The Manifesto | The 8 Houses | Texts and Articles | Review | Links | ACCUEIL (FR) | HOME (EN)

Avatars of the Astrological Zodiac
by Patrice Guinard

-- translation Matyas Becvarov --

This study, greatly reworked, stems from Chapters 7-10 of my doctoral dissertation (1993).

1. The Origins of the Zodiac : the pre-Zodiacal Stage

"The egg of Amma was closed, but made of four parts called 'clavicules,' themselves ovoid and joined as if they had extruded one from the others. Amma is four joined clavicules; it is only these four clavicles." (Marcel Griaule & Germaine Dieterlen, Le renard pâle)

      The inhabitants of Mesopotamia were not the first to observe the heavenly bodies and define portions of the heavens in the celestial expanses, responding to certain regularities and certain rhythms and occupied by objects called stars. Neolithic people had their own astronomy, as likely did those who preceded them. What characterized the Mesopotamians, however, was that they created an astrology very much like our own on the basis of those observations, and that astrology has been transmitted to us, however badly it may have survived the passage of time. This is not the place to discuss the many proto-astrological forms that may have existed among Neolithic and Paleolithic peoples.

      The observation of the stars and their grouping into constellations is attested from 2400 BCE at Ebla (in what is today Syria): the rising of the constellation of the Pleiades coincided at that time with the vernal equinox. And around 2000 BCE, further to the west in Mari, the rising of Arcturus marked the beginning of the harvest. There existed an established, learned form of astrology from the beginning of the first Akkadian empire, founded by the Semite Sharrum-kin (2334-2279 BCE), known under the name of Sargon. His grandson, Naram-Sin (2254-2218 BCE), "He Who Is Beloved of Sin," i.e. of the moon god, was his inspired inheritor. These first recorded astronomical observations are also attested for the same period by the Neoplatonic Simplicius in Chapter XI of his Commentary on the Treatise on the Heavens by Aristotle.

      The stellar constellations served as benchmarks for the diverse activities of social life. They are known under numerous transformations during the progress of observations, and also as rival interpretations between competing schools. A list of constellations dating from about 1300 BCE from the Hittite city of Boghaz-Köi (in present-day Turkey) already contains almost all the constellations that would later become "Zodiacal," with the exception of Leo and Libra.

      The sixth section of the first tablet of the series MUL.APIN (the famous Babylonian treatise of uranography as well as the first catalogue of the known stars) in its primary exemplar BM 86378 (British Museum) dating from 687 BCE is a copy of a compilation made a few decades earlier. It gives the of 16 or 17 constellations traversed by the Moon, the Sun and the other planets: MUL.MUL ("stars-stars" in Sumerian, that is to say, the Pleiades, part of the constellation of Taurus), GUD.AN.NA (the celestial Bull, equivalent to a more southerly portion of Taurus), SIBA.ZI.AN.NA (the faithful celestial shepherd, Orion), SHU.GI (the old man, which we know as the constellation Perseus), GAM (the broken staff, or Auriga), MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL (the great twins, equivalent to Gemini), AL.LUL (the crab, or Cancer), UR.GU.LA (the giant dog, i.e. Leo), AB.SIN (the ear of barley, or Spica, in the constellation of Virgo), zi-ba-ni-tum (one notices here the Akkadian name, no longer a Sumerian one, equivalent to the constellation Libra), GIR.TAB (Scorpio), PA.BIL.SAG (Sagittarius), SHUHUR.MASH (the sea-goat, i.e. Capricorn), GU.LA (the giant, equivalent to Aquarius), zibbati SIM.MAH and A-nu-ni-tum (the tail of the great swallow and the fish, covering the constellation of Pisces), LU.HUN.GA (the laborer, i.e. Aries). [1]

      In this pre-Zodiacal stage one finds the twelve signs/constellations of the future Zodiac, with the addition of the constellations of the Pleiades (part of the modern Taurus), Orion, Perseus, Auriga and "The Swallow" (part of the modern Pisces). The Babylonian images and names of the Zodiacal constellations, with the sole exception of Aries, were taken over wholesale by Greek astronomers. These lunar stations, in their origin solar Zodiacal signs, include the constellations situated outside the ecliptic (by reason of the inclination of the lunar orbit), and they came later to be omitted in the reorganization of the Zodiac.

    A list dating from a later, Neo-Assyrian epoch (Berlin, Archeological Museum, VAT 7851) includes only 14 constellations: Perseus and Auriga have disappeared, and the swallow's tails have been grouped with another constellation called DIL.GAN (the Whale).

      The appearance of the Zodiac composed of 12 equal signs has been dated from the middle of the 6th century BCE. [2]  In his recent work on the birth of astrology in Mesopotamia, Giovanni Pettinato reports the discovery of a tablet from the library of Sippar, unearthed not long ago by Iraqi archeologists: one finds in it, attested at about 600 BCE, a Zodiac divided into twelve sections. [3]  The twelve Zodiacal signs of 30 degrees each, delimited on the ecliptic and without reference to the stellar constellations, are quite clearly attested in a tablet dating from 419 BCE. So it was during the 6th and 5th centuries BCE that the reforms of Babylonian astronomical and astrological conceptions of the heavens came into place, and were then passed to the Greeks, who about the same time invented metaphysics.

