New names for Triplicities

Q&A and discussion on the meanings of the Zodiacal Constellations, Sun and Moon sign-meanings, etc.
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Jim Eshelman
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New names for Triplicities

Post by Jim Eshelman » Fri Jul 09, 2021 4:46 pm

I've been experimenting with new names for the Triplicities.

Some considerations:

Though the triplicities appear in very early astrological writings, especially of Greek and Greco-Roman derivation - for example, both Manilius and Ptolemy - they had no names. (Ptolemy did give them planetary rulers.)

The assignment of the four elements to the triplicities came much later - I think Medieval. They were crafted entirely for the Tropical zodiac as far as i can tell and never had root or meaning for the Sidereal zodiac. In fact, elemental assignments of the signs was quite different in earlier times - look at Manilius, look at the ancient Egyptians. These elemental assignments are really quite popular among Tropicalists, both professional astrologers and especially the general public who so easily identify with being a Fire Sign, a Water Sign, or whatever. They're flexible and grab the imagination. Hard to compete with that.

There are no sets of four things descending from antiquity that fit them. The closest fit I've found to an existing model to describe them is in Jung's four typologies, especially as early Myers-Briggs research mapped them to different relationships to the perception of time. These aren't perfect, and people get emotional about the Jung typologies, but they've been the best so far.

One of the things that makes it difficult to talk about them is that - despite the popularity of "the Elements" in Tropical astrology - the triplicities are a relatively weak descriptor of the signs. The quadruplicities are far more important, even fundamental to the natures of the signs - you can grab everything you want, I think, from the planetary dignities and the quadruplicity. It seems that sign commonalities follow the same rules as aspects: Squares are significantly stronger and more vivid than trines; and square signs have significantly stronger and more vivid commonalities than trine signs. Nonetheless, there has always seemed to be something going on.

One of the complicating factors (or is it simplifying?) is that the commonalities of signs of the same triplicity are not vast. It's very easy to find traits that two of the three signs have in common that are at odds with the third sign. Ultimately, this might be simplifying in the sense that it let me narrow my focus to picking the sign least like the other two, then reading through its traits and reflecting on what of its salient traits are evident in the two that already resemble each other (e.g., what Scorpio really has in common with the obviously similar Pisces and Cancer).

I wanted labels that were meaningful; that were accurate; that might possibly capture people's imaginations; and that took all of the above into consideration. I was willing to be led in directions I hadn't previously considered.
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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jim Eshelman » Fri Jul 09, 2021 4:49 pm

I settled on a single descriptive word for each triplicity or, rather, for themes that all three signs in a triplicity have in common. Understand, please, that they don't all express it in the same way - sometimes almost a different-seeming meaning. But I think they all express it. I wish a couple of the words were simpler, but there are limits to language. Here is my current list:

Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn - Fertile signs
Gemini, Libra, Aquarius - Egalitarian signs
Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces - Enigma signs
Leo, Sagittarius, Aries - Imperial signs


The Imperial signs were the easiest. I probably don't need to explain it at all. I do think that these have the highest level of Jung's sensation function operating, and are most oriented to here-and-now, the present. When their normal resources fail, they slingshot into primitive intuition, but normally they are sensation types. Most basically, though, these signs of the king, the nobleman, and the emperor are imperial (which also fits Ptolemy's Sun-Jupiter attribution).

Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn are all Fertile signs. I was surprised when so earthy, sensual a word emerged (consistent with Ptolemy's Moon-Venus rulership) for this group. They aren't fertile in the same way, but they all creatively stream into their worlds. - I do think that they have the highest level of Jung's thinking function (reverting to reactive feeling when their best resources fail them), relate to time in continuity from past through present to a projected future, have a deep interest in origins, etc. But the one thing that the constellations of the spewing phallus, the receptive furrow, and the horn of the goat have in common is their high level of fertility, especially of ideas.

All of these titles are adjectives except for the Enigma signs, for which I accept the noun. I do this because the adjective doesn't work: They aren't enigmatic. Cancer and Pisces can be enigmatic but, more widely dance in and out of shadow and veil. Scorpio Moons can seem enigmatic, but Scorpio Suns especially pierce through enigma, cut through obscurity. All of them, though, are closely defined by their relationship to enigma. - They are also all marked by enjoying life. I think Jung's feeling function is most pronounced in them (sling-shotting to infantile thinking when their normal resources fail) and, especially as they age, their primary relationship is to the past. I think there is little difficulty associating the constellations of the scarab, the serpent, and the twin fishes to the realm of enigma.

