Capricorn the Goatfish

Aries | Taurus | Gemini | Cancer | Leo | Virgo | Libra | Scorpius | Sagittarius | Capricornus | Aquarius | Pisces

Who climbs and schemes for wealth and place?
And mourns his brothers’ fall from grace??
But takes what’s due, in any case???
Safe Capricorn!!!

sign symbolism | rulerships | famous Capricorns | Babylonian myth
Sign symbolism

Capricorn the Goatfish

by Deborah Houlding

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The sure-footed goat has an unmatched skill for treading the rocky and inhospitable ascent to mountainous heights. Strength acquired in an uphill path is cultivated slowly, deliberately and firmly, each foothold secured in a wisdom that is forged through pursuing objectives against adversities and obstacles. Guided by the steadying hand of their planetary ruler, Saturn, Capricorns are patient, prudent, determined, reliable and disciplined. Saturn brings a constricting influence, yet Capricorns are characterised by their striving towards height and accomplishment. Straight away, we realise a perplexing paradox in the most ambitious sign of the zodiac: Capricorns are driven to climb, yet constantly checked by a governing planet whose nature is to hold back and restrain.

As a life pattern, these conflicting drives can generate a sense of frustration and hardship, so Capricorns who have yet to discover their strength often feel cheated in the celestial gifts that define their forte. But youthful sufferings turn towards profit in maturity. The benefit of hindsight allows the realisation that all of those highways, bye-ways and descents are a vital part of the journey to self-mastery that culminates in achievement through resilience.

Historical descriptions of Capricorn are quite harsh, focusing on Saturn’s bleaker qualities and labouring on how this sign might denote a limiting, self-deprecating, or pessimistic outlook. Saturn is a planet of realism with a controlled release of energy, marking the essential personality as reserved rather than freely expressive of sparkle and vivacity. Remember that as the Sun enters this sign – associated with mid-winter – its power is low, so solar signatures of light, warmth, enthusiasm and brilliance struggle to emerge in recognisable ego traits or nature’s themes at this time of year. Yet the qualities exist, submerged within the character. The fire that animates the Capricorn’s spirits is a gestating and self-contained flame, but not to be taken lightly.

The Romans celebrated the Sun’s ingress into Capricorn as Saturnalia, a festival which welcomes back the return of the Sun’s power after the shortest day of the year. The emphasis falls on renewal of strength, restoration of fertility, and rekindling of the spiritual power that emanates from the depths of being. As the cardinal earth sign, Capricorn portrays the enduring and irrepressible spirit of nature. Note the sign’s emblem is not just a goat, it is a goat-fish: that tail makes all the difference. The productive fecundity and profound creativity inherent in the symbolism are missed if we fail to contemplate the ancient chimeric blend of the most mysterious and fascinating zodiac sign of all.

Every cardinal sign indicates some kind of ‘seat of power’. Capricorn’s emblem marries the tail of a fish to the forelimbs of a goat, depicting a realm that extends from the abyss of the uncontrollable ocean to the mountainous regions that ascend above the clouds. This span of terrain represents a ‘cross of matter’, bridging the divide between the depths of the psyche and its heightened manifestation in the material, and drawing the soul out of its collective stupor to confront the challenges of reality and individualism. The ocean, besides symbolising primordial roots and emotional ties, also relates to instinctive wisdom, secrets, and knowledge that lies buried within the depths of consciousness. Capricorn, bearing only the tail of an aquatic creature, keeps a head that is free from impressionable thought – at a rational level Capricorns are affected only by what they define through logic and reasoned assessment. However, unconsciously, spiritually and emotionally, they draw from the deep.

This sign is anything but shallow and superficial; beneath Capricorn’s cool, and somewhat calculating exterior, lies an immense reserve of emotional strength and psychic resilience, grounded in down-to-earth practicality and stoic endurance. Notable traits reveal compulsive dedication and perseverance in aims and interests. Capricorns may not impress with a fiery flare, but neither do they seek approval or the widespread attention of others. Their ambitions – in relationships, career and personal growth – derive from an inner motivation that runs too deep to be easily shaken. Their strengths (and their faults) centre around the qualities of stamina, fortitude, staying power and survival.

