Astrology and Symbolism - Capricorn

Well it took me almost 2 months to finish all the research on this.  It snot everything, but at some point I had to stop!

Capricorn

(22 December to 19 January)

 

Polarity               : Negative, Female

Quality                : Cardinal

Ruling Planet     : Saturn

Element              : Earth

Body Part            : Knees, joints and bones

Colour                 : Black, dark gray, brown

Gemstones          : Turquoise, amethyst, Onxy, Garnet, Ruby

Metal                   : Lead

Number               : 5, 15

Flowers                : Ivy, Medlar, Hearts Easr, Hemlock

Trees                    : Yew, Elm, Pine

Herbs and Spice : Knapweed, Comfrey, hemp

Food                     : Potato, spinage, Barley, Beet, malt

Animals                : Goat and other cloven hoofed animals

Birds                     : Pheasant, Eagle

Countries              : India, Mexico, Afghanistan

Cities                    : Oxford (UK), Mexico City, Delhi

 

Capricorn is the tenth sign of the zodiac, is a feminine introverted sign.  It is an earth sign and one of the four cardinal signs and is ruled by the planet Saturn.  The guitarist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was renowned for his interest in occult matters in general and Crowleyana in particular, has never spoken publicly about the component elements of his own symbol, but it is believed to have originated in an old alchemical grimoire dating back to the sixteenth century.  The Sigil itself points to the link between the planet Saturn and page’s Zodiac sign, Capricorn.  The “Z” is a commonly used symbol for the planet, and the “oso” stands for the element mercury, also associated with Saturn.

 

The Elements and the signs of the Zodiac

Fire      :  Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Water  :  Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Air        :  Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

Earth    :  Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

 

Saturn

Saturn is the ruling planet of Capricorn and, before the discovery of Uranus, of Aquarius.  Saturn was the Roman God of Agriculture and civilization.  The planet Saturn takes 29.5 years to orbit the sun.  Astrologically, Saturn is associated with limitations, restrictions, boundaries, practicality, reality and long-termed planning.  Discipline and responsibility are central to Saturn.  The return of Saturn, about every 30 years, is said to mark significant changes in each person’s life.  Saturn reminds us of the limitations of time and the need to manage it well.

 

The scythe blade mounted on a shaft was used to mow grass with.  It was held by the Greek God Chronus or the Roman God Saturn, both gods of time (the word “chronology” stems from the Greek Khronos, meaning time)  the scythe as an emblem of time cuts the thread of life and launches us one by one into eternity.  Its most common symbolism is of death, the scythe is the tool used by the Grim Reaper as he reaps his harvest of souls.   The scythe of these ancient Gods is not quite the doom-laden instrument as it appears in skeletal hands of the hooded Grim Reaper, it was more a reminder of the cycle of life.

 

The Magic Square of Saturn

Magic squares work by enclosing or trapping an entity or power, by surrounding it with a collection of numbers in a particular relationship.  Some magic squares are made up of symbols of planets, metals or magic words.  The numerals and numbers that make up the name of God are believed to be especially powerful.  One Magic square is made up of the Latin sentence Sator arepo Tenet opera rotas, meaning “The sower at his plough controls the work”.  In magical squares where the number on vertical and horizontal lines always adds up to the same number, the result is called a “constant”.

 

4

 

 

9

 

 

2

 

 

3

 

 

5

 

 

7

 

 

8

 

 

1

 

 

6

 

 

Kabbalistic Table of Planetary Correspondence

                                                                                 Spatial

Planet      Angel           Universal function                  bearing  Operation of the spirit

Sun          Michael         Brings light to world                  Zenith      Will

Moon      Gabriel          Strengthen hope, send dreams    Nadir       Imagination

Mercury  Raphael        civilizing influences                     Centre      Emotion and intuition

Venus      Amael           Love                                        West        Love and fellowship

Mars        Samael         Destruction                              South       Action and destruction

Jupiter     Zachariel      Organisation                              East         Judgement and command

Satern     Oriphiel        Supervision                                North        Patience and perseverance

 

Alchemy Table

Day                 Planet                                    Metal

Monday          Moon (Moon day)                      Silver

Tuesday         Mars (Mardi in French)               Iron

Wednesday    Mercury (Wotan’s day)               Mercury

Thursday        Jupiter (Jupiter or Thor’s day)      Tin

Friday             Venus (Freya’s day)                  Copper

Saturday        Saturn                                       Lead

Sunday           Sun                                          Gold

 

In alchemy, the Star of David is a reminder of the seven planets and the seven basic metals.  At the top silver/the moon, then moving around the points of the star in a clockwise direction are Copper/Venus, Mercury/Mercury; Lead/Saturn; Jupiter/Tin and mars/ Iron/metal.  The centre space is also called quintessence, and is the Sun/Gold.  Sometimes the Seal will acknowledge this central space with a dot or the tau symbol.

 

The power of the bell as a way of spiritual communication is carried one step further in the magical bell made of an amalgam of the seven sacred metals that are ruled by the planets.  This bell, engraved with the Tetragrammaton and the planetary seals from alchemy, allegedly has the power to summon the spirits of the dead.  However, this spell calls for the bell to be put into a grave for seven days and seven nights before it will work properly.

 

The Seven Planetary metals

Sun            :     Gold

Moon          :     Silver

Mercury      :    Mercury or Quicksilver

Venus         :    Copper

Mars           :    Iron/metal

Jupiter        :    Tin

Saturn        :    Lead

 

Earth

One of the four elemental beings, the Gnome is the spirit of the Earth, and is a counterpart of the undine (water), the salamander (fire) and the sylph (air) Gnomes are believed to live in the bowls of the earth and to have an instinctive understanding of the rocks, stones, precious gems and minerals secreted there, able to produce fantastically elaborate silverwork, for example, which has magical powers.  In the Circle of wisdom of the Kalachakra certain syllables are given colours and elements, La (yellow) the grounding earth element.

 

The platonic solids were named after the Greek philosopher and mathematician Plato.  They are said to encompass the classic 4 elements of earth, air, fire, water, together with the elusive 5th element – had been discovered at least a thousand years before his time.  Earth is the twelve-edged cube or hexagon, a symbol for solidity of the earth as a planet as well as a concept.  Fire is the six-edged tetrahedron, its pyramid shape appropriately flame-like.  Air is the twelve-edged octahedron. Water is the thirty-edged isochedron.

 

Perhaps the archetypal image of the earth is as the Mother Earth, personified as the Goddess Gaia.  The Ancient Greek historian Herodotus pointed out that all known names for the earth are female.  A few examples od this include Shekinah, in the Kabbalistic tradition, becomes Shakti, the female “cosmic energy” of the Hindu philosophies, as well as Kali Ma, “the dark mother”.  Erda, belongs to the Nordic myths; and Gaia, Tera, Europa and many others.  If Earth is the Mother, then the Heavens are the Father, reminding us again of the tenet “as above, so below.”

 

A recurrent theme in creation myths is of a mound of earth rising up from the primordial waters.  The Earth symbolizes a womb, pregnant with water, minerals and seeds of plant life.  As life springs forth from the earth it also returns back to the Earth when material part comes to the end of its life, becoming part of the cycle of death and rebirth as the rotting matter provides sustenance for the next generation.

 

The most fitting symbolic form within the landscape of the great Earth Mother is the cave.  Whereas mountains reach towards the sky and belong to the elements of air and fire, the cave itself signifies the womb, the magical place of gestation.  It parallels the Athanor in alchemy, where spirit takes form, is transformed into matter and eventually makes its exit into a new world through the vaginal opening or vesica Pisces, symbolized by the cave mouth.  In the tales of the Arabian nights, Ali Baba unlocks the concealed door of the cave by shouting “open sesame/1” the relevance of the command is because the sesame seed pod that burst open symbolizes all the wealth of the earth, as well as having a sexual meaning.

 

Caves and caverns are the natural places for the energy of the Earth to be harnessed.  As such they were, and are powerful places for magical and religious rites and ceremonies.  The “Hellfire caves” at High Wycombe, England, the ancestral seat of the Dashwood family, are a good example of subterranean locus for occult practices.    Caves can be a place of refuge, but can also become a prison.  Whereas mountains are highly visible, caves are the direct opposite, secret, hard to find.  Despite these opposing qualities, caves and mountains have a natural symbiosis, because they can exist together in the same location, cave complexes are often found inside mountains.

