Most people identify astrology with the wheel of the zodiac and its twelve signs. Even those totally ignorant of astrology know their sun sign.
The term zodiac is derived from the Greek zodiacus, which means ‘little creatures’.
The zodiac is a small band of the sky, about eight degrees on either side of the ecliptic, which contains the motions of most of the planets. This band is divided into twelve 30-degree sections called signs.
The zodiac can be seen as a 12-stage life cycle:
Aries—emergence, birth of the individual
Taurus—physical security in order to grow
Gemini—urge to interact with our immediate surroundings
Cancer—sense of belonging to our immediate family
Leo—ability to express ourselves
Virgo—learning practical skills
Libra—learning about relationships and balancing our needs with others
Scorpio—our longing to share intense encounters, leading to transformation
Sagittarius—gaining a broader perspective of life
Capricorn—establishing our public image
Pisces—identification with the whole, dissolving all to allow for new birth
The zodiac signs represent specific human qualities that colour the way in which we respond to the basic urges (the planets) within us.
The twelve signs of the zodiac are each associated with a trump card of the Major Arcana and a Court Card. By getting to know each of the individual sun signs, the connection with the assigned trump and court cards will become apparent – and debatable!
(March 21st – April 20th)
Characteristics: enthusiastic, dynamic, impulsive; impatient, domineering, sometimes reckless.
The planets represent the motivating forces behind all our actions.
Our ancestors regarded them as gods, and the myths of the gods have been adapted by modern astrology into the concept of archetypes.
The planets-as-gods are associated with characteristics, psychological energies or impulses that all of us express in one form or another.
The word ‘planet’ derives from Greek meaning ‘wanderer’.
Although the Sun and Moon are not technically planets, they are still included in this group and given special importance as ‘luminaries’.
Ancient, medieval and traditional astrology only recognised the planets visible to the eye, but modern astrology now incorporates the newly discovered planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
Each planet has its own characteristics and is categorised as either a benefic (helpful) or a malefic (disruptive).
The “inner king”. All planets in our solar system revolve around the sun, which is the symbol of our basic nature; our whole essence comes from the position of the sun at our birth, which is reflected in our sun sign. The Sun is associated with a sense of power and represents our divine inner spark—the vital force that urges us to seek greater expression of our nature.
Ruler of: Leo; in the physical body the Sun rules the heart and the blood as carrier of life-sustaining substances.
In Nature: masculine, hot and dry; mildly malefic (due to the heat)
Positive aspects: creativity, independence, courage, strength, success, affection and generosity.
Negative traits: arrogance, over-confidence or lack of confidence, selfishness.
Associated Tarot cards: The Sun, Strength
The “inner child”. The second of astrology’s most important celestial body is not a planet but Earth’s satellite. The moon cycles—new moon, waxing, full moon, waning, dark—symbolise the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Its gravitational pull on the Earth’s surface is linked with the tides, and its phases influence numerous biological rhythms in plant, animal and human life.
The Moon represents our imaginative and reflective side, unconscious impulses, emotional reactions, childhood experiences, the mother-child relationship and our need for emotional comfort.
Ruler of: Cancer; in the physical body the Moon rules the breast, womb and digestive system.
In Nature: Feminine, cold and moist; benefic (when waxing) and mildly malefic (when waning)
Associated Tarot cards: The High Priestess, The Chariot
“Messenger of the gods”. The smallest planet and closest to the sun, Mercury is linked with movement, communication, logic, reason, languages and transport. It facilitates comprehension, so we may become thinking, intelligent beings. Mercury also symbolises our ability to make connections and understand the relationship between things, ourselves and the wider world.
Ruler of: Gemini and Virgo; physically Mercury rules hands, shoulders and lungs.
In Nature: Neither masculine nor feminine (it takes on the nature of the planet with which it is connected); cold and dry; benefic or malefic depending on associated planets
Positive aspects: eloquence, wit, good memory, organisational skills
Associated Tarot cards: The Magician, The Lovers, The Hermit
Relationships—Inner Strength—Personal Choices
“Goddess of Love”. Venus is associated with love and affection, diplomacy, harmony and beauty. Psychologically Venus represents the need for emotional and material security and therefore indicates how we tend to relate to others and handle our finances.
Ruler of: Taurus (night) and Libra (day); physically, Venus rules the kidneys, bladder and sexual organs.
In Nature: Feminine, moderately cold and moist; benefic.
