Astrological Signs – A Deeper and Broader View

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

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Sun-sign astrology is the most popular facet of the incredibly large and multi-faceted world of astrology. Found in newspapers, magazines, on the television and radio airwaves and online in myriad forms, there are so many sun-sign columns and material available. I am a professional astrologer – retired, but no less professional. For many years, I have been looking at astrological sun-signs in a broader and deeper fashion to both aid in my self-development and to do the best possible job for my clients and my students. I am attempting to produce online articles for the general public intended to broaden and deepen the public understanding of astrology without all the technical jargon. For this article, I intend to clarify, deepen and broaden sun-signs for you.

The night sky is visibly awash with pinpricks of light thought to be stars, but which may be galaxies, stellar nurseries or universes, as well as stars of every imaginable size, shape and category. There are billions and trillions of cosmic worlds. If, on a very dark night, you happen to be located reasonably close to Earth’s equator, our own galaxy’s stars are so thick that it looks like spilled milk across the night sky – our Milky Way Galaxy. Of course, all these cosmic wonders surround us during the daylight as well. but are obscured by the brightness of the Sun. It is the night sky that allows our unobstructed vision of our universe. There will always be more than we can ever see or understand because the distances are so vast. The universe is like that.

Throughout the centuries, man has found stories and pictures in sky clusters and we call them the constellations. Depending upon which reference you quote and which national system you use, there are over fifty such constellations. Each of the constellations has its own mythology and starry members. Twelve of the constellations are near the path of the planets that orbit our local Sun – the ecliptic, the path on which eclipses occur. The ecliptic is the centerline through those twelve constellations we call the Zodiac (circle of animals) and these large constellations range on both sides of that gigantic pathway in the sky. The constellations are not located close by. They are “out there” at cosmic distances, giant thirty-degree segments of that circular pathway. The planets that are all within our solar system (close by) travel along that path and through the areas of space we call the signs. As they pass through the twelve signs, the energy represented by the planet seems to take on new coloring or influence of that sign.

Imagine a bright white light (a planet and its energy) and place a red lens between that light and the observer. The observer would see a red light. The light itself would not change, only the observer’s perception would have changed. If the red lens were removed and a blue lens inserted between that light and the same observer, that light source would appear to the observer as blue. Again, the light source itself remains the same (the planetary energy) and only the observer’s perception is affected. So as the planet and the energy and experience it represents passes through a particular zodiacal constellation, it seems to be colored or influenced by that vast area of space. Our perception of that energy and its influence is all that is truly altered.

An ego is an ego is an ego, regardless of sign perception or coloring. It is still an ego whether it is egocentric, healthy or self-deprecating. All those expressions are still ego mechanisms. Mannerisms and behavior (ego-related) are tangibly modified and that modification is supplied by the influence of the sign. That which is up close (planet) is modified (influenced) by the cosmic (sign) as each planet moves through particular areas of the sky. The signs and their mythology and characteristics allow us to read an individual’s story as it relates to the various functions represented by the planets. The Sun represents the ego and self-identity. The Moon represents the emotions and nesting urges. Mercury represents the mind, education and communication to name a few. However, this article is about the signs.

There are so many layers to each of the signs if you employ multiple references. I do not intend this article to become a book, so I will mention some common but accessible layers of meaning to help you deepen your understanding of the signs. Those would include mythology, philosophy, psychology, symbology, modes of activity, inherent qualities within people, gender, polarity – to name a few. A little time spent with each layer will go help you attain a deeper and broader understanding of the signs and their influence. As I describe each category, think of people you know who express each concept for your education, your understanding of people, and for live feedback on what you are learning.

Mythology If you are a student of mythology you have tons of material from which to draw to understand the signs. Each legend or story is about human behavior and experience. Regardless of which source of legend you choose, there are parallels between the stories, such as the wise, the strong, the fearless, the warriors, the healers, the mother and father figures, etc. Each legend tells its individual story based on its own culture, but each legend is about humanity; so therefore there is common ground to study and then to apply. If you could understand a myth is about wisdom (or the lack of it), it will focus your attention on that quality in the reading of a wheel. Who do you know who fits all or part of these mythological possibilities?

Philosophy and Psychology If you are a student of philosophy or psychology, regardless of the source, you know they are studies of human nature and its strengths, weaknesses and foibles. Eminent psychologist/psychiatrist Carl Jung called astrology “the psychology of the ancients” and used it extensively in his research. You can apply your understanding of psychology or philosophy by identifying the basic premise described by a sign. What is the core of the lesson of the sign? For example, the sign of Aries can be brave and direct but is sometimes foolhardy in action. Just that clue should open a myriad of human experience possibilities within your conscious knowledge of either philosophy or psychology. Who do you know who fits all or part of these philosophical or psychological possibilities?

