There are many ways to describe a person, place, or thing. Language evolved to serve our complex demands for description; a common medium of expression is essential for people to recognize and understand each other.
As many parts of speech as we have in language, they sometimes do not do justice to what is being described. For example, to describe something that is lethal upon ingestion, we may use the word "poison". While that word says a great deal, when you see a symbol of a huge skull with crossbones, the thrust of that symbol is much more dramatic; its meaning is more dramatic! That's descriptive! The word "water" tells us one thing, but that doesn't quite measure up to the symbol H2O, which tells us that two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen have combined miraculously.
And so it is in astrology. The word Mars "says" something that cannot compete with the aggressive, direct nature of its symbol. So, to facilitate memorization of each Sign, and to appreciate its archetype, we must appreciate what the symbol describes.
The Sun, for example, is the light of our lives. It is the absolute centerpiece of the heavens (our Solar System), that which everything depends on for illumination and for life. Its importance can not be questioned. The ancients observed that the Sun's strength was at its most dramatic level in Leo. Therefore, the qualities that are associated with the Leo archetype have to do with recognition, being the center of attention, being influential. These qualities and more will need to be present in the behavioral manifestation of anyone with a pronounced Leo emphasis in the horoscope. Doesn't it make sense, then, that Leo is the Sign of the entertainer, of theatricality, of drama, royalty, presidents, chieftains? Sure it does!
The symbol for Aries, "The Ram," suggests an upright, bold scepter of authority with the horns of a ram flaring from its top end. You can feel the ram's attack! Aries is the first Sign of the zodiac. What's suggested here is the combination of authority with the Arian tendency to forge ahead individualistically, courageously, with aggression, a thrust of spirit, usually without caution. Aries is ruled by Mars and, just that quickly, you are able to tie together in your mind why Aries characteristics are as they are.
Aries represents ego importance, assertion, the exertion of force, and the self-positioning as number one (in the sense of not being subordinate and not being in the background).
The Sun is in Aries from approximately March 21 to April 21. Thomas Jefferson, Otto von Bismarck, Marlon Brando, Steven Seagal, and Diana Ross have the Sun in Aries.
The symbol for Taurus, "The Bull", when compared to the Aries symbol, immediately shows heaviness, organization; it is stolid, stubborn. And if you observe a cow or bull in life, it does the same thing, the same way, every day. It grazes in the meadow, chews grass, and is really quiet, calm, and collected within its daily structured routine. It is when you try to take the bull out of its pattern that it becomes agitated and shows its temperament. This description of the bull's nature coupled with its stolid symbol gives us a clear explanation of the Taurean archetype.
Taurus represents keeping things as they are or making them as they should be, to maintain structure, organization, and security. This is the kind of influence that will tolerate an unfulfilling (but predictable) situation rather than make risky, insecurity-causing changes for the new.
The Sun is in Taurus from approximately May 21 to June 21, and is ruled by artistic Venus. Niccolo Machiavelli, Liberace, Cher, and Barbara Streisand have the Sun in Taurus.
The symbol for Gemini, "The Twins," immediately projects the idea of duality, of more than one thing at a time. It shows two staves or scepters or two arms or both lungs. One feels parallel polarity issues. Ruled by Mercury, Gemini symbolizes a quick, cerebral, intellectual, conversational influence with an active nervous system and an extremely active, facile mind. The Gemini experience is antithetical to boredom. There is constant activity and stimulation and, because of this, energies will tend to go from one thing to another to maintain the sense of new excitement.
Gemini represents diversity, communication, cleverness, inquisitiveness, wit, and the idea of being scintillating. The cerebral element is dominant in this influence.
The Sun is in Gemini from approximately May 21 to June 21. Bob Hope, John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Paul McCartney, and Donald Trump have the Sun in Gemini.
Cancer's symbol depicts the breasts. This is a very easy symbol to remember both in its drawing and in its life manifestation. Simply think of a child suckling at the breasts of its mother, the sense of comfort, security, and satisfaction. Everything is safe and secure at that moment. There is no threat. All is at peace. In addition, the association of Cancer with the crab constellation reveals an archetype with a very protective outer nature that serves to hide a very soft, sensitive core. Cancer represents emotional and home security.
