The Aquarian Symbols



By Axel Harvey

Many of the 360 short utterances in this book might be descriptions
of a traveler’s snapshots—one of them, in fact, features tourists
arriving by bus at a museum. But it is obvious that no casual
shutterbug would take a picture like, say, the first degree of
Aquarius: “A rock rolls down a hill and lands in a pool of water.”
Such an image could only be caught by a photographer who was expert,
lucky, and aesthetically severe.

Two degrees later there is a scene with an inner monologue, “A young
woman looks at her name and address on a letter she has just
received and decides to move.” That Vermeer, you think—but, no,
it’s more in the nature of a challenge designed to see if the living
artist can live down Vermeer. Given that a young female is deciding
to move, what can we deduce about the picture in which she finds
herself? What would have to be on canvas?

Half a Zodiac away there is 18th Leo, “Someone is lost on a mountain
path and is filled with regret,” which could almost be a set piece
for a Chinese painter. Now there is no doubt that the picture by
itself would not be enough. We need the appropriate poem running
down alongside the mountain if we want to know about the subject’s
remorse. It gets most complicated, finally, in those degrees where
the presumed thought crowds out the visual matter. Consider the 24th
of Virgo, “The gardens are at their peak but there is a rumour of
locusts approaching,” which is more about rumours than about
cabbages or locusts. One realizes that the images could only belong
in a novel or a horoscope.

These are not pictures, they are doors. You must enter, in each
case, asking yourself what is the relationship between the door and
the structure as a whole. Fortunately the latter is given—it is the
horoscope—so you are not in the difficult position of the art
student challenged to paint a story, or the dilettante unable to
read Chinese. You have a large part of the story already; you must
use the door, the degree symbol, to modify and extend what is
apparent in the rest of the map.

Sometimes the door is merely a door and what it tells you is quite
plain. For instance, the map I use for the foundation of Canada [1]
has the Midheaven in the 2nd degree of Taurus, “People and animals
are disembarking from a big ship, but they don’t know where they’ve
landed.” This is an obvious thing to say about colonizers arriving
anywhere from a distant continent; it may strike you on second
thought, however, that after four hundred years Canadians still
don’t know where they have landed.

Note that the numbering here is by ordinal degrees: the first degree
goes from 0ø 0′ to 1ø 0′, the second degree from 1ø 0′ to 2ø 0′, and
so on to the thirtieth from 29ø 0′ to 0ø 0′ of the next sign. Thus if
the Midheaven for the foundation of Canada falls somewhere between
1ø25′ and 1ø30′ Taurus it is in the second degree. As for boundaries
between degrees I have no idea how to assign them, but that problem
will arise only when some point lies exactly on Nø 0′ 0.000…”, in
which case the cosmos gives us two symbols to choose from (or

In her preface Carolyn Joyce relates how the symbols came to Stephen
Morrissey in the ten days before the solar eclipse of August 1999.
Such “channeling,” to use the fashionable word, must be the method
by which sets of symbolic images are obtained in all ages, although
of course one cannot be sure how the earliest ones were generated. I
like to imagine an oracle such as the one alluded to by Nostradamus
in his first quatrain, “Alone, resting on the bronze stool / A thin
flame appearing out of the solitude,” although to my knowledge
Stephen and Carolyn indulged in no mysterious ritual.

However the degree symbols may have been acquired in antiquity, the
earliest trace of them is found in the 9th century of the common
era. The first set we know was transmitted by Albumasar and Ibn
Ezra, then eventually through the Renaissance versions of Auger-
Ferrier and Joseph Scaliger. [2] This oft-reproduced degree system
known as the Theban calendar, remains interesting and sometimes
useful. As a tool for meditating on a horoscopic point when all else
fails—no close aspects, no interesting azimuth position, no obvious
odour—I prefer it to most modern degree systems. Indeed, out of the
19th- and early 20th-century systems, I find only one that deserves
to be singled out: the thoroughly down-to-earth, unpretentious work
of E. C. Matthews [3].

Now Morrissey and Joyce’s degree set joins the rank of the few that
will stand the test of time. It will survive because it avoids
pretentiousness, is unselfconsciously contemporary, and above all is
apposite. At least it is apposite in the cases where I have asked it
to help me.

