Capricorn: Taking a Stand

The Gateway of the Initiate
In the midwinter phase of the astrological calendar (21st Dec – 20th Jan) we encounter the sign of Capricorn, the goat fish, and this sign really holds a unique place in the astrological mystery tradition.  For it is both the doorway of initiation, through which enlightenment is finally attained, and the portal through which the initiate willingly surrenders his/her divine condition, and returns to earth, cloaked in human form, to serve humanity.  An esoteric keynote for Capricorn runs:  “Lost am I in Light Supernal, yet on that Light, I turn my back.”

Capricorn’s Myths and Traditions
Capricorn is represented by a goat with a fish’s tail, and we can trace its origins back to the founding Mesopotamian deity, Oannes or Ea.  This great being of wisdom, vision and vast intellect, brings forth the arts of civilisation to humanity, and periodically re-incarnates during periods of crisis or cultural/spiritual transition in order to instruct mankind.  In the Greek tradition, Capricorn is Pan, the goat-foot god, the god of wild hills and mountainside, overseer of shepherds and nature’s sensuous delights.  In the Christian tradition, the sign of Capricorn becomes demonised along with its ruling planet Saturn (who becomes Satan), and Pan (along with the pleasure of the flesh that he invokes) becomes synonymous with the Devil.  Indeed, Capricorn has always been a sign traditionally revered, feared and made “scapegoat” in more -or-less equal measure. As I mentioned, Capricorn is the also the sign of the spiritual initiate or teacher, and it is into this sign that the dying-and-rising saviour of the culture is traditionally born; Jesus following Mithras, Horus and many other great mythical half-human/half divine figures are symbolically born on 25th December, the moment when the winter solstice sun begins to rise again. Esoterically, Capricorn represents the gateway through which the soul ascends, and this is traditionally with the moment when the Sun experiences its annual re-birth at Winter Solstice.

Proving Your Worth
Capricorn is a practical earthy sign, dour and determined, strategic, marked by an uncompromising ambition and single-pointed focus. The sign is ruled by the planet Saturn, Cronos, Old Father Time. It is Saturn who checks our stride, keeps us in time, and trips us up if we ignore the dictates of the unforgiving winter season that he presides over in his guise as Father Winter. Under Saturn’s auspices, the Capricornian perspective commands respect and discipline, order and structure. In the yearly round, the Capricorn phase is a time of resolution and commitment to a long term future.  Saturn demands his pound of flesh and he often materialises in our lives as an authority figure who confronts us with limitation, criticism and examination.  Saturn demands that we prove our ability, commitment and dedication to task before we may be allowed to pass through the portal.

It is a wonderful paradox that in the Capricorn cycle of the year, with all its weighty associations, we should also encounter the tradition of Saturnalia, out of which our modern Christmas festivities, and likely the “12 Days of Christmas”, most probably originate. This is where we see the Capricornian Pan come to the fore.  Saturnalia was a time of the year around winter solstice when society’s roles were reversed.  The servant becomes the master and the master temporarily becomes his the attendant of his own employee.  The name Saturnalia derives from a tradition where the people of Rome would bind the statue of Saturn with ropes as an act of defiance against authority – and this was sanctioned by the powers that be every year for a limited period of time. Saturnalia was, and still is, a time to make merry, to unleash the wilder side of one’s nature and reconnect to the free spirit of Pan.

Declaring Your Stand in the World
Saturnalia aside, Capricorn remains a sign of mission and purpose, accountability and integrity. When we walk the Capricorn way, we must consider what it is that we are willing to stand for, what we are prepared to put our weight behind, and put our head above the parapet for. On The Alchemical Journey this month, we are enquiring as to whether we have a sense of mission in our lives, asking questions like: “What am I here to do?”; “What am I setting out to achieve?” and “What is my stand in the world?”. We’re exploring what success really means to us and how to balance our worldly ambitions with our need to stay connected spiritually and to remain meaningfully engaged with those around us.

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