I’ll try to be brief so that you aren’t overwhelmed with the details, because to do this topic justice, you need a stand-alone book, and several are available on the market. I’ll also include additional comments within each month.
We begin in Virgo. Many scholars think the Sphinx is a mnemonic device, which reminds us to start with the woman and end with the lion. Virgo is the virgin, holding a branch with four sections. In the Old Testament, Jesus is named the Branch of David (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15), the Branch of My Servant (Zechariah 3:8), the Branch of Man (Zechariah 6:12), and the Branch of Jehovah (Isaiah 4:2).
In Libra, we have the scales. Two stars on each balance are opposite each other. This represents our inability to pay for our own damages and Christ’s ability to cover for us. Decans of Libra are the Crux or cross; Lupus, the victim slain; and the Corona or crown.
Scorpio or the scorpion is being crushed by Ophiuchus, a decan of Scorpio, but Scorpio is also attacking Ophiuchus on the other heel. Ancient Egypt uses a snake rather than a scorpion, but we’re to tread on both of those (Luke 10:19). This sign is reminiscent of the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that God gave to Satan. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Meanwhile, in a nearby decan, Serpens is going after the Crown, and Ophiuchus is holding him down.
Sagittarius the archer is aiming directly at the heart of Scorpio and lifting his forefoot in a limp. (The head smashing and injured heel seem to be themes throughout this star story.) Lyra the harp represents the rejoicing in heaven. Ara the fiery altar is tipped over and heading downward as God’s wrath is being poured out on Satan. The last decan is Draco the dragon, whose head is being stomped on by Hercules, who again, has a hurt foot.
Then we have Capricorn, the goat with a fishy tail. He is down and dying. The goat represents Christ’s sacrifice. (Goats and lambs were sacrificial animals, which is where we got the term “scapegoat.”) The fish represents his nature as a man. (Fish have typically been the sign of God’s people.)
In Aquarius, we have a man pouring out water from a large urn into the mouth of a fish. Water often represents the Holy Spirit and baptism.
Pisces has two fishes tied together with a band, and they are swimming in different directions. People interpret this differently, but all agree that the fish represent people going in two different directions, typically, before and after Christ. It could also represent two different streams of believers within the church, or a believer’s relationship with God and moving out into the world as evangelism. They are bound to Cetus the sea monster, but Aries is intervening.
Aries the ram falls in line with Passover but in our overall gospel story, this is not the dying lamb. This is the one who was slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) and who is worthy to open the seals (Revelation 5). This is an overcomer, crushing the head of the sea monster and claiming the fish as his own.
Taurus the bull is coming out of Aries and raging toward his enemy. He has to step on Cetus the sea monster too.
Gemini the twins are less obvious; they are sitting peacefully unified, their weapons at the ready but not actively positioned. This is likely after their hard won battle. The harp in the hand of one might represent worship and rejoicing. This could represent Christ and the church as Scripture does tell us that when we see him, we’ll be like him (1 John 3:2).
Cancer the crab is said to be the most changed from its original meaning. We don’t have a Hebrew word for this constellation. When we consider star meanings, we can possibly deduce that it has something to do with a pastoral setting with cattle-folds, sheepfolds, and two donkeys. The main consensus is that it’s a final resting place for the church. Because so many different cultures have this constellation as a crab, I prefer not to brush it aside and change it from an unclean creature into something we think fits more easily with our understanding. Peter had a vision of the unclean animals and recognized this meant the salvation of Gentiles too. The crab is a creature born of water as is the church with many legs. The translation of sheepfolds might apply as Jesus did say that he had other sheep not of this fold (John 10:16).
Last but certainly not least, we have Leo. Leo is obvious—the Lion of the tribe of Judah, ruling and reigning.
So where did our understanding of the constellations go wrong? I considered the watchers (fallen angels) when they came down, because they taught many things we weren’t supposed to be getting into, including astrology. I thought of Daniel and the collision of his culture with an occultic system. Nimrod and the Tower of Babel have implications for the constellations too. Astrology has been corrupt for a very long time. Of course, the enemy couldn’t let something as huge as a prophecy in the stars of his demise and our redemption that supersedes all cultural and language barriers get out.
If you dig into further study of the constellations on your own, I would advise you to keep your skeptic’s hat on, even when it comes to Christian books on the mazzaroth. As I said earlier, most of these borrow heavily from Frances Rolleston. Her research is mostly excellent and tries for impartiality, but I’m not entirely sold on her translations of star names. Here is her explanation.
The names are here explained on the supposition that the first language was given by the Creator to the first man, conveying ideas to the mind by sounds, as impressions of form and colour are conveyed by sight. In all languages these sounds are traceable, conveying the same idea. In the dialects of the most ancient and earliest civilized nations, they are the most recognizable; in those of the most barbarous, the most obscured. This primitive language appears to have been spoken by Noah from the names given by him to his sons. In the confusion of the lip at Babel, pronunciation, not words or roots, were altered. This may be inferred from the presence of Hebrew roots in the dialects of all nations.
What this means is that in the case of a foreign word that sounds like a Hebrew word, she used the Hebrew meaning. As an example, the Arabic word deneb means “tail” in Arabic and is often a star in the actual tail of an animal in the constellation, but according to her system, it sounds like diyn which means “judge.” I don’t agree with overlooking the obvious to make a teaching fit my agenda.
I think we can sometimes use words that sound the same but not always. (If you think about it, you can see how confusing this is in English as well.) I don’t think we can hang a revelation here, which is what I see people trying to do with Cancer. They are trying to untwist something they believe has been twisted, and in the process, they might be twisting it even further. Now Frances documents everything, so you can look at the name sources and make up your own mind. However, that is not what I see in other writings who parrot her without explaining that they derived that meaning from an Arabic word that sounds like a Hebrew word. They assume the same meaning that Frances used, and that is the case for all the topics mentioned in this book. These subjects are messy, and you’re encouraged to exercise skepticism and use your noggin. Christians have to believe a lot of weird stuff in order to be Christians, and we operate heavily on confirmation bias. This is our undoing at times and why we can be sold on the word meaning “judge” because it conveniently fits the storyline and ignores that the literal translation is “tail.” Most of our star names are Arabic, so either we do the tough research ourselves, or we do not hang any hats on star names. When I mention them in this book, I’ve found their meanings from a secular source without a Christian agenda.
I don’t mind looking into the Greek mythology surrounding the constellations. Plato said that the Greeks adopted or translated the “barbarian names” and founded stories on the meaning in their own language. In some cases, I reverse engineer some of the Greek myths that actually sound like Bible stories.
Otherwise, I have nothing but mad respect for Frances, who took on a taboo subject during a time when women were only allowed to teach children. She spent fifty years of her life plumbing the depths of the teaching…
If you’ve enjoyed this post from Seneca, check out her book in the Healing in the Hebrew Months series: Prophetic Strategies Hidden in the Tribes, Constellations, Gates, and Gems.