Holy Water


February 18, 2019 at 3:03 pm PST / 11:03 pm UT

Mystical, ethereal Pisces is one of four mutable signs, along with Gemini, Virgo and Sagittarius. Characterized by a freeflowing, adaptable nature, mutable signs occur at the end of the seasons when life is in flux and instability and change are in the air. Unlike the other "mutables" however, Pisces is also a responsive, intuitive water sign. Mutability, combined with the sensitive, formless water element — it is no wonder Pisces individuals often feel surreal and insubstantial, as if they are made of nothing more than fairy dust. With one foot on earth, the other in the clouds, Pisces is drawn to the numinous realms, where the earthy illusion of separation recedes like some vague dream.

Ruled by both horizonless Jupiter and misty, otherworldly Neptune, Pisces is the 12th sign and culmination point of the zodiac wheel, the last astrological stop in the human journey towards higher consciousness. Pisces is where we learn to connect with the eternal.

Let Your Soul and Spirit Fly...

So you might notice over the next month it's a bit more difficult to focus on the details. Tasks such as balancing a checkbook, learning a technical skill, writing up a grant proposal, or even following directions — just about anything that requires some amount of sustained, conscious focus — might all become tricker than usual to pull off. This is our once-a-year opportunity to give our fevered brains a bit of a rest and learn how to more effectively "go with the flow," slip our moorings and drift out into that creative ocean of possibility and inspiration usually just outside our reach.We are, however, much more effective with those open-ended, "loosey-goosey," big-picture, right-brain creative pursuits for which Pisces was made in heaven.

And so, whenever you can swing it, try to put detail work on the backburner and allow yourself more creative, free rein — time to daydream even. Perhaps pull out that neglected novel that's been languishing in the file cabinet, or the set of watercolors collecting dust under the kitchen sink. This is our once-a-year opportunity to give our fevered brains a bit of a rest and learn how to more effectively "go with the flow," slip our moorings and drift out into that creative ocean of possibility and inspiration usually just outside our reach. This month we can more easily move beyond the veil and over the rainbow to the place where our muses live, a realm usually accessible only in our dreams.

Those born with the water element prominent in their charts — Pisces in particular — possess a private, shortcut path to fairyland, candlelit and flower-strewn and nearly always at their disposal. With such an easy escape route to bliss, it can be very hard to face life, especially when one has, say, a choice between dancing with the elves or cleaning the toilet. Life with its humdrum routines and boring chore lists can sometimes be hard to take. Water signs know exactly why that young laddie in the old tales, who stumbled upon a fairy mound was never seen again.

In his book, Astrology, Psychology and the Four Elements, Stephen Arroyo writes of water's vague, indeterminate nature, deep emotion, and need for some kind of containment:

The water signs, like the nature of water itself, have no solidity or shape of their own. They are therefore happiest when their fluidity is channeled and given form by someone else, particularly the earth signs [Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn] who have the solidity that water can trust and rely on. The water signs tend to dislike those who are boisterous or who have strong personalities, such as the fire signs. They feel most comfortable with others who are rather secretive and self-contained, which gives them a greater feeling of protection and security. This secretive quality of the water signs, by the way, is rather deceptive; for, although they may be calm on the outside, there are constantly brewing storms on the deeper levels and hidden undercurrents which can drag them down.

The symbol for Pisces illustrates the concept of functioning in both the material and spiritual realms: two fish tied together, one swimming downstream and representing the earthbound personality, the other heading upstream, representing spirit. Pisces' motto is "serve or suffer" and when Pisces serves the "ego" or the desire nature, while neglecting the soul, suffering can be the result. Their intense need to banish the experience of separateness can lead to a dangerous lack of discernment. A tender, compassionate nature can result in a poor selection of associates — Pisces can too easily be talked into situations that are not in their best interest. All of which can bring about profound sadness and disillusionment, as it is so hard to accept the dark side of humankind. This kind of despair can lead to escape into food, alcohol, or drug abuse. Isabel Hickey in her classic book, Astrology, a Cosmic Science, explains this Piscean dilemma:

"Complete resignation and submissiveness to whatever stream they are in — whether it be love or lust, work or pleasure — is indicative of the Piscean nature trying to lose the sense of separateness. The only true freedom comes through spiritual orientation. When they are true to their real nature Pisceans have a high and holy destiny and are the true saviours and servants of mankind."

When Pisces musters the necessary self-discipline and healthy discernment, takes command of the ship's wheel, and sets a course for some clear and worthy destination, they can reach the most sublime heights. For Pisces is the only sign that can take Neptunian fog and transmute it into holy water, blessing us with the most exquisite of artistic sensibilites, humanitarian dedication and spiritual devotion. When Pisces is inspired, we get a glimpse of heaven. It is no ordinary soul who can successfully harness the higher vibrations of Neptune.

Take American photographer Toni Frissell for example, a Pisces woman who revolutionized fashion photography by taking models out of the studio and depicting them as active women, rather than frozen, "Pygmalion-esque" statues. The photo at left was taken in Europe during her service in WWII and shows Frissell sharing her camera with a group of children. Her first job as a fashion photographer was for Vogue in 1931, and later she went on to work for Harper's Bazaar. In 1953, she became the first woman on the staff of the recently launched Sports Illustrated magazine.

Frissell was well known for her fashion photography, but also World War II photographs, portraits of famous Americans and Europeans, children, and women from all walks of life. She took the beautifully evocative photo featured at the beginning of this article in 1947 for Haper's at Weeki Wachee Springs, a roadside tourist attraction in Florida known for its underwater acrobatics performed by women dressed as mermaids. (It doesn't get any more Piscean than that!)

And in a funny synchronistic twist, just a couple of days after I first came across Frissel's photos, the movie Full Grown Men arrived in the mail in its bright red Netlix envelope. An Indie comedy about two childhood buddies who, in order to avoid adult responsibility a tad longer, take off on a pilgrimage of sorts to "Diggityland," the theme park they visited as kids. On the way, they encounter several characters who demonstrate the importance of growing up and moving on, including a sad, aging "mermaid" (played by Deborah Harry), who performs at Weeki Wachee Springs.

The sensitive, intuitive water element, often mistaken for weakness, is actually a powerful agent for change in surprising and paradoxical ways, as the Chinese sage Lao Tzu elucidates:

"Water is yielding, but all-conquering. Water extinguishes Fire, or finding itself likely to be defeated, escapes as steam and reforms. Water washes away soft Earth, or when confronted by rocks, seeks a way around. It saturates the atmosphere so that Wind dies. Water gives way to obstacles with deceptive humility, for no power can prevent it following its destined course to the sea. Water conquers by yielding; it never attacks but always wins the last battle."



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The photo at the beginning of this essay was taken by Toni Frisell in 1947 for Harper's Bazaar. The second photo was taken in Europe during WWII. During the war Frissell volunteered her photographic services to the American Red Cross, and later became the official photographer of the Women's Army Corps. The third image is a fashion photograph Frissell took in 1939 for Vogue. For more information, on Toni Frissell, here is an interesting Wikipedia bio.

The image above of Pisces was scanned from a 15th century book on astrology.