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The Mythological Archetypes of the Zodiac Cycle
by Semira & Vitaly Vetash

"Even belief in Perun will be useful.
It will be needed to create a general
picture of the world.
K.E.Tsiolkovsky, the father
of Russian cosmic explores.

The cognitive approach to astrology is usually considered to be part of the empirical because astrologers in their practice base themselves mainly upon psychological observations. It is the most simple and effective method for everyday astrology but nevertheless leads to superficial insight into the subject of the first science of humanity. The statistically based cosmobiological approach is desined to overcome the subjectivity of observations, connecting the motion of planets with presise physical rhythms. The scientific method is most efficient in medical applications but reaches it's limits in attempting to reveal the deepest motives of personal activity without opening the window to the soul.

However there is a third approach - the humanitarian or cultural historical method which gives us the opportunity to create the picture of the development of thought and psyche of human beings. Mythology describes us the picture in the most primary way. The mythological conceptions of the ancients can help us to substantiate universal astrological notions.

The components of ancient myth rooted in different cultures hold much in common, and retain signification in the consciousness of contemporary people. It inspired C.G.Jung to connect modern science with the believes of the past in creating the notion of the archetype.

Archetypes are primary forms which serves as the basis for imagery, unconsciously evoking the activity of the imagination. They appear in dreams and delirium as well as in art and literature and manifest the unity of the human mind, permitting us to feel its connection with the Universe and infinity. Jung addressed the subject the following way:

"One who speaks in archetypes speaks with thousand voices. He transforms elements arising from the world of simultaneous and inconstant into manifestations of the eternal, simoultaneously elevating his own destiny to the scale of humanity at large."

Studying 'synchronicity' between the psychic perceptions of different individuals and the objective processes of reality led Jung to accept astrology as an explaination for the phenomenon of universal rhythms ruling the collective unconscious and the world at large. At first studying archetypes in connection with the libido Jung then saw archetypes as the sourse for astrological symbols and the myths of the ancients: "Astrology, like the collective unconscious with which psychology is concerned, consist of symbolic configuration: the 'planets' are the gods, symbols of the power of the unconscious."

Today the term 'archetype' is accepted by astrologers, who use myths to amplify and decorate astrological interpretation. But usually astrologers refer only to the limited registry of European gods and when addressing the others don't take into account their specific roles and definite positions in the corresponding pantheons, merely borrowing for own needs isolated characteristics and features. And for a proper understanding and practical application of mythological images we must perceive the picture of mundane mythology as a whole. We can't fully understand the meaning of any sign of the Zodiac ignoring the others, likewise to penetrate mythological archetypes correctly we must perceive the entire set of images of the gods systematically, taking into account different historical layers and corresponding changes of imagery and defining the main features.

Every astrological notion corresponds to a set of gods possessing various characteristics; the task at hand is to define the initially unified mythological archetype in the analysys of different cultures. This is possible because an archetype is proposed as a universal notion. It gives us the opportunity to consolidate, to enrich and even to correct our representations about the role of a planet or a sign in the horoscope. The mythological archetype of a planet, held in common by different cultures, helps us to understand what characteristics are the most primary and natural for the given planet and the corresponding sign, and what extraneous features, and deviations from the original archetype are allowed in any given cultural tradition. At the same time astrology promotes a proper understanding of mythology, drawing upon the immense variety of images making up the system.

Jung foresaw the positive role that astrology could play in the interpretation of myths, but having identified only a few separate archetypes, he didn't resolve the problem of creating the whole picture and defining a conceptual foundation of astrology. Developing the idea in our book "Mythology and astrology", we tried to take the next step in the theory of archetypes, representing the development of mundane mythology within a system of astrological framework. This article is the overwiew of the book.

* * *

The procession of mythological images describing planets' concepts is displayed in reverse sequence to the annual movement of the Sun through the signs of the Zodiac, from Pisces to Aries. The notion of Chaos and primordial forces as well as the most ancient gods transferring their functions to successors, corresponds to Pisces, Aquarius and Capricorn. The youngest gods should be considered the different personifications of the planet Mars.

