I realized that when I counseled an Aries client to become “like a pornstar – you know, not literally – unless you want to,” that some modern Western cultural archetypes had crept into my vocabulary, and that it would probably be a useful exercise for me to flesh them out. Much of this is in the spirit of fun (Happy April 1st – Day of Fools!), but perhaps this whimsical updating of the old symbolic pantheon will help some readers gain a better sense of the true essence of astrology. Those remote icons of goat-fish, water-bearers, and centaurs can really use some translation into the modern world.
Remember, these are archetypes,
not prescriptions or suggestions for future behavior. Rather, the mythical, metaphorical implications of these recognizable social types have something
to say when the accompanying sign is strong in your chart. For example, it will only ever be
appropriate for a very small percentage of the population to have sex in front
of cameras for money and literally become pornstars, but this very exaggeration
of Aries energy conveys something symbolically: where in your life do you need
to become bold, brash, and obvious, to plunge into action, to proclaim your
life-force loudly and with no heed for the consequences? You might find the very nature of a
pornstar as an archetype a little offensive, and that’s part of the point –
Aries is not known for his subtlety or sensitivity. So read on in the spirit of analogous understanding.
Aries: THE PORNSTAR
Energetic, embodied Aries is concerned with expressing himself and thrusting the fire of his vision into the physical world, so to speak. Aries likes action and to make things happen, and he doesn’t often care if he bruises hearts, egos, and other, more delicate parts along the way. It’s the most masculine sign, in its emphasis on aggression, contests of will, and libido – and remember that testosterone heightens sex drive in women too, not just men. As a much younger person, I remember being shocked that actual pornstars (Traci Lords comes to mind) were becoming mainstream cultural icons. It used to be that a sex tape or scandal would kill your “legitimate acting career,” but now more than ever such illicit sexual behavior is a stepping stone to mainstream fame and cultural authority. Behold the radical, equalizing force of the Aquarian Age. My second choice for an updated Aries archetype was the UFC FIGHTER.
Taurus: THE ORGANIC FARMER
Taurus and Cancer were the only archetypes I wasn’t able to completely update from their ancient archetypal stock, but this makes sense in that these two signs are the most concerned with tradition and maintaining the status quo. Just fifty years ago, and stretching back for thousands of years before that, the archetype of the farmer conveyed someone slow and simple, someone who worked with his hands instead of his mind. But the rise of the natural foods movement in the seventies has given the farmer a new dignity, and a specialized status as someone whose earth-based knowledge is going to save us from ourselves. Taurus is no corporate farmer, no industrial capitalist, but a careful husbander of the earth who understands that good things take time. Tauruses grow things – slowly and with sustained effort. My second choice for the updated Taurus archetype was the FOODIE, highlighting the sign’s association with both basic needs and items of quality. The simplest things in life can be the finest things in life, says Taurus, a sentiment one often overhears in the vegetable aisle at Whole Foods Market.
Gemini: THE DJ
I’m quite proud of my updated archetype for Gemini, the DJ. The typical DJ has about ten times as many friends as the rest of us, and flies hither and thither all over the metropolis to appear at gigs. Social butterfly Gemini loves the hectic schedule, the constant networking and exposure to new friends and trends, and jumps at the chance to hop a flight to a foreign country where she can gather yet more data in the form of esoteric beats. Gemini enjoys being the hub of information and also to share the wealth; she’ll happily advise you on train schedules in Milan and the best airport food to grab in New Orleans. I mean no disrespect to DJs, because being a good one is an art, but there’s something about this role which doesn’t demand a lot of training or preparation – flighty Gemini can’t be bothered with becoming an expert. (This cute Portlandia sketch spoofs the phenomenon of the upstart DJ). Gemini keeps things light and on the surface, because ultimately she’s more interested in adding you to her facebook friends-list than in learning your last name.
Cancer: THE HELICOPTER PARENT
Cancer is the quintessential nurturing mother, and Western society has shifted in the last fifty years to open this role to fathers too. A “helicopter parent” is a person in whom the Cancerian urge to protect his offspring has raged out of control. Cancers want to keep that womb-like intimacy of baby’s first years going as long as possible, but sooner or later, baby’s going to have to take his lumps in the real world with the rest of us. Our culture has steadily prolonged the state of a child’s dependence and adolescence, to the point that universities are now having to implement policies to keep parents off college campuses! This insightful Atlantic article details how the last generation’s hyper-sensitivity to their kids’ feelings has produced a legion of dissatisfied and dependent young adults. Perhaps the Cancerian drive to preserve family bonds has become exaggerated in our culture, because the Aquarian Age has produced so many shifts in the family structure and other of Cancer’s traditional domains: birth has become medicalized, food comes from a pick-up window, marriage is provisional, and national and racial pride is no longer PC. No wonder Cancer’s hugging his progeny tighter!
