Journaling The Zodiac: Pisces
I journal through the Zodiac with the goal of presenting simple, down to earth explanations for the traits and themes attached to each sign. Here you will find some context and personal insight into the symbols of the sky.
Pisces (February 18th - March 20th)
What you already know:
- Pisces is traditionally associated with spirituality, compassion, solitude, benevolent institutions such as churches and hospitals, and parts of the past that come back to haunt.
- Traditional pisces traits are being caring and compassionate, intuitive, imaginative, optimistic, but also guarded, private and overly idealistic.
What you still need to know:
To understand this sign in more depth it's important to put it in context.
- Pisces is the very last sign of the zodiac, which aligns it symbolically with the end of the life-cycle.
- Pisces is the last of the three zodiac water signs.
What you need to know about water signs:
The 3 zodiac water signs, Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces represent an outline of maturing emotional experience.
Water sign themes run generally like this:
- Cancer is largely about being mothered.
- Scorpio is largely about becoming mother (aka being a lover).
- Pisces is largely about being mother.
The term “mother” above broadly refers to the role of “life-giver and protector”, so it is not necessarily the literal flesh-and-blood mother, but an emotional equivalent of this figure.
Here's the above in slightly more detail:
Cancer themes surround formative bonds and early emotional experiences that shape a person's future emotional reactions. They also predict how a person will approach relationships in adulthood. The mother figure is considered the gatekeeper in this area, as she is usually the one we spend the most time with after birth and in early years. To better understand Cancer simply read up on modern psychology's attachment theory.
Scorpio themes surround the preservation of our most intimate relationships- family members, close friends and lovers included. This sign particularly focuses on relationships that can produce and/or serve to protect one’s own children. It encompasses passionate positive and negative emotions surrounding both sexual intimacy and all personally meaningful bonds that are made and broken. To learn more about Scorpio check out psychology's theories about attachment types in relationship, and fear of loss.
Pisces themes capture our emotions at their most mature and selfless state, and are best characterized as maternal in nature. Pisces emotional experiences involve the greatest depth of feeling, an expanding circle of love, and feelings of affection that are unconditional, merciful and full of compassion. This type of feeling induces one to selflessly serve and sacrifice for the sake of another. To better understand Pisces look into modern psychology's theories on altruism and evolutionary altruism.
MOTHER & MARTYR
Pisces is traditionally associated with hospitals churches and other institutions where suffering individuals collect. Found here too are the people who dutifully serve them. It is often said that it takes a special person to surround him/herself with people in distress. It could also be said that it takes a Pisces spirit.
Symbolizing the inner mother, Pisces represents naturally arising feelings that call us into service of the weak and needy. The Pisces inner mother meets helplessness and suffering with a reflexive sense of compassion.
Pisces also represents the wellspring of human empathy.
Buddhist tenets of suffering and compassion perfectly align with Pisces themes. The Buddhist gaurmatsya symbol, very much related to Pisces symbolism, depicts a mirror image of two fish. In both traditions this symbol of reflection points to the very real dynamic of shared feeling at the core of human empathy and compassion.
Whereas compassion is to feel for another, empathy is to feel with another. This means that contact with suffering results in personal suffering. So in the emotional realm of Pisces, a compulsion to serve is also a compulsion towards personal pain. In this way the Pisces inner mother also stands as a sort of inner martyr.
“Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another” – Proverbs 27:19
Modern science has found that mirror neurons in the brain enable a person to physically experience another individual's emotions. Particularly when witnessing someone in a joyful or distressed state, their feelings literally become our own.
There are many theories for why these neurons have evolved, but at the most basic level, it's easy to see that one result of co-feeling has been to instantly bond a parent with an infant. The cries of a newborn baby reverberate through a parent's body like an internal fire alarm. Its distress registers physically and emotionally. The fact that you are here today is evidence that throughout all the history of mankind, the maternal impulse to run into the fire has outweighed the impulse to run away from it.
Pisces represents the full circle of evolution, both on an individual level and on a universal level, that has given rise to the especially powerful feelings of empathy and compassion. It is very much these feelings that are unleashed through the inner mother within of each of us, which opens up the self, the entire family, and indeed the entire community, to take on the level of sacrifice necessary to raise a human child.
MOTHER = NURSE + MAID
I’ve joked to my husband that taking care of our toddler sometimes feels like being a nurse and at other times a servant. Watching our daughter struggle to get her leg through her pants, helping her to wipe her bottom, fetching things she needs or picking up her messes, and seeing her fill with frustration when she’s unable to accomplish some goal- all of these episodes constantly remind me that every human on the planet shares this exact experience: being helpless, vulnerable, completely dependent on assistance, and wholly at the mercy of higher powers.
Parenthood is uniquely enlightening in that it opens one's eyes wider to some hard truths about the human condition: No person has asked to be born, no person can help the circumstances he or she has been born into, self-control is fragile and any real control over the external world is impossible. The Pisces inner mother possesses a heightened sensitivity to the inherent innocence of each person. This raised awareness grants access to an inner wellspring of genuine goodwill towards all God’s/Nature’s children.
