The ancient Egyptians and other early civilizations, divided time by measuring the movement of the stars relative to the Sun and Moon. This resulted in thirty-six periods of time called the Decans or Faces, from which the Zodiac may have developed — or maybe the Zodiac developed first, and the Decans were sub-divisions of that.
The definitive modern work on the Decans is, I think, Austin Coppock’s 36 Faces which I think is now out of print or otherwise unavailable. Sold out, maybe. But I wrote my own, much shorter and less-definitive book (of poetry, not analysis), called The Sun’s Paces, which are dedicated to the minor divinities associated with the Decans in the Hellenistic time-keeping system.
Gordon White, in the premium members area of his blog RuneSoup, has a number of people doing a Decans Walk — which is marking these thirty-six period of the year in some way through ritual, meditation, active imagination and other awareness exercises… and magic.
I’m doing my own version of them, of course. I read my own hymns for invoking the Decans, and practice them daily during the Decan with an eye to memorizing them, rather than just marking the change at the first sunrise. And then I try to look for signs that the Decan is talking back. This hasn’t always been successful.
You can think of it as being rather like a planned synchronicity, where we define synchronicity in a Jungian sense as two or more unrelated events that are weighted with special significance because they occur at the same time or in the same place, or both. The goal is to use the traditional imagery and meanings of the Decan as a set of themes or symbols, and see if those themes or symbols appear in the larger world during the time the Sun is in a particular Decan.
From March 21 and up through March 30 of this year, the Sun will be in the First Decan of Aries — traditional astrological sources associate this time of year with the figure of a warrior in red armor, with glowing red eyes and a turban wrapped around his head, of swarthy complexion and bearing a double bladed axe. Sometimes called the Lord of the First Dividing, it was seen in ancient times as a figure of both great energy and cunning, and of too much force or fury unleashed at once. The axe cleaves both ways. Sometimes this figure is depicted along with a child, as well.
I wound up writing this for the Rune Soup premium audience, but it made sense to revise and expand it here, too — because this gives you some sense of how directing your attention to the symbolism and themes of a Decan has a tendency to resonate in the world in unusual ways.
Read on for more about the weird ways your mind goes astray, thinking about these things.
Last Friday, I went to see the movie “A Wrinkle in Time” with my partner — and the movie’s villain, the IT, has glowing red eyes, swarthy complexion, and dark hair. The Sun had been in the First Decan of Aries for a few days…. and here was the figure of the First Decan almost come to life, in a movie that had just come out as the Sun entered the First Decan of Aries.
During the movie, the plot caused me to consider how connected this movie is with the First Decan of Aries: “A Wrinkle In Time” came out in the movie theaters just a bit before the First Decan of Aries began. The villain of the piece, the IT, is presented as a swarthy man with red eyes in the movie … and in the book before it. IT takes over a child’s mind in the story and in the movie, and looks out at the world through the same red eyes — IT is haughty and seems protective, but IT’s weapons are alternately beguilement through praise of one’s intellectual gifts, and the causing of terror — a double-bladed axe, indeed!
The human form of IT, in Central Control, doesn’t have a white cord for a belt, as in traditional imagery… but IT is on strings like a marionette. The planet of the IT in L’Engle’s novel, Camazotz, shares a name with a Maya vampire bat-god named in the Popol Vuh— depicted as having wings, holding a knife, and preparing to slaughter his victim (Don’t we have another Batman movie coming out this year? Didn’t Gordon just reference “Gotham gets the hero it deserves” in the podcast this week?) L’Engle’s name also sounds like Freiderich Engels, the man who worked with Karl Marx on Das Kapital. Is there anything down that road? Seems hazy, come back later. Certainly late capitalism is tricky that way.
“A Wrinkle In Time” by Madeline L’Engle, was published by Farrar Strauss and Giroux in 1962, the same year as “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey and “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn and “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. Also published that year was “Six Easy Pieces”, which was the collection of essays/lectures by Richard Feynman on physics, and “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil” by an author of then-growing notoriety by the name of J.R.R. Tolkien…
If the First Decan of Aries is about The First Dividing, then we have some things to work with here. A movie comes out about a mysterious being from the stars called the IT, from the world of Camazotz. The being has red eyes, and speaks alternately in praise and anguish in order to lure us and control us to ITs purpose. We communicate with this being (and other beings) by wrinkling time, and asking Who? Which? Whatsit? The First Decan alerts us to the divisions between youth and state (the Parkland, FL marches), the divisions between the healthy and unhealthy mind (“One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”), and the divisions between one paradigm of science and another. We are being reminded that physics has divided the world into six chunks that used to seem easy — but the puzzle doesn’t fit back together again. We are being warned not to treat nature as separate from ourselves, to recognize the role of birds as the canaries in our coal-suffumigated atmosphere-mine; to wander in the woods, to sing songs and to rescue hobbits (and the other part of that book’s subtitle is “AND OTHER VERSE FROM THE RED BOOK” (The Big Red One) which means that we’re also called to poetry and rhyme in this season.
1962 was the year of movies like Lawrence of Arabia — the rise of Arab nationalism. It was the year of To Kill a Mockingbird, and Atticus Finch and Scout (Look ahead, watch the birds, be watchful of prison construction [didn’t a guy on Chris Brennan’s astrology podcast say that Saturn in Capricorn is a prison-building time??]). There was a Mutiny on the Bounty, and a Birdman in Alcatraz… military revolts, birds again, prisons again.
The First Decan of Aries is big, and red, and about starting with One and dividing it into Two. The First Division (of the US Army, rather than of Aries) appears in Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, published in 1962 — and in 1962’s major war film, The Longest Day, about D-Day and the invasion of Normandy and the attempt to seize Pegasus Bridge. (We’ve had another World War II movie recently, about Dunkirk.)