 

Caves share a further quality with mountain that of being at the centre of the earth, as symbolized by the Omphalos.  Gods resided on the loftiest summits of the mountains.  Gods were also often born inside caves; Zues, for example, was born in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete.  When this particular cave was excavated it was full of offerings and tributes to its God.  Lao Tzu, the father of Taoist philosophy, was born in a cave, as was the pre-Christian Sun God, Mithras.  Mithraic worship often took place under ground in the secrecy of caves and caverns.  The stable in which Mithras’ successor, Jesus, was born was actually cur out from a rock face, yet another example of a God figure being born in a cave.  American Indians believe that caves were the gestation places for the embryos of mankind.

 

Caves are among early man’s first sacred places, and such caves appear all over the world, in myth and legend as well as in reality.  Aladdin’s cave, for example, contained the magic lamp that yielded the Djinn that changed Aladdin’s fortunes, and so in a symbol of the cave as a repository of valuable secrets.  The cave at Lascaux in the Perigord region of France also holds valuable secrets and rich treasures of a different kind.  Dating back to the Palaeolithic era, the paintings inside these caves show man’s preoccupations at this time.  The walls are covered with pictures of horses, cattle, and an extinct animal called the Auroch, felines, birds and fish.  The four school boys who accidentally discovered the caves whilst looking for a dog must have been astounded to realize that the colours and pigments of the paintings were almost as vibrant as when they were painted, 17 000 years ago.  They were preserved in this way because no natural light existed inside the cave.  There’s also evidence of ritual worship in the Lascaux caves.

 

Caves that are hard to find have additional significance as places of secret rites and rituals.  All caves were seen as temples to the mother Goddess.  Pyramids are a manmade mountain/cave structure.  Ochre was used to stain and decorate sacred items, as it is seen as the blood of the earth mother.

 

Dragon made their lairs in caves where they guarded their treasures and their eggs. 

 

In elemental magick Earth is a grounding element that is used to ground all the other elements.

 

The Four Dignities

For Buddhists, the Four Dignities are those animals whose characteristics act as a reminder of four important aspects of the Buddha nature as well as the four major compass points.

 

1. Dragon: Communication and compassion, rules the West, the sea and the element water.

2. Tiger: Confidence awareness, modesty and kindness, rules the South, the element Air and forest.

3. Snow Lion: Cheerfulness and certainty, youthfulness and delight; rules the East, the mountains and the element Earth

4. Garuda: Direction action, wisdom and fearlessness, rules North and the element Fire.

 

The Chinese theory of the five elementals:

Element                  water                  fire               wood         metal          earth

Number                      1                         2                 3                  4                 5

Taste                       Salt                   Bitter             acid           pungent         sweet

Human Character     serious              methodical      learned      friendly           holy

Sky sign                  rain                   yang               hot            cold               wind

Vegetable                 yellow millet      bean               wheat        oil-seed          white millet

Animal                     pig                    hen                sheep        dog                 ox

Musical note            yu                     chu                chih           shang             kung

Bodily organ            kidneys              lungs             spleen        liver                heart

Colour                     black                 red                 green         white              yellow

Body element          blood                 breath             bones        nails               muscle

Emotion                  anger                 pleasure          joy           sorrow             love

 

In addition, each of the elements rules a direction and a season, so they have jurisdiction over time and space.

 

Water is the nadir, winter, and the northern direction, appearing at the bottom of the map.

Fire is the zenith, summer, and the south.

Wood is spring, and the east.

Metal is fall, and the west.

Earth is the central point from which all the other emanate, represents all seasons and directions.

 

The Masonic system of elements:

Element   Adjunct     Quality                              Level

Fire          Spirit           Ardour and enthusiasm       Initiation

Water     Soul             Sensitivity and emotions      Religion

Air           Mind            Intellectual power                Philosophy

Earth       Body           Materialism                        Physical life

 

Gemstones and the elements

Air          -   Agate, Citrine, Lapis Lazuli, Opal, Rose quartz, Saphire, Turquoise

Fire        -   Amber, Citrine, Fire Opal, Garnet, Heliotrope, Ruby, Spinel, Topaz

Water    -   Amethyst, Aquamarine, Coral, Lapis Lazuli, Moonstone, Pearl, Tourmaline, Turquoise

Earth     -   Amber, Ammonite, Emerald, Jet, Magnetite, Maleshite, Jade, Onyx

Ether     -   Amethist, Diamond, Opal, Pearl, Rock, Crystal, Sapphire, Tormaline, Zircon

 

Knees

Kneeling is a sign of subjugation, of deference, and of humility, and the knee itself is a symbol of power and strength since the joint supports almost the entire weight of the body.  To “bring to the knees” is therefore symbolic of taking away power.

 

Bones

As well as giving structure to the body, bones survive for a long time after death, and so are imbued with magical properties.  Symbolically, bones carry the essence of the creature or person that they were once part of, and there’s a curious but relatively common belief that somehow or other an intact set of bones can be remade into a live body.  This idea is seen in fairy tales, myths and traditions from all over the world, such as in the Lapp belief that the bones of a bear, if carefully preserved, will come back to life and the animal will allow itself to be hunted once more.  Bear “burial” places have been found where the bones of the bear have been carefully reconstructed.  These sites also show evidence of respectful funerary rites.  In a similar practice, the Plains Indians would bury the bones of the buffalo with due care and attention so that the animal would be able to come back to life.

 

The bones of small animals were used by shamans in divinatory rites.  Over two thousand years ago, in China, bones were heated up and the resulting cracks interpreted as indicating a prediction.  Bones as predictive devices were used in other ways, too, for example they were thrown upon the ground in the act of “casting the bones” a term of reference still in use for other divinatory methods, such as rune stones.

 

The human body contains one bone that has particular relevance as a sacred symbol, and its name gives it away.  In Latin, sacrum means “sacred”, and the bone of the same name is the largest, curved and heavy one that sits at the base of the spine.  This particular bone was sacred for the Greeks, too who called it the Hiero Osteon.  Hiero means “bone”.  Therefore this sacred bone acts as a temple to other parts of the anatomy, namely the reproductive parts.  In Ancient Egypt the bone was sacred to Osiris and as the “seed” bone was the key to resurrection, since it protected the semen.

 

Due to its size, the bone is one of the very last in the body to rot, along with the skull.  For this reason – its longevity – the bone was used as a vessel during religious and magical rites and rituals.  These bones are such an important part of the body and because they are believed to hold the essence of their owner, the bones of saints are considered holy relics, imbued with magical powers, and kept locked away in churches.  They are believed to be so holy that devils and Demons would keep well away and if the bones were dipped into wine or water, the resulting liquid would be infused with mysterious powers including the ability to cure various ailments.

 

Black

Symbolic meanings: night, the absence of light, mourning, sobriety, denial, authority, perfection and purity, maturity, adversity, mystery and wisdom.  Although it’s the opposite of white, both shades are, in fact, due to an absence of colour and technically speaking black is not a “colour” at all.  This doesn’t stop it having a wealth of symbolic meaning.   It doesn’t require a great leap of the imagination to extend this light/dark, day/night symbolism to good/bad.  A fundamentally natural occurrence to do with the orbit of the earth around the sun, therefor has far-reaching consequences, resulting in fear, racism, superstitions and bigotry which even continues today simply because of skin colour.

 

Throughout the world the colour black is associated with evil, harm and negative forces.  Black are the colour of night, and the absence of light.  However, in mystical traditions, because it contains all colour of the divine and the symbol of undivided oneness.  In the Christian tradition, black is associated with penance.  In the Circle of wisdom of the Kalachakra certain syllables are given colours and elements, Ya (black); the element of Air.

 

Black indicates consistency or grief.  In the West, black is the colour of mourning and funerals.  In some cultures, white is used in this context, in which case it carries the idea of rebirth.  Black however, is not so sanguine.  It is final conclusive, the denial of life.  Despite the mirthless sobriety of black, it depends how you wear it.  The “New Black” is a term applied to anything that is in vogue, since black is also somewhat dangerous and sexy, as well as practical therefore always fashionable as a colour.