Finally, the label that was hardest to discern (but, in hindsight seems should have been much easier): The Gemini, Libra, Aquarius triad has many paradoxes in it. For example, they all have symbols of relationship and connection, and yet, as a group, no sign group can more easily feel alienated or solitary (matching Ptolemy's Saturn-Mercury rulership). Two of the signs are distinctly scientific, yet I'm sure this group has the strongest expression of Jung's intuition function with its primary relationship to the future. It has been observed that this is the only timeframe that people have not currently lived, which brings distinctive problems of relating to normal frameworks of life sometimes (back to the alienation). Therefore, they commonly rebound into their secondary function, which is sensation, dealing with what's in front of them and available to the senses. - In any case, egality is one of my three Gemini keywords, showing a distinctive flavor of democracy in its philosophy. (They're all anti-imperial, un-solar or un-jovial.) This is also obviously an Aquarius theme, and it's practically the name of Libra. There is a social awareness about a majority of natives of these signs (but not all of them). I think, though cumbersome, the most suitable name for these constellations is the Egalitarian signs as an expression of what the twin stars, the new dawn, and the enriching floods of the water-bringer most share.
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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Parto » Sat Jul 10, 2021 6:42 pm

That's probably pretty close to the best attempt at this that can be. The Egalitarian-Imperial axis is the best part, being symmetric, descriptive, and symbolically satisfying. I'd prefer an established or symmetric set of four things (like the elements) if I were to try and come up with something. (I thought about the four seasons, but it's a lousy fit, mostly meaningless and kinda random.)

I'm comfortable with the triplicities lacking names, as if indicating their relative unimportance. Nowadays, I almost never think about them despite their prominence in things like popular astrology and Qabalah. I take it as a sign (heh) that I've learned well.

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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jim Eshelman » Sat Jul 10, 2021 6:50 pm

Parto wrote:
Sat Jul 10, 2021 6:42 pm
I'd prefer an established or symmetric set of four things (like the elements) if I were to try and come up with something.
Me, too. However, over 40 years of looking hasn't turned up any. *(The classic Humors don't fit at all!)
(I thought about the four seasons, but it's a lousy fit, mostly meaningless and kinda random.)
Plus, it's intrinsically Tropical.
I'm comfortable with the triplicities lacking names, as if indicating their relative unimportance.
I'd like to be able to easily reference them in the fewest words possible. While calling "Air" signs Geliaq was neutral and possibly even cute, I just never felt right calling my Libra-Gemini friend a "double Geliaq." Besides, it doesn't catch popular imagination. (Perhaps these won't either, but they'll have a much better chance than Geliaq.)

I'm trying to knock down all the barriers between Sidereal astrology and the mass of public consumers. The Tropical use of the elements is enormously popular and (as I was reminded recently), if it weren't hard enough to convince someone that their "Taurus" friend is really an Aries, it's downright impossible when they can legitimately and meaningfully counter with, "But they are such an Earth sign!" (Because Sidereal Arlesa signs do have a great deal in common the conventional understanding of "Earth," especially since the ability to deal with hands-on here-and-now practical reality is the foundation of actual rulership and dominion in the real world.)

They'll rarely relate that to Fire. Ah, but you can say they are Imperial, and people catch on at once! "Oh, yeah, she is kinda bossy."

I'd like all four to be that good.
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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Parto » Sat Jul 10, 2021 7:06 pm

Jim Eshelman wrote:
Sat Jul 10, 2021 6:50 pm
Plus, it's intrinsically Tropical.
Oh, not like that. (Though it'd surely remind people of that.) Imperial = Summer (hot!), Egalitarian = Winter (cold...), Fertile = Spring (!), Enigma = Autumn (some associations come to mind).
I'd like to be able to easily reference them in the fewest words possible.
Yeah, I can see that point.

I also thought about keeping the four elements and just switching the attributions around, but you've probably tried that and had just as much success as I. Not to mention, it would never catch on.

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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jupiter Sets at Dawn » Sat Jul 10, 2021 7:16 pm

I think you're both missing something here. One of the things people like about astrology is it's esoteric. I'm a fire sign is shorthand, and it's also mysterious to people who don't know what it means. If you learn the words you can be mysterious too. You have esoteric knowledge your friends don't. And people love that. Everybody wants to be on the inside.

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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jim Eshelman » Sat Jul 10, 2021 7:20 pm

Jupiter Sets at Dawn wrote:
Sat Jul 10, 2021 7:16 pm
I think you're both missing something here. One of the things people like about astrology is it's esoteric. I'm a fire sign is shorthand, and it's also mysterious to people who don't know what it means. If you learn the words you can be mysterious too. You have esoteric knowledge your friends don't. And people love that. Everybody wants to be on the inside.
Oh, I very much get that. It's just that the elements don't work. They give wrong impressions. You have to do great violence to the whole idea of the elements to make them fit the Sidereal framework.

I don't want us burdened with something crafted for Tropical astrology in the first place that doesn't fit (especially with esoteric folks who already have their own idea of what the elements mean).