A Pegasus-like creature, a horse-man centaur-like thing with wings instead of arms, appears on the front cover of the Laurel Leaf edition of A Wrinkle in Time, published as a paperback; and in the Peter Sis illustration for a different printing of the same book. The First Division (Army/Infantry) is sometimes nicknamed the “Big Red One”, a rather Martial name for this military command… and this is often abbreviated “BRO”. The First Division is called The Fighting First, or The Bloody First. First Decan of Aries again. When first constituted in June 1917, among its ranks was the man destined to become an important figure in World War II, George S. Patton — who first saw combat while chasing Pancho Villa across the border into Mexico (no wall). While serving with the First Division, Patton led the U.S. tank warfare school in France, and helped design US tank warfare doctrine which he developed further in the interwar period. George Patton was a saberist — a sword fighter — and designed the sword called the “Patton Sword” still used today. Patton represented the US in the 1912 Olympics in fencing competitions. The warrior appears yet again.
The First Decan of Aries in 1962 saw Herbert Hoover (head of the FBI) visiting J.F.Kennedy at the White House, to pressure him into breaking off an affair with Judith Campbell Exner, a woman closely connected with Mafia crime families. Nelson Rockefeller signed the New York State laws that gave the Port Authority of New York authorization to build the World Trade Center. The Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that federal courts could order states to reapportion seats in the state legislature to prevent gerrymandering. There was a coup in Syria; and high-ranking Communist Party members in Cuba were denounced and arrested, leaving Fidel Castro in sole charge of the island. K-Mart, the discount department store chain launched in March 1962, and died in the late-capitalism culture of merger, division, and saddle-with-debt that is Capitalism’s modern “Creative Destruction” mode. Maybe there’s something to that L’Engle/Engels connection I noted at the beginning? BIG RED ONE? Cuba’s Castro, Engels, Maybe not… file for future thought. There was a fatal plane crash which spurred investigations of old travel procedures found wanting.
Themes of the First Decan of Aries in 2018: White House vs. FBI, an affair between a president and a woman of … challenging… character? World trade in the news, not so much a center as tariffs. Gerrymandering an issue in Pennsylvania. talk of a constitutional convention, action on repealing the 2nd amendment proposed by a retired Supreme Court judge. Military action in Syria…. Will Cuba make the news this week? What about Communist Parties elsewhere? China’s new President and his growing cult of personality? Fatal crash of an Uber and a Tesla vehicle prompt investigations into autonomous vehicles.
Red eyes. Double-bladed axes. Red eyes reminds me, of course, of the way people look when they’re high on cannabis/pot/weed/marijuana. Double-bladed axes (as the plural of axis) is kind of the way router-plotter-CNC-machines-3D-printers work. Warfare, children, warfare against children, warfare for hearts and minds… red-eye flights usually from west to east (late evening to early morning, or v. early morning departures). Trying to do too much by force alone. A warrior with red eyes, high on hash… hash reminds me of some of the spam on my website, often trying to lure me in with promises of hashcash and cryptocurrencies. Isn’t a “hash function” used to obscure passwords, hide data, maintain secrecy? Secrets coming out in the open as Facebook is in the news… convenient, isn’t it, that the social media platform is under attack at the same time that unpopular measures are considered around cloud-computing?
2018-1962 = 56 years. Not 52 or 54, which are genuine astronomical things, but a quick Google shows a 9/56 business cycle-panic cycle model. Hmm. (EDIT: Found it. The 56 “Aubrey Holes” at Stonehenge were probably used to track the movements of Saturn? Maybe? Saturn in Capricorn. Where was Saturn in March 1962? In Aquarius, sharing a sign with Jupiter (but not a degree). Was there a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in Aquarius in 1961-62? Nope. Both were retrograde, missed one another by a few degrees… but in Capricorn, not Aquarius.
1962 resolves to 9 = 1 + 9 + 6 + 2 = 1 8 which resolves to 8 + 1 = 9. So 9/56 is the right cycle to look at here. What do (some) astrologers claim the 9/56 interval is about? Business cycles, and particularly market confidence/panic cycles.
Anyway. I hope you get the idea. There are many purposes behind doing a Decan Walk — learning something of the language and symbolism of these 36 Faces as the Sun passes through each of them over the course of a year, and then looking for symbols in your present-day, waking life, that somehow match or reference that set of symbolism.
One of those purposes, though, is a deliberate reach outside of your ordinary thinking. Mostly humans think in straight lines, or in well-traveled ruts. A Decan throws up a set of symbols — for example, as here, a warrior in red with red eyes and a white belt, sometimes standing with a child, — and this led me on a merry chase through a cluster of complex cultural symbolism spread over 56 years, and reaching back into Greek mythology, children’s literature, Communist Cuba, presidential affairs, transportation accidents (a plane crash that eventually helped rethink flight in 1962, and separate Uber and Tesla vehicle accidents that may force us to rethink autonomous and electric vehicles just last week), George Patton, how Kmart lived and died as a company, the Supreme Court’s interest in gerrymandering then and now, and the Red Book of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
There’s a lot of swirl here, a lot of divisions worth considering in the context of the First Decan of Aries. I don’t know that it all means something, but there’s a remarkable range of synchronicities, as though to suggest that a spirit or a mechanism is putting some of this stuff in motion because it’s the right point in the cycle. Some things to look into further:
- Presidential extramarital affairs
- Communism resurgent (Big Red)
- Upcoming US Military Action (First Division)
- Hash functions, changes in cannabis laws, cryptocurrency
- Transportation crises
- Military action in Syria
- Bird observations
And that’s sort of the basis of learning to think with the Decans, at least from my point of view. I don’t know that it’s all correct, but it gives me insight into things to look at that I wouldn’t think to look at otherwise.