ANCIENT AND MODERN CAPRICORN
Symbol: The Water-goat Solar month: 22 Dec. – 21 Jan
Element: Earth Temperament:
Quality: Cardinal Gender: Negative/feminine
Dignity of: Saturn
Detriment of: Moon
Exaltation of: Mars Fall of : Jupiter
Archetypal faces: Pan/Old
Ancient & Traditional Capricorn
“It has two forms and two elements. Its first half is of the form of land animals that have hoofs; and its second half is of the form of aquatic animals.” 
“Thy Cold (for o’er Winter dost reign, Pullest back the Sun, and send’st us Day again) Makes Brokers rich.” 
The sky-figure of Capricorn is viewed as one of the most inconspicuous star patterns upon the ecliptic, believed to have increased in presence, with the Tropic of Capricorn becoming the marker of the northern hemispheres winter solstice. The element of earth is cold and dry. Saturn, this zodiacal sign’s lord, is also regarded as cold and dry. This concentration of symbolism may make for a reflection of the coldest and driest of seasons. Therefore, it is the logic of such ‘cold’ and ‘dry’ metaphysics that has become especially associated with this sign. With ‘darkness’ as an extension of such representation, as with its dignified lord, the sign of Capricorn is also regarded to hold arcane, or ‘dark’, secrets within the heritage of its symbolism.
This zodiacal sign and its symbol have generally commanded great respect, particularly in regard to relating to the challenges and achievements of the material world. The ancients were known to state that when Saturn was transiting the sign of Capricorn, this planet was seen to have ‘the greatest of influence on human affairs’. This zodiacal figure came to be called the ‘mansion of kings’ and could be related to dimensions of nobility and authority at times. Yet as both a metaphysical and astrological symbol, with its earthiness and ‘saturnine’ character so present, this sign can be possibly considered one of the most complex, curious and fascinating of the zodiacal representations. This is the second of the ‘hybrid’ and truly fantastical creatures on the astrological wheel, holding a most intriguing development of symbolic heritage.
There is the general tendency today to accept this
asterism as only a goat, but on actually viewing this pattern in the sky, a
definite extended ‘tail’ cannot be omitted. It also becomes of interest
that some astronomical historians have noted, although comparatively rarely,
that some cultures have represented this sign in the sky solely as a ‘Fish’,
even ‘horned fish’, at times. In dwelling on this tendency towards a
watery factor within the symbolism, Capricorn has also been shown as a
‘Swordfish’, at some point and in the Aztec calendar, a narwhale-type creature
is to be seen.
This asterism has also been portrayed as two separate figures, side by side, of both a goat and a fish. This watery undercurrent in this sign’s symbology also seems to reflect the polarity sign of Cancer, which is the first of the water signs and is also cardinal, thus active in quality. In Jewish astrology this star pattern has also been called a hind, antelope, or deer. The ancient Arabian astronomer/astrologers are seen to view some of the fixed stars of this asterism as very favourable, yet it is also observed; “But these benign qualities were only occasional, caused probably by some lucky combination with a fortunate sign, as is known only to the initiated; for its general reputation was the reverse” .
Most traditionally and consistently, this zodiac sign has
mostly found a symbolic representation as the upper half of a goat, fused to a
twisting tail of a fish, almost a little reminiscent of a mermaid. Latin
poets have called it ‘Neptune’s Offspring’, ‘Ocean Storm’ and ‘Imbrifer’, or
Even the ancient Chinese were also to eventually view this star sign as ‘Mo Ki’, again, a ‘goat-fish’, prior to this the constellation was their astrological ‘Bull/Ox’. These two distinct halves, one of land and one of the sea, were seen to be symbolic of two ‘currents’, or qualities of metaphysical flow and expression. This sign is classed as cardinal, thus it is inferred that an ‘action’ is present and in the old tradition, Capricorn has been called the ‘Gate of the Gods’.
