Zodiac Myths: Exciting Legends about Your Sun Sign!
Stories of the stars have been told for centuries through ancient folklore. Here are the legends and myths behind the zodiac signs.
Many of us are familiar with astrology and proudly admit our zodiac signs, but how did these signs originate? Here are the mythological legends behind the zodiac signs.
The Legend of Aries, the Ram
In ancient Greece, Athamus, the king of Boetia, married a woman named Nephele and had a son and daughter named Phrixus and Helle. Over time, Athamus deserted Nephele and married another woman named Ino, who bore him two sons. Ino grew jealous of her husband’s previous wife and had devised a plan to kill Nephele’s children, Phrixus and Helle.
Once King Athamus had remarried, the god Hermes presented Nephele with a gift of a Ram with a Golden Fleece. When Nephele heard of the plot to kill her children, she begged the Ram to save them. The Ram visited Phrixus and Helle and flew them east across the sea. Unfortunately, when in flight, Helle lost her grip, fell into the sea and drowned. The area where she fell was named Hellespont in honor of her memory.
Once Phrixus made it safely to Colchis, he sacrificed the Ram and gave the Golden Fleece to the king of the country, Aeetes. Zeus honored the Ram for his heroism by placing him in the heavens among the stars.
The Legend of Taurus, the Bull
This story of the Bull begins with the god, Zeus, becoming enamored with Europa, daughter of the King of Phoenicia. In order to get close to Europa, Zeus transformed himself into a beautiful white bull with jewel-like horns and a crescent moon on its forehead. Europa, fascinated by the beautiful and gentle bull, climbed onto the bull’s back.
Once the Bull had control of the princess, he swam across the sea to the island of Crete where he changed back into his true form to seduce Europa. This continent that Zeus had taken her would later be known as Europe. Zeus and Europa had three children, and honored the bull by placing it into the sky among the stars.
Read more: The Taurus Myth- The Bull
The Legend of Gemini the Twins
The story of the twins begins with the lustful eye of Zeus and his seduction of Leda, Queen of Sparta. One day, Zeus had disguised himself as a beautiful swan and seduced Leda. Of this union, two eggs were conceived, one from Zeus and one from Leda’s mortal husband. This bore four children, Castor and Pollux, and Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra. There is variation to the story, but a popular version is that Zeus sired Pollux and Helen of Troy, and Leda’s mortal husband was the father of Castor and Clytemnestra.
Castor and Pollux grew up strong and inseparable. They became great sportsmen and joined Jason and the Argonauts’ search for the Golden Fleece. During a storm at sea, two bright stars appeared over the twins’ heads and the storm suddenly ended. To this day, the twins are known as the patron saints of sailors.
Unfortunately, during a battle, the mortal twin, Castor, met his death. The grieving Pollux could not bear the loss of his brother and begged Zeus to end his life. In honor of their love and devotion, Zeus placed them with the stars where they can be forever inseparable.
The Legend of Cancer, the Crab
The legend of the Crab starts with the second labor of the Twelve Labors of Hercules, which were assigned by Hera, queen of the gods. His task was to slay the Lernean Hydra, a snake with 9 heads. His challenge was difficult, for every time he cut off one of the snake’s heads, two more grew in its place.
Hera, wife of Zeus, was set on the destruction of Hercules and sent a giant crab to attack him by nipping at his heels in the midst of battle. The crab had little chance of victory, was stepped on and crushed by Hercules and the Hydra was defeated. There is some variation to the story, but a popular version is that Hera placed the Crab in the sky as a reward for its obedience and sacrifice.
See also: The Cancer Myth- The Myth Of Selene
The Legend of Leo, the Lion
According to the myth, Zeus seduced a mortal woman named Alcmena, who then bore a child named Hercules. Hera, wife of Zeus, was jealous and set out to prove that Hercules was unworthy of his father’s love. Hera assigned him twelve difficult tasks, which are known as the Twelve Labors of Hercules.
The story of Leo begins with the first Labor, which was to slay the Nemean Lion, an indestructible lion with impenetrable hide. Hercules set out for the Lion’s cave, which had two entrances. He blocked one entrance and while wrestling with the Lion, he managed to grab a hold of his neck and suffocate him.
After his victory, Hercules skinned the magical beast and made himself a breastplate from the hide as well as a helmet from the Lion’s jaw. After the Lion’s defeat, Zeus commemorated his bravery by placing him in the night sky as the constellation Leo.
See also: The Leo Myth- The Myth Of Juno
The Legend of Virgo, the Virgin
There are at least two versions of this story. One story involves the Greek myth of Creation. Before humans and animals lived on the earth, the world was ruled by a race of giants called Titans. Two Titan brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus were given the task of creating the animals of the earth and Epimetheus gave each of them gifts, such as wings or fur or claws. When it came time to create the humans, he had no more gifts to give, so Prometheus stole the gift of fire from the gods and gave it to the humans.
Zeus was so upset that humans received the secret of fire that he chained Prometheus to a rock on Mount Caucasus. Every day, an eagle was sent to Prometheus to eat his liver, and since Prometheus was immortal, the liver would regenerate and the eagle would return the next day to continue the never-ending cycle.
Zeus also sent a curse to the humans in the form of a box and gave it to the first woman that was created, named Pandora. She was told to never open it, but finally succumbed to curiosity and unleashed terrible plagues including sickness, anger and envy on the human race. Seeing the destruction in the world, the gods deserted Earth to live in the heavens. The last god to leave was Astraea, the goddess of innocence and purity, and took the scales of justice with her to the sky.
The second story involves Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of fertility. One day while Persephone was in the fields, Hades, the god of the underworld, kidnapped her and brought her to the underworld to be his wife. Hades tried to please her, but she refused to accept her captivity.
