Crabs, rams, half horse dudes and virgins- at first glance the Zodiac looks like a mess. A grab-bag of odd and outmoded symbols assigned arbitrarily to random places on a wheel.However, after a little study, what at first appeared to be a trash can for archaic symbols becomes a mandala of unparalleled symmetry, a lovingly crafted organizational system for thousands of years of insights.
One of the more interesting facets of the Zodiac’s architecture is the relationship between opposing Signs. The Zodiac contains 12 Signs, each arranged around a wheel. This gives us 6 pairs of signs staring across the circle, complementing and contradicting each other. Each of these is an axis, representing the polar extremes of approach to one of life’s big questions.
The Lunar Nodes have a special relationship to pairs of opposing Signs. The Nodes move clockwise and opposite each other, always transiting opposing Signs simultaneously. The Nodes visit each pair of Signs for about a year and a half before moving on. In March of 2011, the North Node entered Sagittarius, while the South Node slipped into Gemini, activating the axis. The Nodal dragon will be splayed across this pair well into 2012, pulling us into the issues that emerge amidst this polarity, and challenging us to engage in the underlying alchemy of the present.
“What people call insincerity is simply a method by which we can multiply our personalities.”
- Oscar Wilde
Gemini is represented by the Twins- the two which are, in truth, one. Gemini is an Air sign, referring to the activity of the mind, the intellectual function and particularly the everyday magicks of communication and expression. Its ruling Planet is Mercury, whose domain is the translation of experience into language. As such Mercury, as a Roman god (and as Greek Hermes) was the master of speech, mathematics, magick and swift travels of all sorts. Finally, Gemini is considered to be a Mutable Sign, meaning that its action is primarily adaptive and responsive, rather than the proactive approach that characterizes Cardinal Signs or the steady, determined one that Fixed Signs exhibit.
In Gemini we see the mind’s adaptive response to new experiences- it finds names and logical relationships to bring order to the chaos of raw perception. With such a capacity to find the systems underlying experience comes a hunger to use it. Gemini is the home of curiosity, be it in the inquiring words of a toddler or the burning questions of a stooped philosopher. This curiosity is the desire to take on new experiences and the challenge of trying to understand them. This quest is ongoing, and there is a back and forth between new, uncategorized experiences and the work of trying to understand the systems underlying the self and world. In many ways, in Gemini we see the mind discovering its own capacity to bring linguistic order to the world.
But why is this activity represented by a pair of Twins? Fundamentally, the Twins are Experience and Language. Each time we name something, we double it. Where once was only land, there is now map and territory. In semiotic language, Signifier and Signified. Gemini is constantly engaged in this process of turning one into two, breeding pairs of Twins where ever their glance turns.
The human experience of living the Gemini archetype is one of curiosity, learning and empowerment. As should be obvious to a person living in our day and age, the abstraction of experience into language allows for power over the environment. Through the language of mathematics, we humans have gained a host of tremendous advantages. The marvels of our era are a testament to the power of any technical language, and the Gemini Twins are chock full of the tricks and techniques such languages create.
But with the leverage of language come a host of dangers. In letting the myth of the Twins live through us, we risk becoming trapped in a whirlwind of ideas without grounding, symbols without meaning. The ability to abstract from experience can also works against us, for we become more remote from the subject of our attention. Statistics on unemployment are important for those who manage society, but the understanding they provide is not the same as living in a community where lost jobs create a psychological vacuum filled with the quiet desperation, brave but invisible moments and the bitterness of betrayed dreams. As Alfred Korzybski famously said, “The map is not the territory,” but it is useful.
Likewise, psychologically, we run the risk of losing contact with who we are, instead seduced by a doppelganger of ideas about ourselves. French psychoanalyst Jaques Lacan refered to this as the “Mirror Stage” where the child’s identity shifts from their experience of self to the feedback they receive in the mirror of the world. The world is not a single mirror, but instead a hall of them. It reveals many faces, many selves. Gemini’s preoccupation with making sense of all of this is the basis of the “multiple personality” accusation labeled at many of the Sign’s natives.
The ability to abstract and analyze is incredibly powerful, but its gifts, like the doubled sign of Gemini, are two-fold. The Twins give us the power to master the world with language, but at the price of becoming alienated from the living fabric of experience. In Gemini, the One becomes Two, but eventually, the Two must return to the One.
“E Pluribus Unum”
Far across the zodiac, we find the Twin’s antipode, the enigmatic figure of Sagittarius. Half horse, half man, and all archer, Sagittarius is a Fire Sign, his arrow pointing toward the spirit itself, the visionary capacity of the mind and the capacity to see the self in truly magical terms. Like Gemini, Sagittarius is mutable, meaning that its active, visionary approach is primarily responsive, dedicated to formulating a good answer to life’s questions. Finally, Sagittarius’ ruling Planet is Jupiter, the jolly philosophical giant of our solar system. Jupiter’s primary concerns are growth, unification and wisdom.