The high metaphysical ‘action’ symbolized by Capricorn is
the release of the ‘souls’ from the material entrapment of incarnation – or to
be succinct, death and therefore a capacity for some nature of cyclic ‘rebirth’.
To the Hindus, the goat-fish is said to represent the departure from and return
to, the wheel of rebirth and the planet Saturn (S), which rules Capricorn, has
been called a ‘Lord of Karma’.
Many of the ancient philosophers saw this sky figures stars as the portals through which the soul returned to the cosmos. Hence, another obvious association this sign may have with principles and symbolism concerning ‘darkness’. Some of the Latin writers also entitled Capricorn ‘Solis Porta’, ‘The Gateway of the Sun’. According to some of the ‘old books’, when all of the planets were to gather in this sign, the world would meet its eventual destruction, through a ‘great conflagration’.
The early figuring of Capricorn is considered to be
pre-Grecian and appears to be of a Mesopotamian origin, even prehistoric.
The goat with the fishes tail has been found on early gems of Babylonian origin
and on the fragment of a tablet dating back to the 12th century BCE. The
Babylonian god Ea was most often portrayed as the ‘goat-fish’, or
This deity is thought to be the seed of origin to the horoscopic water-goat in the heavens; Ea was a god of the waters and the ‘Lord of Wisdom’. This god was also the patron of magicians, the arts and letters, prophecy and divination, an important mythic figure indeed. In regard to the connection to Ea, Capricorn has also been related to the ‘antelope of the subterranean ocean’, depicted as feeding off the Tree of Life itself (i.e.; ‘ingesting gnosis’). Another, very antiquated cuneiform inscription, also refers to Capricorn as the ‘Father of Light’ and the priests of Babylon were said to don a robe of goatskins as their sacred vestment.
As a zodiacal component in the traditional context, the
sign of Capricorn is said to act upon the element of earth with a ‘dis-temperate
coldness and dryness which is destroying and mortifying, and things are not
easily generated at this time’. In the northern hemisphere when the Sun
transits this sign, midwinter is to be attained as a peak of seasonal stillness
and the point of a very subtle nurturing of future germination.
The ancient writer also notes that; ‘Animals, if they are generated at this time are very small and are usually from domesticated animals because of the domesticity of their nourishment. Nor is nature moved so that herbs are born, or trees grow branches or flower, unless by chance . . .’ Some traditional descriptions and classifications relating to this sign are as follows; ‘The night house of Saturn’, feminine, cold, dry, melancholic, barren, crooked, cloven, hoarse, hurtful, composite, nocturnal, obeying, southern, tropical, wintry, bicorporal.
Some More Symbology & Mythology
In this glyph are seen the stylized head and horns of a
goat and this symbol has also had acceptance as being a combination of the first
two letters of an old classical era word for ‘goat’. Yet in the earlier history
of astrology this asterism was never really a ‘normal’ goat. Capricorn is
also known as the water-goat, (sea-goat, or mer-goat), whose body and fish tail
are probably better reflected in another version of its zodiacal sigil.
Most scholars of astrology seen the tail as obvious in the second glyph and it is noted that this sigil is ‘not unlike the outline of these stars on a celestial globe’. Both of these sigils are the most common, in being utilized for this sign in current times. In an esoteric regard to the hybrid symbolism of the terrain and the aquatic, this is seen as representative of matter rising from the sea of the collective unconscious, the animal half carrying the principle of the evolution of the immaterial into form, the ‘marine’ tail, carrying that of involution, or return to the immaterial world.
In some of the spiritual contexts, this zoomorphic
duality has been assumed to represent the higher mind (goat), aspiring to grow
from the lower realms (tail). Nevertheless this symbolism may generally
represent the manifest/material world, still maintaining an absolute connection
to the ‘waters’ of the immaterial, the collective, spiritual or archetypal
Therefore the sign of Capricorn has much philosophical depth within its archetype and is the emblem of a ‘gateway’ between worlds. Accordingly this zodiacal figure has been considered from ancient times as a sacred symbol, generally representing the metaphysics of spiritual evolution. The water-goat can thus be seen to symbolize the principle of the potential of ‘initiation’ into new levels of awareness and has been therefore labeled ‘the sign of the Initiate’.
