An Artist's Journey Through the Zodiac

to be read while viewing each zodiac image (visit “store” to view the collection)

by Sam Ogden

Understanding and conveying the underlying operations of astrology is a quest many people have attempted.  It is arguable that the exact way astrology works may never be fully grasped, but its general outline may be tenable.  In an attempt to explore this mystery, I have produced a body of hand drawn images that seek to evoke the deeper essences of western astrology’s twelve zodiac signs.  The process was one of quieting the rational, problem-solving mind and sitting in a state of receptivity: a body meditation moving through my hands.  Inspired mental images flashed while in this state and were recorded in a sketchbook before refining as final pieces.  The drawings were completed over the course of a month in early 2017 and continue to reveal new glimpses of the pervasiveness of the zodiac in everyday life.  The design of these twelve drawings, though somewhat curated to evoke specific themes and impressions, are open-ended enough for spontaneously realizing different and relevant perspectives of each sign. 

The basic structure in each zodiac drawing uses the imagery of what has been called the cross of matter: a horizontal line intersecting a vertical line.  The cross’s deeper meaning is often forgotten and underappreciated.  In astrology it is a fundamental symbol which we can see immediately through the equinoxes and solstices.  Because these four events initiate the seasons, their cross symbolizes “the beginning.”  It is an image expressing the origins of earthly creation, the first axes of life itself. 

Taking these axes one at a time, we begin with the horizontal line which we stand on every day: the horizon.  Above the horizon is the realm of spirit and below it is the realm of incarnation and matter.  The astrological horizon (the ascendant) indicates where and how these two realms meet.
The vertical line refers to intensity.  The meridian as a vertical line makes the directions east and west.  It is what determines whether something is rising (vitality through isolating and focalizing) or setting (vitality through immersing and coalescing).  The noon-time Sun maximizes the splendors of solar vitality and contact with divine will, while the midnight Sun gathers in universal powers and ancient pasts. 

In the chapter A Key to Astrological Symbolism from Dane Rudhyar’s first major work, The Astrology of Personality (Aurora Press, 1936), he writes that the horizontal line is one of consciousness and the vertical one of power (1):

This horizontal line of the birth-chart represents thus the fact of a necessary division of consciousness in two realms, for any individual living on the Earth’s surface. (p. 149)

The abstract line connecting the two poles of the Earth is the axis of rotation of our planet.  This axis is thus to be considered as the ‘center’ of the daily-rotation cycle.  As already mentioned, this polar axis symbolizes the line of power of the planet, just as the human spine represents the line of power of the human being.  This ‘power’ is the power to be an individual self, an ‘I.’ (p. 148)

These concepts of power and consciousness as Dane Rudhyar puts forth are part of the inspiration behind my body of original zodiac drawings.  Power and consciousness are interpreted as a cross which is the fundamental visual tactic I used to maintain overall continuity.  Rudhyar’s conceptualization of the zodiac has also been a significant influence in this work. 

Each zodiac phase is related to the ones it precedes and follows and these drawings were created as a whole with this in mind.  For example, a beginning in Aries means there must be something out of which it came – Pisces.  Looking to the drawing of Pisces we see in the center a chrysalis, a womb, and symbolically the birth canal.  This shape is rotated at the bottom representing the eternal void, the poverty of God, into which is drawn all the powers built up by humanity which release in the final decomposing of a cycle.  This process is seen in the crumbling buildings behind the focal point of the womb image.  Elevated behind all of this is a figurative Sun, evoking the salvation and redemption Pisces hopes for while standing bare at the threshold of a new cycle.
In the Aries drawing, we see the cardinality of the sign in the upper solar disc as it battles its way out of the womb and the decaying remains of the night-dominant time of Pisces, represented in the lower black sphere.  The solar disc is still young and uncertain, however.  He has only just begun the journey.  He does not yet know what it really means to be an individual, for he has just come from fusion with the mother, chaos, and emptiness.  But battle onward and outward he must.  Rising to his ascendancy is the destiny of his character- the Summer solstice. 

