By thee the Miners burn the Womb of Earth,– Marcus Manilius, Astronomica tr. Thomas Creech
And see the place of Metals fatal Birth:
By thee they melt; by thee they work the Mould,
Refine, and Stamp it into a mighty Gold
- Element: Earth
- Modality: Cardinal
- Ruler: Saturn
- Dates: Dec. 22 – Jan. 19
- Symbol: Horned goat with the tail of a fish
During the war with the Titans, Pan the Satyr fled the wrath of the old gods and leaped into the Nile, transforming into half-fish, half-goat. His flight gave rise to such words as “panic” and “pandemonium”, but the symbol of the goat-fish, associated with the constellation Capricorn, is much older than this Greco-Roman myth. The Babylonians worshiped Ea, “the antelope of the ocean”, a deity of water, wisdom, and magic. Like Aquarius, the watery association of Capricorn came from its season corresponding with the coming of winter rains in the Northern Hemisphere. Ea was adopted by the Greeks under the name Oannes, a half-fish, half-human deity that emerged from the depths of the ocean four times to bring wisdom to humanity. Oannes was a more humane foil to the tempestuous Olympians, more stoic, tolerant, and dependable than the vast majority of Greek gods and goddesses.
The lack of emotional excitability associated with this sign is likely tied to the fact that the constellation of Capricorn is the second dimmest on the ecliptic, after Cancer. While Cancer corresponds to the summer equinox, Capricorn corresponds with the winter equinox. In Hermetic cosmology, these opposing signs came to represent the “gate of men” and the “gate of the gods”, respectively. Cancer, the home of the sphere of the Moon, represented the last stage between the cosmos and the earth, the door through which souls of humans emerged after acquiring shape and form. Capricorn was connected to the sphere of Saturn, the last sphere in the cosmos and where the souls of humans were freed from the trappings of earthly existence.
In the dead of winter, the Sun reaches its southernmost point in the sky before beginning its ascent towards spring and summer, not unlike Oannes emerging from the depths of the ocean, or the goat beginning its steadfast climb up the mountain slopes. In the Greco-Roman world, the goat, in fact, was a symbol of both Dionysus, the god of wine, agriculture, and fertility, and Liber, or “the free one”, an older Italian god also linked to fertility. A mother goat, Amalthea, was said to have nursed an infant Zeus. Thanks to the powerful agricultural and sexual symbolism of their horns, goats were considered prime animals for sacrifice on Saturnalia, the Roman midwinter festival commemorating Saturn, the god of agriculture. One would be sacrificed on the north side of the altar, while another would be driven into the wilderness, symbolically bearing the sins of the community in a ritual that gave rise to the word “scapegoat”. The link between this practice and Azazel, an outcast evil spirit residing in the wilderness, would eventually give rise to the goat imagery connected to the devil in the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
The powerful dual symbolism of the goat-fish and the rulership of Saturn, the planet of rules and limits, contribute much to the characteristics of the Capricorn. It represents in part the structures and hierarchy of society, in contrast to the Aquarian questioning of what lies beyond those rules. Unlike their anti-establishment Saturnian kin, Capricorns do care what the neighbors say. More materialistic than idealistic, they work to achieve the physical trappings of success, without the same need for fame or recognition that Leo demands. Like the steadfast goat, they climb to their goals, drawing upon the power and wisdom of the ocean’s depths to ascend to the mountain’s peak.
Like Cancer, many Capricorns value their connection to the past, a trait which often manifests as an innate respect for tradition and old age, deferring to the seniority and wisdom of others. In their youth, the Capricorn might frequently be called an “old soul” or seem old beyond their years. They are willing to serve their time as an apprentice if it means eventually reaching mastery. They may feel cheated or overwhelmed by the weight of burdens—often self-imposed—but over time come to possess a wisdom forged from experience. This strategy for long-term investment and delayed gratification is built from a capacity for self-discipline, and even self-denial, but ultimately it leads to a sort of blossoming in old age that many with Capricorn placements experience. The Capricorn may seem to grow younger and livelier as they age and reap the benefits of years of hard work.
