Essentially, the chart wheel that most of us work from in astrology contains 360 degrees (being that it is a circle, of course), and the Sabian Symbols describe each individual degree through the use of metaphor and archetypal imagery.
Most of us were introduced to the Sabian Symbolas via Dane Rudhyar, a major astrological brain of the 20th Century.
The Sabian Symbols themselves were developed between Elsie Wheeler, a medium who channeled the symbolism of each astrological degree, and Marc Edmund Jones, who transcribed her visions and later formed a kind of Victorian salon society around the work they created. Sometime in the mid 1920’s, they approached Dane Rudhyar with their work, and by 1930, give or take, Dane had been convinced of their merit and began to study the Sabian Symbols. Since Dane had taken to the work of Carl Jüng, he edited the meanings here and there to reflect what he was beginning to realize would be his life’s work: ‘ It took the combination of Marc Jones’s approach and of Jung’s psychology, and of various personal changes and opportunities, to make me realize the possibility of using astrology as a practical application of a cosmic, holistic and cyclic philosophy of existence.’
By 1945, Dane Rudhyar was busily re-writing the Sabian Symbols – keeping the overall structure the same, but adapting some of the arcehtypal imagery as needed.
Today, the Sabian Symbols are still in wide use by astrologers all over the world.
HOW TO USE SABIAN SYMBOLS
Using Sabian Symbols couldn’t be easier: as each degree is designated with a specific meaning, all you need to know is the exact degree of each point you’d like to consider.
I only use the Sabian Symbols for looking at the Sun, Moon and Ascendant as a rule, paying particular attention to the Sabian Symbol of the Ascendant, but I know many others that use them with all personal planets as well as minor asteroids and TNO’s. There are even some people that use ‘A Sabian A Day’: they calculate the daily Ascendant’s rising degree position and reference that against the Sabian Symbol.
The only rules you’ll need to follow are these (borrowed from www.Sabian.org, which is a fantastic resource):
- If the position of the planet is at an even degree (i.e., 26 Leo 00), read the Sabian symbol for that degree (i.e., 26 Leo).
- If the position of the planet is at least one minute over an even degree (i.e., 26 Leo 01 or 26 Leo 02) read the Sabian symbol for the next higher degree (i.e., 27 Leo).
- If the position of the planet is over 29 degrees and 01 minute, it is read as 30 (i.e., 29 Leo 01 is read as 30 Leo).
- There is no 0 degree of anything in the Sabian symbols. The symbols are written for the degrees 1-30 of each of the 12 signs.
- If the planet is at zero degrees of a sign then round down to 30 of the previous sign if it hasn’t yet reached the one minute mark (i.e., 00 Leo 00 would be rounded down to 30 Cancer). Round up to the first degree of the sign (1) if the planet is at zero degrees and at least one minute (i.e., 00 Leo 01 would be read as 1 Leo).
Here are a few quick and easy examples of how the Sabian Symbols can give you an extra layer of insight, especially if you’re reading the chart of someone who is unfamiliar.
The first example is a time I used the Sabian Symbols to clarify a chart that confused me a little bit.
The client had the Goddess Eris exactly conjunct her Ascendant in Aries. Otherwise, her chart was very solid and contained. She was a Capricorn 10th House Sun, with a Virgo Moon in the 6th House; she had several other planets in very grounded Earth signs.
Eris, for those who are unfamiliar, was a bit of a pot-stirrer. She was the sister of Ares (aka Mars), and was known as being the root of all discord. After not being invited to a wedding, she started the Trojan War by throwing a golden apple into the wedding party, stating it was ‘for the fairest of all’. This eventually led to Paris’ discovery of the ‘face that launched 1,000 ships’, and much pain, demise and treachery. In general, she was sent around to do the dirty work that more ‘feminine’ goddesses like Aphrodite wouldn’t dirty their hands with.
The Sabian Symbol for this client’s Ascendant (and therefore, her Eris) reads: ‘An unexploded bomb reveals an unsuccessful social protest’. The deeper interpretation suggests someone that immaturely tries to shift the status quo; the failure of revolution by violence; the consciousness that is not fully free and therefore acts out wildly and immaturely.
When I explained the client that this sub-meaning was there, and that I honestly didn’t see its natural place in her chart, she admitted that when she was younger her Aries nature had been much more heavy-handed; with time, she had matured and learned to act out via her Earth-sign placements, as her fiery nature had created some ill-repute in the past.
Of course, this is not only a great lesson in Sabian Symbols, but also that when we read the natal chart we read the imprint; by the time many of our clients find their way to us, much transformation has already occurred.
Another example I can share concerns a client that had a lovely Moon in Libra, quite nicely tucked in the House of the Goddess (the 3rd House).
The client also had a gorgeous Pisces Sun in the 8th House nestled next to both Pallas and Vesta, had recently discovered her psychic capabilities and was keenly pursuing a path in the healing arts. Of course, an 8th House Sun can be traumatic at times, but also shows a natural affinity with the occult and all things psychic; I was not so much surprised at the rise in her interests as much as I was unsettled by the pace she was throwing herself into the work. She was all Pisces and Libra, and without much cardinal energy save for her lone Libra Moon, which viewed independently couldn’t explain the level of her hunger.
After our reading, I checked in with the Sabian Symbols for her Sun and Moon. Her Sun’s Sabian Symbol was “A jockey spurs his horse, intent on out-distancing rivals”, and her Moon’s was “The transmutation of the past into future creative seeds.”
Suddenly it made sense: this client had been through a seriously traumatic childhood; she was racing to release the past, and transmute it into creativity.
So, as you can see, the Sabian Symbols are a great tool to have on hand when needed.
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