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The Role of Symbols in Astrology

Astrology Symbols and Their Meanings
Astrology Symbols and Their Meanings
Filed Under: Astrology, Knowledge.

Symbols play a significant role in astrology in just the same way that they do in other areas of life. Astrological symbols are of several different kinds, but they all serve as simplified code through which astrological concepts and meanings can be communicated. The use of symbols presents both certain advantages and disadvantages for astrologers, the advantages being:

  1. A Universal Language: Symbols in astrology provide a universal language that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. They enable astrologers from different backgrounds to communicate and share astrological knowledge effectively.
  2. An Efficient Means of Communication: Symbols condense complex concepts and ideas into concise visual representations. They allow astrologers to convey a wealth of information in a compact and easily understandable form.
  3. Allowing for Archetypal Meanings: Astrological symbols carry archetypal meanings that tap into collective unconscious patterns. This is a reference to fundamental and universal patterns that represent certain aspects of human life. For example, the Sun is associated with the archetype of the 'Self', representing vitality, identity and self-expression. The Moon embodies the archetype of the 'Mother' or 'Nurturer', representing emotions, instincts and the subconscious. Archetypes are deeply rooted in the human psyche and are shared across cultures and time. Such symbols evoke deep psychological and spiritual associations, enhancing the depth and richness of astrological interpretations.
  4. A Visual Means of Representation: Symbols offer a visual representation of astrological concepts, making them easier to remember and recall. They help astrologers and enthusiasts visualise the positions, relationships and dynamics of celestial bodies, zodiac signs and planetary aspects.
  5. The Integration of Intuition: Symbols act as catalysts for intuitive insights. They provide a starting point for astrologers to engage their intuition, enabling them to access deeper layers of meaning, patterns and connections in a birth chart or horoscope.

Some of the possible disadvantages of using symbols in astrology are:

  1. Simplification and Generalisation: Symbols, by their nature, simplify complex ideas, which can sometimes lead to oversimplification or generalisation of astrological concepts. This may result in overlooking nuances or specific details that could provide a more accurate interpretation.
  2. Interpretive Variations: It is possible that different astrologers may interpret symbols differently based on their training, experience and personal perspectives. This can lead to variations in astrological readings, making it essential for individuals to seek astrologers whose interpretations align with their own understanding and beliefs.
  3. Lack of Context: Symbols alone may not provide the full context of a person's unique astrological makeup. Birth charts and horoscopes involve intricate interactions between multiple symbols and understanding the specific context is crucial for accurate interpretations. Relying solely on symbols may overlook this contextual information.
  4. Dependency on Knowledge: Working with symbols in astrology requires a solid foundation of astrological knowledge and understanding. Novices may find it challenging to grasp the meanings and nuances of symbols without proper study and training.
  5. Subjective Associations: Symbolic interpretations in astrology involve subjective associations, as archetypal meanings can vary depending on personal and cultural contexts. This subjectivity may introduce biases or limitations in astrological readings.

The History of Symbolism in Astrology

The symbols that are used in different forms of astrology, have strong ties to the history and cultural beliefs of the societies from where these forms of astrology originated:


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  1. Mesopotamia and Babylonian Astrology: The earliest known astrological system emerged in ancient Mesopotamia around the 3rd millennium BC. The Babylonians developed a sophisticated system of celestial divination, focusing on the movements of celestial bodies and their corresponding symbols. They assigned symbolic representations to the planets, such as the Sun, Moon and five visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn).
  2. Egyptian Astrology: Ancient Egyptians also had their own system of astrology, heavily influenced by their mythological beliefs. Egyptian astrology focused on the relationship between celestial bodies and earthly events, particularly the annual flooding of the Nile. Symbolic representations were associated with deities, such as 'Ra', the Sun and 'Thoth', the Moon, reflecting their mythological significance.
  3. Hellenistic Astrology: During the Hellenistic period, astrology expanded and flourished, blending elements from various cultures and traditions. Greek scholars like Ptolemy played a significant role in systematising astrology, including through the use of symbols. Hellenistic astrology adopted the zodiac signs and their associated symbols, derived from Babylonian and Egyptian influences.
  4. Vedic (Indian) Astrology: In ancient India, Vedic astrology developed alongside Vedic philosophy. Vedic astrologers incorporated symbolic representations of celestial bodies and assigned them particular significance. The 'Navgrahas', or the nine planets, including the Sun and Moon, have specific symbols and mythological associations in Vedic astrology.
  5. Chinese Astrology: Chinese astrology, influenced by Daoist and Confucian philosophies, has a unique system of symbols. Animals from the Chinese zodiac, such as the Rat, Ox, Tiger, etc., represent specific years and possess symbolic characteristics and associations. Chinese astrology emphasises the cyclical nature of time and the interplay between celestial energies and earthly events.