In the Taurus piece, the fixity of this earth sign comes to us in the centrality impressed upon the viewer through two overlapping hexagons, the top of which doubles as a cube.  Hexagons are the most efficient use of space and are used to build a beehive out of the Taurean crust of the Earth.  This is the home of pollinators aggressively working for the nectar of the Spring time effulgence, through which moves the primal solar power initiated from the previous Aries phase.  The viewer is encouraged to find the “horns” of the bull (hint: the thick black lines are the outer edges).  These “horns” were not consciously intended to be drawn, but were revealed retrospectively by a friend who is himself a native Sun in Taurus. 

Gemini expands the days which are now reaching their maximum height in the solar year.  But that light which extends outward and upward in every direction does so from within a polarized framework (Aries-Taurus).  Gemini learns to see things in contrast and in what they mean to Gemini personally.  It is here that impressions of the living are made upon the malleable nervous system of a growing adolescent who learns right from wrong, what is polite and what is rude.  But the growing light does not shine beneath the horizon.  Gemini is only interested in expanding into the realm of the living; there is no time to turn back towards the past. 

But Gemini cannot continue expanding the days forever.  Youthful abandon must pause at some point and begin integrating what is outside of itself if there is to be any kind of rootedness, any sense of wholeness of itself.  Day and night pause at the Summer solstice which begins the Cancer phase.  The nights start to grow for the first time since Sagittarius.  The night as the matriarchal force of universal consciousness symbolically erupts into individualized consciousness at the Summer solstice, seen in the dark vertical line and the vulnerable crescent in the Cancer drawing.  This eruption of universal consciousness into individualized consciousness is the surfacing in Cancer of strong feelings and intuitions, of psychic visions and even revelations. 

Feelings initiated in the cardinal sign of Cancer turn potent in Leo and become emotion: feelings in motion.  Leo is the home of the Sun, when Summer burns at its greatest intensity in August in the northern hemisphere.  He contains within him the greatest amount of Sun from the previous Cancer phase.  This is expressed in the center of the Leo drawing as a concentrated center of solar power with orbital bodies, and resembles the astrological glyph for the Sun.  Though the days burn their brightest in Leo who is full of himself, the nights are growing and he must continue to turn towards it, the collective.  The best way Leo can do this is through art and creative activity which is socially useful because it generates commerce.  

But the artist cannot give forever.  By the time we reach Virgo the artist has exhausted his personal resources and comes to realize that it is possible to overdo things.  Virgo must learn efficiency and she must learn how to repolarize her nervous system, for there are emotional blocks and excesses disrupting her natural flow of life energies.  The repolarization of her mind is seen in the two upper spheres representing the hemispheres of the brain.
Libra begins at the Fall equinox when the nights just barely overcome the days.  In the Libra drawing the center Earth-sphere emphasizes “above the horizon” and “below the horizon” and draws into itself the light from the previous day-dominant time of Virgo.  In this way the drawing also shows the scales, which are for carefully measuring and weighing situations, events, and characters relative to the social or global whole. 

While Libra initiates a collective destiny on the basis of social ideals and group harmony, Scorpio concentrates social forces and seeks identification with them.  The star at the top of the drawing represents the days which are waning.  The large white sphere at the bottom stands for the burning intensity and personal-social destiny Scorpio feels it must live out or fulfill.  The black sphere in the center is the night: social-collective forces with which Scorpio must merge.  It is also the possibility, latent in all people, to turn to criminal behavior as a result of society thwarting individual potential for influence at the social level.   The nights (commerce, business, spiritual communities) are growing towards ultimate fulfillment and perfection in Capricorn, two signs ahead.  In Scorpio we see the building power which will (or will not) maintain the social structures erected now through Capricorn. 

