Animalia Stellarum ~ Virgo

Ceremony and Ritual

V

irgo resonates with the element of Earth, and is a mutable sign. The Sun is in Virgo from August 22nd through September 22nd. Virgo is the 6th sign in the zodiacal wheel, marking the point of the late Summer moving into early Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and late Winter moving into early Spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Represented by the Maiden, Virgo speaks to purity, cleanliness, devotion, clarity, physical health, work, and sovereignty.

The Maiden as Virgo

If you have been waiting for a star story that gives women the central role then read on, for the sign of Virgo is all about the ladies. Virgo literally means “Virgin” and is a constellation that has been associated with the feminine and various Goddesses since we started listening to stories about stars. “Virgin” of course is a matter of interpretation, while the word still is taken today as referring to a sexually untried, “pure” woman or girl, the much older and more apt definition of Virgo is “one who is sovereign,” meaning that here we have a woman who is not owned, sold, bought, or belonging to a man (or another woman for that matter) but rather belongs to herself and herself alone. She may or may not be sexually active, may be of any age, and may be involved in the fields of spirituality, commerce, agriculture, or arts and culture as she likes because again, she belongs to herself.

As such, the essence of the Virgin is one that belongs to all woman and men. We all have within us a feminine aspect that will not be owned or claimed by another, and the Maiden becomes both a phase of life, that thrilling time of transition between child and woman, and a cultivated attitude that, again, men, women, and all other genders have access to as well.

Sovereignty then, is one of the key features of this particular sign, and perhaps a better way of saying it is knowing how to have an ongoing relationship with Sovereignty and what it means to you to belong to yourself first and foremost. Two more qualities that come up immediately, and that Virgo is strongly associated with, are cleanliness and purity. While the ideas of cleanliness and purity have been taken out of their original meanings and applied to some truly horrific ideas (like so-called racial “purity” or ethnic cleansing), the root idea with both terms is that one can be left alone, unmolested, undisturbed, and uninterrupted. Another way to think about what it means to be clean and pure is found in the idea of wholeness.

These truths are reflected in the strong association between the constellation of Virgo and the great Goddesses of old. For this sign is exclusively associated with the some powerful Goddesses including the Sumerian Shala, Babylonian Ishtar, Greek Demeter and Persphone, and Roman Ceres and Proserpina. In each case these Goddesses were significant figures in their time and place that spoke to universal themes while especially emphasizing fertility and harvest, as is best indicated by the sheaf of wheat motif with which they are all pictured.

For the Sumerians, Shala was the Goddess of the Harvest and the Furrows, meaning that she was both Maiden, waiting to be impregnated with seed, and Mother, aligned with all that is fertile and ripe. The Babylonian Ishtar was a great Goddess associated with the gifts of agriculture, love, sex, fertility, and marriage but also war and queenship. She too was imaged as both a brave maiden and loving mother whose name was called on during the harvesting of cereal crops and grains.

This theme continues with the ancient Greek pair of Demeter and Persephone. Here we see that the Maiden/Mother roles have been split in two, literally, with Demeter functioning as the great grain Goddess and Mother of all agriculture (as well as the keeper of Sacred Law) and Persephone embodying the Maiden who experiences violation and, in turn, learns (at hands of helpers like Hekate) what Sovereignty really is all about.

The association with these ancient Goddesses speaks to several other qualities of Virgo. One is the impulse we feel under Virgo’s influence to practice our spirituality in a more intentional manner. Virgo encourages us to build altars, become part of a church congregation, and/or develop a daily practice that is full of meaningful devotions. All of these Goddesses had temples, priestesses, and acolytes and in a very real way Virgo calls up the inner Priestess within all of us.

In slightly different terms we can also see here the emphasis on health. Sovereignty itself was a Goddess at one point and, like the other Goddesses mentioned here, She had a strong relationship with the land. What we see in the stories of Virgo is a reminder that the health of our bodies is connected to the health of THE body of the earth. This sign, already associated with the element of earth, reminds us to tend to the literal ground beneath our feet and also to take care of our physical bodies. For this reason Virgo has long been associated with the medical professions.

Finally, we see in the stories of the various Goddesses that Virgo is the Maiden but also the Mother – that this sign occupies the space in between both of these qualities and encompasses them as well. Once upon a time the Maiden and Mother were not so very cut off from each other. This meant, practically, that as women aged they still had the energy of the Maiden readily accessible, and that for women who chose not to have children or were not able to have children, they were not excluded from the particular mysteries of Motherhood – the Goddesses reflected all to everyone not just a chosen few. As our stories became split and splintered so did the role of Maiden and Mother, hardening into two extremes instead of the flowing relationship they once possessed. Practically speaking we are all still finding ways to repair and heal from this particular rift, so it is quite fortunate that we need only look up into the sky at the stars of Virgo (the second largest constellation btw) to remind ourselves what wholeness actually looks like.

The Maiden as Animal: By Sara Magnuson

In discussing the human-animals of the zodiac in particular, we’ve established that the vastness of our minds is the main characteristic that sets humans apart from other animals. As the Earth Maiden, Virgo shows us the merging of our intellectual capacity and our instinctual/animalistic body. Virgo takes us out of the mind and moves downward into the body, acknowledging our physicality. Virgo is the initial connection between mind and form. The Maiden also exemplifies the ways we are similar to and aligned with other animals, rather than pointing out where we diverge.

All animals learn how to exist in their surroundings by observing (watching, listening, smelling), trying/experimenting, and then processing those experiences so that their body and mind will react appropriately in the future. It is in this way that Virgo shows us our similarities to other animals. Those born under the sign of Virgo are keenly observant and process newly-discovered information not just in the mind, but down into their earthy being. Virgos don’t just know something, they feel it in their body. Typically fast learners, once they have mastered a task it’s embedded in their muscles and bones and they quickly move through it with ease. A Virgo reading a book or listening to music is not just taking in the words or sounds, but sensing the narrated world or the vibrations of the melody as if they were in it, feeling it, creating it. The mind of Virgo is very sharp, but the influence of the element of Earth keeps them especially attuned and connected to their physical senses.

We have seen the virgin and maternal aspects of Virgo described above, as well as the ways in which she is seen as the Maiden and the Mother. The association with virginity gives an innocence to Virgo that can be mistaken for apathy or naiveté and betray the deep wisdom they have obtained with their apparent wide-eyed idealism. Such is the way of many animals – seemingly innocent and naive, yet full of knowledge. For example, a Squirrel may not appear to be a wise creature, as they are skittish and approach everything as if they’ve never seen it before; yet the Squirrel has an understanding of how to exist in its environment that is deeply rooted in its body and goes beyond pure intellectual reasoning. The Squirrel knows what to expect from familiar circumstances because of previous experience, but it is prepared and understands that each encounter can bring new variables. As the Squirrel moves slowly out of the bushes toward the open ground under my bird feeder, as it has done a thousand times before, it is still cautious and filled with trepidation. It is processing all that it already knows and taking in any new information, integrating it all together. It is this ongoing collecting of wisdom that gives Virgo a motherly quality juxtaposed with a surface level innocence.

The mental-physical integration of new facts and knowledge with previous experience allows Virgo to be practical, resourceful, patient, and methodical. This process can also cause Virgo to be worrisome, controlling, and even a bit OCD. Learning to bring intellectual thoughts into the physical form and trusting the mind-body connection can help with Virgo’s anxious or domineering tendencies. It is this same act of integrating, however, that gives Virgo the ability to learn and adapt and allows them to live well in community with others. Virgo encourages us to take our knowing into our physical form and listen, trust, and act from our entire self.

Call on The Maiden When…

  • You desire more sovereignty
  • You want to cultivate a sense of order and peace
  • You are ready to take your words and ideas seriously
  • You wish to deepen your sense of purpose through service
  • You need more devotion in your life
  • You desire order and structures that make sense
  • You need better boundaries
  • You are working on cultivating a sense of personal responsibility
  • You wish to have greater clarity around your work in the world
  • You would like to have insight into your physical health
  • You are ready harvest the fruits of your labors

Be Wary Of…

  • Rigidity – Virgo’s qualities of clarity and organization are wonderful to have on hand and available but Virgo can also become too rigid or fixed in its attitudes towards these things. Sometimes Virgo can send off the vibe that everything must be in its specific place or we simply cannot function. This makes for a clean house but also a home that is sometimes empty of spiritedness or fun. Virgo does best when it fully integrates the gifts of Leo and remembers that fun and messes also have a place in our lives.
  • Intolerance – As the Maiden, Virgo is fixated on purity and devotion but sometimes this attitude develops into a “my way is the only way” mind-set. Virgo can come off as intolerant of mistakes, messes, and ways of seeing or going about life that do not fit into their predetermined framework of “the way that things should be.”
  • Passive-Aggression – In direct opposition to Virgo’s ability to be rigid and intolerant (more than pretty much any other mutable sign, with the possible exception of Aquarius), there is also a flip side of Virgo being too easy-going and accommodating. Virgo loves to serve and sometimes in serving others can lose sight of herself. When this happens Virgo responds often in a passive-aggressive manner, not wishing to create significant conflict but also needing to express their deep dissatisfaction.

Questions to Ponder for Virgo:

Virgo, the Maiden, shows up in everyone’s chart – there is no such thing as “I don’t have Virgo” because it is a cluster of stars in the sky and it is always there. Wherever Virgo occurs in your chart these questions will help you get to know it better.

  • What does Sovereignty mean to me? What is my relationship to Sovereignty?
  • What am I devoted to and how do I express that devotion?
  • What is my body and physical health telling me about my overall approach to life?
  • What is the role of organization and cleanliness in my life?
  • Where do I love to serve others?
  • What does right relationship to work look and feel like?
  • Where do I need more clarity?
  • What am I ready to harvest?

Active Imagination Practice

When we talk and feel into intuition things can get very foggy and vague quickly. This is because intuition belongs to the Otherworld, the liminal world and it works according to the rules and customs of that world not our highly analytical, extremely audio-verbal waking experience. Thankfully there is one immediate and direct way to begin experiencing your intuitive guidance, and yes, we all have intuition, the path of this experience lies through and within your own blessed body.

Sit or stand where you are comfortable, close your eyes, and take a long deep breath.
Take several more long, deep breaths and with each inhale imagine the air filling your lungs and moving through your body down into your feet. On each exhale, push the air out through your core and imagine each muscle relaxing, from your toes to your head.
Affirm and acknowledge the presence of your shields and note if any areas or zones of the body need especial attention at this time.
Engage with the your breath again.

Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what YES feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon YES and what that life feels like: an opening, a heating up, a tingling, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was YES.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your YES, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?

Once you can see, sense, touch, know, and feel your YES, then we turn our attention to NO.
Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what NO feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon NO and what that life feels like: an closing, a cooling, a tensing or contraction, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was NO.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your NO, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?

Once you can see, sense, touch, know, and feel your NO, then we turn our attention to MAYBE.
Ask in your mind and heart for your body to show you what MAYBE feels like for you.
Pay attention specifically to what area of the body comes alive upon MAYBE and what that life feels like: a calming, a cooling or heating, a settling in and down, something completely different?
If when you first ask you feel that you do not receive a response in and through the physical body then, remaining engaged with the blessed body breath, allow yourself to remember a time in your life where you were asked a question, given an opportunity, or made a decision and the answer was MAYBE.
Remember the specifics of the situation — the people involved, the time of day and season of year, the specific content. Then focus on the memory of your MAYBE, what did it feel like in the body? Where did it happen in the body?

When you have completed this meditation, record your body’s responses. Make note of your physical and emotional feelings for each question. Reflect on how you can listen to your body in everyday life. If you don’t feel you have clear signals for yes, no, and maybe in your body after completing this exercise, revisit it weekly until the answers feel solid to you; be patient and know that your mind and body are meant to talk to each other.

Altar and Ritual

The Maiden, and the Goddesses of agriculture and harvest with whom she is associated, are most often depicted with a sheaf of wheat, so to honor her we must make bread!

The art of bread making (yes, it is most definitely an art) is ancient and brings us back to our common ancestral roots; for making bread is a very grounding experience. It is essentially a quite simple process of blending and waiting, but the physical act of combining the relatively few ingredients leads to the creation of something nourishing and wonderful!

For those of you that think making bread is too technical or delicate, it doesn’t have to be. Provided below as a simple and easy method of creating a “no-knead” bread that keeps the sacred process alive but does not require any baking experience. In this recipe we are also going to add some sacred herbs to create a most exquisitely magical bread.

(If you already have your own favorite bread recipe and/or are experienced with making bread using other methods, feel free to follow what you know and try adding some sacred herbs.)

IMPORTANT – do not use a bread making machine! The purpose of this exercise is to create this nourishing, sacred bread with your own two hands.

This “no-knead” method is taken from the book, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. A highly recommended resource if you’d like to start making your own bread.

This recipe will make four 1-pound loaves that you will bake one at a time over several days.
You will need a 4-5 quart glass bowl or plastic container, a baking stone (pizza stone works great), and a boiler tray.

Ingredients:

– 3 cups lukewarm water
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated yeast (2 packets)
– 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt
– 2 teaspoons total of dried herbs (4 teaspoons if fresh); use herbs that have a magical significance for you, but make sure they are edible and tasty!
– 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour (do not pack when measuring)
– Cornmeal (for sprinkling on the baking stone)

Step One: Mix and Store the Dough

– Put the lukewarm water in the glass bowl and add the yeast and salt. Gently stir to dissolve, but it doesn’t have to be completely dissolved.
– Add the herbs to the water mixture.
– Add all of the flour at once.
– Mix with a wooden spoon if you want a good workout and/or doing it all by hand is especially important to you. It’s also perfectly ok to use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until it is uniformly moist without any dry patches.
– Cover loosely with a lid, cloth towel, or plastic wrap, but you do not want it to be air tight.
– Allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or flatten on top (about 2 hours).
– You can technically use the dough at this point, but since the dough is quite wet it will be easier to handle after being refrigerated for at least three hours or even overnight.

