This week we are taking a look at Capricorn, the 10th sign of the zodiac.
This is a cardinal earth sign, ruled by Saturn, known to the Greeks as Kronos. He is both Father Time and the Reaper, who share a common symbol, the scythe or sickle. His concerns are maturity, old age and the accomplishments of a lifetime. Today we think of this as one's professional image, reputation or career. On the down side, this can be a loss of status, standing or being dishonored, while conversely it can be the best society has to offer, of success and public acclaim. In our personal lives, it deals with parents in general, and the predominate parent (usually the father) in particular. In the body, it rules over the bones, knees and skin. Just as Capricorn rules the skeletal system internally, so it also rules society's exoskeletal systems, our government, public buildings, and walls which protect us and provide a framework for society to work from within. Among other things, this is the sign of the architect.
If our hypothesis is correct, that Homer was writing an astrological primer for those studying astrology, then we should find these themes being repeated and emphasized throughout Chapter XXII, just as we did in Chapter X, the first time we glimpsed the nature of Capricorn. This is a hard sign, of difficulties, success and the frailties of age. There is a mountain to climb, working against gravity, and that ain't easy. For those that manage to make it, there's a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of a job well done. For those who make the attempt and don't succeed, there can be exhaustion, frustration, and embarassment, or possibly even scraped skin and broken bones. Since Capricorn is in opposition to Cancer, the sign of emotion, sensitivity and sentimental feelings, you will find none of that here. This sign is as far away from Cancer and its themes as you can get. We see this scenario being played out, as Hektor appeals to Akhilleus just before his death:
"I see you now for what you are. No chance
But this same lack of empathy is demonstrated by Hektor himself, earlier in the chapter, as his parents pleas fall on deaf ears. First we hear from his father, King Priam:
"The old man gave a cry. With both his hands
"Stretching out his hands,
Then Priam attempts to use his age to convince him to come inside the protection of the city walls.
"'But when an old man falls,
Unfortunately, since the Moon is in its detriment in Capricorn, being as far away from the sign that it rules (Cancer) as it can be, emotions and family issues are weak, and have little leverage. His mother also tries to persuade him, using her most moving memories:
"The young man's mother
"With tears and cries the two implored their son,
The reason Hektor will not come inside the walls (Capricorn) is because of his professional pride (Capricorn); his honor and glory. Hektor attempts to 'hold his ground' (our earth sign) because he feels someone inferior to himself will tell him he failed. To the end, his reputation is what is most important:
"Here I am badly caught. If I take cover,
'...when that time comes,' as we focus on the themes of Saturn and Hektor's professional pride. Both Capricorn and Leo share this quality of pride, but with Leo it is personal, how you see yourself, whereas with Capricorn it is professional, of how others see you. After Akhilleus kills Hektor, witnessed from the city by all save Hektor's wife Andromakhe, Queen Hekabe brings this point home.
"You were my pride in all my nights and days
These are some of the central themes around which this chapter turns, and each is played out as a part of the weave of these celestial threads. Notice how Queen Hekabe appropriately uses a Capricornian symbol to describe his standing in the community. He is a 'pillar' of society, an architectural support. Priam hopes to use his age as a bargaining chip in attempting to get Hektor's body back from Akhilleus, hoping he will pity him; after all, 'His father, too, is old...' he says, even though this rationale had not helped him to persuade Hektor.
Other threads are woven into the choreography as well. Capricorn is also the sign of success and accomplishment. It can represent great wealth and power. Priam considers what leverage his wealth may play early in the chapter, as he looks for Lykaon and Polydorus as the troops file into the city. He does not yet know that they have already been laid low by the anger of Akhilleus.
"If they are alive
And later, as Hektor waits before the gates of Troy, his mind vacillates as to how to deal with Akhilleus, and one option he considers illustrates this side of the Capricornian coin.
"Then I might add, apart from these, a portion
Respect is what this chapter is all about, and this is the manner in which Homer plays out these themes throughout his work. He does not limit his interpretations to professional glory, incredible success and great wealth, all of which would be the high side and benefits of this sign at the material (earth) level, but he also shows us what it is to lose respect, to be dishonored, or to face hard times.
