Today we’ll dive deeper into the meaning of the constellations – because for those of you interested in astrology, it is not just to be studied from what is found in books, you need to look up to the sky and the stars, have the celestial awareness of how it all relates to one another and to ourselves and our own perspective; have some general understanding of astronomy, as well as mythology and symbology, and how to apply esoteric wisdom and knowledge in deeper and more meaningful ways towards your understanding of the zodiac. In other words: Celestial awareness deepens one’s understanding of astrology.
And not to worry, I’ll try to make this as simple as possible, featuring photos and a video of the nightly sky and constellations using the Stellarium Astrology Software, which you can download for free as well and explore it on your own.
Firstly, what is the zodiac?
The zodiac is a belt-shaped region of our sky that extends approximately 8 degrees north and south of the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun over the course of the year. The orbital paths of the Moon and major planets such as Venus and Mercury, are within that belt of the zodiac also.
In Western astrology, and formerly astronomy (because it all began with astronomy), the zodiac is divided into the following twelve signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Each occupies 30 degrees of celestial longitude and roughly, but not exactly, correspond to the astronomical constellations with that same names. While the zodiac is divided into equal 30 degrees, the astronomical constellations aren’t. So for example, the fixed star Sirius is not part of the Cancer constellation, it is rather part of the Canis Major (also known as the Greater Dog) constellation; and yet in astrology, Sirius is considered to hold the 14th degree of Cancer.
As viewed from the northern polar star Polaris, Earth turns counterclockwise. To visualize it more clearly, here is a video of how it all turns and moves in a time lapse through the months.
As you can see, and this is a video from the northern hemisphere, the Sun’s path goes through the constellations, and these are the zodiac constellations that you learn about in astrology. Because of the way our Earth rotates in relation to the Sun, the Moon and all the beautiful other planets, the constellations seem to be moving from left to right on the screen, while the Sun following its ecliptic path – which is shown by the red line – moves, as if, from right to left on the screen. Sometimes it is higher above, which is during the summer months, when you can sun bathe for long hours on your terrace with the Sun high, high, above; and then we see it closer to Earth in the northern hemisphere, which is after the autumn equinox, when it doesn’t quite reach the same summer’s height in the sky. At the winter equinox is our shortest day in the northern hemisphere, i.e. longest night, and you can see why in the video – because of the tilt of our Earth, the Sun looks as if it is not rising as highly as it was in the summer, so our days are shorter.
The Zodiac Constellations
And now here is a snap photo of the nightly sky to see where the constellations are more clearly, and how they relate to one another.
When you look at the nightly sky with your naked eyes, the brightest star you’ll usually first see is Sirius. Her name is derived from Greek word Σείριος, meaning glowing. Sirius, which you can see in the photo above on your bottom right, is the brightest star in our nightly sky, and along with the three stars of the Orion constellation, which are easily recognized and very bright also, together they often serve as navigation, or at least, your beginning point to then see the direction and position of the other constellations.
Some of the stars are brighter, others not as much, but they too can be seen with the naked eye if skies are clear and you are away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.
For example, the constellation of Cancer is between Leo and Gemini – but it seems dimmer to our naked eye. So the way to know its location would be to remember that it is found somewhere mid point between the mouth of the lion and the two bright stars of Gemini – Pollux and Castor. In the video above, you would see that the Sun actually passes right through the heart of the Cancer constellation – where you’ll find a tiny but absolutely stunning nebulous cluster, known as the Beehive cluster. We’ll talk about it further below because it is full of esoteric wisdom, which will help you understand the essence of this constellation more deeply.
Image Credit: Till Credner – Own work/ Visual Constellations, a photographic field guide, CC BY-SA 4.0
And here is a beautiful image by Tim Credner, showing the zodiac constellations. You might find that they don’t necessarily look like the other photo from Stellarium, and that’s because the lines you see are just those connecting some of the stars in those constellations. But sometimes people choose to outline more stars within that constellation, so that’s why the outlined shape may differ.
For example, you can see the Virgo constellation in this photo versus the one I shared from Stellarium – and you’ll notice how when we outline more stars, you see the Stellarium image looking more like a woman lying on her back. That’s because we are just zooming into more stars and connecting them together.
The Message of the Stars
Literalism has no place within spirituality. When one reads sacred text, such as the Bible, one will find that a lot of it is written in parables and metaphor. Wisdom protects itself; and to understand the meaning of these ancient wisdoms, you need to go beyond the words, beyond the literal meanings, and open the eyes of the heart. Otherwise, you cannot perceive nor understand the essence. Jesus Christ told the most scholarly, those who knew the Bible word by word, and those who were very educated that “you have eyes but cannot see, you have ears but cannot hear, because your hearts don’t understand”. Many people take words from the Bible, or any other sacred text, literally, and so they rob themselves of the opportunity for a deepening. But the more into awareness you come, the more you’ll see, the more you’ll understand the worlds within words – because worlds will open within you. It’s like a window: how can we see the clarity of sky, if the windows aren’t clear?
