Images of the Zodiac: Contemplating Sagittarius

Image

Johfra Bosschart, Sagittarius

1.“The right art,” cried the Master, “is purposeless, aimless! The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede. What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will. You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.”

Eugen Herrigel, “Zen in the Art of Archery”

2. “You are an explorer, and you represent our species, and the greatest good you can do is to bring back a new idea, because our world is endangered by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness.”

Terence McKenna

3. “One idea lights a thousand candles.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

While I was looking at this image it occurred to me that Johfra’s Sagitarius is an image of the Sacred Masculine in its triple aspect, analogous to the triple goddess. Zeus, the heavenly Father, lights the arrow of the centaur, half-Man, half-Beast, who had reached the stage of initiation as a result of mastering his body and spirit by following instructions of his Master, the Hermit.

The very centre of the image is the horse’s belly, the third chakra ruled by the planet Jupiter, which in turn rules Sagittarius. This is where initiation starts. Alchemy, as Hillman points out, uses the horse’s belly as an image of inner heat, which is appropriate, as Sagittarius is the last of the fire signs.

“Alchemy employs metaphors of fire for the intense concentration needed for soul-making. The heat of the horse’s belly referred to the digestion of events, brooding and incubating, instead of flaming up with martial temper. It is an inward heat, a contained fire.”

James Hillman

Using the language of alchemy, we can say that the centaur is “enveloped and cooked” by the heat of the animal drive within him. The skin of the Ram (Aries being the first fire sign) hangs on his arm, which might suggest that he has mastered his ego drives.

The wise centaur Chiron was the creature that recognized the wisdom and sacredness of Mother Earth – the sacred matter. The mount Pelion, where he resided in a cave, abounded in healing herbs and lush greenery. Johfra once again showed his amazing symbolic talent here. He did not know that the esoteric ruler of Sagittarius is the Earth, but the painting he created shows that deep down he sensed it. If you look carefully at the image, you will notice a number of nymphs near the water and on the grass. The ancients believed the world was populated by graceful Nymphs (nubile women), who lived in the sea, the mountains, caves, trees, streams, rivers, glens and groves. Zeus, the ruler of Sagittarius, was particularly fond of them, to his wife Hera’s chagrin. Eurynome, an Oceanid, bore him the three Charites (Graces), who embodied the spirit of charity and joy (the Greek hairein meant “to rejoice,” as Liz Greene points out). With the Titan Themis he had the Horai: Eunomia (lawful order), Dike (just retribution) and Eirene (peace). Thus the sign Sagittarius is connected with the realm of justice as an alternative to revenge. The name Zeus or djeus meant “the light of heaven,” which links the sign with organized religion and the eternal spirit:

“When he emerges as the victorious king of the gods, overthrowing the rule of the earthy Titans and establishing his own heavenly domain, he reflects the emergence into collective consciousness of a spiritual principle which is greater than Moira. It is therefore appropriate that Sagittarius should follow Scorpio, for Zeus embodies that which belongs to the eternal spirit rather than the mortal flesh. “

Liz Greene

The essence of Sagittarius is transcendence of the world of form, but in pursuit of this goal Sagittarians often find themselves trapped by the flesh. As a god, Zeus did not have to suffer “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” unlike the centaur Chiron of the constellation of Sagittarius, who was not an Olympian but a son of the earth. Lower centaurs, less evolved than Chiron, spent their lives just drinking and satisfying their carnal desires. Chiron, however, was a wise healer, scholar and prophet. He was a tutor to Greek heroes, who tragically suffered an accidental mortal wound by Heracles’ arrow dipped in Hydra’s poison. The arrow symbolism is central to the sign of Sagittarius (“sagitta” means “an arrow” in Latin). In Chiron’s myth, the arrow is an instrument of fate and bounds the hero to the suffering endemic to flesh and blood.

“The wound lies in the animal aspect of the Centaur, and is in the leg – that which we must stand on, or take our stand, in the material world. … it is the suffering of the animal in man, which cannot fly so high, which is mute, and which is bound to the laws of nature…. The wound points upward to Zeus and the eternal life of the spirit; and it also points down to the equally divine life of the body which must bear such a fiery soul and suffers accordingly.”

