Why is this time of year associated with Sagittarius the Archer? Two thousand years ago and more, the ancients looked up at this time of year and studied a constellation overhead that they decided represented the image of a man with a bow and arrow.
But the zodiac signs were cast in stone by Ptolemy in the 2 century AD and these dates remain unchanged, based on his arithmetic model of the zodiac. The astrology has parted company with the astronomy which inspired it, due to the wobble of the earth,and the effect known as the precession of the equinoxes.
The constellation of Sagittarius is now visible in the northern hemisphere in summer until September, and is visible in the winter in the southern hemisphere.
To find out where and how to see the constellation VIEW HERE.
But the zodiac dates endure, and the story and the meaning endure.
This was the time of year when the men of the family group went a hunting, to to catch, to kill, to cure and to store meat for the coming winter.
Date of Birth: Nov 22 to Dec 21
Ruling planet: Jupiter
Key phrase: I seek
Birth Stone: Topaz, Citrine, Turquoise
Colour: Light Blue
Tarot card: Temperance: Timing, Moderation, Education, Solstice, Healing of Chiron
More about the Astronomy
Sagittarius, the zodiac sign inspired by the constellation of Sagittarius, from the Latin meaning Archer, was recorded in the 2nd century by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy.
The constellation of Sagittarius is near the centre of our galaxy, the spiral Milky Way, mainly visible in the southern hemisphere June-November. In the Northern hemisphere the constellation is low on the horizon from August to October.
Sagittarius has a nickname, ‘The Teapot’ on account of its vaguely teapot-shaped star pattern, or asterism.
To find The Teapot
The best time to look is in August or September, somewhere really dark. Locate the hazy band of The Milky Way stretching right across the sky. Looking in the northern hemisphere, the Milk Way seems to bulge as it descends to the southern horizon. This ‘bulge’ is roughly about the middle of the Milky Way and is contained within the boundaries of the constellation Sagittarius.
Sagittarius contains a massive star-forming region, the Omega Nebula, home to the bright blue hyper-giant Pistol Star, one of the brightest stars in the Milky Way. The Pistol Star was discovered with the Hubble Space telescope in 1930, and is largely hidden in the dust of its own nebula.
It is 100 times as massive as our Sun, and 10,000,000 times as bright.
Sagittarius is the ninth sign in the Zodiac, not to be confused with the constellation itself, and represents those born between Nov. 22 and the advent of winter solstice, Dec. 21.
Sagittarius is nowadays generally associated with the ancient Greek story of Chiron. But the story is far, far older, and goes back to a Babylonian god, Pabilsag, and even further back than that.
Pabilsag and the Solstice
Pabilsag was the ancient Babylonian name for what we now call Sagittarius, handed down to the Greeks through the Sumerians and Kassites.
The Sumerian word ‘Pabil’ means ‘ancestor or relative’. Combined with the final element sag, meaning ‘chief, head, tip or foremost,’ his name can be translated as the ‘Chief Ancestor’ or ‘Forefather’.
Just as we were hunters at the dawn of human civilization.
Here, 3 millennia BC, we we have a winged centaur type figure, and yes, he is an archer too, and his arrow points at the heart of Scorpio, the red star Antares, but he also has a scorpion’s tail as the wheel of the Zodiac turns, and as Sagittarius gallops in, we leave Scorpio behind.
The distinction of Sagittarius, though, is that he is a solitary hunter. He does not work as one of a team to being down the really big prey. He is an individualist, working alone, just as many a hunter or trapper still hunts alone in winter.
Sagittarius – Psychopomp
The constellation of Sagittarius-Pabilsag is within the Milky Way, rising from the southern regions close to the horizon into the higher reaches of the skies.
This section of the Milky Way represents a symbolic bridge or a rainbow for the souls of the dead on their way to the afterlife, as the arrival of Capricorn draws near, marking the advent of the winter solstice. so that Sagittarius, or Pabilsag, is a psychopomp; a guardian and a guide to the dying year, and also to the souls of the dying as the sun sinks ever lower.
Chiron the wounded Centaur
Most modern versions of the story refer back to much later, classical variants of the old Babylonian myths, and say that Sagittarius represents the gentle, cultured centaur, Chiron, who was accidentally shot by Herakles with a poison arrow.
The centaurs in general were a rough lot, hard drinking, hard fighting, not remotely glamorous. It has been suggested that the legend of the centaurs rose from perfectly mortal, mounted ancient Greek cowboys.
But whatever the centaurs were, Chiron ‘the wisest and justest of the centaurs’ was something very different, representing a hope for the centaurs, and for Humanity itself, as collectively it strives to rise above the ever present tyranny of the Id and its own worst nature.
Here he is, trying to teach Achilles to control his temper, learning to play the lyre. Chiron had many other pupils, as well, including Asclepius, Ajax, Achilles, Theseus, Jason, Peleus, Perseus, and Phoenix. And Herakles, who brought about his death, when he was sent there to be schooled with Chiron.
Herakles had previously lost his temper with Linus, his music tutor back home. Linus, criticised his playing, and Herakles responded by smashing his lyre over the teachers head, killing him. Though in some accounts it was a stool.