Symbology One of my personal favorite tools is symbology. The symbol of a sign opens a mental book about that sign in the mind of an astrologer. Eleven of those constellations are symbolized by human or animal glyphs. The only non-human or animal symbol is that of Libra whose symbol is the scale of justice. As an example, what would Libra experience in their life or have as an inherent quality? In part, Libra has the need to see all sides to an issue, to weigh and measure, to know that any action has a consequence – to name a few qualities or experiences. Spend time with each symbol or glyph, because they contribute to your understanding of the sign and its story. Who do you know who fits the symbology of any sign in whole or in part?

Mode of Activity What exactly is a mode of activity? There are those who take direct action, those who either build and establish or weigh the pros and cons, and those who talk about or educate and adjust, adapt and flex to the circumstance. Those who tend to take action are the cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. Those who tend to build or establish and get into value systems are fixed signs: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. Those who tend to talk about, educate or adjust, adapt and flex to the circumstance are the mutable signs: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces. Regardless of the planetary energy involved, the influence of the sign will express one of those three general characteristics. Who do you know who this mode of activity describes well?

Inherent Quality What is an inherent quality within an individual? One quality might be dynamic and charismatic. That is true for some people but not all people. Another might be down to earth and very basic, durable in nature. Another might be emotional, instinctive or imaginative. Another might be intellectual, social and relational. These are all “want to own” qualities within human beings and we can share many of them, but they are found in varying compositions and not all are dominant or visible. Each quality is expressed through three signs. Dynamic and charismatic is a quality of the fire signs: Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Down to earth, basic and durable is a quality of earth signs: Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. Emotional, instinctive or imaginative is a quality of water signs: Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. Intellectual, social and relational is a quality of air signs: Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. Who do you know who express these qualities dominantly or in constructive distribution?

Gender I am a good talker. Sometimes you cannot get me to shut up. I always have something to say. At times I have to sit on my hands to get myself to shut up (my personal signal for talk less, listen more). Have you ever thought that a talker is totally dependent on a listener? What good does it do for you to talk if no one is listening? Every talker needs a listener. Every listener needs a talker. Now that is handy! Now think of those two necessary qualities as they relate to the signs. The twelve signs are divided up into two genders, male and female.  The male qualities (expressive) are similar to the talker in our example. The female qualities (receptive) are similar to the listener in our example. For another example, think of the electrical plug for a lamp cord and the wall plug into which it must be placed to complete the current. One must be expressive and one must be receptive for a lamp to light. Gender is also referred to as positive and negative, not in the sense of good and bad but in the sense of two halves that make up a whole. The male expressive qualities are found in the fire and air signs: Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius and Aquarius. The female receptive qualities are found in the earth and water signs: Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces.  Who do you know who falls into the talker category or the listener category, with an expressive or receptive demeanor?

Polarity If you noticed, I mentioned the pairing of fire and air signs and earth and water signs in the above paragraph on gender. Fire and air have a natural affinity and earth and water have a natural affinity. If you look at a natural wheel you will see that a fire and an air sign are exactly opposite one other and a water and earth sign are exactly opposite one another. This is called polarity. Another description of polarity would be two ends of a single stick such as a pencil. There is the writing end and the eraser end, but they are both part of the single object called a pencil. My description for this polarity is two viewing portals on a common subject. Yes, opposites do sometimes conflict, but I will have to leave that treasure for another article. There is commonality between the pairing but they do have opposing, and at times conflicting, views of their commonality. Who do you know who illustrates the polarity influence? The pairs are:

  • Aries and Libra, the relationship pairing, I/me and you/we
  • Taurus and Scorpio, the value pairing, mine and yours/ours
  • Gemini and Sagittarius, the communication pairing, my thoughts/others’ thoughts
  • Cancer and Capricorn, the security pairing, personal security/professional security
  • Leo and Aquarius, the creative pairing, my creativity/creativity of others
  • Virgo and Pisces, the service pairing, my service/the world’s needs

Mythology, philosophy, psychology, symbology, modes of activity, inherent qualities within people, gender and polarity – these name only a few of the areas to study for each sign. Developing this skill will assist you as you attempt to read each planet in a sign. This is, however, enough for one article and enough to get you started on deepening and broadening your understanding of a sign and how it affects (or infects) a planet as it passes through its area of cosmic space. I said affects or infects for a reason. Be sure to study all the characteristics of each sign, not just the positives. We are not here because we are perfect. If that were so, there would be no point to earthly experience. We are here to go to school, so you must study all the qualities – good, bad and indifferent to develop a good grasp of any sign. 

Published on EZine online magazine May 2010, republished with slight editing.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.