BAPTISM & BABY BLUES
As you can gather so far, Pisces is as much about the inner mother's pain as it is about her joy. Attuning to the inner mother is a bittersweet transformation.
In Christianity, a religious tradition that shares a large amount of Pisces symbolism, baptism is ritual that marks the Pisces transformation. When an initiate is submerged in water, his or her soul is purified and regenerated. One enters the baptismal waters a self-serving individual and emerges a selfless servant of a loving community.
Though this transformation is generally seen as a blessing, self-negation can also be a mournful experience. Welcoming the inner mother means saying farewell to a person we've come to love very deeply: one's self.
As seen in everyday life, baby blues are a common occurrence among new mothers. Studies have found that an estimated 14-20% of women suffer from postpartum depression and 4-10% of fathers suffer episodes of depression in the year following what is billed as the happiest moment of their lives. Pregnancy and birth are intense physical and emotional experiences, so it is no surprise when one is thrown off stride. However, it's a mistake to fully write off these episodes as hormonal imbalances without acknowledging the psychological discomfort that arises from aligning with our inner mother.
Claiming that having a child doesn't necessarily disrupt life proves to be a myth for most parents. The level of sacrifice required to raise a child looms large before and after childbirth. Certain priorities, obligations and responsibilities can't help but shift. The upheaval in one’s personal freedom, one’s personal life and one’s personal identity is immense.
And so, it is worth acknowledging that embracing the inner mother requires some part of the self to die in order for a new self to arise. In all truth, in this area of life, where there is a great gain there is also a great loss.
Pisces, which is positioned at the end of the zodiac and thus the end of the life cycle, captures the fear, grief and pain of leaving both self and life behind. The Pisces inner mother is where the capacity to say goodbye to life as we know it resides. The Pisces angel of death contains one's capacity to say goodbye to life itself.
Pisces spotlights the phase wherein the ego is surrendered, whether it be for the sake of progeny, community or the larger circle of life to which one belongs. Selflessness is self-negation. In evolutionary terms it has proven beneficial to a community when its individuals learn to inhibit ego-centric desires and behavior.
But sometimes self-negation can go too far. Pisces covers the depths of suffering one may sink to in one's own soul.
Depression often features self-negating thoughts that diminish one’s sense of significance and meaning in the world. In its most severe form, depression entails a strong desire to dissipate into complete nothingness. Positioned at the end of the zodiac wheel, Pisces also represents the end of the life-cycle, and thus embodies the emotional space in which one comes into confrontation with non-existence.
What keeps an individual poised at the edge of darkness and despair from fading into the abyss is a saving sense of love and compassion extended to by others, and also a personal compassion that is so fully expanded as to include the self.
As life and love go hand-in-hand, love and compassion from within and without can be considered the vital force upon which the mind, body and soul very much depend. Through the inner Pisces forces one is both forsaken and saved via the immense powers of selfless love.
Loneliness and Saviors
"From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit."
Pisces reminds us that sense of love, from within and without, is a necessary component in the will to live. Social isolation and depression are known to feed off of one another, and it has been shown that people at high risk of depression often have a chronic tendency to feel lonely and isolated.
Each of us walks the ledge of the emotional abyss at some point, whether it be during our prime years of great potential that is matched with great self-doubt, or in old age when friends and family members grow scarcer and a sense of usefulness fades. Pisces embodies both the soul that forever needs saving.
But this sign also embodies the inner savior. Saviors come in the form of love bearers; friends, family members, loving communities, concerned doctors, or the serendipitous good Samaritan that swoops in to reconnect us to life. They are also found in an inner whisper of self-compassion which begs us to have faith in a brighter tomorrow.
At a wintertime dinner party the topic turned to how much everyone hates the short winter days. Only one girl was brave enough to go against the grain. She said she enjoyed having an excuse to get in bed early, being bundled up at home and just staying in.
Why hadn’t I thought of that sunny outlook before? It must be puritanical, capitalist conditioning that had caused me to ignore nature’s exhortation to just chill out all these years.
No wonder why I'm always getting sick around this time of year. What more can be expected from forcing myself awake well before sunrise and socializing late into the evening when I’d much rather be climbing into a warm bed with a cup of tea, and a good book or, better yet, a journal?
From this perspective, the short, cold winter days and Pisces’ traditional association with solitude and seclusion makes total sense. After all, Pisces is at the end of the zodiac cycle, which is an ancient representation of the life-cycle. It's only reasonable that after all of the year’s hustling, growth, ambitious striving, laboring and maneuvering, that this period is about coming to a rest, being still and taking it all in. It's here for reflecting on the past and adjusting plans for the future. It’s here for gathering energy and peace-of-mind so that there will be the necessary strength to move forward.
In some cultures people gesture behind themselves when speaking about future and in front of themselves when speaking about the past. The way the language works causes its speakers to envision the future as out of view behind one's back and the past as all that is visible laid out ahead.