Leo: THE REALITY TV STAR
It’s Leo’s dream come true. The world is in love with her, and she doesn’t have to actually do anything other than work on her tan and don a pair of oversized sunglasses. The cameras are always rolling, and her every action, from her beauty regime to her bowel movements, is fascinating to her adoring public. But just to make sure that the show gets picked up again next year, Leo adds a little drama – she cheats on her boyfriend and then slaps her housemate across the face. All eyes are on her again, and the internet is ablaze with gossip. Leo performs, and never loses the sense of her relationship to her audience (this can get a little exhausting if you’re hoping to be Leo’s friend instead of her fan). A well-adjusted Leo will make you feel that life is more exciting because she’s shining some of her star-power on you, and there’s certainly a reason why reality TV is so popular – script-enhanced “real life” makes us feel that our own petty dramas are inherently meaningful. But all too often, such self-serving performances are a far cry from Shakespeare (“all the world’s a stage”), resembling instead the sort of drama one finds in an episode of Jerry Springer.
Virgo: THE TECH GEEK
Hephaestus, Greek god of the forge, was a pretty crusty character. This is because he spent so much time honing his tools and perfecting his craft, that he lost sight of social niceties and personal charm. In the same way, the pale, out-of-shape IT guy at your office has become so consumed with communications technology, that he often forgets that not everyone is as interested in efficiently-running machines as he is. In a previous post, I discussed how Hephaestus is a fitting archetype for Virgo, and how the tech geek is a modern culmination of Virgo’s interest in detail work and practical knowledge. Whether he’s selling you a new iPhone at the Mac store, or making a house call to help you set up your router, techie Virgo revels in passing on the knowledge that will help you help yourself. We tend to disdain Virgo’s incisive analytical eye, until we really, really need help getting back online – and our dismissive attitude to his ethic of humble industry certainly contributes to the chip on Virgo’s shoulder. Interestingly though, as “nerd” culture enters the mainstream, the Virgo tech guy is finding himself in the unaccustomed position of being at the top of the heap – read more about the Bay Area “tech bubble” here.
Libra: THE MARKETING CONSULTANT
Lovely Libra wants to help make you and your business more appealing to the outside world. Libra, the 7th sign, leads off the second half of the Zodiac, the half of the wheel that is interested in one’s interface with others, in comparison to the first six signs which describe the arc of personal development. As the descendant sign in the natural wheel, Libra has a strong affinity with the public and its desires and needs. The whole concept of “market research” was probably invented by a Libra. Once upon a time we had products and salesmen, but these days we have companies built around concepts, opinion polls, and brand awareness. Libra is deeply attuned to the other, even if that “other” is defined by millions of people in a particular demographic. Libra’s keen sensitivity to both design and decorum make her a whiz as an image consultant, and the sign’s basic orientation to the happiness of others lets her think like a marketer. Unfortunately, the sign’s susceptibility to beauty and fantasy can also facilitate a sort of empty consumerism, or style over substance.
Scorpio: THE EXTREME BODY MOD GUY
There’s one in every town, and sometimes a whole gang. He’s got implants in his face, tattoos on his neck, multiple piercings in his lips, and his cat-eye contacts are freaking you out a bit as he collects your ticket at the rock club. Every culture has its weirdoes, but there’s something about today’s Scorpionic misfits which is just really – weird. In the past, people who practiced extreme body modification could only be found at circus freak shows, but now the freak show has gone mainstream. The essence of Scorpio is transformation, and the popularity of tattoo and piercing parlors has created the phenomenon of “instant gratification transformation.” In a single summer, the innocent-looking “girl next door” could be transformed into a Kat Von D. I have a deep respect for people who practice body modification, because I honor the motivation behind wanting to be reborn as a new person by permanently altering the body. Scorpio has to go to extremes in order to know himself, and he’s comfortable carrying the projection of “the monster” for the culture as a whole. The mainstreaming of suspension hanging and other BDSM practices is a function of the same archetype: pushing to the limits of cultural taboos in order to achieve bodily transcendence.
