The Archetypes of the Zodiac
~with the twist of a feminist cultural theorist
One thing to note, if you're new to astrology, you've most likely heard of the archetypes in terms of sun signs. Astrology is much, much, much more than sun signs. The descriptions below, while applicable to sun signs, refer to the energy of the archetypes in the zodiac which show up in several ways in the natal chart- by planet, house and sign. In someways the natal chart is an interconnected web of all of these energies converging and diverging. Astrology becomes the language of entering into and co-creating with that energetic dance. Each archetype description has a prompt for further reflection on supporting your own connection with its energy.
Aries is the first sign of the zodiac. It's usually equated with an archetype of primal instincts & desires. Especially in traditional astrology, Aries interpretations are quite gendered. The Aries woman, be she identified by her sun (life driving force) or moon (deep inner world of emotions) is so often considered rash, 'too' bold, 'too' direct, angry...you get the picture.
Let's interrupt those patriarchal and colonial frameworks and return to the archetype's essence.
A primal drive. Instinctual Desire. Imaginative Spark.
Aries is a force of life able to take us where we need to go, when we need to go there. Every archetype has a shadow, yes, but we are taught to focus on the shadow and diagnose ourselves and clients based on the shadow. When we do this, we start with what is wrong or deficient rather than beginning simply where we are. Aries helps us access a co-creative alignment between our soul and the cosmos to support our individual journey of growth & transformation. Aries' drive and commitment to its instincts is pure passion. This energy doesn't need to be critiqued or gendered. It can be allowed just to be.
Reflection to reclaim your Aries energy:
How have I been taught to silence my instinctual drives? How can I imagine more beauty and space and empowerment in my life if I leaned into those drives rather than silenced them?
Taurus is the second sign of the zodiac. It's usually equated with characteristics of the bull that commonly represents it- steadfast and grounded. An earth sign, Taurus' shadow is often described as leaning into stubborness or a resistance to change. It's equated with resources like money and property.
Now don't get me wrong. Money is great. We need money. But.....we often don't need as much money or property as society teaches us to covet. We don't need to apply our steadfast earthly ways to perpetuating ownership of land for the sake of ideologies rooted in exploiting land. We can detach ourselves from these ideologies and revel in the gifts of Taurus reclaimed.
Taurus lets us root so deeply into earth-consciousness. Into a steady beat and rhythm of the earth flowing in our own fleshly embodiment. Taurus has the courage to hold fast to its principals and to say No when its boundaries are threatened. Taurus can reteach us about land and how our body is a natural resource to be nourished.
Reflection to touch into Taurus energy:
How can I explore a connection between land consciousness and my own body? How can I slow down my daily rhythms and make time to explore my sensual connections to earth? Taste. Smell. Touch. Sound. Sight. How can I imagine these as deep resources that connect me to a very grounded path?
Gemini is the 3rd sign of the zodiac. An air sign filled with natural curiosity and the energy and drive to discover multiple perspectives. Gemini often finds itself described as the gossip of the Zodiac or as duplicitous. By countering such stereotypes, I don't mean to suggest our 'shadow' sides don't exist or that we don't all have habits we can seek to improve upon. But what if Gemini's gossip is driven by molding itself to a society teaching it to direct its energy to proving something, to comparing its nature to others, or that success is somehow measured by social standing rather than intrinsic self worth?
Gemini has the ability to see so many perspectives of a situation. To channel its drive to exquisite facets of communication and connection. When we unravel the drive to communicate and connect from social standards of what life 'should' look like, Gemini energy bursts forth as a leader of connection & community making.
Reflection to revitalize Gemini energy:
When I close my eyes and breathe, slowly watching the inhale & slowly watching the exhale, where does my curiosity want do take me? What images appear? What direction can I channel my inquisitive meaning making energy into?
Cancer is the 4th sign of the zodiac A water sign to its core, Cancer is all about feeling & emotions. Our society, however, is not one that strives to value emotions, certainly not in the same way it teaches us to value material goods and productivity. After all it's hard to live by the standards of corporate patriarchal capitalism if one is feeling the negative impact of our daily way of life on people's wellbeing and the earth's ecosystems.
I put Cancer in the category of one of the most misinterpreted and overlooked signs of the zodiac. This is because Cancer asks us to feel into belonging. To feel into knowing. To step sideways and move with the current of the tides. Cancer asks us to shift our consciousness to water. But our society is not structured around such fluid ways of being & knowing.
At its heart, Cancer is about emotional presence, emotional intelligence and nurturing. It is aligned with the home. Often in pop culture astrology this then gets translated into being a 'good mother' or... having lots of real estate. Again, here we see social ideologies guiding the way. The home as an emotional sanctuary that heals and nourishes, in its purest sense, is about love and love alone. Cancer also points us straight to the root of the psyche, to our ancestral inheritances and sense of belonging.