 

The Black Sheep of the family refers to the one who is a bit of a scoundrel, and the “black dog” means depression.  A black cat is a very lucky symbol in the UK and other parts of the world, yet in others it’s a sign of bad luck if a black cat cross your path, it’s said to be an omen that predict death to the person whose path it crossed or someone in their family.  A person who holds a black belt in any of the martial arts is considered to be at the pinnacle of their abilities, and indeed, in Japan, black is the colour of wisdom, experience and maturity.  In this instance, black is a colour of perfection, an idea shared by the Cathars who also saw black as a symbol of completion and purity.  Black is a secretive, mysterious colour and used as such in rites and ritual.  A polished black mirror provides a perfect glossy surface for scrying or seeing into the future.

 

In Islamic symbolism black is a talisman against the evil eye,  It is the colour of sadness and sorrow.  Black is also the colour of the chador (the cloak worn by devout Muslim woman) and of the cloaks word by Shi’ite clergy.   The veil of the sacred Kaaba at Mecca is black.  The Kabbaa is a masonry structure in the shape of a cube located within the Great Mosque at Mecca; it’s the most important shrine in Islam.  It’s around this structure that ritual circumambulation is performed by Muslims during the Hajj pilgrimage.  A black silk cloth decorated t\with gold embroidered passages, from the Koran, known as the Kiswah, are used to cover the Kaaba and prevent anyone from looking directly at the Kaaba, which is forbidden.  The Kaaba predated Islam and was originally used to worship various Arabian tribal gods.  In the 7th century Muhammad preached the religion of Islam and claimed the shrine for the worship of God (Allah) alone.  The tribe resisted and ousted Muhammad and his followers.  In 630 he returned to Mecca, conquered the tribe and rededicated the Kaaba as an Islamic house of worship.  Henceforth the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj, became a Muslim rite.  In the eastern corner of the Kaaba is the sacred Black stone, thought to be a meteorite remnant.  The stone symbolizes divine power and direct communication between God and humans.  In the language of the flowers Ivy mean Wedded love, fidelity, friendship, affection, (spring of white tendrils), Anxious to please, affection.

 

Dark grey

Symbolic meanings: Sobriety, steadiness, modesty.  Gray is the midway point between black and white, and tellingly the “gray area” is an area of in determination, indecision, or ambiguity.  To be described as grey is rather less than flattering, since gray is such a subdued and neutral colour.  It implies that the person blends into the background.  However, gray is also a colour of balance and reasonableness and is the colour used, in photography, to balance all others.  People’s hair turns gray with age; a word is often used to describe elderly people and is also a colour of wisdom.  For Christians, gray is the colour of resurrection and it worn when people are coming out of full mourning as the midway point on the journey to other colours.

 

Brown

Symbolic meanings: Poverty, humility, practicality.  Brown is the colour primarily associated with the Earth, soul the raw element before it is covered with greenery.  The word for earth, in Latin, is human, which carries the same root as humility.  Religious ascetics wear brown as a reminder of this quality and also of their voluntary material poverty.

 

Turquoise

Turquoise is an opaque blue-green mineral esteemed for thousands of years as a sacred stone and talisman.  The very finest turquoise stones come from Iran, and it is no coincidence that the name means “Turkish stone” I (ran used to be part of the Ottoman Empire).

 

The burial mask of Tutankhamun was liberally inlaid with Turquoise.  In ancient Persia, Turquoise was worn as an amulet for protection against untimely death.  If the stone change colour, it was thought to warn against danger and infidelity.  One of the qualities symbolized by the turquoise is that of sensitivity.  This is because the stone can be affected by changes in body temperature of the wearer, or by the chemicals in perfumes and sprays.  If the owner of a turquoise dies, it is said that the stone will turn pale and colourless until it is given to a new owner, then it will in time regain its former beauty.  In the same way, the stone would become pale if its owner was sick and so was considered to be effective litmus of the health of its owner.

 

For the Aztecs, the turquoise was considered to be so sacred that no single person was allowed to own one, they all belonged to the Gods, and to the Gods alone.  The stone was used to decorate the iconic death masks of these people.  When the Maya empire was effectively destroyed by Cortez, the sacred nature of the turquoise was passed on to the Pueblo people.  This “stone of the Gods” is also held in high esteem by Native American people.  Although its use is now widespread and has become so popular that it has become a symbol of the people themselves, it was originally the preserve of the medicine man and the shaman, who were closest to the Gods and so had some jurisdiction over the stone.

 

Turquoise was one of the stones believed to afford protection from the evil eye. 

 

Turquoise was worn to ensure prosperity.  Placed on a horse’s bridle, or braided into their manes, it was thought to prevent accidents and falls.   Turquoise was also believed to counteract the effects of poison from snakes or scorpion stings.  The stone seems to be a particularly useful and happy stone for its owner, it is said to make friends and enemies, and is symbolic of generosity and affection.  However the stone is meant only to confer luck where it is given not bought.  As a healing stone, Turquoise supports the assimilation of nutrients.

 

Amethyst

Amethyst is violet/ lavender/purple-coloured quartz used as semi-precious stone in jewellery making.   It’s amazing colour has lent deep meaning to this stone, the importance of this is underlined by its appearance as one of the twelve stones set in the breastplate of the High Priest of the Temple of Jerusalem.  The name comes from the ancient Greek word amethyst, meaning “sober” and amethystos meaning “non-intoxicating”, reflecting the belief that wearing Amethyst jewellery, placing it under the tongue, or drinking from vessels made of Amethyst, protects the wearer from drunkenness and they could consume as much alcohol as desired.  In one account from 1750 the drinker was instructed to wear the stone “bound to the navel” to prevent drunkenness.

 

The ancient Greeks have a myth that explained why amethyst was a gem of sobriety.  Dionysus, the God of Wine, it appears, was aggrieved that his godlike status seemed to be ignored by mortals, so decided to avenge this perceived disrespect and show his power by having his lions randomly slaughter the next person to walk by.  This so happened to be a lovely girl.  Amethystos, on her way to worship at the temple of Artemis; the unfortunate girl was slaughtered in such a horrendously violent way that Artemis heard her screams, and put her out of her misery and transformed her into a pillar of sparkling transparent crystal.  Dionysus was deeply ashamed of that he had done and poured wine over the stone as penance, this wine gave the stone a violet colour.

 

Amethyst has the reputation as a stone of sobriety for bishops (it is also called the Bishop Stone)

Orthodox Christian bishops were said to wear Amethyst to guard against spiritual or worldly intoxication.  It may be that the colour, the high frequency hues of violet and purple are associated with the spiritual realms.  It should be remembered that purple, as a dye, was a costly colour to produce and so was reserved for those rich enough or illustrious enough to be able to afford it, and yet here is a crystal of that valuable hue, created naturally.  No surprise that it was regarded so highly and was seen as a natural symbol of authority.

 

The Egyptians also held the stone in high regards and a heart shaped Amethysts have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs, where they would have been placed over the heart of the corpse.  The Alchemists and magicians of the Middle East felt that the amethyst would protect the wearer from evil spells, especially if they were engraved with the sacred names of the Sun and the Moon and combined with swallow’s feathers.  They believed that physical ailments generally sprang from a malaise of the soul, and that the higher vibrational frequencies of the amethyst would help to balance any discrepancies.  Therefore the amethyst was powdered and made into elixirs. 

 

This is no different from the latter belief that the use of the amethyst can harmonize the body, mind and spirit, helping to bring balance and equilibrium to the wearer.   As a healing stone, Amethyst helps overcome addictions of all kinds.  It is said to be beneficial for focusing the mind and to help with decision-making.

 

Onxy

A form of quartz, onyx appears in many colours, but pure black is its most famous form.  This stone was one of the twelve stones set in the breastplate of the High Priest of the Temple of Jerusalem.  The actual word Onyx means “claw” or “nail” in Greek, and the story goes that the mischievous Cupid cut Venus’ nails one day while she was sleeping on the beach.  Cupid left the fingernail shards scattered around the sand dunes, but the Fates, wanting to make sure that no scrap of the Goddess would be wasted, turned the fingernails into onyx stones.

