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Sabian Symbols speak in whispers…

… until you learn to listen for them, and then it’s more like a shout.

We’ve were visited last week by Australian astrologer Lynda Hill, the Queen of Sabian Symbols. For the uninitiated, Sabian Symbols are a set of 360 word pictures – one for each degree of the zodiac – given to astrologer Marc Edmund Jones through spiritualist medium Elsie Wheeler. Wheeler channeled the symbols in an epic 8-hour session conducted here in San Diego’s Balboa Park in 1925; Jones transcribed the symbols and later published them in his book The Sabian Symbols in Astrology.  Dane Rudhyar also included the symbols in his book The Astrology of Personality.

Lynda Hill is astrology’s foremost champion of both the symbols and Elsie Wheeler, and she is passionate about researching Wheeler’s life and honoring her contribution to the Sabian Symbols legacy. If you’ve ever had any interest in them, you can imagine what a treat it’s been to have astrology’s premier Sabian Symbols expert hanging out at my dining table. Lynda eats, drinks, and breathes the symbols, and her passion for them is contagious.

Last night Lynda gave a lecture about Elsie and the symbols for the San Diego Astrological Society, and in her introduction VP Deborah Parker said that after hearing Lynda speak for another group on Wednesday, Deborah spent the night “dreaming of sabian symbols.” I wonder if I did the same thing last night, because this morning I woke up to a rather lovely realization about the Sabian Symbol for my natal Sun, 14 degrees Leo: “Cherub-like, a human soul whispers, seeking to manifest.”

Is it any wonder that in 1988 (with absolutely no knowledge of the Sabian Symbols) I fell hopelessly in love with a German film called Wings of Desire, the story of two angels in modern-day Berlin?

Although Damiel and Cassiel are pure observers, invisible to all but children, and incapable of any physical interaction with our world, one of the angels, Damiel, begins to fall in love with a circus trapeze artist named Marion…Eventually, Damiel too longs for physicality, and to become human.

One of the film’s more effective techniques is the low buzz of whispers that accompany the angels as they move through the city, listening to the thoughts of everyday humans. Eventually, as Damiel tires of his role as a dispassionate observer of humans, the whispers become louder and louder, until he must cover his ears to get a rest. (I can relate; as anyone who knows me can testify, I’m freakishly sensitive to noise.)

It’s hard to overemphasize the impact this lyrical, poetic film had on me. I saw it numerous times in the theater, bought it on VHS the minute I could find it for a reasonable price, and finally, some years ago, tracked down a print of the original promotional poster, which now hangs in my office. More importantly, I’ve used themes from the movie, again and again, as metaphors to illustrate various astrological placements.

It’s a lovely, critically acclaimed film, but I’ve seen plenty of those without becoming semi-obsessed with them. To call Wings of Desire “my favorite movie” is woefully inadequate; it’s become part of my personal mythology. Now, with the help of the Sabian Symbols, I understand why. It’s my personal story, and that of all the listeners born with the Sun at 14 degrees Leo. We’re the world’s observers, bearing witness to the world’s worries, hopes, fears, and dreams; who long to fully inhabit our own humanity and to make our own voices heard.

The world speaks to us in symbols, if we will only listen.

7 comments to " Sabian Symbols speak in whispers… "

  • Wow. One of my all-time favorites, too. I still remember walking out of the theatre and seeing everything in the world differently. (My Uranus is at 14 Leo, with Ascendant and Moon nearby.) Bruno Ganz has the most beatific smile in that movie that I’ve ever seen in my life.

    I have to say I was prepared to hate the American remake (City of Angels) but I thought they did a pretty nice job. Still, nothing as good as the original.

  • My Sun degree is: “A man is seen burning to incandescent heat with the wealth of that which he has to give.”

    From my 20s through my 40s, that incandescent heat almost burned me to death since I hadn’t fully utilized the rest of my chart’s potential…

    My 40s to the age of 60 found me integrating the wealth of what I had to give…

    The last 3 years have been a steady incandescent glow of giving…

  • Leslee, I’ve *still* got a crush on Bruno Ganz all these years later. I refused to see the movie in which he played Hitler!

    Alexander, what a lovely Sun degree. Keep burning!

  • Oh wow this is one of my favourite films as well. It’s so beautiful. Have you seen the American re-make with Nicholas Cage ‘City of Angels’? It’s not a patch on the original but it does have it’s moments – especially a scene with all the angels on a beach.

  • Hi April,

    Just had to react!! My favorite film is, or rather used to be, Der Himmel über Berlin. Seen it several times right from its release. Exceptionally poetic language to support the touching story and imagery. And in november 1989 I was ‘an observer’ during the fall of the Wall in Berlin. My sun sign sabian symbol? 14 degrees Leo 🙂

    With the current Jupiter conjunction to our sun at play, I want to give you this insight. In quantum physics, the domain of consciousness, observing means influencing and in some cases even creating. So our exceptional observational qualities play an active and central part in personal and societal change at the level of consciousness.

    • Dirk, I love your comment, thank you! (What’s your new favorite film? I’d love to know, since we share the same Sun degree and at least some of the same taste in movies!)

      • That’s a tough one, I’m on the lookout for a new favorite movie!!. The Matrix really hit home several years ago, but now I’m over the ‘doom and gloom’ it carries.

        A Dutch designer, born August 5th, once answered, when asked about buying art, that he used to buy ‘prestigious names’ but now he only has one criterion: does it give me positive energy? Or rather does it make me feel happy and enthousiastic? I fully agree.

        Happy Full Moon April, it is really going to ground, expand and externalize our essence. The Jupiter retrograde movement on our sun was an interesting one. Now we’re more ready than with the first conjunction. In my case a triple whammy, with Jupiter at 16 degrees and Moon at 21 degrees Leo 😉

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