Reflection to be with Cancer energy:
How can I sit with my emotions the same way I sit with the view of the vast ocean out before me?
What is an archetype?? The word's use in astrology comes from Carl Jung's Depth Psychology. For Jung, archetypes refer to forms of energy that manifest in the psyche as different types of symbols of identity and existence. For example, there is, in Jung's approach, the "mother archetype" which describes mothering principles that manifest in diverse cultures and identities and in our own pysches. In astrology, the signs of the zodiac speak to us as 12 archetypes which interact with the planets and house placements. As we learn to work the the archetypes, they speak to us of the different and ever evoloving parts of the psyche and our personality.
Leo the lion is the 5th sign of the zodiac. Perhaps one of the best known signs, Leo is an archetype that likes to shine. Pop culture astrology tends to focus on showing the Leo aspects of celebrities and its true, Leo does show up in a lot of people that seek out the limelight. But is that what Leo is really about or is that what our society has taught us shining should look like?
Leo is a courageous magnetic fire energy that burns brightly and shines forth. We all have Leo in our chart and we all have this need to shine, in one way or another, within us. The piece about the Leo archetype that's often left out in mainstream astrology is that the essence of Leo's drive is to be a conduit to shine forth creative Source energy. This is not a sign asking us to bolster up our egos and turn them to profit.
Reflection for nourishing the fires of Leo energy:
What in life helps me tap into my heart-centred joy? When do I enter a type of dance with life and feel an effortless rhythm take me away? If it's hard to access this type of joy, what do I imagine would be a type of environment or activity where I could feel those fire of joy inspire me?
Sitting in the 6th house of the Zodiac, Virgo is an earth sign that strangely has one dominant reputation in pop culture: wanting everything to be clean! There is good reason that this stereotype emerged. Virgo is a sign concerned with distilling experience down to is essence. It wants to purify and understand, decipher and discern.
Virgo energy is also sometimes aligned with crisis and anxiety. However, anxiety can emerge not because of a deficiency in one's makeup, here the presence of strong Virgo energy, but because we do not have a society that, ultimately, is able to support such strong dedication and commitment to understanding and distilling meaning with the veracity that Virgo brings forth. In a culture that values instantaneous results and performed confidence over careful consideration and reflection, Virgo energy is sometimes truly going against the grain.
Reflection to bring forth and appreciate your Virgo self:
How can I let go of a drive for perfection and embody that journey of discovery?
Libra is an air sign and the 7th sign of the zodiac. An archetype of justice and beauty, Libra has everything to do with relationships. Libra is often thought of as a peace maker, so much so, that it's true, Libra energy can pull an individual so far into the energy of others that she can lose her own sense of identity. This is often portrayed of as the shadow side of the Libra archetype.
The thing is though Libra is, at its core, all about relationship. Whether that is a relationship with art and creating beauty or with an intimate partner and creating, hopefully, beauty, Libra energy asks us and invites us to let go of that Virgo desire to understand everything to its core and actually step into the waters of relating which is by its very nature to let go of control and even, a little bit, of our own identity.
We need relationship to understand ourselves. Who we're drawn to, how we form alliances & community--relating to others is a key part of human life and Libra energy helps us to do that. And when we do it mindfully, the realm of this air sign, oh what justice, equity and beauty it can bring.
Working mindfully with Libra energy:
What parts of myself am I able to access more when I'm relating 1-1 with another person? What parts of myself do I access more when I'm on my own.
Sweet Scorpio. In the 8th house of the zodiac, this water sign is also up there, in my book, with the most misrepresented signs, especially in pop culture. Perhaps even more famous than Leo, Scorpio is known for sex, the taboo, being mysterious and is often labeled as vindictive. It is, after all, represented by the Scorpion whose sting is fatal.
Don't get me wrong. Scorpio is an archetype linked with the underworld. Scorpio's scope is deep and it is not necessarily for the faint of heart. But, folks, we've all got Scorpio in our chart and we all of us are born with the ability to turn our gaze away from the shallow, materialistic trends that a capitalistic culture conditions us to value as the meaning of life.
Scorpio is about deep union between psyches. It's about venturing into the deep waters of intimacy and having the courage to face all of a person's humanity. It is an energy essential to forming authentic relationships, with ourselves and with others. It is the power to see the truth and then almost immediately after we make contact with truth, discover the nature of life is to transformation. Back on the journey of truth seeking Scorpio goes.
Reflection for cultivating self-love in a Scorpionic way:
Starting slowly at first and then over time, dipping your feet deeper and deeper into the waters of self-reflection, ask yourself, gently and with tender compassion: what is it about myself, that I fear? See what comes up. Journal with it, dance with it, meditate with it, make art with it. Over and over again.