As it is known, the reverse movement of signs of the Zodiac coincides with the precessive motion and refers to the great evolutionary cycle. According to the tradition of Egypt, the formation of the world and the transformation of man also begins in Pisces, symbolizing the Primary Division and the beginning of development. One fish remains in the primordial waters, providing the link with the original source, the other leaves its native ocean, setting out on the path of transformations and finally attaining the cosmic wisdom of Aries, the agnus sacrificed. Likewise in mundane mythology gods displaying certain characteristic features give up their places to new ones, and we can identify the reverse order of the Zodiac signs with stages of evolution of human consciousness reflecting the alteration of global historical epoches.

The evolution of mythological images is considerably more difficult than Egyptian scheme indicated, so we'll consider here only the main stages of development of human perception as the main ground of mythological representation.

Archetype of Neptune (Pisces):

How was the world formed and what is its source? The mythologies of all cultures, as well as the Bible, considered primordial Chaos as the cradle of the Universe. Chaos represents the state of matter existing beyond conventional imagination, which conceals an inherent threat to the very existence of the world as we know it, and so becomes principally unfathomable. But each person internally harbors a representation of that initial state. This representation also exists in the world of the ancients: Chaos is traditionally depicted as a dark ABYSS filled with water. It is indeterminate, dense, and has no shape. Its substantial characteristic is the absence of free space, and this coincides with the modern representation of the Universe, expanding from a superdense point - out of 'emptiness'. The word 'chaos' means 'gaping emptiness'; `shunyata' in India has the same meaning: emptiness giving birth all the beings. In the mythology of ancient China, the primary watery chaos, a complete darkness reminescent of the mixed content of a hen's egg, was called Huntun, a conception that was transformed into a god possessing the features of primary indivisibility.

So the world arose from Chaos and Life was born in the waters. Human perception doesn't separate these representations. The very appearance of both world and life is fundamentally incomprehensible. The associated myths introduce to us the image of the Great Mother-Sea, the world that was borne by her is depicted as alive. According to the principle:'as in the beginning, so at the end', the image of sea itself joins birth and death. Everything that appeared from the primary chaos will return to it, so the ocean is associated not only with killer storms and earthquakes brought on by changing of cosmic rhythms, but with the threat to existence itself. The Accadian great mother Tiamat ('sea') manifests herself as a monstrous hydra with seven heads, who was conquered by her descendent Marduk, who created the world from elements of her body. In this passive function chaos may be considered to be the material of creation.

Compared with vague Chaos, definite Cosmos represents a deviation from primary undifferentiated wholeness; the Sea gods resent this order and stand against it. The destructive role of the Sea gods makes them rebels, and forces their expulsion during periods of formation of new divine pantheons under the leadership of the God of Thunder. Thus the Semitic Yammu ('sea') struggles against Balu, the leader of the pantheon, for a return the primordial way of things under his omnipotence, so also does the Greek Neptune, but they are defeated.

Retired from their former power all throughout the Universe, the Sea gods occupy a peripheral position (Greek Oceanus, Egyptian Nun), that correlates with the idea of their wretchedness, weakness, victimization, the general depiction as the youngest member of the family (Neptune whose name means 'nephew'). The most characteristic example is the Indo-european myth about Trita (the 'third' brother, etymologically connected with Greek Triton) who was thrown into a well by his older brothers. Here the well is associated with primordial denseness and the absence of space and with the primary waters where the universal source of fertility is hidden. That reveals to us the sense of Pisces' sacrifice: Pisceans decline participation in manifested and ordered existence (cosmos), so as to remain intouch with something beyond Being, with the secret omnipotence of Chaos, to find in the very depths of existence the sources of eternity.

The composite images of the watery abyss and it's secrets, the mothering bosom of the sea from whence life arose, the destructive forces of chaos and self-sacrifice which establish the connection between life and eternity, all reflect an archetype of planet Neptune, which rules the sign of Pisces. Regarding the mythologema from the historical point of view, the representation of chaos or deluge correlates with the cataclysms that provoked glacial melting and other natural processes, which pushed the humanity out of former territories and created the impulse to develop the defensive powers of mind.