Some see Capricorn’s scaly tail as that of the fabled Leviathan sea-serpent, a lizard-like Biblical being of tremendous strength, the most powerful creature in the ocean. The sea-serpent is the master of ‘old knowledge’, wise in matters of the occult and bearing an understanding beyond limited, earthly experience. Capricorns are known for being ‘older than their years’ and those who take up the study of mysteries and traditions gravitate towards a masterly knowledge of their craft, just as a business-minded Capricorn will incline to the managerial position. Mastery and power are the understated keywords of this sign. Even the earthy aspect of the goat is underestimated in its potential to symbolise amazing leaps, awe-inspiring balance and hidden reserves of strength.

There is a feature of the goat that deserves special attention in our understanding of this sign. The name ‘Capricorn’ draws our attention to it and comes from the Latin caper (‘goat’) and cornu (‘horn’) – literally: ‘the Goat’s horn’. In the ancient world, horns were symbols of royalty, strength and power, as well as fertility and abundance. Cornucopia, in mythology, was the goat Amalthea who nourished the infant Jupiter with her milk, although the term remains in use today as the ‘copious horn’ or ‘horn of plenty’, which symbolises prosperity and growth. The goat is one of three horned animals in the zodiac; these were also the creatures celebrated in ancient religious festivals and used in sacrifice to draw power from the gods. The use of the goat as a ‘scapegoat’ in the biblical ritual of Atonement1 has led to goat deities accumulating a reputation as icons of evil occult powers rather than being appreciated as the age-old symbols of earthly fertility and focused power that is implicit in the older customs.

J.E. Circlot, in his Dictionary of Symbols, includes an interesting passage on the symbolism of horns as related by the three creatures of the zodiac; the coiled horns of Aries, the inwardly curved horns of Taurus, and the upwardly pointed horns of Capricorn signifying elevation, power and prestige. Circlot notes that in Egyptian hieroglyphics, horns signify what is above the head and, by extension, the ability to ‘open up a path for oneself’.

Horns, then, are similar to halos and crowns in denoting princely wisdom and illumination. The theme is endorsed in ancient depictions of the sign, which replace the horned fore-creature with that of a man whilst retaining the imagery of the crown.

Medieval art depicts Moses bearing horns after his descent from the mountain, indicating the radiance of light and wisdom emitted from his head as a result of the divine contact. Elsewhere, horns have adorned battle helmets since prehistoric times, capitalising on their expression of focus and force. Carl Jung recognised horns as symbols of fertility and dualism, being both masculine (denoted by their phallic and penetrating shape) and feminine (denoted by the hollowed horn’s receptive, cup-like qualities).

In particular the goat’s horn represents the elemental energies of the earth, the prima mater from which the alchemist begins the quest to transmute dross to gold. Alchemists have often related prima mater with lead, the metal of Saturn; and it was frequently associated with the unconscious and said to come from the mountains where ‘all things are one’. The Rosarium Philosophorum terms prima mater the ‘root of itself’, describing it as the first principle that separates reason from chaos.

Baphomet as drawn by Eliphas Levi (1856)
Moses and Roman god with with horns
Top left: historical depictions of Capricorn. Top right: Baphomet, the ‘Sabbatic Goat’ drawn by the ceremonial magician Eliphas Levi (1856), containing binary elements of male and female, good and evil, etc., to depict the totality of power. Below: Thomas Brigstocke’s painting and Michaelangelo’s sculpture are amongst the many illustrations of Moses bearing horns or horn-like emissions of light. Below right: Marble statue of horned god holding the cornucopia ‘horn of plenty’.

