Star signs: we all have one. No matter how much you believe in them - whether you completely disregard them, guide your life by them, or simply glance at a mention of them - they are a fairly well known topic today, forming at least a small part of our identity.
Now, I am not a zodiac fan. In fact, my only perception of how true they are is probably from some late night scrolling on a horoscope Instagram account. But I was wondering – where have these zodiacs and constellations come from? Upon researching, I was surprised to learn the sometimes sad or violent origins of some star signs which some so closely identify with. All stemming from the ancient world, here are some of the tales of the zodiacs. To begin with we have Aries. Aries is the first of the twelve zodiac constellations - it represents the fleece of a famous animal which was sought after by Jason and the Argonauts: the ram. This ram had a beautiful golden fleece, was guarded by a dragon, and once retrieved by Jason was placed in the sky by Zeus, king of the Gods, where it still appears today as the constellation of Aries.
Next up we have Gemini. Gemini, meaning twins in Latin, is linked with the story of two brothers, Castor and Pollux. It starts when Zeus has an affair with Leda, the Queen of Sparta, and with him she has a son called Pollux. However, at the same time she was about to have another son called Castor, with her legitimate husband Tyndareus. This meant that the two sons (along with some other siblings to add to the confusion) were born at the same time, were both strong, handsome and identical in all aspects but one: Castor was born mortal and Pollux was immortal. Despite this, the two grew to be inseparable and cared for each other dearly. They were so close that they were even called by one name: the Dioscuri. However, as fate prescribed, the mortal Castor was unfortunately killed, leaving his immortal brother torn with grief. Pollux, not wanting to live without Castor, offered to give Zeus his own life in order to see his brother again. Zeus, moved by such care, offered them both immortality as a constellation in the stars. From then on, they have remained together as the star sign of the Gemini.
Now Cancer, derived from Latin, means the crab. This is one of the more famous of crabs, as it was featured in the twelve labours of Hercules. As Hercules was fighting the snake-like hydra, Hera, queen of the Gods, commanded a crab to attack Hercules and distract him. Without question, the crab took a claw-hold of his toe, just to be immediately kicked and/or crushed by Hercules. Personally, I was rooting for the crab here – it tried its best. To commend the crab’s loyalty, Hera placed the crab’s image in the sky. Next we have Leo. This animal is also taken from the twelve labours of Hercules as the Nemean Lion. For his very first task, Hercules was told to find and kill the lion, which was resistant to all weapons. With an impervious hide, he resorted to using brute strength and his bare hands to kill the lion – and wore its skin as a cloak ever after. Once dead, the great Nemean lion was placed by Zeus as a sign of the zodiac.
For Virgo, my own sign, there are two commonly accepted stories. One follows the common mythological story of the abduction of Persephone. Persephone, Goddess of spring and the seasons, was kidnapped by Hades, God of the underworld, to be his wife. Upon discovering this, her mother Demeter, being the goddess of the harvest, decided to ruin the harvest in her despair. Eventually the Spring goddess could return for six months a year to aid her mother in the harvest. This coincides with the constellation Virgo being visible for only the months of March through August. Secondly, it can follow the story of Astraea, a virgin representing justice, and a caretaker of humanity. After leaving Earth, she is said to have been "placed in the heavens", which is most likely why some mythologists believe her to be the Virgo constellation itself. Many mythologists suggest that she became the constellation Virgo and her scales of justice became the constellation Libra. Finally, for now, we have Aquarius. Aquarius stems from Ganymede, a beautiful prince of Troy, with whom Zeus fell in love. He took him back to live with him in Olympus, made him his cupbearer, and was accompanied by him on his travels. As a compassionate man, Ganymede took pity on the people of the earth when seeing they were without water and offered to send rain down to help them. Eventually, he was made into Aquarius, god of rain, and is now seen as a constellation in the stars.