Symbols for the Zodiac Signs

Each zodiac sign has a distinct symbol representing it, based on various elements, animals or mythical creatures associated with that sign. In addition to this, they also represent parts of the human body or anatomical areas. The origins of these zodiac symbols are believed to date back to ancient times. The Greek astronomer and mathematician Claudius Ptolemy played a significant role in popularising the zodiac signs and their associated symbols. These symbols have evolved over time and are now widely recognised and used in astrological representations.

  • Symbol: The Ram.
  • Associated Body Part: The head.
  • Aries represents courage, determination and assertiveness. Astrologically, the Ram is thought to symbolise leadership, enthusiasm and a pioneering spirit.
  • Symbol: The Bull.
  • Associated Body Part: The neck.
  • Taurus symbolises strength, stability and groundedness. A bull is an animal that is renowned for its stubborness, hence the phrase, 'Bullheaded'. The symbol for this sign brings out the characteristics of determination, reliability and purpose that are associated with Taurus.
  • Symbol: The Twins.
  • Associated Body Part: The shoulders.
  • Gemini represents versatility, curiosity and communication. The Twins symbolise the duality and adaptability of this sign. This is also a reference to communication and the exchange of ideas, which are attributes also associated with the sign of Gemini.
  • Symbol: The Crab.
  • Associated Body Part: The chest.
  • Cancer is a sign connected with emotions, nurturing and intuition. The Crab relates to the twin characteristics of protection and sensitivity. That is a person who presents a tough persona, but who is in actual fact sensitive and emotional.
  • Symbol: The Lion.
  • Associated Body Part: The heart.
  • Leo represents self-expression, creativity and leadership. The Lion emphasises the commanding presence of this sign in the zodiac. The sign of Leo represents courage, confidence and charisma.
  • Symbol: The Virgin.
  • Associated Body Part: The abdomen.
  • Virgo represents practicality, attention to detail and analytical thinking. The Virgin symbolises purity, humility and a desire for perfection.
  • Symbol: The Scales.
  • Associated Body Part: The lower back.
  • Libra is all about balance, harmony and diplomacy. The Scales are a representation of the characteristics of justice, fairness and the pursuit of equality that are central to this sign.
  • Symbol: The Scorpion.
  • Associated Body Part: The reproductive organs.
  • Scorpio is a sign of intensity, passion and transformation. The Scorpion shows the power and resilience of the people ruled by this sign. This is also representative of their sometimes vengful natures.
  • Symbol: The Archer.
  • Associated Body Part: The thighs.
  • Sagittarius represents exploration, optimism and philosophical pursuits. The Archer symbolises a quest for knowledge, adventure and striving for higher ideals.
  • Symbol: The Sea-Goat.
  • Associated Body Part: The knees.
  • Capricorn is a sign connected with ambition, discipline and practicality. The Sea-Goat is a mythical creature with an ability to navigate both land and sea. That is, Capricorn combines ambition with steadfast determination.
  • Symbol: The Water-Bearer.
  • Associated Body Part: The ankles.
  • Aquarius is related to innovation, humanitarianism and intellectual pursuits. Just like water flows and can be shared, so too can knowledge. The Water-Bearer is symbolic of social consciousness, a vision of a better future and the sharing of knowledge.
  • Symbol: The Fish.
  • Associated Body Part: The feet.
  • Pisces represents compassion, intuition and spirituality. Pisces people are able to explore the depths of emotions. Their zodiac symbol represents their adaptability and the interconnectedness of all things.

