Dreaming with Fomalhaut
Exploring the mythological depths of Fomalhaut + ideas for Poesis & Praxis.
Fomalhaut is projected onto the ecliptic at 4 degrees & 10 minutes Pisces. It is one of the four Royal Stars, known as the watchers of the heavens, and is associated with the Archangel Gabriel. According to Ptolomy, Fomalhaut is fortunate and powerful and has the potential to influence a “shift from material to a spiritual form of expression”. As the most esoteric in nature of the Royal Stars, this blue hued stellar being is more readily accessible to the dreamer who traverses labyrinthine paths into hidden and obscured depths, than to the waking world and therefore, I propose we seek to gain an understanding of the nature of Fomalhaut via symbols, myth, and the poetic.
Fomalhaut (Arabic for ‘mouth of the fish’) is the brightest star in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, Latin for the Southern Fish. The constellation is found in the region of the heavens known as the Celestial Sea and Fomalhaut can be seen most clearly in the northern hemisphere during October; when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. Located beneath Aquarius, the Southern Fish is said to be drinking of the life- giving waters of the Water Bearer, which has been referred to in mythology as the nectar of the gods. Myth also has it that the Southern Fish is the Mother of the zodiacal fishes of the Pisces constellation.
So we now have an image in our minds of a Great Mother Fish, eternally drinking the life-giving nectar of the gods, of whom Fomalhaut is located in the mouth and is the guardian and protector of the southern skies. Overarching this is the prominence of the water element, for the Great Mother Fish is both of the water, and consuming it. In the Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Agrippa wrote of all the elements, and of water he said, "Water is the seminal virtue of all things, and is of such great power that spiritual regeneration cannot happen without it, as all things stand from its power."
No matter what our astrological makeup, our bodies consist primarily of water. It is in our essential nature, and the spiritual regeneration to be found within the Celestial Seas our birthright.
Now let us look to Manilius, one of the most poetic of the ancient Astrologers. He wrote briefly on Fomalhaut, but from one small verse we can glean much insight.
When the Southern Fish rises into the heavens, leaving its native waters for a foreign element, whoever at this hour takes hold of life will spend his years about sea-shore and river-bank he will capture fish as they swim poised in the hidden depths; he will cast his eyes into the midst of the waters, craving to gather pearls and, immersed himself, will bring them forth together with the homes of protective shell wherein they lurk. No peril is left for man to brave, profit is sought by means of shipwreck, and the diver who has plunged into the depths becomes, like the booty, the object of recovery.
It is likely that Manilius is providing a delineation for a person born as Fomalhaut is helically rising, but we can also read it as a delineation for someone petitioning a rising Fomalhaut. For ‘taking hold of life’ is ambiguous, and we could posit that astrological magic is, in nature, ‘taking hold of’ and influencing our own fates. The essential symbolism of the rest of this verse can be interpreted as being about a person who inhabits the shoreline - the liminal space between material and spiritual - and takes deep dives into the imaginal to retrieve hidden treasures in the form of pearls. Pearls enchant us with their luminescence, their otherworldliness and are also the way we quantify wisdom. Symbolic of the nature of enchantment, Fomalhaut leading us to the discovery of pearls buried deep in the imaginal speaks to the discovery of a hidden creative potential and divine expression.
With the line ‘no peril is left for man to brave’ Manilius suggests that the diver is immune to the treacherous natures of the sea and goes on to express that they even profit from any shipwreck that may occur. This mitigation of watery peril can be correlated with the an ancient Greek myth of Eratosthenes that speaks to the benefic and protective nature of the great mother fish to her devotees, for in that tale she prevents the drowning of the mother goddess Derceto.
It was known that the mother goddess Derceto, known to the Greeks as the Syrian goddess, had pools containing sacred fish near her temple at Bambyke and that the local people honoured cultic images of fishes, and abstained from eating them. Indeed the goddess was sometimes portrayed as half-piscean in form…When Derceto fell into the lake mentioned above, she was rescued by a fish, which was placed in the heavens as a consequence as the Southern Fish, along with two others which were its offspring.
Manilius continuing on to make a point about shipwrecks brings to mind Neptune transits, for these are the times we may be most in danger of becoming shipwrecked, and subsequently lost at sea. As one of the Fixed Stars, Fomalhaut is of a higher celestial order than Neptune and outside his orb of influence. However as both govern the same waters, Fomalhaut can be a great ally and guide through the confusing liminal seascapes we can find ourselves in.
