Ancient astronomers looked to the sky and, like us, saw patterns. The constellations that make up the astrological zodiac were appropriated long before the first psychic ever appeared on late night TV. Look to the sky during the night and discover the constellations that led to the zodiac.
Aries is also known as the Ram and it is the first sign of the zodiac. Aries achieved this prominent place in the zodiac by virtue of ancient astronomers observing that its placement in the heavens was where the sun's path crossed the equator. Of course, this is no longer the case as Pisces has stolen the Ram's thunder in recent centuries thanks to the wobbling of the earth of its axis. Read more about the constellation Aries.
Aquarius is the eleventh of the twelve constellations of the zodiac. Ancient races of across the globe associated the Water Bearer constellation with water. The Babylonians actually referred to the area in the sea dominated by Aquarius as the Sea, and if you have occasion to notice ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs you will see that the sign for water is the same as the symbol for the constellation Aquarius.
Capricornus is a constellation that is situated just slightly below the celestial equator yet can be seen on some evenings in the north during the fall. Although usually symbolized by a goat, for the ancients Capricornus was actually a sea goat. Capricornus was one of many areas of the sky that landed in the huge area reserved for Aquarius and as such, the ancients populated with an abundance of sea creatures; hence Capricornus became the sea goat.
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The Crab is the overlooked constellation of the zodiac. It is a rather innocuous collection of stars and probably achieved its status because of its association with Hercules. A crab was unleashed by Hera to bite the foot of Hercules, but Hercules killed the crab by stepping on it. The result was Hera's decision to award that dead crab immortality by placing it into the heavens forever.
Check out more facts about the constellation Cancer.
Gemini is notable for two bright stars, Castor and Pollux. According to the mythology of the Romans, Castor and Pollux were the sons of Leda the Swan. They were twins born from the same egg and symbolize brotherly love while also representing the opposing ideas of war and peace. The brightness of these two stars made Gemini a favorite constellation of Roman sailors.
Leo is actually one of the few constellations in the sky in which you can actually make out exactly what the heck those ancient astronomers were thinking. A triangle of stars form the tail of the lion, while a crooked shape of stars forms the head and mane. The brightest star in Leo is Regulus and may have received this name because when the sun entered the constellation of Leo there was a regular flooding of the Nile.
Libra is, like Cancer, not a particularly spectacular constellation. It is located in the southern hemisphere and appears to trace back to the Roman era. Before it became a famous constellation in its own right, Libra joined with Scorpius to create a double constellation. That double constellation became known as the Scorpion with Claws.
For more fun facts about Libra.
Pisces is the final constellation in the zodiac. According to ancient mythologies in both Greece and Rome, the two fish that make up Pisces are supposed to symbolize Venus and Cupid diving into the Euphrates to escape the ferocious demon-monster Typhon. They were saved by becoming part of the constellation.
Scorpius is the constellation that became known as Scorpio in the astrological zodiac. Scorpius is one of the most spectacular of all the constellations in the sky since it contains a fair number of brilliant stars and nebulae. The mythology of Scorpius revolves around a scorpion killed by Orion. You may be remember that Orion is also a constellation but did you know that the reason it is on the other side of the sky from Scorpius is because of this conflict?
Sagittarius is an enormous constellation situated between Scorpius and Capricornus. It contains some of the most inspiring star clouds within the entire Milky Way galaxy because it is our view of the center of the galaxy. The constellation is known as the Archer and has been represented both with a human archer and a centaur archer, although the mythology supports the idea of the centaur.
Taurus is the bull and possesses the single most defining characteristic of any of the constellations. The sharp V-shape formed by a star cluster known as the Hyades makes up the horns of the bull. In addition, Taurus is thought to be one of the oldest-observed of all the constellations as far as being plucked from the sky by ancient astronomers.
More about the constellation Taurus.
The constellation of Virgo represents the Virgin and as such may well be the most symbolically important of all the constellations. Many civilizations looked toward Virgo as a constellation to symbolize the maternal goddess. Virgo is the mother of Krishna in India and the mother of Ishtar in Babylonia.