The first time I went to the Aquarian Symbols to help was when I was
consulted by a woman with Venus in the 15th degree of Gemini, “A
pioneer farmer is ploughing a field, walking behind oxen; there is a
small log cabin off on the side.” I resorted to degree symbolism
because this Venus was not strongly connected to anything—a loose
and separating conjunction with Saturn; no other Ptolemaic aspects;
no midpoint contacts even in the 45-degree dial.

We may assume that the cabin off to the side is not a place of
comfort—eventually pioneers build large comfortable cabins, but this
one is small. The woman in question, though very methodical about
meeting gentlemen, talks about them as if they were mysteries—as
was her father, who is represented in the map by Saturn.

One had the impression from the image—and it was confirmed in the
interview—that the field of love was always being newly turned
over, that the effort over the years had been little rewarded, and
the underlying emotion one of courageous desperation. The care-worn
pioneer, if you will, refusing all the romantic allure of Venus.

However, these degrees are not gnomic certainties (a fault of the
Theban calendar whose images, originally interpreted only in
association with the Ascendant, were supposed to sum up the entire
meaning of a nativity). They have to be understood within the map.
An elderly friend of mine also has Venus in the 15th degree of
Gemini. He is the funniest story-teller I have ever known, and has
always been a charmer. This is not surprising since Venus is in the
IXth house in sextile with Neptune, Mercury is also in the IXth
applying to both Venus and Neptune, and the Moon is in Sagittarius
also applying to aspects with Venus and Neptune.

The pioneer at his plough, in this case, has become style: that of
the mischievous homespun raconteur.

These symbols can be ironic and sometime savage. No New Age schmaltz
there! If you read them as an astrologer should, with the guidance
of live horoscopes, you will notice that their undeniable charm can
hide some gruesome stories.

A case in point: the symbols for Count Claus von Stauffenberg, the
one-armed Wehrmacht colonel who planted a bomb under Hitler’s
conference table on 20 July 1944 and was shot a few hours later for
his pains, the bomb having failed to destroy its target. [4] One
obviously important feature in his birth map is the applying Moon-
Saturn conjunction in Pisces, which no doubt helps him acquire his
aristocratic officer’s sense of duty. Both bodies are in the 21st
degree, “The waiter arrives with two big plates of food as the
diners finish drinking their wine”—a destiny of service if there
ever was one.

The North Node is conjunct Neptune in Cancer. The Node (mean) is in
the 17th degree, “The juggler is able to juggle several coloured
balls in the air at one time without dropping a single one.”

What is going on here? The symbols speak of occupations requiring
both arms. The astrologer doing this horoscope for a newborn would
have to say that here was someone who could do many things very
well, and the astrologer would be right. After the native loses his
right arm, two fingers of his left hand, and his left eye, these
symbols speak in a different octave. (The aerial attack on
Stauffenberg’s staff car occurred in Tunisia on 7 April 1943, when
Jupiter was in the 17th degree of Cancer, squared by the Sun from
the 17th degree of Aries—don’t let anyone tell you that Jupiter
transiting your node in wartime is a good thing—but, in the event,
this victim came out of hospital convinced that he had been spared
for an important task, which I suppose is a Jovian conviction.)

The astrologer now could not fail to be biased by the native’s
physical condition. Symbols that assume manual strength and
dexterity lead to different considerations. “You want to eliminate
the Führer?” —assuming any astrologer was available to have such a
conversation by 1943—”Well, the resources are not obviously
available, you’ll have nothing to fall back on and your juggling
will have to be single-handed.” Which is more or less what happened.

While there were many conspirators in the 20 July plot there were
not enough daring men of action, even among the military, and on
that day Stauffenberg had to be everywhere. His natal Pluto in the
25th degree of Gemini—someone in a small boat calling out for help
while no-one responds from the shore—is evident here.

A more cheerful degree—but deceptively so—is the 15th of Cancer
occupied by Neptune which, as I have mentioned, was conjunct the
node at Stauffenberg’s birth: “At a festival in a downtown park
hundreds of balloons are let loose in the sky.” Neptune at that
degree may have given him the confidence that he would always be
cheered as a hero, eventually—an illusion that reinforced the aura
and charm which made him a popular officer throughout his career.

