Wednesday, December 28, 2011

World of Symbols: Zodiac

The World of Symbols
Michelle Snyder: The Symbologist

The Grand Zodiac

The mythologies of the Zodiac are the oldest stories ever told. They were laid into the tapestry of stars before recorded history, and the symbolism of these great tales is found worldwide. Our ancestors watched the magnificent skies, they knew the power of natural cycles and understood the need to predict them. The Grand Stories were told to children, passing on this knowledge, and the constellations were the pictures that accompanied them. The ever-present stars provided a fixed reference for timing natural cycles as well as for cultural history, rituals, and knowledge. This “language of the stars” carries records of astronomical observation and its application to survival. The stories were immortalized by oral tradition and symbols.

There is great wisdom in studying the heavenly cycles. The Bible pronounces "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years…that night unto night showeth knowledge,” (Genesis 1:14-17). Leading thinkers in Greek philosophy, science, and religion accepted that planetary alignments affected events on earth, including those of the individual. According to Duncan-Enzmann, this thinking has its beginning about 12,500 BC.

During the ice age babies born at winter solstice had more attention, as outside activities were limited. The world was frozen – there was no pollen, worms, or viruses to make the baby sick. Nurtured well, these babies were healthy, and functioned better during their lives than those born when parents were busy with critical activities, and natural predators were more abundant. Differences in the long term health and functional quality of people were noticed. As a result, babies were planned for winter solstice birth – a time marked by certain patterns in the sky. Here we have the beginning of astrology; the awareness of the position of the stars when a child is born, and their “affect” on that person’s life.

This practice evolved with time; since ancient times people have believed that, by divine power, stars shape the destiny of human affairs. We see confirmation of this in an ancient symbol for deity, the Cuneiform sign for god: a star. Astrologer-astronomers advised nobility when the heavens were in favorable position for everything from marriage to war. This is a logical development from knowing the astronomical, and therefore, climatological patterns which affected the path and outcome of human activity.

Astrology is the oldest of occult sciences, the origin of science itself. Astronomy, calculation of time, mathematics, botany - all derive from astrology. Words like conjunction, opposition, forecast, lunatic, aspect, and influence are astrological terms common our language, along with phrases like “thank our lucky stars” and “star-crossed lovers.” The zodiac, like folklore, fairy tales, and mythology, carries lore from Once Upon a Time, long, long before recorded history, when we gazed at the heavens, divided time by the movement of the sun, moon, and stars, and learned to predict the cycles of Mother Nature. These stories have survived the erosion of passing time, the destruction of records, and the layers added by new generations. They are examples of how symbolism carries folklore forward over time. That these stories are found all over the world speaks to their endurance and relevance to human life. 

Article and artwork © 2011 Michelle Snyder, author of Symbology: Decoding Classic Images, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, and at The Book Rack Bookstore in Arlington. Find more information about symbolism, and post your questions or comments on her blog:


  1. Thank you for the opportunities you provide for me to share this information on your website. I hope your readers find these articles unusual and interesting, and may this next trip around the sun bear the fruit of seeds planted in the last one; Happy New Year! - Michelle

  2. Thanks so much for your informative posts. I love reading about symbols!

    Happy New Year!


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