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Sagittarius

The Constellation

Sagittarius constellationSagittarius is the ‘Heavenly Archer’. He stands with his bow drawn back, his arrow pointed directly at Antares, the bright red star right at the very heart of the Constellation of Scorpio. The Archer we see in Sagittarius is Chiron the Centaur, half man/half horse who was a philosopher, healer and teacher to many of the Heroes of ancient Greece? It was the Romans who first named this constellation Sagittarius, for ‘Sagitta’ is Latin for ‘arrow’. A star map shows that Sagittarius lies for most part within the Milky Way, a place from which the ancients believed souls descended down to earth. Ancient Astrologers were aware that the Milky Way was in fact a collection of millions of stars spinning around a central point, like a giant disc. The ancients said that the bow of the Archer was aimed at the centre of the Milky Way, but it took until the 20th Century and the advent of modern science to verify what the ancients ‘knew’, that the Archer’s arrow really does point directly at the centre of the Milky Way. The Archer of the heavens is seen as half man, half horse – a Centaur, not just any Centaur, but Chiron.

ChironCentaurs were typically a rowdy bunch, very much into heavy drinking, wild parties and fighting. They were also given to uncontrollable sexual urges. I guess you could call them the football hooligans of the ancient world. Chiron could not be classed in this mould, for he was a philosopher, teacher and a healer. Chiron was also divine and as such was immortal. It is Chiron who has been accredited with teaching many of the heroes the art of battle, heroes like Hercules, Achilles and Jason. In fact, it was said that Chiron invented the Constellation of the Archer in order to guide the Argonauts on their journey in search for the Golden Fleece. Chiron was a gentle and wise teacher and he was versed in the arts of medicine and healing and is said to have tutored Asclepius, the first doctor. Chiron’s tale is one of the most powerful in Greek mythology and one of my personal favourites. It is said that Hercules visited his friend and mentor Chiron, in his cave. They shared a drink while Hercules told him of his recent adventures, however the other Centaurs smelt the wine and gate crashed the party. Hercules picked up his bow and arrows, dipped in the poison from the Hydra he had recently slain in one of his epic ‘labours’. Hercules killed the other Centaurs, but in the confusion Chiron was injured, some say in his knee others in his ankle. However being immortal Chiron couldn’t die, so had to endure insufferable pain. Despite all his knowledge of medicines he could not cure himself. Thus, Chiron was doomed to suffer for eternity. That is until he gave up his immortal life for Prometheus. It was only then that Chiron was allowed to die and as a reward for sacrificing his own life and immortality, was placed in the heavens as the ‘Archer’. The second part of this story is that of Prometheus. Prometheus was a Titan, one of the race overthrown by Zeus. Prometheus (which means foresight) had the gift of prophecy and also a deep sympathy for mankind. He stole a flame from the heavenly forge of the gods, which represented enlightenment, hid it in a hollowed out funnel stalk and carried it down to earth.

Zeus was outraged by the theft, so set out to annihilate mankind by sending forth a flood (a great earth wide flood is depicted in the mythology of every culture, even in the Bible). Just as the Bible has the story of an ‘Ark’ so to does Greek mythology. Prometheus warned his son, who built an ark and went on board with his wife, to escape a flood. The flood lasted for 9 days and nights, but on the tenth day the rains ceased and Deucalion (Prometheus’ son) made a sacrifice to Zeus. Zeus was touched by his piety and granted his request to save the human race. This is part of the great ‘Deucalion Flood’ story of Greek mythology. Prometheus didn’t get off so lightly though. Zeus seized Prometheus and bound him in chains that were ‘unbreakable’, to a large rock. Then Zeus sent down his eagle each day to peck out Prometheus’ liver, but each day it renewed itself and this torture went on for 30 years.

It is at this point that the story of Chiron and Prometheus intersect. Chiron was immortal, so therefore couldn’t be spared his suffering. What he did was approach Zeus with a proposition. Chiron offered his immortality and his status as a god, so that it could be given to Prometheus. Zeus agreed and sent Hercules to unchain Prometheus, who was then made an immortal god and Chiron was released from his eternal suffering. Mankind was the recepient of the wisdom and enlightenment that Prometheus suffered so much to bring to us all. Therefore Sagittarian energy is one of knowledge, wisdom and of the value of making sacrifices for something bigger than yourself. Chiron gave up his immortality to spare Prometheus and Prometheus endured 30 years of torture, in order that mankind could be more than mere ‘beasts’. Sagittarian energy is one of sacrifice in order to acquire something of greater value and the pursuit of knowledge.