 

Onyx comes in a wide range of colours, sometimes striated, sometimes plain.  The reddish coloured onyxes are called sardonyx, which was useful in Roman times for the carving of seals, since the wax never stuck to the stone.  Sarsonyx could also ward off Charms and curses, keeping its owner happy and healthy.  Onyx is often heavily patterned and the stones that resemble an eye are used as an amulet for protection against the evil eye.  The stone was used in magical rituals to conjure up demons, and it may well be this property that cased the warning that the stone should never be worn at night or the wearer will suffer from nightmares.

 

In Arabic the word “Onyx” is El jaza, meaning “sadness”, as it also has a reputation of draining energy and causing melancholy.  It’s also considered to be an unlucky stone, and again this could be because of its association with demonic beings.  The Indians and the Ancient Egyptians thought that wearing Onyx may cause passion to wane and lovers to part.  However it was also renowned for its healing power as well.  Hildegrad of Bingen recommended that onyx be “soaked” in wine for up to 30 days, the resulting elixir would then be used to touch the eyes in order to clear eyesight.

 

In European folklore, onyx is used to initiate psychic attacks, especially those of a sexual nature.  It is said to be dangerous for pregnant woman, causing still births, but in India the opposite is true and onyx protects and eases childbirth.  Today onyx is said to help in difficult circumstances.  As it retains memories belonging to the wearer, it is useful for healing old traumas.

 

Garnet

Although the Garnet can be transparent, green, yellow, orange, ultraviolet, brown and black (although not blue), it is the red garnet that is the best known, because it generally has a rich , dark colour similar to that of blood.  The garnet has long been associated with this vital liquid, and is said to be effective in treating bleeding wounds, blood disease and haemorrhages.  It has been believed to have been able to staunch bleeding wounds and was used as a protective talisman by soldiers from the Crusades onwards, set into sword hilts and shields.  It is also believed that the garnet can inflict mortal wounds on the enemy.  Travellers used to carry garnets with them to light up the night and protect them from disaster. 

 

In 1892, when Indian and British troops were fighting each other in Kashmir, the Hunza tribesmen used spherical garnets as bullets at intervals between regular ammunition.  These jewels used as weapons caused many serious injuries or fatalities to the British forces.  It is a very tough stone, and also one of the 12 stones set into the breastplate of the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. 

 

These stone were often carved into cabochon shapes, with a curved underside to maximise the light pouting through the gem, which has extremely high refractive value because of its hardness.  It was a popular way to carve these stones since ancient times, this way of carving a garnet is called a “carbuncle”.   Such is the light given off by this carbuncle that the Qu’ran says that it gives light to the fourth Heaven.  There is a legend that says Noah’s Ark featured a huge garnet set on a pedestal as a lantern.  This stone gave off such a great amount of light that it illuminated the ship both night and day, it also helped him steer his ark through the darkness.  Garnets are found in jewellery from early Egyptian, Greek and Roman times.

 

The name “garnet” comes from pomegranate, and the jewel does look similar to the sparkling seeds of the fruit, which caused it to be associated with the fertility of the womb.  The refractive quality og the garnet is one of the features that makes it a symbol of protection, providing light in the darkness and causing enemies to flee.

 

As a healing stone the garnet is said to regenerate the body and spirit, and to throw off melancholy, although there are strict instructions as to its usage.  As a heart stimulant it was particularly effective, but if worn for to long or if the patient did not remain conscious and calm throughout the process, the close proximity of this fiery, blood red stone could over stimulate the passion.  Similarly, when used to cure melancholia, the side-effects could be insomnia – an indication of just how stimulating the stone can be.

 

Today, the garnet is thought to be a powerfully energizing and regenerating stone.  It helps bring Clarity to self-perception and the perception of others, and stimulates sluggish metabolism.

 

Ruby

The word Ruby is synonymous with red; and it comes from the Latin word Rubens which has the same meaning.  Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum and is associated with unbridled love, passion and power.  A powerful and valuable precious gem, in India the Ruby is called ratnaraj, meaning the “Lord of Precious stones”.  The Hindu calls their most precious and valuable rubies “Brahmins”, and these particular stones had to be protected from contact with inferior rubies in case of contamination.  Further evidence of the stone as a symbol of royalty can be found in the title of the former Kings of Bruma, who were known as the “Lord of the Rubies.”  In Christian lore, it was considered an emblem of good fortune, banishing sorrow, and warding off negative thoughts. 

 

The Ruby is one of the hardest stones, second only to the diamond.  During the time of Pliny the Elder, rubies – like other red stones – were categorized as one of the carbunculii, a grouping that also included garnets and spinels.  The colour of the ruby plays a major part in its symbolic meaning.  They are the colour of vitality, the life giving forces and passion, they were considered to be so powerful that, if thrown into water, they could make the water boil.  The light from the ruby was also said to shine through any cloth wrapped around it, and so it was impossible to hide.

 

This idea of precious stones generating light rather than just reflecting or refracting it occurs time and time again in the writings of the Ancients, and a ruby was said to have been set on the roof of the Temple of the Holy Grail so that the Grail knights could be guided towards it in the dark.  This leant the ruby spiritual significance in addition to its worldly value.  In Hindu legends, the ruby lights up the underworld, Kantha.  There’s an old legend that the ruby starts out as a clear stone but ripens in the ground during the course of hundreds, if not thousands of years. 

 

The stone is a symbol of protection, and if a landowner touched all 4 corners of his estate with a ruby then the land would be protected from lightning and storms; and the harvest would be enormous.  Similarly, wearing a ruby in such a way that it touches the skin would protect the wearer from ill health, particularly if the stone was placed on the left side of the body since the colour of the ruby meant that it was instantly connected to the heart and the circulatory system.

 

Although the ruby is a symbol of passion, it also represents conscious control of the emotions.  It was believed to restrain lust and to clear the mind.  Like other red stones, it could staunch the flow of blood and this led to the belief that to own a ruby would make a warrior impervious to injury by weapons made of steel, including a gun.  To be particularly effective the ruby had to be embedded beneath the skin.  The spinel is sometimes mistaken for a ruby and they are sometimes even referred to as rubies.  For example the “Great Balas Ruby that forms a part of the British Imperial state crown is actually a spinel.

 

As a healing stone, the ruby balances the heart and circulatory system, combats exhaustion and imparts vigour.  It detoxifies the blood and lymph and threats infection.   Psychologically, the ruby brings about a positive and courageous state of mind and promotes enthusiasm for life.

 

Gemstones and the Planets

SUN             -    Amber, Diamond, Topaz

MOON        -    Moonstone, pearl

EARTH         -    Amber, Jade, Ammonite

MERCURY   -    Agate, Opal, Citrine

VENUS        -    Malachite, Rose quartz, Emerald

MARS          -     Hematite, Ruby, Spinel

JUPITER      -     Sapphire, Lapis Lazuli, Turquoise

SATERN      -     Jet, Onyx, Coral

URANUS     -     Opal, Amethyst

NEPTUNE    -    Aquamarine, Coral, Pearl

PLUTO         -    Diamond, Jade, Zircon

 

Gemstones and the Zodiac

ARIES                 -    Diamond, Bloodstone

TAURUS            -    Emerald, Lapis Lazuli

Gemini              -    Agate, Citrine

CANCER            -    Moonstone, Pearl

LEO                    -    Peridot, Amber

VIRGO               -    Aquamarine, Carnelian

LIBRA                 -   Jacinth Amethyst

SCORPIO           -   Opal, Sapphire

SAGITTARIUS    -   Turquoise, Topaz

CAPRICORN      -   Onxy, Garnet

AQUARIUS        -   Garnet, Aquamarine

PICES                 -    Amethyst, Bloodstone

 

Gemstones and the months of the year

JANUARY         -   Garnet

FEBRUARY      -   Amethyst

MARCH            -   Heliotrope, Jasper

APRIL               -   Diamond, Emerald

MAY                 -   Agate, Emerald

JUNE                -   Emerald, Pearl, Agate

JULY                 -   Onyx

AUGUST          -   Carnelian

SEPTEMBER    -   Peridot

OCTOBER        -   Aquamarine, Beryl

NOVEMBER    -   Topaz

DECEMBER     -   Ruby

 

