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Read Capricorn the Goatfish for meanings and traits of the star-sign Capricorn.


Star Lore of the Constellations: Capricorn the Goatfish - by Deborah Houlding

Notable stars in Capricorn: Epoch 2000
Longitude Name Nature Mag. Position Lat. Dec.
03 Aq. 46 Geidi Venus/ Mars 4 Horn of Goat 07N 13S
04 Aq. 03 Dabih Saturn/ Venus 3 Left Eye of Goat 05N 15S
05 Aq. 25 Oculus Saturn/ Venus 5 Right Eye of Goat 01N 18S
13 Aq. 26 Armus Mars/ Mercury 4 Heart of Goat 03S 20S
13 Aq. 51 Dorsum Saturn/ Jupiter 4 Back of Goat 01S 17S
20 Aq. 12 Castra Saturn/ Jupiter 4 Belly of Goat 05S 19S
21 Aq. 47 Nashira Saturn/ Jupiter 3 Tail of Goat 03S 17S
23 Aq. 32 Deneb Algedi Saturn/ Jupiter 3 Tail of Goat 03S 16S

Classical mythology linked the constellation figure of Capricorn with Pan who during the war of the Titans jumped in terror into the Nile and changed his shape into that of a goat-fish. Thus the words 'panic' and 'pandemonium' originated. Greek myth also associated the symbolism to Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans), the god of wine, agriculture, and earthly fertility; or Liber 'the free one', an older Italian god of fertility and growth in nature. All of the classical associations exploit the symbolism of the goat's horn as a drinking vessel and cornucopia - an abundance of the gifts of nature as seen in the sustenance offered by the goat's milk. Capricornus is the Latin name for the constellation which refers only to a goat's horn, a potent symbol for fertility which gave rise to a reputation for hedonistic behaviour and the more negative tendencies associated with 'acting the goat'. In many respects these attributes present an extreme quality of Zeus who was nourished in infancy by the goat Amalthea. A deeper spiritual significance, and a more Saturnian flavoured origin is revealed in the ancient depiction of this star group as a goat's forebody attached to the tail of a fish.

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.

Despite its zodiacal importance, Capricorn is unremarkable as a constellation, possessing no stars brighter than 3rd magnitude. It is second only to Cancer for its lack of luminosity and, like Cancer, was regarded as a celestial portal between Heaven and Earth. 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. This ties neatly with Hermetic Philosophy, which regards the sphere of the Moon, the planetary ruler of Cancer, as the final realm in which incarnating souls acquire shape and form in birth, and the sphere of Saturn, the planetary ruler of Capricorn, as the final realm in which ascending souls free themselves from earthly trappings upon death. It is assumed that this association developed whilst the Sun's ingress into Cancer marked its greatest elevation and Capricorn marked its nadir. Early philosophers looked upon water as the element from which all life emerged, hence symbolism of an aquatic or amphibious nature is prevalent in the constellations linked to these points.

This 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.[1]

As 'the Gate of the Gods' Capricorn was favoured for times of sacrifice, and in the zodiacs of Denderah and Esna, where it is depicted by a goat-fish, it is called Hu-penius, meaning 'the place of sacrifice'. Goats were a creature of choice for atoning sacrifice - Letviticus of the Old Testament describes a ceremony whereby one goat is offered in sacrifice, to be slaughtered on the north side of the altar, whilst a second becomes a sin offering, a scapegoat which after the ceremony is exposed to the wilderness as the bearer of man's sin. This scapegoat fell naturally into the symbolism of evil, some Biblical translations refering to it as Azazel, an outcast evil spirit residing in the wilderness. Azazel has subsequently been seen as a demonic goat god that has influenced pagan illustrations of the devil. But this is a very distorted vision of the symbolic properties of the goat. 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 in matter which must one day be separated and held to account.

Ptolemy noted the stars in the horns to be like Venus with a lesser influence of Mars; those in the mouth like Saturn with a lesser influence of Venus; those in the feet and belly like Mars and Mercury, and those in the tail like Saturn and Jupiter.[2]

Manilius suggested that the stars in the first half of the sign are subject to Venus 'and that with a guilt involved', whilst 'a more virtuous old age is promised by the conjoined fish below'. In a general sense this is borne out in the meanings attributed to the stars, those in the first half of the constellation tending more towards issues of sacrifice and relationship problems, those in the latter suggesting attributes of trustworthiness, the potential for good judgement or acting in an advisory capacity to others.

