The Man is uppermost, and rules the Beast;– Marcus Manilius, Astronomica tr. Thomas Creech
His Bow full drawn implies, his Rays impart,
Strength to the Limbs, and Vigor to the Heart.
Quick active Motions, full of warmth and heat,
Still pressing on, unknowing to retreat.
- Element: Fire
- Modality: Mutable
- Ruler: Jupiter
- Nov. 22- Dec. 21
- Symbol: A centaur with a bow and arrow
As Jason and the Argonauts sought the Golden Fleece, the enlightened centaur Chiron placed the constellation of Centaurus in the night sky to help guide the heroes through Colchis in what is now the Black Sea coast of Georgia. Called the king of centaurs, Chiron differed from his war-like kin because he chose the path of reason and passed his wisdom on to humankind. Sagittarius, located on the other side of Scorpio, however, was not associated with Chiron. Some Greek myths identified the constellation with Crotus, the son of the goat-man Pan and Eupheme, nurse to the Muses. Crotus became a skilled hunter but retained a love of the arts instilled in him by the Muses. Older myths, however, reveal a more warlike side to the Archer.
Known as Pa.Bil.Sag by the Babylonians, Sagittarius was depicted as a two-headed centaur raging in the heavens, facing westward with its bow pointed at the Scorpion. Some early versions even fused the two constellations, depicting an archer with the tail of a Scorpion. The centaur was frequently associated with Nergal, the archer god of war, and the personification of Mars. The mythological creature itself may have originated from sightings of Scythians, the first horseback warriors known to Hellenistic antiquity. While astrological tradition would continue to link some of the constellation’s brightest stars with Mars, Sagittarius came to be associated with Jupiter as the enlightened characteristics of Chiron merged with the martial nature of the centaur and the second, backward facing and bestial head became a scarf flapping in the wind. And yet, literature would continue to echo the more violent side of the “Giant King of War”, with Manilius underlining its “threatening” qualities and Shakespeare’s writing of “the dreadful Sagittary”. So where does the arrow of the Archer point, to truth and justice or battle and bloodshed?
Under the expansive, magnanimous influence of Jupiter, Sagittarius is a broad-minded, freedom-loving sign. Half humane and half bestial, equal parts philosopher and nomad, the Archer is drawn to travel, both physical and mental, and to new experiences. As a mutable fire sign, some astrologers liken it to a wildfire, spreading in all directions at once—and anyone who has witnessed the enthusiasm of a Sagittarius faced with a new project can attest to this nature. The Sagittarius’ fiery enthusiasm burns bright, consuming everything in its path, but shifting quickly with the slightest change of wind. This enthusiasm, plus a gift for enlarging—what some might call exaggeration—is what makes this sign gifted when it comes to publicity or sales, an almost preacher-like capacity to weigh in on the latest fuel for their fire.
Like their opposite sign Gemini, the average Sagittarius boasts a wide range of interests, unquenchable curiosity, and the ability to get the gist of most topics. They may struggle, however, when a subject requires a deeper dive than they expected or more time and grind than they are willing to put in. Many natives born under this sign juggle the dual-edged blade of absentmindedness and a sharp intellect. While they might be eager to get into a debate over the finer points of Heigel’s philosophy at any corner coffee shop, chances are they’ll forget their keys on the table when they leave.
Mercury is in its fall in this sign, as the precise, quick-moving planet can falter in a sign as “big picture” as Sagittarius. Unlike Scorpios, Sagittarian types prefer breadth to depth and hate to get bogged down by the details. This also might have something to do with the stereotype of the clueless, foot-in-mouth Sagittarius. Their gift for bluntness, often at the expense of the feelings of others, is well known, but a Mercury in Sagittarius type might annoy you precisely because they won’t get to the point—or let you get a word in edgewise. The more extroverted of this sign might be positively bouncy or boisterous, while the more introverted types can still talk your ear off, if you manage to tap into the topic they’re passionate about at the moment.
