01 Sep The Interesting Greek Origin Of The 12 Zodiac Signs
Chances are, you are familiar with your sun sign and have an idea of what it may reveal about you, but are you aware of the Greek origin of the 12 zodiac signs?
Every zodiac sign is tied to a certain constellation and all these constellations boast their own origin stories within Greek mythology. Keep reading to the end to learn the Greek origin of the 12 zodiac signs since they (to some level) dictate what your sign might reveal about you.
The Greek origin of the 12 zodiac signs
In early Greek mythology, the account of Pisces’ constellation touches on the brutal downfall of Titan gods by the hands of Olympian Gods. Following this power struggle, Tartarus partnered with Mother Earth (Gaia) in the deepest pits of the underworld, resulting in the birth of Typhon. Typhon, who was just as strong as all the Titans, had around 100 dragon heads, mouths full of black tongues and flaming eyes.
In fact, Hesiod states that Typhon was the ugliest monster that the world has ever seen.
Anyway, Gaia then sent his son to destroy the Olympian gods on Mount Olympus. She did that as retaliation for the destructions of her fellow Titans, but fortunately, Pan, the god of shepherds, spotted the hideous monster approaching and warned all the gods, which, in turn, gave them sufficient time to change their bodies and hide. Bacchus took the form of a goat, Diana a cat, Apollo the crow, Mercury an ibis, and Jupiter changed into a ram.
Cupid and his mom Venus, however, were trapped by Typhon unaware while bathing on River Euphrates’ banks. After begging the water’s nymphs for safety, they were quickly transformed into fishes, and their ends tied together with a string so they would not be separated.
Before Typhon could land the killing blow, they managed to swim into the lowest pits of the stream, but in other accounts, two fish came and carried Cupid and Venus to safety.
This zodiac sign is usually associated with Ganymede, a young and gorgeous prince of Troy, with whom Zeus liked very much. Zeus disguised himself as an eagle and carried Ganymede to become the cup carrier to the other gods.
Hera, Zeus’ wife, however, was jealous of the young prince and started treating him with contempt right away. Zeus, on the other hand, wasn’t really phased by the wrath of his wife and even had Ganymede accompany him on his travels while bearing a golden cup.
What’s more? Ganymede was a compassionate and kind young man who instantly took pity on the people of earth after seeing them suffer without water. So he begged Zeus to permit him to send help to the people, and Zeus eventually granted permission.
Ganymede sent down heavy rains upon the world and quenched the thirst of all the people.
After that, he was hailed and worshiped as Aquarius, the god of rain. Aquarius was taken positively by cultures that had lands plagued by droughts like the Egyptians and Greeks. Cultures affected by flooding, on the other hand, like the Babylonians, looked at Aquarius on a negative light.
Better yet, the relationship between Ganymede and Zeus is usually compared to the real relationship between Antinous and Emperor Hadrian. As a matter of fact, Antinous was awarded a spot below Ganymedes, to get carried to Hadrian by Zeus, the same way Ganymedes was carried to Mount Olympus.
Ancient civilizations had a lot of legends about one strange goat, the Capricorn. This figure is usually connected to Jupiter from Roman mythology (Zeus, the father of gods.)
The Babylonians were of the faith Capricorn was something like Sea-Goats, perhaps the god called Ea, who gifted culture and learning to the citizens of Mesopotamia. People believed Ea lived deep in the seas and only emerged from the ocean every day in order to supervise his land and return to the ocean at nights.
According to the Greek origin of the 12 zodiac signs, Capricorn was linked to Pan, the demigod, who was half goat-half man (a goat from his waist down, and a man from his waist up.) His parents were a Nymph and Hermes, but was raised up by nymphs because his mom, who was repulsed by his look, abandoned him.
He tended goats and sheep and was an extremely talented musician. His lustful nature also influenced him to run after the forest nymphs that usually ran away in panic after setting their eyes on him.
Syrinx, one of the nymphs, then begged the gods to turn him into a reed that pan later used to make the famous Pan flute. And at some point during his lifetime, Pan was also fleeing from Typhon the monster, and tried turning his body into a fish but failed. He did, however, support Zeus and his fellow gods in battling Typhon, and as a thank you, Zeus immortalized his legacy by converting him into the constellation.