The arising of the rational, spiritual force in mankind still remains an enigma for us. There was a whole stage in the history of humanity, called by the Australian aborigines 'the time of dreams', when mind was asleep and saw the outer world through the haze of unconscious processes. Is reason hidden in the depths of the soul, or on the contrary, was there thought initially, which then decorated itself with a plentitude of feelings? - The depth of the soul is hidden by mystery; Neptune rules there, and for this planet all things are vague and relative. Within the archetype of Neptune there is no such differentiation between the mind and the soul which are united initially, being the same as life itself.

Archetype of Uranus (Aquarius):

Chaos gives birth to the Sky and the Earth. The duality of Pisces latently contains seeds of the next two signs: the lightest - Aquarius and the darkest - Capricorn, manifesting the primary contradictions between the ideal and the material. In Chaos a motion arises on the part of Uranus resulting in the emergence of atoms of Saturn. Centrifugal motion in the vacuum separates the light from the darkness.

Let us imagine the process as ancients did: everything which is light rises up - more correctly, spreads out - and the lightest thing is light, infinitely dispersed in space, created by motion. So the Chinese Sky Chian was formed. Somewhere beyond space, dark chaos remained, and the blue dome of the firmament became a concrete bariere protecting the light world from the invasion of the dark forces. It is the blue arc of gates leading to the unknown world, and it is the omniscient God of the Sky who possesses the keys to these gates. Such was the ancient image of Roman Janus, with one face turned toward this world, a world created by him, the second face turned toward another world. Originally he was the god of the firmament, then lost his dominance and merely became a keeper of all the arcs and gates.

The god of the Sky is a creator fulfilling the main act of creation: that is the separation of the earth and the sky. In contrast to his successors, he founds the world purely by means of thought, word or through his will, because as yet nothing else exists. An abstract creator, he forms the Universe as a whole, not worrying about the destiny of individual beings. As the cold blue sky of February, he is infinitely removed from humanity, commonly considered to be the substance of material creation; usually it is not he who has created them from clay or wood. Great Father of gods, he leaves determinate functions to his children and having fulfilled his role, retires. Humanity doesn't pay homage to the primary creator, having forgotten him, but somehow it is always implied that indeed it is the Sky that supports the World.

The primary god personifies the light of the sky. But he is also connected with the darkness divided from this light, with the wholeness of life and death of the primary waters, like Aquarius who pours two streams from a jug: the water of life and the water of death, providing constant transformation. He is above evil and good, in the ordinary sense of these words. The words 'deus' and 'devil' both emerges from the name of the Indoeuropean Dyaus, 'the clear sky', and the same root is found in the Russian words 'divny' (miraculous) and 'diky' (wild). The god of the Sky is anarchic and wild, wielding as his instrument the unceasing process of creation which is as spontaneous as thought. The myth concerning the Greek Uranus, who constantly gave birth to monsters, and unsatisfied with his creations, hid them in the bosom of the Earth, reflects the infinite process of arising and annihilation. Gaea the Earth, exhausted from the labours of birth, asked Kronos to castrate his father. That secured the separation of the Sky from the Earth and determined the beginning of stable existence.

The image formation of the god of the light Sky, historically correlates with the stage of great population migrations, which opened new horizons after the retreat of the glaciers. Peoples domesticated all territories fit for their uses, which become human in the proper sense of the word, illuminated with the light of thought. Isn't it miraculous, that the spark of God in human beings retreated only confronted by the eternal ices of Antarctica?

The luminosity, universality and anarchy of the most ancient creators characterizes Uranus, the planet of thought and liberty, which appeals to the spirit of new development, makes the hidden manifest and sometimes becomes dangerous for people. And the destiny of humankind to become the owner of the Earth brings us to the next archetype.

Archetype of Saturn (Capricorn):

In the free space of the Sky the Earth is formed. ncessant unlimited motion within space has no aim and produces no direct result. But in a limited world it is possible to create something stable. The world of matter has a beginning and an end, and it is definitely conditioned by laws that keep it secure. These are the laws of time and fate, symbolized in astrology by the planet Saturn. One thinks about the world within the framework of time, which inexorably restricts our existence. Beyond these limits, we could not imagine something definite, and we would not be able to think at all.