Sagittarius: THE LIFE COACH
“Life coach” is a phrase which didn’t exist when I was born. When it came into prominence, I found it a little ridiculous at first, but it’s a more apt term than the one that preceded it, the “Self-Help Guru.” The secret of Sagittarius is that he understands the power of faith. If you believe in yourself and go through life as if the world believes in you too, you can move mountains. No sign is more affiliated with Jupiterian luck: because he’s always living large and taking risks, the goddess Fortuna smiles on Sagittarius. He understands that life is a game, and he plays it to win. What sets the life coach apart from his ancient predecessors is the lack of a divine principle in what he does. The classic Sagittarian archetype is the priest, the counselor who helps you see past your human problems so you can embrace your mythic potential. I have no doubt that there are life coaches out there who, without the discipline of a religious practice or formal training in psychotherapy, effect powerful changes in their client’s lives, by turning fear into faith and half-lives into meaningful existence. But if the tragedy surrounding quadruple-Sag James Arthur Ray has taught us anything, it’s that the devil’s in the details, which Sag too often overlooks.
Capricorn: THE CEO
There’s no way around it – Capricorn has to be the guy in the gray flannel suit, on the top of the heap, and manipulating all the money. But in the past forty years, he’s gone from being the president of the company to the “CEO.” What’s the difference? The shift from privately-owned businesses to large, corporate conglomerates created the change. The CEO is the interface between the company’s president or owner and its investors and affiliates, and as such, he outranks everybody. The president might be concerned with the “bottom line,” or how to make payroll every month, but the CEO is looking toward “profit growth,” how to tap industries and resources that insure the continued expansion of the company. The CEO is thinking ten steps ahead, predicting trends and market lulls, and using strategy to prepare for them like a good Capricorn. By now you should be seeing flashes of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that raged in the fall of 2011. Nowhere in the world are the salaries of CEOs as high as they are in the United States. Though no one can beat Capricorn for sheer determination and executive ability, his shadow side is the tyrant and the heartless plutocrat.
Aquarius: THE BURNER
Aquarius has seen the future, and it is Burning Man. If you’re not initiated into knowledge
of this week-long, annual festival that rages in the Nevada desert each year, a
quick Google search will bail you out.
Burning Man is a “temporary autonomous zone” erected on the principles
of freedom of expression and a radical community ethic, the two poles which
define the very essence of Aquarius. In recent years participation has hovered around 50,000
people, and these dust-encrusted, goggle-wearing (remember, they’re in the
desert!), avant-garde legions have become known as “Burners,” even when they’re
not at the festival. So what
defines a Burner other than dreadlocks, an enormous appetite for psychedelic
drugs, and some wildly creative and kooky art installations? The principles are what’s important
here, and the Burning Man website lists ten in which even the most conservative
Aquarius will be able to see his ideals reflected: radical inclusion, gifting,
decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal
effort, civic responsibility, leave no trace, participation, immediacy. Though it’s easy to get put off by the
Burner’s wide-eyed, sixties-throwback optimism about mind expansion, he’s the
embodiment of high Aquarius because he combines his radical politics with a big
hug: for you, for the earth, and for all sentient beings.
Pisces: THE STONER
I struggled with this archetype, I really did. I asked myself where in our culture the Average Joe would be most likely to run into a consciousness-raising exercise, and I came up with yoga. Perfect, I thought. These days, yoga represents a growing industry in Western culture, and the YOGA INSTRUCTOR is a staple at most gyms and community centers. The rise in yoga’s popularity has only occurred within the last thirty years, qualifying the yoga instructor as a newly minted archetype. But then I thought about the very physical aspect of yoga, which is more consistent with the goals of health-conscious Virgo, Pisces’ opposite sign. If one wanted to check out a bit and see the world from a mystical perspective, wouldn’t it be easier to just get high?
I want to tread lightly here, and not praise drug use as a sure way to “tune in,” because all too often people rely on drugs instead to “tune out.” But I don’t want to denigrate drug use either – for many people, mind-altering drugs are stepping-stones to the cosmic consciousness and sense of oneness that Pisces so craves. Marijuana is now the most popular drug in the world; it’s not exactly hard to get, and today’s teens also have the advantage of friends with dispensary cards or, barring that, campus contingents with pot leaves embroidered on their hats. There is now a culture of marijuana use, instead of a sub-culture. Pisces likes to flow, to move unfettered from dream to dream, and to blunt the hard edge of reality with the buffer of mystical consciousness. He can also get lost in a dream world, like some Stoners you may know. In searching for a photo of long-time marijuana enthusiast, Woody Harrelson, I happened to find this article in which he claims to have swapped his pot use for regular yoga.