The Twins are ultimately a symbol of the One becoming Two while Sagittarius, on the other hand, represents the Two becoming One. This idea is encoded into the otherwise indecipherable symbol of the half-horse archer. Animal and Human, instinctual and rational, become one in the image of the half-horse, half-man centaur. Furthermore, the entirely organic, if bizarre, unity of horse and human is juxtaposed to the mechanical power of the bow and arrow. If you’ll follow me just a little further down the rabbit hole, you’ll see that even within the bow we see a unity of two polarized elements- the strung bow which generates the force and the arrow which carries that force- yin and yang. All along there was a brilliant symbol of unity hiding inside the silly figure of the half-horse! The unity of opposing elements- instinct and reason, organic and mechanical, yin and yang.
Sagittarius confronts the multiplicity of experience. Both self and world hold enumerable contradictions. But the horse legs which want to travel require a destination, and the bow which wants shoot requires a target. Destinations and targets are unities, not pluralities. We cannot travel to two places at once. Nor can we hit two targets at the same time. Sagittarius’ essential formula is to distill the multiplicity of experience into a meaningful unity. It is these meaningful unities which allow us to move and act with purpose. As Sagittarius Moon Fredrich Nietzsche once wrote, “The formula for my happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal.”
In this act of distillation, we see meaningless multiplicity boiled down into meaningful unity. The Centaur does not need to know everyone’s truth- but they do need to know their truth. The truth of where to go, what to do, and what to be. In lived terms, this often translates into a healthy obsession with mastery. The formula of synthesis, of finding out how to combine the disparate elements of the life and the personality in pursuit of excellence in a single art or science is often the focal point for the Sagittarian psyche. Not only that, the ability to forge a meaningful world for themselves is also the psychological foundation upon which the famous Sagittarian capacity for revelry rests.
But synthesis can go too far. An obsession with unifying everything can lead to the conceit that one’s current understanding of the world includes Everything. It is here that Sagittarius’ often discussed negative personality traits emerge- arrogance, intolerance, delusion and general wind-baggery. It is essentially the problem we see with religious fundamentalists, extreme nationalists, and other Crusaders- the inability to see outside of One perspective. The unified perspective forged in the fires of Sagittarius can become so powerful that it twists everything into a confirmation of it. As the Two must become One, they also must become Two again. Unity is a beautiful thing, but as the Twins will tell you, so is Difference.
Solve Et Coagula
Sagittarius and Gemini both represent ways of understanding the world. Gemini analyzes and searches for systems while Sagittarius finds the connections between disparate elements. The Gemini method yields Knowledge, while the Sagittarian approach yields Wisdom. Without the Twin’s clever technical expertise and general cleverness, the Centaur’s grand perspective and celebratory character simply render him a Fool. However, without the Centaur’s ability to forge purpose and find direction, the Twin’s mental prowess is reduced to sterile and potentially harmful intellectual vanity. But when these opposed ways of understanding cooperate, wonders emerge. Knowledge and Perspective, Power and Purpose- with these, there is a little an individual, a nation or a world cannot achieve.
The Nodes have come to occupy Gemini and Sagittarius, bringing the dynamics of the Twins and the Centaur into the mysterious maelstrom of the Eclipse cycle. The Nodes do not simply connect a pair of Signs, though. They change them. The South Node, now in Gemini, asks us to let go. Meanwhile, the North Node, now in Sagittarius, urges us to take on more. The combined action of the Nodes creates a process of letting go of affairs in one area of life to commit more deeply to another.
With the South Node in Gemini, there is a call to let go of excessive analysis as well as the divisions which no longer serve us. With the North Node in Sagittarius, there is a corresponding call to bring it all together, to figure out what this means for us and what the hell to do about it. But the energy to bring it all together is stuck in the unnecessary division of our mind and our energy. We have to free the energy form the sign in which the South Node resides in order to commit it to the direction the North Node suggests.
Let's use a simple example drawn from the United States Chart. The US has its Ascendant in Sagittarius and its Descendent in Gemini. Using Whole Sign Houses, this marks Sagittarius as the 1st House (Self) and Gemini as the 7th (Others, Relationships). If we overlay the Nodes, we see the South Node in the 7th House and the North Node in the 1st. This Eclipse cycle is asking the US to retract (South Node) it’s unnecessarily numerous involvements (Gemini) in the business of Other nations (7th house). At the same time, it is being called to focus its attentions and energies (North Node) on finding a meaningful direction (Sagittarius) for itself (1st House).
To say that the US currently has a problem with unnecessary divisions (South Node in Gemini) and that the nation desperately needs to come together in order to formulate a new vision (North Node in Sagittarius) is a tremendous understatement. It will be interesting to watch how related issues (such as troop deployment and foreign aid) are dealt with or dodged during the Sag-Gemini Eclipses in June, late November-early December and then again in June of 2012.
But the questions the Nodes pose to Gemini and Sagittarius is personal as well as political. A quick analysis of the Houses of the natal chart will help reveal where are you fragmenting your energies, as well as what really needs your attention. The Nodes in Gemini and Sagittarius are ultimately about a shift in perception, a transition from critical analysis into purposeful synthesis. It’s time to bring it all together.