Positive aspects: physical beauty, pleasant manners, diplomatic, artistic, nurturing
Associated Tarot cards: The Empress, The Hierophant, Justice
“God of War”. The fourth planet from the sun, Mars is associated with the inner drive for action, self-manifestation and both positive and negative aggression, as well as the male sex drive. Mars is named after the Roman god of war and is said to be an influencing factor on all people, objects and matters connected to warfare, bloodshed, conquest and destruction. Mars also rules people, who use sharp, metallic objects such as surgeons, butchers, cooks and tailors.
Ruler of: Aries; physically Mars rules the primary sexual organs.
In Nature: Masculine, hot and dry; malefic.
Positive aspects: physical strength, courage, decisiveness, a sense of fair competition
“King of the gods”. Jupiter is named after the Roman king of the gods and is traditionally known as the Greater Benefic, bringer of good fortunes. Jupiter is associated with judges, lawyers, teachers, healers, religious leaders as well as seekers of knowledge and truth. The function of Jupiter is to enlarge, make fruitful and bestow a feeling of being protected and a spirit of hope and optimism. Jupiter influences our self-confidence and our ability to extend our horizons.
Ruler of: Sagittarius; physically Jupiter rules the thighs and liver.
Associated Tarot cards: Wheel of Fortune, Temperance
“God of social order”. The second largest planet of the solar system used to be regarded as the Greater malefic, associated with loss, hardship, loneliness and death. In modern astrology Saturn’s reputation is more balanced and represents our innate desire for order, form, structure and security. This in turn is connected with generational conflicts, conventional views and issues of fear, repression and control. Saturn rules natural and man-made structures, hierarchies, organisations, authorities, the karmic law of cause and effect and even time itself.
Ruler of: Capricorn; physically Saturn rules the skeleton.
In Nature: Masculine, cold and dry, melancholic and malefic.
Negative traits: rigidity, restriction, narrow-mindedness, excessive limitations, fear of life.
Associated Tarot cards: The World, The Devil
“God of the sky”. The first Trans-Saturnian planet was discovered in 1781 shortly before the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. Due to this timing, Uranus is associated with non-conformity and revolutionary tendencies; it is also an indicator of new discoveries, sudden and unexpected events, disruptions and unpredictable occurrences. Uranus is linked with modern technology, electricity, aviation and space travel. Psychologically, it represents the individual’s need for self-realisation and freedom from restrictions.
Ruler of: Aquarius; physically Uranus rules ankles, calves and the nervous system .
“God of the sea”. Neptune, the eighth planet from the sun, is linked with the unseen and mysterious. Neptune dissolves boundaries, such as between the conscious and unconscious, between individuals and between truth and illusion. Neptune represents our vision of perfection and our ideals. For most of us this will be our fantasy world, an escape of reality. Neptune gives inspiration to poets, artists, musicians, mystics and humanitarians.
Ruler of: Pisces; physically Neptune rules feet and circulation.
Negative traits: delusion, deception, drug abuse, apathy, neediness, irrational fears
Associated Tarot cards: The Hanged Man, The Moon
The Unconscious—Transformation—Letting Go
“God of the underworld”. The smallest and most dense planet of the solar system, Pluto is associated with sexuality, physical and spiritual birth, with death and resurrection. It symbolises old patterns that need to be eliminated if we are to grow and develop. Pluto forces us to come to terms with the darker, more instinctive side of nature. If we try to avoid it, the result will be havoc, physical and emotional upheaval.
Ruler of: Scorpio; physically Pluto rules the prostrate, skin, finger and toe nails, cancer cells.
In Nature: Masculine
Positive aspects: psychological insight; the ability to heal and regenerate with radical creativity
In Tarot, plants are powerful symbols carrying meaning and purpose. They evoke ideas, images and visions.
The following list of plants suggests symbolic meanings, and it is up to the reader how to interpret these meanings in individual readings.
Acorn, see Oak
Sacred fruit of Aphrodite/Venus symbolising sexual desire and fertility. When sliced horizontally, its seeds resemble a pentacle.
In Celtic mythology, the apple tree is a symbol of plenty, for choice and a door into greater mysteries. It is one of the three legendary magical fruits (hazel, apple, oak).
Symbol of love, faith, generosity and gratitude. It can be found on the RWS Lovers card behind the nude female.
The snake in the apple tree links the card with the story of Adam and Eve, suggesting paradise and its forthcoming demise.
Symbol of beauty and ancient wisdom, prosperity and divination. The beech tree is a symbol for the written word; it was once used to make writing tablets.
In Celtic mythology, the beech tree is associated with all gods of wisdom and learning and the human intellect.