Step Two: Shaping and Baking

– Sprinkle your work surface and the baking stone with a generous amount of cornmeal.
– Take out your refrigerated dough and lightly sprinkle the whole surface with flour.
– Pull up and cut off a grapefruit-sized piece of dough from the bowl.
– Add a little more flour as needed so the dough won’t stick to your hands.
– Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. The bottom of the loaf will start to appear to be a collection of bunched ends and the top will be very smooth. Be careful not to over-handle the ball and the whole process should take about a minute.
– Place the shaped ball on your work surface and allow to rest uncovered for 40 minutes.
– Place the baking stone in the oven on the middle rack and the boiler tray on a rack below.
– Preheat the oven, with the baking stone and boiler tray inside, to 450 degrees. Allow a full 20 minutes for preheating.
– Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour and, using a serrated knife, slash a 1/4 inch deep cross, tic-tac-toe, or any other pattern into the top of the loaf.
– Place the loaf on the baking stone and pour 1 cup of hot water into the boiler tray. Be sure to do this relatively quickly so you can trap the steam in the oven.
– Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Avoid opening the oven to check on it for at least 30 minutes.
– When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or “sing.” Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
– The remaining dough can be stored and used as needed for up to 14 days.

About my Co-Author:

Sara Magnuson is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Leo the Lion

Divination and Dreams

L

eo resonates with the element of Fire, and is a fixed sign. The Sun is in Leo from July 22nd through August 22nd. Leo is the 5th sign in the zodiacal wheel, marking the point of the deep Summer moving into late Summer in the Northern Hemisphere and deep Winter moving late Winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Represented by the Lion, Leo speaks to creativity, boldness, influence, luxury, Kingship/Queenship, and self-expression.

The Lion as Leo

Like its preceding sign of Cancer, Leo is strongly associated with the legendary figure of Hercules and his first task, defeating the Nemean Lion. But the story of Leo starts long before that. Like the sign of Taurus, the constellation of Leo has been recognized almost universally as that of a lion. It is one of the oldest constellations of record recognized in both Sumeria and Babylon and has always been associated first and foremost with royalty and kingship. One of the original 48 constellations described by 2nd century Ptolemy, Leo is now among the 88 recognized constellations today and a beloved site in the sky for star gazing due to its uniquely bright stars.

These two initial features of an association with royalty and bright star clusters already give us a sense of how Leo works. Often one of the more maligned signs of the Zodiac, best expressed in the unkind statement “All ego Leo,” Leo is actually the point within the Zodiac, and within our own natal charts, where we discover what hidden talents we have that support us in rulership and also in shining brightly.

Kingship has long been associated with this sign and it is worth noting that to be a King or to be a Queen did not always mean seizing power unlawfully and lording it over the peons. Many ancient traditions had various ways of electing or appointing their royal rulers and in many places the mark of a good King or Queen was the health and well-being of their people and land. Along the same lines, just as Cancer is associated with the Mother and the Mothering qualities that we all possess, Leo is associated with the Father and the Fathering qualities that we all carry within us. While working with Cancer we were encouraged to get clear about our relationship to our Mother, our ability to Mother and the connection between Mothering and nourishment, Leo supports us as we meet our inner Father and work on our relationship to power.

The story of the Nemean lion is clearly a tailing of a much older story that involves the wild God Dionysus and his rock and roll ways. Dionysus is the God of the Grape, Wine, and the Wild. He is described as a “foreign” God meaning that he was not Greek originally and most likely much older. He is also a dying God, one who dies back and then resurrects again each year, just as the grapes and other greeneries do. In the legends that surround Dionysus we see a powerful and charismatic deity who is charming and persuasive, especially to women.

Flirtation, charm, enthusiasm, and fun are all classic traits that Leo shares with the God of the Grape. But Dionysus was not interested in women in a sexual manner for the most part, he was interested in having a party and the more influential the people who showed up were, the better. In this way too Leo is invoked, for as Leo situates us with respect to our personal power one of the natural questions that comes up is where do I, and where do I not, have influence?

Dionysus was strongly associated with the Lion and is often depicted wearing a Lion skin (and little else). Cut to the tale of the Nemean Lion – a Lion who held women captive in order to persuade their men to come and attempt to rescue them, and then, when the men did arrive, would devour them.

In actual history the rites that honored Dionysus were in many cases open only to women and men were strictly prohibited from participating. One notable exception to this are the tragic and comedic dramas that were performed in Athens every year as part of the rites in honor of Dionysus. Leo, of course, is the sign most strongly associated with the theatrical arts.

The Nemean Lion was defeated by Hercules and the women were set free, but in a curious move, Zeus, the headsman of the Gods (and the father of Dionysus), elevated the Lion into the heavens and created a constellation of him. Some say this was to honor the heroic feat of Hercules but others find this move to be telling that the Nemean Lion was a stand in for Dionysus – a God who wielded a very different kind of power, just as Leo can.

The Lion as Animal: By Sara Magnuson

Lion – King of the Jungle. Except Lions don’t really live in the jungle, but we’ll get to that.

Lion generally brings to mind power and strength. In fact, it’s hard to see Lion’s weaknesses for all its grandeur and magnificence. The strengths of Lion are obvious and many; nonetheless, let’s paint a clear picture of this glorious creature.

Panthera leo is the second largest Cat, after Tiger, and lives primarily in savannas and open grassland. Lion is an apex predator and a keystone predator. This means that Lion is at the top of its food chain and it is prey to very few. As a keystone predator, Lion plays an important role in controlling the population of its prey. Weighing in at 400-500 lbs and 6-11 ft in length (including the tail), they are formidable to say the least. They can run up to 50 mph, strike their claws with over 300 lbs of force, and bite with over 600 lbs of pressure. Like all Cats, their senses of hearing, vision, and smell are exceptional and are most acute at night. Lions rest (i.e. lay around) for 16-20 hrs a day – again, like all Cats – but that’s where their similarities end.

Unlike any other Cat in the Felidae family, which includes house cats, Lions are social. They live in groups we all know as a pride, which consists of 2-4 males (called a coalition), 5-7 females, and their offspring. Each adult Lion plays a very specific role and cooperation is key. Females are at the core of the pride social unit and do not tolerate outsiders. Prides are lineage-based and membership almost always only changes with the birth and death of the females within the pride. Few Lions live solitary lives and those that do spend most of the time looking for another pride to join. It is rare for females to accept a lone Lioness into the pride and males will only accept lone males after fierce battle.

Lions are also unique among Cats in the way they express gender, physically and behaviorally. In most Cats, there’s no obvious difference between males and females; you have to look at their genitals to tell them apart. Lions, on the other hand, exhibit sexual dimorphism – an outward, physical distinction between the sexes beyond their reproductive organs.

The mane of the Lion is the most obvious difference from the Lioness and tells many things about him. How big or small his mane is, how thick or thin it is, and its color all tell about genetic preconditions, sexual maturity/testosterone production, and climate. It turns out that darker fuller manes are usually favored among females. The larger of the two sexes, his role in the pride is very distinct – eat, mate, defend territory, protect other members of the pride. He rarely hunts, leaving that to the Lionesses. When not patrolling the borders of his territory, he is often found looking after the cubs while the females are finding dinner. The lifespan of the Lion is about 10 years, much shorter than the Lioness’ 14-15 years, and cause of death is typically injury from other Lions. He is best at defending and protecting and that’s what he does.

The Lioness is an elegant and complex creature. It is within and amongst the women that the cooperative nature of Lion shines. Due to her slightly smaller size and lack of mane, Lioness is the more effective hunter – she is swifter, more agile, and aerodynamic than her male counterpart. While they can run very fast, they can only do so in short bursts, so if they miss a catch it’s usually due to lack of endurance. Within their hunting groups, each Lioness plays a very specific role that is strictly observed and carried out. Some females fan out to the sides, while others flank the prey, and still others do the actual pouncing. Their maneuvers are smooth and precise because they know and trust that each Lioness will fulfill her position on the team.

The cooperative nature of the Lioness goes even further with raising their young. The females of a pride will synchronize their menstrual cycles to facilitate cooperative cub rearing. It is much easier to have groups of cubs that are around the same age rather than cubs at all different stages all the time. Females share the duties of providing the general needs of the cubs and are diligent mothers. The Lioness moves all of her cubs to a new den about once a month so their scent doesn’t build up and attract predators of the babies. At 2-4 years of age, male Lions are pushed out by the females to join the other adult males, while the young females remain with the core group of Lionesses.

Lions collaborate, coordinate, and unite. All this cooperation provides many benefits – protection, maintenance of territory, less injury, and kin selection (i.e. increased survival of kin vs self). Lions are extraordinarily distinct from one another in their appearance and actions and those born under the sign of Leo contain all the qualities of both the Lion and the Lioness. One could not exist without the other. The true power of Lion is twofold – power comes from complete ownership of its strengths and weaknesses; and power comes from an unflinching trust in the pride. Each Lion knows what it’s best at and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Lion walks proud with its golden fur shimmering in the sunlight, daring anyone and everyone to question their identity.

During the Sun’s transit through Leo, we ask all of you to draw on the powerful energy of this heavenly body and, no matter what you look like on the outside, own yourself in all your magnificent glory. Draw on the nature of Lion and Lioness and know that you are a strong, powerful, majestic creature.

Call on The Lion When…

  • You want to cultivate a sense of power and authority.
  • You desire to shine bright and bold!
  • You are ready to take your creative life and vision seriously.
  • You wish to bring more luxury and quality into your life.
  • You need more fun!
  • You wish to express yourself more sincerely and authentically.
  • You are ready for the spotlight.
  • You are excited to bring more play into your life.
  • You need more enthusiasm in your life.
  • You would like to take more care with your physical appearance.
  • You want to associate with power brokers and influential people.
  • You want more passion!

Be Wary Of

  • Arrogance – There is a fine line between Pride and Arrogance and Leo often has trouble spotting exactly where that line is. This is a wonderful area of the chart to work with when you need to develop a sense of healthy pride and ownership, but watch out for that pride turning into the kind of arrogance that can result in the loss of friends, allies, and so much more.
  • Selfishness – Wherever Leo occurs in your chart is a place where you are very much meant to be seen and heard. Well and good but this can easily turn into a feeling that you and ONLY you are the figures that matter. Leo rules the heart of the body so it is a good idea to keep it firmly in mind that when we come from our heart we make room for everyone and nip any selfish “me and only me” attitudes in the bud.
  • Superficiality – Leo can encourage us to take more pride in our personal experience – to look and feel glamorous (whatever that means to you). When we are in the high Leo vibe we often love to get shiny jewelry, a new hairdo, and some nice makeup. There is nothing wrong with that but Leo does well to remember that outer appearance and inner essence really are two different things, they can speak to each other, but don’t mistake one for the other.

Questions to Ponder for Leo:

Leo, the Lion, shows up in everyone’s chart – there is no such thing as “I don’t have Leo” because it is a cluster of stars in the sky and it is always there. Wherever Leo occurs in your chart these questions will help you get to know it better.

  • What is my relationship to power and authority?
  • What is the realm that I “rule” over?
  • Where do I have a special ability to carry more influence and clout?
  • What is the role of play in my life?
  • Where do I love to spoil myself?
  • What have I learned from my relationship to my father?
  • What luxury am I ready to indulge in?
  • What am I creating?

Meditation/Active Imagination Journey:

Cultivate Calmness.
Ground, Center, and Anchor in the ways that feel good and right to you.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that you are standing in a great savanna under the blazing sun. The light around you is golden and the sun’s warmth feels good on your skin and a soft breeze blows through your hair.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel the golden light all around you and the beat of your own heart. As you are ready, see, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel the appearance of a great golden Lion that is running towards you in time with your own heart’s rhythm. Affirm and acknowledge that the proud beast means you no harm.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel its golden presence and it comes ever closer to you. When you are ready look into its tawny eyes and feel its hot breath on your skin. Affirm and acknowledge that you have come to this place at this time to learn a new teaching about your life, one that is gifted to you from the stars; you have come to encounter the celestial Lion, Leo.

Acknowledge that it does not matter where Leo occurs in your chart or whether you were born under this Sun sign or not – we all have this constellation present in some portion of our natal chart and so we can all learn from it.

As you are ready, close your eyes and take a deep breath in. See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel, the presence of the Lion before you. Affirm that its powerful form is part of its message. Note what the initial message is for you at this time.

When you are ready, breathe in a blessing on yourself and your Lion familiar, exhaling in gratitude.
Then, ask the Lion what you need to know about power and creativity right now.
Listen to the answers you receive and it begins to lick your palm with its sandpaper tongue.

Affirm and acknowledge the answers and, as you are ready, ask the Lion any other questions you have at this time.

Take time to listen with care.

Then, as you are ready, breath a blessing onto the Lion’s face and then see, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel as it retreats back into the tall grasses. Affirm and acknowledge the blessing you have received.
As you are ready, bring awareness back to your present place here and now, and then set about your work of claiming your deep power once more.

Altar/Ritual

For this ritual we’ll be honoring the masculine/feminine sides of ourselves individually, as well as the place where they blend – all under the shining glory of the Sun.

What you will need:

4 candles – red/pink, blue, purple, and yellow (any shade of these colors is fine)
3-5 Items that represent your masculine side and/or represent masculinity in general to you; these should be positive symbols for you; the goal is to *honor* the masculine side of yourself; suggestions – an arrow, a horn or antler, a High John the Conqueror Root
3-5 Items that represent your feminine side and/or represent femininity in general to you; again, these should be positive symbols for you; the goal is to *honor* the feminine side of yourself; suggestions – a pomegranate, anything in the shape of a circle, a Queen Elizabeth Root
1-5 items that represent the blend of masculine and feminine within you, the parts of you that are not gender specific
Optional – if you already identify with a particular spiritual path or cultural group, use items that symbolically represent male, female, and gender-blending and/or gender-neutral within that context to further your connections.

The Ritual:

Think of your altar as a triangle, with two base points closest to you and the peak opposite.
At the right base point, place the blue candle.
To the right of the candle, place the items you have chosen to represent masculinity.
At the left base point, place the red/pink candle.
To the left of the candle, place the items you have chosen to represent femininity.
At the peak, place the purple candle.
Above the peak, place the items that you have chosen to represent the blend of masculine and feminine.
In the center, place the yellow candle to represent the Sun fueling the triangle.
Light the yellow Sun candle first.
Next, light the candle that you identify with most (it’s ok to light the purple candle first) and move toward the candle that you identify with the least.
As you go, draw power from the Sun and the candle you lit first.
Moving on, use that power to honor the other parts of yourself and the knowledge within them.
Sit with candles for at least 10 minutes, meditating on the flames, the symbols, how they work together, and the everlasting Sun catalyzing the effort.

