Capricorn - oil on canvas - 90 x 70 cm - 2014
Capricorn (December 22 - January 19)
Classical mythology explained the constellation figure of Capricorn as Pan who during the war of the Titans jumped into the Nile in terror and changed his shape into that of a goat-fish, suggesting that they were as ignorant of the real meaning of Capricorn as are we. Capricornus is the Latin name for the constellation which refers only to a goat’s horn, a potent symbol for fertility.
The constellation has a widespread association with aquatic creatures in ancient times. Early Hindu astrologers depicted it as a goat’s head upon the body of a hippopotamus and it was known by some Latin authors as Neptune’s Offspring or The Rain-bringing One. This is partly because the Sun’s passage through this section of the sky coincided with the rainy season of the ancient year. The symbolic roots are also tied into the worship of Ea, one of the most important Babylonian gods who ruled over Waters, Wisdom and Magic. Ea’s domain was the ‘Primeval Deep’, and he was known by the title ‘Antelope of the Ocean’.
Ea was the most stoical of the ancient gods and his mythological traits reveal him to be a constant friend to humanity. The Greeks preserved his character in their own myth of Oannes, an exceptionally wise creature, described by Berossus as half-fish and half-human, who was said to have emerged from the ocean on four occasions to bring culture and civilisation to mankind. Ea and Oannes are both described as articulate, patient, tolerant and serene. Their lack of emotional excitability are impressed upon the character traits associated with the star sign Capricorn.
Whereas Cancer was ‘the Gate of Men’, through which souls descended to Earth from Heaven, Capricorn was ‘the Gate of the Gods’, the portal of ascension through which souls of the departed ascended back to Heaven. Suitably Capricorn marks the Winter solstice a time when the powers of the sun are at its weakest.
The Hermetic-Platonic philosophy has a direct relevance to Babylon and therefore strengthens the argument that Capricorn celebrates the mythology of one of their prominent gods. The name ‘Babylon’ is the Greek form of bab-ili, the Assyrian translation of the Akkadian ca-dimira, ‘gate of the gods’, by which name it was locally known. The Hebrew name Babel (bab ‘gate’ + el ‘god’) shows the connection more clearly.
The goatfish however can be seen as a powerful dualistic emblem, uniting creatures that roam the mountains with those that swim the depths of the ocean, a symbol of the integration of spirit with matter. This duality is characterised by a life-long striving towards accomplishment. The sign is known as the most ambitious of the zodiac, driven to climb, yet constantly checked by the pressure of a planet whose nature is to hold back and restrain.