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The Llewellyn Journal
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Interpreting Images of the Zodiac

This article was written by Blain Bovee
posted under Astrology

Everyone has had dreams of this sort: wandering through a familiar house, when a doorway, previously unnoticed, appears at the end of a hall or in the corner of a room. The door leads to a larger room, both strangely familiar and unknown. One becomes aware of the presence of a large gathering of ancient souls who seem to be waiting patiently. It is tacitly clear that one is in that room to commune with a collective and profound source of wisdom.

When I was urged to write a new book of interpretations for the Sabian symbols, I was excited at the prospect of getting into the symbols in a much deeper, more personal way. In 1925, Marc Edmund Jones, a wordsmith and noted astrologer, and Elsie Wheeler, a woman with extraordinary psychic capacities, sat together in Balboa Park, San Diego, divining the 360 symbols for each degree of the Zodiac. Known as the Sabian symbols, these word images have become extremely popular in astrological analysis and divinatory practice. Jones and Wheeler were communing with a collective wisdom thought to emanate from the archaic roots of Mesopotamia, associated with the dignified peoples of that time known as the “Star Gazers”—the Sabians.

The analogy of a secret room revealed is a fitting one for the Sabian symbols and astrological analysis. Planetary archetypes have styles of manifestation. Mars in Capricorn, for example, suggests a need to manifest with control, to administrate progress with decisive, yet cautious aplomb. When Mars is in the 24th degree of Capricorn, its manifestation is conditioned by the Sabian Symbol, “A woman entering a convent.” Consequently, the Mars energy may well be colored with choices about withdrawing from the fray in the way one might withdraw from the busy world by entering a convent or a retreat, as opposed to entering the fray in a typical Martian manner. The opposing symbol is 24 Cancer, “A woman and two men on a bit of sunlit land facing south.” This suggests a possible need to work through relationship threesomes, or the need to clearly contemplate one’s role in triangulated relationship dynamics. In this example, the usual dependable interpretation of a Mars placement is embellished with a crucial clue: assertive Mars may well choose to withdraw rather than fight.

The Sabian Symbols & Astrological Analysis turns on two fundamental points of creative integrity. First, I have adhered to the original words, as set down by Jones on the blank note cards in Balboa Park. Second, I have returned to the interplay between opposing degree symbols, as originally conceived by him.

Most published works on the Sabian symbols have taken liberties with how the originals read, changing words with alarming bravado. Long practitioners of the Sabian Symbols often work with completely different versions of any given symbol. However, sometimes the interpretations do not reflect the original symbolism.

Making use of the opposing degree symbols as a means to amplify the sense of the Sabian symbols is something I explore, but was not originally taken into account by Marc Edmund Jones. I invite the reader to explore the symbol oppositions by weaving them into a single entry. Much bewilderment is dispelled in this manner, for often a particular symbol does not seem to resonate until the opposing degree is considered.

My wish is that readers appreciate the tremendous poetic resource the Sabian symbols offer. Each image complex describes a scene calling images and suggestive word connections to mind. In this sense, the Sabian symbols go far beyond astrological application. Like the ancient Chinese classic of time and change, the I Ching, the Sabian symbols offer a poetic touchstone of archaic wisdom. There are discernible structures within the 360-degree images suggesting, once again like the I Ching, an inexhaustible source of wisdom, research, and exploration.

As a resource book, the tendency will be to flip to specific symbols of personal interest. But I have arranged the Sabian symbols in an ordered, sequential manner. I hope readers will take the time to read a series of symbols together and marvel at the motifs woven throughout.

The beauty and wisdom of the Sabian symbols is available to all. A simple attitude of openness and sincerity is all that is required. Then, like the dream analogy, the Sabian symbols are like rich, vast rooms that open up beyond the standard planetary and point placements. For those familiar with the Sabian symbols, this book will open some new insights and discoveries in a manner consistent with Marc Edmund Jones’ original insights. For those new to the Sabian symbols, enjoy the fascinating journey into this most amazing gift to the modern world.


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