We can, of course, restore the original elemental attributions (which have nothing to do with triplicities). Aries really is a classic Earth sign, as representing the first month the Nile started to recede. Pisces and Aquarius are both Water. Scorpio is Air. Capricorn is part Earth, part Water. Taurus and Virgo remain Earth (and hopefully not too "dry"). - But that, of course, isn't the point here (and they didn't all have elemental attributions).
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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jim Eshelman » Sat Jul 10, 2021 7:26 pm

Wouldn't Leos love to be called the Imperial Hub? <vbg>
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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jupiter Sets at Dawn » Sat Jul 10, 2021 7:33 pm

Some might. Most might find it a bit cartoonish.

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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by By Jove » Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:16 pm

Maybe name the triplicities after their planetary rulers?

"fire" signs = Solar signs
"earth" signs = Venus signs
"air" signs = Saturn signs
"water" signs = Mars signs

I notice how the "masculine" signs are named after social constructs in civilization (imperialism and egalitarianism). The "feminine" signs are decidedly named after attributes of nature (fertility and mystery).

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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jim Eshelman » Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:39 pm

By Jove wrote:
Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:16 pm
I notice how the "masculine" signs are named after social constructs in civilization (imperialism and egalitarianism). The "feminine" signs are decidedly named after attributes of nature (fertility and mystery).
Interesting, I hadn't noticed that - it wasn't intentional. I was just picking things that fit the character.
By Jove wrote:
Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:16 pm
Maybe name the triplicities after their planetary rulers?

"fire" signs = Solar signs
"earth" signs = Venus signs
"air" signs = Saturn signs
"water" signs = Mars signs
I think it would be confusing, and upset fundamental principles, to call Virgo a "Venus sign," Cancer a "Mars sign," or even, for that matter, Aquarius a "Saturn sign."
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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by By Jove » Tue Jul 20, 2021 7:53 am

Jim Eshelman wrote:
Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:39 pm
By Jove wrote:
Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:16 pm
Maybe name the triplicities after their planetary rulers?

"fire" signs = Solar signs
"earth" signs = Venus signs
"air" signs = Saturn signs
"water" signs = Mars signs
I think it would be confusing, and upset fundamental principles, to call Virgo a "Venus sign," Cancer a "Mars sign," or even, for that matter, Aquarius a "Saturn sign."
We could use some iconic symbol representing the concepts you describe.

Imperial signs = crown?
Egalitarian signs = ???
Fertile signs = ???
Enigma signs = ???

Besides, elements fit planets far better than signs. The Vedic system assigns the elements this way:

Fire = Sun, Mars
Water = Moon, Venus
Earth = Mercury
Air = Saturn
Æther = Jupiter

East Asian countries assign the elements this way:

Fire = Mars
Water = Mercury
Earth = Saturn
Metal = Venus
Wood = Jupiter
(Sun & Moon were not included.)

(Chinese astrology is a whole system in its own. It goes way further than just your birth year. Even the birth month and birth hour (if not more) have a zodiac sign, planet, element, etc.

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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jupiter Sets at Dawn » Tue Jul 20, 2021 8:27 am

I don't like this new schema any better than the old one and I don't see the point.

I like the analogy of a wheel - rim, spokes, hub. It makes sense and is coherent and most people in the world know what a wheel is and get the analogy with the parts.

I think it would be more useful to find an overall symbol (like the wheel) that can be broken down into parts to describe the various groups. It would need to be a symbol that is universal, and I think that can best be found by looking for a symbol that would have been comprehensible to an ancient Egyptian or Persian or Hindi.

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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jim Eshelman » Tue Jul 20, 2021 8:40 am

I'd love to do that. But in 40 years I haven't found anything usable.

I think the root of the problem is that - compared to other things like planetary dignities and quadruplicities - triplicities are relatively minor distinctions. But minor doesn't mean unimportant or non-existent. The distinction may not have been strong enough to show as a social or symbolic standard (or only emerged strong enough in character after the Tropical zodiac was the popular paradigm: Ptolemy's distinction were slight), so there isn't exactly a ready-made symbol set.

My recollection, for example, is that despite the importance of trine relationships of signs-houses in Hindu astrology, there are no trinal sign groupings. (I have to get a couple of book out of storage one of these days and double-check that.)
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Re: New names for Triplicities

Post by Jupiter Sets at Dawn » Tue Jul 20, 2021 9:00 am

Jim Eshelman wrote:
Tue Jul 20, 2021 8:40 am
I'd love to do that. But in 40 years I haven't found anything usable.
I was hoping for a blinding flash of insight, but it didn't come and I have to go play lumberjack before it gets too hot.

I'm moving the bundling branches over to Club Aldebaran.

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