Gemstones and the chakras

7 – CROWN CHAKRA OR SAHASRARA       -    Amethyst, Diamond

6 – THIRD EYE CHAKRA OR AJNA               -    Lapis Lazuli, Amethyst

5 – THROAT CHAKRA OR VISHUDDA           -    Aquamarine, Blue Topaz

4 – HEART CHAKRA OR ANAHATA               -   Emerald, rose quartz

3 – NAVAL CHAKRA OR MANIPURA             -    Amber, Citrine

2 – SACRAL CHAKRA OR SVADHISTHANA   -   Jade, Ruby

1 – ROOT CHAKRA OR MULADHARA           -   Hematite, Garnet

 

Gemstones and the elements

Air        -    Agate, Citrine, Lapis Lazuli, Opal, Rose quartz, Saphire, Turquoise

Fire       -   Amber, Citrine, Fire Opal, Garnet, Heliotrope, Ruby, Spinel, Topaz

Water    -   Amethyst, Aquamarine, Coral, Lapis Lazuli, Moonstone, Pearl, Tourmaline, Turquoise

Earth     -   Amber, Ammonite, Emerald, Jet, Magnetite, Maleshite, Jade, Onyx

Ether     -   Amethist, Diamond, Opal, Pearl, Rock, Crystal, Sapphire, Tormaline, Zircon

 

Lead

A weighty metal, it is no surprise that lead symbolizes heaviness and an oppressive burden.  It is the attribute of Saturn, and both the planet and the God (who is often depicted as a grim looking hunched old man carrying a scythe) share these somewhat morose qualities, from which the word “saturnine” is coined.  In alchemy, lead is described as the “base metal” which will hopefully be transmuted into gold.  In order to do these alchemists made great efforts to free themselves from the limitations of the material world as symbolized by this heavy metal.

 

Numbers

Five (5)

Five is in the middle of the first nine numbers; it is the number representing the centre and harmony.  The dots that add up to 5, if placed symmetrically, give the potential for a five-pointed star (pentagram) or for a five sided shape (pentagon).  The pentagram is very well known to many magick practitioners, also to Satanists.  The head of the goat, placed inside it has long been seen as a symbol of Satan, but it hold a far older use.  It was used as a symbol of for the horned god. Cernunnos for the Celtic tales, Pan for the Greek gods, Aamon for the Egyptians For the pagans the horned god was the male aspect of the nature god.  It was the Christians that turned him into a evil devil.  In the Hebrew Gematria chart: Heh  -  E/H  -  5, the numeric value to the letters are seen.

 

The 5 like the 3, is constructed from adding an odd number (3) to an even number (2), thus blending male and female.  The pentagram itself is a mystical symbol that also holds within it all the qualities of the 5.  Five is a number of balance, its central dot acts as a pivot for the two on either side.  It’s also the numerical symbol of a human being, which form the five-pointed star shape when legs and arms are outstretched, as in Leonardo’s famous drawing of Vitruvian Man.

 

In the Western world there are four elements, but in the east there are 5, or quintessence, that blinds them all together, called ether.  Alchemists indicate this with a five-petaled rose in the centre of a cross, redolent of the Rose Cross Lamen.  The Pythgoreans held that the pentagram, or Pentad, was a sacred symbol of health, vitality and light.  The holy number 10 is divided equally into two parts by the Pentad, which also symbolizes the triumph of spirit over matter.

 

In Japanese Buddhism, there are five directions, the exciting cardinal point plus the centre.  In Mayan civilization, five was the symbol for perfection, possibly related to the five digits on a hand.  In Islam, five is a “lucky” number and it occurs time and time again.  There are five hours of prayer, for example, and five senses, and five keys to the mysteries of the Qu’ran.

 

Pancha is the name of the number 5 in the Yantric system, and it stands for the five functions of the Divine, namely creation, preservation, destruction, obstruction and liberation.  There are also five layers of bodies of Man: Physical, vital, astral, wisdom and bliss.  In the Tarot, 5 is the number of the Hierophant or the Pope, who represents the face of God on earth.

 

In China, five is the number of centre – the ideogram of wu (five) being composed of a cross and the centre symbolizing the 5 elements

 

Fifteen (15)

Fifteen is the product of two sacred numbers 3 x 5.  The Sumerian Goddess Ishtar was attended by 15 priests and her city, Ninevah, had 15 gates, because Ishtar was the Goddess of both war and physical love, her number sometimes has negative meanings although the understanding of the number holds the key to greater spiritual comprehension.  In the Tarot, 15 is the number of the Devil, since 1 + 5 gives us the ambivalent number 6, which apparently does not know right from wrong.  However, it’s not all bad news for 15, because each Moon effectively waxes for 15 days, there is 15 steps to freedom and personal enlightenment in the Passover Seder or mean.  Seder means “order: or “arrangement”. To Kabbalists, 15 is the number of energy points that run down the centre of the body. 

 

Ivy

Ivy is traditionally seen as the female counterpart to the masculine holly, and the two plants are paired together symbolically in Christmas and Yuletide songs.  Like the vine, ivy has tendrils that enable it to climb vigorously, and, like the vine .  The satyrs and Dionysus, the God of wine, often wear wreathes of ivy.  He is often depicted using the plant to bind the nubile young ladies who would otherwise resist his advances.  A wreath of ivy used to hang outside shops as a sign that wine might be purchased there.

 

The clinging aspect of Ivy symbolizes true love and faithfulness in marriage and friendship.  In Christianity, ivy signifies resurrection and eternal life, as do other evergreens.  For medieval Christians, who observed that ivy grew on dead trees, it symbolized the immortal soul that survived the dead body.  As it thrives in the shadem ivy is associated with debauchery, carousing, sensuality and the enjoyment of forbidden pleasures. 

 

Ivy was believed to be able to both cause and cure drunkenness, and an old cure for a hangover was to drink vinegar in which ivy berries had been boiled.  It should be stated here, however, that most parts of the ivy are poisonous and it is not recommended that you try this remedy, no matter how bad your headache.  Houses with ivy growing on them are seen as being protected by the maternal nature of the plant, but the clinginess of the ivy is viewed as a less attractive female characteristic.  It is the same binding tendency that makes ivy an ingredient in love charms.  Ivy appears in the Ogan Tree Alphabet ehere it is called Gort.

 

Hearts Easr

In the language of the flowers Hearts Easr also known as Purple or Johnny Jump Up mean – you occupy my thoughts.

 

Hemlock

The very word “hemlock” make you think of poison. But strangely, although hemlock is deadly for humans, it doesn’t harm domestic animals.  Hemlock is symbolic with death, and was famously consumed by Socrates after his trail.  Socrates was given the death sentence and it was decreed that he must kill himself by drinking hemlock.  The great philosopher used his philosophical outlook to great effect and drank the hemlock without a fuss, even managing to describe his symptoms as the poison overcame him.  The whole episode was described by Plato.  To this day the phrase “to drink hemlock” is synonymous with committing suicide.  Hemlock used to be rubbed into knives and swords to prepare them to kill the enemy, the poison further enhance the potency of the blade as an instrument of death.  The hemlock plant should not be confused with Tsuga, the tree genus of hemlock.

 

Yew

One of the longest living of all trees, yews are in existence even today, that is said to be up to 9000 years old, although it is difficult to prove these claims definitely.  The age of a yew tree aside from any fanciful mythology, can be determined by its girth, and also by the science of dendrochronology, in which the living tree is bored with a special tool and the annual rings are counted.

 

Because of their longevity, the yew is a symbol of everlasting life.  It grows in an unusual way, its new stems grow down the side of the tree, making the yew synonymous with rebirth and regeneration, as the new is born from the old.  Adding to this symbolism is its habit of putting in a growth spurt when it is around 500 years old.

 

So sacred was the yew as a symbol that to a pre-Christian society, wherever it grew was considered to be sacred ground.  It was considered both immoral and illegal to chop down the tree.  It is likely that the yew is often seen in churchyards, because the church itself would have been built in this sacred ground in the presence of the tree, in an effort to align the incoming Christian belief system with Pagan traditions. 