In astrology, many people seek to study the literal meanings, but this would only limit them. There is language in the stars that goes beyond “meanings”. There is a language in the stars that longs to be understood by you. It is not about natal Moon is Gemini or 5th house; it is about what is the language of it, what is it telling you, what is the deeper meaning? So now let me take you on a celestial story tour through three of the constellations we’ll discuss today: Virgo, Cancer and Gemini. Why these three? You’ll find out. Hint: Because it’s Christmas soon.
The Virgo constellation was often described by the ancients as a woman lying on her back, as she moves through the starry skies, with her legs elevated or raised and separated. This was interpreted in esoteric wisdom as a woman giving birth, or in some myths as having sex; and in Christain mysticism, as the Virgin Mary giving birth, which is why many people think that this was one of the main constellations that the three Magi saw on their path to the Christ child.
So for example, and I shared this in the fertility and astrology article, when I have clients who ask for conception possibilities, and I see Virgo Moons, I often tell them not to fear this at all – because unfortunately a lot of astrologers, who are just not qualified at all, may tell someone that Virgo Moons aren’t very fertile. But then I show my clients the sky – how can this constellation be barren? Look at that woman giving birth. Virgo energy is all about being of service to others, and there is nothing to fear, because see how many women have Virgo Moon and have children in their life.
But, and that’s a big but, notice what she is doing. From our Earth’s perspective she is looking up – not towards the earthly materialist and logic or rational understandings, she is looking up towards that which cannot be proven nor rationalized nor bound. She is in full trust – opened like prayer, in trust and surrender and acceptance. She doesn’t sit there and criticise, nor judge – she lays there on her back, almost freed to be held in the cosmos’ embrace, in the hands of God.
The higher spiritual lessons of Virgo relate to acceptance, surrender and humility. It is understanding that everything in this world has been created already and what we have to do is accept it. Virgo will be able to awaken their own higher self when they realize that there is perfection in the world as it is.
If you look to the left of the Virgo constellation, and what is “birthed” from between the stars of legs, you will see the constellation Ophiuchus.
For those of you who don’t know, Ophiuchus was a constellation that some wanted to be considered as the 13th zodiac. What’s interesting about Ophiuchus is that it looks like a person whose one foot lands in the Milky Way, from what you may see in the sky, and this same foot is actually part of the Sun’s path of the ecliptic. So technically, the Sun does pass through its foot.
Some astrotheologians believe that this is the constellation of Jesus Christ, or he who is born eternal and immortal from the Virgin (Virgo).
All of us as human beings carry our own personalities – we are a mixture of many things, all inclusive, talents and skills and emotions – and not confined to a box. We can be great mathematicians, while also being poets, etc. In a society where authenticity has never been truly supported, non-authenticity and box living is what is supported – but we are not boxes.
According to psychologists, little children wake up in the middle of the night to go into their parent’s bedroom – not to see whether the parents are there, but to see whether they themselves are there. The repeatedness of this assures them of their existence. And this is how it all forms and shapes. We are born, and then begin shaping and forming – ideas, understandings, thoughts, patterns etc. many of which are seen through our natal charts. Our natal charts are essentially a travel of the stars through time – of all that has passed and been eaten by time in the cosmos.
And yet, somewhere within all of that is the starry tiny foot of Ophiuchus – our divine nature, which is immortal and eternal, and while it isn’t part of the “seen or accepted zodiac”, it is nonetheless a part of us. Jesus Christ is the part of us that is divine, and when we connect to that true authentic part of us – which is compassion, curiosity, love, kindness, patience, playfulness and generosity – we awaken that part of us, we light it up, and we remember who we truly are. This is that point of union. And it is a union within the church of skin, within the home of our heart.
This may not come easily – because if you notice in the Virgo constellation, the woman has what seems like a raised hand, or a piercing arrow, through her. So there will be some hurt or pain when we realize the parts of us that no longer are, and when our eyes open and hearts awaken. There will be some sacrifice of the old ideas that no longer serve us; because once we see we can’t unsee. Disillusionment is hard and can be painful, but love can only begin after the disillusionment. Do not fear. Serve truth not man, always. Know thyself, always. And knowing thyself, essentially means, knowing your true nature and divine nature and seed within.
Do I personally believe that Ophiuchus should be part of the zodiac? Well, no, I don’t. Because I think that’s precisely the point of it – to keep some things unknown, to keep space for the mysteries of life. To keep some pages of our books unwritten, so that God breathes there, so that miracles can happen, suprise us and enchant us. So that we remain humble and grounded in the humility that as human beings we’ll never know it all. Because we were never meant to know it all anyway. I feel that the humility of this deserves to be treasured.
To speak of the love within, the true self, the home of the heart, we need to now speak of the zodiac of Cancer. The human heart has two chambers: one receives blood, and the other pumps out blood. This is how we are alive.
In our natal charts, the 4th house and the energy of Cancer represent the high heart which is connected to receiving, love and nurturing; and the 5th house and the energy of Leo represent the second chamber of the heart which is about expressing our heart’s joy through creativity.
