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[ Aries ] [ Scorpio ] [ Taurus ] [ Virgo ] [ Pisces ] [ Sagittarius ] [ Libra ] [ Leo ] [ Gemini ] [ Capricornus ] [ Cancer ] [ Aquarius ]
|The word zodiac comes
the Greek word zodiakos,
which means circle of animals
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The Zodiac: Roots to Greek Mythology
word itself, zodiac, comes from a Greek word meaning, "The circle of animals".
The animals representing the signs were placed among the stars usually for great
acts of heroism.
Aquarius is the
water bearer to the gods on Olympus. His name is Ganymede, and among the
young shepherds he was favored by Zeus. He was given the food of the gods,
ambrosia, and Zeus sent down his pet eagle (Aquila) to bring Ganymede
to Olympus. Once, when the Earth was lacking in water, Ganymede pleaded with
Zeus to give water to humans. Zeus agreed, and so Ganymede sent water down
to Earth in the form of rain.
Aquarius - The sign of
Aquarius stems from the Tale of the Deucalion Flood. In this tale, Zeus
pours all the waters of the heavens onto earth to wash away all the evil
beings. Deucalion and Pyrrha then threw stones over their shoulders and
created a new race of mankind.
Zeusí pet ram, he sported a pelt of golden
fleece. (Jason and his Argonauts would set off in search of this fleece
later.) He gained his place in the heavens by rescuing two children from
imminent death. Aries is traditionally the first constellation of the
Aries - The origin of
Aries stems from the tale of the Golden Ram. In a plot to trap the centaur
Ixion, Hera created a woman looking nearly identical to herself out of a
cloud and named her Nephele. She then forced King Athamus to marry this
woman. This relationship didn't work out at all as Athamus became bored with
Nephele fairly quickly and left her. Athamus almost immediately after this,
married Ino. This of course angered Nephele, so she asked Hera for
vengeance. Hera had no problem in doing this as she was already angry at
Athamus and Ino already as a cause of them taking care of Dionysus for Zeus.
Hera then proceeded to poison their minds and make them crazy. Athamus
attempted to sacrifice his son by Nephele, Phrixius. This plot was thwarted
when Heracles sent a Golden Ram to save him. When the ram brought Phrixius
to his destination, he sacrificed the Golden Ram to Zeus and in turn, Zeus
placed the mighty ram among the stars for his heroic deed. It is also from
this ram that the Golden Fleece from the tale of Jason & the Argonauts came
While Hercules was attacking the
Hydra, a giant crab came to the Hydraís defense and began attacking
Hercules. Hercules had to smash the crab and kill it before he could focus
on the Hydra. This crab was placed in the sky as Cancer.
Cancer - The sign of
Cancer stems from one of the 12 Trials of Heracles. While battling the
Hydra, Hera sent down a giant crab to thwart his efforts. The crab was only
a nuisance at most as Heracles simply crushed the crab under his foot just
before he defeated the Hydra. Hera honored the crab's attempt at stopping
her most hated of Zeus' children by placing it amongst the stars.
Perhaps the strangest of any constellation,
Capricornus was sorted the head and front legs of a goat, while the rest of
its body was fish. According to some sources he is the son of Amalthea, the
goat who nursed the Greek god Zeus (Jupiter) while he was an infant
and hiding from his father, Cronus (Saturn).
Capricorn - The sign
of Capricorn represents the goat Amalthea who fed the infant Zeus. It's said
that Zeus placed her among the stars in gratitude. Other accounts say that
Capricorn represents Pan, the god of the forest, woodlands, and nature.
The Dioscuri, twin half brothers Castor and
Pollux (Polydeuces. They were hatched from eggs, along with their twin
sisters Clytemnestra, and Helen of Troy. While they shared a mother, Pollux
was the son of Zeus, and therefore immortal. Castor was the son of their
motherís husband, and was mortal. They were known as great heroes, sailing
on the Argo with Jason to retrieve the Golden Fleece (see Aries), and
rescuing a young Helen from Theseus (long before the Trojan War.) Castor was
eventually killed in a cattle raid, and Pollux volunteered to give up half
his immortality to bring Castor back. To allow them to be together, the pair
spends every other day on Mt. Olympus, or in the Underworld.
Gemini - This sign
stems from the Tale of Castor and Pollux. Castor and Pollux were
half-brothers. Castor was born of Tyndareus and Leda, Pollux was born of the
affair between Zeus and Leda (also known as the Tale of Leda and the Swan).
The twins grew inseparable as time went on. One day, Castor was killed in a
battle. Pollux was so grief stricken that he took his own life to join his
brother at death. In honor of the brothers' great love, Zeus placed them
among the stars.
