What Are The Origins of the 12 Zodiac Signs?
Zodiac signs consist of 12 different constellations that are all scattered across the sky. A set of dates correlate with each sign based on the time the sign appears in a certain part of the cosmos. While the ancient Babylonians had already divided the zodiac into 12 different signs by 1500 BC, the ones you’re most likely familiar with today were established during the time of the ancient Greeks.
Consequently, each sign also has fascinating Greek mythology behind its origin. Find your sign based on which one falls within the same dates as your birthday and check out the myth associated with it!
The Astrology Signs of Spring
Aries (The Ram): March 21 to April 19
The constellation of Aries is based on a ram from a Greek myth about a brother and sister named Phrixus and Helle. When the pair’s evil stepmom attempted to sacrifice them to end a drought, their birthmother, Nephele, sent a winged, golden ram to save them.
Phrixus later sacrificed the ram to Zeus, who immortalized it in the sky by turning it into the constellation of Aries. The ram’s golden hide became the golden fleece that Jason and his Argonauts were so keen to retrieve.
Taurus (The Bull): April 20 to May 20
There are at least three known legends associated with the bull of Taurus, two of which involve Zeus’ legendary extra-marital antics. In one of these tales, he changes himself into a great white bull to gain the favor of a beautiful princess.
In another, Zeus hides one of his lovers by transforming her into a bull instead. Yet another legend claims that Taurus depicts the Cretan Bull that Heracles (better known by his Roman name “Hercules”) battled during one of his labors.
Gemini (The Twins): May 21 to June 21
Gemini is based on the Greek myth of Castor and Pollux, the sons of Zeus and an Aetolian princess. While Pollux was immortal, Castor was a mere mortal and eventually died. When Pollux asked Zeus to reunite him with his brother, he turned the twins into the sign of Gemini.
Summer Astrology Signs
Cancer (The Crab): June 22 to July 22
The crab depicted in the constellation Cancer appears in an ancient myth about a multi-headed monster called the Lernaean Hydra. During his 12 labors, Hercules faced off against the beast, much to the delight of the goddess Hera.
Hera was no fan of Hercules because he was the product of one of her husband Zeus’ affairs. As a result, she sent a giant crab to serve as the hydra’s back-up. But ultimately, the crab proved no match for Hercules, who crushed it with his foot.
Leo (Lion): July 23 to August 22
The Greeks claim that the lion of Leo is actually the lion of Nemea, who also faced off against Hercules during his 12 labors. While Hercules did kill the dreaded beast and make armor out of its hide, the lion put up a great fight.
Zeus decided to honor the lion for its bravery by enshrining it in the stars as the constellation Leo.
Virgo (The Virgin): August 23 to September 22
The Greeks claimed that the virgin depicted in the constellation Virgo was Astrea, the goddess of innocence and justice. She was said to have once dwelled among us during the golden age of man.
Ultimately, she decided to live among the stars instead, which marked the end of a once-earthly paradise.
The Zodiac Signs of Autumn
Libra (The Scales/Balance): September 23 to October 23
Remember Astrea from the sign of Virgo? When she went to live among the stars, she took along her famous scales of justice.
While she was transformed into the constellation of Virgo, the scales became the constellation Libra.
Scorpio (Scorpion): October 24 to November 21
Scorpio was said by the ancient Greeks to depict a giant scorpion who Gaia, essentially “Mother Earth” in Greek mythology, sent to kill Orion, a hunter. Apparently, Orion drew the primordial deity’s ire when he boasted that he was such a great hunter that he could kill every animal on earth.
As an animal lover, Gaia had none of it and sent the scorpion to take him down before he could make good on his boast.
Sagittarius (The Archer): November 22 to December 21
While most centaurs of Greek lore were wild and unkempt, there was one exception named Chiron. Chiron was a great physician and educator until he was accidentally shot by one of Hercules’ poisoned arrows.
Realizing he wouldn’t be able to cure himself, he offered to take the place of the enslaved Prometheus rather than die. Zeus admired Chiron for his generosity and immortalized him in the stars.
Winter Zodiac Signs
Capricorn (The Goat): December 22 to January 19
The goat depicted in the constellation Capricorn is actually a sea-goat. Specifically, its front half is a goat, while its back half sports a fishtail.
This goes back to a myth about a satyr named Pan, who saved himself from the monster Typhon by taking this form.
Aquarius (The Water Bearer): January 20 to February 18
Aquarius is associated with an ancient prince of Troy named Ganymede, who was ridiculously beautiful. Unfortunately, Zeus later kidnapped Ganymede because of his extraordinary good looks. Zeus forced him to become his cupbearer.
Pisces (The Fish): February 19 to March 20
The ancient Greeks said that the two fish depicted in the constellation of Pisces were actually two cleverly-disguised gods. Back in the days when the gods walked the earth, Aphrodite and Eros were out for a leisurely stroll along the Euphrates River.
Suddenly, they spied Typhon, a massive serpentine monster who was one of the most terrifying creatures in all of Greek mythology. Upon hearing their pleas for help, Zeus turned the two into fish so that they could leap into the river and swim to safety.