Cancer's ruler is the Moon. The Sun is in Cancer from approximately June 21 to July 21. Nelson Mandela, Bill Cosby, Sylvester Stallone, and Harrison Ford have the Sun in Cancer.
The symbol for Leo, "The Lion," has two different meanings traditionally. We can see it as the tail of an aroused lion or as the symbol of the heart and its two valves.
Leo is ruled by the most radiant body in our Solar System, the Sun. Just as the Sun is the central dynamo of the zodiac, Leo energy commands the center stage position in life. It is a strong, domineering, prideful, vain, creative influence with a central requirement for recognition, respect, love, and honor. There is a command for ego triumph found in Leo. It is the archetype of the king.
The Sun is in Leo from approximately July 21 to August 23. Mae West, Bill Clinton, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Basil Fearrington have the Sun in Leo.
Virgo is misleadingly given the name "Virgin." This naturally leads the mind into thoughts connected with sexual inexperience. The virginity associated with Virgo actually relates to discernment, to the idealism of choice. Think of a woman cutting down virgin wheat stalks with a scythe. This harvesting must be done at the right time in the right way! This idea of waiting for just the right time and being exacting in technique tells the story about the Virgo archetype. There is the sense of worried patience within Virgo.
In addition, the symbol for Virgo may be seen to depict the intestines, the long tubing inside our abdomen where food is managed.
The Virgo archetype reflects refinement, fastidiousness, discrimination, being exact, the cerebral nature, the practical and correct. Virgo's ruler is Mercury. (Yes, Mercury rules two Signs: Gemini and Virgo).
The Sun is in Virgo from approximately August 23 to September 21. Mother Teresa, Yassar Arafat, David Copperfield, and Michael Jackson have the Sun in Virgo.
The symbol for Libra shows two halves of one unit, signifying Libra's zodiacal reign over partnership and marriage. In addition, the symbol shows a setting Sun balanced between day and night, the operative word being "balanced." Ruled by Venus (which also rules Taurus), Libra is the sign of balance, fairness, justice, and popularity. Where Aries seeks ego recognition on its own, Libra seeks to gain ego recognition through the societal reflection by others. Picture the attractive host or hostess who greets and seats you at a restaurant -- she gains satisfaction by pleasing you and hearing your appreciation.
The Libra archetype is to please and gain appreciation socially, to be popular, fair, and attractive.
The Sun is in Libra from September 23 to October 22. Mahatma Gandhi, Charlton Heston, Julie Andrews, and Michael Douglas, have the Sun in Libra.
The symbol for Scorpio is easily confused with the symbol for Virgo. The important distinction between the two is that the Scorpio symbol has a pointed tail on it to show the Scorpion's sting. This is a deeply complex, emotional archetype that runs the gamut from being extremely emotional and passionate to soaring the high realms of mystery, to being inspired by spirituality and religion. Symbolically, Scorpio can soar as high and free as an eagle or dove, or crawl as low and threateningly as a scorpion.
Like its opposite Sign, Taurus, Scorpio is very fixed and structured. Its strong link with passion has given Scorpio the zodiacal archetype that is most connected with sexuality. It is a very passionate, unyielding, strong area of the zodiac that is quite capable of harboring grudges, being revengeful, spiteful, and sarcastic.
The Scorpio archetype represents control by knowing about things; getting to the bottom of things, plumbing the depths in order to reach the heights; to be regarded as deep and significant, self-sufficient and right.
Scorpio is ruled by Pluto (with Mars as its co-ruler). The Sun is in Scorpio generally from October 21 to November 21. Picasso, Billy Graham, Richard Burton, Larry King, and Charles Manson have the in Sun in Scorpio.
The traditional symbol for the Sagittarius constellation depicts an arrow being shot from its bow by a centaur. You will gain a great feeling for the Sagittarian archetype by focusing on the arrow as it thrusts through the air. What would its thoughts be as it looked through the sky and at the ground below it? Wouldn't there be questions about the universe, about life itself? Wouldn't there be the most ultimate feeling of freedom? Definitely!
Sagittarius is connected with a strong thrust of thought -- often idealistic -- an outpouring of ideas in an enthusiastic, to-the-point manner that is often seen by others as impulsive, even brusque. It is an outdoors archetype (remember the joy of that arrow is it soars through the air unimpeded). It is the Sign of physical exercise. There is a strong concern for justice in Sagittarius, the need to assert oneself in matters of justice in order to make things right. This is a bold, fiery, enthusiastic, optimistic, and idealistic archetype.