Planetary Symbols

In astrology, the symbols or glyphs used to represent each planet, have specific meanings and are derived from ancient alchemy and astronomy. Their origins are not entirely clear, but they carry the mythological and cultural beliefs associated with each planet's astrological energy and influence.

  1. Sun ⊙: The Sun is represented by a circle with a dot at the centre. It signifies the core essence of an individual, their vitality and life force.
  2. Moon ☽: The Moon is represented by a crescent shape. It symbolises emotions, intuition and the subconscious mind.
  3. Jupiter ♃: The symbol for Jupiter looks like the number '4' with an extra line extending outward. It represents expansion, growth, abundance, wisdom, beliefs and the search for meaning.
  4. Mercury ☿: A circle with a crescent on top is the symbol for Mercury. This is a reference to the mind, powers of communication, the intellect, logic, learning and adaptability.
  5. Venus ♀: The symbol for Venus is a circle with a cross below or the 'Female' sign. This symbolises love, beauty, harmony, relationships, values and artistic expression.
  6. Saturn ♄: Saturn's symbol resembles the letter "h" with a horizontal line perpendicular to the verticle straight line. It symbolises discipline, responsibility, structure, limitations, lessons and the pursuit of long-term goals.
  7. Mars ♂: The symbol for Mars resembles a circle with an arrow pointing upward and to the right or the 'Male' sign. It signifies passion, energy, assertiveness, courage, action and the masculine drive.
  8. Uranus ♅: The symbol for Uranus is a circle with a cross at the bottom and a curved line on top. It signifies innovation, originality, freedom, rebellion, individuality and breakthroughs.
  9. Neptune ♆: Neptune is the trident bearing, Greek god of the ocean and the symbol for this planet is a trident, a three-pronged spear. This represents spirituality, imagination, dreams, illusions, intuition and the realm of the subconscious.
  10. Pluto ♇: The symbol for Pluto is a circle with a vertical line extending downward and curving back. It signifies transformation, power, regeneration, intensity, hidden forces and the depths of the unconscious.

Symbols Representing Planetary Aspects

Planetary aspects are represented by specific symbols to depict their angular relationships relative to their alignment in a chart:

  1. Conjunction : Two planets in close proximity, sharing the same degree and appearing as one symbol.
  2. Opposition : Two planets positioned across from each other, forming a 180° angle.
  3. Trine : Two planets forming a 120° angle, indicating harmonious energy flow and compatibility.
  4. Square : Two planets forming a 90° angle, symbolising tension, challenges and growth opportunities.
  5. Sextile : Two planets forming a 60° angle, signifying opportunities, cooperation and positive connections.

Reading the Signs

Astrology is considered to be a blend of science and art, where the science lies in the use of precise calculations and astronomical positions, whereas interpreting the results, is an art. Although astrology is not a form of psychic prediction, nor does this involve use of the power of suggestion, predictive analysis does make use of an intuitive interpretation of the symbols and their interactions. Intuition allows astrologers to tap into their own wisdom and seek higher guidance, in order to provide meaningful and insightful readings.

In Western astrology charts, these symbols are plotted in a circular orientation and serve as visual representations of celestial bodies and their positions at the time of a person's birth. The chart is divided into twelve houses, each representing different areas of life. Each symbol represents a specific celestial body, zodiac sign, or astrological element. Astrologers analyse the symbols within each house and can uncover patterns, potentials and trends in a person's life, which thus allow for guidance and predictions to be offered. In Vedic astrology, this chart is constructed in a rectangular format. Planetary and zodiac symbols are not ordinarily used in the Vedic system and these charts contain abbreviated names of the planets, their strengths in degrees and a numeric representation of the zodiac sign occupying each of the twelve houses.

Final Thoughts

One has to remember that astrology is a complex system and comprehensive interpretations consider factors beyond just zodiac signs, planets and aspects. Astrological symbols are more a means of portraying the energetic connections of these factors, rather than their direct physical influences. Their utility is that they can at a glance, offer insights into potential areas of strength, vulnerability or focus.

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