Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Cycle of the Zodiac

Last month my magical working group concluded its year-long series of Zodiacal pathworkings and invocations. Over the course of this series we performed two workings per sign. The first was a pathworking-style ritual in which we traveled in the spirit vision into the realm of the sign's ruling angel, and the second was an elixir rite in which the ruling angel was called upon to empower a chalice of wine which was then consumed by the participants. This latter ritual used a structure similar to the Jupiter Elixir rite that I presented at Paganicon 2011, except that it called upon the angel corresponding to to the sign with which we were working.

The most generally significant realization that I experienced during this series of operations is the way in which the twelve signs of the Zodiac work together in a cycle that can be applied to just about any sort of project, process, or undertaking. Many of these associations are traditional, but prior to this ritual series I had never considered the ramifications of how the various attributions of the signs fit into a larger overall pattern. This sequence has a number of practical applications, the most obvious being that if a project of whatever sort seems to be bogged down at a particular point the best magical solution to the problem can likely be found by working with the sign corresponding to that particular step or phase. Here are brief summaries of the signs as explained to me during this course of workings. It is my hope that other magicians will find these descriptions and associations as potentially useful as I already have.

Aries: Cardinal Fire. Aries represents the genesis of any action or idea. Of all the signs it represents will in its truest form. The fundamental wisdom of this sign is found in knowing the nature of your will and distinguishing it from conditioning loops, passing thoughts, and emotional reactions and evaluating ideas, goals, and projects from that perspective.

Taurus: Fixed Earth. The stereotypical Taurean traits are stubbornness and laziness. The argument goes that Taurus is slow to act, but once in action moves with overwhelming force. With my own Sun in Taurus I can't say that's entirely wrong, but the ritual series gave me a deeper understanding of the mechanism behind it. Taurus is concerned with the expenditure of energy towards any particular goal. The fundamental wisdom of this sign is knowing when to expend energy and when to withhold it based on the practical likelihood of success of a particular project.

Gemini: Mutable Air. Gemini represents the myriad ideas that arise once a particular course of action is set in motion, the "brainstorming" phase of the project. Once you make up your mind to expend energy (Taurus) toward a particular goal (Aries) the next question is how to pursue a course of action leading to the desired outcome. The fundamental wisdom of this sign is knowing how to examine potential courses of action from all sides without excluding ideas that may at first seem strange or unworkable and then from that perspective choosing the best strategy for accomplishing your goal.

Cancer: Cardinal Water. Cancer represents persistence, the power of water that can wear down rocks to form canyons, and focus in terms of executing your strategy (Gemini) on which energy will be expended (Taurus) to accomplish your goal (Aries). Stereotypical Cancer traits are introversion and withdrawal, but in the context of a project these traits are the result of concentration on the strategy to the exclusion of other considerations. The fundamental wisdom of the sign lies in knowing that persistance and determination can accomplish all things.

Leo: Fixed Fire. Leo represents the initial flowering of success that arises from persistantly (Cancer) applying your strategy (Gemini) energetically (Taurus) toward your goal (Aries). Leo's stereotypical traits of extroversion and egotism are the result of projecting from this initial success to the full accomplishment of your goal, in effect declaring victory prematurely. The fundamental wisdom of this sign is knowing success when it first presents itself and understanding that even when the initial signs are promising much more needs to be done.

Virgo: Mutable Earth. Once some success has been achieved the role of Virgo is to analyze and hone the strategy (Gemini) that led to these desirable outcomes. This process eliminates portions of the strategy that proved fruitless and retains those that contributed to the initial success (Leo). The fundamental wisdom of the sign lies in knowing which elements of the strategy to keep and which to eliminate.

Libra: Cardinal Air. Libra's role is to balance long-term and short-term elements of the strategy to ensure lasting success. At this point in the project the strategy (Gemini) should be applied (Cancer), generating postive outcomes (Leo), refined (Virgo) and in operation. Within the context of that strategy short-term goals may seem more important because they are close at hand. The fundamental wisdom of Libra lies in knowing how to keep long term and short term consequences in perspective so as to produce the greatest overall positive outcome.

Scorpio: Fixed water. Scorpio hones in on particular opportunities that produce the greatest positive outcome for the least amount of effort, called arbitage in the business world. In an economic context this refers to investments that can produce large profits with little risk, but this metaphor can be extended to any other field of human endeavor. The fundamental wisdom of the sign is knowing these opportunities for what they are when they present themselves and having the determination to pursue them until success is achieved.

Sagittarius: Mutable Fire. While Scorpio is eminently practical regarding the pursuit of opportunities that present themselves, Sagittarius is more idealistic. The role of this sign is to assemble all that has come before it into a workable set of principles that are general enough to guide the particular project and others like it. This assembles a systematic method that can be applied to keep the initial successes going indefinitely within whatever context from which they are arising. The fundamental wisdom of the sign lies in comprending how this can be done in a general and repeatable way.

Capricorn: Cardinal Earth. Capricorn represents the lasting success that arises from applying the generalized strategy (Sagittarius) that makes room for persistance (Cancer), analysis (Virgo), balance (Libra), and opportunity (Scorpio). It is entirely pragmatic and represents the practical steps needed to keep the strategy going and generating positive outcomes on a day-to-day basis. In an economic context it could be likened to managing a large company with a successful business model - small changes are necessary from time to time, but big ones are risky and require re-evaluation of the strategy. The fundamental wisdom of this sign is knowing how and when to make these small adjustments to keep your successes flowing in.

Aquarius: Fixed Air. Aquarius represents the place of the individual in the context of this over day-to-day strategy, both in terms of reaction to success and one's ongoing role in the process. It also represents how people in general fit into the ongoing process as it is managed in Capricorn, resulting in the seemingly contradictory stereotypical Aquarius traits of humanitarianism and individuality. This is in effect the end of the cycle, as one of the the roles of Pisces is to facilitate the transition back into Aries. The fundamental wisdom of the sign is found in the realization that success should benefit all sentient beings including oneself, rather than benefit yourself at the expense of others or vice versa.

Pisces: Mutable Water. Pisces brings the cycle full circle. It represents the intuition and openness of mind that sets the stage for new ideas to manifest in Aries, where the whole process can start over again with a new goal, idea, or project. It also represents the radical acceptance of the blessings cultivated in the preceding cycle. The fundamental wisdom of this sign is similar to that achieved by formless meditation, in which the active meaning-making processes that normally dominate cognition recede allowing for the realization of new truths, which may then become new manifestations of will in the realm of Aries.

For extra credit, you can apply this schema to your natal chart and see if it matches up with areas in which you tend to encounter notable problems or successes. For more extra credit, take a look at a past project and run a composite chart of the start date and time for the project and your natal chart. See if the project's trajectory matches that which would be predicted, noting where positive and negative aspects may have influenced its course. Finally, if you are contemplating starting a new project run a composite chart for various start dates and times and see if you can determine an optimal match that produces positive aspects for the project's most vital steps. I have yet to sit down and run through all of these possibilities myself, but feel free to keep me posted on your results.

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