Let the candles burn as long as you can without being interrupted. If you must put them out, be sure to re-light and sit with them again until they’ve burned completely down. Once complete, collect any leftover candle wax and bury it outside all together.
Collect the symbols you used during this candle rite and arrange them however you see fit – keep them on your altar or create separate spaces for each part of the triangle. You can also bury them outside with the candle wax, again all together.

Remember: always observe common sense fire safety when burning candles!

About my Co-Author:

Sara Magnuson is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Cancer

Divination and Dreams

C

ancer resonates with the element of Water and is a cardinal from June 20th through July 21st. Cancer is the 4th sign in the zodiacal wheel, marking the point of the beginning of Summer (Summer Solstice) and moving into deep Summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter Solstice moving into early Spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Represented by the Crab, Cancer speaks to safety, nourishment, sensitivity, and dreams. As the sign of the Crab, Scarab, and other beings with shells, Cancer, reminds us that we do not have to forgo our tenderness, only learn to protect it.

The Crab as Cancer

Within legend the crab is closely associated with Hydra a many-headed beast raised by Hera to kill the hero Heracles. The story goes that Heracles was driven mad by Hera and as a result murdered his wife and son. After committing this deed Heracles deeply regretted what had happened as he regained his sanity and sought out purification and redemption from the Oracle at Delphi.

Already we can see one of the first themes of Cancer make itself known. For the celestial Crab, family is of extreme importance. This does not always mean that Cancer natives or those with strong Cancer in their chart always have a good relationship with their families; certainly they can but like any other sign they may also have their own wounds around the concepts of home and family. The difference is the for Cancer issues with family tend to take front and center stage in a powerful way. It is not coincidental that the myth cycle within which Cancer appears, begins with the devastating loss of family.

In order to redeem himself Heracles was given 12 tasks by King Eurystheus and the second of these labors was to kill the Hydra. But this task proved difficult. For every time one of its venomous heads was cut off two new heads took its place. During Heracles’ struggle a large crab named Karikos emerged from the Underworld sent by Hera and attacked his foot. In some versions of the story Heracles crushes the crab under his heel at which point Hera takes it and places it among the stars while in other versions, Heracles kicks it so far into the sky that it comes a cluster of stars.

This aspect of the story too gives us vital clues about the way that the Crab works. Emerging from the underworld, emerging literally from the deep waters where the Hydra lived, Cancer, also is able to occupy in-between spaces – at home in the depths but also able to come to the surface. Just as the Crab pulled and pinched at Heracles’ foot, doing as its “mother” Hera commanded, so Cancer can show us where we tend to get tripped up, especially when we are so engaged in a single task.

So that is the official story but when it comes to the Crab what we often find is that what is on the outside does not necessarily indicate what is within. For just as crabs in real life have tough outer shells protecting tender insides so the story of Cancer the crab holds more mystery within it. Within the tale we see that there is a battle raging between Heracles who is depicted as a strong and mighty hero and half God, but who is also seen (even by sympathetic storytellers) as a prideful and arrogant hero, and Hera, the chief Goddess of Olympia and consort of Zeus. Often when we seen this set up of tension between Hera and a hero, what we are also seeing is a tension playing out between two different kinds of powers.

While it might be easy to shorthand this as a conflict between men and women or old and new, it is not quite that. For Hercules has men and women, old and young who come to his aid and Hera has the same on her side. Rather, what we see are two different ways of exerting power. How does one rule is one of the core questions brought about by the 12 labors of Heracles. And this is an essential question for Cancer, for as the cardinal water sign, the Crab has much to teach about wielding power and influence in a manner that is also healing and receptive in alignment with its natural element: water.

Within in the tale Hera vies for power by working in the background. She creates traps that Heracles must navigate by using not only his mighty arm but his head. Heracles on the other hand, relies overly much on his natural strength; a feature that, after the death of his family by his own hand, becomes both blessing and curse. His arrogance is his undoing time and again, and while he begins with 10 labors he adds on two more because he does not follow the prescription laid out by the King to which he owes fealty. And the issue of arrogance is one where Cancer speaks strongly. For the emphasis that this sign places on home, family, and tribe flies in the face of arrogant self-assertion. While other signs might say “but what about me?” Cancer asks, “but what about all of us?”

Hera is one of the great mother figures within the Olympian tales and this too speaks to an aspect of Moon-ruled Cancer as this sign has a strong affinity for mothers, motherhood, and is concerned with the question of what it means to be a mother – to oneself as well as to others. Nourishment is another theme that comes up strongly with this sign and Cancer is often found asking: what needs to happen to make it easier, to make it possible, to support someone deeply?

Long before the Greek story of Heracles and Hera and Karikos the Crab, the Sumerians and Babylonians saw Cancer as the window of the dark sun, it was a point in the sky associated with Summer Solstice as well as the Moon and it was understood to be one of the points in the zodiac that could assist one in “seeing in the dark.” This too is Cancer, for as a water sign, Cancer is deeply liminal – able to move from water to land, from one world to another and back again. The seeing that comes with such liminal work is not illuminated by the sun, logical thought or analysis, but rather by deep feeling, feelings which have the power to leave Cancer especially vulnerable, thus the tough exterior.

In closing I will note that Karikos, the ancient Greek word for Crab and proper name for Cancer, is a word that has cognates in many languages around the world – even languages that do not fall under the Proto Indic-European family have similar words for Crab. This small fact reminds me of another aspect of the Crab, the notion that even though we do have different tribes and family, at the deepest level we are linked to each other. It also tells me that there is much more to the story of the Crab than we are fully aware of, and that is appropriate for Cancer, for this sign innately understands that a little mystery is essential.

The Crab as Animal: By Sara Magnuson

Ruled by the Moon and the element of Water, Crab is an unlikely representative of the bright and fiery summer solstice and teaches us about awareness of, and reactivity to, movement, both literal and figurative.

Crabs are similar to insects in many ways and we have seen that correlation exemplified in the mythology and folklore. Biologically, they are similar in that their body is divided in sections, they have several pairs of legs, and are found on every continent and ocean. Even their circulatory systems are similar, but symbolically it is their exoskeleton that brings out the qualities they share. Hard on the outside and soft on the inside. They are covered in armor and protected from the outside world. While the Crab does not have ears, a nose, or skin in the way we can relate to as mammals, they have extraordinarily keen perceptions. Their hard-shell bodies are covered with delicate receptive hairs that pick up on vibrations, including sound waves (their version of “hearing”). These hairs also allow them to “smell” the pheromones of other creatures. Crabs don’t vocalize, but they create their own vibrations by drumming their legs or claws against a hard surface. They will also snap their claws to create sound that is picked up by the hairs on the bodies of other Crabs. The ability to detect the movement of vibrations, in the water, in the ground, and in the air, gives Crab a sensitivity that betrays its hard exterior.

In order to grow Crab must molt its shell, which is a very delicate affair. They have to pull themselves, bit by bit, ever so carefully, out of their shell and then wait while the new one hardens. It is part of the farmer’s folklore that Crabs molt during the full moon. This is not without some truth, as many common Crabs have a molting cycle of about 30 days. It is in this way that Crab follows the movement of the Moon and the pull of the tides, going through regular cycles of extreme vulnerability.

Crabs in general are not seen as wholly social or solitary creatures, although individual species will have their unique behaviors, rather they are social or solitary as it seems to suit their needs. They will migrate to the shore together in enormous groups and will also defend their mates and burrows (places of singular connection or solitude) to the bitter end. In human personality terms, they can be extroverted or introverted as needed. Crab’s ability to flow with the movement of a situation is admirable!

Of course, we can’t talk about Crab without talking about it’s literal movement. Crab’s eyes appear to face forward on its body, yet they walk in a sideways manner, not looking in the direction they’re going. Crab’s are able to walk forward and backward, but the orientation of their legs makes sideways locomotion more efficient. Their almost 360° vision allows them to walk in any direction and still see what’s going on. Crab teaches that approaching things “sideways” can be helpful and provide a new point of view. Crab asks us to remember that the path that leads to your desires may not be a straight line.

The energy of Crab may manifest in those born under this sign in many ways – they may be very perceptive to the energy of other people, especially those close to them, and can equally give off a lot of energy themselves. It can also manifest in using the “sideways” aspect of Crab in a manipulative manner; always looking for an alternate way into a situation to suit their own purpose. Ruled by the element of water, Crab can have a tendency to make things into something they are not; remember that Water can create illusions. The darkness of the Moon, the flare of the Sun, the pull of the tides, the movement of cycles and vibrations – Crab is extraordinarily sensitive to these influences.

Call on The Crab When…

  • You want to re-connect to your sense of home and sanctuary.
  • You desire the protection of family, close friends, and tribe.
  • You are ready for deep and abiding nourishment; including changing your dietary habits or becoming clearer on nutritional needs.
  • You wish to explore the various roles of the mother in your life.
  • You need more moonlight!
  • You wish to nurture yourself or others.
  • You are taking a retreat.
  • You are working to increase peace and tranquility in your home or family life.
  • You need more poetry in your life.
  • You would like to pay more attention and/or remember your dreams.
  • You want to develop a divination skill.
  • You are increasing your privacy and protection.

Be Wary Of

  • Dependency relationships are awesome but sometimes Cancer-strong people can take their love of family to a truly intense level. The attitude here becomes one of a smother mother” or a dependent child. There is a difference between associating with family because you love your people and like to be with them, versus never leaving home because you are afraid that you cannot stand on your own.
  • Passive-Aggression Cancer-strong people do not like conflict and so will do their best to steer clear of disagreements. But they can manifest their displeasure through subtle emotional manipulation or passive aggressive behaviors that undermine others. Cancer is the cardinal sign of water which means that it does like to take on a leadership role; part of leading is being comfortable with your voice and using it, do that and the passive-ag tendencies will just float away.
  • Buying into Illusions Cancer-strong types are illuminated by the light of the moon. They love to peer into the shadows and frolic in the oceans. While this liminal space is wonderful for dreams, depth, and sacred arts work of all kinds; it can have a hard time with the real world, here and now. Cancer has to learn how to create solid foundations under their aerial castles when they do there is nothing that can stop them!

Questions to Ponder for Cancer:

Cancer, the Crab, shows up in everyone’s chart there is no such thing as I don’t have Cancer” because it is a cluster of stars in the sky and it is always there. Wherever Cancer occurs in your chart these questions will help you get to know it better.

  • What is my relationship to home and family?
  • What does sanctuary mean to me? What makes a place a sanctuary? 
  • How can I best nourish myself and others?
  • Where am I overly protective?
  • Where does privacy really matter to me? What do I do to maintain privacy?
  • What have I learned from my relationship to my mother?
  • What are my dreams telling me?
  • What actions do I take that allow me to connect with the Moon?

Meditation/Active Imagination Journey:

Cultivate Calmness.
Ground, Center, and Anchor in the ways that feel good and right to you.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that you are standing at the shoreline where the sand meets the sea. It is night time and the stars twinkle high above your head while a gorgeous Moon shines down illuminating everything with her brilliant light.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel the taste of the tangy salt air on your tongue, the sea breeze whipping through your hair, and your feet curled up and sinking deeper into the sand as the tide comes up and pools around your ankles. Soon, you feel little legs scurry across your foot and a tiny little pinch…not hard at all, grab your big toe.

Bending down, cup your hands together and as you do so a crab crawls into them surrounded by sea water and foam. Affirm and acknowledge that you are safe holding this little being in the palm of your hand, no harm will come to you and no harm will come to it.

Affirm and acknowledge that you have come to this place at this time to learn a new teaching about your life, one that is gifted to you from the stars; you have come to encounter the celestial Crab, Cancer.

Acknowledge that it does not matter where Cancer occurs in your chart or whether you were born under this Sun sign or not – we all have this constellation present in some portion of our natal chart and so we can all learn from it.

As you are ready, close your eyes and take a deep breath in. See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel, the crab dancing across the skin of your palm. Affirm that this dance is the way that the crab communicates – sending you messages through vibration across your skin. Note what this initial message might be.

Breathe in a blessing on yourself and your Crab familiar, exhaling in gratitude.
Then, as you are ready, ask the little Crab what you need to know about true home and nourishment right now.
Listen to the answers you receive as it tip, tap, taps into the palm of your hand.

Affirm and acknowledge the answers and, as you are ready, ask the Crab any other questions you have at this time.
Take time to listen with care.

Then, as you are ready, bend back down, letting your hands drift into the ocean water as the Crab scuttles away from your palms and back into the depths of the sea. Affirm and acknowledge the blessing you have received.
As you are ready, bring awareness back to your present place here and now, and then set about your work of returning to true home once more.

Altar/Ritual

PERSONAL EGG CLEANSING RITUAL

First, obtain a chicken egg. If you can get a fresh chicken egg, great, but going to the grocery store is fine. We advise you to buy the most free-range, well-fed, happy-life chicken eggs you can.

Place the egg on your altar and light a white candle. Sit with it for a while and focus on cleansing yourself of any negative thoughts or energies to make space for balance between your wants and your needs. Focus on the desire for clarity in distinguishing the difference between what you need to be whole and what you wish to be true; clarity in distinguishing the illusions of the watery darkness from the daylight of reality and the ability to balance their messages.

While the candle is still burning, pick up the egg. Beginning at the crown of your head, gently roll or brush the egg over your body. You can lightly touch the egg to your skin if you like, or you can brush the egg against your aura, a few inches above your skin, but be mindful of the delicate object you’re holding. Remember – hard on the outside, soft on the inside.

If you are holding the egg against your skin, roll it gently over your body. If you are brushing your aura, think of it as sweeping yourself off, using several brush strokes over each area, as you would a broom. Gently and slowly move the egg over your entire body in a downward motion, moving away what you want to be rid of toward the ground. Be sure to go over each shoulder, arm, and hand, your torso and pelvis, each leg and foot.