Sagittarius brings us to the last fire sign of the zodiac. The 9th sign, Sagittarius drives us to expand beyond ourselves, beyond our intimate relationships and to reach out and touch the world. An archetype that leads us to study, be that formal education or non traditional education through travel and experiencing other cultures, Sagittarius is deeply inspired by pursuits of understanding and searching for answers to big questions like 'why are we here?'.
Aligned with the planet Jupiter, its archetype is revered as a spirited, jovial pursuit of higher meaning. Sagittarius however is driven by one thing that our culture does struggle to value: intuition. Sometimes Sagittarius is considered domineering in its commitment to its own ideas, specifically because it's drawn by intuition rather than say the Virgo drive to analyze and consider different angles of an idea. Having strong Sagittarius energy in one's chart or experiencing Sagittarius transits is definitely a call to work with one's intuition, developing a solid relationship with the fire that spurs you to explore and connect.
Reflection for igniting Sagittarius energy:
What excites me about learning? How can I ignite my own desires to expand?
Capricorn is the 10th sign of the zodiac and the final earth sign. Capricorn is, for me, with Cancer & Scorpio, in the group of most misrepresented signs. Capricorn is especially important to consider from a feminist perspective, because this is often the sign associated with government, which in our culture and histories, means patriarchy.
Capricorn is aligned with the mountain goat. Without a doubt, Capricorn energy is driven and hard working. It knows how to set goals and accomplish them. It likes to organize systems and it governs the boundaries of consciousness, therefore establishing collective rules in our society. All of these properties however, are part of this yin (receptive) sign's ability to be in material and earthly connection with all that is on this plane (and also beyond this plane). It carries an organizing principle of being embodied and this does not make Capricorn patriarchal by any means. We, human beings, have created patriarchy, not the zodiac!
At the same time, however, patriarchy and colonial ideologies have been the systems with which human society has been organized around for centuries. We could consider how all of us brought up in these societies have had our Capricornian energies distorted somewhat by normative ideas of 'success', most of which are attached to capitalism. At its core, however, Capricorn is a beautiful energy of earthly drive, leading us to climb one mountain after another not to gain power, but, perhaps, to connect, like the goat, to our nature's will to live and push onward a little more each day. In this sense, Capricorn eventual becomes a wise elder and teacher of the zodiac.
Reflection to sit with Capricorn energy:
Sitting quietly with eyes closed, calming breath by watching the inhale and the exhale, come into a quiet place and simply ask yourself, where is my will taking me? What does my soul desire I do?
Aquarius is the 11th sign of the zodiac, an air sign and is often considered the rebellious genius archetype. Aquarius connects and unifies on collective levels and is able to see past the flash and allure of mainstream culture in order to tap into what is most beneficial for humanity's evolution. However, this is not just any evolutionary order. When Aquarius is directed by its truest source and goal, its inspiration is directly link to a unifying higher mind or higher Self.
Aquarius is often thought of as potentially cold and having to bear a weight of isolation. Indeed, Aquarian energy is gifted with its insight and if left unbalanced it can spin toward arrogance and detachment. After all, it is a difficult weight to bear, intuiting the direction and links to connecting humanity toward its evolution. And yet, every one of us taps into Aquarian energy in different ways and at different times. We are all part of humanity's evolution and we all have the ability to detach at times and see clearly all that is.
Reflection to still the mind and channel the Aquarian drive:
Laying down in a comfortable position, meditate with a body scan and imagine a type of tension releasing itself from every part of the body. Then, body scan complete, simply lie there, breathing, thinking nothing, driving toward nothing, and receive for a few minutes whatever it is your being needs to receive.
With Pisces, our journey through the zodiac comes to an end, only to birth itself anew again in the first sign of primal drive, Aries. Pisces, the 12th sign, is a water sign and there is perhaps no better description of Pisces than the ocean. This archetype, however, is not asking us to reflect on the nature of the ocean from the shore, this archetype is us being in a state of oceanic flow. We are one with its depths and waves, its shallows and tides. In Pisces, our ego dissolves and we rejoin a state of oneness with Spirit.
Because of this dissolution of ego, Pisces energy manifests on a spectrum of experiences. It's often aligned with deep meditation and also with addictions and the use of substances to escape , i.e., dissolve and/or transcend everyday consciousness. We need to be careful when we talk about Pisces energy, especially from judging it with certain interpretations, because Pisces knows a way of being that is, by its very nature, beyond our everyday cognitive and explicit basis of meaning making. Pisces energy is not about capital or status and it is not about social structures of power, which is the basis of most people's approach to interpretation and life. Unlearning the ideologies our cultures breed into us is difficult and life long work. Pisces however, doesn't have to unlearn this because it is the field of experience beyond our common separation of body and mind.
Reflection to nourish Piscean energy:
What is it like if I let myself dissolve into the rhythm of the water flowing through my body? When thought dissolves into liquid, what does it feel like, from the inside out? Sit with this feeling. Paint with it. Walk with it. Spend some time leaving language outside and just be in the expereince.