When I was a young student of astrology, the sign I had the most difficulty describing by far was the sign of Pisces. Many years later, as I teach students, the same difficulty often occurs, even when the student has the Sun, Moon or Ascendant in Pisces. In fact, some of them have an even greater problem than the other students. So, the first thing I say is that Pisces is often hard to describe in words. No one seems to argue with that, but it does remain frustrating and even a bit of a copout. Kimberly Maxwell and I have had many discussions about the nature of the sign of Pisces and you can read some of what we have come up with in her most recent AstroCast. And yet, it is fair to ask why this sign is so hard to describe, even by those who have a first-hand experience of it?
I received my degree in Social Work many years ago and spent several years working in a community mental health center that did have an in-patient department. I was studying astrology at that time and found that many of the workers in the in-patient department had their Sun or Moon in Pisces. This fit what I was reading in the books in terms of how Pisces often shows compassion for others and is frequently found in such settings. I took it upon myself to engage with them in order to get an idea of how they viewed themselves or even the sign of Pisces. The first thing I noticed was that they didn’t seem too concerned about astrology or any of the depictions that I mentioned to them. When asked if the terms of compassion seemed true to them, they would admit they were compassionate. But their answers felt empty as if they were just trying to satisfy my curiosity and interest. So I chose to try to get to know them better.
As I was doing so, I noticed that many were hedonistic and highly sexual. At the same time I noticed that others were unconcerned about it and even bored by the notion of pleasure. They simply went about their business taking care of patients and did so without any drama. It was about at this time that I read that the symbol of Pisces represented two fishes looking at each other and tied together. The interpretation I read was that Pisces was the ‘saint or sinner’ of the zodiac, capable of great sacrifice and love in one moment and of being lost, materialistic and even narcissistic in another. They were very sensitive in one moment and utterly insensitive in the next. They would adapt to the people around them as a chameleon does not knowing who they were. This meant that while people often loved them, rarely could they trust them. After all, how can one trust someone who doesn’t know themselves and who changes many times a day? The most frequent descriptions were of someone who tended toward escapism from the harshness of life, which often led to depression and moroseness.
This is how I began to get a sense of the nature of Pisces, but I still felt that something important was missing. What was the fundamental dilemma that all Pisces needed to face? And why was it so difficult for them? These questions were heightened for me when I found a few Pisceans who often frequented 12-step programs but who were not addicts. Why would they do this? What needs were such encounters fulfilling?
In the past several years when the transit of Neptune (the ruler of Pisces) has been opposing my Sun that these questions have become more poignant than ever. I have been seeking to understand the inner drive that rules this sign whether or not the individual person is aware of it or not. Then I began to see that the answer was staring me right in the face. I saw that there must be a special drive that Pisces has to deal with that others might not even be aware of. Dane Rudhyar called this special drive as the need to confront and deal with the “ghosts swarming from the unconscious.” The more I inquired into these questions the more I saw that Pisces was faced with a battle within them that does exist for all of us, but which is highlighted for this sign more than the others. And, by the way, it turns out that people with planets in the 12th house also must face these same ‘demons.’
The definitions of Pisces include such terms as redemption, sacrifice, confronting deep guilt that often did not seem to come from events in their own life. Perhaps we can now better understand what is meant by these terms. When a person is forced to face things that are not of their making, but which feel totally personal, it is likely that they are going to feel a bit crazy and confused. How are they to become aware that their destiny is to face issues most of us do not have to pay special attention to?
What I have come to see is that Pisces is set up to seek liberation. This seems appropriate as it is the last archetypal sign of the zodiac. By ‘liberation’ I mean a state of complete letting go of obsolete, useless attachments or identifications that are now falling away and must come to an end. These are the things that ought to no longer define us at all. The key for Pisces is that it must transform its relationship with the past by assimilating all that has been digested on one hand while not retaining the weight or inertia of that past by identifying with it. Further, one must begin to see the so-called personal issues are, in fact, universal in nature and that by liberating ourselves from them, we are simultaneously showing the way for others to do the same. We see that we must prepare for a total renewal of Life and begin to connect with what some have called the “Self” or with universal ‘Being.’
All of this requires great courage, which explains why Rudhyar calls it the ‘gift’ of Pisces. Our ‘liberation’ requires conscious effort and intention to ‘create one’s own freedom.’ Others may show us the way but it is each of us that must work with our past and find a way to go beyond it until we are able to feel the pull of Transcendence.