When you are finished, put the egg in a brown paper bag. Take it outside and throw it as hard as you can to break the egg, thus releasing what you want to be rid of. You can do this at a crossroads or against an old sturdy tree. I have also done this behind a dumpster, where my worries, troubles, and struggles would be “taken out with the trash.” The goal is to let go of and release that which is not serving you to make room for balance.

About my Co-Author:

sara-magnusonSara Magnuson  is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Gemini

Divination and Dreams

G

emini is attuned to the element of Air, and is a mutable sign. The Sun is in Gemini from May 20th through June 19th. Gemini is the 3rd sign in the zodiacal wheel, marking the transition from deep Spring into early Summer in the Northern Hemisphere and deep Autumn into early Winter in the Southern. Represented by the Twins, Gemini speaks to communication, connection, ideas, writing, and speech. As the sign of the cosmic Twins, Gemini also inspires us in all of our deep friendships and in the fellowships we hold and keep with one another.
 

The Twins as Gemini

Twins show up around the world in story. Usually they are identical twins, and though often one is male and the other is female, in many cases they are depicted as two brothers or two sisters. Anytime we see twins show up in story it is an indication that we are working with the themes of double-ness and mirrors – for a twin is, after all, a mirror image made flesh. It is for this reason that in many stories one Twin descends or lives in the Underworld (whatever that world looks like for the culture telling the story), while the other Twin lives up on the topside world or in the heavens. The Twins oppose each other but in their relationship we also learn that a necessary tension must be in place for growth and development to occur.

This is one of the core teachings of the sign of Gemini. There is an old saying “don’t rely on a Gemini,” which Gemini folks of course don’t appreciate, but the truth is more nuanced. For Gemini can appear fickle or unfocused (and sometimes, like all of us, is), but more often Gemini is doing the work of uncovering opposing forces and listening to the tension between them. This is why you will find that wherever you find Gemini in your chart, you are encouraged to do one thing only to turn around and then seek out its opposite. And that process, of identifying opposites and sitting with the tensions they create, is part of what allows us to learn – one of the primary gifts of Gemini.

It all begins with an egg, appropriate for this deep Spring sign. For it is from the egg that the twins Castor and Pollux sprang forth, for Zeus had turned into a Swan to seduce their mother, Leda. Now while in many tales the twins are separated and inhabiting different realms, this was not the story for Castor and Pollux; they were brothers in everything, always together, and rarely apart. And yet, there was an aspect of their relationship that they did not fully comprehend which was that only one of them had been fathered by Zeus and was therefore immortal; the other had a human father and so could be killed.

Of course we see the presence of Gemini in the fact that as the story unfolds the twins are going to discover who they really are, they will learn, but we also see it in the realm of partnerships. Who are the people and what are the activities that you are engaged with and in throughout the course of your life? What and who are you closest to and what matters most about your friendship? Gemini is interested in getting to the essence and communicating that essence out into the world.

As the story goes, Castor and Pollux end up in a lethal fight to the death where Castor is slain and Pollux is rescued by Zeus at the last possible minute. Pollux is so devastated by his brother’s death that he decides he cannot go on living without his boon companion and so requests that Zeus turn both he and his brother into stars that can shine out forever, side by side. Zeus acquiesces to this and so the brothers are able to remain together, albeit in changed form.

This gives us another clue to Gemini, for Gemini is not afraid of change but rather welcomes it. This goes hand in hand with Gemini’s love of learning – we learn something new and it changes us, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in a much more significant manner. But it also shows us another essential element to Gemini which is that Gemini is very relationship driven – siblings, friends that are like sister or brother, and the tight relationships that Geminis form matter deeply to them. They may not always express that in words, but Geminis care deeply and they will sacrifice themselves and their own happiness if they see clearly how that sacrifice is needed by the relationship as a whole. This need for connection, deep and solid connection, is another strong feature of the Twins.

While the story of Castor and Pollux is relatively minor compared with many of the other Greek dramas, these two brothers have a habit of showing up, in the star forms, to light the way for other heroines and heroes, sometimes they show up just in the nick of time to protect someone that they especially love, sometimes it is simply their presence in the sky that gives hope and guidance. As such, they have a strong association with both sailing and horsemanship – both skills that require a strong sense of navigation, control, and another supremely Gemini trait: optimism.

For that is the real beauty of Gemini – it does not need to solve mysteries, rather it is willing to learn from them, let what it learns create the needed changes, and then from those changes find direction and share a message that brings hope and inspiration to all who are willing to listen

The Twins as Animal: By Sara Magnuson

The Twins of Gemini ask us to revisit the fact that humans are also animals and to examine what seems to set us apart. Gemini focuses on our unique intellect and the duality of our human-animal nature. We know that humans are not the only species of animal that have self-awareness, a highly developed intelligence, the ability to communicate, or express feelings and empathy. These traits in general do not make human animals unique; many other species possess these characteristics to varying degrees. What makes the human animal unique from other animals is the same thing that makes all creatures unique from each other – how we develop and use those traits.

{Disclaimer: As we talk about what makes humans different from other animals, we must begin with the understanding that our knowledge of how other animals perceive the world is speculative. We have ways to study some of the cognitive abilities in other animals, but there are aspects of perception that we do not yet have the ability to uncover, therefore we think we know what makes humans unique. It can be argued that other animals do feel/sense/think all of the things we’re going to discuss, not just humans. So as you continue reading, please add “as far as we know” to the end of every sentence. I humbly ask you to remember that there are entire fields of study dedicated to the subjects discussed and I am only touching the surface of what is being explored.}

Gemini is associated with the element of Air and focuses on the mind and intellect of the human animal. A unique quality of the human mind is self-awareness and self-contemplation; we have a concept of inner self, inner identity, inner awareness that is distinctly human. We spend a lot of time considering ourselves, reflecting on our thoughts and actions, in ways that are not directly related to our immediate survival or reproduction. A benefit of this self-awareness is our capacity for compassion and empathy; we are able to consider how we affect the world around us. As we have seen in the stories above, the Twins teach us about cause and effect, about the invisible ties of meaningful relationships, and how to achieve the most appropriate balance.

The human mind can also do something called “mental time travel” that appears to be unmatched by any other in its degree of ability. Mental time travel is the awareness of your past and future; it is hindsight and foresight; it is the ability to reflect on what was and what will be. It is recently being discovered that other animals, especially birds, also possess this ability, but it is generally accepted that humans are able to mentally travel much further into the past and future than any other animal. For example, a seven year old child has ideas about what they want to be when they grow up, which is many years into the future, versus a bird’s ability to contemplate what may happen a few days from now. As we will see, this capacity for self-awareness and contemplation has its benefits and its challenges.

The Twins of Gemini present us with the concept of inner duality. We contemplate and often struggle intellectually with our ability to see both sides of the many aspects of ourselves, be it our child/adult sides, our masculine/feminine sides, our greedy/giving sides, our warrior/peace-keeper sides, what we believe is right or wrong in general, etc. The concept of morality appears to be uniquely human, especially the way in which we impose it on ourselves and the degree to which we judge others by it. The Twins ask us to look at how we impose our ideas of morality on our own circumstances, as well as those of others. Do we hold one to a higher standard than the other? Are we putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes, so to speak, while making sure our own voice is heard? Are we expressing ourselves in a way that feels true and fulfilling?

When my best friend and I talk about situations in life that we’re trying to navigate, we often reference “the committee” in our minds. Imagine a boardroom table and at each seat is a representative of the various aspects of your personality; there’s the five-year-old-you, the rebellious-you, the peaceful-you, the envious-you, the day-dreaming-you, the all-about-business-you, etc. Depending on the situation at hand, select members of “the committee” have something to say about it. These are the voices of our mind and our morality; the inner voices guiding us and working with us to make beneficial decisions.

The Twins of Gemini are like two of the most quick-minded voices on “the committee” talking out different sides of the issue. You can weigh out both sides of something forever, but in real life you are often faced with having to eventually make a choice or a decision. The Gemini mind is sharp and quick, but can get bogged down in the infinite possibilities of life. The work of the Gemini soul comes in finding a resolution to that inner monologue and is a process that is especially human.

Call on The Twins When…

  • You need to see both sides of a situation with clarity.
  • You want to tap into and express your inner duality.
  • Clear communication is desired.
  • Connection with others and the ability to listen is sought after.
  • Learning, excelling in school, and cultivating one’s knowledge is needed.
  • Making friends, restoring friendships or honoring current friends is your focus.
  • You wish to draw new friends to you.
  • There is a need to strengthen or cultivate relationships between you and your siblings – including the friends that are really like brother or sister.
  • You wish to share your message, your insight, or your thoughts with many others and need the right words to do so.
  • Publishing in any form is desired.
  • Your writing/communication style needs to be honed.
  • You have questions and are seeking out answers.

 

Be Wary Of

  • Being Overly Non-committal – The desire and ability to see both sides of a situation or problem can lead to difficulty making choices and an inability to commit to things.
  • Speaking Out of Both Sides of Your Mouth – Because Gemini is a natural communicator words often come easily to those who demonstrate this sign strongly; but the meaning behind the words may be less of a focus. What to others might be taken as “talking out of both sides of one’s mouth” related to the fickle behaviors described above, to a Gemini is simply choosing the right words for the right audience. As always discernment is key.
  • Mental Exhaustion – Gemini loves to learn, to share, and to communicate, but sometimes these very things can also lead to significant burn out. Gemini does best when it slows down and fosters the connections that truly matter.
  • Superficiality – Like all Air signs, Gemini can sometimes be too content to stay on the surface of things and not peer deeper into the waters. For the same reasons Gemini can be attracted by all bright and shiny objects and go off course easily; maintaining focus should be emphasized.

Questions to Ponder for Gemini:

  • What do I want to learn?
  • How do I best communicate with others?
  • What kinds of communications am I most responsive to?
  • How seriously do I take the words that I use?
  • What is the role of friendship in my life?
  • What am I willing to speak up for?
  • How do I stay focused?
  • What do I love to discover?
  • What is the message I bring to the world?

Meditation/Active Imagination Journey:

Cultivate Calmness.
Ground, Center, and Anchor in the ways that feel good and right to you.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that you are standing in front of a shining mirror. The mirror may be in a building, it might be in a room that has special significance for you, it might be outside; note where your mirror shows up and how it appears to you.

Affirm and acknowledge that you have come to this place at this time to learn a new teaching about your life, one that is gifted to you from the stars; you have come to encounter the Twins of Gemini.

Acknowledge that it does not matter where Gemini occurs in your chart or whether you were born under this Sun sign or not – we all have this constellation present in some portion of our natal chart and so we can all learn from it.

As you are ready, close your eyes and take a deep breath in. Then, allowing your eyes to open, see, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel, your presence before the mirror and the reflection in the mirror looking back at you. Affirm and acknowledge that you have come face to face with your Twin, but this is the part of you that will live on through the legacy that you create and all of the many ways that your presence has, will, and can change the cosmos.

Breathe in a blessing on yourself and your Twin and exhale in gratitude.
Then, as you are ready, ask your reflection what message your legacy will carry forward.
Listen to the answers you receive.
Affirm and acknowledge the answers and, as you are ready, ask your Twin any other questions you have at this time.
Take time to listen with care.
Then, as you are ready, speak aloud the actions that you will take to the reflection in the mirror, affirming and acknowledging that this is a promise you make to your Twin and to yourself.

In the true spirit of Gemini, go out and live those actions!

Altar/Ritual

For this ritual we recommend completing the active imagination journey first. You will also need an altar space, which can be your existing altar or you can create a new one just for this. Gemini asks us to focus on duality – light and dark, earth and sky, etc. – so you will be working with pairs and “sides” of your altar space. This is an important exercise in harnessing the dual energy of the Twins and bringing a grounded balance to the constant mind-chatter.

Spend some time collecting pairs of objects – go through items you already own and find two that seem to go together; they can actually match, or they can just “go together” by their feeling to you. They should also have meaning to you, don’t just pick random things. Spend some time outdoors and/or looking around when you’re out doing things throughout the day. Collect any pairs of natural objects that match or feel like they go together for you.

Bring all of these objects near your altar space, as well as a favorite cloth or covering for the surface and any other items you consider necessities for a sacred space. The point is to have your altar-making supplies close at hand.

Sit at your bare altar space and reflect on the active imagination journey – reflect on your present self and the messages of legacy from your Twin, reflect on the actions you spoke aloud and the promises you made to your Twin/Yourself.

Choose two words or short phrases that represent each of the two sides of the mirror, the two sides of yourself that were shown. Write each word or phrase on its own piece of paper. It can be any kind of paper that feels right to you for the occasion and you can write it plainly or embellish as much as you want. There is no wrong way.

Divide your altar into two sections, either horizontally or vertically, and use whatever material or visual barrier you see fit. In a purposeful way, speak aloud what is written on one of the papers and give one side of your altar that name. Place the paper in the center of that area. Next, speak aloud what is written on the other paper and name the other side of your altar. Place that paper in the center of that area. Naming is a very sacred rite and this should be done with the same focus, force, and intention as any such ceremony would require.

Now look at the pairs of objects you have collected and, in your mind, focus on the two sides of your altar. What best represents the name of each side? What do they ask to have placed upon them? Listen to the objects themselves. Where do they feel called to go? Hold them in your hands and place the pairs on the side of your altar that feels most appropriate. Remember, the two sides do not have to have an equal number of items and you don’t have to use them all. Pay the most attention to your intuition.

When you feel each side is complete, turn your attention to one side in particular. Examine the objects that have been placed there and reflect on how they represent the name of this side of your altar, one side of the mirror. See how the pairs you have chosen are similar, but also how they are different. What do their similarities and their differences have to teach you about living into the actions you promised to take?

As you work with your Gemini altar, focus less on how the two sides (and the pairs upon them) are different, and work with the balance of energies that tie them together. Spending time at this altar, daily, weekly, or monthly, will guide you ever closer toward fulfilling the promises and living out the actions that you have promised to yourself.