The first things to know about the constellation of Cancer is that it is a dimmer one in the sky. To find it, you need to look for it somewhere mid point between the mouth of the lion from the Leo constellation and the bright stars of Pollux and Castor from the Gemini constellation.
As it is dimmer, we now know we are entering a quieter part of our sky – one that is private, sensitive and internal. We are entering a lover’s intimate moody cocoon. And tucked into its center, which is known as this constellation’s breast or heart, is the open nebulous cluster called the Beehive cluster, also known as Praesepe.
One of the nearest open clusters to Earth, the Beehive cluster contains a larger population of stars than other nearby bright open clusters holding around 1,000 stars. Under dark skies, it looks like a small nebulous object to the naked eye, and has been known since ancient times by famous astronomers such as Ptolemy.
me and the bees
Ancient Greeks and Romans saw the Beehive cluster as a manger from which two donkeys, the adjacent stars Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis, are eating. And as such, this too was believed to be one of the main star constellations that guided the path of the Magi towards the Christ child.
The Sun passes through the Cancer constellation right through the Beehive cluster, which makes it really significant and important to understand symbolically. Bees symbolize divinity, rejuvenation, and the mysteries of the natural world – they are about healing, magic, community, home, support.
They’re viewed as divine messengers in folklore, navigating between the physical and spiritual realms, and are associated with life’s sweetness and virtue in religious contexts. In many cultures and traditions, such as in Hinduism, bees are often associated with gods. The gods Vishnu, Krishna and Indra were called Madhava – the nectar born ones and their symbol is the bee.
Early Christians carved beehives on tombs as a symbol of the immortality brought by Jesus’s Resurrection. Honey is referenced in the Bible over sixty times and is usually synonymous with purity and abundance. Bees embody desirable human characteristics, symbolize Christ for Christians, and provide honey, a common food in ancient civilizations that represents pleasure, sweetness, truth, and knowledge.
What this all reminds us is that it is important to nurture ourselves, but we need to receive this nurturing first from our mothers and early childhood upbringing. The home environment is one of the most important aspects of the health and wellbeing of the energy of Cancer – and so, if you are born of Cancer Sun or Moon, you need to have your home feel calm, and you need to be supported by others.
You also need stability in life. You carry that seed of God, the seed of love, within you, and you need to nurture it into becoming a flower, a beautiful garden from which all others would then be nurtured, and the animals and humans will be nurtured as well. You are the mother of the zodiac – and you carry this honey in your heart. You have a lot to give to others, but you need the support also; because in many ways, you may often carry too much in your heart and feel burdened – because you just love people so much. You love them so much it hurts. You carry within yourself their worries, tears, everything – so you need to find your own home within also where you too can have some honey. Nurture yourself, and do not put yourself last.
The Sun on its path passes right through the Beehive cluster of the Cancer constellation, and this tells a story for humanity, and the human heart. It is story for community – for supporting and helping one another. And it is a story for nurturing – as only when we nourish that honey within our hearts and souls, we can feed the donkeys in the manger, and feed the lion’s mouth, of both of which beautiful things will become.
And the last constellation we’ll discuss today is Gemini. This one is easier to see with the naked eye because it features two of the brightest stars Pollux and Castor. The myth goes that Zeus was yet again enchanted by a mortal woman, and wanted to have her, and he did. But she didn’t want to get into trouble with her husband, in the case of an unexpected pregnancy, so she slept with her husband that night also. Two sons were born, twins: One was mortal, Castor, and the other was immortal, as the son of Zeus, and was called Pollux.
In the sky, the immortal twin Pollux is the brighter one; while his twin brother Castor is dimmer in comparison. The story goes that unfortunately Castor died, and Pollux was completely heartbroken, so he pleaded to Zeus. Pollux asked his father to let him share his own immortality with his twin to keep them together, and this is how they became and were transformed into the constellation Gemini.
For those of you into esotericism, you might have heard Jesus been referred to sometimes as the “Divine Twin”. He is the part of us that is the higher self, the immortal and eternal. He is the part of us that is compassion, curiosity, calmness, loving, generous, patient, kind – and this is the season to remember ourselves and recover our true self.
When we can truly remember these virtues, and these deeper truths that do reside still within us, along our unique physical, emotional and spiritual inner wildlands, we remember our humane-ness also. Because there is so much greed in this world, so much selfishness, and it is hard not to harden up our hearts. How many people do we every have in our life who would share of themselves for us? How many people know how to give to us and help us and support us in the way we need to, rather than in how they want to or only when it’s convenient of them to do so?
Pollux is brighter, because he knows and reminds us of what it means to give of ourselves for another. It reminds us of the Divine Twin. It reminds us to never forget it. Because if we can see it, in the starry skies at night, it is still there, it will always be, even when we forget to look up.
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In text images and video from the Stellarium Astrology Software, which you can download yourself through their website stellarium.org
Cover photograph by Free Nature Stock on Unsplash.
Nativity scene photograph by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash.