Sun Sign Mythology

The astrological principles associated with the Sun signs represent differing (and sometimes contradictory) aspects of human experience. To the uninitiated, a horoscope chart is little more than an inscrutable assortment of numbers and symbols. The astrologer is faced with the task of extracting an accurate interpretation from this seemingly arbitrary collection of squiggles and then communicating it to the client in a clear, concise manner. The exciting stories and dramatic images of the ancient zodiacal myths provide a handy method for relating traits typically associated with each of the signs to the lives of people born under that sign. By connecting the Sun signs with the universal archetypes found in mythology, we bring the astrological symbols to life and link them to everyday existence.

Mythological Correspondences and Archetypes

Aries

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Mars/Ares, Nergal, Minerva/Pallas/Athena, Atalanta, Helle, Phrixus, Jason, Abraham, Robin Hood
Archetypes: adventures, athletes, heroes, knights, leaders, pioneers, warriors
Traits: bold, competitive, courageous, energetic, enterprising, enthusiastic, fun loving, headstrong, idealistic, impatient, impulsive, independent, innovative, passionate

In the Greek myth of the golden fleece, the sea god Poseidon (Neptune) desires the beautiful maiden Theophane. When she rejects him, he changes her into a ewe and himself into a ram. The product of their union is a magical ram with a golden fleece. Phirixus, son of king Athamas and his first wife Nephele, lives in the land of Thessaly. When his jealous stepmother threatens his life, the god Hermes (Mercury) sends the golden ram to carry the youth to safety in the kingdom of Colchis. Upon his arrival, Phirixus sacrifices the ram to Zeus (Jupiter), and presents its fleece to Aeetes, king of Colchis. Aeetes places it in the sacred grove of a dragon that never sleeps. Later, Jason and the Argonauts journey to Colchis, recover the golden fleece, and return it to its rightful place in Thessaly.

Taurus

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Bacchus/Dionysus, Vulcan/Hephaestus, Venus/Aphrodite, Europa, Ishtar, Hathor, Ariadne, Parsiphae, Theseus, King Minos, Gilgamesh, Enkidu
Archetypes: artists, bankers, builders, conservationists, gardeners, musicians, singers
Traits: ardent, artistic, covetous, determined, materialistic, patient, persevering, plodding, possessive, reliable, romantic, security-minded, sensuous, sociable, stubborn

In the Greek myth of the abduction of Europa, Zeus (Jupiter) sees Europa, the daughter of the king of Tyre, gathering flowers. The king of the gods is seized with an uncontrollable desire for the beautiful princess, but she is constantly under the watchful eye of her father's servants. So Zeus transforms himself into a handsome bull with golden horns, and conceals himself amongst a grazing herd. Struck by the bull's incredible beauty, Europa can't resist going up to him and draping a wreath of flowers around his neck. When he kneels at her feet she sit on his back and grasps his golden horns. The bull springs up and speeds her away across the ocean to the island of Crete. Once there, Zeus assumes his true form and makes love to Europa beneath a cypress tree.

Gemini

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Mercury/Hermes, Thoth, Nabu, Nike, Leda, Helen and Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux, Romulus and Remus
Archetypes: messengers, journalists, publicists, salespersons, scribes, storytellers, traders
Traits: adaptable, amusing, clever, crafty, curious, eloquent, entertaining, informed, logical, multi-talented, persuasive, quick-witted, sociable, spontaneous, talkative

The story most often associated with Gemini is the Greek myth of Castor and Pollux. Although they are fraternal twins, Pollux is immortal because he's the son of Zeus (Jupiter), but Castor, the son of their mother's human husband, is mortal. The twins are inseparable friends and boon companions. Castor is a famous horseman and Pollux a championship boxer. Together they participate in many heroic adventures. They join Jason and the Argonauts in the search for the golden fleece, and lead the rescue of their sister, Helen of Troy, from her abductors. When Castor is killed in battle, Pollux is inconsolable and asks Zeus to take his life in exchange for Castor's. The god refuses, but agrees to allow them to enjoy life alternately, each passing one day in the underworld and the next on earth.

Cancer

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Sin, Mah, Tsuki-Yomi, Ceres/Demeter, Selene, Hecate, Danu, Kwan Yin, Hercules/Heracles and the Hydra, Oedipus
Archetypes: chefs, financiers, goddesses, mothers, nurses, real estate agents
Traits: cautious, changeable, intuitive, maternal, moody, nurturing, patriotic, protective, retentive, security minded, sensitive, sentimental, shrewd, tenacious, traditional

The Greek hero Heracles (Hercules), son of Zeus (Jupiter) and the mortal woman Alcmene, is named “glory of Hera” for Zeus' wife. But Hera, who hates her namesake, torments him whenever possible. When Hera causes Heracles to lose his mind and murder his wife and children, Apollo tells him he must atone for his crime by showing obedience to king Eurystheus. The king gives Heracles the task of completing twelve nearly impossible labors. One calls for the destruction of the Lernean Hydra, a venomous nine-headed serpent terrorizing the countryside. During the battle a giant crab sent by Hera emerges from a cave and manages to get a claw-hold on Heracles' foot. Heracles eventually kills the crab and defeats the Hydra, but Hera is so impressed with the crab's loyalty and courage that she places its image in the night sky as the constellation Cancer.