In reference to the symbolic motif of the horn, an important dimension of Capricornian symbolism is the mythic unicorn which also has an esoteric connection to facets of this sign. In the mythos it is of note that its horn was ‘dipped in water’ and that it was said to turn dark water clear. By analogy to this mutation principle, the water-goat may ultimately transform the resources (the ‘water’ he emerges from) into manifest form (his horns, hooves and body), and ultimately, vice-versa; thus the connection to the cycle of rising and falling. The pagan belief system respects this ‘rebirth’ essence in regards to the Winter Solstice (Saturnalia) of the northern hemisphere, as the Sun has begun its journey to increase in potency and bring back the light.
It is also noted that the wild ibex was a most common
species of goat referred to in the past as the Capricornian ‘goat’. This animal
was definitely of the mountainous habitat and known for its skill and agility in
negotiating difficult terrain. The symbol more common today for this sign
has been the ‘mountain goat;’ although not necessarily an ibex, either way there
is no watery motif present within this symbolism. This emblematic
mutation, in losing the original fantastical/aquatic facet, seems to reflect
humankind’s growing fascination with material achievement.
This is particularly in deference to a general disconnection with the subtle, spiritual realms. In being taken as a totally ‘material’ goat, this sign becomes more concerned with aspirations, being deterministic, realistic and able to doggedly climb and ‘hang in there’, etc. Certainly the ‘goat’ is really only half of the symbolism of this sign. It is nevertheless valid, as generally the astrological energy of Capricorn is in regard to the nature of tangible results. The potential range of individual expression that is actually within this zodiacal archetype and some Capricorn-types may appear ‘softer’ and such like, than others. Here, it is the holism of the astrology in question and its context that becomes of note.
The image of the goat is also traditionally connected to
fertility and symbolized by some of the aspects and mechanisms of the principles
of creative life energy. This is also related to the ‘horned god’ seen in
pagan ritual, who is a personification of the green, earthy and fertile aspect
of nature itself.
A deity of Celtic origin is ‘Cernunnos’, and this ‘lord of wild animals’ is usually nominated here. This god had a very complex composite representational form: the head of a bull, a man’s torso, the legs of serpents and the tail of a fish. The ‘Horned One’, or ‘Green Man’, was to become identified with the Devil by Christianity, basically in order to sway the pagan spiritual attitude. In this way once more is witnessed the sacred symbolism of the water-goat as ‘losing its tail’ or the more sublime sense of fundamental mystical connection. Such pagan nature deities simply represent the linking and relationship of the sacred, to the natural manifest worlds.
In regard to such personifications, the Greek god Pan,
half man/half goat, is also closely related to the symbology of Capricorn. This
classical mythic character was also a principle deity and archetype of the
Natural Kingdom. It is interesting to note that in one mythic account he
transformed himself into a goat-fish to escape the dreadful monster
Pan was renowned for his earthy sensuality and rampant sexual impulse (shades of Aries /spring and even the fertility of the other ‘horned’ and ‘cloven’ zodiacal one, Taurus). Therefore Christian myth has tended to associate the goat with lewdness and seem to hold a fairly lowly opinion of the horned animal in general. In this theology’s thinking, Capricorn has also been connected to Simon the Apostle.
As a babe, the ‘king’ of the Olympic pantheon
Zeus/Jupiter was suckled by the she-goat Amalthea, Her hide was to become
the famous ‘aegis’ of Athene and her horn the ‘Cornucopia’ (‘Horn of
Plenty’). This goat is said to have been honoured for her service as the
constellation Capricorn in the heavens. Interestingly, the Romans, who
largely assimilated the Greek pantheon into their own, regarded that a priest of
Jupiter (Flamen Dialis) could not touch a goat.
