Monday 30 November 2015

Sagittarius in the Druidcraft Minor Arcana: The Eight of Wands

Moving on now to the Minor Arcana, in the astrological correspondence system that I follow, Sagittarius is linked to the Eight, Nine and Ten of Wands. Today I’m going to look at the Eight of Wands, which is linked to Mercury in Sagittarius, and corresponds to the first ten days of Sagittarius (this year, 22nd November to 1st December).

Sagittarius is the mutable Fire sign, so we’re looking at transforming what’s been established into something else.  It combines a fiery passion and creativity with the expansiveness and benevolence of Jupiter, the ruler of Sagittarius, to give us the visionary, the explorer, the philosopher. 
Mercury is associated with communication, so when linked with Sagittarius could indicate fast thinking, perhaps, or open and optimistic communication.  Ideas are probably more to do with long-term goals or aspirations towards an ideal. Getting bogged down by details seems unlikely, and there could be a sense of restlessness involved.  There might also be an interest in teaching others about what we’ve learned in our own journey. Tolerance and broad-mindedness are also qualities of this combination of planet and sign.

Eight of Wands: Druidcraft (detail)
Mercury rules Gemini, the sign that sits opposite Sagittarius in the zodiac.  Opposing forces at work here, you might think.  Rather than buzz about pollinating local networks, Mercury is being challenged here to work on a much larger scale. Global rather than local.  

So how might this play out in the Eight of Wands, and in particular the Druidcraft?  The image, a relatively ‘traditional’ depiction of the Eight of Wands, portrays a man hurling a staff through the air, towards an unseen foe or target. Seven more staves stand upright in the ground beside him, representing the many opportunities or possibilities each of them could reach once let loose.  There’s plenty of space for ideas – as represented by Mercury.  The wands are in their element, literally, in Sagittarius.  Juliet Sharman-Burke uses the phrase ‘full steam ahead’ to describe this card; steam is a product of fire and water, taking me back to the idea of Temperance, the Fferyllt, and alchemy

The thing to be wary of here is that if the activity is too widespread, it’s possible that nothing will ever be completed!  Or we may find ourselves with too much on our plates, and it’s hard to slow down long enough to see what’s really going on. Focus that creative fire into fewer things. Slow down, and let things settle into a more natural rhythm.

There’s a feeling of swiftness, not to mention efficiency, in this image. There’s power behind the staff as it speeds through the air, and we get a sense of it being very likely to hit its target.  Open , direct, efficient communication (one of Mercury’s realms) helps us to realize our vision (Sagittarius).   Make sure you know where you stand, and that it’s clear to the world!

Druidcraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Thursday 26 November 2015

Sagittarius in the Druidcraft Major Arcana - alchemy at work!

Let’s start our exploration of Sagittarius in the Druidcraft tarot with the Major Arcana.  In astrology, Sagittarius is the last of the three Fire signs that we encounter as we go around the zodiac – the first being Aries, the second Leo.   It’s the mutable one – taking what’s been established in Scorpio and transforming it into something else.  It combines fiery passion and creativity with the expansiveness and benevolence of Jupiter, its ruler, to give us the visionary, the explorer, the philosopher.  

The key word for me here is ‘transforming’ – that ability to take what we have and change it, to temper it... ah, you’ll see where I’m going with this now!  In the astrological correspondence system for the tarot that I follow, the Major Arcana card associated with Sagittarius is Temperance.  It’s THE alchemical card, for me – all those symbols of alchemy present in most depictions of the card, including the Druidcraft’s version.

Druidcraft: The Fferyllt (detail)
The creators of the deck, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, chose to re-name this card after the Druid alchemists, the Fferyllt.  In the image, so beautifully rendered by Will Worthington, we can see the alchemist at work.  She pours a red liquid into a bowl containing a white liquid to create ‘gold’ – the transforming of one or two substances into another. 

As in many depictions of this card, the need for flow between the conscious and unconscious is indicated by the flow between the two hands.  The rainbow symbolizes promise, as does the sun – part of the Sagittarian vision. So, transformation gives us the link to the mutable nature of Sagittarius, but what about the Fire?

Well, fire plays an essential part in alchemy – some of the main alchemical processes take place in a furnace.  We see here the alchemical union of fire and water.  While water can extinguish fire, it can also join together with fire to form steam – which we see rising from the vessel she’s working with. 

 (The actual alchemical process associated with Sagittarius is that of ceration – the softening of hard material, achieved by continuously adding a liquid to a hard, dry substance while it’s being heated, ending up with something the consistency of molten wax.  That’s a simplification, of course... and there are a number of different definitions.)

The Fferyllt, or Temperance, reminds us about uniting, integrating, blending, bringing things into balance and harmony, drawing on Sagittarius’ mutability and, if you think of this as an alchemical process, on fieriness!  

Druidcraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Sunday 22 November 2015

Quest for fire?

At 15.25 GMT today, the 22nd of November, the Sun moved (astrologically) into the zodiac sign of Sagittarius.  Here in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting shorter and the path of the sun – when we see it at all! – is low in the southern sky.  The time of solstice, when the sun will appear to be at a standstill, is approaching – but for now, we’re in the Mutable Fire sign of Sagittarius.

The constellation of Sagittarius represents a centaur the half-archer, half-horse figure who (in Greek mythology) was a disruptive creature, a lover of riot. The most famous story of the centaurs has them causing havoc at the wedding of Hippodamia and Pirithous, where they attempted to carry of Hippodamia and some of her women, the aim being to free the spirit of the women!

Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, the largest of the planets in our solar system, and one that’s composed almost entirely of gas.  Not difficult to see how Sagittarius has come by its reputation for being larger than life, full of hot air, and a tendency to overdo things!  Jupiter is the Roman counterpart to Zeus in the Greek pantheon - the ruler of the gods, as well as being the god of thunder.  Often shown with a lightning bolt as his symbol, Jupiter came to represent growth, expansion, and benevolence (in astrology, the planet is referred to as the 'greater benefic') - as well as good humour.  Jupiter was also known as Jove, giving rise to our word 'jovial'.

‘Sagittarius’ ©Alison Coals
The sign of Sagittarius sits at the other end of the axis of information on the zodiac, opposite Gemini. Both signs carry the quality of wanting to know what’s going on but Sagittarius takes this quest for knowledge out into the wider world and beyond into the universe.  It takes Gemini’s information and data on its quest, searching for ways to turn that into wisdom.  Like the other Fire signs, Sagittarius is fun-loving, cheerful, and full of energy - but that mutable energy means it can be restless and always on the move.  In cardinal Aries, we have ignition; in fixed Leo, the fire is maintained; in mutable Sagittarius, the fire is carried out into the world. That’s part of being on its quest for knowledge, of course – but that doesn’t stop Sagittarius from enjoying the journey and having adventures; just think of the Knights on their quest for the Holy Grail!

Adventure and challenge, wide open spaces, the freedom to roam – that’s what Sagittarius loves.  It’s not just physical exploration though – it’s also the need to expand consciousness, acquiring wisdom as well as experience.  Philosophy, religion, law – anything that involves expansion of the mind will appeal to Sagittarius.  There are shamanic associations to this sign too – the vision quest or shamanic journey could be seen as very Sagittarian.

What happens when you overfill a balloon with hot air? It’s likely to burst. Well, this happens here too – Sagittarius is optimistic to the point of being unrealistic, promising to do more than is humanly possible and not being able to deliver.  There’s a tendency to live in the future, imagining the endless possibilities, but not noticing what’s going on in front of them, on the ground.  But that optimism also leads to a belief in luck and good fortune – more Jupiterian qualities!