 

The association of the tree with death therefore started to overlay its former meaning.  As the berries of the yew are poisonous, they can effectively carry people into the spirit world.  The hollow centre of the yew tree is a symbol of the power that lies in empty space, but underlines the significance of this tree as belonging, in part, to a spiritual dimension.  Recently, the yew as a symbol of life has been shown in a practical and unexpected way.  One of the constituent chemicals of the tree, taxol, has been found to be effective in curing breast cancer.  Yew wood is tough and durable and was used for making shields and spears, and also by using both Heartwood and sapwood to pain extra strength, the English longbow that helped the English win the battle of Agincourt in 1415, at which they were completely outnumbered, hence the yew is also the symbol of the warrior.

 

Elm

The Elm population in the UK and the US has been decimated by Dutch Elm disease, and this lofty, dignified tree, which used to reach an age of 400 years or more, is now considered lucky if it reached thirty.  The symbolism of this tree is rich, as befits such a beautiful specimen.  Groves of Elms were sacred to the Goddess or the Great Mother, and some belive that the first woman was created by the elm tree.  Such a large tree would be seen as a protective force. And the elm was planted in particular in vineyards to shade the plants and protect the vines.  As a result it came to be linked with Bacchus, the Roman God of wine, the vine and the Elm were effectively “wedded”.

 

The Elm is also connected with death, and the wood was used to make coffins at a time when the tree itself was not so rare.  The elm has a special affinity with the elves that are said to guard burial mounds, so the trees was associated with these places.  The first elm was meant to have sprung up where Orpheus paused to play his beloved Eurydice a love song after he rescued her from the underworld.

 

The size of the elm meant that they made a good marker in the landscape, so much so that they often had pet names, and were used as meeting places.  In the US, the famous Liberty tree in Boston, Massachusetts, was a colossal elm neneath which the so-called Sons of Liberty met from 1766 onwards.  At the time of the American Revolution, an unauthorized meeting was a punishable offence, but it was relatively easy to meet, hidden, beneath the branches of sutch a tall tree.  Soon all 13 colonies each had a Liberty Tree as a place to meet under.  The elm itself therefore became synonymous with the idea of independence and liberty.

 

Pine

Pine trees are ever green, which makes them a natural symbol for immortality and longevity.  The pine is also a symbol of incorruptibility and fortitude, since it remains untouched by storms and inclement weather.  The ancient Egyptians hollowed out the centre of a pine tree and with the excavated wood, made an image of the tree God Osiris.  They then buried the image like a corpse in the hollow of the tree, which was kept for a year and then burned.  The pine tree was also associated with the Greek goddess Pitthea and with the wine God Dionysus.  Worshippers of Dionysus often carried a cone-tipped wand, because the pine cone was an ancient fertility amulet.  To the Romans, the pine tree was worshiped during the spring equinox festival of Cybele and Attis. 

 

Mongolian shamans, or traditional healers, entered pine forests in silence with reverence for the gods and spirits thought to be living within.  In ancient Celtic lands, Druids would light large pine bonfires at the winter solstice to call back the sun.  Pine trees were decorated with candles and colourful metallic objects, which gave rise to the traditional of the Christmas tree.  In Japan, followers of Shinto set two pine trees on either side of the gateway to home at the time of the New Year Festivities.  Shinto is an animistic religion, one of its tenets say that every living thing has a spirit, and the pine is said to be inhabited by benevolent spirits or “kami”. 

 

The Thyrsus was a sacred implement used in rituals and festivals during the time of the Ancients Greeks.  It was a staff, standing about as high as the owner, made from a giant Fennel stalk topped with a pine cone and wrapped in vine Leaves.  As a phallic symbol, it was combined with a goblet or chalice, symbolic of female energy and used to counterbalance the staff.  As well as being a symbol of male energy, though, staffs are long poles of some description have a universal use as a sacred instrument to connect the Heavens to the Earth, a conductor for the divine spirit.

 

The Legendary Immortals in the Taoist religions ate the cones, needles and resin, which made them light enough to be able to fly.  The trees are also said to stand at the gates of the City of the Immortals.  The popular egg and dart frieze consists of stylized lotus flowers and pine cones which contains hidden sexual symbolism.  The flowers represent the vigina, and the cones, the phallus.  The Pine also appears in the Ogham tree alphabet, where it is called Ailim.  Although superficially different from the spruce and the fir tree that are traditionally used as Christmas trees, pines are part of the same botanical family, the Pinaceae (to which they gave their name).

 

The Goat/Ram

The Capricorn constellation, so the ancients agreed, was definitely a goat; however, it generally appears as a goat/fish hybrid.  In mythology, Capricorn is associated with the Gods Saturn and Zeus.    The Ancient Greeks, too, have the she-goat as a symbol of lightning.  For them the goat was immortalized in the constellation Amalthea, emblematic of the goat that suckled Zues on the sacred mountain, Mount Ida.  If the constellation was visible then storms and rain should be expected, and once more language provides a clue about the reasoning of ancient man: “aegis” is the word shared by both goatskin and stormy weather.  Finally, what of the scapegoat?  The first mention of it occurs in the Old Testament.  A ritual involved 2 goats.  One was set free and the other sacrificed.  The liberated goat, however, was laden with the sins of the people and sent out into the desert to perish, its death often hastened by it being pushed over a cliff; the name of this cliff Azazel – “the goat that departs” – was also the name of a demon.  The concept of the scapegoat exists today as a term for someone who takes on the blame for the wrongdoings of others, and has sometimes led to the goat symbolising an unrepentant sinner.

 

For the Persians it was called the Sea Goat, Vahik; for the Babylonians it was the Goat-Fish; for the Greeks it was called the Goat-Horned One.  Mahara, meaning Sea Monster, was the Sanskrit name.  The only Exception was Romans, who saw interpretation of the Goddess, Vesta, in the constellation.  Modern images of Capricorn often tend to lose the sea-monster aspect, but older interpretations show it with four legs and the tail of a fish, or an entire rear end comprising of a serpent like tail.

 

In Egypt, the goat was a symbol of nobility, also known as the God of Nature.  The horned goat God Pan was one of the oldest Greek deities, associated with nature and sexual energy.  Christianity has depicted Satan as having the body parts and horns of a goat, possibly because in the Middle Ages the symbol of Lust was a buck in rut.  In Chinese astrology, the goat is associated with shyness, introversion, creativity and perfectionism. 

 

In fairy tales and folklore, fauns and satyrs are mythological creatures that are part ram or goat and part human.  They were the male companions of the Greek God Dionysus and the Roman God Bacchus, satyrs symbolise the sex drive and were often portrayed with an erection.  The Satyr was believed to be the outcome of such degenerative carnality, a salutary lesson of what could happen if humans surrendered to their baser desires.  In the Greek tradition they appear with a horse’s tail.  In the Roman tradition they are frequently described as having the upper half of a man and the lower half of a goat.  Satyrs are rogues.  They are also subversive, shy and cowardly, and love wine, woman and boys.  They enjoy music and dancing with the nymphs.  The romans also sat the goat as a symbol of lusciousness and fertility.  Barren woman were advised to have sexual congress with goats or, alternatively, to have their backs whipped with the skin of a sacrificed goat, cut into strips.  This ritual was believed to purify the woman and may even have inspired the name of the festival during which it was performed – “Lupercalia” – possibly from luere per caprum, meaning “to purify by means of the goat”

 

Horny in all senses of the word, the goat is arguably the most infamous as a symbol of lust and procreation, a reputation gained in no small part from the influence of the so-called Goat of Mendes, also known as, Baphomet.   This powerful Deity was worshipped in a way that involved slaves copulating with goats in a ritual intended to honour the procreative power of nature.

 

Baphomet are recognised as the winged goat with a masculine torso and breasts, he has a blazing torch between his horns, and cloven feet.  Adding to the confusion, one arm is male and the other is female.  The image made its first appearance relatively recently, in Eliphas Levi’s Dogma and Rituals of High Magic (1854).  Although Levi intended the creature (also called the Goat of Mendes) to be an idealized symbolic form, an amalgam of images from all disciplines including the Kabbalah, he actually created something that looks far more terrifying that he may originally intended.