      The appearance of the Zodiac does not necessarily include the usage of the astrological interpretations later attributed to the twelve Zodiacal signs when the stellar distribution came approximately to correspond to the months of the seasons. As Florisoone notes, quite appropriately: "Contrary to what one might think, the Zodiac was not an invention exclusively inspired by astrology, but also represents one of the first manifestations of the 'scientific' spirit and the birth of a true astronomy in Mesopotamia." [4]

      The invention of the Zodiac is linked to the innovation of distribution along the ecliptic and solar lines, not only along that of the moon, [5]  as well as to a harmonization between the calendar, geometry and arithmetic. For Neugebauer, "The Zodiac was in fact nothing but a mathematical idealization necessary for calculation and used exclusively for that purpose." [6]  The invention of the Zodiac can be considered a "Cartesian revolution" in Babylonian astronomy, which also adopted a new system of distribution and from which the Babylonian priests/astronomers/astrologers knew how to draw advantage. The practical function of the Zodiac and its definition as a band traversed by the planets was made possible because the Babylonians did not know the grave problems of eccentricity posed for modern astrology by the introduction of Pluto.

      One might ask after the causes of this late appearance, since the astrological knowledge of the Babylonians made an introduction possible much earlier. It appears -- paradoxically so -- to have been the power of the religion and the astrological conceptions of the period that put the brakes on this innovation! Moreover, the new political situation (i.e., the fall of the Assyrian Empire and of Nineveh in 611 BCE, the capture of Babylon by the Persians in 539 BCE) probably contributed to a freeing of research from its priestly domain. It is possible that the invention of the Zodiac was the work of independent thinkers, separated from the spheres of priestly power.

      But what justifies the division of the Zodiac into twelve equal sections? Kepler pointed out the arbitrariness of this configuration and called into question any natural relationship between the elements (cf. infra) and the "triangles" formed by the Zodiacal signs. What is usually invoked as an explanation is the approximate synchronization of the lunar cycle within the year, as well as the relative arithmetical ease offered by use of twelve in the duodecimal division of the circle of 360°, and it is likely that these things may have induced astronomers of the period to favor the number twelve. However, the much earlier existence of the 12 months of the calendar and those of the predictions associated with them (particularly in the series of astrological predictions ENUMA ANU ENLIL -- or more precisely, ENUMA ANU ENLIL EA -, but also in other texts such as the "monthly" series IQQUR IPUSH) may have been a key factor in this development. So, even if the astrological meanings were assigned at a later date to the Zodiacal signs, a matrix-based (and duodecimal) logic existed long before the introduction of the astronomical Zodiac. And matrix-based reason, rather than "mathematical reason," must have presided at the birth of the astronomical Zodiac. The fact that the Zodiacal signs emerged from a relatively late selection from among the lunar constellations disqualifies the interpretation of the signs as based on the myths associated with those constellations, which also come from various epochs. The matrix-based nature of the Zodiacal structure requires the creation of a homogenous semantics, independent of these cultural variables.

2. The Elemental Zodiac and its Difficulties

"Hic igitur deus et ratio, quae cuncta gubernat,
Ducit ab aetheris terrena animalia signis."
(Manilius, Astronomica, II 82-83)

      The element-based Zodiac can be found in numberless second-hand modern treatises that swell the "astrology" section of bookshops, both general and specialized. This so-called "symbolical" Zodiac organizes the twelve Zodiacal signs, which are equal portions of a band of the heavens centered on the ecliptic and with a span of about 35 degrees by virtue of the orbital inclination of Pluto, into a double series, elemental and modal. This supposedly "traditional" Zodiac is never called into question, and no one inquires regarding its origins or which astrologers or astrological schools of the past may have used it, and why.

      The symbolical universe of the four elements does not impose itself, for example, on the author of the Tetrabiblos, and despite an allusion to the Aristotelian theory of the four, and even five elements including the aether (Tetrabiblos, I.2), Ptolemy, when he defines the triangular association between the Zodiacal signs, takes care to mention only the masculine and feminine quality of the signs, but not their associations with the elements. [7]  The same is true of Manilius, but he increases ad libitum the criteria for grouping the Zodiacal signs, does not relate the elements to his Zodiacal triangulars, at least no more than does Dorotheus of Sidon or the Athenian Antiochos. Quite a fine "tradition," as it turns out, which happens not to exist anywhere! Moreover, Bouché-Leclercq, who amuses himself by cynically exposing what he considers to be frivolous astrological inventions, omits to mention in his Astrologie grecque the theory of elements applied to the Zodiacal signs.

      Vettius Valens, the Alexandrian of Syrian origin, a contemporary of Ptolemy, seems to be the first to make mention of this assimilation of the Zodiacal trigons to those of the elements, with the qualification that for this author this usage implies nothing more than the implication that the semantics of the sign depend on the elements. [8]  To put it another way, the Zodiacal signs remain defined by characteristics inherited from mythology without any relation to the elements.

