Many of the names and terms that we use in modern Astrology have Greek origins, and therefore it is no surprise that Greek mythology can play a role in helping us understand Astrology. But how did Astrology and Greek myth become so connected, and what exactly can it tell us?
Astrology, as it is practised in the west today, dates back to Ancient Babylon, where priests used the movement of the heavenly bodies to interpret the wishes of the gods. The Babylonians believed that the heavenly bodies that occupy the firmament were divine entities. Most of these circled the Earth in a regular pattern, but the recognized planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) as well as the Sun and the Moon, broke that pattern and seemed to move independently, and therefore were viewed as powerful gods that could influence the world.
By tracking what the significant influences on the Earth when the planets were in different positions in the sky, the Babylonian priests intuited the areas of influence of each of the planets. They also divined the powers associated with each of the constellations. For example, Jupiter brings luck and good fortune, and Aries is the constellation of action and risk-taking, suggesting that when Jupiter in Aries, those who actively take risks prosper.
The Greeks adopted and adapted Astrology from the Babylonians, and among other things gave the constellations many of the names we use today. They chose names for the constellations that were associated with different personas from myths that best matched the characteristics of that constellation. As such, understanding the Greek gods and heroes associated with each sign can help us understand that characteristics of each sign.
Aries – Ares, God of War
Ares was the Greek god of war, son of Zeus and Hera and brother to Athena. The Greeks used Ares and Athena to represent the two sides of war: Athena strategy and discipline, Ares chaos and destruction. Ares was thought as spontaneous and daring, but also impatient and blood thirsty, often leaving pain and destruction in his wake.
Taurus – Cerus the Bull
Cerus was a mighty bull that was unable to control his emotions which he let rule his behaviour. As a result, he would go on violent rampages, causing much destruction. When he met the goddess Persephone, she taught him how to control his emotions, and he started using his strength for good.
Gemini – Castor and Pollux
Castor and Pollux were twins that had the same mother, Leda, they different fathers. Castor’s father was the king of Sparta, and Pollux’s Zeus, king of the gods. Both heroic figures, they had many adventures together, but eventually, they came up against a foe they could not defeat, and while Pollux, immortal as the son of Zeus, survived, Castor died. Devastated by the loss of his twin Pollux asked Zeus to kill him, but instead, Zeus made Castor immortal so that they could continue their adventures together.
Cancer – Crios, Guardian of the Sea Nymphs
Crios was a giant, immortal crab responsible for guarding the sea nymphs. When Poseidon, god of the sea, went into hiding because of Typhoid’s attack on the Olympians, he asked Crios to look after his daughters as well. But Crios did his job too well and Poseidon’s daughters became restless with their lack of freedom and escaped. Unable to abandon his other charges, Crios asked a giant squid for help locating the daughters – the Squid located them, but then ate them. The Squid lied to Crios and said that he could not find the daughters, but Crios knew immediately that he was lying, and a battle ensued. Crios won, but was severely crippled, a pain he had to live for forever as an immortal.
Leo – The Nemean Lion of Hercules
As one of his 12 trials, Hercules needed to get the skin of the Nemean Lion. The lion was large and strong with an impenetrable pelt, and it took Hercules many attempts to slay it, eventually killing it by clubbing it on the head and then strangling it. He still needed to remove the pelt, which again took many attempts because the pelt was impenetrable. Hercules eventually realised that the only way to remove the pelt was with the Lion’s claws.
Virgo – Persephone, Goddess of the Harvest and the Underworld
Persephone was kidnapped by Hades to be his bride and live in the underworld. This made Persephone’s mother Diana so sad that she deliberately caused harvests to fail, causing chaos. As a result, Persephone was allowed to return to Earth for six months each year, from March to August, to help her mother with the harvest. Persephone took on the dual roles of the goddess of the harvest and queen of the underworld.
Libra – Astraea, Star Goddess
Astraea was the goddess of justice and served as the caretaker of humanity. She was also the last of the immortals and lived among humans for a while before abandoning them, disgusted by human wickedness and cruelty.
Scorpio – Scorpio, Slayer of Orion
Orion, son of Poseidon, was a great hunter, and he also had a huge ego and would boast to everyone about his prowess, annoying the other gods. Apollo and Gaia were so irritated by him that they decided to make a giant scorpion to hunt and kill Orion. Orion heard about their plan and fled, but the scorpion’s soul purpose was to pursue Orion, which it did relentlessly, eventually killing him.
Sagittarius – Crotus, the Musical Satyr
Crotus, son of Eupheme and Pan, had the legs and horns of a goat and the torso and head of a human and lived with the muses. He was a skilled musician and hunter. He is said to have invented both the bow, and applause as a way of showing appreciation.
Capricorn – Pricus the Sea Goat
Pricus was the father of all sea goats, a race that was extremely intelligent and could think and speak. Pricus’ children were drawn to land, but when they passed too much time on land they lost their intelligence and forgot how to speak. This worried Pricus, who was created by Kornus, god of time, and was therefore immortal and had the ability to control time. Pricus continually turned back time in order to keep his children in the sea, but they would always return to land. After many failures Pricus gave up, but not wanting to live without his children asked Kronus to kill him. Instead Kronos placed him among the stars so that he could watch over his children.
Aquarius – Ganymede, Consort of Zeus
Ganymede was the most handsome youth in Troy and seeing him Zeus decided to kidnap him to be his lover. In the form of an eagle, Zeus snatched Ganymede and took him to live on Mount Olympus, where he was effectively Zeus’ slave. Unhappy, Ganymede poured out all the ambrosia, wine and water of the gods, causing storms and floods on Earth. Initially angry, Zeus realised that he was at fault, and compensated Ganymede for his ill-treatment by making him immortal and placing him among the stars.
Pisces – Pisces, Aphrodite’s fish guides
The Greek gods were threatened by the monster Typhon and forced to abandon their home on Mount Olympus. The gods fled in various forms. Aphrodite and her son Eros met two fish while they were preparing to escape, and so turned themselves into fish so that they could follow their new friends to a safe place.
Astrology and Greek Gods
Understanding the Greek gods and myths that the Greeks themselves used to understand the signs of the zodiac can help us understand a little better the characteristics associated with each sign. Scorpio, do you pursue goals tenaciously? Cancer, are you protective to a fault? Gemini, is loyalty important to you?
Article by Sarah Roberts