In an astrological chart, the Sun reveals our main life purpose, the core reasons behind why we’ve been born and what we’re in the process of becoming. When we express our Sun (birth) sign, we are acknowledging our birthright: the opportunity to manifest our individual life path and potential. In the horoscope, the Sun is linked to the concept of vocation – a true and personal calling – rather than a job or career.
The Sun shows how we picture (and pursue) our individual role in life’s drama, and the ways in which we ascribe meaning to life. When we live out and personify the message of our Sun sign, we shine and feel alive. To experience our Sun sign is to engage in activities that allow our heart to sing. But unlike our Moon position, which reveals our instinctive reactions and our emotional temperament, we must strive to become our Sun sign – it can be a lifelong process.
I link the Sun to the development of character process. Character is an accumulation of traits, responses and behavioural patterns (underscored or challenged by other parts of the horoscope) that becomes the central direction, focus and set of beliefs in a person’s life. The embracing of character (the Sun) leads to healthy self-esteem and a path of integrity and wholeness (again, concepts linked to the Sun’s placement, through which we are encouraged to follow our bliss).
Another point to consider is that we spend much time cautioning Aries to slow down or pushing Taurus to get moving, without recognising that we get the very best out of the signs when we play to their strengths and allow them to work in accordance with their own natures. There is also much wisdom in the theory that we attract the people and situations that enable us to become more of who we were born to be. Gemini encounters misunderstandings and people it cannot relate to in order for it to become the communicator and interpreter it is destined to be. Taurus gets pushed around early on (or has to fight to keep hold of what belongs to it) in order to help it develop a stubborn resistance to others’ influence and to form strong principles it can attach itself to. Libra finds itself surrounded by conflict in order to sharpen its skills in diplomacy, and from an early age Libra is often forced to make agonizing decisions, so the process of making the right choice becomes all the more important.
If we don’t attempt to actively live out the meaning of our Sun sign, we risk languishing in the negative traits of its opposite sign. I tell my students: “Follow your Sun – or wallow in the worst of its polar opposite.”
Here is a quick guide to some of the purposes of each Sun sign and what lies beneath when we fail to express the sign’s true message.
Aries is born to develop a self-determining individuality and sprint ahead of the pack. Aries must learn courage, dare to break new ground, fight for a cause or for the underdog, and put herself first without apology. But when she disengages from her birthright, Aries settles into a place of laziness where she expects others to provide maintenance. Staying in someone else’s shadow or acting as a perpetual supporting player, she refuses to blaze her own trail. When she is afraid of going it alone and engaging in healthy conflict, she turns into an apologetic sheep desperate to please and appease.
Libra (the polite Aries) is born to be the strategist, the mediator, the peacemaker. He learns to bring a balanced objectivity to situations. Forever the bridge-builder, Libra irons out disputes in a diplomatic, fair, and civilized way: Decisions are based on reason, unhampered by emotion. At his worst, Libra loses his cool and creates conflict – often in order to resolve it. When anxious and insecure, Libra separates people, keeping them to himself to maintain his position as top dog. Thus Libra turns into a biased, intolerant, disruptive, or divisive troublemaker who relishes rudeness and lives to provoke.
Taurus is born to be the “rock,” the stalwart and constant upon which others can rely. Her job is to preserve and sustain, demonstrate faithfulness, and stay for the long haul. A sensualist, she enjoys and revels in the pleasures of life. Taurus builds foundations to last and amasses something of material value that will weather the storm. At worst, there’s a covetous attachment to what’s not hers and a fanatical obsession with sexual or emotional situations, particularly with people she can’t control. Recognizing her innate power and the dependency of others on her, she holds loved ones for ransom to get what she wants.
Scorpio is born to become the alchemist, the potent healer, and the unflinching investigator of life’s mysteries. He lives to explore the deeper meaning of existence, the dialectics of nature, the taboo and forbidden. But the shadow side of Scorpio cannot see that the biggest mystery of his life is, in fact, himself. He refuses to shed light on his hidden realms or soar to a higher level of consciousness. Instead, he stays in a comfort zone – free of risk and imagination – focusing on the physical, acquiring possessions, and accumulating wealth. Afraid of his own co-dependency, Scorpio becomes intolerant and scornful of others’ weaknesses.