As Chaos may be represented as a point, the spontaneous motion of light as a line flying into infinity, or as an unfurling spiral, throwing off the sparks of new worlds, so the appearance of the Universe and our Earth may be seen as a segment of the line, or as a piece of the spiral, defined by a determined cycle.

The limited world is associated with the Earth. Gods of the Earth and Time supersede the gods of the Sky, becoming creators of stable being and defining it's destiny. And the newly emerged material world is strictly subordinated to the predetermination which formed it and exists in perfect harmony with nature and itself. That is the Golden Age of the Earth, associated with Saturn.

Those who determinate destiny, as does Enki of Sumeria, often happen to have a mission of creating humanity. A man is understood in mythology as something undoubtedly material, so the substance used for making people is usually earth. The latin words 'homo' and 'humus' coincide not only in sound but in sense. Having lived out his life man himself returns to the earth, it being his mother.

Of course the god who personifies the universal principle of determination, in the creation of his Universe, didn't intend that evil and death come into the world. So the Iranian god of Time Zervan wanted to give birth to only the good son Ormazd, not his evil brother Ariman. But he gave birth to twins: such is the nature of the Time, that definiteness of life means also predestination to death. To glimpse the Sumerian goddess of fate Namtar meant certain death, and the gods of fate often are also gods of death. The sign of Capricorn is associated with the self-consciousness of the individual, and his concern about responsibility for the continuation of his genus is closely connected with his understanding of the existence of death. The earth containing burial places of the ancestors became the homeland.

So the archetype of earth, time and fate gods is associated with the end of migrations and the founding of a native homeland. A tribe holds a definite territory and native gods, protecting its own genus, such as Roman Vesta, the eldest daughter of Saturn, or Slavic Rod 'ancestor, genus', the ancient leader of the pantheon. Man tried to influence to the fates through prayers and offerings to his predecessors on the land. Recognizing that life is determined according to definite laws, and by the cycles of time, he tried to overcome his dependence upon nature, developing agriculture on his own lands. Also he tried to uphold the natural order and promote the earth's fertility through seasonal offerings. Agriculture promoted the development of the calendar, having made more perceptible the abstract notion of time.

The New Year's celebration, the traditional Roman carnival was originally connected with sacrifices to Saturn, the god of sowing. His name means 'sower', and it is related with the Russian words 'sytny'(fat, substantial) and 'sut'' (to exist). Formation of the Saturnian archetype reflects the period when humanity took it's existence into its' own hands. But even after the canonization of fate, humanity still could not influence the weather, so the old protectors of time and the native lands ceded their power to the god of thunder.

Archetype of Jupiter (Sagittarius):

The God of Thunder personifying the planet Jupiter takes on the image of the father of gods, the lighting shaker, and sometimes even borrows the name of the God of the Sky. So 'Zeus' is the transformation of the ancient 'Dyaus' and the name of Jupiter is also translated as 'father of the light'. Born after the ancient creators, he overcomes them by force, defeating chtonic monsters which were spontaneously created in the beginning of the ages and suppressing the wild rebellions of chaos.

Transcending time and influencing the fate of the world, he inherits the functions of his predecessors, repeating and fulfilling the process of creation and in so doing becomes the head of the pantheon of gods. And thus he founds a society of which he is king.

Babylonian Marduk proved his superiority over other gods and nature by ordering a star to disappear and appear again, He then became the protector of the gods and as the leader of the gods' army killed frightful Tiamat, thus Chaos could never pretend to its omnipotence over the Universe. The other gods in return built him the heavenly Babylon which of course reflected the human society of that time.

Historically, Jupiterian mythologema tooks humans beyond the context of native genus and extended the basis of society beyond the blood relationship to the level of a state built on a common ideology. It shows the next step in the development of human consciousness when such a unification, the Sagittarian unity of minds, became possible. This stage corresponds to the elaboration of religion and ritual: not only as personal magical manipulations appealing to the chtonic and elemental forces of Saturn and Uranus, but also as expressions of common thought and representations of natural law describing the universal order of Jupiter.