Ruled by Jupiter, the Sagittarius archetype shows arch opinionation, self-assertion, knowing what is right; affecting thought.
The Sun is in Sagittarius from approximately November 21 to December 21. Charles de Gaulle, Alexander Solzhenitzen, Tina Turner, Kirk Douglas, and Frank Sinatra have the Sun in Sagittarius.
The Capricorn symbol is the most difficult to learn to draw. It takes practice. Formulate in your mind the sense of a knee: the organization of the lines will begin to make sense. Why the knees? What is the association? The Capricorn archetype is essentially connected with affecting progress and making things happen. When one's knees are bad, mobility and advancement are impeded. Additionally, the knees can be strategic weapons.
Ruled by Saturn, Capricorn is a Sign of leadership, ambition, practicality, and patience. In personality, there is frequently a strong projection of austerity that is almost ministerial in manifestation. Practicality, punctuality, and efficiency are prized attributes and concerns connected with Capricorn. It is the Sign of the do-or-die leader or hard-working business person.
The Capricorn archetype is connected with making things happen; organization, strategy, and deployment of resources; ambition, responsibility, and finality.
The Sun is in Capricorn from approximately December 21 to January 20. Konrad Adenauer, Mao Tse-tung, Anwar Sadat, Richard Nixon, Anthony Hopkins, and Noel Tyl have the Sun in Capricorn.
Aquarius is called "The Water Bearer." This is the name given to this Sign from the constellation in which it was formerly found. It is unfortunately misleading, since Aquarius has nothing at all to do with the water element in astrology. The "water bearer" is simply pouring new ideas, innovation, inspiration, and concepts into a stream of influence upon the world, in the name of social progress and humanitarianism.
Ruled by Uranus (co-ruled by Saturn), Aquarius, like Sagittarius, is very freedom-oriented. It symbolizes a highly social, humanitarian influence that is quite detached in its nature, can be given to strong doses of eccentricism, and is better focused with groups of people in an impersonal manner than in one-on-one situations. It is a very group-oriented Sign, very comfortable with friends, especially like-minded friends in groups or clubs. Aquarius is very interested in reaching out to help others. The Aquarian archetype is connected with innovation, uniqueness, the social view, and humanitarian thrust.
The Sun is in Aquarius from approximately January 21 to February 19. Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Boris Yeltsin, and Oprah Winfrey have the Sun in Aquarius.
The symbol for Pisces shows two fish (also looking like two lunar crescents), back to back, swimming in opposite directions, both joined by a horizon line of earthly experience. That there are two fish suggests the inherent duality of the Sign. Swimming in opposite directions in water suggests emotional confusion, the importance of finding one's way in the higher realms. If you view the symbol as two crescent moons, joined by a horizon line of earthly experience, there is the idea of Pisces bringing deep, subconscious sensitivity down to earth, joining consciousness with the subconscious.
Ruled by Neptune (co-ruled by Jupiter), Pisces is a deeply empathic, compassionate, emotional, idealistic, and sensitive archetype. It feels things strongly, easily taking on a martyr complex when feelings have been badly hurt or as an emotional strategy. Pisces also includes strong dimensions of spirituality and artistic creativity within its archetype.
Pisces represents feelings, understanding, compassion, and empathy with the ideal; working with the intangible.
The Sun is in Pisces from approximately February 19 to March 20. Mozart, Michelangelo, Edgar Cayce, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Elizabeth Taylor have the Sun in Pisces.
Although there are twelve Signs, they are actually six sets of two each. It is extremely helpful and of essential necessity that you learn them as pairs of opposites as well:
(Aries/Libra; Taurus/Scorpio; Gemini/Sagittarius; Cancer/Capricorn; Leo/Aquarius; Virgo/Pisces).
This article was excerpted from the book "The New Way to Learn Astrology", ©1999, by Basil Fearrington.
About The Author
BASIL FEARRINGTON began studying astrology at the age of thirteen. He began practicing astrology professionally in 1980, and his articles on astrology have appeared in numerous astrological magazines. In addition to his work in astrology, Basil has also been a full-time musician, touring, recording, or playing with performers such as Roberta Flack, George Benson, Stevie Wonder, and many others.