Capricorns live by the steadying hand of their planetary ruler, Saturn. Those born under this sign are noted for being patient, prudent, determined, reliable and disciplined. Saturn brings a constricting influence and yet Capricorns are characterised by a life-long striving towards accomplishment. The sign is known as the most ambitious of the zodiac, driven to climb, yet constantly checked by the pressure of a planet whose nature is to hold back and restrain. As a life-pattern this can result in many crosses to be borne, and Capricorns who have yet to discover their self-worth often feel rather cheated in the gifts that accompany their lot. The tale of Capricorn is that its natives suffer in youth and profit in maturity and old age. Only with the benefit of hindsight can they fully appreciate the process which leads them towards resilience and achievement. The goat is a creature born to tread the rocky and inhospitable path that leads to the mountain heights. Those that stay the course acquire a strength that has been cultivated slowly, deliberately and firmly, their position solidified and their wisdom forged through the hard experience of steadily pursuing their objectives against adversities and obstacles.
Sadly, many descriptions of Capricorn dwell too heavily upon the harsher aspects of Saturn as offering a limiting, self-depreciating and pessimistic outlook. Saturn is a planet of realism with a controlled release of energy which does mark the Capricorn as apparently lacking in creative sparkle and exuberant vivacity. As the Sun enters the sign associated with mid-winter, its power is low and the solar qualities of light, warmth, enthusiasm and brilliance struggle to emerge in recognisable ego traits and personality features. Yet the qualities exist, submerged deep within the character. The fire that animates the Capricorn’s spirits is gestating and self-contained, but not to be taken lightly. The Romans celebrated the Sun’s ingress into Capricorn as Saturnalia, a festival which welcomed back the return of the Sun’s power after the shortest day of the year. The emphasis was on renewal of strength, fertility, and power that originates from the depths of being. As the cardinal earth sign Capricorn portrays the enduring and irrepressible spirit of nature. There is a productive fecundity inherent in the symbolism of the goat-fish that is dismissed too lightly if we fail to explore the deeper meanings of this complex ancient symbol.
Many astrologers consider Capricorn to be the most enigmatic and mysterious sign of the zodiac. All of the cardinal signs indicate seats of power and in a creature with the forelimbs of a goat attached to the tail of a fish, the abyss of the ocean is combined with mountainous terrain. This represents a ‘cross of matter’ between the psyche and its manifestation in the material, drawing the soul out of its collective stupor to confront the challenges of reality and individualism. The ocean, besides symbolising primordial roots, relates to instinctive wisdom, secrets, and knowledge that lies buried within the depths of consciousness. Capricorn, bearing only the tail of an aquatic creature, keeps a head that is free from impressionable thought - at a rational level Capricorns are affected only by what they can define through logic and reasoned assessment, but unconsciously, spiritually and emotionally they draw from the deep. This is a sign that is anything but shallow and superficial; beneath the Capricorn’s cool, reserved and calculating exterior lies a profound resource of emotional strength, psychic resilience and earthy endurance. The recognisable character traits of the sign reveal compulsion, dedication and perseverance in its aims and interests. Capricorns may not impress others by their motivation but neither do they seek the easy approval or widespread attention of others. Their ambitions - in relationships, career and personal growth - are rooted in an ‘inner’ motivation that runs too deep to be easily shaken. Their strengths (and their faults) are based upon the qualities of stamina, fortitude, staying power and survival.
Some see the Capricorn’s scaly tail as that of the sea-serpent, a creature of ‘old knowledge’, wise in matters of the occult and offering a potential for understanding beyond limited, earthly experience. Capricorns are known for being ‘older than their years’ and those who take up the study of mysteries and traditions gravitate towards a masterly knowledge of their craft just as the business minded Capricorn will gravitate towards the managerial position. Mastery and power are the understated keywords of this sign. Even the earthy aspect of the goat is frequently underestimated in its potential for symbolising hidden reserves of strength.
There is a feature of the goat that deserves special attention in our understanding of this sign. The name ‘Capricorn’ draws our attention to it and comes from the Latin caper (‘goat’) andcornu (‘horn’) - literally ‘the Goat’s horn’. In the ancient world horns were symbols of royalty, strength and power, as well as fertility and abundance. Cornucopia in mythology was the goat Amalthea who nourished the infant Jupiter with her milk, though the term remains in use today as the ‘copious horn’ or ‘horn of plenty’ which symbolises prosperity and growth. The goat is one of the three horned creatures in the zodiac; these were also the creatures celebrated in ancient religious festivals and used in sacrifice to draw power from the gods. The use of the goat as a ‘scapegoat’ in the biblical ritual of Atonement (seethe star lore of Capricorn) has led to goat deities accumulating a reputation as icons of evil occult powers rather than the neutral symbols of earthly fertility and focused power that was implicit in the older customs.
J.E. Circlot, in his Dictionary of Symbols, includes an interesting passage on the symbolism of horns as related by the three creatures of the zodiac; the coiled horns of Aries, the inwardly curved horns of Taurus, and the upwardly pointed horns of Capricorn signifying elevation, power and prestige. He notes that in Egyptian hieroglyphics, horns signify what is above the head and by extension ‘to open up a path for oneself’.
