by Terri Smallwood
Deck the halls, Star Watchers; its December! Around the world people of many different cultures and religions are gearing up to mark this festive season with various holidays that celebrate giving and sharing, light and love, renewal and rebirth. Tripping through the parties and celebrations with clownish abandon is Sagittarius, the fun-loving philosopher Centaur with his one-pointed arrows that shoot straight into the truth that lies at the heart of any issue.
Jupiter-ruled Sagittarius is the 9th sign of the zodiac and lies between Scorpio and Capricorn on the natural chart wheel. Sagittarius is concerned with higher education, philosophy, long-distance travel and the law. A mutable sign, Sagittarius is represented by the Centaur, a creature that is half-human, half-horse. Like all mutable signs, there is an element of duality in the nature of the Sagittarian, and understanding the symbolism of the Centaur is the key to unlocking the mystery of both his dual nature and his unique place in the cycle of the signs.
As the Centaur, Sagittarius is unique from the other signs. While some signs are represented by animals, like Pisces the Fish or Capricorn the Goat, and others are represented by human forms, like Aquarius the Water Bearer or Gemini the Twins, Sagittarius is represented by a symbol that is both man and beast. This fusing of human and animal characteristics is what gives the Sagittarian nature both its best and worst points.
Often when we talk of the characteristics of a particular sign we fall into the trap of making two lists, one labeled bad and the other good. Even when we try to take a more spiritual approach to astrology, the same two lists are there, but the terms to describe them are softened into phrases like higher and lower abilities or are graded on a sliding scale of more- or less-evolved varieties. It suits our linear thinking to be able to sort and classify like this, and the idea that every sign has its good and bad points makes learning the basics of astrology much simpler.
However, its important to remember that each of us is on his or her own path through this Earth school. We come to different places at different times and in a whole variety of ways that are not at all as simple as the lists of good and bad traits would have you believe. An analysis of the highest possible goals and the best possible traits of any particular sign should hopefully serve as a motivating factor to natives of that sign a chance to unravel their purposes in this life and see the tools they have at their disposal.
I approach astrology, and my ideas of evolving consciously from life to life, much the same way as I approach a roadmap it shows me where I am now and helps me find a route to my destination. How many detours and sightseeing visits I want to take along the way is up to me. Even choosing to put the map down altogether and drive blind for a while is my decision to make. The map is there if I need it, and eventually we all start homing in on where we need to be. Fiery Sagittarius, with his truth-filled arrows, is granted a celestial advantage in the homing-in department, but separating that ability from his bestial nature is his heaviest challenge.
In ancient Greek mythology, most Centaurs lived apart from mankind and were known for their insatiable appetites for debauchery. They lived an orgiastic existence, indulging in every kind of sensual delight. One Centaur, the immortal Chiron, chose a different path from his fellows. Renowned as a teacher and a healer, Chiron instructed some of the greatest Greek philosophers of the age. In his later days, after years of great suffering as a result of being accidentally shot by a poisoned arrow, he renounced his immortality and, upon his death, was rewarded by Zeus with a permanent home in the skies. Zeus placed Chiron within the constellation Sagittarius. This association with Zeus carries forward to this day, by having Jupiter (the Zeus of the ancient Romans) as Sagittarius ruling planet.
Having elements of the Centaur nature is not all bad for Sagittarians. They are strong, agile and somewhat fearless individuals. The wanderers of the zodiac, Sagittarians are independent from an early age and are likely to be the young men and women who leave the comfort of home early to pursue the delights of travel, to study abroad, or to join the circus. As adults, Sagittarians often remain single well into middle age, preferring to remain unencumbered and free to continually seek out new kinds of adventures. They are also bestowed with many of Chirons fine mental attributes. They have a straightforward and unfettered way of approaching life. Underneath the jocularity lies a serious mind that is deeply concerned with social justice and the well-being of humanity. Honest to a fault, the conduct of most Sagittarians is beyond reproach. As Linda Goodman said in Sun Signs,You can take that old advice, If you want the truth, go to a child, and switch it to If you want the truth, go to a Sagittarian. (And if you are really brave, try asking a Sagittarian child!)
Life often seems easy for Sagittarians. Guided by benevolent Jupiter, they seem to be abundantly lucky and will often receive help from unlikely sources, just when they need it most. Jupiter also graces Sagittarians with a jovial nature that makes them popular and agreeable friends. This ease of living, the Jupiter-bestowed largesse, is a double-edged sword for Sagittarians. As nice as it is to go through life on a winning streak, a life made too easy can be easily wasted. Like the immortal Centaurs who spent their time on Earth in reckless abandon, ignoring their gifts for prophecy and their ability to teach and guide others (except for good old Chiron) it is easy for Sagittarians to get caught on the earthly wheel of sensual pleasures and squander years of their lives in pursuit of a good time.
To escape this trap, Sagittarians need to look beyond the Centaur and to the symbol of the Knight. Like Scorpios, who can be either stinging Scorpions or soaring Eagles, Sagittarians can choose to rise above their overly sensual natures and become Knights in Shining Armor, as Alan Oken suggests in Soul-Centered Astrology. The archetypal gallant figure of the Knight in Shining Armor is one who has reined in his hedonistic drives, symbolized by the horse. The Knight is typically astride his animal counterpart, but separate from it, while the Centaur remains part horse and only half-human. As a Knight, Sagittarians become masters of themselves, able to step away from the constant need to indulge their pleasure centers and able to use their arrows as beams of light to teach and guide the people around them.
In the circle of the zodiac, Sagittarius falls between Scorpio and Capricorn. In esoteric astrology, these three signs make up a powerhouse of spiritual endeavor. In Scorpio the soul undergoes important and often difficult tests and trials. At some point in the process the soul learns the value of relinquishing its hold on the material plane and delving into the greater mysteries of existence. In Sagittarius, the profound insights gained in Scorpio form the foundation of the Sagittarian philosophical nature. Scorpios lessons provide a deep understanding of existence, and Sagittarius seeks to take that understanding and transform it from basic awareness into concrete foundations for society; universities, libraries, judicial courts and codified behavior based on religious and/or spiritual truths.
These institutes of higher learning, these repositories for human knowledge and endeavor, are Sagittarius gifts to humanity and the crowning glory for the entire western half of the natural zodiac. The last of the six signs in the western hemisphere, Sagittarius is motivated by others, and by his love of humanity, to create and maintain these important institutions. The souls next journey is to undertake the lessons of Capricorn, as it crosses over to the eastern side of the zodiac, where the drives for success become self-inspired. According to the esoteric traditions, Capricorn is called The Light of Initiation. The Goat strives to climb the mountaintop and find that sacred place where spirit and matter can fuse into one. The arrows of Sagittarius are the first beams of light that prepare the way.