The wood and leaves were carried as a talisman to increase creative powers.
Symbol of new beginnings, birth, springtime, young love; renewal and cleansing; new directions and goals. A birch forest appears on the Death card of the Robin Wood deck.
Cornfields symbolise the potential for cultivation, the need for labour, attention and care in order to achieve material success.
A person standing in a cornfield suggests a down-to-earth mentality and a connection with the Earth element or its energy.
The cypress comprises the forest in the background of the Empress in the RWS deck. It is sacred to Venus and Artemis and suggests fertility.
Also sacred to the gods of the underworld, Hades and Pluto, it can represent anything developing in darkness, e.g. the unconscious.
Symbolises continuous giving and support, nurture and stability. See also cypress, ivy, palm, pine.
Symbolises the cycle of life, harvest and new seed. Fertility, nourishment, creative abundance, spiritual maturity.
Found on the Empress card of the RWS deck and in the suit of Pentacles.
Grapes represent inspiration and truth (as a result from drinking wine, when inhibitions are released).
Also symbolising abundance, fruitfulness and achievement. The vine’s symbolic meaning in the Old Testament is as an emblem of God’s blessing on his chosen people.
Grapes appear on Crowley’s Fool suggesting ‘sweetness of life, intoxication’ (Banzhaf/Theler).
The flower represents the goddess Iris, who was the Greek messenger of the gods. She is also associated with the rainbow, which represents the pathway by which she travelled.
Both the flower and the rainbow symbolise her qualities as a divine messenger. The flower can be found on the RWS Temperance card.
Entwining ivy is a symbol of romantic desolation; it was associated with death in the 18th century Gothic revival and a symbol of melancholy.
Ivy was an essential complement to any ruined building. Its entwining habit represents the movement of the stars and planets and the understanding of their influence on the affairs of humankind.
Ivy symbolises the Spirit, search for enlightenment, a warning (Ivy ale was a highly intoxicating medieval drink), binding and restricting, freeing and uniting. It is closely connected with the vine.
A laurel wreath was used as a crown of victory or accomplishment for athletes, poets and musicians in ancient Greece.
It was associated with the Greek god Apollo. The Fool in the RWS deck wears a laurel wreath, which symbolises his victorious spirit.
The charioteer on the Chariot card of the RWS wears a laurel wreath and so does the victorious rider on the Six of Wands.
The white lily symbolises purity, chastity, innocence and also higher spirit. The three-sided fleur-de-lis (triple lily) is a heraldic symbol of illumination.
Water lilies are the Golden dawn’s elemental symbol for water. They float on the water of the RWS Ace of Cups.
Golden lilies appear on the Emperor card of Crowley’s Thoth deck as an attribute of power.
The lotus blossom represents the four elements: the earth from which the plant grows, the water supporting its stalk, air into which its perfume escapes and the fire of the sun, which provides energy for it to grow.
The lotus represents the soul or psyche rising from the unconscious (the bottom of its watery source) into the clarity of consciousness and enlightenment.
Lotuses feature on all the Cup cards of Crowley’s Thoth Tarot (except the Seven and the Knight) as well as the Empress (the Lotus sceptre, representing feminine creativity and life force) and the Devil (wearing a lotus garland as a sign that the bearer is ‘a child of good’ – Banzhaf/Theler).
Good fortunes, longevity, immortality; also rapid growth and destruction (mushroom cloud). Can also represent restlessness and change (Robin Wood Moon card).
The RWS Empress wears a myrtle wreath, which is associated with female fertility, the forces of nature and also immortality. Myrtle is sacred to Venus. It was a Greek emblem of happiness, often used in marriage and childbirth rituals.
Celtic symbol for protection and strength; sacred tree of Heracles/Hercules and Jupiter/Zeus; sacred tree of Norse god Thor; acorns are symbols of fertility and spiritual growth.
The oak represents courage, endurance and the protective power of faith. In some Tarot decks the Hanged Man hangs from an oak tree.
The qualities of the suit of Pentacles is symbolised by oak leaves.
A sacred tree for many cultures, it is associated with light and enlightenment as the oil was used as a lamp fuel in ancient times.
In Islamic tradition, the olive tree represents the world tree or world axis.
In Judeo-Christian tradition, a dove brought an olive branch to Noah as a message that the flood was over.
The olive tree symbolises peace, fruitfulness, purification and wisdom. A branch appears on the RWS Ace of Swords.
The palm tree, with its solar-like spread of the strong leaves, was associated with victory in Roman times.