The benefit of this forthright attitude is that most Sagittarians are not gifted at deception. Trust and optimism are much easier to come by for most born under this sign than for a Scorpio, and few have the honey-tongued talents of a sign like Gemini. The Archer will tell you the truth—what they think it is—even when it hurts, and they tend to balk at superficial pomp and circumstance. They dislike pretense, and it might be downright entertaining to watch them burst someone’s bubble, assuming that bubble is not your own. Mark Twain is a good example of a Sagittarius that did his fair share to lampoon superficial civility. But, unlike the razor-sharp truth-telling of Scorpio, Sagittarius generally means well, and may not even know the impact of their words. They didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and besides, they’re right. Or, if not quite right, there is an undeniable, at times unnerving validity to their words. This sincerity, along with broad-minded lenience, has the potential to be some of Sagittarius’s most endearing traits. Rather than letting an unhealthy situation fester, chances are they’ll deal with it before it becomes a problem. And even if the more choleric types love a good scrap, they are quick to forgive and forget any offense.
For the Archer, action means much more than planning. A Sagittarian friend maybe your greatest advocate and always ready for a new adventure but confide in them and they might take matters into their own hands, even if you just wanted someone to listen. Similarly, a Sagittarius coworker might take on too much without the skills of the resources to get it done. When the Archer has a distant goal in their sights, they are likely to aggressively pursue it, even if that means exaggerating a bit for their own benefit. Sagittarians are generally risk-takers, with a strong gambling streak and, usually, enough luck to land on their feet even when things go south.
As opposed to a more straid fixed sign, change equals opportunity to the mutable Sagittarius, and being stuck in the same situation for too long can make these wide-ranging types claustrophobic, be it in a desk job or a cloying relationship. While the generally optimistic mindset of this sign can be inspiring, a more abrasive Sagittarius might respond to criticism as a “negative” viewpoint and dismiss it out of hand. Some may avoid anything they see as bringing them down, including the worries of other people. The more insensitive types might dismiss the emotional needs of others outright, as even emotional limits translate to barriers to the kind of exploration most Sagittarians feel compelled to engage in, and so some may shy away from responsibilities, rejecting the stiff coat of maturity with a dash of Peter Pan exuberance.
At the same time, this fear of commitment is just another aspect of the Archer’s tolerant, open-minded approach to life. Like a hero in a video game, some feel to push to go questing, to explore, and push things further. While this could translate into a literal wanderlust, for some with Sagittarius placements the field they choose to explore might be more intellectual or emotional in nature, and any restrictions or barriers mean a potential lesson unlearned. Unfazed by requirements and restrictions, they tend to be more idealistic than realistic. They value abstract concepts, and many are drawn to professions such as education, entertainment, sales, or politics. Even if a Sagittarius is a people person, often found at the center of the action, they may have difficulty in close relationships where emotional depth is required. Still, their Jupiter-esque energy has a bit of the party-loving Dionysus bend to it, and Sagittarians can be a lot of fun to have around.
Thanks to its connection to both migration and hunting, Sagittarius is associated with large animals such as horses or dogs—incidentally, animals often used for gambling—as well as migratory birds. The sign has an intrinsic connection to travel and travelers, and in a chart may represent the part of the native’s life they approach with much enthusiasm, if with a touch of carelessness or high-minded idealism. In the body, Sagittarius rules the hips and thighs.
The upward shooting Archer is farsighted, with its eyes locked on a brighter future. Sagittarians are less concerned about the mistakes of the past and the minutia of the present but instead are implicitly concerned with hunting for a higher truth. And on this quest, they ride the ups and downs of life with relish, testing the limits of experience and possibility—and probably thoroughly enjoying the journey.
- The Contemporary Astrologer’s Handbook, Sue Tompkins
- Sagittarius: star lore of the constellations, skyscript.co.uk
- Sagittarius the archer, skyscript.co.uk
- Sun Signs by Linda Goodman
- Sagittarius (archer), chandra.harvard.edu
Images on this page
- sagittarius-winter-fire-supper: Bol, Hans, 1534-1593 | Public Domain Mark 1.0
- sagittarius-archer-flight-mikalojus: Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis | public domain
- sagittarius-archer-sidney-hall: Hall, Sidney | Public Domain Mark 1.0