Friday 20 January 2017

Wish upon a star… Aquarius and Margarete Petersen's Tarot

At 21.23 UT yesterday (19th January) the Sun moved (astrologically) into the zodiac sign of Aquarius. Here in the northern hemisphere the days are starting to lengthen, now that the Midwinter Solstice has passed, and there’s a sense of hope in the air. Spring (again, in the northern hemisphere) is on its way, and we may perhaps find a spring in our step too, as we look forward to this! Hope in the air – how appropriate... Aquarius is an Air sign, and the tarot card from the Major Arcana associated with it is the Star, the card of hope and optimism.

But first, what is Aquarius all about, in terms of astrology? It’s represented in the zodiac by the water carrier, but who is this figure? There are many Aquarian myths – that of Uranus, the sky god of the Greeks who looks down from above and sees into the future, for instance. He was the first creator god in Greek mythology, married to Gaia, the Earth. His creations never met his high expectations, and he was considered to be cold and aloof. Ganymede, also from Greek myth, became the cup-bearer to the gods and was placed in the heavens as the constellation of Aquarius. Other stories include that of Prometheus (his selfless act in stealing fire from the gods to give to humanity being the epitomy of Aquarian humanitarianism), Hercules’ cleaning of the Augean Stables (“cleaning the slate”), and Gilmagesh’s search for the Herb of Immortality (realizing that man can’t live forever).

The sign of Aquarius has two planetary rulers. It’s traditionally ruled by Saturn, emphasizing restraint, objectivity and detachment. Detachment also comes from Uranus, which became the modern ruler of Aquarius after its ‘discovery’ in 1781 in Bath (UK) by William Herschel. Uranus had been observed a number of times before this, but was usually mistaken for a star. Herschel himself originally thought it was a comet but by 1783 it was classified as a planet - the same year that the American Revolution ended with the signing of a peace treaty with the British, and only six years before the French Revolution. The Industrial Revolution had not long begun either – so it’s no wonder that Uranus has become associated with rebellion, revolution, and the reforming of society. The famous “liberté, equalité, et fraternité” of the French Revolution could sum up Uranian, and by association Aquarian, qualities.

The sign of Aquarius combines the element of air with fixed energy, making it a very ‘in your head’ sign. Despite being the carrier of water, it often seems to be out of step with emotions and can – like the sky god Uranus - seem very detached or aloof. It’s linked to original thinking, ingenuity, inventiveness, and innovation. Aquarius is a reformer and a humanitarian, and is linked to the (astrological) 11th House through its concern with community and groups, not to mention ideology. But despite that, the Aquarian could be seen as an “armchair activist”, not wanting to be in the thick of things but preferring to remain detached. On the other hand, some see “Citizen Smith” (1977-80) as an Aquarian figure!

Looking now to the tarot, the card from the Major Arcana that’s associated with Aquarius is The Star. Going back to Ganymede, what did that cup of his contain? Nectar or ambrosia which gave the gods immortality. In other words, the contents of that cup were life-sustaining – and what is it that sustains us, more often than not? Hope. And what card in the Major Arcana could we connect with hope? The Star!

The Star (trimmed): © Margarete Petersen Tarot
Margarete Petersen’s Star isn’t the ‘traditional’ RWS depiction. Here we see a rather ethereal spiral (which reminds me of a translucent nautilus shell) set against a star-filled universe. Below it is a sea. As the shell-like spiral turns it lifts water up, much like a water-wheel - a water carrier...Aquarius again!

Stars have been used to navigate for centuries, perhaps millennia. They held hope not only for the ancient mariners, but also today – we often wish upon stars, don’t we? 

Shining through the dark
Hope and faith lie in the stars
Within and without.

Margarete Petersen Tarot, AGM-URANIA, 2004

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