Horns then, are similar to halos and crowns in denoting princely wisdom and illumination. The theme is repeated in ancient depictions of the sign that replace the horned fore-creature with that of a man but retain the imagery of the crown. In later art we find depictions of Moses bearing horns after his descent from the mountain, indicating the radiance of light and wisdom emitted from his head after the divine contact. Elsewhere horns have adorned battle-helmets since prehistoric times in an attempt to capitalise upon their expression of strength, power and force. Jung recognised the horn as a powerful symbol for fertility and dualism, being both masculine - by its phallic and penetrating shape - and feminine - by its receptive, cup like qualities. The goat’s horn thus stands as a representation of the elemental energies of the earth, the prime matter from which the alchemical process begins its quest for the transformation of gold. Alchemists have often related ‘prima mater’ with lead, the metal of Saturn; though it was also frequently associated with the unconscious and thought to come from the mountains where ‘all things are one’. The Rosarium terms prima mater the ‘root of itself’, being the first principle that separates reason from chaos.
Many elements in the symbolism of Capricorn make this one of the most interesting signs in terms of the spiritual undertones conveyed by its imagery. In the ancient world Capricorn denoted a noble, kingly wisdom and earth power associated with those who are ‘older and wiser’. In Babylonian mythology it is linked with Ea, ‘antelope of the ocean’ who brought knowledge and wisdom to mankind and was never subject to fits of emotional disturbance or angry wrath, unlike the other early gods. Drawing from his heritage, Capricorn is the caricature of the wise old sage, the one who has the experience to understand human emotional weakness but enough mastery and control over his ‘self’ to prevent reason being affected by it. Rudyard Kipling was a Capricorn, and his famous poem ‘If’ reads like the Bible of Capricornian logic in how to develop true strength as an individual - never by trusting to luck, never by aiming to explode upon the world or seeking glory and hopeful expectation, but only through enduring hardship and refusing to be beaten by it, by patient acceptance that the wheel must spin full term, and by tolerance of the hurt that others will inevitably cast your way.
In our modern world Capricorn relates to those who manage and lead in all walks of life, from the Capricorn mother, who governs her household with the firm hand of structure and teaches her children that they should restrain their urge for short term gratification and invest in a ‘reputable’ future; the Capricorn business manager who may seem somewhat unapproachable but is always in control of his responsibilities, and the Capricorn lover who seeks long-term stability over spontaneity and amorous excitement.
Capricorns who have risen to fame have generally done so by taking the hard route, gathering respect for their fortitude, resistance and application. Capricorns don’t seek fame for fame’s sake, are generally uncomfortable in the public eye, and expect to keep their private life private. Theirs is not a ‘what you see is what you get’ mentality and all Capricorn professionals draw clear boundaries between that made available for public appraisal and the personal self which is never given up to free and open scrutiny. Capricorns are often accused of being motivated by the acquisition of material comforts and financial security. An important keyword here is respect - Capricorns expect to be treated with respect and are sensitive to taking offence when it is lacking. For many this entails living the traditional ‘respectable’ lifestyle and drawing around them the material trappings of respectability. Even the lesser off Capricorn can’t help but see himself as having a position to hold and may care greatly about ‘what the neighbours say’ to the exasperation of more liberal or free spirited partners.
Above all Capricorn is a conservative sign, rooted in conventional morality and bearing a great deference for history and tradition. This is not the sign of the innovator but the preserver, not the gambler but the investor, often willing to take a risk but only where it has been carefully calculated and measured by reason. Neither do Capricorns ‘live for the moment’ since their personality is defined by an awareness of time and the ever-present need to safeguard the future.
Relationships can be the source of considerable pain unless the right circumstances are met. Capricorns have little instinctive knowledge of how to play the dating game and are too earnest with their emotions to respond to light hearted flirtation with carefree abandon. They can suffer through shyness and are seldom at ease displaying affection. Yet Capricorn is a strongly sexual sign - the goat’s horn is a symbol of male virility - and their fixed emotions can cause them to remain locked in grief and disappointment if they fail to win the object of their affection. Within relationships they have a strong sense of duty and commitment. This will be highly satisfactory to some but others may perceive it as unnecessarily restrictive and oppressive. Afflicted, the sign can show a tendency towards control and jealousy.
The faults of the Capricorn are always more apparent to those who fall into the opposing personality types. As in all the sunsign faults they arise from a negative appreciation of their strengths. Some may feel that they lack spontaneity and creativity and thus perceive them as boring and uninspiring. Others will view their emotional control as hard and unfeeling, regarding them as unresponsive to their moods and undemonstrative in romantic affairs. Even those that appreciate their reasoned outlook and strategic approach to problems can be disparaged by their composed response, regarding them as demoralising and unnecessarily rigid or pessimistic in outlook. All young people can benefit from the guidance of a Capricorn, although most will find their lessons on the need for patience frustrating.