      To my knowledge, we do not know the origin of this assimilation, nor of the association between elements and quadrants. It may be that these models originated at the crossroads that was Alexandria, and that two rival systems competed, one "Egyptian" and the other "Chaldean (in this matter as in numerous others), associating at some early stage the elements with the Zodiacal quadrants, according to astro-meteorological considerations (WATER rain, floods, AIR storms, FIRE drought, EARTH earthquakes) and according to seasonal variations in climate (humidity, heat, dryness, cold): in other words, an Egyptian system of FIRE-WATER-AIR-EARTH (marked by a rainy summer and the flooding of the Nile), which would have given birth to the "classical" system through attribution of the seasonal quality to the first sign of the season (Aries Fire, Cancer Water ...) and to a generalization by means of the trigons, and a Babylonian system AIR-FIRE-EARTH-WATER (marked by a rainy winter) that can be found in the work of Paul of Alexandria. [9]

      In the element-based Zodiac that we consider "classical", the twelve signs move from Aries to Pisces according to a double series both elemental (Fire, Earth, Air, Water) and modal (cardinal, fixed, mutable). Hence, with Aries are associated the attributes of Fire in cardinal mode, with Taurus Earth in fixed mode, with Gemini Air in mutable mode, with Cancer Earth in cardinal mode ... Elements and Modes are defined by the following trivial qualities:

FIRE: combustion, expansion, animation
EARTH: heaviness, condensation, fixation
AIR: diffusion, dilatation, impregnation
WATER: absorption, dissolution, fluidity

CARDINAL: introduction
FIXED: stabilization
MUTABLE: distribution

    The attributions of elemental and modal values to the Zodiacal signs brings forward, then, the tripartite and quadripartite groupings that supposed preceded them: for example, the "triangle" of Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) or the cardinal "cross" (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn).

      In this arrangement, it is the attribution of the elements to the Zodiacal quadrants and to the first signs of those quadrants, the "cardinal signs" that is retained, and which, by triangular extension, defines the elemental quality of the two other signs in the trigon. Springtime Fire and Aries extend to Leo and Sagittarius; summertime Water and Cancer extend to Scorpio and Pisces; autumnal Air and Libra extend to Aquarius and Gemini; wintertime Earth and Capricorn extend to Taurus and Virgo. Thus by following the logic of the arrangement and of the elemental qualities, the Zodiacal signs oppose each other along the axis of the equinoxes (Aries/Pisces, Taurus/Aquarius ...) and the quadrants along the axis of the solstices (FIRE/WATER, AIR/EARTH), but never through the center.

      The four elements are attested in Egyptian cosmology long before their integration at a later date into the astrological corpus; they were also conceptualized by Presocratic philosophers. With Phythagoras and his disciples, the elements figure as symbols of the Tetrad; in the thought of Empedocles, they are the protagonists of a cosmological cycle;, increased, "roots of all things," full, immutable, eternal, material and endowed with consciousness, equal among themselves and in command of temporal cycles fixed by the order of destiny: "Along the course of the revolution, each of the elements takes its role: each one in its perishing transforms itself into the following and grows with the part fixed by destiny. They are thus the only ones with true being, and hence in their course, by mutual interchange, they become men and races of animals." [10]

In Chapters 6 and 7 of the famous treatise On the Nature of Man (before 400 BCE), attributed by the Greeks to Hippocrytus or to his son-in-law Polybius, although the elements themselves are not mentioned, the elemental qualities are associated with the four seasons and the four humors: [11]

Blood Yellow Bile Black Bile Phlegm
sanguine choleric melancholic phlegmatic
warm and wet warm and dry cold and dry cold and humid

      In the Timaeus Plato explains the necessity of supposing the existence of four elements, not only three, to constitute the body of the Universe: "If then there were a surface having no depth that was supposed to become the body of the Universe, a single midpoint would have sufficed to link the extremities and the center; but the Universe is solid in nature as suited it to be; so, with solids, it is never one, but always two midpoints that are necessary to harmonize them." [12]

      Aristotle insists on the climactic characteristics on the elements and on the principle of their successive generation in a reversible cycle. [13]  However, if the cycle results in a naturalistic cosmology (from the earth to the heavens, passing through the hydro- and atmospheric layers), how then is one to explain the passage from Fire to Earth, and then how can one justify their circularity? More and more difficulties arise when one attempts to attribute an elemental value to each of the elements. In fact, if Fire is warm and Earth is dry, Air would be wet and Water cold (the solution proposed by Aristotle), or again, Water would be wet and Air cold (the solution of the Stoic Chrysippus). [14]

    One can escape this dualism by attributing to each element a specific positive principle: heat is the principle of fire; for water, fluidity (its physical property) is preferable to wetness (which is more dependent upon meteorology); solidity (or density) would be the principle of Earth; luminosity (or clarity, or even transparence as with the Tibetans) would be the principle of Air.

      Astrologers, prisoners of the climatic values associated with the elements, have been led to underestimate the double principle heat/wetness that has weighed heavily in classical astrology all the way up to Cardan, Kepler and Morin. The French astrologer Eustache Lenoble still retains heat and wetness as the two principles of the masculine and feminine respectively, which determine the nature of the Elements: "There are two principles of generation: heat and humidity; heat is the active quality, and humidity the passive." [15]

      The idea of two generative principles is linked to a sexualization of the astrological factors (planets and signs), which forms the basis of all the mistakes in regard to the comprehension of the Tetrad, here subjected to a duality not native to it. Astrology, intrinsically non-dualist, cannot support such a dichotomy. The dualist aporia can be resolved in the following manner: if the "spring" signs or "FIRE" (to hold to the seasonal model, solar in nature, from the elemental Zodiac) are masculine and the "summer" signs or "WATER" are feminine; the "autumnal" signs or "AIR" are hermaphroditic signs, and the "hibernal" signs or "EARTH" would be "asexual" signs.