The sun sign Sagittarius refers to a star constellation derived from a culture of the Sumerians, and later adopted by the Greeks, then finally by the Romans. It is actually the Romans who created slight confusion around this star’s mythological origin.
According to several cuneiform inscriptions, Nergal, the Sumerian god of war was represented by an archer and a hunter.
For the Romans, the Archer was Achilles, teacher of Jason, the wise centaur, Chiron, and many more famous heroes. That said, it has been confirmed that the identification of Sagittarius with Chiron is too inaccurate because the star sign as originally associated with the Centaur stars.
That said, several authors still confused Sagittarius with Chiron during the Roman and Alexandrian periods.
Sagittarius’ constellation was created to guide the Argonauts and Jason to the Golden Fleece. In fact, the character that originally represented him in Greek mythology was the legendary Eufeme, the nurse of the Muses, and Crotonic, son of the goat god Pan. As the child of a crossbreed goat, he probably was a centaur and satyr (human creatures with hooves, tails, and ears of goats).
Crotus (the satyr that lived on Mount Helicon) was further the inventor of the bow and arrow who asked Zeus to put him in heaven, and so there Zeus placed him, in the pose demonstrating his archery abilities.
The traditional meaning of the Scorpio zodiac sign is based off of the Greek legend of Orion, the son of Poseidon (the god of the sea) and Euriale, who after enraging the Goddess of Hunting (Goddess Artemis,) is punished by the Gods.
Legend states that Artemis, having fallen deeply in love with the gifted and handsome huntsman, invited him to join her during a hunt. Orion, who was known for his lack of control and rough nature, however, misunderstood the Goddess’ true intentions and tried raping her, thereby inviting the wrath of the other gods.
In other versions of the mythology, he boasted his hunting skills by mockingly showing Artemis the many trophies he had collected.
Either way, in both versions, the Gods decide to punish him. They send a scorpion to battle with him to the death, and the spider eventually wins, thanks to its poisonous sting. Now a staunch friend of the Gods, the scorpion is immortalized through a constellation. Orion was also transformed by Artemis into a constellation and is placed face to face with Artemis’ arch-enemy so that the two will be forever locked in battle.
Libra’s symbol of scales has been derived from the Scales of Justice that’s held by Themis (the Greek personification of divine law and custom.) She later became the inspiration for modern depictions of Lady Justice. Furthermore, Libra is the only constellation in the sky that’s represented by an inanimate object. All other eleven zodiac signs are represented either by a mythological character or animal from history.
Libras are Venus’ children, and for that reason, they’re charming, elegant, have great taste, and love all things beauty. They do not like routines and usually prefer intellectually challenging arguments rather than banal work.
They’re sensitive but also indecisive and timid, artistic but also rational; but when they choose their goal, they usually show their hidden ambitions and have no further hesitations. This makes them excellent diplomats, artists, and philosophers.
Their passion for pleasure and beauty can easily lead them into hedonistic existences, but they also carry out philanthropic and stylish lifestyles without falling victim to the frivolity of the mundane realm. Since they seek more intangible achievements and aren’t attached to money, they are trustworthy stockbrokers and bankers.
They also boast a community-oriented spirit and will easily get in between controversies to pacify the parties involved in the name of justice. This naturally makes them excellent mediators.
This post on the greek origin of the 12 zodiac signs would be incomplete without one of my favorite signs, Virgo.
A huge portion of the goddesses that were linked to Virgo were goddesses of the harvest or fertility goddesses. This perfectly resonates with the perceptions of Virgo being mankind’s caretaker through her fertility. Her names in different mythologies include Demeter (Greek mythology), Ceres (Roman mythology), Isis (Egyptian mythology), and Ishtar (Babylonian mythology.)
The Virgo constellation is thought to be a lady holding an ear of corn, therefore reinforcing the Mother Harvest mythology. In one popular myth, Persephone, the goddess of spring is kidnapped by Hades, the god of the underworld.