Victorious gladiators would be awarded with palm fronds due to the size and evergreen habit, which suggests longevity.
The palm tree and its leaves signify masculinity and assertiveness. A palm branch hangs from the RWS Ace of Swords.
In Greek mythology the pine tree was sacred to Artemis, the moon goddess who presided over childbirth; also associated with gods of wine like Dionysus and Bacchus.
Pine cones were used in fertility rites and the pollen was used in money spells. Pine resin was burned to clear negative energies, which could also be done by scattering pine needles around.
Its height (taller than most other trees) symbolises foresight, objectivity and overview. Also suggests nature, fertility and life force.
Symbolises fertility, new possibilities, ‘new birth’ symbol; creative, receptive and feminine energy. Seen on the veil behind the RWS High Priestess.
Roses symbolise beauty and perfection; they are often associated with the pentagram because of its five-petal structure.
Roses that are clearly depicted with five petals relate to the five senses and the inner five-pointed star of the apple; in horticulture, the rose is linked with the apple, which is also a member of the rose family.
Roses in Tarot decks are mainly red or white. Red signifies passion and desire (not necessarily sexually); white roses can indicate spirit, soul and abstract thought.
A five-pointed white rose can be found on Death’s banner in the RWS deck, signifying the Mystic Rose of life.
Red roses appear on the RWS Nine of Swords as a symbol of the heart and strong emotions. The red roses on Crowley’s Star symbolise love and fertility.
Sunflowers are symbols of devotion and steadfastness, as their flower heads follow the sun during the day. They appear on the RWS Sun and the Queen of Wands.
In the Seven of Cups of Crowley’s Thoth deck, the lotus blossoms, which appear on all other Cup cards of the deck, have turned into tiger lilies, dropping their poisonous nectar into the chalices symbolising ‘deceptive, sinister seduction’ (Banzhaf/Theler).
Wheat represents the entire cycle of nature: death, rebirth, resurrection. It suggests nurturing, abundance and fertility.
Psychologically, wheat tied together symbolises the integration of inner opposites, the conscious and the unconscious.
Just like Water, Earth is a feminine (yin) element; stable, sustaining and supportive; energy at its most solid; substance; matter; the body of the Great Mother of ancient times.
Our bodies are partly made of the earth and we return to it when we die. Our ancestors buried their dead in caves and burial mounds, the womb of Mother Earth; they realised our intuitive bond with earth.
Much of the food we eat comes from the soil, and many things we can touch are made of earth in many ways or forms.
Positive: knowledge, ability, stability, endurance, dependability, solidity, self-worth, success, financial prudence; in touch with nature; well-being.
Negative: greed, financial loss, material obsessions, inability to change, stubbornness, possessiveness.
Major Arcana: The Empress, The Hierophant, The Hermit, The Devil, The World
Minor Arcana: The Suit of Pentacles; Pages
In Tarot, the element Earth is concerned with the material world, form and substance; putting ideas into practice, practical matters, money, career, home and family, business projects, skills and labour, education, security. They also represent what grounds and stabilises a person; traditions and inheritance.
Green agate, coal, salt, turquoise, rock crystal, emerald, Cat’s eye, green jasper, jet
The tenacious, hard-working gnome; Faery folk
Coin, pentacle, stone, shield
How to get in Touch with the Earth Element
Walk barefoot in the garden on grass and soil; take your time and try to be aware of the earth energies slowly penetrating your feet and rising slowly up your body. This should make you feel refreshed and replenished. Slowly let the excess energy flow back into the soil by visualising it like trickling water. Don’t overdo this or you will drain your own life force. Trust yourself to know when to stop.
Sit against a tree trunk. Close your eyes and imagine you’re becoming part of the tree and your feet are roots growing into the soil and drawing up energy, circulating it around your body. Visualise this energy as a greenish-gold light. After a while, imagine drawing back your ‘roots’ into your feet and disconnecting from the earth and the tree.
Lie on the ground in your garden. Relax and feel the heartbeat of the earth like a pulse deep under the soil. Imagine the growth of plants, swelling of seeds and unfurling of grass and leaves.
Visit ancient sacred sites. Standing stones were placed in a way that they utilised and intensified the earth’s currents, which can still be felt today if you touch or being near them. Something similar, usually a special aura or atmosphere, can be felt at the great ceremonial mounds.
Bring fresh flowers and plants into your home. Tend plants in your garden and feel their life force as you enjoy their beauty.
