Started a new illustration project today. I’m gearing up to do some posters for our spring musical, Annie, so I’m trying to get my figure-drawing and composition skills up to speed. As regular readers know, I prefer drawing in frames to not drawing in frames; the spinning woman is a rough crib from an image I found on Scottish Tartans Authority, while the man is a completely made-up figure. He’s not bad, but I wish I’d shown him in profile, now that he’s inked, with a clipboard or an abacus in hand. Poor prudent man, utterly without hands!
One of the things that I like about the Decans images or “Faces” as they’re called in traditional astrology, is that they’re each supposed to be a little story that you can tell to clients about the nature of their problem. A book containing all thirty-six decans, and a parallel book containing all twenty-eight mansions, contains sixty-four little stories about the world, each of which could speak to the experiences of people living in it.
This one, for example, contrasts the prudence of the man with the industry of the woman. He watches her work, but his own work isn’t specified. He’s ‘prudent’, which suggests he’s careful with his money, and she’s industrious. Yet the nature of her work is that it goes in circles, and she can never produce more than her hands can work. There are real limits on their industry — partly limited by technology, partly by his non-working nature, partly by their own ambition. Aquarius as a sign, as I understand it, is partly about limitations and boundaries, and this first Decan image is a pretty strong reminder that you can be hard-working, and industrious, and prudent, and still get nowhere. You might love your work, as Venus suggests; and yet the hard limits on your world mean that you’re not going to grow or achieve any great degree of success.
The medieval astrologer might look at this image and conclude for a client, Get in there and do some of the work yourself, or he might say, invest in better technology or he might say, you’re doing what you love, but don’t expect to get rich off what you’re doing. Or he might obviate all of that, and point out some of the limits in that person’s life and work, and suggest some ways around it.
The idea that the Decans are intended to be teaching stories packed with good advice, or reminders about ways to enter good situations or avoid bad ones, is really appealing to me. It means that eventually, I could make them big, and use them as teaching tools in school or elsewhere.
Following Benjamin Dykes who himself is following Agrippa in the construction of an image for the first Decan of Aquarius: “A prudent man, and a woman spinning” — A prudent man, and of a woman spinning; and the signification of these is in the thought and labor for gain, in poverty and baseness.
I take this, with the two related planets of Venus and Saturn, to represent a mindset intent on gain through craft or artisanry, with the intention of achieving economic success. They have a creative enterprise in mind, and they go after it… except the man is in a supervisory role rather than an assisting role. There’s too much administration in this business, and not enough actual making. The result is a tendency toward poverty and decline rather than success.