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.”
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.”
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. “
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.”
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.
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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