Aquarius. The other half of the saturnian winter pairing. At this latitude it is pretty frozen. This is “high winter” for sure. Capricorn brings rebirth, the transformation work, turning point. Through Aquarius the light slowly, minutely grows, as the cold intensifies, amidst all that dark. It’s like we have sped into the Universe Unplugged. The cold and bare emptiness can be almost awe inspiring.
This could be the most grindingly dull time of year, a great stiff upper lip kind of “stick to it and carry on” with good intentions thing. But with the cold can come clear and starry night skies, and some dazzling days. There is real beauty to the bareness. And you really have to say that there is no sign quite as queer as Aquarius. Out here, everyone is queer somehow. And look a little closer, and things really aren’t that cold. In fact, maybe its time to smuggle back in Aquarius’ modern ruler, Uranus. The planet that spins on its side. Eccentric, genius, always a deviant to someone. Light beyond vision, heat of an inner fire, colours never before seen. When Aquarius is fun, it’s like no fun you ever had before, and it’s so frickin’ interesting. And it can be astonishingly brave, almost instinctively so. Aquarius has to live its truth, even when the rest of the world can’t accept it (yet).
Where is it mythologically?
Well one association is Ganymede. Ganymede who so beguiled Zeus with his beauty that in the form of an eagle he stole him, up into his world to be his lover, and cup bearer to the gods. He charmed all, except Hera, who saw him as a rival for Zeus’ affections. And Zeus placed him in the stars as the constellation Aquarius. I always remember the astrologer Liz Green recounting this myth in connection with the zodiac sign, and doing so with a barely disguised snideness. I think it detracted from her sense of the “power of the mother” or something (Jungians, ya know). A mere trifle going on between males. Probably tips barmen badly too lol.
Another association is the Egyptian god Hapi, god of the Nile inundation. Hapi was shown as a plump, blue or green coloured god, with feminine, pendulous breasts. He was accompanied by crocodile gods and frog goddesses, and was associated with water and fertility. He united both Upper and Lower Egypt, both the land of the delta and the land of the desert south, and there is something wonderful about this fat god of mixed gender appearance, crowned with papyrus reed and lotus blooms, a god of greatly nurturing and fertile qualities. The season dedicated to Hapi was Akhet, during which the inundation occurred, and this season went from September to January. I don’t know if it is just coincidence, but the name of the third (harvest) season of Shemu contains a hieroglyph which closely resembles our sign for Aquarius, though this was actually the dry, low water season. Aquarius actually comes at the end of the old inundation season.
Another mythological figure that reflects Aquarian themes is Prometheus, who steals fire from heaven to give to mankind. For this act of kindling the god-like within human beings Prometheus is punished by Zeus with being chained to a rock and having his liver ripped out daily by a great eagle. Only when the centaur Chiron offers to die in his stead, and Hercules kills the eagle, is Prometheus freed. When Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” she subtitled it “The Modern Prometheus”, and the modern myth does indeed embody a facet of the Aquarian myth again (which is appropriate, for the first science fiction writer), humanity reaching for the god-like but not escaping consequences. Aquarius is a tremendously intelligent sign, but wisdom comes with experience, and an understanding of the shadow side of our natures. It may be ruled by the brilliant and crackling intensity of Uranus, but its original ruler was still Saturn. Not a sign of easy answers, Aquarius. The necessity of its inner, truthful, passionate impulse is every bit as unavoidable as the limitations which it must overcome. It must do, and it can’t freely, but it will find a way. Its intelligence will lead to progress, to knowledge revised, to humanity realized more fully, in a better everyday life.
Another Aquarian figure is the Sumerian god Enki, a god of wisdom, magic, water and civilization.
In the tarot Aquarius is assigned to the card “The Star”, and it shows a naked female figure pouring water into a river or pool with one hand, and onto land with the other, with eight stars in the sky, the central star being very large. It is interesting here that the inundation of the Nile (mentioned above) was marked by the visible rising of the star Sirius. The Star is a card of hope, a renewal of original benediction, clarity, the rain washed sky after the storm. Floods, deluges and inundations accompany quite a few aquarian motifs. The zodiacal card before The Star is “The Devil”, assigned to Capricorn. In between the two lies the storm and downfall card of “The Tower”, assigned to the planet Mars.
I feel that “The Devil” here encapsulates the potential, the problems, and the challenge of transformation. In here is “the hidden god”, for though one can have the experience of Oneness of Being, the realization of the continuity of all, and the illusory nature of separation, here we still are. And in the individuality which arises here is all our original insight, and the real grinding of the grain into the flour of wisdom. The path of “The Tower” shows the great levels of energy involved here, and the element of hazard involved in actually gaining wisdom, rather than collecting the products of wisdom. The Devil and The Tower ask for understanding and faith.
The aquarian dilemma is I think very concerned with individual and social reality, and where they can’t coexist. It is very concerned with the demonized and marginalized. Nature, and what is cast as being “against” nature. Civilization and its own barbarism. Much of Aquarius looks like it is concerned with the trans-personal and collective, the social and the mass functional, but I think that is also a symptom of our state. The aquarian is also deeply concerned with the deepest and most difficult parts of our separate individuality, the parts which are seen as the most alien and incapable of inspiring empathy. Our culture still labels such a place “evil”, by a kind of mammalian reflex. This is the place we choose to act out collectively rather than face individually, because we cannot own it, and we cannot own it because we don’t know how to transform it. The Star, and Aquarius, gives us the message that we can be transformed, and that our judgements of “the other”, the outsider, the foreigner, even Nature itself, are only passing storms on the face of an underlying good. Even where that “other” is within ourselves.
Sometimes we must come to terms with the complexity and moral neutrality of our natures. Make peace with the wolf, so that we may hunt again, and hunt well. Flood the Nile, rather than create monsters to chase with torches.