“Six thousand years ago, when the human mind was still half asleep, Chaldean priests were standing on their watchtowers, scanning the stars.”
The popular media promote a simplistic form of astrology, much derided by reductionists, which is largely based on the position of only one planet, ie the sun, in its movement through the heavens. Such a limited form does not and cannot do justice to the depth and power which this ancient art can bring to our endless attempts to make sense of life on this tiny planet of ours. In that struggle we need greatly the insights and gifts of science. But symbolism feeds the feeling, imaginative, poetic and spiritual dimensions of that ancient human hunger for understanding of where we came from and why we exist.
The zodiac is an imaginary band of 360 degrees circling the heavens from our standpoint on Earth. It is used by astronomers, mariners and astrologers to plot the position of the planets as they wander in their endless, regular, complex intersecting cycles through the starry heavens, weaving in and out of the twelve sectors or signs of the zodiac as they go. Only astrologers, however, ascribe meaning to those wanderings….
The twelve signs are best understood as a metaphor for the whole human journey, in relation to both collective and individual life. The first sign of Aries, for example, co-inciding with the beginning of Spring in the Northern hemisphere, speaks about the uprushing energy which fuels all new enterprises great and small. Pisces, the last sign or sector, is where all previous energies dissolve, just as all rivers flow into the sea. All energies return to the Source, so that new life can arise and begin its endless cycle. Each sector in the sequence of twelve brings a different shading, a different note, a different challenge.
Now is Scorpio’s season.
The thirty degree band of the sky as viewed from Earth, occupying from 270 to 300 degrees of the 360 degree zodiac, is the sector called Scorpio, the beginning of the final quarter of the zodiacal year. The Sun, our marker for the unfolding of the year and the changing of the seasons, entered Scorpio on the 23rd October, and leaves it for Sagittarius on the 21st November – heading for Capricorn and the winter Solstice on 21st December, its most remote point for us in the North.
The astronomy leads us to the symbolic meaning of Scorpio. It is the time of late autumn: in this season the clocks go back, making darkness come earlier. It is the time of grass dying off, trees being stripped bare of leaves, a time of retreat: warmer clothes, more heating, putting things off, often, “….until the New Year“. Energy is lower. Winter flu scythes away many of our old folk. In Greek myth, the goddess Demeter goes into mourning for her beloved daughter Persephone, abducted to his Underworld realm by Hades, king of darkness. The Upper world mourns with her.
However – descent into darkness harbours its own deep, creative purpose. The Scottish poet Christopher Whyte, born with several planets in Scorpio, expresses that purpose with profound eloquence in this extract from his poem Rex Tenebrarum (King of Darkness), an English translation by the poet himself of a poem written in Scottish Gaelic:
“……How heavy the earth is above the seed
that struggles and thrusts, looking for nourishment
from the sun, and showers to freshen it!
But if it wasn’t rooted in the darkness,
in a warm, enclosed place filled with worms,
it could do nothing with air or light…..
King of the darkness, king of the world,
when I saw two faces in the mirror
superimposed, made one, I understood
that you have to be reconciled.
Unless the sapling knows
where its roots are sunk, and the whole
plant admits that life
and nourishment come from darkness;
unless it has unequivocal
love for what bore and raised it
how can there be a rich
summer flowering for our hopes? “
The astrological writer Paul Wright reveals in his fine, acclaimed book The Literary Zodiac, the way in which “writers express cosmic patterns in their creative work….”. In the above extract Christopher Whyte’s deep roots in the sign of Scorpio have enabled him powerfully and accurately to capture and express the essence of that sector’s meaning and challenge to us.
All powerfully charged dimensions of life belong to Scorpio: that stage of the human journey challenges us with those facets of life which most powerfully compel us, attract us, repel us, scare us – and transform us.
Another poet very strongly rooted in the sign of Scorpio, Dylan Thomas, talks about ‘deaths and entrances’. If we can face and grapple with our deepest attractions, compulsions, power drives, fears and repulsions, then we can experience – through staying with the struggle, seeking support where we can, having faith in the transformative dimensions of life – the symbolic death of aspects of the ‘old order’ holding us back from entry into a more complete and authentic expression of who it is we actually are.
Currently, the planet Saturn is moving through the sign of Scorpio, where it will remain for nearly three years. What challenges does this present to individuals strongly plugged into “Scorpio’s season” ? I will be offering some thoughts on this in the next post.
In the meantime, any of your observations and experiences of what Scorpio’s season means to you would be welcome!
Christopher Whyte has translated Rilke, Tsvetaeva and Pasolini into English. He published four novels between 1995 and 2000 and his fifth poetry collection, in Scottish Gaelic, is to appear early next year. He lives in Budapest, Hungary and writes full-time. Christopher will be reading from his work at the Stanza Poetry Festival in St Andrew’s between March 6th and 10th 2013.
1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Christopher Whyte 2012
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