Usually the leader of the pantheon is the god of thunder. Mythological thought thus manifests the image of a king-priest who interacts with elemental forces and by appealing to the Sky is able to evoke the rain, which is necessary for a good crop. A picture of a thunderstorm always stoked people's imagination, so it became a symbol of the highest power. Only the strongest of gods could manage it. And the best of humans was elected to serve as the connection with the Heavens. Like Sagittarius, he directs the arrow of his mind which reaches the Firmament and brings him directs knowledge of Nature. He is able to influence natural conditions through the power of higher laws, so he excersises a power which acts above fate. Thus the image of the god of thunder was fused with the image of the omniscient god of the light Sky. Properly speaking the King of gods in his role as a king of people acts only as a translator of the higher will as it relates to the Earth. But as observed from the Earth the images may be read as the god of Thunder himself expressing the will of the Heavens.

The god of thunder's location between the Earth and the Sky associates him with high and rocky places, where lightning flashes often strike, and the Indoeuropean name of the god originates from the word 'perunt'(rock). Such is the name of Russian Perun or Indian Parjanya. We always associate the archetype of Jupiter with high elevations which widen the range of mental perception and help to order existence from above. The King of the gods coordinates the different dimensions of the world and distributes goods, happiness, riches and fame according to his fair laws.

Nevertheless he is not an primordial god, so his laws are temporary and his state from time to time must be transformed. The next archetype describes this transformation.

Archetype of Pluto (Scorpio):

It happens that not the entire world falls under the rulership of the King of gods. As there was always a rivalry between the true law and the forces of power and money, so there exists a god of the bowels of the Earth, a sovereign of innumerable treasures, who is independent from the King of gods. The planet Pluto, symbolized by the image of the eternal Enemy, embodies evil and death, that seeks to destroy the external world order of Jupiter which personifies the principles of good. The name Pluto means 'rich, full' and so the chief of the under world is always rich because he has acquired all things that have disappeared from the surface of the Earth. As the gifts of the heavens and the fruits of work on the earth are diminished day by day, the governor of Death becomes richer and richer.

The existence of the ruler of the subterranean world is justified through his function of keeping hidden in the bowels of the Earth, far from the sight of humans (or even gods!), a reserve potency, a force which nourishes not only the vegetable kingdom but all beings as well. All that is alive needs his energy. And as the potency of nature is passive, the god of Thunder, in irrigating the Earth and awakening her hidden fertility, manifests the new sprout of life by stimulating stored up banks of energy. For life to progress, the god of the Interior, like a Scorpion stinging itself with it's own tail, brings out the extreme energies of war and illness, destroying everything that doesn't meet the test and so is destined to be ruined. It falls to the leader of gods to renew life on the surface of the Earth.

The interaction between these two sovereigns is depicted in the central Indoeuropean myth as a struggle for herds of cows stolen away by the subterranean god and hidden by him in the rocky lowlands. He can manifest himself in the image of a viper from the depths (Indian Vritra or Indoeuropean Budh). The god of Thunder then defeats the viper in a battle of thunderstorms, and the herds of cows return as flocks of clouds which provide fertilizing rain. The process of the natural circle continues on infinitely, as does the struggle of evil and good.

One finds the historical analog of this battle in the real struggle between agriculturally based peoples and the herders and nomads. In this period one's own people personified everything good, and the alien everything evil. 'Goods' means 'richness'. The roots of these abstract notions were at first very simple, but then the representation of evil became more complicated and formed the picture of the alien world as a socialized image of chaos, or hell. The subterranean world is associated with an exit to the abyss: the primary waters which nourish inexhaustible sources of terrible power over the all the living.

The typical peaceful image of the land of the dead is the Greek Elysium, plains that serve as the pasture where the souls of the deads graze. 'Soul' is 'anima' in Latin and everything alive may best be personified by an animal. The richness of another world was usually associated with herds that embody multiplying riches. The herder himself could display his animal's attributes, for example horns and hoofs, showing his close relationship to his wards. In the features of the shepherd god one can easily discern the typical depiction of the Devil.