Demeter, mother of Persephone became so angry at her daughter’s abduction that she stopped caring for the Earth’s crops and a great famine started. Zeus, seeing the devastation among the humans, told Demeter that Persephone could be released. However, due to ancient law, if Persephone accepted food while in the underworld, she would not be considered a captive, and would have to stay with Hades.
Unfortunately, before Persephone could be released, she had eaten six pomegranate seeds. When Demeter heard of this, she promised that no crops would ever flourish if Persephone wasn’t returned to her. Upon hearing this, Zeus proposed that Persephone spend six months with her mother and six months with Hades. Demeter, thus, ceased all crops when Persephone left for the underworld, but when she returned to her mother in the spring, the crops would start to flourish once again.
See also: The Virgo Myth – The Myth Of Daphne
The Legend of Libra the Scales
There are at least two versions of this myth. One story is that the scales was represented by the goddess Themis, mother of Astraea. The legend is that Themis is the constellation Libra and Astraea is Virgo, which are both seen together in the night sky. It was believed that when humans finally reach the Golden Age, which is the point when humans and gods can co-exist, Themis and her daughter will return back to Earth.
Another version of the story involves Tiresias, the blind prophet. According to the legend, the goddess, Hera, gave Tiresias the opportunity to live part of his life as a man, and part of his life as a woman in order to experience both lifestyles.
When Tiresias had finished his trans-sexual roles, Zeus and Hera asked him which gender had greater sexual experience. Tiresias answered honestly that woman had greater sexual pleasure. Zeus was furious at the insult to masculinity and blinded him, but Tiresias was given the gift of insight and prophecy and was placed in the heavens as the constellation Libra.
See also: The Libra Myth – The Myth Of Aphrodite
The Legend of Scorpio, the Scorpion
The story of the Scorpion involves the death of Orion, son of Poseidon. Orion was a strong young giant and a skilled hunter.
There are various versions of the legend, one being that Eos, goddess of the dawn, fell in love with Orion and carried him away with her. Diana, the moon goddess became jealous and sent a scorpion to kill Orion.
Another version is that Artemis, the goddess of the wild, sent a scorpion to sting Orion because he had killed various wild animals for no reason.
See also: The Scorpio Myth – The Myth Of Medusa
The Legend of Sagittarius, the Archer
In Greek mythology, the Archer represents the wise centaur named Chiron; a creature who was half man and half horse. The story starts when Hercules accidentally struck Chiron in the knee with a poisonous arrow. Chiron felt the pain of dying, but because he was immortal, his suffering could not end.
Hercules searched for some way to help Chiron, and on his journey, came across Prometheus chained to a rock. Zeus had cursed Prometheus by bounding him in chains and had an eagle eat at his liver every day.
According to Zeus, the curse on Prometheus would last until someone consented to suffer in his place. Chiron freely took the place of Prometheus, which ended the curse. Chiron was able to die and Prometheus was set free. Zeus honored Chiron’s noble character by placing him in the heavens among the stars.
The Legend of Capricorn, the Goat
In Babylonian religion, Capricorn was depicted as a Sea-Goat, with its front half as the goat and the back half as the fish. The Sea-Goat was a god named Ea, who brought learning and culture to the people of Mesopotamia. It was believed that Ea lived in the ocean and that he came out of the water every day to watch over the land and returned at night.
There are variations of the story in Greek mythology, one being that Capricorn was associated with the demigod, Pan, who was a man from the waist up, and a goat from the waist down. He was the son of Hermes and a forest Nymph, and was known for playing music on his Panpipes.
Yet another version of the story is that Capricorn represents a goat named Amalthea, who nursed the young Zeus when he was a baby. One day, a man named Cronos was told by an oracle that one of his sons would kill him in battle. Upon hearing this, Cronos set out to kill all of his sons, including Zeus. As a result, Zeus’ mother gave him to the sea nymphs and instructed them to use a special goat named Amalthea to nurse him.
When Zeus grew older, he killed his father and became ruler of the gods. To honor Amalthea for taking such good care of him, he placed her in the sky as the constellation Capricorn.
See also: The Capricorn Myth- The Myth Of Athena
The Legend of Aquarius, the Waterbearer
There are various stories representing the Waterbearer. One of the more popular tales involves the story of Ganymede, son of Tros, the King of Troy. Ganymede was a very handsome young man and one day when he was tending his father’s sheep, he caught the attention of Zeus, king of the gods. Zeus sent an eagle to capture Ganymede and bring him to Mt. Olympus where he became the Waterbearer to the gods. Ganymede was placed in the stars by Zeus because of his faithful service.
Another version is that the Waterbearer represents Zeus himself, who made water pour from the heavens. The legend states that Zeus had become disgusted with humans and decided to rid the world of the human race. He and his brother, Poseidon, covered the Earth in water killing all humans except for Deucalion and Pyrrha, a husband and wife who served the gods faithfully.
They remained on Mount Parnassus until the floods receded and were given the task to replenish the human population. Each of them began to cast stones as they walked, which turned into humans. Deucalion created the males while Pyrrha created the females and Earth became populated once again.
See also: The Aquarius Myth- The Myth Of Artemis
The Legend of Pisces, the Fishes
In Greek mythology, the fishes are associated with Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, and her son Cupid. One day while walking near the Euphrates River, they came upon Typhon, a giant serpent with a hundred heads and eyes that shot fire. Typhon was intent on their destruction, and in order to escape, Venus and Cupid transformed into fish and swam down the river to safety.
Another version is that Poseidon, god of the sea, sent two fish to rescue Venus and Cupid by carrying them away on their backs. These two fish were placed among the stars as the constellation Pisces.
See also: The Pisces Myth – The Myth Of Orpheus
Last updated on April 29, 2017 at 10:13 pm. Word Count: 2448