Leo is the lion to both ancient Greek culture
and their neighbors in Babylon. The Greeks identified Leo with the Nemean
Lion, victim of Herculesí first labor. After Hercules killed the lion
he continued to wear its fur on his back.
Leo - The sign of Leo
stems from yet another of Heracles 12 trials. Leo of course represents the
Lion of Nemea which was Heracles' first trial. The lion couldn't be defeated
by any weapon. Heracles eventually battled the lion hand to hand (or maybe
paw) and strangled the lion to death. In remembrance of the grand battle,
Zeus placed the Lion of Nemea amongst the stars.
The only on of the Zodiac constellations that
is not human or animal, Libra depicts a set of scales. It was the
Babylonians who first placed a set of scales in the sky, but the Greeks saw
this formation as the claws of the nearby Scorpius. Later, to the
Romans, Libra came to be a symbol of Julius Caesar, and his fairness and
Libra - Libra are the
scales that balance justice. They are held by the goddess of divine justice,
Themis. Why exactly she is placed among the stars I haven't yet found out,
but it is interesting that Libra shines right beside Virgo which represents
Astraea, daughter of Themis.
Pisces are the two fishes that are tied
together by the tail. There seems to be no mythological story behind them,
although different cultures related the constellation to Aphrodite, or her
Pisces - Pisces
represents the goddess of love & beauty, Aphrodite and the god of love,
Eros. While taking a stroll down the Euphrates River, they had an encounter
with the vicious Typhon. They pleaded to Zeus to help them escape, so Zeus
changed the two into fish and they swam away to safety. In remembrance of
this, Athena placed the twin fishes amongst the stars.
Sagittarius is one of two constellations that
depicts a centaur, half man half horse creatures in Greek mythology. (Centaurus
in the southern hemisphere is the other.) He is a great archer, and his
arrow appears to be aimed at the heart of Scorpius (the star Antares).
The brightest stars in Sagittarius form the shape of a teapot, which is more
familiar than the constellation as a whole. Sagittarius marks the direction
of the center of our own Milky Way galaxy.
Sagittarius - This
sign is representative of the centaur, Cheiron. Cheiron was a friend of many
great hero's in Greek mythology such as Achilles and Heracles. Speaking of
Heracles, some friend he turned out to be. While hunting, Heracles
accidentally shot Cheiron in the leg with a poison arrow. Cheiron was
immortal so he couldn't die, he just had to take the unending pain. Heracles
promised to help him somehow. Upon his ventures, Heracles came upon
Prometheus who was trapped with no way of escape. The only way Prometheus
could be set free was for someone else to take his place. Cheiron wanted
only to be relieved of his insufferable pain, so he took Prometheus' place
and died. In honor of the noble act, Zeus placed Cheiron amongst the stars.
According the Hesiod, whose writings supply a
large part of what we now know of Greek mythology, Virgo is a symbol of the
goddess Dike. Dike was one of the Horae, children of Zeus who were in charge
of the seasons, and she was responsible for summer.
Virgo - One of the few
signs not represented by an animal, Virgo's origin stems from the Tale of
Pandora. Virgo of course is the representation of the goddess of purity and
innocence, Astraea. After Pandora opened the jar and let loose all the
evil's unto the world, the gods who lived on the earth fled back to the
heavens and away from the evil's of the earth. Astraea was the last to
return to the heavens. As a remembrance of innocence lost, Astraea was
placed amongst the stars in the form of Virgo.
Among the many accounts of the death of
Orion the hunter, most involve Scorpius. After Orionís death from the
scorpionís sting they were both made constellations. They are, however, far
from one another in the sky. Orion has always just set when Scorpius rises.
In the islands of Polynesia they saw not a
scorpion, but a fishing hook in the distinctive "J" shaped constellation. To
them this set of stars forms the hook of Maui, who brought many Pacific
islands to the surface with his hook.
For many ancient cultures the bull was an
important, and sometimes sacred, animal. So it is no surprise that it
appears in the sky. The stars that form the nose of the bull are known as
the Hyades, daughters of Atlas, who carries the world on his shoulders.
Their half sisters, the Pleiades, now ride on Taurusí back. The bull
himself stands between the girls and Orion to protect them.
- The sign of Taurus stems
from the Tale of Europa and the Bull. This is a tale of one of Zeus' many
affairs. Zeus was extremely attracted to Europa and yearned for her
affection. Zeus then appeared before Europa in the form of a magnificent
white bull. Europa couldn't resist petting the bull, so she walked over to
it and did just that. She then climbed upon the bull's back at which point
the bull carried Europa across the sea to Crete where he then took the form
of an eagle and, for a lack of better terms, raped her. In remembrance of
this affair, Zeus placed the image of the bull amongst the stars.