Upon realizing this, the young goddess’ mom, Demeter, decides to ruin the harvest in her despair. Ultimately, the goddess of spring was permitted to return for six months each year to aid her mom in the harvest.
Living in a cave in Nemea, the Nemean lion was a monster considered to have been an offspring of Echidna and Typhon. It’s also claimed to have fallen from the moon as Zeus and Selene’s offspring.
The skin of this lion could not be grazed or penetrated by any sort of weapon, and his claws and fangs were as hard as iron. That is why the Lion is regarded as invulnerable. He was sent to Nemea in order to terrorize the city using his roaring.
Finally, the lion was killed by Hercules through strangulation during Hercules’ twelve labors.
Derived from Latin, Cancer literally means the crab. The association of cancer with water can be traced back to the dawn of astrology and the crab’s image is Babylonian in origin. In Egypt, this zodiac sign was represented by 2 turtles.
The later replacement with the crab in the zodiac is related to a small chapter in Greek mythology. When Hercules tried to kill the multiple headed Hydra, Hera, the goddess that had sent him to these tasks sent a nearby crab she commanded to distract Hercules so the hydra could kill him.
As expected, Hercules easily killed the creature, and Hera who was impressed by its courage and loyalty that she decided to place its image in the night sky.
Pollux and Castor were twins born to the same mother Leda, but two different fathers. Pollux’s father was Zeus, the father of all Gods, and Castor’s father was Tyndareus, king of Sparta. Zeus had seduced Leda while pretending to be a Swan.
What’s more? Pollux was immortal but castor was born mortal. So when Castor passed on and left his immortal twin torn apart with heartache and grief, Zeus became so heartened from the show of love that he decided to award both of them the gift of immortality. He also placed them as stars among the many constellations.
As long as we’re talking about the Greek origin of the 12 zodiac signs, Taurus’ symbology has been derived from one of the most interesting tales.
Zeus was very attracted to Europa. Pulling a neat trick, he transformed himself into a huge, white bull and started wandering toward Europa, who was picking flowers in a field nearby. Europa could not resist petting the bull, so she climbed on its back. To her surprise, the bull carried her across the sea to Crete, essentially kidnapping her.
The couple went on to have a son named Minos, the king of Crete.
After growing up, Minos came to an agreement with Poseidon that he was going to give him a beautiful white bull as an offering and that in return, Poseidon would give him mastery over the oceans. The god agreed. When the time came to sacrifice the bull, however, Minos decided to keep it to himself and instead offered a lesser specimen in its place.
Poseidon, in revenge, went to Aphrodite so she could help him in coming up with a plan for retaliation. Aphrodite afflicted Pasiphae, Minos’ wife, with an uncontrollable lust for the beautiful, white bull, after which she gave in to her desires and mated with the bull.
The offspring of this unlikely union was the Minotaur, a beast with the head of a bull and body of a man who fed on human flesh.
The Minotaur was placed in an impenetrable labyrinth, where young men were regularly tossed in to feed its unquenchable appetite for human flesh.
A few years later, Theseus, the son of the King of Athens, volunteered to slay the Minotaur, and with the help of Ariadne, Minos’ daughter, and her ball of thread, he made way into the labyrinth and slew the Minotaur using a club. He then found his way out using the strand of thread.
The last sign we’ll look at in this post about the Greek origin of the 12 zodiac signs is Aries. In Greek mythology, Aries, the Ram, represents the animal whose fleece was sought by Jason and the Argonauts. Jason’s task was to find the ram’s Golden Fleece and prove himself the rightful ruler of lolcos in Thessaly.
Originally, this ram had been presented by Mercury to Nephele when her husband married Ino, who persecuted Nephele’s children. In order to protect them, Nephele sent Helle and Phrixus away on the magical ram’s back, who flew toward the eastern direction. Helle, unfortunately, slipped and fell into Hellespont (today Dardanelles) between the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea. Phrixus, on the other hand, safely made it to the western shore of the Black Sea.
If you loved this content on the Greek origin of the 12 zodiac signs, then I’m confident you’ll love this one on the 5 personal planets in astrology.