Rudyard Kipling - 'If Many elements of Capricorn symbolism make this a fascinating sign, teeming with spiritual undertones conveyed by its imagery. In the ancient world, Capricorn denoted a noble, kingly wisdom and the kind of earth power associated with those who are ‘older and wiser’. In ancient Mesopotamian mythology it is linked with Ea, the ‘antelope of the ocean’ who brought knowledge and wisdom to mankind and was never subject to fits of emotional disturbance or angry wrath, unlike the other early gods. Drawing from his heritage, Capricorn is the caricature of the wise old sage, the one who has the experience to understand human emotional weakness but enough mastery over ‘self’ to prevent reason from being affected by it. Rudyard Kipling was a Capricorn, and his famous poem ‘If’ reads like the Bible of Capricornian logic, dictating how to develop strength as an individual – never by trusting to luck, never by aiming to explode upon the world by seeking glory through hopeful expectation, but only by enduring hardship and refusing to be beaten by it, by the patient acceptance that the wheel must spin full term, and by tolerance of the hurt that others will inevitably cast your way as it does.

In our modern world, Capricorn relates to those who manage and lead in all walks of life, from the Capricorn parent, who governs the household with the firm hand of structure, teaching children to deny the urge for short-term gratification if this impedes the grander prospects of the future; the Capricorn business manager, who may seem unapproachable but is always in control of attributed responsibilities, and the Capricorn lover who seeks long-term stability over spontaneity and amorous excitement.

Capricorns who rise to fame generally do so by taking the hard route, gathering respect for their fortitude, resistance and application. They do not seek celebrity and have no desire in fame for fame’s sake, usually feeling uncomfortable in the public eye and preferring to keep their private life private. Theirs is not a ‘what you see is what you get’ mentality, and Capricorn professionals like to draw boundaries between that made available for public appraisal and the personal self, which is never given up to open scrutiny.

Capricorns are often accused of being too concerned about material things, or too motivated by acquiring material comforts and financial security. This is not an instinct that derives from greed, a more significant keyword here is respect: Capricorns expect to be treated respectfully and are sensitive to taking offence when it is lacking. For many, this entails living the traditional ‘respectable’ lifestyle and drawing around them the material trappings of respectability. Even the lesser-off Capricorn cannot help imagining having a ‘position to hold’ and will care greatly about what the neighbours say, to the exasperation of more liberal or free-spirited partners.

Above all, Capricorn is a conservative sign, rooted in conventional morality and bearing great deference for history and tradition. This is not the sign of the innovator but the preserver, not the gambler but the investor, perhaps willing to take a risk but only where it has been carefully calculated and measured by reason. Neither do Capricorns ‘live for the moment’, since their personality is defined by an awareness of time and the ever-present need to safeguard the future.

Relationships can be the source of considerable pain unless the right circumstances are met. Capricorns have little instinctive knowledge of how to play the dating game and are too earnest with their emotions to respond to light-hearted flirtation with carefree abandon. They can suffer through shyness and are seldom at ease displaying affection. Yet Capricorn is a strongly sexual sign – the goat’s horn is a symbol of virility, after all – and their fixed emotions can cause them to remain locked in grief and disappointment if they fail to win the object of their affection. Within relationships they have a strong sense of duty and commitment. This will be highly satisfactory to some but others may perceive it as unnecessarily restrictive and oppressive. Afflicted, the sign can show a tendency towards control and jealousy.

The faults of the Capricorn are always more apparent to those who fall into the opposing personality types. As in all the sun sign faults, they arise from a negative appreciation of what is actually their strengths. Some may feel that Capricorns lack spontaneity and creativity and thus perceive them as boring and uninspiring. Others will view their emotional control as hard and unfeeling, regarding them as unresponsive to their moods and undemonstrative in romantic affairs. Even those that appreciate their reasoned outlook and strategic approach to problems may feel disparaged by their composed response, regarding them as demoralising and unnecessarily rigid or pessimistic in outlook. Capricorns excell at keeping boundaries in place and all young people can benefit from the guidance of a Capricorn, although most will find their lessons on the need for patience frustrating (at least until they, themselves, have mastered that lesson too!).
graphic embellishment

Resources & links

Capricorn the Goatfish
Earthy, cold & dry, melancholic, nocturnal, feminine, cardinal, solistial, bestial, quadrupedal (four-footed), southern



Dignified Planets

Saturn: Saturn  - as sign ruler.
Mars: Mars - as exaltation ruler.
Venus: Venus  - as daytime triplicity ruler.
Moon:  - as nighttime triplicity ruler.