Pisces is all about facing the past in order to back into the future.
The wide emotional range that this sign represents includes the most deeply buried psychic traumas and reverberations from childhood experiences. As mentioned above, the Pisces season encourages taking time out for personal reflection. Of course such deep reflection may cause some disturbing memories from the past to bubble to the surface. Sometimes what's dredged up from the past may spill into the future.
Buddha preached “...faith like thine alone can save the world from the yawning gulf of migration and enable men to walk dryshod to the other shore”. He tells his disciples that to save others from drowning they must swim with fearlessness in the Samsaric ocean of suffering, just as fish swim freely in the dark ocean waters.
When the disciple Peter starts to sink during his attempt to walk on water like Jesus, Jesus says to him “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The ocean is vast, deep, dark, abyss full of unknowns, a picture that looks a lot like how humans tend to imagine death. Is it just a fun literary coincidence that in modern English "shoal" is the term for a school of fish and that in ancient Hebrew "Sheol" is the term for a place of darkness where the dead go?
As mentioned above, Pisces stands at the end of the life-cycle on the zodiac wheel. The representative picture of the swirling fish symbolizes the continuous cycle of life, death and rebirth. This Pisces symbol is designed to bring attention to man’s unique awareness of his own mortality.
It also suggests how we may gain freedom from morbid rumination and the emotional turbulence that such awareness causes.
While the two fish churn the psychic waters around them, they also circle around a central point of stillness and calm. This point is one of human faith and hope.
Faith and hope come in many varieties and the zodiac does not point to any particular subscription of belief. It does, however, emphasize the fact that humans possess these feelings- whether they be invested in some holy being, some higher powers, some natural order or otherwise.
The result of all of these outlooks is a simple belief that tomorrow is worth living for and that there is some value in life beyond our own existence.
No matter in what form they appear, faith and hope are the psychic life rafts that prevent each person from drowning in a sense of futility and despair.
TOMB / WOMB
Have you ever noticed that the Pisces constellation doesn’t resemble fish at all? It’s closer to a crude sketch of the female reproductive system.
Pisces by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis
Doesn't the Pisces symbol on a birth chart resemble a canal (perhaps even a birth canal?)
Pisces is the seasonal phase directly preceding the start of Spring; the Spring equinox takes place at the end of this sign (March 20ish) with the darkest day of the year having taken place way back around December 22nd. In this phase of the year it becomes clear that we are leaving our darkest days behind and that there is new light at the end of the tunnel. So, though Pisces marks the end of the life cycle on the zodiac wheel, it is nevertheless a symbol of cosmic optimism in a brighter future.
This Pisces-themed story of Jonah features not only a fish with a womb but also traditional Pisces themes like contrition, second chances, mercy, forgiveness, gratitude, spiritual enlightenment, renewed hope and restored motivation.
Here's a quick review of the story:
Jonah is a prophet tasked with saving a large city from destruction. It seems such an overwhelming task that he decides to run away from it. He flees on a ship, but a storm threatens to sink the whole crew. Jonah is sure that he is the cause of the storm and asks to be thrown overboard, in what is essentially a suicide attempt. Instead of drowning he is swallowed by a whale (a fish with a womb- eh hem Pisces). For three days and nights Jonah rests in the belly of the whale until his spirit is reborn. The Lord forgives Jonah for turning away and Jonah forgives the Lord for testing him. The whale releases Jonah and he goes on to successfully complete his mission.
This final sign of the zodiac urges us to search within in order to gather the strength needed to fulfill unselfish obligations, and to be revived where we have grown overwhelmed. Here we are encouraged to improve ourselves and the world first through soul-searching (meditation), and compassion directed at ourselves and then directed outwards.
So, when your existence feels inconsequential, when you feel powerless, or where effort seems futile, you will find strength, purpose and meaning by taking the time to silence your mind, find inner peace, tap into your sense of compassion and surrender to a faith in yourself and the future.
Highs and Lows
“If you evade suffering you also evade the chance of joy. Pleasure you may get, or pleasures, but you will not be fulfilled.”
-Author Ursula K. Le Guin
Most people tend to inhibit their own powerful emotions and to shield themselves from the powerful emotions of others. But the Pisces stereotype of a passionate, spiritual type points to the idea that hearts that are wide open to feelings of great pain are also more open to feelings of great ecstasy. Those who meet their emotions fearlessly can tolerate a fuller range of feeling, from the highest highs to the lowest lows.
The ruling planet of Pisces is Neptune.
Neptune (Greek Poseidon) is God of the water and seas, and protector of seafarers. He is able to call up great storms and calm the seas on command. Neptune’s connection to the twelfth house points to human psychic abilities, particularly the powers to calm the mind and bring emotions under control so that one’s perceptions are unclouded. Even so, it also points to where muddy waters can easily be stirred up, allowing past scars and future scares to surface and muddle one’s thinking.