It is inevitable that as one looks at various degrees there will be those that one is drawn to and others that one finds uninteresting, or even repellant. To develop a real ability to read degrees it is important to be able to look beyond those preferences. It is also important to be able to look beyond value judgments connected with degrees in general – that is, the tendency to see some of the degree images as inherently good and others as bad.
A good example of this is the Chandra Symbol for the 10th degree of Capricorn: “A man drinking blood from a vein in a horse's leg.” When the astrologer Ellias Lonsdale first wrote his book on the Chandra Symbols he asked me about this image. He had reservations about the black magic or satanic connotations of it. I told him that I had read that in the Mongolian desert the natives sometimes actually did open a vein in the legs of their horses when they were completely out of water and would have not survived otherwise if they did not consume it. And so the image came to signify to me the adopting of extreme measures as a means of survival.
And so it is easy to see this symbol negatively, but in dealing with any seemingly negative symbol it is always helpful to ask oneself the question, “what is the potentially positive connotation of this image?“ In the symbol under discussion I would also say that if it is seen from the perspective of the horse, the image might mean the willingness to give one's energy to help support the life of another.
I myself have a bias against degree symbols that are prosaic, and prefer ones that are exotic, unusual, strange and/or poetic. For this reason I don't respond so much to a large number of the Hyperion Symbols which were channeled by Gavin Kent McClung, for instance the Hyperion Symbol for 24 Pisces, which is “Memory Chips.” My first reaction to this symbol is to see it as too simple and plain. The fact, is, though, that the Hyperion Symbols are a very powerful set of degree symbols. Ellias Lonsdale says they carry a “Midheaven” vibration in that they signify the highest level of a degree – the overarching spiritual pupose of the degree. And so even though many of them may seem prosaic on the surface it is important to look at them from a cosmic perspective to gain the most and the deepest level of meaning from them.
One of the simplest ways of understanding any symbol better is to look at the one that comes directly before it and to see that preceding one as the basis for the one in question. Each symbol leads to the next one, so the previous one will show what the one you are working to interpret grew out of and is based on.
To give you an example of this I chose at random the degree Aries 17: “A bodiless head asleep on a beach” as being the basis for the degree following it, Aries 18, “A jellyfish.” It seems to me that when a head does not have a body it cannot go anywhere, it must stay where it is, and here it is on the beach, which is where the land (the physcial plane) and the sea (the emotional plane) connect. And so if we are continually in touch with our feelings, always aware of that sea, we come to see the connection between our emotions and the physical world. This, then, is the basis for becoming the jellyfish, which is the symbol for the degree following this one. The jellyfish is transparent, which means it is open to being permeated by the spiritual light. It is also capable of living immersed in the sea,that is, on the emotional plane.
Also note how the head and the jellyfish have similar shapes, but whereas one is denied movement because it has no body, the other is complete and can move at will in its realm. Note also that the one is an earth denizen, and the other a water denizen. When we have learned enough on the earth plane we are then able to navigate the water (or astral) plane more freely.
Sometimes you will look at the degree preceding a certain one and you will not be able to feel any connection between the two. When this happens, ask the degree itself to explain itself to you. Receiving this information from the degree may take some time, and may come in symbolic form, but if you are patient and meditate on the symbols, you give them the chance to reveal their meaning to you.