There’s a concept in Jungian theory about circumambulating the Self. The idea is that as we do our inner work, and explore the symbols, dreams, synchronicities, and mythic storylines we are on, we circle around the core part of who we are – integrating and becoming more whole, and self-aware in the process. The unconscious becomes more conscious.
At its core, circumambulating involves taking an image or symbol and looking at it from different angles, sitting with it, learning about it, and exploring it from different perspectives and modalities.
Jung on Circumambulating the Self
Jung used the idea of circumambulation to explain the process of encountering and integrating unconscious content into conscious awareness. For example, we may have a Capricorn Sun and we’re here to learn from the archetype of Capricorn in this life. As we learn about Capricorn, reflect on our experiences, and connect to the myths, stories, and symbols associated with it, we start to learn more about ourselves – including underdeveloped or unconscious qualities and gifts that then become integrated into consciousness.
Jung particularly talked about this idea in the context of circumambulating the capital “S” Self.
Jung saw the Self as the totality of the unconscious and conscious aspects — the core wholeness, which the rest of the psyche revolves. According to Jung, the Self had innate wisdom that nudges us on our path of individuation toward deeper self-realization, wholeness, and meaning, by speaking to us through symbols, synchronicities, dreams, and archetypal experiences.
The Natal Chart as a Map to the Self
The natal chart is a symbolic and archetypal map of the psyche. Your specific configuration of these symbols based on when and where you were born, makes this map unique and personal to you. The Self speaks through this symbolism – the natal chart becomes an entry point to the psycho-spiritual journey.
From an evolutionary astrology perspective, you have the chart you do for a reason. There’s a reason you are an Aries, Capricorn, Aquarius, Sag, etc. The specific archetypes that are highlighted for you in this lifetime, are here to be wise guides on your path of evolution and growth. By working with the symbols, you deepen your soul work, as well as connect to a larger sense of purpose and meaning in your life.
Circumambulating the Self: Integrating the Wisdom of the Symbols in the Birth Chart
As Jung talks about circumambulating the Self, we are then invited to do the same circumambulation around the symbols of the birth chart, such as the planets, signs, and houses. We do this through exploration, curiosity, noticing, and leaning into the evolutionary intention of symbols, their shadow expression / potential, as well as utilizing depth psychological tools, such as art, ritual, active imagination, and dream work.
In doing so, we learn from them, are guided by them. We concentrically align with the guiding principle of the Self. We build a relationship with our charts, ourselves, and the deeper spiritual principles that guide us on our paths.
Working with Archetype
The reason the process of circumambulation is so powerful is that with symbols and archetypes, there is something innately wild about them. They can’t be pinned to a single definition. They are multifaceted, nuanced, dynamic, and ripe with collective, historic, mythic, and personal meanings. Rather, we build understanding and meaning over time. We give them space to breathe, come back to them over and over again, open our hearts and our curiosity to the wisdom that’s there.
Jung writes, “The circling movement around the symbol corresponds to the fact that the archetype is a ‘dynamic’ pattern or tendency, and its effect is to organize the imagery of the individual, to give it a definite form and meaning, and to induce a new attitude.”
Gaining a Deeper Understanding of Who You Are: The Power of Circumambulating of the Self
I believe when we work with our astrology charts over time, we are moving with these deep parts of ourselves – circumambulating them and allowing them to unfold in our consciousness. We are using the archetypal map to get closer and closer to a deeper understanding of who we are. The chart is a wise guide on the path of individuation.
For this reason, sitting with our charts over time, embracing the journey of its unfolding, letting go of having to have it figured out or understood, and even getting readings from different people, as well as, doing your own self-study can be so powerful. We see ourselves and the symbols from different angles. A kaleidoscope that brings different facets into focus. The chart is a mirror to our psyche that we get to turn to over and over – one that helps us integrate more of our wholeness.
Some Exercises to Work with the Symbols in Your Chart
- Select a symbol from your natal chart that feels alive for you such as a planet, sign or house. Take time to research and study its meaning, both in astrology and its broader cultural or mythological context. Reflect on how it’s shown up in your life and what it means for you personally.
- Connect to the symbol creatively. This could involve drawing, painting, journaling, and collage. Notice what comes out of the piece itself, and also your inner process as you create. Let your intuition guide you.
- Active Imagination: this is a process of pulling the symbol into your mind’s eye and imaginatively engaging with it. Ask it questions, let it respond, and engage with it. Imagine you are encountering them as alive beings. Listen to their responses and allow their wisdom to unfold.
- Dreamwork: Before sleep, set the intention to receive insights into the symbol you are working with. Write your dreams down (even if just a fragment), journal, and reflect.
- Journaling: Write down questions, and insights, consider meanings, as well as how the symbols show up in your personality, inner world, life experience, or sense of strengths or current challenges.
- Ritual: light a candle, put out a bowl of water, offer gratitude, give an offering, create an altar, find something that represents the symbol. Use it to honor the symbol with your intention and focus.
Applying this concept of circumambulating the self to your natal chart can be a beautiful path towards self-discovery and connecting to a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. By engaging with the symbols in the chart – studying them, reflecting on them, considering the significance of them in your life – you deepen your understanding of yourself and integrate unconscious aspects.
Embrace the unfolding journey, allow your understanding to deepen and expand overtime. In doing so you embark on a path of self-discovery, integration and alignment with your unique path of individuation.