Debilitated Planets

Moon:  - by detriment.
Jupiter: Jupiter - by fall.

Typical Features

Capricorn takes its typical features from its planetary ruler, Saturn. The body is described as ‘dry’, that is: not much flesh on the bones, inclining towards leanness, with little by way of curves. The height is medium – not particularly short or tall. The neck is small or long and small, the chest narrow. The hair is thin and generally dark but sometimes white or very pale. There is a lack of colour in the complexion; it may be dark and brooding or pale and wan. There is very often a prominent bone structure or noticeable features such as a narrow chin or ill-shaped knees.

Traditional Rulerships

Direction:  All earth signs relate to the south. Capricorn, as the cardinal earth sign, relates to due south.

Anatomy:  Capricorn governs the knees, and through its rulership by Saturn it relates generally to the bones, joints and skeletal structure.

Illnesses:  All injuries and diseases affecting the knees, and strains and fractures affecting the joints. Capricorn is a sign of slowly released vitality; its poor metabolism is sensitive to illnesses arising from an ‘excess of cold’ such as rheumatism, arthritis, depression, flu. And yet, unless the chart shows affliction, it can often indicate longevity and the perseverance of spirit that battles against ill health. Many of its illnesses are rooted in a lack of moisture and constriction: dry and sensitive skin, brittle bones, allergies, and illnesses that tend towards a progressive wasting of tissue. Traditionally, it rules illnesses based on chronic tissue infection, such as leprosy and gangrene, or uncomfortable skin infections, such as scabies or lice.

Places:  As an earth sign, Capricorn signifies farms, farming equipment, wood stores and places where farm animals roam. It specifically rules over fallow or bare land, barren fields, land that is awkwardly bushy and thorny, or where there are dunghills, compost heaps or soil prepared with manure. It is generally linked to industrial places, such as factories, docks and mines. Traditionally, it is said to signify a place where sails for ships and such materials are crafted or stored.

Like all earth signs, it indicates locations that are low down, near, on or under the ground. It particularly signifies places that are low and dark.

Capricorn shares Saturn’s dominion over boundaries, thresholds and all structures that divide and contain rooms and territory, ranging from walls, garden fences, gateposts and international borders. As the sign that signifies mid-winter, it has an association with the disposal of the outworn, and shares Saturn’s signification over mausoleums, church yards and ruins. Inside the house, it is a low dark corner, on or near the floor, doors, closed-in or confined spaces, earthy objects and those made from wood or clay, or associated with waste disposal.

Countries & cities:   Include Germany (especially Brandenberg, Cleves and Hesse), Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, India, the Orkney Isles, Styria in Austria and Oxford in England.

Colours  Principally black or dark brown. Capricorn’s influence can add a dark, earthy tone to other colours. As a cold and dry sign it can also indicate colourless, pale, grey or wan shades, associated with something that is aged and lacking lustre.

Stones & Metals:  Stones and metals fall under the rulership of planets, not signs, but through its association with Saturn, Capricorn has affinity with lead, diamonds, sapphires, lapis lazuli, black and dark coloured gems, and all ordinary, common stones that are not polished.

Animals:  According to Al-Biruni, Capricorn is associated with goats, lambs, and all animals that are herded, as well as creeping animals and insects, apes and locusts.

Traditional Definitions:

Bestial / quadrupedal:  Capricorn is sometimes defined as quadrupedal (four-footed), or ‘bestial’ (as opposed to ‘humane’), because the signs of the zodiac represented by animals are less inclined towards social graces, with a more instinctive, or animalistic reaction to their moods and emotions. Capricorn however, is also defined as ‘domestical’ indicating that it is less likely to display uncouth manners or unrestrained emotions. In locations, bestial signs indicate places associated with animals, or natural habitats, where animals roam.

