"Everything an Indian
does is in a circle, and that is because the power of the world
always works in circles, and everything tries to be round."
- Wallace Black Elk (1863-1950)
Symbols are a silent and
potent language which reaches our conscious awareness through the
agency of subconsciousness. A symbol is a representation, a mark,
a picture or an image which stands for something else. All communication,
or transmission of ideas, takes place through the use of symbols
whether spoken or ideographic.
A symbol is generally a pictorial
emblem for a concept or idea and acts like shorthand communication
which bypasses linear, alphabetical language. For example, in a
religious context, a cross has become the symbol for Christianity,
a six-pointed star for Judaism, and a star in a crescent represents
Islam. We recognize these symbolic linkages automatically without
words or conscious thought.
Symbols are how we communicate
whether through an inviting smile, a finger to our lips asking for
silence, or through the words of the most exquisite prose. An arrow
with the point on top means up and with the point on the bottom
means down. A black circle with diagonal line through the center
now says to the world, "No . . . smoking, guns, . . . ,"
or fill in the blank. In America a bright red octagon means stop.
Male or female figures on bathroom doors indicate which gender should
use the room.
As the Chinese maxim states,
"One picture is worth a thousand words." Pictures are
emblems of ideas and demonstrate concepts which might take pages
of words to explain. Symbols might be viewed like keys which unlock
doors at different levels of our consciousness and provide access
to previously concealed or separated rooms of our psyche. In a metaphorical
sense, all of life can be experienced as a symbolic reflection,
offering us wisdom and growth.
Occult or sacred symbols
are meant to communicate an idea directly to our awareness, transcending
the intellect and aiming straight for the heart. It might be said
that all geometry is sacred because meaning and archetype are contained
in the shapes in the same way archetypal principles are contained
Although the names of the
planets are derived from Greek and Roman gods, those humanized figures
were meant to represent the archetypal natures of the planets which
had been observed for thousands of years prior. Mythical tales of
the exploits of the all-too-fallible gods provided a means of perceiving
how their movements through different signs, and their angular relationships
to one another, played out on the stellar stage. Their antics, foibles
and heroism showed through stories how humans might respond to these
The language of astrology
is symbolism and in the case of the planets all of the symbols are
formed from different combinations of the circle, the crescent,
or half-circle, and the cross, or two straight lines. In order to
understand the planets in a purely symbolic way it is valuable to
know how their glyphs have been constructed and what they represent.
Circle, Crescent & Cross
The circle has no beginning
or ending point and is therefore said to symbolize eternity, infinity,
spirit and the never-ending cycles of manifestation. The circle
also represents unlimited potential, like a blank canvas. The crescent
or half circle is said to signify the soul and the receptivity implied
by the chalice. The half circle also visually resembles a lens through
which the light of spirit and the sun may be both focused and reflected.
A cross is formed by two
straight lines which intersect and is said to indicate the domain
of the material world and our self-conscious awareness. A cross
enclosed within a circle is an ancient symbol of the four corners
of the year, and the horoscope is laid out on this plan, showing
the four corners of the day: dawn, noon, sunset and midnight. A
cross inside a circle is also the symbol of Earth.
In their purely archetypal
roles the planets were seen by the ancients as immortal gods imbued
with supernatural powers. They moved through the sky against the
background of the stars, engaging each other in harmony or discord,
and affecting mortal life in the process. By combining the symbolic
meaning of the circle, crescent and cross, the glyphs of the planets
represent these complex spiritual ideas.
Sun - Focused Power
In the symbol for the Sun
the circle of the infinite has been brought to a focus by a central
dot, bringing a cycle of manifestation to a beginning through a
point of concentration. This symbol also represents the faculty
of superconsciousness. This is the center or heart of the astrological
chart as the Sun is the center of the solar system. The symbol for
the Sun shows the central lesson, or focus of experience, revealed
through the chart. To understand the Sun's significance we must
know where power needs to be brought to bear in the life, and through
what kind of experiences.