Liz Greene

But the arrow also comprises a lofty, spiritual symbolic meaning. Direction, force, movement and power all partake in its rich symbolism. The arrow pierces a distant, unseen target symbolizing “a single-pointed wisdom of penetrating awareness,” as Coomaraswamy puts it. It is important to remember, as the same author points out, that “the reed of which the arrow is made is produced by the earth fertilized by the rains from above.” In the evolved Sagittarius the above meets the below. The archer’s concentration starts from the belly, and the correct, properly balanced posture means everything. “If all the preparations have been made correctly, the arrow, like a homing bird, will find its own goal,” says Coomaraswamy. Herrigel expresses a very similar thought of a Zen master:

“You can learn from an ordinary bamboo leaf what ought to happen. It bends lower and lower under the weight of snow. Suddenly the snow slips to the ground without the leaf having stirred. Stay like that at the point of highest tension until the shot falls from you. So, indeed, it is: when the tension is fulfilled, the shot must fall, it must fall from the archer like snow from a bamboo leaf, before he even thinks it. “

Sagittarians are always in pursuit of truth, but that pursuit is inevitably linked with illusion and distortion, the inalienable shadow side of truth. Not every master out there is like Chiron or a true Zen master, who encourages the apprentice to live the truth, experience the truth, and not only believe it. The bow, when it is drawn properly, encloses the All, the totality, what Rudhyar called the “organic synthesis.” The sign Sagittarius is connected with culture and civilization, propagated by the process of symbolization. Rudhyar summarizes it beautifully:

“Sagittarius, being a Fire sign, is a transforming energy. Being also a mutable sign…, it is energy moving in a spiraling rhythm. Indeed, Civilization develops as a spiral, through the activities of individuals whose creative destiny repeats itself according to a definite spirallic process of constant refocalization.”

The focus of the archer keeps changing with the times and according to the dominant archetypal mode of his or her culture. Sagittarius deals in ideas, which are “abstractions and generalizations of experiences.” The domain of Sagittarius are all-encompassing, universal laws; the danger for the sign is losing contact with the concrete reality of facts, which are represented by the sign opposite to it – Gemini. Another danger is becoming a slave to a guru ideology, which is not rooted in direct experience. Ideas can be more deadly weapons than arrows; and when an idea falls on a fertile ground, paradigms shift. “No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come,” as Victor Hugo wrote.

Sources:

Johfra Bosschart, Astrology

Ananda C. Coomaraswamy, ”The Symbolism of Archery” http://www.studiesincomparativereligion.com/public/articles/The_Symbolism_of_Archery-by_Ananda_Coomaraswamy.aspx

Liz Greene, The Astrology of Fate

Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

Dane Rudhyar, The Zodiac as Universal Matrix

Related posts:

https://symbolreader.net/2013/03/23/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-aries/

https://symbolreader.net/2013/04/24/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-taurus/

https://symbolreader.net/2013/05/30/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-gemini/

https://symbolreader.net/2013/06/26/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-cancer/

https://symbolreader.net/2013/08/09/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-leo/

https://symbolreader.net/2013/09/04/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-virgo/

https://symbolreader.net/2013/10/04/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-libra/

https://symbolreader.net/2013/11/18/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-scorpio/

https://symbolreader.net/2014/01/12/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-capricorn/

https://symbolreader.net/2014/02/12/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-aquarius/

https://symbolreader.net/2014/03/02/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-pisces/

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37 Responses to Images of the Zodiac: Contemplating Sagittarius

  1. I very much appreciate the alchemical references in this article… I enjoyed reading it, and you did a wonderful job giving the subject life.

  2. Don says:

    A marvellous post Monika. That quote by Herrigel is simply brilliant. The obsession with defining goals and the need to hit them has always troubled me.

    “But the arrow also comprises a lofty, spiritual symbolic meaning. Direction, force, movement and power are all connected with it. It penetrates a distant, unseen target symbolizing “a single-pointed wisdom of penetrating awareness,” I warm to this – beautifully put.

    • Thank you so much, Don. Of all the Zodiac images, this one is the closest to me and I think or hope that is the one I understand best. I definitely have issues with clear-cut goals but I am happy I have managed to go on with the Zodiac series without a hitch.

  3. “The essence of Sagittarius is transcendence of the world of form but in pursuit of this goal they often find themselves trapped by the flesh. As a god, Zeus did not have to suffer “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” unlike the centaur Chiron of the constellation of Sagittarius, who was not an Olympian but a son of earth…”
    Speaking from a self-development perspective, I wonder whether the difficulty to keep on target with goals is not due to the fact ( my experience,rather 🙂 ) that one is/becomes her/his own target. The process seems iterative due to grandiosity i.e.,lack of self-knowledge: a back and forth between our ideals, our vision readjusted, sooner or later, by the nature of the too ‘terrestrial’ terrain, towards personal evolution and hopefully more…

  4. Oloriel says:

    Just wanted to say I thought this was a fantastic article, I really enjoy reading everything that you put up 😀

  5. Wonderful patchwork quilt of passages,imagery, and metaphor. I practice astrology like a Sag in that I need to live it to really grasp the aspects and transits, not to mention the planetary placements! It is indeed the sensory, earthly experience that can both ground and obscure the purity of the quest.

