Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Track of the Whirling Zodiac

When applying the zodiac to the phases there is always the problem of how to align them. It's not a question of order or anything: the twelve signs always run in the same order—Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces—though occasionally the sign at the start of the sequence may change. It's simply a question of which direction the zodiac should run in, where it should start in relation to the phases, and whether the boundaries match phase boundaries, some phases boundaries or none. And there is is no single answer but a very valid range of possibilities, each of which has a different significance within the system, and each of which serves a different purpose. The problem is that Yeats doesn't always make it very clear what principles he is applying, so it's often necessary to infer from his comments and there is definitely room for confusion, sometimes Yeats's own.
Twelve and the zodiac are, for Yeats, the sun's measures, while twenty-eight and the months are the moon's, so often Yeats uses the zodiac to emphasize a solar measure, opposed or contrasted to the moon's phases or months.

In Yeats's diagrams the phases of the moon always run anti-clockwise and for most purposes act as a foundation for the rest of the structure. If the sense of progression or order is following this basic pattern, then the zodiac follows the same direction. So if we seek to pattern the year after the phases, with Phase 15 in spring, Phase 22 in summer, Phase 1 in autumn and Phase 8 for winter, the months or zodiac will follow the same pattern, starting with March or Aries and proceeding anti-clockwise.

Other arrangements follow the cardinal directions of the compass, with Aries as solar East at Phase 22 (which is lunar East), Cancer as North at Phase 1 (lunar North), Libra as West at Phase 8 (lunar West), and Capricorn as South at Phase 15 (lunar South). (The solar symbolism is logical but mixes annual and daily elements: North and South are marked by the sun's tropical or turning points, its maximum northerly latitude coming at the Tropic of Cancer and its maximum southerly latitude at the Tropic of Capricorn; if Capricorn is at the daily midheaven in the South, then Aries is rising in the East and Libra is setting in the West.) This is the pattern used when dealing with the afterlife, when we are trying to stress the continuity with life, and the continuing process, the equivalents follow the order of the phases.

 In the compass scheme solar East maps onto lunar East, but if we use the same terminology for the seasonal scheme we find that "Lunar South is Solar East" (AVB 198n), that is to say that Phase 15 (S) corresponds to Aries (E).

These are the two zodiacs shown in a previous post with the chess board, the seasonal one outside the phases and the one of the compass points shown in the inner ring of twelve. They demonstrate a form of solar and lunar zodiac: taking the ring of the phases as the reference anchor, with South as Phase 15, the outer seasonal or solar zodiac shows Phase 15 aligning with solar East, Aries. In the inner ring zodiacal South, Capricorn, matches phasal South, giving a lunar zodiac. Thus "a line joining Cancer and Capricorn in a lunar Zodiac cuts a line joining Cancer and Capricorn in a solar Zodiac at right angles" (AVB 198n).

Yet in another sense, both of these zodiacs are lunar, since they both run anti-clockwise. It's worth remembering that in general anti-clockwise is the lunar direction, patterned on the moon's course across the sky over successive nights (it is even noticeable in the course of a single night if you are gazing at the stars for long enough). And clockwise, like the clock itself, follows the path of the Sun during the day when you are facing south (northern hemisphere). Yeats was alerted to this rationale after the publication of the first edition by Frank Pearce Sturm (FPS 90-91) and used it in the second version (see AVB 80), but in many ways it follows the old ideas of right and sunwise being favoured or lucky (deiseal in Irish, the basis of the Wiccan coinage deosil), while left and widdershins are "sinister" and associated with the nightside. When describing the motion around the circles, Yeats himself often uses the very unclear terms left to right for clockwise and right to left for anti-clockwise, imagining always movement "over the top" of a diagram, rather than under the bottom (and when he does, writing about sides of cones, he gets them mixed up, see AVB 76).

So the two sets of Faculties each follow their own direction: viewed on the Great Wheel, the lunar Faculties of Will and Mask move anti-clockwise forward through the phases, and the solar Faculties of Creative Mind and Body of Fate move clockwise backward through the phases, but forward through their own measure, the Zodiac. Here when Will is placed at Phase 15, Creative Mind is at its equivalent, in this case Aries, and as Will moves forwards through Phases 16, 17 and 18, Creative Mind is moving forwards in its own measure through the rest of Aries and into Taurus.

Even if we take Aries as East aligned with Phase 15 as South, exact alignment is problematic but generally the centre of Phase 15 is the start of Aries, its 0˚, and after that the question is whether a sign of the zodiac is a twelfth of the complete circle, as above, or whether the zodiac maps onto discrete groups of phases, making whole phases match whole signs, usually with the cardinal phases taking a whole sign each and the others in triads, as below.

In this arrangement the Zodiac starts with Aries at Phase 15 again, but against the triad of 14-13-12 comes the whole sign of Taurus, followed by all of Gemini alongside 11-10-9. If you follow a single Faculty in either of the animations you will see the lunar Faculties of Will and Mask proceeding anti-clockwise through the phases or the solar Faculties of Creative Mind and Body of Fate proceeding clockwise through the zodiac.

These, I'm afraid, are only the preliminaries to some speculations about various types of cycle that are not included in A Vision itself, and which I shall come to in further posts (and they do not even touch on the disposition of the zodiac in Edmund Dulac's woodcut of the Great Wheel, which I'll come back to yet  another day). However, this aspect of zodiacs and phases running counter to one another does surface, albeit rather cryptically, in A Vision's discussion of the "heraldic supporters" of the Full Moon, which I'll examine next.

The lot of love is chosen. I learnt that much
Struggling for an image on the track
Of the whirling Zodiac.


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