Gemini is born to spot patterns, to connect people and ideas. Gemini seeks to communicate, understand, and articulate – and to offer options and other viewpoints for consideration. She melds aspects of numerous philosophies to create her own eclectic system of thought. At worst, Gemini becomes a fundamentalist who has discovered The Truth. Moving from an objective information gatherer, she revels in superstition rather than facts, or becomes a know-it-all with a condescending attitude or moral arrogance – claiming God, education, or the righteous path for her own.
Sagittarius is here to aim high, ask the big questions, and explore the possibilities beyond the facts. A natural evangelist, he ignites other people’s interest with great enthusiasm. Born with a voracious appetite for knowledge and living, he welcomes all philosophies and never stops learning. At worst, Sagittarius focuses instead on gossip and superficial information or becomes overly logical, reporting the evidence but missing the significance within. He loses any hard-won integrity by becoming the hypocrite, the name-dropper, or the silver-tongued confidence trickster, living on his wits and taking any advantage he can.
Cancer is a romantic, wistful, and poetic sign born to help others connect to their heritage and treasure their past – without becoming a slave to it. She is the midwife, guiding people through life’s emotional conflicts and rites of passage. At worst, Cancer uses emotional manipulation to advance causes close to her heart, which soon hardens with ruthless ambition. Believing that blood is not thicker than water, she reinvents her past, or disconnects from it, and strives to attain rank and position. She can get toxic: seething in resentment over others’ achievements, bitter at her early struggles or exclusion from the system.
Capricorn is born to rise above initial hardship, endure a long apprenticeship, and attain a position of respect and authority – a monument to individual achievement. On this path towards mastery over his environment, he is challenged to work within a rigid hierarchy, guard his principles, and retain a moral code that is beyond reproach. He loses the grip on all he has worked for when he is driven by an underlying, repressed emotional fanaticism where the end justifies the means. He fails when he loses track of goals, fears success, or retreats to wallow in self-pity.
Leo is born to recognize the power of her individuality, one that stands apart from family and overbearing patriarchal influences. Her personal journey is to discover her creative potency and to explore the divine child within – ideally before she becomes a parent and encourages her child to act this out for her. Wallowing in her opposite sign, she turns to an audience to provide the approbation she craves. In the spirit of narcissistic entitlement, she uses others without giving due credit, and she begrudges them their time in the sun. She slavishly follows science, theory, and ideology rather than art, heart, or passion.
Aquarius is born to provide a clear, original perspective on social issues of justice and responsibility (the spirit of liberté, égalité, fraternité). Initially a people-pleaser, he must eventually assume his own authority and see his separateness as a strength. But when he’s unable to see that everyone is special yet also equal, he operates from an egocentric, autocratic standpoint where some are more equal than others. At worst, Aquarius fights for the group but secretly feels superior and despises commonness. Desperate to be adored and singled out as special, he employs prejudice, favouritism, and preferential treatment.
Virgo is born to be the craftsman and the specialist. A natural harvester, she separates the wheat from the chaff, and her interest lies in getting to the heart of the matter. Her challenge is to balance mind, body, and spirit. Focusing on details that are useful and essential, Virgo aims to create systematic order and make the world a better place. When she is unproductive, Virgo wallows in confusion, wastefulness, and chaos. Running from her mundane commitments, Virgo acts indiscriminately and wanders aimlessly, becoming a martyr and blaming others for her fatalistic worldview, or feeling victimised and abused.
Pisces is the Good Samaritan, born to offer service, empathy, altruism, and compassion. Aware of the interconnectedness of all life, he teaches others about the universal joys and sufferings of the human condition. He is the choreographer of humanity’s dance with its higher self. When not following this spiritual journey, he becomes critically destructive, attacking others’ faith and pouring scorn on attempts to understand life’s mysteries. When he feels undervalued, he becomes obsessed with controlling the inconsequential, fussing over hygiene, becoming addicted to rituals, or simply “sweating the small stuff.”
My advice to all the zodiac signs? We should all take our lead from lyricist Johnny Mercer, who urged us to: Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and …don’t mess with Mister In-Between.
(Editor’s note: A version of this article was first published in The Mountain Astrologer, December 2011/January 2012 issue).