Greek MythologyMythology

Exploring Ancient Tales: The Mythological Origins of the Zodiac Signs

Whether you’re into astrology or not, you probably know your zodiac sign, but do you know the zodiac stories? These signs aren’t random. Like everything else, there’s a story behind them. Many of them from Greek mythology. Some from Babylonian mythology that the Greeks inherited. Usually the story is about the figure the constellation was named after. Sometimes it’s about how the being was placed in the night sky ad a constellation to honor them. Here are the stories behind the 12 Zodiac signs.

Table of Contents

1. Aries (March 21 – April 19):

Remember the Golden Fleece? Something had to grow it, and that being was Chrysomallos, the winged ram. In Greek mythology, this ram saved the lives of Phrixus and Helle. Phrixus then sacrificed the ram to Zeus and presented its golden fleece to King Aeetes, who placed it in a grove, where it remained until Jason stole it with the help of Medea.

2. Taurus (April 20 – May 20):

The constellation here predates greek mythology by many centuries, stretching back to, perhaps, the Upper Paleolithic era. But in Greek mythology, the constellation Taurus represents the story of Zeus turning into a white bull and carrying Europe across the sea to Crete.

3. Gemini (May 21 – June 20):

Gemini draws inspiration from the Greek myth of Castor and Pollux, the inseparable half-brother twins known as the Dioscuri. Castor was mortal and Pollux was immortal. Despite this, they shared an unbreakable bond. When Castor died, Pollux offered to share his immortality to resurrect his brother. In recognition of this, Zeus placed them in the sky as the constellation Gemini, reflecting their profound connection.

4. Cancer (June 21 – July 22):

Cancer’s mythological tale finds its roots in the Twelve Labors of Hercules. During his heroic journey, Hercules faced the Hydra, a monstrous serpent(ish) with multiple heads. As Hercules engaged in battle, a crab, sent by Hera, tried to distract him. Whether it was gigantic or not, I’m nt sure. I’ve seen different stories.However, Hercules defeated and crushed it. In recognition of the crab’s loyalty, it was placed among the stars as the constellation Cancer.

5. Leo (July 23 – August 22):

Leo is associated with the Nemean Lion, one of the monsters Herakles was tasked with dealing with during his Labors. This lion possessed an invulnerable golden fur Herakles was only able to defeat it by strangling it.

6. Virgo (August 23 – September 22):

Virgo has a lot of different stories. In some it goes back to Persephone, the daughter of Demeter was abducted by Hades, which caused Demeter to bring famine upon the Earth. When Persephone was eventually released, Demeter resumed her role as the nurturing goddess, restoring fertility. To honor her devotion, the constellation Virgo was placed in the sky. In another story, the constellation represents Parthenos, a daughter of Apollo, who died at a young age and for whom Apollo made the constellation to commemorate.

7. Libra (September 23 – October 22):

Libra is different, not just because it’s the only one that’s an object rather than an animal or person. But also because its origin is hard to trace. It came to be regarded as a constellation during the Roman era, where it was associated with the goddess Astraea, though the symbol used is associated with Themis. The stars themselves were of course known much earlier, but they were considered part of the scorpion constellation rather than being separate.

8. Scorpio (October 23 – November 21):

Scorpio has a few different stories, but most involve Orion, the hunter (also a constellation). In one story, Artemis and Leto sent a giant scorpion to kill Orion but Zeus saw the fight and placed the in the sky as the constellations Scorpio and Orion.

9. Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21):

In one story Chiron was injured by a poison arrow (hydra poison, I think) but was immortal so just continued to live in pain. Not wanting him to suffer, Zeus placed him in the sky as the constellation Sagittarius.

10. Capricorn (December 22 – January 19):

Capricorn is very old. It’s been regarded as a constellation for some time by various cultures. There are multiple stories in Greek mythology about it. One story is that it’s the goat Amalthea (not always a goat. In some stories she’s a nymph) who cared for Zeus as a baby. In thanks, Zeus placed her in the sky as the constellation.

11. Aquarius (January 20 – February 18):

The mythological roots of Aquarius lie in the story of Ganymede, a mortal youth loved by Zeus, the king of the gods. Zeus transformed into an eagle and abducted Ganymede, carrying him to Mount Olympus, where he became the cupbearer to the gods. To protect him from the wrath of Hera, Zeus placed him in the sky as the constellation Aquarius.

12. Pisces (February 19 – March 20):

Pisces, the final sign of the zodiac, finds its mythological origins in the story of Aphrodite and Eros, the Greek goddess of love and her son. In one account, when they sought to escape the monster Typhon, Aphrodite and Eros plunged into the sea and escaped on two fish. To commemorate this, the gods placed them in the sky as the constellation Pisces.

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