A Primer of Stellar Astrology
Introducing the Real-Sky Zodiac and StarBase
Chapter 3: Visions on the Rimsite
Needless to say, I was pretty thrilled to have resolved these formatting problems. After almost a decade working in astrology, and six years struggling to retrieve the constellations, I was going to be able see how a horoscope looked when it was converted to show the sun, moon, and planets where they actually stood in the visible constellations, rather than in the invisible, starless signs.
Needless to say, as well, that I didn't have the faintest idea of what all this would mean. I had arrived at the point of converting the horoscope to Star Base, but I had not way to interpret Star Base! It was a pretty suspenseful moment, I can tell you that.
Fortunately, I had my studies in comparative mythology to guide me into the glittering realm of the constellations. I knew that a great many myths and legends are associated with the stars. This vast body of lore is called sidereal mythology, as already noted. It is the subject of Allen's book, Star Names. I had been immersed in Frazer, Jung, Campbell, and Eliade for years, delving into a wide range of myths and mythological plots. I wondered if the Jungian archetypes might correlate to the constellations, and if so, so what? In fact, there are not many Jungian archetypes: Self, Shadow, Anima, Animus, Syzygy, Child, Hero, Great Mother, Wise Old Man, Trickster, Puer Eternus, Cosmic Man. For the most part they do not correlate in a clear, straightforward way to the constellations. One exception: Great Mother = Virgin. Possibly, Hero = Snaketamer. Syzygy (a coupling) = Twins? Shadow = Scorpion? Cosmic Man = Watercarrier? These were suggestive cues, at best.
I was working up to do my own horoscope first, converting it to Star Base by placing the Rimsite around the perimeter of the terrascope. I kept accumulating mythological material in anticipation of the moment when I would my fate written in the stars. I was a Maine boy suffering from acute mythomania and I didn't know where to turn for assistance.
During the crucial summer of 1978, I practically slept with two dog-eared paperbacks, volumes one and two of The Greek Myths by Robert Graves. I wondered if this inventory of stories would provide me with clues and cues for decoding the planetary positions in the star zodiac. I knew that the Greek myth of Leda and the swan was associated with the Twins, because she gave birth to two sets of twins, including Castor and Pollux, who are pictured in that constellsion. But what about other Greek myths such as the descent of Orpheus into the Underworld to find his missing lover, Eurydice? Or the myth of Theseus and the minotaur? I guessed that the minotaur in the Cretan labyrinth would be the Bull, but how could I apply such an association to reading a chart for someone with planets in the Bull? Knowing the myths was one thing, fitting it to people's life patterns was another...
What about other well-known Greek myths discussed by Graves, such as the story of the greedy king Midas who wished that all he touched turned to gold, which happened to his beloved daughter when he embraced her? Was this obvious object-lession about greed pictured in the constellations? I kner that a great many Greco-Roman myths were sidereal: Jason and the quest for the Golden Fleece was associated with the Ram? But again, so what? If I found that someone had a lot of planets in the Ram (astrological sign Taurus), would it mean they need to understand this myth and apply it to their lives?
I knew that a great many myths were associated with extra-ecliptic constellations, star patterns located above or below the ecliptic zone. Andromeda and the hero Perseus, for instance, stand above the Bull. What bearing, if any, would these extra-ecliptic constellations have on the mythography of the stellar zodiac? Also, I knew from reading Allen that sidereal myth was cross-cultural, encompassing far more than Greco-Roman inventory of the European tradition. I was intensely interested in myths from India, Polynesia, Mexico, and Japan. Could the myth of Quetzalcoatl be reflected in the stellar zodiac, or correlated to one particular constellation? Could the Polynesian myth of the vine maiden Hainuwele match any of the zodical constellations? Clearly, I had a lot of sorting out to do.
Creating the Rimsite
I also had a lot of mapwork to do. My method was three-in-one: observe the skies to learn the form and gestures of the visible constellations, mapping the star patterns on a round format, and contemplate the myths associated with the stellar zodiac. The mapping process was elaborate and time-intensive. As explained in the previous chapter, I needed to have the ecliptic constellations in a round format to fit around the perimeter of the horoscope, allowing me to see both tropical and stellar positions simultaneously. Erlewine provided the star longitudes that allowed me to situate the composite stars of the 13 ecliptic constellations in their exact positions on the ecliptic scale. Not all the stars were on the rim, so I had to adjust their positions for real-sky accuracy. I went through many operations to work out the zodiac in the round For example:
I started with a perimeter roughly coresponding to the ecliptic zone, 16 degrees in width, and plotted star positions from a central point, using Erlewine's longitudes. Four massive stars on or near the ecliptic rim serve as landmarks for setting out the entire array: Aldebaran (Al-DEB-aren), Regulus (REG-ul-us). Spica (SPY-kah), and Antares (An-TARE-eeze). Regulus, the heart-star in the Lion is right on the ecliptic, Spica slightly below, and Aldebaran further below. Antares (now shown here) stands at 180 degrees from Aldebaran, in exact opposition. The Antares-Aldebaran axis is a steady feature of the ecliptic zodiac, used from ancient times to determine the overall structure of the zodiac.