Born in the depth of winter, Capricorn is a sign accustomed to rationing, reserving power and energy for when it matters. The abundant Jupiter is in its detriment here, making restraint a keyword for Capricorns. A worldly sign, Capricorns tend to be preoccupied with reality, with material concerns and aging. They have a reputation for caution, tending to opt for projects and relationships they feel will serve them in the long term. However, the Capricorn is still a cardinal sign, and while excessive caution may discourage them from starting some endeavors, their focus on productivity and achievement will likely get them moving. As a cardinal earth sign, they possess a unique combination of perseverance and dedication that can at times border on compulsion. They work to ensure security for their posterity and generally make great organizers or leaders. Even if the influence of dim Saturn makes it difficult for charisma to shine through, Capricorns generally possess a depth of character and a willingness to get the job done without needing their ego routinely petted. Indeed, Saturn was said to have ruled over a golden age in which humans reveled in a state of innocence. The exaltation of Mars in this sign is likely linked to this energy-efficient way of working—all of that martial drive is put towards a clear goal, with the mindset of winter scarcity ensuring no resources are needlessly spent. This productive leadership instinct is in line with the mine and forge imagery that Manilius associates with Capricorns—the controlled burn of fire within their earthy depths is instrumental in manufacturing material solutions for the real world.
Classy, but not flashy, Capricorns tend to have an innate sense of dignity. A stoic exterior typically hides a pessimistic worldview, often coupled with a self-deprecating sense of humor. But hidden in the depths of the Capricorn too are immense reserves of energy to help it weather any storm as they climb, ever upward. Within the scope of personal relationships, however, the influence of Saturn can mean an occasional excess of boundaries in the Capricorn’s private life. Romantic relationships can be a source of pain and frustration, as they are immensely valuable but romantic sentiment is often outside of the Capricorn’s natural skill set. As the sign where the Moon experiences its fall, here practicality and restraint trump emotion or empathy. Their sense of propriety may come off as coldness or aloofness in intimate situations, and duty and commitment can border on constriction, control, and jealousy.
The astrologer Sue Tompkins identifies two archetypical Capricorns. The first, the steadfast blue-collar worker, the backbone of society, generates much of a community’s wealth while sharing in few of its benefits. The second, a member of the landed “old money” aristocracy, lives within and defends a highly hierarchical world, both upholding societal boundaries and preserving traditions. Ancient astrologers associated them with stone and rock, as well as activities such as farming, mining, and manufacturing. They are often connected to low-lying lands, especially where livestock graze, thanks to the symbol of the goat. Another link is to the profession of metal working—as the sign corresponding with the deepest part of winter, they represent the depths of both the earth and time where the flames of life are rekindled. Some Capricorns may also be drawn to the occult sciences, precisely because these fields claim to explain the rules of the universe itself.
In the body, Capricorn is associated with the knees, the joints, bones, and skin—the organs that give the body structure and support. Capricorns may suffer from skin conditions, as well as issues with hearing, insecurity, or anxiety. In dress, they tend to favor natural materials or the darker tones of urban fashion, a classic, time-honored style over the more daring fashion choices an Aquarius might opt for. Excess is not in the Capricorn’s vocabulary, though it will do the best it can with the resources it has. Like Oannes and the ancient Greeks, Capricorn has much wisdom to impart to the other signs, although it might be a reluctant teacher at first. Within the shade of Saturn, the greater malefic, the cautious Capricorn’s life is full of limits, structure, and restraint. The young Capricorn sets their sights on some form of mastery, and they begin their ascent up the steep mountain slope. But thanks to the sign’s rock-like perseverance and the driving influence of Mars, there are many rewards to be had at the end of this climb. As other, less stoic or more sensual signs revel in pleasure or demand recognition, the Capricorn weighs which risks to take, where to place their dexterous hooves so that they can climb ever higher. And once they have reached the summit, they may look back to find they have charted the path for those to come.
- The Contemporary Astrologer’s Handbook – Sue Tompkins
- Capricorn the Goatfish at skyscript.co.uk
- Star lore of the constellations, Capricorn: the Goatfish by Deborah Houlding
- Christian astrology, William Lily
- Aquarius by Jim Eshelman solunars.com
Images on this page
- capricorn-birth-iskandar: Wellcome Collection | CC BY 4.0 International
- capricorn-mikalojus-1907: Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, 1907 | public domain
- capricorn-sidney-hall: Sidney Hall | public domain