The word Elysium comes from the root 'wel' which signified the main opponent of the leader of gods (the word 'wealth' is also derived from this root). It also relates to the Russian god of herds, richness and lowlands Veles, and the Baltic Velnias, who struggled with the Thunder god Percunas and then was transformed into a Devil.

Nevertheless the plutonic thirst to own and store any energy does not destroy the Universe. That is meant to decay, dies, manifesting a well established harmony, symbolized in astrology by the next sign: Libra.

Archetype of Vulcan and Chiron (Libra):

The planet Vulcan symbolizes the balance of the Universe. This is usually represented by a Smith god who calms the struggle among the world's opposing forces, reconstructing the Universe each instant with his own hammer and hands, not unlike the Indian Tvashtar ('creator, master'). He forges the weapons that help the chief god to defeat his subterranean Enemy and to dispense with this annoying struggle.

The image of the Smith god is associated with the cultural mastering of fire and with the epoch of smelting metal. Vulcan (the root of the name 'wel' symbolizing the Enemy of the Thunder god) is a personification of subterranean fire, ever awful and uncontrolable, which then submits to a master. Vulcan is a hypothetical planet, and thus the associeted archetype of cultural development has probably not yet manifested its concrete signification in the world, which may happen if the planet is discovered. Sometimes this planet is considered to be the center of gravity of the Solar system, projecting the idea of a perfect balance.

When destructive underground forces of the most intractable and dangerous element come to serve the needs of construction, it becomes clear that mankind is ready to overcome it's inner passions and begin civilized existence. The peace treaties between the tribes concerning the borders of their territories put a halt to incessant fights. That the border is sacred is illustrated by the legend of Rome's founder Romulus who killed his brother Remus for stepping over a line drawn on the ground.

A treaty is the highest form of social interaction, and in the civilized state a certain god appeared whose duty it was to secure human agreements and to punish transgressors. This type of god is personified by the Roman Quirin, identified with Romulus and the justification of his legendary act. The Iranian Mithra, having been born with a trowel in his hand and personifying the Law of the Universe, regulates the observance of treaties with a thousand eyes and ears. The Indian Mitra also protects and considers wedlock as a treaty, transforming personal human relations into a higher social realm. Mithra's name etymologically means 'peaceful, grateful, friendly'. Divine Smiths are also peacemakers: connected with celestial and subterranean fields, they act as mediators between them.

Creating palaces for gods from their golden fire, like Greek Haephestus, and protecting arts and crafts, the divine Smith forges the artificial order of human civilization, dividing it from the wild custom of disorganized nature. As the creator of the Sky defended the Universe from incursions of Chaos by creating the dome of the Firmament, the master of culture artificially forms his world, where no threats are imposed on humanity. His acts of creation are always concrete and purposeful.

However myths often emphasize the artificiality of the world, divided from elemental influences: so when the Finnish divine Smith Ilmariinen fashions the Sun and the Moon with his own hands, they aren't able to shine. Often a polar pair of creator gods appears such as the Finnish Ilmariinen and Vaeinaemoeinen or Indian Varuna and Mitra, representing natural and cultural models of order. Contemporary western civilization is an example of the regulated world of Mithra, in contradistinction the more anarchistic nature of the East which is represented by Varuna.

One can associate with the archetype of Libra certain lower gods, sometimes taking on animal form, but benevolent to humans and assisting them, much in the way that the Smith becomes an assistant to the leader of the pantheon. The most famous such being is the Greek centaur Chiron, the teacher of Aesculapus, Orpheus and Hercules. According to the one of the legends he bestowed upon Hercules his immortality. It is interesting that the asteroid Chiron, reflecting the sympathy and sweetness of Libra, was discovered by the astronomer Charles Koval, whose surname is translated as 'smith'.

When wild nature is not dangerous for the society of humans, animals become man's allies instead of his enemies. However the taming of wild animals, which signifies the submission not only of the political but also of the economic order to the human sphere, is traditionally associeted with the next sign: Virgo.


Copyright © 1997, Semira & Vitaly Vetash
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