by Rebecca Gordon
The you that you see in the mirror is a body borne of millions of years of anatomical evolution—a head, a torso, arms, legs, and more that define our species. But what about the rest of you? The parts of you that are not visible or tangible but that define you to your very core? (And by core we mean more than your abdomen!) These bits and pieces of your body are so much more than physical form: they are the living, breathing embodiment of your hopes and fears, strengths and susceptibilities, dreams and disappointments.
Civilizations throughout history have looked to the stars to empower our understanding of ourselves and our world. For aeons, our ancestors saw no distinction between earth and heaven, the natural and the divine; the stars were reflected within the regions of the body and, correspondingly, offered an insightful guide to life’s inner workings. Let’s look at our hands as an example: You likely see two functional appendages, while our ancient Greek predecessors looked at their hands and saw a gift from the gods—a gift from Zeus, ruler of the gods, to be exact. This gift was in the form of twin sons, known in Latin as Gemini, represented as a constellation of stars the sun passes through every year (May 21–June 20).
According to the ancient Greeks, your two hands represent the Gemini connection to realms both mortal and divine, and the communication between one and the other. When you consciously attune to your hands (using them enough but not too much, engaging them in proper alignment, and keeping them strong yet supple), you evoke the best of your own Gemini characteristics no matter when you were born, such as great adaptability and communication. And likewise, if you are not in balance, then Gemini’s susceptibilities—such as feeling scattered—may predominate.
The study of this relationship (between heaven and earth, celestial bodies, and human affairs) became the study of astrology. It is a mathematical art and science that developed out of people’s daily observations and experiences for thousands of years. And as illustrated by the Gemini myth above, our ancestors believed that the physical and nonphysical worlds were united, that ancient gods pervaded, animated, and informed the earthly world.
Without our modern, scientific knowledge, their surroundings—and the wisdom derived from them—were poetry. Storms were not the result of fluctuating meteorological conditions, but the outcome of mighty clashes between the gods. Earth did not arise through a happenstance combination of gases, but was born from the womb of a great Mother. Love was not an activation of dopamine—rich areas of the brain, but a shot from Cupid’s bow. There was no distinction between matter and spirit, nature and divine. Gods regularly influenced, and were influenced by, earthly affairs—and there was no greater place to witness the workings of these divinities than the night sky.
On a clear and dark night, a couple thousand stars may be visible to the naked eye. To the trained eye, these stars combine to form twelve constellations, each with its own story and sign.
These twelve constellations lie along the sun’s path, known as the ecliptic plane, forming a starry belt called the zodiac. In principle, the sun travels through one constellation a month, working its way through the entire zodiac in a year. (Since the sun is not actually moving, its apparent path is the trajectory it appears to make in the sky, based on the vantage point of an observer viewing the sun from Earth, which rotates as it orbits the sun.) Our current system for understanding the zodiac derives from ancient Greek geographer-astrologer-astronomer- mathematician Claudius Ptolemy who, around the second century BC, wrote the astronomical treatise describing over half of today’s eighty-eight known constellations (the better our telescopes become, the more constellations we have been able to see). These days, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) updates astronomical understanding via a consortium of scientists that convenes to set standards for stars and space. Needless to say, given a fourteen-billion-year-old universe, there is still a lot left to know! For this book’s basic astrology purposes, however, the primary players are the planets and signs.
According to the IAU’s updated requirements for planet status, eight planets currently exist. That said, astrology counts eleven, including Pluto (plus additional objects like the Sun and Moon—the luminaries—which are not planets, per se, but exert a similar effect).
Each planet represents a dimension of your character. For example, Mars represents action, a powerful force that helps drive you toward your goal whether during a marathon or an argument. Venus, in contrast, characterizes you as a lover and underscores the qualities that attract you to your partner from the get-go. All the planets are present throughout your birth chart.
If the planets function like actors on your living stage, think of the signs as roles that the planets play as they travel through the zodiac. There are twelve zodiac signs of 30 degrees each, equally dividing the 360-degree celestial sphere (see page 3). And while your sun sign might be the most prominent, all twelve signs live and express themselves within you.
As a planet travels through each of the zodiac signs, it is influenced by each sign’s distinct characteristics. For example: Gemini’s role is communication. When the planet Mars is traveling in Gemini, he brings his trademark style of action into the realm of communication; he might therefore become a verbal powerhouse, aggressively advancing his cause in a way that would make any debate team proud. On the other hand, Venus traveling in Gemini is a charming orator, expressing her message with the grace and ease that befits a beauty pageant queen.
With its complexity, astrology becomes much more than pop culture prediction or predestination. The original intent behind astrology was to optimize the human condition by drawing the connection between the planets and the stars to life on Earth, to use the language of the sky to learn from the past and make the most of the present and future. Throughout time, astrologers have used astrological information for a variety of purposes, including informing important political decisions, forecasting weather patterns, fortuitously timing events, and caring for one’s health. In other words, astrology has been used to answer why, when, and how versus what. And the same holds true today: each horoscope may function like a self-help guide, a way of understanding your true self and living it accordingly.
