The sign of Capricorn is possibly one of the most mysterious of the entire zodiac. Capricorn is associated with business, finance, ambition, the political sphere, accounting and resource management, yet on a spiritual level Capricorn is also the sign of the initiate and the disciple. It seems that this enigmatic sign is the most earthy and the most spiritual at the same time!
Understandably for such a mysterious sign, there are various symbols used to depict the zodiac sign of Capricorn: the goat, the sea-goat, the crocodile and the unicorn. Capricorn is associated in a material sense with ambition, and in a spiritual sense with ascension. Whether we are talking about the material world or the spiritual plane it seems that Capricorn’s job is to ascend the heights!
This is why we have so much symbolism for Capricorn. The goat is one of the earthiest animals imaginable and is perfect to symbolize the material earth-bound aspect of Capricorn. In nature goats live in the most rugged, inhospitable terrain on earth. They are masters of survival. They can climb some of the sheerest inclinations and rocky landscapes with sure-footed certainty, and have the most hardy digestive systems which means they can eat (and get nourishment from) practically anything they find on the way.
This conjures up images of a yogi in a loincloth living in a mountain cave for years, surviving only on light, fresh air and a couple of grains of rice once a week! It speaks to Capricorn’s ability to master physical resources while keeping their attention on the higher (spiritual) purpose. The Goat symbolizes Capricorn as a survivor.
In nature crocodiles are masters of conserving energy. They are often mistaken for logs, which is part of their success as predators. Unlike most predators Crocodiles do not chase their prey. They are more inclined to lie in wait until some unsuspecting zebra comes too close then they will suddenly spring into action, clutching their target in their jaws, and dragging them under the water. Here we see more Capricornian qualities in action: patience, timing, the ability to remain focused, and precision. Rarely do Capricorns waste anything, especially time, energy and/or money. The symbolism of the Crocodile reflects Capricorn’s mastery of physical resources.
In addition to the goat and the crocodile, Capricorn is also associated with two mythological creatures: the Unicorn and the Sea-Goat. In some spiritual traditions the Unicorn is seen as a symbol of spiritual realization. In the myth of the Lion and the Unicorn the Lion represents the Ego, while the Unicorn represents our spiritual nature. The Lion (ego) is defeated when it it pierced through the heart by the horn of the Unicorn (spiritual awareness). So the Unicorn represents the higher more spiritually aware aspect of Capricorn.
At the foot of the mountain the goat, the materialist, seeks for nourishment in arid places. The scapegoat on the way up finds the flowers of attained desire, each with its own thorn of satiety and disillusionment. At the top of the mountain the sacred goat sees the vision and the initiate appears. In other writings the symbols are the goat, the crocodile and the unicorn.
– The Tibetan, “The Labors of Hercules: An Astrological Interpretation“ by Alice Bailey
The Latin name for the constellation of Capricorn is capricornus which means horned goat. It’s symbol is that of a mythological sea-goat. The origins of the sea-goat myth have been somewhat obscured by the mists of time. (Ironically, since Capricorn’s ruling planet Saturn also rules time) but seem to be associated with ancient Greece.
In Greek mythology the sea goat Pricus was associated with Chronos (Lord of time). In the myth Pricus’ children were able to pull themselves onto the land with their two front hooves. However the more time they spent on land the more they became like physical goats. As they lost their connection to the ocean, they lost their ability to think and speak and became like the animal goat. (read the full story in Capricorn Mythology: The Story Behind The Capricorn Constellation by Mike Belmont)
There are two signs that have this ability to live both on land and in the ocean: Cancer (symbolized by the crab) and Capricorn (our sea-goat). There is something deeply symbolic about this, which could be about our ability to incarnate from spirit into matter and then return to spirit. In many spiritual traditions the ocean is used as a metaphor to represent the Great Spirit or void from which all matter and life forms arise. This indicates the deep connection that Capricorn has to both the physical realm and our deeper spiritual nature.
In Esoteric Astrology it is said that the astrological glyph for Capricorn has never been correctly drawn, because it is the “signature of God“. Certainly the glyph for Capricorn is drawn in a variety of different ways. Many astrologers think it is a symbolic representation of the horned goat with the fishes tail and I’m sure there is something in that. However when glyphs are hand-drawn, particularly when they are used as shorthand to save time, there is also the possibility that it becomes a matter of what is convenient, rather than precision. For example the style that I find easiest to draw quickly, while I am studying, looks like a number 7 with a curly tail (see the example in gold at the top of this post). However there is also another interesting similarity to the Capricorn glyph that intrigues me.
In Tibetan Buddhist traditions the Tibetan syllable ‘ah’1 is said to represent the highest spiritual attainment – the ‘top’ of the spiritual mountain.
“All the teachings of Buddha come down to Ah”
– Lama Zopa Rinpoche in the documentary “Mystic Tibet“.
The Tibetan syllable ‘ah’ looks remarkably like the astrological glyph for Capricorn. Especially when rotated by 90º. Since the Tibetan syllable is possibly older2 it may be more accurate to say that the glyph for Capricorn is like the Tibetan syllable ‘ah’ rotated by 90º!
Maybe the original glyph for Capricorn was something more akin to the Tibetan syllable ah, in that it was something which represented the essence of our highest spiritual attainment that subsequently became distorted over time as we fell into ignorance and lost sight of our own spiritual nature. A glyph that was symbolic of our spiritual essence would certainly be more in accord with the highest spiritual purpose of Capricorn!
1.The syllable would be equivalent to the letter A, while the sound would be ‘ah’.
2. The Tibetan Bon tradition is said to be 17,000 years old.