Manilius also saw Capricorn as the source of metal-workers' talents because Capricorn, as the sign of winter, related to the year's (and therefore the earth's) depths. He associated Capricorn with that which needs a 'renewal of flame' because its season brought back a renewal of the sun's light following the winter solstice :

For whatever needs fire to function and demands a renewal of flame for its work must be counted as of your domain. To pry for hidden metals, to smelt out riches deposited in the veins of the earth, to fold sure-handed the malleable mass - these skills will come from you, as will aught which is fashioned of silver or gold. You also give a fondness for clothes and wares which dispel the cold, since your lot falls for all time in winter's season, wherein you shorten the nights you have brought to their greatest length and give birth to a new year by enlarging the daylight hours. [3]

Manilus's outlook is clearly a continuation of more ancient veneration, which saw Capricorn as a sacred and powerful constellation, presenting a need to offer sacrifice and atonement because of its alignment with the solstice.

The alpha star, Giedi, or Al Gedi, whose name derives from Al Jady, 'the Goat', seems to embody the association with sacrifice and the temperament of Ea in its influence of benefice, sacrifice and offering (Robson, p.167). Located between the horns, its nature is reckoned as like Venus with an influence of Mars. The Larousse Encyclopedia of Astrology associates it with piety and self-sacrifice. Robson states that it is symbolically called 'The Slain Kid'.

Dabih, in the left eye, has a nature like Saturn and Venus and holds a mixed reputation - if well placed it denotes prominence in public affairs and success in business, but if afflicted it causes criticism, suspicion, problems with friends and lovers, and the failure to realise ambitions. It is also related to sacrifice through its Arabic title Al Sa'd al Dhabih meaning 'the Lucky One of the Slaughterers'. A similar meaning is attributed to Oculus in the right eye.

Armus and Castra, in the heart and belly respectively, are stars with disagreeable natures, whose prominency indicates malevolence and destructiveness. Robson states of Armus "It gives disagreeableness, contemptibleness, instability, shamelessness, nagging and a troublesome and contentious nature". Of Castra he says "malevolence, destructiveness, and an uncontrollable temper".[4]

Dorsum, Nashira and Deneb Algedi, are all in the tail. As befits their Saturn-Jupiter nature they have the power to destroy or aid, depending upon whether they are well placed or afflicted. Fortified, they suggest the ability to hold a position of trust; afflicted, they indicate corruption and loss. Ebertin and Hoffman state of Deneb Algedi:

Dependent on its position in the cosmogram, it will bring a life full of change. According to Arabic tradition, Deneb Algedi will make a person become a legal advisor or counsellor, and will give such a person the ability to hold a position of trust. This fixed star makes for integrity and justice and gives a knowledge of man. Therefore we see here a refining Saturn influence. This will be achieved if the radical Saturn is well placed. [5]

Capricorn culminates due south around midnight during mid-August and September.
The Sun crosses Geidi around 24th January, Dabih around 25th January, Oculus around 26th January, Armus and Dorsum around 3rd February, Castra around 10th February, Nashira around 11th February and Deneb Algedi around 13th February.

Notes & References:
  1 ] See the word-origin webzine:
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  2 ] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, (1st cent. AD), trans. Robbins, published by Harvard Heinemann, I.9 (Loeb p.53).
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  3 ] Manilius, Astronomica, (c. 10 AD) trans. G.P. Goold, 1997, published by Harvard Heinemann, Loeb classical library, London. 4.243-259, (Loeb p.241-43).
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  4 ] Robson, The Fixed Stars and Constellations, 1923, republished by Ascella, p.141 and 156.
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  5 ] Ebertin & Hoffman, Fixed Stars and their Interpretation, trans. Irmgard Banks (Tempe, AZ: The American Federation of Astrologers, 1971), p.77.
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© Deborah Houlding, December 2003
No reproduction without permission.

Stars & Constellations