It is more accurate, then, to think of astrology as some combination of descriptive and prescriptive. It depicts who you are at your core and recommends the environment most conducive to living fully in that knowledge. It is like nature and nurture all in one. For years, science has known that nature affects nurture and is increasingly finding that nurture affects nature too. In fact, the fledgling field of epigenetics is devoted to understanding more of nurture’s role. Thus far, scientists have ascertained that while your genes do not change, the signals that tell your body when to express those genes can be altered by environmental factors like food, relationships, and stress. In other words, what you choose to eat, the quality of your marriage, or the toxicity of your environment might affect whether your predisposition toward heart disease is expressed and how. Astrology, likewise, understands mankind is influenced by genetic and environmental factors but expands our understanding of environment to encompass the solar system as well.
The greatest emphasis in Western astrology is placed on your sun sign, and this book maintains the same. So while the characteristics of all of the signs live within you, those of your sun sign (the sun’s zodiac sign at the time of your birth) are the ones that predominate in your true nature. For instance, if you were born between July 23 and August 22, the sun was in the sign of Leo. Your natural disposition, therefore, includes Leo’s strengths, like courage, ambition, and magnetism, and susceptibilities like pride and narcissism. Note that your sign’s traits do not exist to the exclusion of others—a Leo can certainly be philosophical like a Sagittarius or analytical like a Virgo. You embody all the signs’ traits, but those of your sun sign shine the brightest.
How does knowing this help you? Well, if you are an apple, you are always going to be an apple—never an orange—whether you want to be or not. And to be the best darn apple you can be means being aware of and living according to your true, apple nature. Similarly, if you are a Leo and you know that you are tailored to the spotlight, then choosing a career as a subway conductor is likely not conducive to your long-term success. Sure, you can do it—but it goes against the inherent light-loving and gregarious nature of your sign. For the happiest and healthiest life, learn to work with your true nature, developing your strengths, learning from your susceptibilities, and finding the appropriate balance between your sun sign and all other eleven signs within you. Astrology can offer this deeper insight and personal guidance.
And the study of astrology does not stop there! In fact, astrology provides many ways to bring its teachings to life, from guidance (such as being aware of communication and transportation troubles during a Mercury retrograde) to grains (via foods and herbs associated with the qualities of each planet). But your body is the approach to astrology that is literally at your fingertips.
Your body is amazing. It is a miracle of Mother Nature some six million years in the making. Standing in front of a mirror, you can see its shape is a five-pointed star made up of one head, two arms, and two legs. Together, these structures form the you with which you are most familiar. Yet the true beauty of your body is not its individual parts but their greater, functional whole. Walking, running, skipping, jumping— together, your bones, muscles, and more orchestrate a symphony that allows you to operate as you see fit. However, we currently live in a society in which most of us know how to operate our laptops better than our legs—a world in which synchronizing takes place between our calendars and computers more frequently than between our head and neck. Forget about considering the body as an integrated whole—many individuals do not even know its parts exist. That is, until a body part stops behaving as it is supposed to and aches, breaks, or otherwise fails to perform.
But it wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, the whole is all that was seen. A focus on structural parts did not exist until anatomists like Galen of Pergamum wielded scalpels to systematically dissect bones, brains, and veins and detail them in enormous bodies of work that influence science today. But back then, when Galen delineated the body’s parts, he also correlated them to a person’s spirit (as previously identified by Plato). The heart, therefore, was viewed as both the source of the body’s circulation and the seat of a person’s passion; the brain begot the body’s nerves as well as the soul’s mind. For Galen, proof of divinity was in the physical pudding.
And so it is with astrology. Each of the twelve zodiac signs governs a region of the body—starting with Aries at your head and ending with Pisces at your feet, with all the other signs in between. You might be familiar with the Middle Age illustration of the Zodiac Man, depicting the twelve zodiac signs superimposed on the human form.
What this figure refers to is the body as man’s key to the cosmos, the idea that each sign’s energy lives within and can be accessed through the related body region. In this way, all of the character traits, strengths, and susceptibilities of each zodiac sign do not have to remain just concepts. They can all be brought to life so that who you are is aligned with what you do. Bringing your own, personal Zodiac Man to life is like walking the talk in regard to well-being.
Your body can literally bring to life the story of the stars. It is not as hard to access as you might think, because the stars already live and breathe within you. Really. Man is made of the same substance as stars, which is the literal truth. Stars consist primarily of helium and hydrogen, and during their life-death cycles over the past billions of years, they have fabricated almost every other element as well, including carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. Lo and behold, these essential elements are the same ones that comprise life as we know it, the same ones found in the soil, grass, food . . . and you. Hydrogen, for instance, is part of the water molecule (H2O) that constitutes over half of your body’s mass. Carbon is distributed throughout the double strands of your DNA. Nitrogen forms a vital part of your body’s proteins. And oxygen is the primary fuel for trillions of your cells. In short, you live because stars died and recycled their material as you.
This might be your first encounter with the idea that you embody both the matter and the spirit of the stars, but it is an age-old relationship that predates even Babylonian records. Look at the following chart to see how the zodiac signs correlate to your body parts.
You can check out the most prominent signs in your chart, like the sun, moon, or rising sign, but remember that all twelve zodiac signs live within you! That is, in fact, what the hermetic axiom “As above, so below” means—the heavens are reflected here on Earth and the Earth, in turn, reflects the heavens. Which means if you have a body region, then you have the story of the corresponding sign alive in you. For instance, your loving Leo heart and cautious Capricorn knees.
Whether or not you realize it, all of the zodiac signs’ characteristics present facets of you—facets that are yours to express if you so choose. The question, then, is which facets to express and how. How will you bring the story of the stars to life through your bodily form?
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