About my Co-Author:

sara-magnusonSara Magnuson  is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Taurus the Bull

Divination and Dreams

W

riting about Taurus always reminds me of the children’s story Ferdinand the Bull. Ferdinand was a big and strong bull who wanted nothing more than to sit in the meadow and smell the flowers. Ferdinand knew what mattered most and once he made up his mind not much could get him to move – that is one of the essential teachings of this very old, very potent star sign. Welcome Taurus!
Taurus is the 2nd sign in the zodiacal wheel, is attuned to the element of Earth, and is a fixed sign. The Sun is in Taurus from April 19th – May 20th Taurus is the 2nd sign in the zodiacal wheel, marking the transition from early Spring into deep Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and early Autumn to deep Autumn in the Southern. Represented by the Bull, Taurus demonstrates strength, stubbornness, patience, wealth, and pleasure. As one of the oldest and most universally recognized astrological signs, Taurus also speaks to the deep wisdom that comes from right relationship with the land.
 

Bull as Animal: By Sara Magnusson

Many male animals are referred to as Bulls, but the Bull we are talking about with Taurus is specifically cattle. Interestingly, almost all modern domesticated cattle are descended from one common herd of about 80 individuals that lived over 10,000 years ago. The ancestors of that original herd were beasts known as Aurochs. The following description of an Auroch shows how the many myths of Bull may have developed from ancient man’s attempts to tame this wily and massive creature: “Wild aurochs…were much bigger than modern cattle, and wouldn’t have had the domestic traits we see today, such as docility. So capturing these animals in the first place would not have been easy, and even if some people did manage [to] snare them alive, their continued management and breeding would still have presented considerable challenges…” [1]

Taurus

Historically, they are an animal to be conquered, but Bull is also viewed as a sacrificial animal – their physical power used to pull and push whatever is needed, meat and dairy for food, leather for protection, and even their manure makes the best fertilizer.

The farmer who has many cattle is indeed seen as a wealthy individual. As Briana will discuss in more detail below, many cultures have revered Bull and, to some, they were the most esteemed offering one could make to the Gods. This reverence for all they provide associates them with the rewards of hard work, abundance, richness, and plenty.

 

Bull has excellent hearing, but his natural environment of open fields and pastures means he is not very good at localizing the source of a sound. This gives Bull a “wide open” auditory range and, even though he is exposed and vulnerable in open areas, he is very much aware of what is moving around him. He has large eyes on the side of his head, giving him an expansive field of view, and can pick up on the slightest of movements. Bull is red-green color blind and sees the world in shades of yellow, blue, brown, and gray. As an herbivore, Bull’s color blindness means that he relies on his highly developed senses of taste and smell to acquire food, even possessing a special olfactory organ that assists in discerning the nuances of his environment.

Bull prefers the safety of what is familiar and finds anything unknown to be inherently dangerous. They resist change and can take a long time to warm up to new people and situations. Bulls may seem to be just standing around a lot, but in reality they are taking it all in – noticing what is new and different versus what is commonplace. Bull also possesses an acute ability of recognition, in that they are able to not only differentiate other cattle, but also animals of other species, including humans. This ability even extends to recognition of photographs of other individual creatures of all types.

As a herd animal, Bull despises being isolated for long periods of time and will act out most aggressively if this goes on for too long. Their instinctual desire is to be with and protect their group and this overrides any “training,” exposing their true feral nature. What may appear as hostility to us humans is actually a passionate and fierce devotion to the ones they care about.

The wildness of Bull remains, no matter how tame he seems to be, and he is most well-known for his size and physical strength, representing the epitome of masculinity, virility, and passion.

Bull has a self-awareness of his substantial presence and makes use of extremely subtle body language to indicate his moods before taking physical action. The cues of Bull’s body language can be so slight that it can seem as if their aggression has come on suddenly, but from the Bull’s perspective he has given plenty of warning. It’s important to realize that those who don’t know a Taurus very well may have difficulty picking up on their fine-tuned signals. If Taurus is your sign, remember to give those around you clear warning when you feel offended, hurt, or threatened.

In our last post about Aries the Ram, I touched on the topic of gender and gender roles and this discussion also applies to Taurus the Bull. When we talk about cattle (biologically), the Cows are the females and the Bulls are the males, thus with Taurus we are definitely delving into some masculine energy. In the Aries post I talked about how the male Rams were different from the female Ewes, but with Taurus the Bull we see many similarities between the genders. Cows and Bulls are both of great stature and physical presence and both exhibit similar behavioral traits and body language. The main differences are that Bulls tend to be slightly larger (but both seem huge by our human perspective!); Bulls typically have large horns, where the Cows possess much smaller horns or none at all; and of course, they differ in their reproductive organs.

Bull is often seen as the essence of masculinity, but the females are by no means the weaklings of the species. A female Taurus can hold her ground and intimidate with the best of them and I encourage all the women reading this to find out where Taurus falls in their natal chart. Learn what that place in your chart means and how you can bring Bull’s energy to work in your favor. The delicate and purposeful way in which Bull senses the world betrays his appearance, as that kind of sensitivity is seen as more feminine. This sensitive-yet-powerful dynamic can cause quite a conundrum for many that fall under the influence of Taurus, male or female or anything in between.

For all their seemingly brute force and intimidating demeanor, Bull’s are extraordinarily sensitive to other creatures and external stimuli. The energy of Taurus allows us to pick up on subtleties that others around us may not, and we can use that ability to show them the richness, beauty and abundance that life has to offer.

[1] Burger,  Joachim, et al. “Modern Taurine Cattle Descended from Small Number of Near-Eastern Founders.” Molecular Biology and Evolution. 14 March 2012.

Bull As Taurus: By Briana Saussy

TaurusNot many Zodiac signs can claim lineage going back into the Upper Paleolithic but Taurus can.

First depicted (most likely) on the cave wall in Lascaux, France, Taurus is one of the most universally recognized Zodiac signs and the Bull or Heavenly Bull, as it is sometimes called, is very ancient.

The constellation is especially noteworthy because it contains the cluster of seven stars known as the Pleides or “Seven Sisters” – a star cluster that is known throughout the world by that name, indicating that there is a common story from one ancient source that then migrated out into all of the different parts and peoples of the world. Taurus was also noteworthy because until about 1700 BC it marked the beginning of the Spring Equinox which later moved into Aries. Ancient Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Akkadians, and Greeks all recognized the constellation of Taurus and for many of them this was the first constellation in their own astrological systems.

Both Taurus’ agedness and universal acknowledgement speak to one of its foremost qualities: a trait that today is most commonly referred to as stubbornness but is actually much deeper than that: the ability to stick and stay the course. Those who are born under this sign or who have Taurus prevalent in their charts are known for staying the course, moving one foot in front of the other, and keeping on until their work is finally done.

TaurusThe stories associated with the sign of Taurus vary widely. In the oldest tales the Bull is the Heavenly Bull, marked as such by star symbols on his back and haunches. Reading between the lines we see that the Bull, much like the Horse for the Vedic people, is an animal capable of providing everything – seed to begin a new herd of cattle, manure to fertilize crops and fields, meat, blood, skin, and horn all of which were needed to sustain early civilizations. The oldest story of the Bull, then, is one of sacrifice; the Bull sacrifices himself and the very world in which we live is created from his bones and flesh.

Here we see another element of the sign of Taurus – an amazingly fertile creativity. This is one of the signs most strongly associated with the arts; and with Taurus we can be speaking of the fine arts, of plastic or performing arts, or even of culinary arts. Taurus resonates naturally to beauty and excellence and all of the places that foster both, and this resonance is based on the fertile and creative element that is so present within the Bull.

In both Summer and Babylon Taurus was associated with the Goddesses Inanna and Ishtar, respectively. Inanna and her Babylonian counter part Ishtar were great Goddesses of culture, magic, love, sex, pleasure, fertility, and also war. Their veneration occurred prior to the much later split that separated female deities associated with love, marriage, and childbirth from those associated with strategy, intelligence, wisdom, and battle (like Aphrodite and Athena). For Inanna and Ishtar the Bull was both ally and totem, as well as defender. In the case of Inanna specifically, she sent the Heavenly Bull down to wage war on Gilgamesh when he did not return her advances. Gilgamesh’s ally, Enkidu, tore the Bull apart and hurled it into the sky, speaking to the above point about Taurus as sacrifice from which the world springs as providing a story for how the Bull landed among the stars.

Taurus’ association with these ancient Goddesses of love, sex, fertility, and war help shed light on why the sign itself is so strongly associated with sexual pleasure, fecundity, and pleasure in a more general sense. This connection between Taurus and the Goddesses also speaks to why the classics understood Taurus to be ruled by the planet Venus, the planet that had long been associated with both Ishtar and Inanna. Good food, good sex, and a life lived filled with simple pleasure and enjoyment are hallmarks of the Bull.

For the Greeks Taurus shows up in a variety of situations. It is the Bull that Zeus turns into when he abducts Europa, while the mortal woman Io is transformed into a Bull by Zeus when he fears that Hera will find his lover and kill her, the Cretan Bull (and father of the Minotaur) is the famous Taurus that a mortal woman fell in love with and that Hercules was tasked with capturing. In the cluster of Greek stories one of the aspects of Taurus that stands out is strength and endurance. In each case the Bull is chosen – either as the best animal to turn into to avoid capture or worse, or as the animal the hero must conquer in order to prove his worth – because of its unusual strength and ability to protect itself.

Certain natural features like horns, powerful hooves, and exceptional strength all speak to the Bull’s power and endurance. The Inuit version of Taurus is one of the few that sees the starry constellation not as a Bull but as a Bear, specifically a Polar Bear that a number of dogs (all represented by stars of course) are holding at bay – this story too speaks to the strength and endurance long associated with this star sign.

The Druids and Celtic tribes also honored Taurus and several significant solar festivals were held at various points in the Sun’s journey through the star cluster. The Bull also shows up in several European myths, ballads, and fairytales. In folklore from the British Isles the Faerie Folk were believe to cultivate white Bulls and Cows that had red-tipped ears, and in the Ballad of Tam Lin one of the creatures that Tam Lin turns into before taking on his true form is that of the Bull.

This speaks to what I consider one of the deeper teachings of Taurus and that is the ability to hone in on what matters most, what is most essential, what is most deeply true and worthy of caring for, preserving, and protecting. Given this observation, it is not surprising that one of the most beloved figures, the Buddha himself, is thought to be a Taurus and his birthday is celebrated when the Sun is in Taurus – straightforward and simple is not the same as easy and Taurus understand that teaching more deeply than most.

Call on the Bull When:

  • You need to slow down and be patient.
  • You require a detail-oriented approach.
  • A difficult or daunting task is assigned to you.
  • You wish to cultivate strength and endurance.
  • You are seeking out more pleasure in your life.
  • You desire deeper, more satisfying, intimate and love-making experiences.
  • You need to be practical.
  • You are ready to refine and perfect a creative skill or project.
  • Fertility is desired.
  • You want to stand your ground.
  • Right relationship with money, finances, and cash flow is sought.
  • You are ready to see what is most essential.

Be Wary Of

  • Laziness – As Sara pointed out in her section, a Bull may seem to just be standing there and not doing very much but they are actually taking everything in. Sometimes, though, this is not the way that Taurus interacts in our own charts. One of the most sedentary signs, when Taurus is given the option of going out and doing stuff or hanging at home in their pajamas they tend to choose the second option. Comfort is good but Taurus has to steer clear of staying stuck in a comfort zone.
  • Self-Indulgence – Pursuit of pleasure is well and good but taking it too far can result in a nasty hangover. Taurus has to take care not to indulge too deeply in any one pleasure because they can easily become lost in it, making choices and taking actions that can hurt those around them in order to obtain a certain experience for themselves.
  • Tunnel Vision – Taurus’ desire for excellence is an excellent quality, but this fixed sign can sometimes become too fixed in their vision of what needs to happen and how it needs to work. This can create frustration, especially in cases where collaboration is called for. Taurus does well to remember that usually their way is not the only way to accomplish any given task.
  • Heaviness – Here we look at heaviness not in terms of weight gain – although sedentary Taurus can gain weight easier than most if there is no exercise, but rather in terms of mood. Sometimes Taurus flips and everything becomes not about pleasure but seriousness and intensity. This is when we have to remind Taurus to have fun, to take time out not to have an existential crisis but rather to smell the roses.
  • Strength – The strength and ability to endure is one of Taurus’ greatest assets but it can also be a liability. Sometimes Taurus can encourage us to feel that no one is as strong, capable, or practical as we are, so we just have to do everything ourselves. Partnership is key.

Questions to Ponder:

Taurus shows up in everyone’s chart – there is no such thing as “I don’t have Taurus” because it is a cluster of stars in the sky and it is always there. Wherever Taurus occurs in your chart these questions will help you get to know it better.

  • What is real strength?
  • How much do I enjoy life?
  • What is my greatest pleasure?
  • Where do I want to have more pleasure and ease?
  • What art and/or creative endeavor am I committed to?
  • How is my relationship to money, cash flow, and wealth?
  • What am I willing to stand up for?
  • What is a constant for me?
  • What area of life feels especially fertile and full of possibility right now?

Active Imagination Journey:

Cultivate Calmness.
Ground, Center, and Anchor in the ways that feel good and right to you.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that you are standing in the middle of a green meadow in high spring. There are flowers all around and you can hear the buzzing of bees and see the fluttering of butterflies out of the corner of your eyes.

Affirm and acknowledge that you have come to this place at this time to learn a new teaching about your life, one that is gifted to you from the stars, you have come to encounter the Bull. Acknowledge that it does not matter where Taurus occurs in your chart or whether you were born under this Sun sign or not – we all have this constellation present in some portion of our natal chart.

As you are ready, close your eyes and take a deep breath in. Breathing out in gratitude, become even more acutely aware of your surroundings and as you do, see, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that the earth begins to shake beneath your feet.
Boom!
Boom!!
Boom!!!
See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel a large shadow cover you, blotting out the morning sun and as you open your eyes to discover what could be casting such a large shadow you encounter the largest Bull you have ever seen.

Take some time to note what this Bull looks like to you – for it is a messenger from Taurus and has much to share. What color is its hide? How long are its horns? Is it decorated in any specific manner? Take time to note all of these details.

As you are ready, see, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that there is a long, braided bridle fastened to a collar around the Bull’s neck. The creature’s heavy and hot breath moves across your face and hands. Affirm and acknowledge with your inner knowing that the Bull wishes to lead you to a specific place today and desires that you take him by the bridle so that he might lead the way.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel grasping the bridle as the Bull begins to move very slowly through the meadow. As the Bull moves, become aware of the passage of time, the grass against your skin, the air that is heavy with birdsong. Allowing the Bull to lead you, let yourself simply enjoy being in this beautiful place.

