I never wanted my blog to be an encyclopedia of symbols. First of all, I am not an expert and encyclopedias are written by experts. But more importantly, I think talking about symbols should rather resemble telling stories, showing images, letting the symbols shimmer and glitter, like, well, stars. I have been struggling with tags, categories and a general lack of neatness. But I have decided to find an orientation mark, the one symbol that would guide my wandering bark through the symbolic deep seas. The choice was not hard because the eight-point star is a symbol that strikes me at the core level. I shall try to delineate its possible meanings in short chapters, trying to be systematic if only for once.
I. The eight-pointed star of Ishtar
For the Sumerians the eight point star (the octagram) represented the goddess Inanna (Ishtar in Babylon). Eight years is also the length of a full cycle of Venus in relation to the Sun with all her morning and evening star curves. Venus, the Lightbringer, is much brighter than any other planet visible in the sky. It does look like a star. It has a huge reflecting ability, reflecting as much as 70% of sunlight striking it. I was born at the time when Venus was the evening star, a few weeks before it achieves maximum distance from the Sun. Symbolically, it is connected with the need to “integrate large bodies of knowledge and experience into important theories and systems of philosophy, science and religion.” (Michael R. Meyer). The evening star feels best in the depths of the collective unconscious and dealing with large, collective and universal system of ideas. I could certainly integrate this into my mission statement. Ishtar and Inanna were associated with the planet Venus and the Sacred Feminine. The name Ishtar may have been derived from the Sanskrit ush, meaning “fire,” but also east, dawn, creation and fertility. All of this information comes from a wonderful book, Conversations with the Planets by Anthony Aveni.
Star of Ishtar
The picture below, which I chose as my blog image is connected to my natal chart, where Venus resides in the twelfth house. The image comes from the incredibly mysterious Margate Shell Grotto in Kent. Its walls are covered in mosaics created of seashells. What I find unbelievable is that scientists have been unable to determine the age of this creation. Also its purpose is unknown, so we are just left with the haunting beauty of its meandering passageway and the mysterious large rectangular room. The twelfth house in astrology is associated with Neptune and his watery realm, the collective unconscious, mysticism, all things eternal, including symbols and images. I connect with the image of the eight-pointed star made of seashells because it unites the Venus archetype with her twelfth house placement.
The cave is also quite an important symbol for me. For Jung it signified the spiritual centre and the security and the impregnability of the unconscious. They are wombs where archetypes are born, the most famous being the one in Lascaux with Paleolithic images that are over 17,000 years old.
Photos of Margate Shell Grotto
II. The Symbolism of Number Eight
In his Dictionary of Symbols Cirlot writes that the octonary is a stage between a square and a circle, i.e. between the earthly plane symbolized by the square and the eternal order symbolized by the circle. This makes number eight symbolic of regeneration because regeneration can only happen through the vitalizing power of symbols and archetypes. Interestingly, in the Middle Ages number eight symbolized the waters of baptism. Eight is also the lemniscate, the infinity symbol. Perhaps surprisingly, it is also associated with the caduceus, a wand with two serpents twined around it. It is a symbol of balanced duality, “emphasizing the supreme state of strength and self-control (and consequently health) which can be achieved both on the lower plane of the instincts (symbolized by the serpents) and on the higher level of the spirit (symbolized by the wings).” (Cirlot)
In Kabbalah eight is linked to Hod, the eighth Sefira. Its keywords are splendor, thoughts, communication and absolute intelligence. It was striking to me to find out that the magical image associated with this sefira is Hermaphrodite, the child of Hermes and Aphrodite, the god of communication and the goddess of beauty. Also, it is a powerful alchemical symbol of the integration of opposites. I have recently been contacted by a reader of this blog, who kindly pointed out to me that we should distinguish between “Hermaphrodite” and “Androgyn.” In Hermaphrodite, two entities are combined in duality while Androgyn is one entity in unity. I believe the number eight resonated strongly with Hermaphrodite and the theme of duality. Even the image of number eight is suggestive of that.
The Hermaphrodite in alchemy
In numerology, my soul number is eight. In the great book, The Life You Were Born to Live: A Guide to Finding Your Life Purpose, Dan Millman associates number eight with abundance and power. “Individuals working 8 as their life purpose are here to work with abundance, power, and recognition, and to apply their success in the service of the common good.” I believe number eight cannot have any success unless he or she works for the common good. “At the highest level, 8s feel the inherent abundance of life, of nature, of Spirit, and feel moved to share with others, whom they see as family. Their sense of power or control changes to grateful and loving surrender to a higher authority and higher power as manifested in the intricate intelligence and web of life as it unfolds.” These powerful words resonate deeply with me.
I could continue my analysis by focusing on the trigrams of the I-Ching or the incredible significance the eight-point star carries in Islam. Also the Pagan Wheel of the Year has eight elements, celebrating the cyclic order of the universe.
Khatim, the eight-point star of Islam
The Pagan Wheel of the Year
In essence, number eight and the eight-point star symbolize the eternal intelligent order that underlies the manifest reality. It shows harmony and interconnectedness lying at the heart of all creation, and it is a symbol of the wisdom of the cycles. It encompasses learning and beauty and hopefully will give me the strength and power to share them with this community of readers.