 

The picture influenced illustrations of the Devil, not only in tarot card illustrations but also among latter-day rock bands and Satanists.  Baphomet himself was first described at the trails of the Knights Templar, centuries before Levi’s interpretation.  When the order began in the twelfth century, it was designed to protect pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem.  Because the knights were exempt from taxation, they amassed a huge amount of wealth and power.  When they became a threat to the establishment, they were pursued and part of this persecution included accusations of heresy including the worship of a particular goat-headed creature.

 

The abundant shaggy hair of the goat as well as its horns, contribute to its perceived sexual virility.  It was said that one male goat could service one hundred and fifty females.  In some places, the goat is a symbol of Fire and in particular the fire associated with lightning.  The imagery occurs in the Vedic tales from India where Agni, the Lord of Fire is seen riding a goat.  Similar symbolism is found in China and in Tibet, the creature seen as a messenger that conveys the blessings of the Gods in their Heavens to human beings on Earth

 

Other cloven hoofed animals

Pig

In many cultures the pig is a fertility symbol, but also represents negative qualities such as gluttony, greed, lust, anger and the unclean.  In some traditions the sow is associated with the Great Mother.  Swine were sacrificed at harvest time to Ceres and Demeter in ancient Greece, in their form as fertility Goddesses.  In Tibetan Buddhism, the Diamond or Adamantine Sow is Vajravarhi , Queen of Heaven.  In Catholicism, St Anthony is the patron saint of Swineherds.

 

The Sheep

The Female sheep was associated with Celtic Goddess Brigit or Brighid and her spring festival Embolic, meaning ewe’s milk.  Christ carrying a lamb or a sheep on his shoulders symbolizes the soul of the deceased being borne by him into Heaven.  Sheep represent the flock or congregation of Christ, who is known as the Good Shepard.  Christ is also portrayed as the Sacrificial Lamb of God or Agnus Dei.  In the Abrahamic faiths, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and King David were all shepherds.  In Chinese folklore, because of the way a lamb dances around its mother, it is a symbol of respect and love for parents.  Sheep are key symbols in Fables and Nursery rhymes such as “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep”.  In Europa, a black sheep is considered a sign of good luck.  In the English language, calling someone a sheep suggested that they are timid and easily led.

 

Agnes Dei / Lamb of God are one of the names given to Jesus in the New Testament and used in the Christian tradition to refer to the role of Jesus as a sacrificial lamb atoning for the sins of the world.  The idea of the Lamb of God may have its origins in ancient sacrifices that were constructed during Pass over at the Jewish Temple, in which a pure unblemished lamb was sacrificed, its blood poured out and offered as atonement for sins.  In the same way Christians believe that they can be freed from sin by the blood of Jesus, as the unblemished Lamb of God.

 

A litany beginning with the words “Lamb of God” is used in the Roman Catholic Mass: Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi miserere nobis… (‘O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, has mercy upon us…)  The Lamb of God is a symbol of purity, innocence and renewal.  It is depicted with a halo and a banner with a red cross on a white background, symbolizing resurrection.

 

It might seem odd that the adult version of the lamb – the sheep – carries quite a negative symbolism, as a creature that blindly runs with the flock, unable to think as an individual.  The term “sheep” is generally used pejoratively.  However the lamb is a much more positive symbol.  It stands for innocence and purity, the spiritual, the compliant, and gentleness.  It is also a symbol for spring, new hope and the triumph over adversity.  There is a specific symbol, the Paschal Lamb, which perfectly embodies the sacrifice to god, the lamb appears with a Halo and a banner, symbolized both sanctity and victory.  The lamb is also a symbol of peace and where it appears with the dove, this aspect is compounded.  Sometimes the lamb and the lion appear together, a universal symbol of concord and harmony and the balancing of opposites.

 

Cattle

In ancient cultures the Palaeolithic Goddess, the Venus of Laussel, is shown holding a crescent-shaped bull horn, while the Egyptian God Ossiris was often depicted with the head of a bull.  The bull is both a solar and a lunar creature.  His male fertility and his fierce temperament make him the masculine sun God in many ancient cultures.  However, the bull’s crescent shaped horns link him to moon worship.  The moon Goddess Astarte often rode a bull.  The bull represents valour, bravery, generosity, strength and fortitude.

 

Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the night sky, was often represented as a cow, as was the Egyptian Goddess Hathor.  In many cultures the cow represents the Great Mother, the earth, asking, receiving, love nurturing, warmth and abundance.  Cow deities, such as Nandini, the wish-fulfilling cow, are popular in Vedic literature.  In Hinduism, the cow is believed to be a treasure produced from the cosmic ocean by the Gods.  Cows are still considered sacred in India today, and they are left to roam free and wander where ever they choose.  Their horns are often decorated with flowers and coloured ornaments, as a sign of respect and affection.  The East African Maasai people also consider their crowns as gifts from God.  According to Norse creation myths, the cow Adumla was the first creature to emerge, and created the first man by licking him out of a salt block. 

 

The cow say “Take my milk, I can always feed you.  I’ll eat the grass of the God/Goddess and in return pas food fortune on to you.  Nourishment is never-ending when I appear on your path.   Don’t forget to till the soil so that grass may grow.  Abundance is made manifest out of a universal system.  Do your part and I will do mine with joy.  Ask and you will receive all the blessings I have to offer “.  The Cow reminds you that there is no shortage of blessings in the world.  Ask to partake in infinite abundance, and you will, get exactly what you need.

 

Buffalo

At 900kg (2,000 lb) and 1,8m (6feet) tall at its humped shoulders, the American buffalo or bison is an impressive animal.  Before every hunt, Native Americans praised the buffalo with a tribal ritual dance.  This animal supplied virtually everything that the plains people needed: food clothing, tools and housing material.  The animals were called “buffalo people” by some tribes and revered for their power and the good fortune they brought.  The hide of the rare white buffalo became a sacred talisman and a priceless possession.

 

Deer/Stag

The Deer represent gentleness, endurance, grace, long life and diplomacy.  The deer is a Chinese symbol for longevity.  In Palaeolithic cave paintings at Trois-Fréres in France, the figure of a shaman known as The Sorcerer wears antlers embodying the Deer-spirit.  Deer are represented in heraldry by the stag or hart.

 

The Deer remind you to step gently on your path, for you’re walking in a time of gentle movements and diplomacy.  The deer’s strength is in this quality.  Make it your own that your steps are gentle but successfully assured.  It’s important that you be gentle with yourself as well.  Blend your personal energy with the Deer’s energy of gentleness and diplomacy.  Walk softly, and the way forward will be smooth.  Remember … never mistake gentleness for weakness in yourself or others.

 

Many ancient cultures identified the deer with rebirth, because it annually sheds and regrows its antlers.  Stags were associated with Cernunnos, the Celtic horned god of nature and hunting.  He is associated with the fecundity of the forest and with horned animals, such as the stag and the ram-headed snake.  He is also called Lord of the Animals, the Horned Sacred One and Lord of the Hunt.  He is depicted as a horned man seated cross legged, sometimes holding a snake.  His antlers symbolize the yearly cycle of death, regeneration and renewal, as does his snake, which sheds its skin.  He wears a torc, and ornate necklace used to denote nobility, and carries another torc or a purse filled with coins symbolising wealth and commence.

 

When the Stag appears on your path, he tells you to take pride in all that you do.  Be the leader and hold your head high and others will follow by your example.  Ask yourself these questions “Al I following my highest path?”; “Am I acting in integrity and doing the best I can?” or “Am I held back by the kind of pride that cuts me off from life through arrogance, or its reverse, low self-esteem?”  The stag asks you to be a leader, be proactive (with the highest intentions), and to always ask, “What is the highest good for all?”  Arrogance and its reverse are both places of alienation and ways to avoid responsibility and accountability.  The stag leads you out of both difficult places into the kind of pride that reminds you that you’re always in service to the God/Goddess in every step you take.  You may already be there, in which case, you should be proud and happy.  Look how far you’ve come!  Rejoice, for the Stag always leads you to a higher place with a sure and steady footing.

 

Gazelle/Antelope

Possibly the most striking and beautiful feature of the antelope is its eyes, and one of the highest complements that can be paid to almost any Eastern woman is to tell her that she has the eyes of a gazelle.  As well as being beautiful, the large eyes of the gazelle are sharp, able to detect movement as far as four miles away.  This acute vision makes the creature sacred to the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena/Minerva, who shares the sharp eyes and perception of the animal.  This sharp vision was also noted by the Egyptians, who attributed the powers of prophecy to the gazelle.  The annual flooding of the Nile was a critical time for them, and they believed that the gazelle gave warning of it by sneezing.