Observe the seasonal changes around you. The cycle of growth and decay; see the first buds appear on bare branches. Follow the cycle through to autumn observing the changing colours of the foliage and falling of the leaves. Note how the foliage is not wasted but turned into mulch to nourish future growth.
Air is a masculine (yang) element; fast moving, abundant, the least dense of the four element. It is invisible, but we can see its effect on the things around us: blowing trees in the wind, fluttering paper on a desk in a draft, clouds moving across the sky. We can feel it every time we breathe as it keeps us alive.
Air energy is light and can feel almost any temperature when it is being worked with. It is most powerful during the fury of a storm.
The Air element represents our need to keep moving and learning, our quest for knowledge and curiosity. It is the energy of intellect, wisdom, and understanding. It also supports communication and friendship.
Negative: thoughtlessness, being judgemental, sharp-tongued, fear, confusion, disharmony, conflict, animosity, unhappiness and sometimes illness.
Major Arcana: The Fool, The Lovers, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Star
Minor Arcana: The Suit of Swords; Knights
In Tarot the element Air symbolises mind, rational thought, intellect, conflict; uncomfortable processes. It can also indicate communication, a desire for truth and justice and necessity to decide about (or separate from) past attachments.
windswept hills, plains, windy beaches, high mountain peaks, high towers
Aventurine, pumice, Topaz
Playful sylphs, who looked like the winged fairies of folklore
Wand, aromatic; Athame, sword, censer; incense
How to get in Touch with the Water Element
Stand outside on a windy day; the gusts will cleanse your aura and revitalise you, clearing your thoughts and making you feel fresh and alert.
The idea of each of the elements can be conveyed through the medium of air: depending on the seasons, the east wind can be sharp and harsh, the north wind cold, the south wind dusty and dry and the west wind warm and gentle.
Visit places that are subject to a lot of strong winds: beaches, hills, cliff tops, grassland, open desert. Feel the clarity of the place and observe how it affects you.
Pick up twigs and leaves that have been blown by the wind; they often retain a vigorous, blustery feeling. Windy places can give you a sense of cleanliness and lucidity.
Just like Earth, Water is a feminine (yin) element. Its energy is flowing, cleansing and life-giving.
All life on earth originated from water; the human body contains up to 85% water (depending on height, weight, age and gender), which suggests a dominance of its energy on our bodies.
Water is the most receptive of the four elements; it can easily absorb any form of contamination from its surroundings and needs to be purified.
Due to its receptivity and flowing, formless nature, the element of Water is associated with psychic powers, dreams, divination, the subconscious as well as cleansing the spirit.
Although Water is regarded as a passive element, it can be quite forceful in nature: waterfalls, enormous ocean waves, floods can be destructive and overpowering; so can be the feelings and emotions Water is associated with.
Major Arcana: The High Priestess, The Chariot, The Hanged Man, Death, The Moon
Minor Arcana: The Suit of Cups; Queens
In Tarot the element Water represents feelings and emotions; relationships, imagination, fantasy, dreams, astral worlds and the psyche, intuition. Cups indicate a love for pleasure, intuitive art, beauty and serenity.
Cancer, Pisces, Scorpio
Cold and moist
Autumn (Summer in Tarot)
Fish, seals, walrus; dragons (as serpents), dolphins and porpoises, water-dwelling snakes, dragonfly, all water creatures and sea birds
Next time you have a bath, feel the comfort of immersing yourself in water and the trancelike condition it invokes; where thoughts and feelings are suspended, peace and serenity taking over. Feel the water moving around your skin washing away the psychic baggage accumulated during the day.
When you go swimming, experience the water carrying you; close your eyes and float; let the water take control.
Take a walk when it rains; summer rain after a hot day can bring refreshment and a sense of purification. Watch the plants being replenished with water.
Children love water; they don’t mind getting wet. They love bath time and playing with containers in the paddling pool in summer. Try it for yourself; perhaps you notice how relaxing that can be.
If you have a garden, why not create a pond? Plant water plants and create spaces for frogs. Enjoy watching tadpoles transforming into frogs. If your pond is big enough, consider getting some fish and create a little eco-system.
Visit the seaside and enjoy the sea with all its riches: shells, crabs, pebbles. Savour the waves and the changing tides. Feel the water and see if you can smell the sea. Be hands on and experience the effects of the sea on you. Do you feel calm, carefree and content or perhaps lonely or sad?
Visit a lake or a river. Sit beside a stream and watch the water move. Perhaps you can see some fish. Can you look down to the ground? Is the water clear or murky? Feel any tension slowly leaving you, when you listen to the gurgle of water over pebbles and rocks.