Gradually I progressed to more detailed mapping, always within the round format. At time I felt like I was an archeologist reconstructing a stone circle - but this was not Stonehenge, it as Starhenge. Observations of the patterns at night allowed me to adjust the shapes of the signatures to their actual appearances. I also added fine detail, such as the Crab Nebula, the small squiggle just above the tip of the Bull's lower horn, and two globular clusters in the Crab. by necessity, I followed the Greek lettering of stars according to astronomical convention.
At one point, when I was writing articles for an astronomy magazine in the UK, I was provided with a computer-generated model, but I didn't care for how it looked. I continued to work out my own calculations and went through dozens of hand-drawn drafts.
After a couple of years, I felt I was getting the graphics right, even if they did not look as slick and professional as an artist could have made them. I have poor talent in drawing, but I had many prototypes to work from. The most important things in my mind, were, first, getting the graphics to fit the signatures, and second, rendering the images that they give a visual impression comparable to what you actually observe. For instance, the two figures of the Twins clearly stand side by side, with all four legs discernible. They are pointing in different directions, one across and one down. Around their heads, marked by the bright stars Castor and Pollux, there is a kind of flurry of dim stars that give the impression of a jazzy aura or electrical field.
With the sign wheel and calibrated ecliptic scale at the center of my drawings, I gained confidence in converting from signs to constellations, and vice versa. I go to know particular stars in the constellations by their ecliptic degree or sign equivalent. For instance, Vindemiatrix, the star marking the grail cup held by the Virgin, lies at ECL 190 or 10 Libra. Spica, marking the sheaf of wheat in the Virgin's right hand, lies at ECL 204 = 24 Libra. A dim star that marks the very limits of the Virgin's diaphanous gown, Kambhalia (called the Alchemist's Star), lies at ECL 217 = 7 Scorpio. Tropical astrologers discussing sun, moon, or planetary positions in these degrees would be totally oblivious to the stellar connotations. At first, I had no idea what it might mean, say, to have Jupiter at 24 Libra, conjunct Spica in the sheaf of wheat, but I kept the information in the back of my mind -- storing it subliminally, you might say.
Drawing the Crab was one of the most difficult graphic problems of the round. The constellation has no real form, so I decided to emphasize its amorphous, almost gluey quality. I gave it one long claw, like a fiddler crab, extending downward toward the extra-ecliptic constelllation of Canis Minor, and a second, roundish, curled claw, the "hard claw," rather menacing. The boundary between Twins and Crab is extremely vague, as suggested by the merge of the two images.
Another problem I faced was drawing the Fishes is a way that showed the most accurate placement of the VP, vernal point, or spring equinox. In the early draft here, I make the VP under the sid-fin of the Fish or Whale: you will see that 0 on the ecliptic scale is right under that feature. But later I moved the VP more to the rear, under the tailfins. The message is, in the Piscean Age, we have thrust, i.e., the massive momentum of a global collective shift, but no navigation (side-fin)—not yet, anyway. I this way of placing the VP in the graphic representation of the western Whale is a prety good mythopoetic cue. Astronomically, the VP does stand closer to the rearward tail-stars of the composite, than to the forward, fin-stars.
The Thirteenth Constellation
Drawing the thirteenth constellation was the crowning moment of my long artistic experiment with the zodiac. This is Ophiuchus, the Charmer of Serpents, or Snaketamer, the figure that had to be excluded in order to introduce the new paradigm of psyche-cosmos mirroring, using the 12-sector format without stars. Its exclusion signals one of the more devastating turns in the history of our species, a very bad turn, indeed. By a striking coincidence, the starless Ptolemaic zodiac was proposed in 150 AD, the same year that Justin Martyr came out openly and attacked the Gnostics of the Mystery Schools. But this is no coincidence, because the suppression of the Mysteries has everything to do with the loss of the Snaketamer and all he represents: namely, the millennial tradition of indigenous shamanism in Europa, the Levant, and Egypt.
When it finally came to formatting the entire round of thirteen figures, I had to make an artistic decision about which side was up! Many factors went into this decision, far too many to elaborate here. But the principle factor was simple: I chose to put the galactic center uppermost, front and center, in the Rimsite. The direction toward the galactic center, let's recall, is a point near the tip of the Archer's arrow, above the sting of the Scorpion: designated by the oblique black triangle above the Archer's left hand. This puts the Fishes and the VP, 1 degree Aries, at the nine o'clock position, the summer solstice at six o'clock, the autumnal or fall equinox (in the Virgin's face) at three o'clock, and the winter solstice at midnight. Positioning the Rimsite in this way works for precessional timing, and other purposes. It emphasizes the coming of the midnight hour, when the winter solstice aligns exactly with the galactic center, around 2216 CE. It also highlights the largest interactive tableau in the zodiac: the Scale-Scorpion-Snaketamer-Archer scenario. This tableau carries an important lesson for our species, perhaps the decisive lesson: cosmic balance in the symbiotic web of life (Scales) depends on a clear intention of how to use destructive force (Archer) and ..... of our own inner powers (Snaketamer).
The other constellations represent mythic themes and lessons relating to the central problem displayed in this great tableau. The picturing of the Virgin unside down echoes the theme of Andromeda, the Fallen Woman -- hence the Sophianic vision.
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.