Steinbock by Anthony Louis
The Sign Capricorn: The Mountain or Sea Goat
On December 21 (the Winter Solstice), the Sun begins its month-long trek through Capricorn, assigned to the devil card of the tarot. Capricorn's ruler Saturn is associated with the tarot's final trump, the world card. The sign Capricorn belongs to the element earth. The tarot's earth suit of disks or pentacles illustrates typical scenes related to work, finance, education and family life. Capricorn's connection with Saturn and the devil has its roots in the symbolism of the Winter Solstice, the mythology of the Greek gods Kronos and Pan and the adversary Satan from the Book of Job.
Capricorn, Saturn and the Winter Solstice
Capricornus (Latin for "horned goat") is the tenth sign of the zodiac. In the Northern Hemisphere, Capricorn commences at the Winter Solstice (December 21) when the Sun appears to stand still at the point in its path farthest south of the celestial equator—the tropic of Capricorn. The day of the Winter Solstice is the longest period of darkness during the year. Symbolically, the Sun has completed its journey into the underworld (the province of the devil) and is about to return to the light of day. During the Winter Solstice, the Romans celebrated the return of the Sun from darkness as the "birthday of the unconquered Sun" (natalis solis invicti).
Just prior to natalis solis invicti was the Saturnalia (December 17–24), the feast of Saturnus, the Roman god of agriculture equivalent to the Greek Kronos, god of sowing and the harvest. Kronos was the son of Ouranos (the sky god) and Gaea (the Earth mother/goddess). Gaea enticed Kronos to use his sickle to castrate his father Ouranos, thus separating heaven from Earth.
The Saturnalia was the most joyful festival of the ancient Roman year. According to the Encyclopedia Britanica, during the Saturnalia "all work and business were suspended; slaves were given temporary freedom to say and to do what they liked; certain moral restrictions were eased; and presents were freely exchanged." In other words, the devil had his day.
Capricorn and the God Pan
Capricorn is often depicted as the "sea goat" from the myth of Pan, the horned woodland god of goats and shepherds. The bearded and "horny" Pan was one of the satyrs, half-human and half-beast, known for their voracious sexual appetites (origin of the word "satyriasis"). According to one version of the myth, Pan, fleeing from the beast Typhon, jumped into a river just as he was transforming himself into a fish. The lower half of his body became fishlike, but his upper body above the water remained in the form of a goat.
Modeled after the myth of Pan, the devil in medieval times was depicted with the horns and hooves of a goat. Our word "panic" comes from the reaction of Pan's nursemaid when she beheld his horned skull and ugly bearded face as he emerged from the womb. She ran away in a fright—the first "panic" in recorded history.
In 1990, astronomer Mark Showalter, analyzing the Voyager II's images, discovered a small moon in Saturn's outermost major ring and named it Pan. Scientists hailed this as a "modern-day repetition of the discovery of Neptune" (which took place in 1846).
The Devil as Satan: God's Secret Agent
The word "Satan" (from the Hebrew for "adversary") comes from the Old Testament, especially the Book of Job. Satan's role as an adversary was to wander the Earth in pursuit of those who did not keep the faith and who broke God's law. Satan was authorized by the Hebrew God to test and tempt humans to demonstrate their lack of moral goodness. The planet Saturn, which rules the devil's sign Capricorn, is traditionally called the Great Teacher and Taskmaster.
The Devil in the Tarot
The Rider-Waite-Smith devil is modeled after the god Pan. When the devil card appears in a reading, we are often being tempted and tested to prove our faith in human goodness. The test frequently involves facing what we fear the most. Perhaps we have been too greedy or overly obsessed with money, sex or power at the expense of what makes us truly human. The devil card in a reading also tells us that we have created our own chains of bondage by our negative attitudes and unwise desires.
The World Card in the Tarot
The world is the final card of the major arcana. The Rider-Waite-Smith version depicts a wreath, symbolizing the orbit of Saturn, the final or outermost visible planet of our solar system. Outside the wreath, in the corners of the card, lie four symbols representing the four basic elements (fire, earth, air and water) that comprise the universe. Within the wreath dances a figure that many regard as a hermaphrodite, combining the features of both the male and female of our species.
The world trump is a card of completion. We have reached the end of our journey and have learned the lessons put to us by Saturn the taskmaster/teacher/adversary. Along the way we have proved our worth as human beings.
Tarot Meditations While the Sun is in Capricorn
The period when the Sun transits through Capricorn and prepares to return from its sojourn in the underworld of winter is an excellent time to meditate on the tarot's devil and world cards, as well as the suit of disks/pentacles of the minor arcana.
To prepare for mediation, sit or lie in a comfortable place and allow your body to be free of tension and distractions. Pay attention to your breathing. Feel your breath go in and out as you inhale and exhale. If distracting thoughts enter your mind, simply observe them and allow them to float by as you gently return your attention to your breathing. When you have established a steady, comfortable rhythm of breathing, turn your focus to the tarot card you have selected for meditation.
Observe the card and contemplate its images. Imagine yourself as a character or element in the card. In your mind's eye, enter the card and become part of its scene. What are you thinking and feeling? What questions are you asking of the other characters in the card? What do they expect of you? What is the story that underlies the scene on the card? How does that story relate to your own life? Take your time playing out the story as if you were in a dream. When you have completed your meditation, you may wish to record your observations in a tarot notebook for review later on.
If you are interested in the connections between tarot and astrology, here are some books you may find useful.
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack, Element Books.
Llewellyn’s 2000 and 2001 Tarot Calendars by Llewellyn Publications.
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, Thoresons Publishing
Tarot and the Journey of the Hero by Hajo Banzhaf, Weiser Publications.
Tarot Companion by Tracy Porter, Llewellyn Publications.
Tarot Plain and Simple by Tony Louis, Llewellyn Publications.
What is the Tarot?
The traditional tarot consists of 78 cards divided into 22 major arcana cards (greater secrets) and 56 minor arcana cards (lesser secrets). The major arcana cards depict 22 spiritual lessons in allegorical fashion. The 56 minor arcana cards are similar to a modern deck of 52 playing cards and consist of four suits containing ten pip or numbered cards plus four court cards in each suit. The most influential tarot deck of the past century, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, was conceived by Arthur Waite, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith and published by Rider in 1910.
For more information on the Saturnalia, see "Saturnalia" from AncientSites.com and "Sacaea-Saturnalia" from Candlegrove.com.