While we saw the Autumn season operating at its greatest depth and intensity in the fixed sign of Scorpio, we see the nights expanding to their maximum in mutable Sagittarius.  The days shrink to their minimum: individual egos are miniscule in this phase.  This is reflected in the center sphere of the Sagittarius drawing.  But it also acts as the channel through which the power of night-force structures from Scorpio (business, commerce, the destiny of a people) expand into greater forms of utility and organization.  Sagittarius is a time of religious fervor, passion for quests, scientific and philosophical thought, and the making of an efficient social web.  A Sagittarian may put others before himself, but he does not lose his center nor his ground, lest he be constantly pulled into psychedelic trips of consciousness, mystical inclinations, and mythic i

That pull into the night force, the expansion through social-collective powers, must at some point cease.  This is symbolized at the Winter solstice which begins Capricorn, the longest night of the solar year when all motions pause and for the first time since Gemini the days begin to lengthen.  The days being the shortest they ever will is seen in the light crescent emerging out of the black sphere.  Capricorn’s opposite, Cancer, has a black crescent open and vulnerable to the realm of spirit, while Capricorn has a white crescent enclosed within the structures built up by individuals: walls which define territories and personalities, laws to govern a community of many different kinds of people, social and cultural expectations of behavior, one’s “status” within a hierarchy, exchange of resources through agreements.  That white crescent as the return of longer days in Capricorn represents a seminal moment in the destiny of the cycle.  This is because Capricorn is a divine promise (a seed) within the womb of the totality of humanity, hence the emphasis on the infantile white crescent with a hard outer casing.  A king is born in Bethlehem; this is the future promise of new life in Spring.

In the Aquarius piece we see an increase in the days from Capricorn while the nights are decreasing.  It was not the intention to draw Aquarius as a dandelion, and I never saw it as such until viewers began mentioning it.  A fascinating connection to the dandelion came a year after creating this piece when listening to a recording of Dr. Liz Greene’s lectures on Carl Jung’s Red Book organized through the Faculty of Astrological Studies.  In it, she speaks of a drawing in Jung’s Red Book featuring a dandelion and the Latin word “solitudo,” meaning individual essence and uniqueness.  Dr. Greene describes the dandelion as a promiscuous plant that spews seeds everywhere without pollination, a seed in the midst of a sea of other seeds breeding everywhere.  While this imagery is, in part, much more appropriate for Leo, Aquarius’s opposite, there is in Aquarius something of an organic compulsion from the driving force of evolution to promulgate that genuine solitudo and for it to be prolific and ineradicable.  Aquarius is a concentrated release of both social powers and individualism in and through civilized life.  And because Aquarius wishes to cease at all costs the notion that one is merely a cog in the wheel of an obsolete machine, it may crack the walls of the Capricorn era.  Just as the dandelion pours open its flowers to the rays of the Sun, so too does Aquarius wish to pour new solar life into old and outworn forms that need improvement.  In addition, the seed stage of a dandelion (and Aquarius has been called a “seed” sign, a sign of vitalized potentials) has extending from its core many vertical lines of power- many individuals who contain within them the raw and fertile seed-power required for new changes to the world.  Eventually there is a change to existing social structures which were built through Scorpio, expanded in Sagittarius, and maintained in Capricorn.  They become vitalized and/or transformed in Aquarius and lead to a decomposing and repolarizing in Pisces before the cycle initiates again through the new life of Spring in Aries. 

Each drawing has its discrete qualities yet impacts the next phase, all of which are driven forward by the animating forces of light and life.  The attempt in this body of work is to use abstract visuals to evoke from “beneath the horizon” the ways in which power and consciousness as a unit express through the zodiacal cycle on Earth.  The real beauty is not in the images themselves, but in the spontaneous insights gleaned upon viewing each piece.  What do you see?

1 Dane Rudhyar, The Astrology of Personality (Aurora Press, 1936), 148-14