Leo

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Utu, Ra, Helios, Apollo, Belenos, Lugh, Horus, Amarterasu, Sekhmet, Surya, Hercules/Heracles and the Nemean Lion, Daniel, Samson
Archetypes: actors, celebrities, fathers, gods, heroes, kings, leaders, politicians
Traits: creative, dignified, dramatic, enthusiastic, extravagant, generous, honorable, industrious, loyal, magnanimous, optimistic, passionate, proud, self- confident

The tale most often associated with Leo is that of Heracles (Hercules) and the Nemean Lion. Hera, who hates Heracles, gets Zeus (Jupiter) to promise that the first-born prince of the house of Perseus will become king. Believing it will be Heracles, Zeus agrees. However, Hera contrives things so that Eurystheus is born first. When he realizes that Heracles is more famous than the king, Eurystheus sends the mighty hero on a series of dangerous missions. The first, involves killing an enormous lion with an invulnerable skin that's terrorizing the hills around Nemea. Heracles shots arrows at the beast and hits him with a club to no avail. Then Heracles follows the lion into a cave with two entrances. Blocking one doorway, he goes after the lion through the other. By grasping the lion in his mighty arms, Heracles manages to choke it to death with his bare hands.

Virgo

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Mercury/Hermes, Asklepios/Aesculapius, Thoth, Chiron, Astraea, Isis, Dike, Tyche, Atargatis, Erigone, Merlin
Archetypes: accountants, counselors, nurses, nutritionists, physicians, veterinarians
Traits: analytical, articulate, clean, concise, critical, dependable, discerning, discreet, efficient, hard-working, humorous, meticulous, modest, organized, prudent, scientific

One Greek myth associated with Virgo is the legend of the girl Erigone whose father is visited by Dionysus (Bacchus). In return for the man's gracious hospitality, the god gives him a grape vine and teaches him to make wine. The man introduces the intoxicating beverage to the people of his village. Since they've never tasted wine before, the citizens get very drunk. In their inebriated state they assume that the wine must be poisonous. The angry villagers murder the poor man, and bury him in an unknown place. Erigone, accompanied only by her faithful dog Maera, spends countless months searching for her father's grave until she finally finds it. When she dies Zeus (Jupiter) honors her devotion by turning her body into the constellation Virgo, and setting Maera in the skies as the Dog Star.

Libra

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Anubis, Eros, Venus/Aphrodite, Themis, Maat, Freya, Irene, Psyche, Paris
Archetypes: artists, designers, diplomats, judges, musicians, partners, peacemakers
Traits: artistic, conciliatory, cooperative, cultured, fashionable, friendly, gracious, impartial, indecisive, loving, persuasive, procrastinating, refined, romantic, tactful

Libra is the only constellation of the zodiac represented by an inanimate object—the scales. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the scales figure prominently in the story of the soul's passage from this life to the next. Anubis, the jackal-headed god, uses the scales to weigh the souls of those who have died and to judge their value based on what they did on earth. In the Hall of Double Justice, Anubis weighs the heart on one side of the scale, balancing it against a feather representing truth. The ceremony is presided over by Osiris, ruler of the Underwold, and recorded by his scribe, the ibis-headed Moon god, Thoth. The worthy deceased individual is admitted to eternal life in Osiris' kingdom. The heart of an unworthy person is consumed by a beast known as The Devourer.

Scorpio

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Pluto/Hades, Arawn, Herne, Osiris, Orpheus, Charon, Hel, Ereshkigal, Persephone/Kore, Eurydice, Aeneas, Gilgamesh
Archetypes: alchemists, detectives, psychologists, researchers, spies, undertakers
Traits: controlling, determined, intense, loyal, magnetic, manipulative, obsessive, passionate, persistent, probing, resilient, resourceful, secretive, strong-willed, subtle

One legend associated with Scorpio comes from the Sumerian epic poem, Gilgamesh. An astronomical calendar myth consisting of twelve tablets, the Gilgamesh cycle tells of the many feats of the legendary hero-king. After the death of his friend Enkidu, Gilgamesh searches for the sage-king Utnapishtim, who possesses the secret of immortality. On his way, Gilgamesh must confront the Scorpion-men—the half man and half scorpion creatures who are the guardians of Mount Mashu, the great mountain that safeguards the rising and setting of the Sun. After this encounter, Gilgamesh is sent on a journey into the dark. Although he feels oppressed and abandoned, strength and courage help him survive until he sees the light of dawn. At the end of this ordeal Gilgamesh finds himself in the garden of the gods, where he encounters the Sun god, Shamesh.