Affirm and acknowledge that the Bull is leading you into a shaded glen where you will come face to face with one quality that matters deeply to you, that is a part of your life and experience ever and always.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel the large animal’s strength as it leads you to something that you deeply value. Take time to reflect on what you find here.

As a final act, turn to the Bull itself and ask it how you can best be constant and committed to your values.

Reflect on the answer you receive and offer up a gift of thanks for this most ancient of star signs.

Altar/Ritual

The Bull puts you in touch with your body and grounds you in your own skin. The Bull is all about his physical presence, but is also extremely subtle. For Bull, I suggest moving meditation, but in a slow and deliberate way.

Think about the movements of Qi Gong or Tai Chi; the slow transition between, and stillness of, Yoga poses. Walking a labyrinth is another type of moving meditation that puts you in touch with your physical presence on the path.

As you move slowly and breath deeply, you may fall into a sort of trance state. Use the rhythm of your breath in combination with your steady movement to attune yourself to your environment and your inner sensations. Bull is methodical and deliberate with his actions and very grounded in his own sensory experience. Be deliberate and full of purpose with your motions while using your breath to stay grounded in your sensory observations.

Afterward, be sure to drink plenty of water and take time to reflect on what you experienced in your body and mind during the exercise.

About my Co-Author:

sara-magnusonSara Magnuson  is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Aries the Ram

Divination and Dreams

I

t is spring time here in the Northern Hemisphere and with both the Equinox and Easter right around the corner my social media feeds are filled with charming pastoral scenes of chicks and rabbits and lambs…but the mighty ram is there too just waiting for its moment.

Luckily the wait is over! Join us in getting to know the one and only Aries.

Aries is the 1st sign in the zodiacal wheel, marking the beginning of the Astrological New Year. This sign is attuned to the element of Fire, and is a cardinal sign. The Sun is in Aries from March 20th (Vernal/Autumnal Equinox) through April 19th. Cardinal signs always represent leadership and the purest expression of certain virtues; for Aries and all of the Fire signs this is symbolized by its arrival at the turning of the Equinox where Winter finally and officially gives way to Spring (in the Northern hemisphere) and Summer gives way to Autumn (in the Southern). Represented by the Ram and specifically the Ram bearing the golden fleece who was both hero and sacrificial victim, Aries combines bravery and adventure with a desire to protect, as well as a powerful will. Aries is fun loving, courageous, and at its best willing to not only protect, but lay its life on the line in service to others.

Ram as Aries: By Briana Saussy

AriesAlthough the sign Aries is ruled by the planet Mars and often associated with the Greek God of War by the same name, Aries is not all war making, weapon swinging, and bluster.

In fact, the constellation Aries has less to do with war and a martial aspect and much more to do with daring rescue attempts, sacrifices, and the ancient and deeply honored work of the Shepherd. Before we get to that though, let’s take a moment to see how truly old this story is.

Like many of our other constellations, Aries and its association with the Ram is very old but before Aries was the Ram itself, it was a Shepherd.

This was true for the Babylonians who recognized the same cluster of stars forming our modern Aries constellation and referred to it as “The Agrarian Worker” or the “Hired Man” as well as for the Egyptians who associated the constellation with the great God Amon-Ra, a male figure depicted with a Ram’s head.

In our less agrarian place and time it might be difficult to recognize how essential shepherds were to the community but they were, and they still are.

Shepherds and others who took on the role of cultivating, domesticating and protecting live stock from natural predators exerted a strong civilizing influence on early societies. Paradoxically, Shepherds themselves are often depicted as only part tame and part wild – it does take a special kind of soul to be outside 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in all kinds of weather accompanied only by the animals he is charged with caring for. For these reasons, the figures in both Babylon and Egypt associated with Aries are also associated with fertility, protection, and the running current of the life force itself.

It is in the image of the Shepherd that we find our first real glimpse into some of the defining characteristics of the zodiac sign Aries, specifically we find that Aries is associated with a strong protective impulse. This can at first be surprising because typically Aries is seen as martial and more and more the martial and the protective have been separated in common culture. But the truth is more complicated and often the individuals who are most likely to be heroes are motivated by a desire to assist and help those who cannot help themselves, as well as to protect the weak and innocent. Aries, like its opposing sign Libra, is more concerned with justice than many people think.

By the time the ancient Greeks were spinning their stories with the stars the role of the Shepherd was taken over by that of the Ram, but it wasn’t any Ram; it was the Ram of the legendary golden fleece that Jason of the Argonauts would later pursue and steal with the aid of his witch wife Medea.

AriesThe story begins with a curse. There was an evil stepmother who was envious of her husband’s two first born children – a young girl and a young boy. She cursed the land where the family lived with a great famine so that everyone was hungry and then created a false oracle from the Oracle at Delphi, claiming that the only way to break the curse was for the King, her husband, to kill his son.

This part of the tale clues us in to one of Aries’ weak points – an easily inflated ego that wishes to “kill” off any psychic offspring that might also have a share of power, and a tendency towards envy when all is not as it should be.

The King was indeed ready to sacrifice his son and in a story that sounds eerily familiar to those raised in any Biblical traditions, he was at the point of spilling his son’s blood when a magical Ram appeared.

This aspect of the story speaks to another potential weak point of Aries – leaping before looking or proceeding straight ahead without having all of the information.

The Ram of the Golden Fleece appeared in order to rescue the boy and his sister after being asked to do so by the swift-footed God of the crossroads, Hermes (Mercury in Roman times). The sacrifice of an innocent child was stopped and both the young girl and young boy got on the back of the ram who then flew through the sky.

Here we see one of the most positive aspects of Aries, for this is the sign for whom the concept of “impossible” is not real or relevant. Rams flying across the sky and over the ocean? Something that’s never been done or even attempted before? Aries is not only interested in what others consider mere fantasy, it is bound and determined to defy a narrow concept of reality and bring the impossible to life.

During the flight the young girl tumbled to her death but the young boy made it safely into the mysterious and magical land of Colchis. Once he arrived he sacrificed the Ram of the Golden Fleece as a thanks offering to Zeus (under instruction from Hermes to do so) and then offered the Golden Fleece to the local King who in turn gave him his daughter to wed.

Several more essential qualities of Aries come out at this point in the tale. The first is that Aries, though a cardinal sign, has more of a liminal quality to it than is often understood. The obviously liminal signs like Scorpio or say, Pisces, have their own otherworldly presence but Aries does too – especially in terms of physicality and the body. There is an intuitive understanding of body and the ways that the physical body can be worked with to achieve great feats that is particular to Aries.

We also see clearly in this part of the tale Aries’ willingness to sacrifice itself for the greater good. Many modern astrologers talk about the “selfishness” of Aries and miss out on the obvious fact that the opposite is also quite true: this sign can engage in acts of utter selflessness when the situation requires it.

Finally we see the dance between risk and reward that is also a deep part of Aries story; here is a young boy who is about to be sacrificed only to go on a great (and terrifying) adventure, wherein he loses his sister, loses the one animal companion he has, and gains a wife and a crown. Another intuitive aspect of Aries is their understanding that without risk there can be no real reward.

The golden fleece was placed in a holy shrine and, as mentioned above, its story continues long after this cast of characters were deep in the earth. This speaks to yet another quality of Aries. As the first sign of the zodiac, the Ram is concerned with impressions – making them and leaving them. Given the central role that the Golden Fleece plays in some of the most beloved epic stories from antiquity, I would say that our Ram accomplished exactly that.

Ram As Animal: By Sara Magnson

AriesThe Ram is a mighty and peculiar creature.

For all the power and force associated with these animals, though, it’s easy to forget that

Rams are Sheep.

This is important to note because the word Sheep has developed a negative connotation in colloquial speech, meaning someone who is a mindless follower; however, as we have seen from the mythology and astrology, Aries the Ram is anything but. How and why do we perceive the Ram as somehow different from the Sheep? First, let’s look at what all Sheep have in common.

The physical form of Sheep is nimble, agile, and sure-footed. They trust the ability of their unlikely bodies, with thick torsos and spindly legs, to jump and maintain balance when other creatures would doubt themselves. They see in color, have excellent peripheral vision, and Bighorn Sheep in particular (a different species than typical “farm Sheep”) have excellent depth perception, which allows them to literally see and take chances that others may not.

As a prey animal, all Sheep have incredibly good senses of hearing and smell. Taste is also an important sensory aspect and, as herbivores, grazers, and foragers, Sheep exhibit clear preferences toward different foods. As ruminant animals, their four-chambered stomachs are built to extract a high amount of nutrients from their plant-based diets.

Sheep are inquisitive animals and, like the sign of Aries, have the ability to discover and seize opportunity in seemingly impossible situations. We can also all take a cue from Sheep’s highly efficient digestive system to be very deliberate when working with the things that fuel us, making sure we’re getting all we can out of them.

The skin and fleece of Sheep have been revered for ages – hides and wool to create objects from the practical and mundane to the magnificent and magical. When thinking of Sheep’s hide, remember that skin is considered an organ and is, in fact, the largest organ of the body. Protecting all the delicate things inside, skin is essentially a huge sensor packed with nerves and keeps our brain in touch with the outside world. The majestic fleece of Sheep, like our own hair, is directly connected to their skin and provides an intense sensitivity, as well as protection from the elements, allowing them to thrive in diverse climates and environments. It is this protective and armor-like quality of Sheep’s fleece that contributes to its many magical qualities.

Socially, Sheep desire order and prefer a defined structure, establishing who is in charge and how each member of their social group falls in rank. They are gregarious and form strong, close, relationship sub-groups within their flock.

AriesSheep are more intelligent and sensitive than we often think, having a good memory and the ability to differentiate facial expressions and the emotional states of other animals, including humans.

Sheep are also very good at hiding any injury or sickness so as not appear weak, which can be good for avoiding predators looking for an easy meal.

These social traits are exhibited in the influence of the sign of Aries in many ways. There is the desire for order and structure; the ability to see more than others think you do, and definitely more than you let on; and the tendency to hide weakness when you could be asking for help. As previously mentioned, Sheep are inquisitive animals and, no matter the current interpretation of the word, can be brave and courageous. They are willing to break through barriers (literally and figuratively) and face uncharted territory to seek a better life.

Sheep have a long history with humans, being one of the earliest animals to be domesticated, and, as we have learned, there is an entire vocation dedicated to caring for Sheep. The word “Shepherd” derives plainly from Old English – shep/sheep and herd, literally someone who watches over the Sheep. These animals provide us with food in the form of meat and milk (and cheese, my favorite!), and hide, sinew, and fleece for clothing and comfort.

To talk specifically about the Ram, versus Sheep in general, we must discuss some topics of gender and gender roles because Rams are biologically the males of the species. This is also the area where we discover why we perceive the Ram as somehow different from Sheep.

First of all, it is the Rams who possess the magnificent horns. Ewes of different breeds can have horns, but they are much smaller. Without getting into a separate discussion on the various ways gender may be expressed in animals, let us talk about how it is most commonly expressed in Sheep. The males have bigger horns because they are the protectors of the flock and they use them to intimidate and to fight. Horns are impressive structures, no matter what animal they come from or if they are male or the female. The horns of Rams in particular are in the shape of the Sacred Spiral, adding even more depth to their magical associations. They are borne directly from the head, just as our hair grows, and indicate potent creativity and mental acuity.

When we examine the Ram associated with Aries and the mythology surrounding it all, it is very male-centered. Aries is identified with typically male traits – the Sun, war, aggressiveness, etc. In the tale of the Golden Fleece, it is the brother who survives and his sister is the one who doesn’t make it to the end. In reality, it is the females of the species Ovis who have unfortunately inspired the suggestion that “sheep” means mindless follower and it is the males, the Ram, that evokes power, agility, and intellectual fortitude. I argue, however, the nature of Aries and the Ram affects all of us, male or female.

I am a straight, cis-gender woman and I am an Aries. I am not on the cusp of anything and am in the dead center of Aries. I can tell you from forty years of personal life experience that the typically-male-leaning undertones of Aries the Ram are something I am constantly working to balance within myself. Like it or not, we all exhibit both male and female tendencies, ways of thinking, emotions, actions, etc., and we are all working to balance and discern those with what our society tells us and demands of us. We all have a strong, powerful Ram within us and we also all have delicate parts, and everything in between.

The Ram of Aries asks us to find that aspect of ourselves that is unafraid, that is bold and daring, that is sensitive and nimble, and to trust and encourage its instinct. When you feel nervous, afraid, fearful, worried, and/or in a state of over-analyzing, call on the energy of Ram to connect you with a very specific part of yourself, a part that we all have. Embrace the surety of purpose that Ram embodies and allow yourself to tap into his bravery.

Call on the Ram When:

  • You need to take action!
  • You want to call forth more energy and enthusiasm.
  • Risk is required.
  • The protection of others, especially those who are too young, weak, or innocent to care for themselves is needed.
  • You are called to achieve something daring and great.
  • You want to come into a deeper, more intuitive relationship with your physical body.
  • You have to fight or enter into conflicts.
  • You want to be a hero/heroine.
  • You desire to leave a strong and lasting impression.
  • You want to speak your truth.
  • You need to start a project.
  • You are ready to do the impossible.

Be Wary Of

  • Leaping without Looking – In their quest for adventure and desire to help, sometimes Aries can land itself into sticky situations because they don’t get all of the facts, make certain assumptions, and dive fully into troubled waters.
  • Bossiness – From one cardinal sign to another let’s just put it out there – Aries can be bossy, controlling, and utterly convinced that they understand and no one else does.
  • Jealousy – Aries is drawn to risk but it is also drawn to reward. If they see someone getting more, accomplishing more, or having a greater impact than they do, they can start to feel envious and dwell more on others successes than on the things that will help them bring their A game.
  • Superficiality – The shadow side of leaving impressions is going for quick and easy tricks that, when looked at more deeply, are full of just sound and fury. This most often shows up as a focus on muscles and lipstick as opposed to skill and real talk.
  • Catching Fire – Aries has a TEMPER. Have you ever seen a real Ram ticked off about something? If so, then you get it. Although the temper here is more like a flash fire – it burns hot and bright and then it is gone and forgotten, it does have the ability to singe anyone who gets too close.