      There are not two sexes in astrology, but rather four psychic-astral sexes, which is to say, four modes of attractive sensibility. The springtimes attract the hibernals, and vice versa; the summertimes seduce the atumnals, and vice versa, following the equinoxial axis. Hence the attractions are not between masculine and feminine, and between hermaphroditic and asexual, but rather between masculine and asexual and between feminine and hermaphroditic. The psychological consequences of this arrangement are important: the feminine can only love that which includes within it some part of femininity; masculininty has need neither of feminity nor of virility, but prefers a neutral terrain.

      Two incompatible elemental systems competed in Hellenistic astrological circles, both of them attached to the seasonal Zodiac: the "Egyptian" system, also used by the Stoics, which is symbolic (FIRE-WARM, WATER-WET,AIR-COLD, EARTH-DRY), and the "Mesopotamian" system, also Aristotelian (neo-Hippocratic), which is physical (AIR-WET, FIRE-WARM, EARTH-DRY, WATER-COLD). The Stoic organization seems to me better in alignment with the nature of elements that are no more than symbols. So we will keep the distribution of elements on the condition of understanding it as a symbolic paragon of the Tetrad. The Elements are symbols of the four states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma), which is to say, they are material images of the Tetrad.

Elemental symbols
Cardinal signs
Climactic Qualities (Chrysippus)
States of matter
Material principle
Psychic sex


3. The Astronomical Zodiacs

"Tomorrow, man will have recognized in all things the necessity of the Seasons, their Solstices and their Equinoxes. But the Seasons will no longer move forward without him." (André Faussurier, 1967)

      Various modern-day attempts have sought to reconstruct the Zodiac according to more rigorous criteria. The Ptolemean Zodiac, like Ptolemy's system of planetaries, is founded on climatological criteria and has proven to be inadequate in the long run for the justification of differentiations between those two aspects. [16]

      The Zodiac was designed at its inception as a means of astronomical distribution. The incline of the Earth's orbital plane around its axis in relation to its plane of revolution around the sun is its true baseline. An angle of 23°26' separates the plane of the celestial equator and the plane of the ecliptic. Their east and west intersections mark the Vernal Point (0° Aries) and its opposite (0° Libra). The solsticial points (0° Cancer and 0° Capricorn) mark the maximum distance north and south of the sun in relation to the equatorial plane. Each of the four quadrants thus defined is subsequently divided into three equal parts on the ecliptic, that is to say, along the circle of traced by the sun in its apparent revolution around the Earth. This schema was devised in order to take into account the latitude of the planets and their variations in relation to the ecliptic.

      The Zodiac in that definition is a solar reality, or better said, is helio-centered. Each sign could be defined as the specific moment of the transit of a given planet, projected upon the ecliptic and measured by its declination, i.e. by its height in relation to the plane of the celestial equator. This declination is zero at the beginning of Aries and Libra, and is greater at the beginning of Cancer and Capricorn.

From 0° Aries to 30° Gemini, the increase of declination is positive (North).
From 0° Cancer to 30° Virgo, the decrease of declination remains positive (North).
From 0° Libra to 30° Sagittarius, the decrease of declination becomes negative (South).
From 0° Capricorn to 30° Pisces, the increase of declination remains negative (South).

     The sinusoidal wave that follows illustrates the four phases of the Zodiac based on the annual declinations of the Sun. [17]

in Patrice Guinard, L'astrologie, DOCT. TH., 1993, p.31

      The declinations of the equinoctal signs (Aries, Virgo, Libra, Pisces) vary considerably (by 11°28'), those of the median signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius) vary somewhat less (by 8°42'), and those of the solsticial signs (Gemini, Cancer, Sagittarius, Capricorn) vary little (by 3°16'). This Zodiac is universal, regardless of the latitude of position or of being in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. It is preferable to the seasonal solar Zodiac (the semantics of which depend heavily on the cycle of the seasons), and legitimizes the practice of Argentinian and Australian astrologers, who in general do not reverse the Zodiacal signs. [18]

    For each planet one can imagine a similar Zodiac, with phases determined for the variation in declination, with 0° Aries and its opposite point defined by planetary nodes.

      The quadripartition of a natural solar Zodiac, in relation to the point of observation, was not unknown by the Greeks; the astronomer Geminos of Rhodes notes two centuries before Ptolemy that the difference in duration between the days and the nights is positive for six signs, negative for the other six, and that there is an increase in the duration of the days for six signs and a decrease for the other six: "Moreover, the increase of the days and nights is not equal in all the signs. Near the solsticial points it is very small. (...) At the point of the equinoxes, on the other hand, the increase of the days is important." [19]

      This schema can be generalized for the ensemble of the planets, and each local Zodiac organizes its signs according to the annual variations of the diurnal and nocturnal arcs of the planet in question. Hence, at a given moment and for a given geographic latitude, for each planet, there exists a specific relationship between the duration of its diurnal arc (the length of its presence above the horizon) and that of its nocturnal arc (the duration of its presence below the horizon). So at Paris, the Sun has a diurnal arc of about 12 hours on 20 March, about 16 hours on 22 June, about 12 hours on 23 September and 8 hours on 21 December, the date on which the diurnal arc gains precedence again over the nocturnal arc and which the Romans celebrated as the festival of the Invincible Sun (Sol invictus).