How often we warn ourselves not to be deluded by Neptune…but in
this degree any planet will operate in much the same way. Balloons
are illusion enough by themselves. Just as a balloon is a bubble in
reprieve, so the 15th degree of Cancer is associated with the
untimely death of the beautiful. Mata Hari (Venus), Robert Kennedy
(Pluto), and the splendid, heart-breaking cellist Jacqueline du Pré
(Moon) [5] are all marked by this degree. Robert Kennedy’s natal
Pluto stood at 14ø30′ Cancer. When he died the Moon and its north
node were opposed in cardinal signs, their midpoint being 14ø30′

Two dozen years earlier, on the day of Stauffenberg’s failed coup
and hasty execution, the midpoint of Neptune and the north node in
the 45-degree dial was at 14ø41′ of the cardinal signs, precisely on
his natal Neptune at 14ø41′ Cancer.

It is not my intention to cast all those who have a horoscopic point
in the 15th degree of Cancer into a depressive panic. When the truly
important balloon festivals are within sight there is danger, but
people must decide for themselves if it is worthwhile pushing

The point I am making is about the act of ironic retouching that
must be indulged in by an astrologer facing a one-armed person with
a birth map containing degrees like 17th Cancer and 21st Pisces. The
situation is always more or less like that, if usually less
dramatic, and one deals with it not by “making allowances for the
native’s situation in life” as the textbooks naïvely tell us but by
incorporating one’s perception of the individual concerned into the
imagery of the horoscope—pushing the native through the door that
leads into his or her own symbolic tableau so to speak—in such a
way that the result makes sense. [6]

Axel Harvey
Montreal, 4 July 2000


[1] Champlain founded the first permanent European settlement north
of Virginia on 3 July 1608 on the beach at Quebec, 46n49 71w12,
according to my rectification (done years before this book was
written) very early in the morning, around 7:10 LMT.

[2] See Jacques Hiéroz, “Origine des monomères”, Cahiers
no 139-140, March-June 1969, 54-57, and the
introduction by Jean Richer to Images astrologiques des degrés du
, Nice, Belisane, 1986, 3-21, with an English translation by
Brian Juden, 23-42.

[3] E. C. Matthews, Fixed Stars and Degrees of the Zodiac Analyzed,
St Louis, New Era Studio, 1947 and 1968. A reprint is available from

[4] Claus von Stauffenberg was born on 15 November 1907 at 1 a.m.
(0 hours UT) in Jettingen, Swabia, 48n22 10e27 (Lois Rodden, Astro-
Data V
). The fateful day 20 July 1944 began with an annular eclipse
of the Sun (not visible in Europe) at 5:43 UT; the bomb exploded at
10:42 UT in Rastenburg, 54n 5 21e24, after which Stauffenberg flew
to Berlin believing that Hitler was dead. The coup ended with the
execution of the principal leaders in the courtyard of the Reserve
Army headquarters in Berlin around 21:30 UT. In the case of all data
from published collections I have re-verified the geographical

[5] Mata Hari, née Gertrude Zelle, 7 August 1876 at 12:35 LMT in
Leyden, 53n12 5e48 (Lois Rodden, Astro-Data I), executed by a
firing squad 15 October 1917 around 6:15 UT in Vincennes, Paris,
48n51 2e26; Robert Kennedy, born 20 November 1925 at 15:11 EST in
Brookline, Mass., 42n20 71w 7 (Lois Rodden, Astro-Data III), died
6 June 1968 at 1:44 PDT in Los Angeles approximately 25 hours after
being shot by an assassin; Jacqueline du Pré, born 26 January 1945
at 10:30 UT in Oxford, 51n46 1w15 (Astrological Journal xxxi 2),
died 19 October 1987, evening, in London, indirectly of multiple

[6] I make no apologies for this approach to interpreting symbols,
though it may disconcert some colleagues who know me as a mechanist
ever on the lookout for unequivocal, literal answers in the
horoscope. What is most interesting in astrology turns up when
different styles of interpretation converge and apparently
incompatible techniques penetrate one another.

Axel Harvey:

Born in Montreal, Axel Harvey studied history at Princeton University and the University of Toronto. Harvey has worked as a journalist, editor, translator, teacher, and astrologer. His articles on astrology have been published in books and journals, and on internet sites. He has lectured on astrology in the United States, Canada, and France. Axel Harvey is the founder of the Hirsig Society, a registered non-profit organization dedicated to disseminating astrological knowledge and preserving astrological texts.

THE AQUARIAN SYMBOLS: Introduction © Axel Harvey, 2004, 2012

Axel Harvey’s “Introduction” first appeared in the original Coracle Press publication of The Aquarian Symbols (Vancouver & Montreal, 2000), by Carolyn Joyce and Stephen Morrissey.

For more information on the Aquarian Symbols, please see