The Planet

JupiterSagittarius’ ruling planet is Jupiter, the fifth planet from the Sun and by far the largest. It is colossal, 318 times bigger than earth. In fact Jupiter is twice as large as all the rest of the planets in the solar system combined. As Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, it is only fitting that it is ruled by none other than Zeus, king of the Olympian Gods, for there is no more fitting deity. When you look into the sky, Jupiter is the 4th brightest light you see, after the Sun, Moon and Venus and has been observed since prehistoric times. Jupiter is a gaseous planet and as such doesn’t have a solid surface. When we look up at Jupiter, we aren’t seeing the light reflected from the planet itself, rather the clouds that cover it. Jupiter is made up of 90% hydrogen and 10% helium. Its make up (methane, water, ammonia and ‘rock’) are almost identical in composition to the primordial ‘Solar Nebula’, thought to be origins of the entire solar system. The only other planet that has this composition is Saturn – and it’s these two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, that govern the ‘big picture’, rather than the mundane, day to day happenings in our lives.

Jupiter’s great red spot, so familiar to all of us, has only been visible for 300 years or from the advent of the telescope. This great red spot is big enough to hold two earths. This is in fact an area of high pressure cloud formation. Astronomers don’t know how long it’s been there or what is causing it, only that it’s not a physical landmark, rather a meteorological event and a very long lasting one at that. Jupiter expels more energy outwards, than it receives in from the Sun. In fact, Jupiter itself has the characteristics of a Sun, however, the heat and energy it expends isn’t from nuclear fusion like the Sun, rather from something that is called the ‘Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism’, which is the slow gravitational compression of the planet. Therefore, it never gets hot enough to cause nuclear reactions.

Jupiter is as large as a gas planet can possibly get. If any more matter were added, it would simply be compressed by its gravity. Jupiter could get more dense, but not bigger. To become a star from its internal heat source, Jupiter would have to be 80 times larger than it is now to produce enough heat to manifest the nuclear heat needed to become a star. As this isn’t possible Jupiter will always remain a planet, even though it has the potential to be a ‘star’ in its own right. You may as well be talking about Zeus himself.

Jupiter’s magnetic field is much stronger than Earth’s, with a magnetosphere that extends more than 650 million kilometres (further than Saturn), yet its field is oblong in shape and although it extends so far out towards the other planets, the field towards the Sun only extends a few million kilometres. Jupiter, mighty as it is, still concedes authority to the Sun. This magnetic field makes human journeys to Jupiter dangerous. They contain high levels of energetic particles (radiation), far higher than those in the ‘Van Allen’ belts around Earth.

Jupiter also has rings like Saturn, but these are so faint that they were only discovered by ‘determination’. When the Voyager 1 scientists insisted, after travelling 1 billion kilometres that it was at least worth a nosey to see if they could see if any rings existed. Everyone thought this was unlikely and in fact the chances for finding anything were given as ‘nil’. But find them they did. It was a major scientific coup. In July 1994 the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter, giving scientists on Earth a spectacular view of the effects of a deep space collision. Just as Prometheus allowed himself to be chained to a rock for 30 years in order to bring us knowledge, so too does Jupiter itself continue to do this, right down into the 21st Century, taking a hit for us, in order that might gain more knowledge and understanding of the universe. Jupiter has 28 Moons, all of them named after people who figure strongly in Zeus’ life, most named after his many lovers.

The God

ZeuzAfter reading about Jupiter how could any god other than Zeus, ruler of all the gods, possibly govern this powerful planet? Zeus was one of three brothers who overthrew their father, Cronos and with him, the old order. Zeus and his brothers were part of a new breed, the Olympians and they took part in an epic battle to overthrow the old order, symbolised by their father Cronos, the last of the Titans. The Olympians were victorious and after the battle, rulership of the sea, skies and underworld were given to the victorious, brothers Hades, Zeus and Poseidon. They drew lots and Hades received Tartarus, the underworld, Zeus got the skies and Poseidon the seas. The Earth was the domain of all. Cronus had imprisoned the Cyclops and the ‘hundred handed ones’ in Tartarus but Zeus released them and in gratitude they gave Zeus the thunderbolt, Poseidon the trident and Hades the mask of invisibility.