      At the equinoxes solar diurnal and nocturnal arcs become equal, at the summer solstice the diurnal arc attains its maximum and at the winter solstice it reaches its minimum. The sinusoidal wave that follows illustrates the four phases of a Zodiac based on these annual differences between the diurnal and nocturnal solar arcs at Paris.

in Patrice Guinard, L'astrologie, DOCT. TH., 1993, p.32

From 0° Aries to 30° Gemini, increase of the dominant diurnal arc.
From 0° Cancer to 30° Virgo, decrease of the dominant diurnal arc.
From 0° Libra to 30° Sagittarius, decrease of the recessive diurnal arc.
From 0° Capricorn to 30° Pisces, increase of the recessive diurnal arc.

      This local Zodiac can be called "photo-periodic" (Nicola) in reference to the presence or absence of the luminary source above or below the horizon. Light, solar and direct, or planetary and refracted, is the criterion retained by reason of its regularity, contrary to the inconsistence of criteria meteorological in nature, like that of heat. [20]  The vicissitudes of "classical" astrology derive precisely from its servitude to climatic considerations, beginning with Ptolemy, and Kepler himself did not succeed in changing much on that account. In point of fact, light is nothing more than the distributable testimony, the visible trace of an active source that remains to this day elusive to experimental measure. "Light, an evident part of the solar spectrum, can only be the visible scale of vaster influences for whose periodicities it serves as a signal." [21]

      Like the Zodiac based on declinations, the local Zodiac can be adapted to each planet and varied in function of its inclination on the orbital plane of the planet in question around the sun. Hence, the diurnal arc of a planet can be effectuated at night (during the solar diurnal arc). The Zodiacs of each planet can be superimposed in the chart, which unifies, for example, a hibernal by the sun to an "estival" by Uranus. Local planetary Zodiacs are topocentric modulations of Zodiacs based on declinations.

Note: before reading the following section, I ask the reader to peruse my text dealing with Pavlovian reflexology:

4. The Reflexological Zodiac

"Man possesses a firmament particular to each one, which is like the external one and has the same constellation (...) It is the Inner Firmament with its planets that acts: the Outer Firmament serves only to demonstrate and indicate the inner one." (Paracelsus, Colica)

      The Zodiac obeys a general dynamic that embraces all processes, be they biological or cultural: the generation and expansion of a first impetus, followed by a phase of infolding and resistance, then one of balance, followed in turn by a period of purification and cristallization. These four successive phases can be found in art, thought or literature, in geology or embryology. [22]

      The astronomical Zodiacs all have the same skeleton: a differentiation based on four distinct phases (equivalent to the seasons in the annual solar cycle) and on three quantitative modalities (with a maximal variation for the solsticial signs and a miminal one for the equinoctal signs). The reflexological Zodiac, from the mind of the astrologer Nicola and based on the work of Pavlov, [23]  gives testimony to the temporal integration and structural crystallization by the nervous system of differences in declination and of relations of duration among the diurnal and nocturnal arcs in external, astronomical Zodiacs.

      The physiological processes made evident by the Russian scientist are here redefined as distinct phases of a cyclical process. This is not to say that physiology is founded on astrology: it is rather the case that astrology, in its need for an initial hypothesis for the integration of planetary rhythms and their progressive crystallization by the cyclical return of specific phases, [24]  is in a position to propose a model for the physiological variability and the existence of different nervous types which are observed experimentally.

    The twelve types of nervous system organized according to the variability of excitability with regard to its four forms and three successive phases, are isomorphic to the cycle of the twelve signs, ordered in Zodiacal quadrants according to the three successive foci of these quadrants.

      The diurnal arc of a planet is a specific signal for excitation or activation; the nocturnal arc signals inhibition. To put it another way, the diurnal arc is a positive stimulus, the nocturnal one a negative stimulus. A difference of positive duration between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs leads to a process of excitation, a negative difference favors the process of inhibition. (In the same way, a positive planetary declination stimulates, a negative declination -- South -- inhibits.)

      It should be noted as well that the increase (or augmentation of duration) of the relationship between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs implies an increase in the duration of the stimulus, and hence a greater rapidity of the responses. By the inverse, its decrease implies greater inertia. (Likewise, an increase in planetary declination adds to the speed of the processes, a decrease to their slowness.)

The four cycles of the natural astronomical cycle, then, each have their neuro-physiological correspondant:

Aries, Taurus, Gemini => RAPIDITY OF EXCITATION
*Difference of positive duration between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs (and positive planetary declination) => EXCITATION
*Increase (or augmentation of duration) of the relationship between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs (and increase in planetary declination) => SPEED

*Difference of positive duration between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs (and positive planetary declination) => EXCITATION
*Decrease (or reduction of duration) in the relationship between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs (and decrease of planetary declination) => SLOWNESS

Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius => SLOWNESS OF INHIBITION
*Difference in the negative duration between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs (and negative planetary declination) => INHIBITION
*Decrease (or reduction of duration) in the relationship between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs (and reduction of planetary declination) => SLOWNESS

Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces => RAPIDITY OF INHIBITION
*Difference of negative duration between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs (and negative planetary declination) => INHIBITION
*Increase (or augmentation of duration) in the relationship between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs (and augmentation of planetary declination) => RAPIDITY

    To continue along the lines of a solar Zodiac: in the springtime the days are longer than the nights and they increase yet more (RAPIDITY OF EXCITATION); in the summertime they are still longer than the nights but decrease in length (SLOWNESS OF EXCITATION); in autumn they are shorter than the night and decrease yet more (SLOWNESS OF INHIBITION); in winter they are still shorter but increase in length (RAPIDITY OF INHIBITION).