Capricorn is ruled by Saturn/Chronos and thus can be directly associated with this malevolent father that Zeus was secreted from, until mature enough to usurp him. Another extremely rich and interesting symbol for this sign is portrayed in the famous zodiac at Denderah, where it is depicted as a man, with the head of an ibis, riding upon a mountain goat/ibex.
Probably an extreme negative expression of this
animal’s symbolic and archetypal heritage comes through the goat, in its
capacity as a chief sacrificial animal in ancient history. It is the story
of the poor scapegoat that appears the epitome of a typically ‘hard’
The Hebrew scapegoat was chosen from two goats; one was consecrated ‘for the lord’ and sacrificed. The other was the ‘sin-bearer’ sent out into the wilderness symbolically laden with the ‘bad deeds’ of those in the community concerned. The astrological symbolism may range from reflecting great heights, to the most hard and barren of ‘lows’. Perhaps the very essence of the high potential of Capricorn is elegantly captured in the following simple declaration – “The horn of the [water]goat may touch the Sun”.
Manifestation of Soul into Structure. Dharmic Responsibility. Structuring of Aspiration. Maturation - Carriage of Authority- What has Formed - Activity within Dormancy.
Primary Archetypal Type Pan Old King initiate
Examples of Mythic
Pan and all satyrs - Azazal – Saturn/Chronos/Father Time - All elders – Crones, e.g.; Hecate – Amalthea – Green Man/Horned One, All horned deities in general, The rise and fall of kings – Tartarus and the Elysian Fields.
Archetypal & Stereotypic Personas
Senex, Elder, Grandparent, Hard taskmaster, Official, Conservative, Skeptic, Administrator, Workaholic, Structure-maker, Architect, Climber, Landscaper, Executive, Politician, Social climber, Beast of burden.
Archetypal Objects and Symbols
Goatfish, Goat, Horned fish, Unicorn, Horns, Cloven feet Lead, Salt, Mountain, Crocodile, Scapegoat, Devil, Faun, Government, Uniform, Old things, Cornucopia.
Examples of Key
Authority, industry, integrity, manifestation, status, structure, boundaries, control, form, crystallization, rigidity, limitation, tests, results, time, achievement, ambition, goals, practicality, hierarchy, attrition, long term.
Primary Psychological Associations
Maturation – Development and nature of self responsibility – Dealing with reality and the management of time - Seriousness and the mechanics of depression - Heritage and tradition – Father – ‘Parental’ dynamics – Eldership themes - Authority issues - Emotional denial and control – Guilt, beholding and the scapegoat – Dormancy and the ability to achieve – Paying dues - Societal niche, status and reputation – Crystallized forms.
a Stage of Development
In the seasonal model of the Northern hemisphere, Winter is upon the Earth and the nights are at their longest, as the point of Midwinter is reached when the Sun contacts its Solstice point in this sign. In general, life appears to have a sense of stillness and quiet about it, yet under this apparently ‘barren’ exterior new life is gestating actively.
At the Winter Solstice the light begins increasing, as the seasons now subtly turn to cycle out of Winter and towards Spring. Thus this sign can be essentially correlated with the activity of coming into materiality. As reflecting a ‘natural’ mechanism, this Saturn-ruled sign directly represents the conglomerating of various factors, into creating a relationship, which makes manifest form.
Any archetypal Capricorn-style stage may also be symbolic
of reaching a point of maturation. As a stage of developing
experience, this is a point at which one may work hard, have to take greater
responsibility and may achieve very rewarding results that last. This is
usually a time of identifying status, and thus, maturation.
Capricorn-style phases in the facets of the life experience may also be times of restriction and a feeling of pruning as there may be some manner of ‘salt on the tail’. In the sequential/phase symbolism, we have come out of the preceding Sagittarian phase, with the meaning and inspiration of some sense of purpose and expanded world-view. Now, there may be in Capricorn, the realization that there is a certain practical/responsible application that has to take place if ideals are to be realized and have any real effect in life, rather than just being concepts.