 

Another quality of the gazelle that has informed its symbolic meaning is its ability to run very fast.  Speeds of up to seventy miles per hour have been recorded just 15 seconds after a standing start, and the animal can sustain speeds of 30 – 45 mph with no problem.  This is why, in the Rig Veda, the gazelle carries the wind on its back.

 

Native Americans, the swiftness, the vision, and the peaceable nature of the animal made it sacred, its bones kept safely for a year before being disposed of in a ritual that called on the spirit of the antelope to assist in the hunt.  The animal was accorded with magical powers as a teacher of humankind, and is one of the spirit animals that the skilled shaman can transform into.

 

An old name for a doe, the hind is essentially a female symbol, gentle and shy, a mother and yet a virgin.  There are several Goddesses that have an association with this lovely forest animal, notably Hera, the Greek Goddess of Love and Marriage, Diana/Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt, and the Celtic Goddess of the Woodland, Flidass.

 

Genghis Khan was said to be the offspring of a blue hind and a blue wolf, symbolism that is almost alchemic in its nature: the herbivore mating with the carnivore, the marriage of spirit and matter.  The hind is also the form taken by the Valkyries, who carry spirits of dead warriors into the Afterworld.  The Ceryneian Hind in Greek mythology is the origin of the Golden Hind.  This animal had antlers of Gold and hooves of brass, could run like the wind, and was sacred to Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt who, like the hind, was chaste.  Capturing this animal was one of the labours of Hercules.  For the Celts, the Hunt for the hind was a metaphor that implied the search for wisdom.

 

Bird

Eagle

One of the most important archetypal bird symbols, the prominence of the eagle is a worldwide phenomenon.  The Eagle is the “King of the Birds” and the “lion of the skies”, and its use as a symbol is clear.  It resembles power, authority, nobility and truth; it is the ultimate solar symbol.  In Greek the name of the eagle shares the same stem as aigle, meaning “ray of light”.

 

The eagle’s wings symbolize protection, and the gripping talons and sharp beak represent the threat of destruction.  Many nations and organizations use the eagle on their coat of arms.  In Christianity, the eagle symbolizes John the Apostle and its soaring quality stands for the first chapter to his Gospel. 

 

It is a symbol of one of the four evangelists of the New Testament, St John.  Here the eagle represents divine inspiration.  However, the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” applies here, because the bird is reputedly the natural enemy of snakes, and the eagle has been regarded as on the “side” of God ever since the Devil was symbolized as the serpent in the Garden of Eden, tempting Adam and Eve away from the straight and narrow path of good towards the twisting and corrupting path of evil.  However, the eagle and the snake seen together symbolize the opposing concepts of matter and spirit, Earth and Heaven, instinct and intellect, the mundane and the sublime, and therefore the unity of the cosmos.  In Norse mythology, the eagle sits in the great World Tree, Yggdrasil, counter-balanced by the serpent that twines about the tree roots.

 

The eagle’s reputation as a symbol of truth comes from its sharp sightedness; the eyesight of the eagle is at least four times superior to that of human beings, and combined with its high – flying abilities it means that the bird can see the bigger picture, quite literally.  Therefore, it is meant to e able to discern truth from falsehood, because it flies so high, often appearing to be heading straight for the sun, people believe that the eagle was the only creature in the world able to gaze directly into the brightness of the sun without hurting its eyes.  For this reson the bird also symbolizes mental and spiritual enlightenment and the aspiration of a pure heart, able to look into the face of God with no fear. 

 

When a eagle dives at its prey it will always try to dive with the sun at its back, this tactic allow them to almost invisible to their prey.  As the prey has to look into the sun to see them, and would only be able to really see the eagle when it is very close.

 

Shamans believe that the eagle communicated their gifts directly from God, the bird acting as intermediary.  They believe that the first Shaman was conceived after an eagle impregnated a woman, another symbol of the bird as a divine spirit or winged messenger.  This has parallels with another winged creature, the Angel Gabriel, who told Mary of her impending condition.  In both cases, the resulting child is a sort of spiritual hybrid, able to connect God and man.

 

Eagle has always been the emblem par excellence of emperors and empires, even prior to its presence on the imperial standard of the Ceasars and its later-day use as the symbol of the United States, where the altogether more humble dove balances its grandiose power.  The death of an emperor was heralded by the release of eagles into the skies, symbolic of the soul ascending to the Heavens.  However, more sinisterly, the symbolic power and attributes of the eagle were appropriated by the Nazis to bolster their own image.  This is as instance where a powerful symbol can be abused, something that also happened to another ancient solar symbol, the swastika, whose implicit benevolent meaning is unfortunately still tainted because of its use by the Nazis.

 

The Eagle is a sacred bird to many Native American tribes and its power allocated to eagle feathers are central to numerous religious customs and tribal ceremonies.  It is seen as sacred and a symbol of the mightiness of the bird and of its special place within the Native American pantheon.  As a spiritual being and ancestor, sometimes appears on totem poles.  The eagle is the “father” of the people, a God, and illicit possession of a feather by anyone who does not have the right to have it is punishable by hefty fines.  The eagle feather is not only sacred to Native Americans, but to Hindu’s, too, where the eagle brought a food called Soma to humankind from the Gods.

 

The Aztecs, associated the Eagle not with a lion, but a Jaguar, and the throne of the Aztec emperor was decorated with eagle feathers and jaguar skin to symbolize his association with these powerful creatures.  The Eagles “told” the people where Mexico City should be built; duly appearing perched on a cactus growing out of rock, as decreed by an ancient legend.

 

The Greeks, too, accorded the eagle with the power to indicate a sacred site, and Delphi, the site of the Omphalos (the “navel” or the spiritual centre of the world) was established a the spot where two eagles, released from the ends of the earth by Zeus, crossed in the sky.  The eagle shares much of the same symbolism as a phoenix, i.e. that of the sun that never dies.

 

The Glyph

The Capricorn Sigil is an unusual squiggle, which could be a sketch of the horns of the goat.  However, the glyph appears in various forms.  The sign is a combination of straight lines and curves that point to the dual nature of the Capricorn, the material side on the earth and the spiritual side in the water.  There was an old saying that time ended with Capricorn.  Again, this was because of the time of year that the constellation loomed over the horizon, and its intimate association with Saturn, also known as Chronos, the God of Time.

 

Qualities

Capricorn comes into the sky, in the northern hemisphere, at the time of winter solstice, “the gateway of the Gods”.  * In the Far East, this time heralds the New Year.  Saturn, the ruler of the sign, denotes patience, perseverance, and industry.  The hybrid nature of the symbol points towards an inherent duality.  On the one hand is the sure-footed mountain goat, closely in touch with its earth element and aspiring to the heights, worldly and intellectual.  On the other is the aspect of the sign that relates to water, unconscious and psychic powers, depth, and intuition.  Capricorn is hard working, practical, disciplined, very methodical, organized and ambitious, but with a mystical aspect to its nature.  They tend to choose to follow a path to higher spiritual awareness, leaving the material world behind.  The saturnine aspect of the sign is reflected in the dignity and self-discipline common to those born under it, who can be withdrawn and contemplative.  It is the quest for people born under this sign to reconcile the two very distinct aspects of their nature, the worldly with the spiritual, and the ambitious with the contemplative.

 

For the Buddhists, the Four Dignities are those animals whose characteristics act as a reminder of four important aspects of the Buddha nature as well as the four major compass points.  These animals are:

 

Dragon: Communication and compassion; rules the West, the sea and the element of water.

Tiger: Confidence, awareness, modesty, and kindness, rules the South, the element Air, and forest.

Snow Lion: Cheerful and certainty youthfulness and delight; rules the East, the mountains, and the element of Earth.

Garuda: Direct action, wisdom, and fearlessness; rules the North and the element of Fire.

 

Sources

Animal Dreaming Oracle Cards by Scott Alexander King

The Signs and Symbols Bible by Madonna Gauding

The Elemental Encyclopaedia of Secret signs and Symbols by Adele Nozedar

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