      Globally speaking, in spring and autumn the increase of the dominant arc (diurnal or nocturnal), i.e. the augmentation of duration on the part of the stimulus (be it positive or negative) implies an amplification of the process of excitation (be it natural or temporal) and the development of three Pavlovian phases of irradiation associated with them. The decrease in winter and summer of the dominant arc induces an amplification of the process of inhibition (be it protective or extinctive) and the development of an inverse irradiation.

      The equinoctal signs bring about a relationship of minimal duration between the arcs, and the solsticial signs a relationship of maximum duration. Stimulus, or excitation, evolves from the equinoctal toward the solsticial, in other words, it becomes larger, and it irradiates in point of fact. Inversely, inhibition of either protective or extinctive nature draws in upon itself and closes up in the passage between the solsticial and the equinoctal, which is in accordance with its nature. [25]

    The grouping of the equinoctal, solsticial and median signs according to the duration of the arcs introduces a new differentiation into the very center of each process.

The EQUINOCTAL signs have a weak declination (and a weak relation of duration between the arcs) => POLARIZATION (equalizing phase).

The MEDIAN signs have an average declination (and an average relation of duration between the arcs) => COMPOSITION (paradoxical phase).

The SOLSTICIAL signs have a strong declination (and a maximal relation of duration between the arcs) => TOTALIZATION (ultra-paradoxical phase).

      In addition, there results from the concentration of the process at the center of each phase (i.e., at the level of the median signs) a phenomenon of induction, or, to put it another way, a peripheral zone of inhibition (or excitation) around the concentrated core of excitation (or of inhibition), which is to my knowledge the only "justification" of a neuro-physiological nature for a ternary division of the Zodiacal quadrants. In fact, astrologers are usually incapable of justifying the duodecimal division of the Zodiac. Why not have just four signs, or eight, or any multiple of the number four? Only the physiological analogy is capable of furnishing a point of departure for a comprehensive explanation of the development of the Zodiacal cycle in twelve successive phases. We know that Kepler, who needed guarantees but overlooked this one, decided to throw out the baby of the astrological Zodiac with the bathwater.

The following physiological correlations emerge as applicable to the twelve Zodiacal signs:

ARIES: natural excitation (= rapidity of excitation), polarization.
TAURUS: concentrated natural excitation, natural inhibition (by induction), composition.
GEMINI: natural excitation (= rapidity of excitation), totalization.

CANCER: protective inhibition (= slowness of excitation), totalization.
LEO: concentrated protective inhibition, slowed or partial excitation (by induction), composition.
VIRGO: protective inhibition (= slowness of excitation), polarization.

LIBRA: temporal excitation (= slowness of inhibition), polarization.
SCORPIO: concentrated temporal excitation, differential inhibition (by induction), composition.
SAGITTARIUS: temporal excitation (= slowness of inhibition), totalization.

CAPRICORN: extinctive inhibition (= rapidity of inhibition), totalization.
AQUARIUS: concentrated extinctive inhibition, recreative excitation (by induction), composition.
PISCES: extinctive inhibition (= rapidity of inhibition), polarization.

      Each sign of the Zodiac is defined by a form of excitability and by a principle that illustrates its phase of irradiation. The quality of the processes of excitation and inhibition relates to the astronomical signal in its composite (the average distance between the diurnal and nocturnal arcs; the phases translate a certain evolution on the part of the process (a specific relationship between the respective durations of the arcs). This physiological canvas legitimizes the body of meanings attributed empirically to the Zodiacal signs. The reflexological Zodiac gives a legitimate basis to the establishment of a physio-semiological Zodiac that subsumes the various semantic strata that have come into being over the course of its history.

    In fact, the Zodiacal semantics of contemporary astrology are reducible to one or another of the following four cultural models, all obsolete:

      The schema that I have proposed above differs substantially from that developed in 1965 by the astrologer Nicola. [26]  His reading -- a partial one -- of Pavlov led him to establish different correspondances. I have taken from certain texts by that author (working from the original, by the way), a certain number of blunders that disfigure his schema and which, as a result, weigh heavily on the interpretations to be given to the Zodiacal signs.

      1. Nicola is unaware of the four modes of conditional excitation, all "associative," particularly the trace reflex and the temporal reflex, observed by Pavlov in his Lessons: "Pavlov never pushed his thought to the point of identifying and naming four functions of excitation." [27]  Oh, but he did! [28]

      2. Nicola dissociates in his analyses the diurnal and nocturnal planetary arcs as though they were not part of a single process. What results is an artificial separation between the "strong" pole and the "weak" pole in the analysis of signs according to the taking into account of one arc or the other. Now, "weakness" is not due to a supposed "recessive pole" of the sign itself, assimilated to the "dominant pole" of the complementary sign, but rather to the exacerbation of the one and only form of excitability proper to the sign under consideration. So a "weak" Gemini does not languish in an inertia of inhibition like a weak Pisces, but rather in an excess of excitation, which offers the possibility of a creative adaptation according to the possibilities offered by the environment. There is no such thing as weakness in itself -- of which Proust serves as an example in Nicola's opinion [29]  -- but rather there is maladaptation, or at times "over-adaptation" to the conditions of the environment.

