Bestial Signs

Bestial Signs

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The bestial signs are the signs of the zodiac represented by animals. Those classified as bestial vary, but always include Aries the Ram, Taurus the Bull, Leo the Lion, and Capricorn the Goat. The three water signs are also symbolized by animals, but water sign animals are not four-footed “beasts.” Hence, the water triplicity—Cancer the Crab, Scorpio the Scorpion (sometimes the Eagle), and Pisces the Fish—is sometimes included in the bestial list. Sagittarius the Archer is often represented as a centaur—half human and half horse. When represented as an archer, Sagittarius is classified as nonbestial; when represented as a centaur, bestial.

The signs that are not bestial are human signs. They are Gemini the Twins, Virgo the Virgin, Aquarius the Water Bearer, and, when considered as the Archer, Sagittarius. Only Libra is represented by a nonliving artifact, the Scales (although the old symbol for Libra was a woman holding a scale, which would make it a human sign). This grouping of signs into bestial and nonbestial contrasts with the signs found in East Asian astrological systems (e.g., Chinese astrology), all of which are bestial.

Unlike most other schemes of classification, such as the elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and the qualities (mutable, cardinal, and fixed), the bestial/nonbestial contrast does not carry practical consequences for interpretation (i.e., persons born under animal signs are not more “beastly” than others). For this reason, as well as because of the negative connotation of the term beast, the expression bestial sign has dropped out of general usage in modern astrology.

Sources:

Bach, Eleanor. Astrology from A to Z: An Illustrated Source Book. New York: Philosophical Library, 1990.
Lee, Dal. Dictionary of Astrology. New York: Paperback Library, 1969.
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