leigh Rice · 2010-10-31 at 23:59
I am struck by a tone of certitude, which often descends into contemptuous ridicule of their fellow astrologers when
"Medieval" astrologers write…your tone here is similar to that of Robert Zoller in that regard and I note he was a teacher of yours.
As an old veteran of university classrooms and graduate schools, I seem to recall this style in bearded, stuffy, pretentious and often fraudulent professors…
I would hope you folks in the Medieval corner might stop and ask where your own certitude comes from? What great authority is it that you are relying on for your collection of attributes for each sign, and each planet, and the assignment of one planet or another to one sign or another? What makes those "authorities" beyond question – their simple antiquity? Their quoting of one another in good medieval scholastic tradition?
Who assigned Saturn to both Aquarius and Capricorn in the first place, and does anyone really think that makes sense? How convoluted does it have to get to explain that twinning?
There is considerable evidence that the astronomers in Sumer were quite aware of the existence of Uranus, Pluto and Neptune…Just as there is evidence that Libra was made up by the Greeks to bridge the once unitary sign of Scorpio and Virgo, as near as I can tell….A glance at the bizarre discrepancy in size of the constellations, not to mention the precession of the equinoxes so wordily explained away by western astrologers would suggest that western astrologers ought to proceed with some innate humility and sense of limitations…
I am an astrologer myself, so I make my comments not as a sceptic at all, but simply to question if complete intellectual closure has so clearly been attained by astrology as we know it in western civilization?
Chris LaFond · 2010-12-27 at 18:37
I just saw your comments now, I don't know when you wrote them. But let me respond.
The "certitude" you refer to is a general agreement for nearly 2,000 years among nearly ALL astrologers who wrote. One of the things that seems to separate those of us who practice traditional methods from modern astrologers is that we rely on the actual tradition, and have read and can cite where most of these things come from starting with Ptolemy and Dorotheus, through Firmicus, Ibn Ezra, Al Biruni, Bonati, right up through Lilly and his contemporaries. That's nearly 2 millennia of astrologers agreeing on most things. And one must admit, that astrology then was respected and respectable, and often lives hung in the balance.
This doesn't mean to say that there isn't room for certain innovations, however, most modern innovation isn't even based on the tradition; much of it breaks radically with what was considered basic for all those centuries. There was certainly innovation through the middle ages; yes, they often quote one another, but sometimes they disagree somewhat with certain things that came before, and when they innovate, they add to the tradition, rather than walk away from it.
Since you intimate that Zoller and his students, including me, are "fraudulent", then you must certainly think that the astrology that was practiced for 1700+ years is so.
Saturn has been associated with Capricorn and Aquarius since the very beginning, and if you were to look at a good number of horary and electional charts, you would see that Saturn (as the ancients said) actually performs better in Aquarius than in Capricorn. His placement in Aquarius mitigates his malefic qualities, where Capricorn intensifies them. So yes, this makes perfect sense. It's important to note that the assignment of planets and signs was not made according to X planet is like X sign. (See Lee Lehman's The Book of Rulerships for an excellent explanation of this.)
Usually we Medieval types cite sources when making specific references or arguments. I would like to see the "considerable evidence" that you mention about the Sumerians knowing of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. And if they did, then why did that knowledge disappear, and why was it never incorporated into traditional astrology?
You say that astrologers should proceed with a sense of "limitation," yet I would argue that it is modern astrology that has the "anything goes" attitude; traditionalists submit themselves by nature to certain limits. We do not claim that astrology does everything; as a matter of fact, we argue that what it is being used for today is not really what it was designed to do, and that today's practitioners often don't know how to do with it what it was intended for.
Anonymous · 2011-06-05 at 07:59
I just wanted to let you know how happy and thrilled I am for finding and reading the texts on this blog- for their brilliant and pure traditional stance!
And the answers you gave to Sarah's comments – well, I couldn't have written them better myself! 🙂
So again, keep up the great work you're doing here on behalf of the real astrology.
I wish you all the best!