Questions to Ponder:

Aries shows up in everyone’s chart – there is no such thing as “I don’t have Aries” because it is a cluster of stars in the sky and it is always there. Wherever Aries occurs in your chart these questions will help you get to know it better.

  • What does being a hero mean to me?
  • What are the roles courage and bravery play in my life?
  • How well do I understand and work with my body?
  • What and who am I willing to lay down my life for?
  • What kind of impression do I want to make?
  • What is hard for me to get started with and begin?
  • What am I willing to guard and protect?
  • What is the role of risk in my life?
  • What impossibility do I want to make possible?

Active Imagination Journey:

Cultivate Calmness.
Ground, Center, and Anchor in the ways that feel good and right to you.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that you are standing at the edge  of a great cliff and beyond the cliff is the bright blue sea.

Affirm and acknowledge that you have come to this place at this time to learn a new teaching about your life, one that is gifted to you from the stars, you have come to encounter the Ram.

Acknowledge that it does not matter where Aries occurs in your chart or whether you were born under this Sun sign or not – we all have this constellation present in some portion of our natal chart.

As you are ready, look straight out at the horizon line where sky meets earth.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that an object floats just over the horizon line and s slowly becoming larger and larger as it approaches. It seems to glow like the sun and as you narrow your eyes to see it more clearly you find that what is moving towards you is the Golden Fleeced Ram of Aries itself.

Affirm and acknowledge your inner knowing that the Ram is coming for you today, that it is willing, if you are, to take you for a ride into the heavens where you may see your life from a bird’s eye perspective.

As the Ram lands softly beside you the invitation is clear: get on board.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel yourself climb onto the strong Ram. Curl your fingers into its soft, gold, fleece and around its great curling horns.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that the Ram becomes air born and you are now able to see below. The blue sea witnessed at the beginning of the active imagination has changed and transformed into the terrain of your life, from the moment that you were born and took your first breath to right here and right now.

As you hold onto the Ram’s golden fleece, see, sense, touch, know, and feel the question that is being asked:
“Where are you willing to take a risk?”

Look down, look down, look down – knowing that you are safe and able to see clearly from this vantage point.
Look down, look down, look down – acknowledging the areas where you have perhaps played it too safe for too long.
Look down, look down, look down – visioning clearly the places where now a risk is required, an intelligent, brave, but also calculated risk.

Affirm and acknowledge that with the Ram sets you gently down in new terrain, your life after certain risks have been taken and rewards have been granted.

Affirm and acknowledge with the Ram as your guide you can discover not only the best risks to take but the best ways to take them and as you are ready ask Aries, the Ram what it would like you to do with this newfound insight.

Give yourself time to truly listen and enjoy.

When you are ready to depart allow yourself a few final moments to say goodbye and to agree to any promises, oaths, or exchanges that you can in good faith make.

Breathe in a blessing on your body and as you exhale bring your awareness back to the room that you are in. Feel the weight of the air upon your skin and allow yourself to stretch and move in any ways that feel good and nourishing to you.

As a final act, note what the teaching from Aries was to and for you.

Reflect on the message you were given and the task you were asked to do, and then in true Aries fashion, make it happen.

Altar/Ritual

Make space at your altar, or create a new area as you see fit, to show your reverence for Ram. It is possible to procure ethically sourced Ram’s horns, but if you cannot or don’t want to do that, acquire a piece of wool (and raw, unprocessed wool is even better – ask at your local yarn supplier). Place the horns or wool at the center of your altar space. Surround the horns or wool with a small bowl of water, a plant (a small container of grass is perfect for Ram, but any green plant will work well), and a candle.

Light the candle and place your hands on the horns or wool. As you watch the flame, reflect on the fiery nature of Aries and your ride with Ram. Ask for Ram’s essence, courage, and wisdom to guide you and show you the ways to achieve your goals.

After you spend time with Ram at your altar, engage in some kind of physical activity. Do whatever you are physically able and comfortable doing – take a walk or a run, dance around your house, do some gentle stretching, etc. Part of honoring Ram is honoring and acknowledging your own body. Each time you work with Ram take a moment to move and recognize and be thankful for your physical form.

Return to this Ram altar and movement practice whenever you need to reconnect with Fire and with Ram’s knowledge and lessons. Make sure you refresh the water periodically and keep the plant healthy and strong. And remember, always observe common sense fire safety when burning candles.

About my Co-Author:

sara-magnusonSara Magnuson  is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Pisces the Fish

Divination and Dreams

A

quarius took us into the depths and introduced us to the monster Typhon. Now that story continues but this time it is not Pan who turns into a fish but two completely different characters.

Pisces is the 12th and final sign in the zodiacal wheel, attuned to the element of Water and is a mutable sign ruled by Neptune. The Sun is in Pisces from February 18 through March 20. Mutable signs speak to our ability to be flexible, accommodating, receptive, and extend out towards others. Mutable signs also speak to transition periods and it is during the sign of Pisces that we begin to transition from deep Winter into early Spring in the Norther Hemisphere and late Summer into early Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fish as Animal: By Sara Magnuson

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls,
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me ~ chorus from Joy to the World by Three Dog Night

Joy to the Fishes, indeed, for it is in the otherworld of the oceans that life on our planet came to exist. In the evolution of creatures it is the Fish that links us to primordial times, like the cord that ties together the two Fishes of Pisces. It is also fitting that the Fishes represent the end of the zodiacal wheel and where it connects back to the beginning – a never-ending loop, always in the present and always connected to the archetypal legacies of the heavens.

When we consider creatures that have been around, in some form, as long as the Fishes, we must also think of the Birds. Birds can fly through the air and navigate space in a way that we are not built to understand. Like Birds, Fish “fly” through the water, also living in a realm that we are not built to understand.

Acknowledge the world of a Fish for a moment – living in this liquid space, feeling the changes in pressure as it swims toward the surface or dives deep, sensing the currents like wind. It takes a completely different, very specialized kind of body to exist in this watery world.

The word “fish” is a very broad term, so what exactly are we talking about here. Fish are technically defined as “gill-bearing aquatic creatures with a skull and primary nerve cord that lack limbs with digits.” They are cold blooded Animals, meaning their body temperature is regulated by outside sources and very little internal heat is generated. They have a four-chambered heart (like humans) that pumps blood in a single loop through the body (unlike humans). Fish are found in all aquatic environments – salt water, fresh water, brackish, etc.

Just as Birds are designed with wings and feathers to be aerodynamic, Fish are covered with scales to allow for hydrodynamic movement. Other creatures also have scales, like Snakes, but Reptile scales are born from the surface of the skin, the epidermis, and Fish scales come from the dermis layer, much deeper within. You can think of a Fish’s scales as you would the development of your hair and teeth. For the Fish, scales provide protection for their physical body, as well as facilitating smooth movement in the water. Fish’s fins (i.e. their “limbs”) function much in the same way as a Bird’s wings, allowing it to propel and direct its movement. The scales of Fish’s body ask us to consider our own forms of emotional and spiritual protection, and to examine how deeply they are rooted.

An amazing aspect of Fish is its ability to breathe oxygen under water. Yes, Fish breathe oxygen, like humans, they just get it in a different way. The gills of Fish are made up of filaments and capillaries that create a huge surface area to extract oxygen from the water molecules. The act of swimming, moving through the space, forces water through their gills and keeps the process going. Fish can also “flap” their fins to push water across their gills while remaining still, a kind of hovering, which brings us to how Fish sleep. They don’t have eyelids so it appears that Fish is always awake, always moving, however we know that this is not true. Through observation, we know that Fish do take time to rest and enter into a form of stasis. How long and how often depends on the particular Fish. Keeping the water moving across their gills is an involuntary act; like our own heartbeat, they don’t have to remember to do it. In this way, Fish asks us to consider our unconscious behaviors and habits. Fish is there to guide us through times of internal exploration and reminds us of the importance of self-care and rest, no matter how it may appear to others.

Most Fish exhibit male or female reproductive characteristics, although there are exceptions, but their courting rituals are not quite the same as other Animals; in fact, the sexual life of a Fish is not particularly exciting. They typically reproduce when the female releases eggs and the male releases sperm into the water and hope they mix. Any courting, by male or female, is displayed for the purpose of drawing the potential mate near the area of the water they deposited their respective sex cells and pray that the other wants to deposit their own. The (hopefully) fertilized eggs are left to their own devices to develop, be born, and fend for themselves. Fish are not nurturing parents; they don’t stay around waiting for the babies to hatch and generally cannot identify their own offspring. This sexual and parental behavior, or lack thereof, speaks to the tendency of Fish to seem detached, far-away, or spacey. As we will see, Fish are not prone to forming individual attachments, but rather function at the extremes – in large groups or as solitary creatures.

Living in the otherworldly realm of water gives Fish some unique sensory abilities. They generally have a good sense of vision and smell, but they don’t hear like other creatures. Rather than hearing in the traditional sense, Fish have a sensory structure connected to their skin, called the lateral line, that works in a similar manner as the inner ear of humans. The lateral line provides spatial awareness and orientation and allows them to detect vibrations in the movement and currents of the water. The function of the lateral line directs their feeding and hunting practices, and affects social behaviors. In order to swim, Fish also possess specialized sensory organs that regulate buoyancy and detect water pressure. There are tens of thousands of different types of Fish, so it’s no surprise that some have developed other unique senses that serve their specific lifestyle, such as the detection of electrical impulses and different types of light. Awareness of how Fish senses the world teaches us about finding and accepting our own unique way of understanding and interpreting our environment. Fish asks us to be open, receptive, and non-judgmental of our individuality.

The behaviors of Fish are extremely diverse. Similar to variations in our own personalities, some Fish are aggressive and some are passive, some are loners and some must live in groups, some are predators and some are prey, some are highly intelligent and some are dumb as rocks. Two social behaviors that almost all Fish participate in at some point in their life cycle are the acts of shoaling and schooling. Sometimes Fish will swim together in a loose grouping, where they are acting fairly independently of each other but are close enough to stay connected, called shoaling. Schooling is when a group of Fish swim together in the same direction and in a coordinated way. Both of these behaviors provide protection from predators, better luck finding food and a mate, and help them save energy while swimming together (much like Birds flying in formation to utilize air currents most effectively). The act of schooling is a mysterious sight to observe, as it requires a highly coordinated effort of synchronized movements between individuals that are not vocalizing to each other. This aspect of Fish asks us to consider how we are or are not connected to others; how we are or are not utilizing and participating in community; where and when nurturing our connectedness serves our greater desires.

Most all Fish partake in some form of migration, whether near or far, for the purpose of reproduction, spawning, or finding food. Some Fish make small migrations daily and some cover vast expanses on an annual basis. The interesting thing about Fish migration is that, like Birds, they use the earth’s magnetic field to navigate. This process is still not very well understood, but we know that they are connected to the earth even if they never touch the ground.

The Fishes of Pisces live in an unknowable world, sensitive to things many of us cannot fathom. These places of depth and mystery are where Pisces thrives. The Fishes of Pisces, and the cord that connects them, show us where the pull of our uniqueness meets the collective consciousness; how we can explore our internal landscape beneath the surface while not getting lost at sea; and help us discern when we need the support of community and when we need solitude to function at our best.

Fish As Pisces: By Briana Saussy

piscesAs we turn our attention to Pisces it is a given that we will work closely with the element of Water and the fish nature of the final sign in the zodiac. However, there is more to Pisces than watery depths. In Babylon part of the constellation was called the Lady of Heaven, one of many epithets for Ishtar who brought the gifts of culture including ritual, magic, agriculture, and writing to her people. This early understanding of Pisces is relevant because the sign’s association with the Lady of Heaven underscores its relationship to synthesis. The way that C.G. Jung spoke about Pisces is that, as the 12th sign of the zodiac, it has received the lessons and gifts of all of the other signs.

Wherever Pisces occurs in your chart is most likely an area where you are able to make deep and vast connections – often between things that at first glance might seem entirely disconnected.

Moving from Babylon we enter into the star stories of Ancient Greece where the constellation of Pisces was understood to be Aphrodite and Eros escaping from the monster Typhon (whom we encountered in Capricorn). To recap: Typhon is described in ancient sources as having the body of a man but having hundreds of snakes emerging from his head and in some cases his thighs and/or feet as well. The snakes were all poisonous vipers, of course, who not only could kill by striking but actually spit their venom out onto their victims. Typhon was said to be able to breathe fire and also possess wings that allowed for flight. He was incredibly strong and powerful and had God-like powers over various elements.

Whereas in the tale of Capricorn the drama around Typhon involves transformation and struggle, in the tale of Pisces the drama involves connection and escape. Here we have a powerful and primal source that seeks to vanquish both Love and Desire. In order to escape and not be devoured, Love and Desire must both go under the waves, under the waters, and into the depths.

This is exactly what Pisces does as well. Those born under this sign or those who have this sign prominently placed in their charts often choose to escape into the watery depths themselves. The depths may be the music that Pisces plays, the art Pisces makes, or the dreams that often feel more real than waking life to Pisces.

Like the preceding sign, Aquarius, Pisces can sometimes appear aloof or uninterested in what is “actually happening” but unlike Aquarius, Pisces does not appear this way because it is preoccupied with mental brilliance and what is possible; rather Pisces feels deeply and instinctively knows that in order for the forces of Love and Desire to live in the world and remain intact, submergence and escape from the world is sometimes necessary. With Pisces there is both a deepening and softening of the qualities of Love and Desire, just as Aphrodite and her child Eros dived down into the waves so must we.

piscesThe presence of Aphrodite and Eros also clues us into some of the natural powers of Pisces – this sign influences our ability to be in harmony with ourselves and with others, to acknowledge and affirm our true desires, and to bring beauty into the world in every way possible. Escapism is an attribute that Pisces is often accused of engaging in and this is where the cord or lasso that binds Aphrodite and Eros together becomes so essential to the story.

In a practical manner the cord connects both figures to each other so that they are not lost to one another. Love that lacks Desire is cold and empty while Desire without Love has no solid root stock from which to grow. Eros is of course the child of Aphrodite so this also speaks to our connection to our legacy…when we go into the depths to do our work, to heal from whatever needs to be healed, to find more beauty and bring it up and into the world, we would do well to remember that we do this as a part of the legacy that we leave in the world rather than at the expense of it. The cord of connection also does not allow either figure to fully escape, fully be pulled down to the bottom of the sea; instead its presence reminds both that they will and must emerge once more – hopefully far away from the force of destruction that threatens them.