Therefore in another model of the developing human infant, this astrological energy as a phase may reflect the earlier stages for the developing fetus. The sociological status of the female carrying the child has begun to change, as she develops into the social role of becoming a ‘mother’. There may be all sorts of initial and practical long-term planning for the babe to come. This zodiacal point is also considered to reflect the pending birth becoming disclosed to the outer world. Thus the totem of the water-goat emerges in the microcosm, as life forms in the waters of the womb, which is to climb forth, into tangible being in the world, after a suitable period of gestation.
Some Characteristics of Capricorn
“This is the builder, the architect of the Zodiac, who is constantly at work not only climbing the mountain, but also creating the mountain he climbs.” 
Though typically possessing the symbolism of the
steadying elemental vibration of earth, this sign is of a cardinal nature and
all cardinal energy is essentially dynamic in expression. Thus energy may
be utilized actively, in practical terms and Capricorn may therefore become
concerned with the production of tangible things. This energy is typically
considered industrious, hardworking, capable of discipline and talented with the
creating and maintaining of structure.
Capricorn-types can appear concerned with establishing the self in the world and ideally, there may be a healthy ambition to contribute responsibly to society and from the appropriate niche. This is a prime zodiacal indicator of dutiful energy, being scrupulous and economical. Capricorn is a prime sign of common-sense. Positive Capricorn-types can have a very functional awareness as to the ‘reality’ of things and most situations.
Classically it is said that those with this sign strong
may create a certain aura of dignity and authority, particularly in carrying the
likes of respect and status well. Capricornian astrology in dominance can
be seen to create an ‘executive’ stereotype. Those with a healthy touch of this
archetype can be talented in dealing with the systems and laws which may
regulate the workings of things. Such individuals are also generally
regarded as creative of good boundaries. Therefore they may eventually attain
positions that have a ‘managerial’ tone and if not, they can display this
managerial tendency in other contexts.
It is said that the Capricorn-type can also work well within an organization and is capable of starting at the bottom rung of a company ladder and steadily climbing to the top. The Saturn-ruled often realize the value of time and are prepared to responsibly apply the self to any journey in life, step by step, consistently and with integrity. The important thing is that something is achieved at the end.
This zodiacal sign may therefore become concerned with
goal-setting and long-term planning. The unadulterated Capricorn-style can prove
both an objective yet instinctual, strategist and a time management type, having
a natural capacity for control, order and foundation. In its most positive
state such individuals are talented at creating structures upon which further
things may grow. Consequently, their natural integrity may subsequently find
them in ‘high’ positions.
Today this sign is regarded as the archetypal and stereotypic energy of such manifestations as politicians, bureaucrats and the government of society and its economics. The experience of those with this asterism prominent may deal with the principles of authority and prestige and may invoke themes of being very aware of status in society and so on.
Zodiacal Capricorn is also a traditional symbol of heritage and therefore may reflect a concern with the preservation of existing traditions. Great energy may be expended in order to maintain these. Some Capricorn-types are seen to become enamored of antiques and possibly very interested in ancestry or history and such.
Reputation is another typical Capricornian keyword and
often those strongly invested in this zodiacal archetype can be very sensitive
as to their role and appearance in the world.
By nature there is usually a
dislike of being controlled and appearing controlled, preferring to be ‘a
banker, not a player, in the game’. It is noted that this sign, along with
Scorpio, is considered one of the likely zodiacal channels to manifest themes of
power and though which control flows.
Capricorn is of the earth triplicity, cardinal of quality and ruled by the determination of Saturn. The astrology of this sign may concern very enduring and energetic individuals. Such types are most likely to effectively go for and to achieve the goals upon which they focus their personal will. Classic Capricorn-types are people who no matter what the context, will tend to diligently and patiently work at something, often for a long time, moving stage by stage towards a meticulously crafted and high-quality outcome.