Sagittarius

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Jupiter/Zeus, Thor, Marduk, Tesub, Tin, Chiron, Crotus, Fortuna, Diana/Artemis, Rhiannon, Epona, Orion
Archetypes: explorers, gamblers, philosophers, preachers, students, teachers, travelers
Traits: adventurous, boisterous, candid, confident, enthusiastic, freedom-loving, friendly, generous, idealistic, jovial, lucky, optimistic, outgoing, talkative, truth-seeking, versatile

The Greek mythological figure associated with Sagittarius is the centaur Chiron, a being represented as half-man and half-horse. Chiron is the son of Cronus (Saturn) and the sea nymph Philyra. Instructed by Apollo and Artemis (Diana), he is famous for his skills in hunting, medicine, music, and the art of prophecy. Chiron tutors numerous Greek heroes, including Heracles (Hercules), Achilles, Jason, Asclepius, and Actaeon. He founds the Chironium, a healing temple on Mt. Pellius, where he instructs his pupils and cures the sick. When Chiron is accidentally shot with a poison arrow, he uses all his great medical skills on the wound, but it proves incurable. The suffering of the wounded healer is so profound that the Titan Prometheus, taking pity on Chiron, allows him to renounce his immortality and die in peace.

Capricorn

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Saturn/Cronus, Pan, Ea, Janus, Amalthea, Vesta/Hestia.
Archetypes: builders, conservationists, fathers, financiers, organizers, strategists
Traits: ambitious, cautious, conventional, dependable, dignified, diligent, hardworking, honorable, humorous, particular, patient, persistent, practical, realistic, resourceful

The Greek myth related to Capricorn is that of Amalthea, the goat-nymph who serves as baby nurse to Zeus (Jupiter). His mother, Rhea, hides the infant god on the island of Crete to save him from the wrath of his father Cronus (Saturn), who intends to swallow Zeus as he swallowed all his siblings. Amalthea, half goat and half nymph, is sister to the half goat and half human god, Pan. She feeds the baby Zeus on her magical nanny goat milk. When he grows up Zeus breaks off one of Amalthea's horns and turns it into the Cornucopia. Since the goat-nymph is capable of producing milk rich enough to feed a young god, the Cornucopia made from her horn can provide magical nourishment for all of Earth's children. As a reward for her nurturing and devotion, Zeus places his one horned nanny in the heavens as the constellation Capricorn.

Aquarius

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Prometheus, Ganymede, Deucalion, Hebe, Pandora, Pyrrha
Archetypes: archeologists, astronauts, futurists, inventors, non-conformists, scientists
Traits: absent-minded, anxious, argumentative, eccentric, freedom-loving, friendly, idealistic, independent, original, radical, rational, sincere, skeptical, stubborn, tolerant

The Greek mythological figure most often associated with Aquarius is the Titan Prometheus. Zeus (Jupiter) assigns the task of populating the Earth to Prometheus and Epimetheus. Working swiftly, Epimetheus creates the animals and gives them strength, courage, cunning, and speed. By the time Prometheus finishes shaping man, who is meant to be superior to the animals, his brother has handed out the best gifts. Prometheus asks Zeus for some of the god's sacred fire, so that mortals can keep warm and make weapons and tools to defend themselves and cultivate the Earth. Zeus refuses. So Prometheus, knowing once a gift is given it can't be taken back, steals the fire and gives it to man anyhow. Zeus punishes Prometheus by chaining him to a rock on Mount Caucasus. Prometheus hangs in his chains and suffers, but he does not apologize. The Titan's agony continues until the hero Heracles (Hercules) comes along and sets him free.

Pisces

Gods, goddesses, and heroes: Neptune/Poseidon, Manannan mac Lir, Jesus, Atargatis, Doris, the Lorelei, Ulysses/Odysseus, Taliesin, Telemachus, Cassandra, Penelope
Archetypes: artists, healers, mystics, poets, psychics, sailors, social workers, storytellers
Traits: artistic, charitable, dreamy, emotional, imaginative, impressionable, intuitive, mystical, psychic, sea-going, self-sacrificing, sensitive, spiritual, sympathetic, visionary

Homer's tale of the return of Odysseus (Ulysses) from the Trojan War is linked to Pisces. After ten years of war, the ships carrying Odysseus and his men are blown off course and pitched into uncharted waters by the angry sea god Poseidon (Neptune). The heroes are cast up onto strange beaches, where they encounter many mythological creatures. Their long, dreamlike journey is one of amazing discovery and nightmarish confusion. Meanwhile in Ithaca, Odysseus' wife Penelope awaits her husband's return. She sends their son, Telemachus, to seek news of his father. The goddess Athena (Minerva) intercepts the boy and tells him to go home. Then she finds Odysseus, restores him to vigorous manhood, and helps him return to Ithaca. Before Odysseus is finally reunited with his wife, he and Telemachus outwit a plot by one of the queen's suitors to usurp the throne by killing Telemachus and marrying Penelope.

This article was originally published in Sydney Omarr's Astrological Guide for You in 2007, Copyright 2006 © Phyllis Vega, The Estate of Sydney Omarr, and Writer's House LLC. All Rights Reserved.