Here are some other reflections of fame, honor, glory and reputation sprinkled throughout the chapter.
"Better we duel, now at once, and see
"Would you release him from his painful death?
"Take heart, my dear and honored child."
"Deiphobos, you were always the closest to me
Other mundane examples which fall under Saturn's sickle are the knees. Here we have another Cap in a Cap image:
And yet again, this time as Andromakhe learns of Hektor's death...
"My knees are like stone under me."
Remember that this is an earth sign. And yet again we have another repetition, as Andromakhe bewails the fate of their child, who has now lost his father. This plays into both our Capricornian theme, as well as the Moon's position in its detriment in this sign. Andromakhe imagines what it will be like for those who have no father.
"'Outside you there! Your father is not with us
In fact, we see three Capricornian images here. Marrow is the central essence of the bone, as he sits on his father's knees. Andromakhe knees shake, while Akhilleus claims that, in killing Hektor, he has made his 'knees give way.' These represent some of the mundane, minor supports which help to keep aloft our Capricornian structure in this chapter.
Several of these images all weave together, of the wall, one's glory, hard fate, old age, earth, and even grief and misery, as Priam pleads to Hektor.
"Come inside the wall, child; here you may
And finally, Saturn is the planet which deals with time. As Father Time, he holds the sickle which, at the stroke of midnight on the holiday terminates another year, never to return. As the mythological figure, he castrated his father Uranos with a flint sickle, and so became the Lord of the Titans on Earth (a golden time, according to the Romans). As the Reaper, a figure composed of dark tones and bones, he also carries the sickle and waits for our mortal time, our terminus, our end. With the Greek concept of fate, our birth, as well as our death, is appointed. Astrology embraces the same notion and we see how the two weave together as one in both their spirit and essence. This theme plays out many times throughout Homer. Andromakhe outlines this concept fully, having just seen Hektor's body being dragged behind the chariot towards the ships by Akhilleus.
"Hektor! Here is my desolation. Both
Notice the reference to the 'earth's roof' in this chapter of the earth constellation. Hektor expresses the same sentiments, but focusing on the more somber aspects of time, and one's appointed time. Hektor has been deceived by Athena, and now reads the writing on the wall, as he has overcome his fear and stands up to Akhilleus, a larger and stronger man, in mortal combat.
"This is the end. The gods are calling me deathward
We are in Capricorn's chapter, the constellation of reputation, public fame, and glory. Hektor's actions, portrayed above, have been immortalized in these lines and stand at the pinnacle of success and defeat, of fame and infamy in Homer's epic work, just as Capricorn stands at the summit of the mountain, and the summit of the chart. For three thousand years we have remembered Hektor's and Akhilleus's names. With his life on the line, confronting a champion who is bigger and stronger than he is, knowing that his time is up, he nevertheless faces death and tries to make the best of it he can, his concern being that his reputation be preserved for future generations.
Finally, Capricorn had a special relationship with death and dying. We know that at birth, the soul is supposed to enter through Cancer, a sign dealing with nurturing, the womb and motherhood.
"They passed the lookout point, the wild figtree
The lucida of Capricorn, alpha Capricorium, is in fact a double star called Algedi, from the Arabic name Al Jady, the goat. As early as 1,000 BC (approximately contemporary with either the historical event or the writing of the Iliad), a Babylonian planisphere shows the sea-goat or the goat-fish as the symbol for this constellation. To the Babylonians, he was known as Ea, 'He of Vast Intellect and Lord of the Sacred Eye. Ea was the protector of his people, and from his place in the sky the great rivers flowed, giving life.'
Vivian Robson states in her work on the stars that Deneb Algedi causes sorrow and happiness, life and death, beneficence and destructiveness.
Is this the same 'hot and cold' that we see Homer describing as the source of the river and the influence of this double star? Is this the same philosophical river of heaven as depicted by the Babylonians? Is Homer in fact giving us an astronomical, as well as an astrological interpretation of the stars of antiquity?
Only Time will tell.