Most of us know the image associated with our astrological sign: the crab for Cancer, the archer for Sagittarius, the scales for Libra.
But do you know the story behind those images? What does Scorpio have to do with the hunter Orion? Who is the Virgin in Virgo? Why does the goat in Capricorn often have a fish tail? Find out the answer to these questions and more: behind each horoscope sign there is a fascinating myth.
Find out the story behind your sun sign, and what it reveals about your inner nature, here.
Aries, March 21-April 19: One ancient Greek story about the constellation of the ram says that the wine god Dionysus and his retinue were wandering in arid Libya, and found themselves without food or drink. The god caused a miraculous ram to appear alongside a spring and the beast was later placed in the vault of the heavens, near watery Pisces. The ram was also the disguise of the god Pan when he courted the moon goddess Selene. Lively, enthusiastic, fearless, stubborn. Confidence, forward movement.
Taurus, April 20-May 21: The god Zeus took on the form of a bull in order to seduce and abduct the Phoenician princess Europa. Ancient Egyptians revered the bull for bearing the body of Osiris. Faithful, thoughtful, loving, persevering. Determined, loyal, practical.
Gemini, May 22-June 20: When Leda, the Queen of Sparta, was seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan, she laid two eggs. In one were the twins Castor and Polydeuces. These boys amazed everyone with their goodness and valor. One was born immortal, the other mortal: they preferred ultimately to be united together in death rather than be separated so they were placed together in the heavens as stars. Talent, intelligence, humor, eloquence. Strength, bravery, flair.
Cancer, June 21-July 22: The goddess-queen Hera sent a crab to harass the hero Hercules as he was struggling with a monster. The little creature was crushed to death in the struggle, but the queen of the gods set the crab, in appreciation, among the stars of the heavens. Home-loving, emotional, private, creative, complicated. Sensitive, intuitive.
Leo, July 23- Aug 22: This lion–the Nemean Lion–was the miraculous offspring of the Moon Goddess, Selene, and Zeus. It fell to the earth from the moon, and was so tough that no weapon could pierce its pelt. After defeating it with main force, the hero Hercules ever after wore its skin. Grandeur, ambition, pride, power, generosity, expansive, dignified, successful.
Virgo, Aug 23-Sept 22: This sign is related to the divine star maiden, Astrea, who bestowed her blessings on humankind. The gods rewarded her sweetness by placing her in the night sky as Virgo. Exacting, intelligent, honorable.
Libra, Sept 23-Oct 22: Libra is the night house of Venus. It is related to the constellation of the Scales, which represent divine justice, particularly in the person of Themis, who was a Titaness and aunt of the Olympians. Interestingly, though, the earliest Greeks called this constellation “the claws.” Equilibrium and balance. Fair mindedness, balance, optimism, kindness.
Scorpio, Oct 23-Nov 21: The goddess Artemis sent a scorpion to sting the hunter Orion in punishment for importuning her. Both hunter and scorpion were placed in opposite sides of the night sky; thus Orion fades when Scorpio shines. In ancient Egypt, the constellation was associated with the benign scorpion goddess Selket, who presided over the important mysteries of marriage for the living, and over the embalming of the dead. Confidence, intensity, sensuality, forcefulness, secretiveness, deep thinking.
Sagittarius, Nov 22-Dec 21: Sagittarius is a centaur, half-horse, half-man. The centaur Chiron was the wisest and noblest of creatures, who taught many great heroes. A poisoned arrow accidentally wounded him, and his memory was honored by the gods by placing him among the stars. Forthrightness, vigor, prudence, wisdom, courtesy.
Capricorn, Dec 22-Jan 19: The goat-footed god Pan took the goat as his symbol and turned himself into a goat-fish to escape the monster Typhon. Capricorn was also the female goat Amalthea, who nourished the infant Zeus. Determined, distinguished, serious, headstrong. Ambition, practicality, reserve.
Aquarius, Jan 20-Feb 18: This sign is associated by the ancient Greeks with the young Trojan prince, Ganymede, who was kidnapped by the king of the gods and became a sort of servant, pouring water at the gods’ feasts. Innovation, spontaneity, creativity, scientific curiosity, altruism, idealism. Open mind and open heart.
Pisces, Feb 19-March 20: The image for Pisces often shows two fish connected by a cord. These are Aphrodite and her son Eros, who changed into fish in order to swim away from an attack by the monster Typhon. Sensitive, emotional, fluid, and relaxed, intelligent and intuitive.
Copyright (c) 1999 by Brian Williams. Reprinted by permission of Inner Traditions.
Adapted from The Minchiate Tarot, by Brian Williams (Inner Traditions, 1999).