Now Chiron, wounded by the poison arrow, was left in terrible pain. He was wise in the ways of medicine, none wiser, but he could not heal himself, and none could help him. Nor could he die, being Immortal.
Still, he carried on until he could bear it no more, and he asked Zeus to release him from Immortality so that he could die and be free of pain.
Zeus placed him in the heavens and the story goes, placed him there as Sagittarius.
However, Chiron already has another constellation, Centaurus, and in addition, there is another classical version of the story of Sagittarius, referring instead to Krotos, a satyr who lived on Mount Helicon with the Muses.
Krotos the Cultivated Satyr
Krotos was the son of Pan and Eupheme, and his mother had nursed the Muses. He was a renowned archer, hunter, horse rider – hence a possible source of confusion with the centaur, and besides all this, a devotee of his childhood companions, The Muses and their arts.
Krotos means ‘One who Claps his hands.’ He was credited by the Greeks with not only having invented archery, but introducing the convention of applause at artistic performances.
In this version of the story it was the Muses who, when Krotos died, asked Zeus to place him among the stars, which he did, transforming him into the constellation Sagittarius, says this variant of the zodiac story.
So Sagittarius is either the cultured wounded healer, Chiron, already represented in the constellation Centaurus, or he is the cultured satyr, Krotos; goaty, horse-riding archer, culture vulture and hunter extraordinaire.
There is a secondary link here, Krotos the Satyr linking Sagittarius with Capricorn, the next sign coming up, sun sinking to the winter solstice.
Chiron or Krotos?
Take your pick.
Or you can go Babylonian with Pabilsag.
Sagittarius is keenly intuitive, and usually has a marked talent, a gift, in the field of the Arts. Winston Churchill for example, was a Sagittarius subject and probably psychic. He was certainly subject to visions and feelings of premonition, and he also painted.
Delphi said there were three Muses. But c 600 BC Hesiod wrote in his Theogony that there were Nine Muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory personified) and this is the version that has generally stuck.
The Muses were not necessarily benign. They were touchy, sensitive to human hubris, and liable to exact vengeance of anyone they decided was getting too far above themselves.
- Kalliope ‘She of the Lovely Voice’ was the muse of epic poetry. Also of Diplomacy.
- Klio ‘She Who Proclaims’ was the muse of history.
- Erato ‘The Lovely One’ was the muse of love poetry.
- Euterpe ‘She Who Pleases’ was the muse of music.
- Melpomene ‘She Who Sings’ was the muse of tragedy.
- Polyhymnia ‘She of the Many Hymns’ was the muse of sacred poetry.
- Terpsichore ‘She Who Delights to Dance’ was the muse of dance.
- Thalia ‘The Cheerful One’ was the muse of comedy
- Urania ‘The Heavenly One’ was the goddess of astronomy, astrology, and later, Christian poetry.
Sagittarius: The Astrological Personality
Of course there is no such thing as THE Sagittarius personality. Everyone is unique. We are speaking here of an archetype.
Sagittarius is ruled overall by the planet Jupiter, and rules the Ninth House of philosophy, law, travel, higher study, and the second life partner when we have one. The seventh house rules the choice of a first life partner. In any second choice we are looking to learn more, and to expand our inner horizons from meeting with a mind that is very different to our own. A third choice of life partner is said to be ruled by the eleventh house of group identity.
Sagittarius zodiac sign subjects need constant adventures to stay interested. Freedom is of the utmost importance to them. Movement. Travel. Space and room for manoeuver. Likewise they allow space and freedom to their partners.
The archetype of Sagittarius is brave, lively, warm, optimistic, curious, adventurous, rational, but also insightful, even visionary.
These are generally astute, clever and capable people. But they need career flexibility, and they may refuse to fail to apply themselves if bored. Like Gemini, they are prone to restlessness. They may fail to stick at a job or a succession of jobs, and may struggle financially long term in consequence.
Hence their challenge, but also their guiding light is the idea of Temperance,personified in the Tarot and symbolising patience, prudence, and the art of good timing.
They can do ‘domestic’. It’s not that. But you wouldn’t really call it how they roll.
And they do tend to roll, place to place, job to job, and a rolling stone gathers no moss. The problem being, other things it doesn’t gather either, like a steady home life, or steady income, or savings or other means of security in old age, if Sagittarius does not balance the need for freedom , space and independence with prudence and good timing.
Sagittarius tends to have lots of friends. More than almost anyone else, so much so, family and friends can feel neglected at times, forgotten, when Sagittarius goes off yet again, devil may care, to share experiences with new best friends.
Sagittarius must have inspiration, and the freedom to follow it, and to roam. But this humanitarian, kindly, if restless rolling stone sooner or later almost always comes rolling home again, expecting to find their loved ones exactly where they left them. And usually, they are. Though others do not enjoy being taken for granted, and this may need care.
Sagittarius will be the star of this show. But what they really need for domestic happiness, is a quietly confident, self-reliant partner who has plenty of interests themselves; and much life experience.
Who will be their rock but who will not roll.
Who will be above all, their best friend.
Till next time 🙂
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