Finally, Manilus’ diver who has retrieved the treasures of the sea becomes in themselves the treasured object of recovery. This suggests that the final treasure is one of self discovery. Perhaps Fomalhaut’s ultimate gift is to lead us so deep into the imaginal depths that we find ourselves in Delphi, at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo looking up at the Delphic maxim; know thyself, and truly knowing.
Poesis & Praxis
Fomalhaut is the only royal Star that isn’t included in the list of Behenian fixed stars and therefore we do not have any historical associations assigned to this star, however Kaitlin Coppock has created an extensive list that I have drawn from and also I have added a few of my own:
Colour: Aquamarine, sea blue and deep ocean blue
Metal: Silver & white gold
Herb: Seaweed, Blue Lotus, Ashwaganda, Slippery Elm, Mushrooms
Scent and Incense: Mint, Frankincense, Myrrh, Lily
Associations (possible altar dressings): Pearls, Seashells, Sea-glass, Whale, fish & deep sea creatures iconography, and (especially harvested from beneath the water line), sea salt, ocean, stream or river water, treasures found on the ocean floor/ washed ashore, magical rings. eye-like items.
Locations: Ocean floor, tide pools, and crossroads where fresh waters and oceans meet.
Creating an altar for Fomalhaut can be as simple or as elaborate as you like; you want to be taking elements from the association's list and arranging them on a table. Of special importance are the objects I have collected from beaches, riverbeds and tide pools as these HOLD MEMORIES - a dried sea urchin, shells, pebbles, driftwood and sea glass.
Incense is important as it creates a bridge between the physical world of matter and and the immaterial world of spirit.
The default incense is always frankincense, but you can also use an incense created specifically for Fomalhaut or create your own. I usually use S+S materia and if that's not possible I make my own. To make my own I buy frankincense resin and add other associated dried herbs, resins or essences and grind them together with intention using a mortar and pestle. Just always be sure that the herbs you are using are safe to burn and not toxic to inhale.
Prayers and Incantations:
I recommend using the Orphic Hymn to the Stars or writing your own.
Beyond the Talisman:
Creativity is central to my practice of communing with the spirits of the stars. It is within creative meditation that I feel the most enlivened, inspired and connected. I wholeheartedly believe creativity and art-making is at the heart of magic. So many people however are discouraged from creative practices because they think they aren’t artistically ‘good enough’. I am in the process of collating different creative practices that can take us out of attachment to outcome and into creative flow states.
For Fomalhaut I have started a Journal called Dreaming with Fomalhaut. I am using it to write down ideas, prose, stories etc. The key aspect to using my journal is to enter into a specific state of being before even opening it. I call it a Twilight State and I have elaborated on it in my journal.
Excerpt from: Dreaming with Fomalhaut
The creation of artificial light created a distinctive divide between our waking and dreaming states as we tend to spend our awake hours in total light and then when we go to bed we switch into total darkness. These habits are an invention of modernity. In the time prior to modernity our ancestors spent a good portion of their day in diminished light which created an in-between state of being; a twilight state. I define the twilight state as occurring during the period of diminished light that correlates with the rising and the setting of the Sun when experienced under natural light, and also night when experienced under candlelight or oil lamp. The twilight state is a liminal space. The word liminal comes from the latin word limen which means threshold or doorway, it is the in-between that joins places. The twilight state is in-between the diurnal and nocturnal and it is a place where the dreaming and waking can be integrated. Historically we know it’s a time of storytelling and myth-making, which are world-building activities. I do believe this is where all the great works of art/ literature/ music and invention of premodernity were born as sparks of divine inspiration. How does this connect to Fomalhaut?
The liminal twilight state belongs in part to Fomalhaut. It’s where we can lucidly enter the outskirts of the dreaming and commune with the greater than human world. To do this we first need to carve out some free time, at dawn, dusk, night or on a dark and stormy day. We need to free ourselves from distractions by turning off screens and lights. Then we light our candles and sit by the candle light (or oil lamp). Then we open our Journals, recite the Orphic Hymn to the Stars and invite Fomalhaut to spark our inspiration.
Image: Anonymous, section detail of “Geigyo Hinshu Zukan” (Fourteen Varieties of Whales) (1760) (all images courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum)
Agrippa, H. C., & Purdue, E. (2021). Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Inner Traditions.
Manilius, Astronomica, 1st century AD, book 5, p.333.
Constellation Myths: with Aratus’s Phaenomena (2015). Oxford University Press. p.84.