  6. ptero9 says:

    ” The domain of Sagittarius are all-encompassing, universal laws; the danger for the sign is losing contact with the concrete reality of facts, which are represented by the sign opposite to it – Gemini. Another danger is becoming a slave to a guru ideology, which is not rooted in direct experience. Ideas can be more deadly weapons than arrows; and when an idea falls on a fertile ground, paradigms shift.”

    One of the things that attracts me to astrology is seeing patterns within my life, both within myself and in relationships and in others. I have had many close Sagittarian friends all of my life, and have always felt both a sympathy, curiosity and a resonance to these people. One friend on the 19th and two friends sharing the cusp, December 21, which is also the solstice, and they are two of the most intense and talented people I know, but they also have in common a struggle to realize and share their gifts. I have always been curious about that similarity. I wonder if you have any thoughts about those born on or near a cusp?

    This series on astrology is great Monika. You should consider writing a book, but even if you don’t I am thrilled to read your posts here and they have renewed my interest and deepened my understanding of astrology.

    • Debra, you are so sweet to me. Nothing would make me happier than writing a book. Interesting what you said about Sagittarians having it hard to bring their gifts to the world. Focus may be indeed their life lesson, them being archers. I do not have any illuminating thoughts on those born on the cusp, but I know it is an exclusive system, i.e. you can’t be two signs at the same time. There is, I think, sometimes this quality of weariness connected with having a planet in the last minutes of a sign. I can certainly feel it with my Moon, which is at the very end of Taurus. I am so happy I have managed to renew your interest in astrology.

      • ptero9 says:

        For the Sagittarians I know and love, it’s almost as if their standards are so high they fear and distort the definition of success in themselves and others.

        Maybe it is a weariness, yes I think I can see that and sometimes it seems to cause them to shoot themselves in the foot 🙂

        I do love their intensity and talent though.

        It is also curious how life seems to repeatedly put certain astrological sun signs in your life. For me it Sags, Scorpios, Geminis and Libras.

      • High standards and ideals for sure! That is Sagittarius for you. Very well put.

  7. deanjbaker says:

    interesting to see my sign…

  8. archecotech says:

    Oh, how this resonates with me. Understood it perfectly, Sagittarians are ever evolving creatures looking for the way to bring peace in a every increasingly crazy world. My new mantra, “One idea lights a thousand candles.” Thanks.

  9. stephen says:

    I’ve spent over forty years in love with and in contemplation of symbols, beginning with my first dreams as a child. I just want to say that I find your writing both beautiful and knowledgeable. Your great love for your subject is evident. I’m so glad i found you.

  10. Yep as a Sag I agree with this bit especially “Sagittarians are always in pursuit of truth, but that pursuit is inevitably linked with illusion and distortion, the shadow side of truth.”

  11. Selena says:

    Perfectly illuminating article! Being a Sag I can so agree with the previous comment…”always in pursuit of truth, but that pursuit is inevitably linked with illusion and distortion, the shadow side of truth.”
    And I do appreciate Johfra’s art and seeing it referenced.
    Thank you for a wonderful blog!

  12. There is so much in this posting that grabs my attention with in – depth thought that I visit and revisit to grasp what it is you are saying, referencing, pointing the way toward… Much appreciated!

  13. As a Sagittarius, I may be biased, but I adore this article. My biggest hope is to continue “to live and experience truth, not just believe in it.” Well said my friend!

  14. I just reread this (being a Sagittarius and rather self-interested) and some of it sounded so familiar. Then I saw that I had ‘liked’ it and commented briefly almost a year ago. A still fascinating profile/portrait of a sign. Thank you again!

    • Thanks again! We are of course so much more than our Sun sign. There is the Moon, the Ascendant, the other planets. .. my descriptions are purely archetypal.

      • I find this all quite amazingly thorough. I can barely wrap my mind around the Sun aspect, even as purely archetypal. Or perhaps ‘especially’ as purely archetypal. Once again I have to mention my appreciation for your page.

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