Magically speaking cords and lassos are worked with to connect and to bind; specifically the work of binding an individual to the things, people, and values that matter most to them. This ability to fix ourselves to what matters most is one of the challenges we find in the sign of Pisces, but also the single act that best prevents us from becoming lost in our own oceanic depths. Pisces is often spoken of as the sign that feels more and more deeply than any other (Virgo and Scorpio beg to differ on that, though). The ocean is a frequently called upon metaphor to convey the literal depth of feeling that this sign experiences. But one of the teachings of Pisces is that just because you feel something strongly, that does not make it necessarily true – knowing what really does matter most is the support that allows Pisces to emerge once more.

There is one more story associated with this constellation, my favorite kind, a fairy tale, and it speaks to one of strongest impulses we find in the Fish. In my research I saw that this story is attributed to Germanic origin, but I have encountered versions from Mexico, India, Italy, Greece, Eastern Europe, various locales around the Arctic circle, Japan, and China – basically anywhere you have a fishing economy you will have a version of this tale. It goes like this:

piscesOnce upon a time there was a very poor fisherman who lived in a metal tub with his wife, for they were so poor that they did not even have money for a meager cottage. The fisherman was a kind and good man and his wife was always yelling at him and haranguing him. He did his best to make her happy while acknowledging that no matter what he did she would never be fully satisfied.

Now it happened that one day the fisherman went out onto the water and caught a large, beautiful fish. Imagine his surprise when he hauled the fish onto the deck of his little boat and the fish cried out in pain, “Oh, oh, oh, the hook it hurts me so!

The fisherman was appalled and immediately removed the hook from the fish and set it free back into the water. The fish then turned around and said to the fisherman, “You are a good and kind man to release me so and not eat me. In return for your mercy I shall grant you a wish, any wish you want, what shall it be?

The fisherman shook his head smiling and assured the fish that this was not necessary – he was happy to let the fish live its life in peace and was only sorry for any pain he may have caused it. The fish was even more delighted with this second selfless act and so told the fisherman that should he ever change his mind he could come back to the lake and call for the fish and the fish would come back and grant a wish.

Well, the fishermen went home and his wife threw the biggest fit you have ever seen. She screamed and cussed and yelled at the poor man who was such a fool and told him to go back to the water and ask the fish to give them a beautiful home with lots of money and plenty of fine things. The poor man was terribly embarrassed but he did as she asked and the fish emerged from the waters and granted the fisherman’s wish so that when he returned home he returned not to a metal tub but instead to a golden castle.

Thinking that this was the end of it, the fisherman settled down to enjoy life but his wife was not satisfied. She goaded him, nagged at him, and mocked him until he went back to the waters and asked the fish for a second wish. Imagine the fisherman’s surprise when the fish emerged with a few less scales and a small wound that seeped a bit of blood.

Upon inquiring what had harmed the fish, the fisherman learned that this was the cost of granting his wish, the fish had paid for it in literal flesh and blood. But the fish took great pains to assure him that it was fine, only a little wound and one that would heal quickly. Then the fish asked why the fisherman had returned and called for it. The fisherman hemmed and hawed and finally admitted that his wife was not satisfied and would like a second wish; this time she wanted to be Queen in their country. He hated to ask, surely he did not want to harm the fish, and yet if he did not his wife would be ever so angry.

The fish simply said, “It is done, go back to your home.” and then disappeared into the depths. The fishermen did go home and once there discovered that he and his wife were indeed King and Queen of their country.

And so he thought that it would surely end there – what else was there to want? Yet his wife was still not satisfied and crowed out to the heavens that her husband would have no rest or quarter until she was Queen of the UNIVERSE!!! Head hanging down and hat in hand, the fisherman went to the waters once more. He called for the fish and when it emerged he saw it was bleeding heavily from a much larger wound and that it had lost many of its beautiful silver scales.

He relayed his wife’s wish to the fish and the fish sighed in sorrow and then told the fisherman to go home. The fisherman did and upon his arrival found that he and his wife truly were the rulers of the entire universe.

As such he was able to see the waters where the fish lived, able to see the blood running like a red river from the fish’s body, able to watch as the last silver scales fell to the bottom of the sea and the fish finally died. And immediately upon its death all of the gold and jewels, the crowns an scepters vanished and all that was left was a poor fisherman, his angry wife, and the metal tub which they called home.

As I said, this fairy tale speaks to several of the deepest aspects of Pisces and they are – a compulsion to redeem and save, a need to please people, and a willingness to sacrifice oneself. We see all three themes at work in the story: the fisherman saves the fish and also seems to want to redeem his wife in some manner, the fisherman is constantly trying to please his wife (and does not see how unworthy she is of such attention), and the fish itself gives up its life to make someone else happy. Pisces can develop a savior complex and must be reminded of the essential roles that self-care and standing up for what they believe in and they think is right, play in their lives.

Call on Pisces When:

  • You need to be more thoughtful, sensitive, and aware of other people’s feelings.
  • You are learning a new form of art such as music, painting, sculpture, dance, drawing or design.
  • You wish to learn from the past and put it into proper perspective.
  • You need to engage more fully with your dreams and nourish your dream life.
  • You want to make connections between various aspects of your life; you are ready to synthesize.
  • You are ready to develop your psychic abilities.
  • You need to infuse your work with more depth, beauty, and creativity.
  • You wish to help.
  • You want to cultivate a deeper relationship with beauty.
  • You need to come into right relationship with your deep feelings and emotions.
  • You wish for deeper connection.
  • You are ready to be a force of redemption in the world.

Be Wary Of

  • Addictions of all kinds – Losing oneself in the depths is something to take figuratively and literally with this sign. Pisces and Scorpio are the two zodiac signs most strongly connected to addictions.
  • Escapism – Sometimes Pisces forgets to lasso itself to something or someone else and tries to escape the world completely. This can lead to (on the milder side) overlooking important, practical needs and (on the stronger side) moments of “breaking” from reality all together.
  • Being too acquiescent – As a mutable sign it is easy for Pisces to say YES! Whatever you want! While that can make the fish popular, as we saw in the story above, it is not always good for the fish – Pisces must learn the art of setting boundaries.
  • Overly high standards – Pisces has a vision of what can be, and usually the visions is pretty terrific. When the “real world” and people in it fail to live up to that vision it can leave the fish feeling hollowed out and empty, so it is good to remember that reality is not a bad word.
  • Self-doubt – One of the old ways to describe the 12th house in the zodiac is the house of self-imprisonment; Pisces finds it easy to believe in almost anything…except themselves.

Questions to Ponder:

Pisces shows up in everyone’s chart – there is no such thing as “I don’t have Pisces” because it is a cluster of stars in the sky and it is always there. Wherever Pisces occurs in your chart these questions will help you get to know it better.

  • What aspects of my life need to be brought together, what is my overarching theme?
  • What beauty am I creating?
  • What do I serve?
  • How do I help?
  • What would happen if I asserted myself more strongly?
  • What depths do I long to sink into?
  • What are my dreams telling me?
  • How can I bring my visions of what is possible more fully into my waking life?
  • What is my lineage?

Active Imagination Journey:

Sit comfortably and take a deep breath. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Make each inhale and each exhale a little fuller and deeper than the last.

Feel your body slowly relaxing; feel each muscle letting go, your head; your chest; your arms and hands; your stomach; your hips, legs and feet; until all you are focused on is your breathing. Slowly in and slowly out.

See that you are walking on a sun-dappled path through a beautiful wood. It is a warm, pleasant afternoon, quiet and still and peaceful. You are carrying a small sack with you but its contents are not of concern. You know that what’s in the sack is important to you and that you must keep it with you. It is not too heavy and not too light and you stroll down the path with ease, breathing deeply. Notice your steps, your heartbeat, and your breath all in rhythm together.

The path begins to open up and you find yourself at the edge of the wood looking toward a smooth, glassy lake. There is a small island out in the center of the lake and you know that is where you must go. Make your way to the edge of the lake and step into the water; feel it gently lapping at your ankles. The water is temperate and calm and clear. Whether you are a good swimmer or not, you feel safe and comfortable moving deeper into the lake. You put the sack around you and begin to swim the short distance to the small island. You swim with the ease of a fish and you effortlessly make your way to the shore of the island.*

You emerge from the lake and walk up to a dry place on the shore of the island. Sit down and observe. Observe the span of lake you just crossed and the forest on the other side. Observe the shore that you’re sitting on and the sights, smells, and sounds of the small island. Observe that you are separated from the mainland, separated from your day-to-day worries and troubles, separated from your aches and pains, separated from the minutia of tasks and chores. Observe that it is quiet and peaceful. Take a moment to let your mind be still.

Now consider the sack you brought with you. Inside is an object that represents the thing you feel most tethered to, whether good or bad. Open the sack and remove the object. Hold it in your hands without judgment. Feel its weight and shape and consider what it represents.

Take a moment to meditate on the purpose of the object. Is it something you want to be tethered to? Is it something you should be tethered to? Is it a representation of the thing that is most important to you? Or is it something you do not want to be tethered to? Is it a representation of something you need to let go of? Is the object necessary in your life? Is it something practical that helps you? Or is it something that is no longer needed?

As you sit with the object and contemplate its purpose and function in your life, look out across the lake. Remember the perspective you have, sitting on this small island, separate from the mainland and all your troubles, pains, and duties; separate from all the influences in your life telling you what to do. Remember that you are here to discern what to do with this object and the decision is yours and your alone.

If you decide that this object represents something you do not want to be tethered to, dig a hole on the shore and bury it, leaving it behind for the island to absorb. If you decide that this object represents something you do want to remain tethered to, return it to the sack. When you feel ready, you step back into the lake and feel it gently lapping at your ankles. The water is temperate and calm and clear. You feel safe and comfortable moving deeper into the water and begin to swim the short distance to return. You swim with the ease of a fish and you effortlessly make your way to the shore of the mainland.*

As you step out of the water onto the land, give yourself a moment to look out across the lake to the the island you came from. Express your gratitude for the ability to move your body through the water and for the clarity that the island provided you.

When you are ready, begin walking back on the sun-dappled path through the beautiful wood. It is a warm, pleasant afternoon, quiet and still and peaceful. Notice your steps, your heartbeat and your breath all in rhythm together. Become aware of your presence in your physical body. Allow your mind to gently return to the present moment where you are sitting comfortably, listening to your breath.

When you feel ready, open your eyes.

*if you have phobias around water or swimming that keep you from visualizing this, imagine that there is a small, safe boat for you to get to and from the island.

Altar/Ritual: Making a Spirit Cord

This is an adaptation of a practice taken from Bri’s course on magic and fairy tales, Spinning Gold.

Ropes, spirit cords, ritual belts and, as they are called in Currendera tradition, lassos, are sacred tools and ritual talismans that assist us as we meditate and engage with the Otherworld in very specific and helpful ways.

For many newcomers to magical work it is an odd idea that something as innocuous as a piece of string, fabric, or leather could have the ability to serve as a physical catalyst for rapid and deep transformation, but it can.

The spirit cord or lasso has the ability to connect past, present, and future and can be worked with in a ceremonial manner not only to connect your past, present, and future, but also to connect you to Ancestors who are no longer among the living, and Descendants (including creative, metaphorical, progeny) that will come into being in the future.

You may also work with your cord to connect to specific places, objects, and people. For instance, try looping one part of your cord around a plant and sitting with the end of the cord in your left hand. Consider the channel you create in that moment and be aware of  the information that flows through it.

How to Make Your Spirit Cord

1.) Acquire three pieces of material. Choose materials that can be braided together such as yarn, rope, or thread. I recommend that you choose the same material for each of the three strands. This cord is something you can wear or wrap around you, so choose something comfortable that will feel good against your skin. You may want to choose one, two or three colors for your cord. (My cord is three different colors, white, black and red. This is entirely up to you.)

In choosing colors, reflect on what different colors mean to you in particular. Red might mean power and protection, blood spilled in creative work? Black might mean to you a power that absorbs negativity. Blues for you might call forth healing waters. Yellows might evoke for you a field of wildflowers and something lighthearted or it might evoke something entirely different.

The point is to open up correspondences that connect with yourself. As you choose your colors, keep in mind the work or purpose of the cord, as we have said above: for daily practice, working with lineage and legacy; to strengthen and restrict, open up the channel to travel more easily between the worlds.

2.) Cut the cords to the length or height of your body. Give yourself about twelve inches (or about thirty centimeters) of extra material, since the cords will shorten as you braid.

3.) You will now have three lengths of material, and either one, two or three colors. Now you must assign deeper significance to each strand. Here is how you can do that:

Think about your life as a whole and in part, your aspirations, your desires, your frustrations and obstacles. What facets of your life feel separated from one another?

Some common examples of different facets of life that can feel separated or related and joined together:

  • Work life
  • Spiritual practice
  • Love life
  • Creative life
  • Physical health
  • Eating food
  • Family life
  • Financial life
  • Self-image

Now choose three life facets for your cord, and assign one for each strand. Take as much time as you need to make your choices.

If this does not feel resonant to you, here are a couple of further options:

Some of us struggle with the separation between who we are inside and the face we show to others. If this describes your experience then dedicate one strand of your cord to your inner voice, one strand to your outer expression, and one strand for the two aspects coming into union with each other.

In other cases we are searching for a through line connecting our experience of past, present, and future. In that case you might dedicate one strand of your cord to the past, one to the present, and one to the future.

4.) Keeping the three facets you have selected strongly in your mind and inner intention, braid the three strands together. (If you’ve forgotten how to braid, or don’t know how to, no worries. You can find instructions on YouTube for examples of simple braiding tips. I would suggest, however, that you practice first on some other strands before working on your cord. It is important for your own work to cultivate and hold your intention as you braid the cord and obviously this cannot take place if you have one eye on the computer screen.)

After you finish, bless it with your own words and in your own way, and put it in a safe place for use later.

About my Co-Author:

sara-magnusonSara Magnuson  is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.

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magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.