Solistial / tropical:  The Sun’s ingress into the four cardinal signs indicates the times when the seasons change, from spring, summer, autumn and winter. Of these, two signs (Aries and Libra) mark the equinoxes and are noted for having an equalising effect, whilst the other two signs (Cancer and Capricorn) mark the solstices and have a reputation for causing turns and changes (hence, in Hellenistic astrology, Cancer and Capricorn are termed tropical, meaning ‘turning’).

Famous Capricorns
Capricorn - FAMOUS CAPRICORNS - Capricorn

Nostradamus 14 Dec 1503 (JC); St Remy, France; “around noon” LMT (RR:DD)View chart ⇨
Tycho Brahe 14 Dec 1546 (JC); Knutstorp, Sweden; 10:47 am LMT (RR:AA)View bio & chart ⇨
Johannes Kepler 27 Dec 1571 (JC); Weil der Stadt, Germany; 2:30 pm LAT (RR:B)View bio & chart ⇨
Isaac Newton 25 Dec 1642 (JC); Nr Grantham, UK; 1:30 pm LMT approx. (RR:C)View bio & chart ⇨
William James11 Jan 1842; New York, NY, USA; 5:25 am LMT (RR:DD)View chart ⇨
Woodrow Wilson29 Dec 1856; Staunton, VA, USA; 12:45 am LMT (RR:B)View chart ⇨
Rudyard Kipling30 Dec 1865; Bombay, India; 10:00 pm LMT (RR:B)View chart ⇨
J.R.R. Tolkein3 Jan 1892; Bloemfontein, South Africa; 11:22 pm LMT (RR:C)View bio & chart ⇨
Marlene Dietrich27 Dec 1901; Berlin-Schöneberg, Germany; 9:15 pm CET (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Alan Watts6 Jan 1915; Chislehurst, UK; 6:20 am GMT (RR:B)View chart ⇨
Martin Luther King 15 Jan 1929; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; 12:00 pm CST (RR:A) View chart ⇨
Elvis Presley 8 Jan 1935; Tupelo, Mississippi, USA; 04:35 am CST (RR:AA) View chart ⇨
Muhammad Ali 17 Jan 1942; Louisville, Kentucky, USA; 6:35 pm CST (RR:AA)View chart ⇨
Dolly Parton 19 Jan 1946; Sevierville, Tennessee, USA; 3:00 am CST (RR:A)View chart ⇨
David Bowie 8 Jan 1947; Brixton, England; 9:00 am GMT (RR:A)View chart ⇨
Annie Lennox 25 Dec 1954; Aberdeen, Scotland; 11:10 pm GMT (RR:AA)View bio & chart ⇨
Salman Khan 27 Dec 1965; Indore, India; 10:45 am IST (RR:A)View chart ⇨
Justin Trudeau 25 Dec 1971; Ottawa, Canada; 9:27 pm EST (RR:A)View chart ⇨
Catherine, P.O. Wales 9 Jan 1982; Reading, England; 7:00 pm GMT (RR:A)View chart ⇨


Plate from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, 1690

Aries | Taurus | Gemini | Cancer | Leo | Virgo | Libra | Scorpius | Sagittarius | Capricornus | Aquarius | Pisces

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Notes & References:
1 ] See ‘Star Lore of the Constellations: Capricorn the Goatfish’ by Deborah Houlding.
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Deb HouldingDeborah Houlding, creator of Skyscript, is based in the UK and has worked as an astrologer since the late 1980s. Founder of The Traditional Astrologer (1993 to 2000) and STA School of Traditional Astrology, she is the author of the STA Practitioners-Level Horary Course, The Houses: Temples of the Sky, and (with Oner Doser) Soru Astrolojisi: Horary Astrology (2015). She is also the editor of a modern retype, annotated edition of William Lilly's Christian Astrology and Griffin's Astrological Judgement Touching Theft.

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Artwork: (unless otherwise attributed) Deborah Houlding. Top image shows embellished details from the 15th century miniature image of Capricorn published in De sideribus tractatus by Julius Hyginus.

Audio provided by Abigail Smith (Sun in Capricorn)