Zeus however claimed dominance over his brothers. The Greeks called Zeus ‘All Father’. Cronos was told in a prophecy that one of his sons would overthrow him and take over his place. To guard against this happening, as each of his children were born, Cronos snatched them from his wife Rhea and swallowed them before they could open their eyes. Naturally Rhea wasn’t very happy about this, so when she knew that her sixth child was on the way she bore him in secret and gave Cronos a stone to swallow instead. Zeus grew to manhood out of sight and when the time came, he prepared a potion and disguised as a ‘cup bearer’ gave it to Cronos to drink. This made Cronos violently sick and Zeus’ five brothers and sisters were vomited up from his mouth. They were obviously pleased about this and swore eternal gratitude and allegiance to Zeus. Together the siblings overthrew their father’s rule.

Zeus made Mount Olympus his home and established a hierarchy of gods who obeyed his ultimate law. Zeus was a dictator and although the other gods swore allegiance, there is no doubting that this was not a democracy. Zeus had a volatile, fiery and prolific spirit and when roused he would express this with the power he possessed in his thunder and lightening bolts. Zeus also used his powers to pursue his many lovers. Of all the gods Zeus is the most virile, but also without morals. It didn’t matter whether the object of his desire was married, part of his own family or just plain not interested. If he wanted someone, he got her. From his lovers Zeus fathered many children including Hercules, Athene (goddess of Justice), Dike (goddess of natural law), Moira (goddess of fate) and the nine muses. His wife Hera (also his sister), was the goddess of childbirth. Zeus dispensed both good and evil according to the law, the law he himself set down. He is also the ‘protector’ of man.

The Season

AutumnSagittarius is the last Sign in the Autumn triad. Therefore it is a Mutable Sign. A Mutable Sign has the ability to change, be adaptable and to think ‘outside the square’. By their very nature, a Mutable Sign, coming at the end of a season, rules the transition into the next. All the lessons learnt over the season can now be applied to the coming season. While one is still a reality, they are already planning for the next. While the Sun was moving through Sagittarius, the cold weather of winter is on its way. Deep down inside, the earth still holds onto the last of the summer heat jealously, unwilling to yield it up just yet. It wants to wrap the seeds planted in spring and keep them warm until gestation is well under way. It needs to protect and keep the seeds alive and warm. These seeds don’t just contain new plant life, they contain the promise for the future, just as we hold the secret seeds in our soul that Prometheus stole from the heavenly forge on our behalf. Wood is being collected and stockpiled for the coming winter months and all thoughts are turned to ‘fire’. For they knew that it was fire that would ensure their survival through the cold winter months ahead. Without it they would die, in the same way that Sagittarian energy tells us, without spiritual fire, our souls will die.

This was also a time of generosity and hospitality. People were drawn together out of necessity, often around the fireplace. Sagittarius energy, although marking the end of spring, is about the celebration of life. Rather than mourning the end of autumn and of warmth and longer days, people are drawing those energies into their souls, in order to sustain them during the dark months ahead.

Summary

In the Constellation of Sagittarius we meet the ‘Archer’. The very name Sagittarius comes from the Latin word for ‘arrow’. Therefore Sagittarius has always been a Sign associated with shooting or aiming for far off goals. You don’t shoot an arrow down into the ground, you shoot it at a distant target. Yet here the meaning of ‘arrow’ is not in the context of warfare, rather the context of knowledge. In both Chiron and Prometheus we find the concept of learning, teaching, wisdom and enlightenment. Sagittarius rules the 9th House of the zodiac, the house the ancients refer to as the house of ‘distant travel and of higher learning’. It’s not hard to figure out where they got that from. Sagittarius energy is about things that are bigger than the individual. It’s about finding our your place in the world and not being content with the way things are. There is a need to know, not just for ourselves, but to pass on to others. This is the energy of the seeker.

In Sagittarius we also meet Jupiter and Zeus. The words that describe Jupiter the planet and Zeus the god are interchangeable, for they are both big, bold, expansive, generous and larger than life. Cross Zeus and you’ll suffer as Prometheus soon found out, get too close to Jupiter and its radiation belt will fry you to a crisp. Zeus fathered most of the Olympian gods and there’s hardly a deity that doesn’t have Zeus as a father or isn’t at least closely related and there is hardly a Greek myth that doesn’t have Zeus as an integral player. Jupiter, larger than all the rest of the planets combined and then doubled, is still to this day a central figure with 28 known Moons circling him, all named after players in Zeus’ story.

Jupiter is the ruler of Sagittarius, but it’s also the planet of luck and expansion. Is it any wonder with such a powerful planet and such a powerful god? Sagittarian energy is Fire energy in every sense of the word. On a spiritual level, it represents our inner fire, the one that Prometheus fought so valiantly for us to acquire. This is a bold, inspirational, visionary and forward thinking Sign.

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