So, Capricorn-types can be solid and dependable, better
so when well-integrated and emotionally connected. The natural Saturnine
reserve does not make for a vast amount of close associates, but certain
relationships, especially those formed over a heritage of time, become closely
cemented. This is a sign that reflects the ‘earning’ of respect and the
‘paying of dues’. These individuals can often tend to shoulder much
responsibility for those people or animals they may care for.
They may also appear to have much energy to endure burdens for the sake of these others. In the extreme their personal needs may become sacrificed for what is felt ‘responsible for’. Capricorn-types can make life testing for themselves when coming from a belief that ‘everything has to be hard’. In doing so, there is often the tendency to ‘have to do it all themselves’. Ultimately, it seems that no one else could possibly take the responsibility any better.
In relating this sign to modern psychological age
regard, there can be a well known (and archetypal) ‘parent-urge’ that Capricorn
is said to carry. Besides the potential of ‘scapegoat’-ing their personal needs,
those invested too strongly in this archetype will easily tend to ‘order’, even
Such mechanisms are often reflected within the Capricornian vocabulary, with statements to others and to the self, concerning what one ‘should’, or ‘have to do.’ They can unconsciously castrate the free will of another, under the guise of ‘parental guidance’ (shades of Saturn/Chronos leaking through). Such individuals may do this not only literally as a parent, but in many other situations (relationships, work etc) as well.
Therefore, a possible foible of the expression of Capricorn may be witnessed in the misplacement of responsibility, which is in actuality a form of control. Such control is usually masking a deep insecurity and fear of vulnerability, as stereotypically Capricorn is said to be the sign of the ‘stiff upper lip’. Those with this energy dominant and afflicted are usually called to watch for slippage into controlling and insensitive modalities. As in the extreme, the free will of others may become totally repressed under some form of rigid disciplinarian action, which may be projected by such individuals.
Donna OConnor is writer and facilitator of The Mercurius Tutorials --- a series of classes in Astrology, ranging from foundational to advanced levels. OConnor is recognised as an Accredited Astrological Teacher with the Federation of Australian Astrologers, tutoring many people over the years, including some award-winning students. She also holds a Diploma Honours, with the Astrological Guild of Educators International, for a thesis on the ancient doctrine of “Planetary Sect in Astrological History.”
OConnor is especially interested in astrology’s historical and cultural perspectives throughout all human development. Her particular focus is upon the Art’s essential philosophical tenets, what this produces, thus why and how it may ‘work’. She believes astrology is evolving towards taking true postmodern form in times to come. This will regard the further recognition of the real astrological tradition, reinforcing the subject to stand in its own right as a salient body of knowledge – and therefore how astrology may grow in respect of this authentic traditional construct, to effectively meet our ongoing requirements in the current age.
“Astrology still survives in our global and psychologically complex times – testament of an essential construct, although largely distorted in modern parlance, still holding profound natural truths, - and also testament to instinctual aspects of the human intellect echoing, which are ultimately primal. Astrology is hybrid knowledge, encompassing the rational and the irrational, the objective and subjective, the intellectual and intuitive, science and art. Here mankind has looked to the heavens and become inspired enough to validate a perceived cosmological relationship. Astrology is awesome in its scope, and in its breadth of application, thus reflective of a certain esoteric genius. It is a paradoxical entity, full of riddles and truths; it is exceedingly complex, yet elegant in essence.”
OConnor writes and lectures, for both the professional astrological community and those who are interested in any aspect of the Art. She is also an astrological consultant and offers specialist service to those creating any work or articles involving the subject.
Presented are class notes from the Mercurius Study Programs of times past. This comprises of notes on each of the Signs and on the subject of Essential Dignity. The writings on the zodiac are intended as an overview and guidelines to each symbol, regarding some traditional and some modern ‘psychological’ views. The writing on essential dignity is also an introduction for beginners to the subject, although more geared in respect of the truer astrological tradition – all of these notes are from the foundational level of astrological study, written in 1999/2000.
Organic Divination for the Urban Jungle
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