      3. In his descriptions Nicola separates the mobility of the processes and the different forms of conditional reflex without realizing that it is a question here of two sides of the same coin. He does not understand that natural excitation and rapidity of excitation are one and the same phenomenon, just as are protective inhibition and slowness of excitation, temporal excitation and slowness of inhibition, extinctive inhibition and rapidity of inhibition. Here again the dualization of reflexological contents leads unnecessarily to a rendering complex of one's analytical tools.

      4. Finally, and foremost, Nicola has a tendency to identify the mobility of the process with what he calls its "force," from which arises his confusion of rapidity and slowness of inhibition in the autumn and winter quadrants. The equinoxes permutate excitation into inhibition, and the solstices transform rapidity into slowness, as it appears in the astronomical Zodiacal wave forms (cf. supra). How could the "quick inhibited" of Nicola (which has the ability to retract itself quickly) be characterized by a mode of excitation? How could the "slow inhibited" -- supposedly hibernal -- take on the characteristics of extinctive inhibition? Slow inhibition must necessarily stand in some relation to a function of excitation, the temporal excitation of the autumn, as rapid inhibition must stand in relation to a function of inhibition. Nicola links, with good reason, rapidity of inhibition and the Jungian function of "thought," and slowness of inhibition he associates with "intuition," which then constrains him to make thinkers of Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius and to assign intuition to the hibernal signs, which contravenes astrological observation even at the most trivial level. [30]

[1] Cf. Hermann Hunger and David Pingree, "MUL.APIN: an Astronomical Compendium in Cuneiform," Horn (Austria), Archiv für Orientforschung 24, 1989, p. 144; and also Bartel van der Waerden, Science Awakening II: the Birth of Astronomy, 1965; English rev. ed. Leyden, Noordhoff, 1974, p. 80. « Text

[2] Franz Boll, Sphaera, Leipzig, Teubner, 1903, p. 186. « Text

[3] Cf. Giovanni Pettinato, La scrittura celeste (la nascita dell'astrologia in Mesopotamia), Milano, Arnoldo Mondadori, 1998, p. 96, and the review by Walid Al-Jadir, "Une bibliothèque et ses tablettes," in Archaeologia, 224, 1987. Addenda March 2002: This tablet, just published by Wayne Horowitz and F.N.H. Al-Rawi in Iraq, v. 63, 2001, concerns stars close to the zenith (ziqpu) and not the Zodiacal signs. (Many thanks to Hermann Hunger for pointing out this important point.) « Text

[4] André Florisoone, "Les origines chaldéennes du zodiaque," Ciel et Terre, 66, 1950, p. 263. « Text

[5] Cf. my text on the antedeluvian kings, « Text

[6] Otto Neugebauer, Les Sciences exactes dans l'Antiquité, New York, Dover, 1957; fr. trans. Pierre Souffrin, Actes Sud, 1990, p. 37. « Text

[7] Cf. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, I 18, ed.-tr. Frank Robins, London, William Heinemann, 1940; 1956, p. 82-87. « Text

[8] Cf. Vettius Valens, The Anthology (Book I), tr. Robert Schmidt, Berkeley Springs, Golden Hind Press, 1993, p. 7-17 (I.2) and The Anthology (Book II, Part 1), 1994, p. 1-2 (II.1). « Text

[9] For another possible scenario, cf. my text on the Eight Houses, (note 21), and « Text

[10] Empedocles, in Les Présocratiques, ed. Jean-Paul Dumont, Paris, Gallimard, 1988, p. 385. « Text

[11] Cf. Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky & Fritz Saxl, Saturne et la mélancolie, London, 1964, French tr. Paris, Gallimard, 1989. « Text

[12] Plato, in Oeuvres complètes, French tr. by Léon Robin, Paris, Gallimard, 1950. p. 447. « Text

[13] Ptolemy, who attributes wetness to spring, heat to summer, dryness to autumn and cold to winter, essentially follows the "Babylonian" elemental schema (Air-Fire-Earth-Water) and the attributions of Aristotle. (Cf. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, ed.-tr. Frank Robbins, London, William Heinemann, 1940; 1956, p. 59.) « Text

[14] Cf. Aristotle, De la génération et de la corruption (II 3), ed.-tr. by Charles Mugler, Paris, Belles-Lettres, 1966, and Emile Bréhier, Chrysippe et l'ancien stoïcisme, Paris, P.U.F., 1951. « Text

[15] Eustache Lenoble, Uranie, ou les Tableaux des Philosophes, 1694-1697; in: Les Oeuvres de Mr Le Noble, Tome XVII, Paris, Pierre Ribou, 1718, p. 212; partial new ed. by CURA, « Text

[16] On the meteorological properties of the Zodiacal signs, cf. Ptolemy, II 12 (ed. Alleau), or Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, II 11, ed.-tr. Frank Robbins, London, William Heinemann, 1940; 1956, p. 200-205. « Text