Moon - Receptivity
The crescent is the symbol
for the Moon which plays the role of both reservoir and reflector
in our lives, representing the lens through which the solar rays
of spirit may be focused. The crescent also signifies the waxing
and waning monthly phases of the Moon and the idea that the Moon's
ability to fully reflect the Sun's light is cyclical. Although the
Moon has no light of her own she does possess movement, and her
monthly cycle produces phases of light and dark, representing the
journey of the soul throughout cycles of expression. The Moon's
crescent symbol signifies the faculty of subconsciousness as well
as her capacity to receive and respond to impressions as well as
the ability to reflect back what we have gained in experience and
Mercury - Expression
The glyph for the planet
Mercury is a combination of the circle, cross and crescent. The
half circle, or partial reflection, is above the circle of spirit,
showing limitation of eternal expression, but both are above the
cross of materiality. Mercury was the swift messenger of the gods
and the only Olympian who could travel freely from the underworld
to Mount Olympus. Contained within this symbol is the knowledge
of right use of will and the power of the word.
Venus - Attraction
The symbol for Venus is
often described as a mirror for the goddess of beauty. This glyph
contains the circle of spirit over the cross of matter, pointing
us in the direction of the path to perfect reflection and embodiment
of spirit in the material world. If our lives are a mirror of the
divine we bring heaven to earth. The symbol for Venus closely resembles
the Egyptian Ankh, symbol of life. The Ankh shows an oval, or elongated
circle, above a cross. This ancient symbol was often shown held
to the nostrils of a mortal monarch by the gods and offered as the
gift of eternal life.
Mars - Energy
The symbol for Mars is the
reverse of the symbol of Venus. In the symbol of the war god the
cross of matter is oriented in a specific direction and is exalted
over the circle of spirit. The more ancient representation of Mars
was the symbol for Venus inverted, indicating that this planet has
more to do with earthly issues. The god of war tends to show us
our personal battlegrounds and his arrow is often aimed toward physical
conquest rather than spiritual dominion.
Jupiter - Expansion
In this planet's symbol the
crescent of receptivity, or the half-circle of the soul, is rising
in the East, or waxing (increasing), and creates a focal point for
the cross of matter. The symbol shows the potential for growth and
increase. Where will we optimize our resources in order to learn
the principle of growth and the subsequent issue of stewardship?
Saturn - Concentration
Saturn's symbol is the reverse
of Jupiter. The cross of matter is elevated over the receptive crescent,
now placed in the west, or place of the past. This designates Saturn's
gravity-like pull and the forces of limitation and concentration.
The cross of matter is slightly above the crescent, revealing a
focus on matter and the lessons of the material world. In a sense,
Saturn forces us to deal with the consequences and responsibilities
(Karma), of the abundance of Jupiter.
Uranus - Independence
(Glyph chosen by publisher)
Although the symbol for
Uranus is usually shown as two straight lines with a cross surmounting
a circle in the center, I believe it is more appropriately seen
as two crescents, back to back. Seen in this way Uranus combines
the energies of Jupiter and Saturn and brings the full cycle of
reflection into play as we learn the lessons of the physical plane.
Ronald Davison describes the symbol for Uranus as the cross of matter
above the circle of spirit between the twin columns of good and
Neptune - Sensitivity
At its most obvious and
familiar the symbol for Neptune depicts the trident of Poseidon,
lord of the sea. The symbolic elements of this glyph are the crescent
of receptivity, pierced by the cross of matter. In earlier times
Neptune's trident was drawn as two crescents back to back with a
cross piercing the middle. This resembles the older symbol for Uranus
and indicates the cycles of the soul's expression crucified on the
cross of material existence.
Pluto - Redemption
(Glyph chosen by publisher)
Pluto's glyph shows the circle
of spirit contained within the crescent of receptivity above the
cross of materiality. The elements of this symbol alter the arrangement
of the circle, cross and crescent in Mercury's glyph. In the case
of Pluto the essence of spirit is now contained within the receptive
image of the soul. This symbol embodies the ultimate goal of redemption
at the end of the long journey on the Path of Return. Synthesis
By studying the relative strengths and freedom of expression of
certain planets in a horoscope, and likewise the challenges to expression
of others, we can gain a sense of the symbolic thrust of the life.
For example (and to oversimplify), if Mars is the dominant planet
in a horoscope then the life will be characterized by the need to
develop the right use of will and overcome fear of conflict by continuing
battles which present themselves. By contrast if Pluto is the ruler
of the chart the path may require renunciation of "earthly"
concerns and a turning of mind and heart toward transforming the
physical appetites and cultivating a more spiritual focus.