Studying Astrology: The Zodiac of Aquarius

This is the second of two essays I wrote as a student this spring as a part of the Rasis and Signs class through Asheville Vedic Astrology.

I will be doing a shorter reflection on other signs as discussed in Yavanajataka and posting here, but as a reminder, I’m a beginning student finding my voice!

Overview of Characteristics

Represented by a man pouring water out of a vessel on his shoulder, Aquarius is two-footed, front-rising and day strong. This gives Aquarius’ character one of agility in its direction and suitable for pursuing works and action. In its position as the eleventh sign of the zodiac, Aquarius is a fixed air sign ruled by Saturn. Thematic in its descriptions across the literature is the image of tanks for holding water. Its position is diametrically opposed to Leo and is in many ways its mirror image.

Where Leo provides us with an image of a high up or far away sanctuary for visionaries and leaders, Aquarius offers both a somewhat hedonistic and an almost post-apocalyptic picture for us.
Jaimini’s only offering of a description is “the maker of ponds and tanks, things related to shores in Aquarius.” If Leo is able to defend and protect because it is armed and ready, Aquarius is ready to defend because it has stored what it needs. A challenge posed by this defensive approach to storing up what is believed to be necessary is that it results in holding onto material resources that ultimately must be released back to nature. Put another way, in Aquarius we see the final grasp at preservation through the wrangling of energies, but ultimately those are released in order to attain transcendence. Pisces is described by a pair of fish swimming freely in waters; this may be possible within a tank, but it’s not liberation, it’s a survival tactic.

This is similarly depicted by shores, a transition from land as it has been broken down and dissolved away into a larger body of water. Yavanajataka describes Aquarius as:

A pot being poured out (carried) on the shoulder of a man – this, the authorities say, is the eleventh (sign); it is the shanks. Its places are tanks, (fields of) poor grain, (haunts of) birds, and (areas suitable for) women, liquor-sellers, and gambling.

A sandy shore does not offer the nutrients or sustenance needed to grow fields of grain. Excess matter may wash up on the shore, allowing scavengers to approach for easy prey which have been swept in and are now stranded out of their element. A shore is a transition from grounded work and effort to liberation, but in Aquarius it is the work and the innovation that is emphasized. The work of Aquarius is seeking out a solution to a problem – how might we create a world where we can be secure enough to relax and enjoy the refreshment that seems so close?

Aquarius is tamasic, fixed, and an air sign. This is an interesting blend of slow, problem based, preservative social intelligence. Ernst Wilhelm opens his description of tamasic qualities as “attachment to sense objects, hypocrisy, sympathy, an underdeveloped sense of “ought”, want of self respect, [and] inactivity” just to name a few.

Associations to the Human Body

Aquarius refers to the shanks, the region connecting the feet corresponding to Pisces with the knees corresponding to Capricorn. This includes the ankles, shins and calves, areas which, for the most part seem to serve no deeply active purpose. Pushed further, ankles as a transition point give access to the many different directions our feet may take us, and help make nimbleness and agility possible. Similarly, calves enable control of direction and speed of our movement. The shins themselves serve a silent function as a bridge. Their best work is to be strong and silent, though if hurt they are often thin skinned with nerves and bone very close to the surface. Sometimes, the pain perceived through injury to this area may seem disproportionate to the impact it incurred to begin with. Regardless, this may result in learned timidity since most living beings are hesitant to knowingly enter situations in which they know they can be hurt and what the hurt feels like.

Numerological Considerations

Aquarius is the eleventh sign of the zodiac. It is seven away from Sign 5 where our individual vision and sense of direction is established and shows how our sense of vision must be tempered in relationship to others. At the same time, it is the fifth sign from Sign 7, and shows what kind of vision, aspirations, and hope for preserving relationships we might have. As a fixed sign, Aquarius receives rasi aspects from active signs with planets in them, and gives mutual aspect if it has a planet in it. These rasi aspects apply to signs 1, 4, and 7. This differs from Leo in the exchange of sign 10 for sign 4.

The number eleven shows the coming together not just of the self with another, as indicated in signs 7 and 8, but the community that comes from being a part of a culture and larger system of beliefs, signified by Sign 9. The groups we come together with to meet larger goals, and develop our social skills, network of peers, cultural competencies and socialization all depend on how gentle or malefic the influences to sign 9 are, but are expressed three signs away in sign 11.

Indications of Aquarius

We can get a better sense of how the kind of social cleverness of Aquarius might both be very useful and could perpetuate problems by missing the point of what security might really mean on an energetic scale. In a quest to find a suitable solution to a problem, it might pursue a quick fix that gives a sense of security, but may or may not have a longer term vision in mind. Many of the indications noted in Yavanajataka point to solutions sparked out of fear, and solutions that may in fact lead to new, never before encountered social challenges.

Belonging to Aquarius are tanks, wells, dams, and obstructions; slaves, men who arc terrified, and those whose bodies are spotted and branded; poor grain (kusasya), copper (loha), iron (ayasa), and black lead (krsnasisa); outcastes (lit. “cookers of dogs”), of horses, prisoners, and old men; eunuchs, ascetics (pravrajita), and those who marry low (-caste) women; cheats, bad men, and rogues; those who bark like dogs and those who howl like jackals; and pots and so forth.

Tanks can be valuable to protect against disaster, but you must find a way to fill them and keep them appropriately sealed. Wells allow you to access water in places where they may not be access otherwise, however wells can run dry and lower the water table needed for the land and its vegetation to grow. Dams and other obstructions are constructed to try to control nature and other sources of energy, but when they fail, the effects are catastrophic. Slaves may be held to serve a victor or someone asserting their power for their own gain, but the slave master will always live in fear of the moment when they are overtaken by those whose liberty has been taken away. Ultimately the slave master becomes enslaved by his own laziness and inhumanity, even as he may have seen slavery as a way of controlling his environment through mastery and skill. Grain and metals helped society to grow and scale, in part by allowing larger groups to feed themselves over longer distances, through more adverse climates, and giving them stronger weapons. In so doing, nearly countless industries have been created requiring human labor.
The theme continues in the roles of horses and different people included in the description; their role in society is largely a consequence of redesigning life to benefit the larger society, but based on the sets of beliefs that inform what is appropriate for society and culture. The potential for social misalignment with universal with nature may drive individuals mad, or to live in ways that fit their conception of what is necessary to survive or necessary to escape.

The key to Aquarius is indicated by its very image of a man emptying a pot. Gathering resources or energy in order to hold onto them is a dysfunctional expression of this sign. The healthier expression is to understand when to gather, when to let go, and to not let fear drive either choice. In accomplishing that, the way is paved for a highest potential of Pisces to express itself in work towards final transcendance and liberation.