[17] This schema appears, for example, in the work of Wihelm Hartmann and Friedrich Sieggrün, Die Hamburger Astrologenschule, Leipzig [~1925], p. 7. « Text

[18] Cf. for example Darrelyn Gunzburg (dir.): Under Capricorn (An Anthology of Australian Astrology), Welland, Federation of Australian Astrologers, 1989, and José Garaña, Caracteres y destinos según la astrología magistral, Buenos Aires, Kier, 1946. « Text

[19] Geminos, Introduction aux phénomènes, VI 29-33, ed.-tr. Germaine Aujac, Paris, Belles Lettres, 1975. « Text

[20] The local Zodiac of the diurnal and nocturnal arcs does not dismiss the problem of charts drawn up for births in the Southern Hemisphere, or exactly on the Equator. In fact, at 4,000 m. altitude, in the Bolivian capital of La Paz, in the middle of August it is the dead of winter, raw and cold. If astrological interpretation by the seasonal solar Zodiac becomes obsolete, there still remains the issue of justifying the inversion of effects of the positive or negative values of the arcs south of the Equator. Renaissance astrologers already tackled the problem, such as Christopher Heydon, or the Mexican Enrico Martinez (ca. 1555-1632), who questioned the application of the solar seasonal Zodiac in southern locations because of the fact that the seasons are inverted in the Southern Hemisphere (in: Repertorio de los tiempos, México, 1606, p. 24-25). « Text

[21] Jean-Pierre Nicola, La condition solaire, Paris, Éditions Traditionnelles, 1965; 1976, p. 38. « Text

[22] Cf. for example the distribution by category of the Greek authors in the work of Philippe Brunet, professor of Greek at the University of Tours and a reader of my text "Décades philosophales": in: La Naissance de la littérature dans la Grèce ancienne, Paris, Librarie Générale Française (Livre de Poche), 1997, p. 192. « Text

[23] Cf. my text "Corrélations physiologiques: La Réflexologie de Pavlov," (Jan. 2002) « Text

[24] Cf. the portion of my thesis: "Le thème natal." « Text

[25] The ternary grouping of the Zodiacal signs (equinoctal, median, solsticial) completes and illuminates their classical ternary arrangement (cardinal, fixed, mutable); in fact, it is the cardinal signs that "introduce" the quadrants and the forms of excitability associated with them. « Text

[26] A comparison with the schema of Nicola (in Pour une astrologie moderne, Paris, Le Seuil, 1977, p. 121-122) may be useful. The principal differences are underlined.
ARIES: natural excitation, rapidity of excitation, sense of contraries.
TAURUS: concentrated natural excitation (rapidity of excitation), natural inhibition (by induction), sense of composition.
GEMINI: natural excitation, rapidity of execution, sense of synthesis.
CANCER: inhibition for protection, slowness of excitation, sense of contraries.
LEO: concentrated protective inhibition, slowness of excitation, unblocking excitation (by induction), sense of composition.
VIRGO: inhibition for protection, slowness of excitation, sense of contraries.
LIBRA: associative excitation, rapidity of inhibition, sense of contraries.
SCORPIO: concentrated associative excitation (rapidity of inhibition), differential inhibition (by induction), sense of composition.
SAGITTARIUS: associative excitation, rapidity of inhibition, sense of synthesis.
CAPRICORN: extinctive inhibition, slowness of inhibition, sense of synthesis.
AQUARIUS: concentrated extinctive inhibition (slowness of inhibition), re-creative excitation (by induction), sense of composition.
PISCES: extinctive inhibition, slowness of inhibition, sense of contraries. « Text

[27] Jean-Pierre Nicola, La condition solaire, p. 47. « Text

[28] The surprising thing here is not so much Nicola's ignorance of these texts, which are, it is true, rather inaccessible for those who do not frequent research libraries, nor is it his obstinacy in refusing to take them into account despite several attempt on my part to point them out to him, nor even the scant interest in documented research and the absence of intellectual probity commonplace among astrologers, a flock numbering some few hundred who have been trained for the last thirty years in conditionalist jargon. What is surprising is their disinterest in reflexology itself, or rather, in materials whose purpose is at least to call into question "conditionalism" (if not astrology itself), by which means this model of the Zodiac may succeed in having some type of future. « Text

[29] "Unadapted Cancer type, marked equally by egocentrism, rumination on the past, differentiating inactivity crossed by objective reality, a surimpressionist style, stereotypicalness." (in La condition solaire, p. 121). In short, an entire program for exegesis on Temps perdu! « Text

[30] The astrologer is in fact trapped by Jungian typology that opposes Thought to Sentiment and Intuition to Sensation along a central symmetry whose oppositions it reproduces by axial symmetry. But nothing justifies the assumption that the Jungian division into four has any secure basis, other than the idiosyncrasy of its author (cf. below in my thesis: "Analyse comparative de diverses typologies 'para-astrologiques' "). « Text

Reference of the page:
Patrice Guinard: Avatars of the Astrological Zodiac
All rights reserved © 2003 Matyas Becvarov & Patrice Guinard

Centre Universitaire de Recherche en Astrologie
Web site Designer & Editor: Patrice Guinard
© 1999-2003 Dr. Patrice Guinard