We all know that the star signs have a symbol associated with them. Leo is represented by a lion. Scorpio has a scorpion. Cancer has a crab and so on. But how did they come to be? It isn’t just because of the way they look. There is a story behind every star sign. You might be able to see some of the zodiac star signs on your personalized map of the stars.
There is often more than one story behind the symbols of the star signs. Different cultures saw different symbols and, even within the same culture and the same symbol, there can be more than one story. The Ancient Greek stories are the best known for the signs of the zodiac and, of their various stories, the most popular version has been retold below.
Dates: March 21st – April 19th
King Aeson of Iolcos was usurped by his brother Pelias. Jason, the son of Aeson, was perceived as a threat by Pelias and so Pelias sent Jason on what he believed was an impossible mission. He ordered him to retrieve the Golden Fleece from King Aetees of Colchis. Jason then assembled a group of warriors and heroes to help him. They were collectively known as the Argonauts and included the legendary Hercules.
After overcoming two fire-breathing bulls and stone warriors born from dragon’s teeth (with the help of the goddess Hera), the king still did not want to give up the Golden Fleece and planned to have them killed. Fortunately, Medea led them to the oak tree where it was hanging. They returned home and Jason retook the throne. The ram from which the Golden Fleece came became associated with the constellation of Aries.
Dates: April 20th – May 20th
The bull of Taurus gets its name from the myth of the Cretan Bull. Minos, the son of Zeus and Europa, prayed to Poseidon for a sign that he was the true heir of King Asterion. Poseidon sent him a white bull and Minos became the King of Crete. Minos knew he should sacrifice the bull to Poseidon but chose, instead, to sacrifice a lesser bull in its place. Outraged, Poseidon asked Aphrodite to help him exact his revenge who, in turn, cursed Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, to uncontrollably lust for the bull. She ended up getting pregnant by the bull and gave birth to Asterion, the half-man, half-bull Minotaur.
This was only just the beginning of the bull’s story. Poseidon sent the bull mad and it rampaged through the Cretan countryside, damaging property and killing people. Hercules managed to wrestle the bull and bring it back to Mycenae. The bull was then either released or it escaped and made its way across Greece to Marathon, creating havoc.
The son of King Minos, Androgeus, was sent to kill the bull but he was himself gorged to death. This caused a war between Crete and Athens until the hero Theseus defeated the bull and brought it to Athens to sacrifice to the goddess Athena, restoring peace to the warring cities. Theseus would also go on to kill the Minotaur in the labyrinth beneath King Minos’ palace.
Dates: May 21st – June 20th
The twins, Castor and Pollux, were both born from the same mother (Leda) but they had different fathers. Castor’s father was Tyandarus, the King of Sparta, making him mortal. Pollux’s father, on the other hand, was Zeus, making him immortal. The brothers went on many adventures, including the quest for the Golden Fleece and fighting together in the Trojan War.
Eventually, the mortal brother, Castor, died. Stricken with grief, Pollux begged Zeus to take his life and give immortality to Castor. Zeus was so touched by this act of love that he awarded them both immortality and a place in the stars as the constellation of Gemini.
Dates: June 21st – July 22nd
While there are many stories of the crab of Cancer, in Greek mythology, it is a simple story which some believe was added later to make the Twelve Labors of Hercules correlate with the twelve signs of the zodiac. Hercules is connected to at least one myth behind every star sign (though the Ancient Greeks alone had a number of stories for each).
On his mission to kill the Hydra, a many-headed sea-monster, Hera (the goddess who both hated Hercules and had sent him on this task) ordered a crab to attack Hercules. The crab squeezed on one of Hercules’ toes with its claw and Hercules kicked it into the sky, killing it. Grateful to the crab’s loyalty, Hera drew the image of the crab into the stars but did not make any of the stars bright because it had not succeeded in stopping Hercules.
Dates: July 23rd – August 22nd
In Greek mythology, the lion of Leo is the Nemean lion. The Nemean lion was the offspring of Zeus and Selene. Its skin was so tough, it could not be penetrated, and its claws and fangs were like iron. It terrorized the city of Nemea and Hercules was sent to kill it as his first labor.
Hercules attempted to shoot the lion with an arrow but it just bounced off its rock hard skin. The lion bit off one of Hercules’ fingers but he then managed to daze the lion with an almighty strike with his club and then strangled the lion to death. Zeus chose to immortalize the lion in the stars, however.
Dates: August 23rd – September 22nd
To punish Prometheus for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to humans, Zeus sent Pandora, a beautiful woman, to beguile the brother of Prometheus. Pandora was then given a box and told never to open it. One day, Pandora’s curiosity overcame her and she dug up the box and opened it. This released pain and misery into the world and, one by one, all the gods left earth. Astraea, the goddess of innocence and purity, was the last god to leave. She is remembered in the constellation of Virgo and, as legend has it, she will return when the Golden Age comes again.
Dates: September 23rd – October 22nd
Libra is the only star sign which is represented by an inanimate object. In Greek mythology, the scales of Libra are held by Themis (who is usually depicted as wearing a blindfold), the goddess of justice. Themis is the mother of Astraea (the goddess of Virgo). Their constellations are next to each other in the night sky and Themis is predicted to return with Astraea at the next Golden Age.
Dates: October 23rd – November 21st
Orion, the son of Poseidon and Euriale, was a skilled huntsman and caught the eye of the goddess Artemis. Orion made the fatal mistake of trying to have sex with Artemis (who was a sworn virgin). In revenge, Artemis sent a scorpion to kill Orion which it eventually succeeded in doing with its poisonous sting. Artemis then preserved both the scorpion and Orion as constellations in the night sky. They face each other, perpetually locked in battle.
Dates: November 22nd – December 21st
In the original Greek myth, the archer of Sagittarius, was Crotus. He was the son of Eufeme (the nurse of the Muses) and the half-goat, demigod Pan. Half goat and half man (a satyr), Crotus was an extremely talented musician and huntsman who was attributed with inventing the bow and arrow. The Muses asked Zeus to place him in the stars, where he can be seen showing off his archery skills.
Dates: December 22nd – January 19th
The father of Crotus (the archer of Sagittarius) was the half-goat, demigod Pan who is associated with the goat of Capricorn. Pan was the son of a forest nymph and the god Hermes. Pan’s mother was disgusted by him and abandoned him, leaving him with the other forest nymphs.
Pan terrorized the nymphs, forever trying to catch and make love to them. One of the terrified nymphs, Syrinx, asked the gods to turn her into a reed – which Pan then fashioned into a ‘Pan flute’, as he was an excellent musician. For helping Zeus fight against Typhon, however, he was immortalized as the constellation of Capricorn.
Symbol: Water Bearer
Dates: January 20th – February 18th
Ganymede was a young and beautiful prince of Troy. Anyone who looked at him – man or woman – became completely enamoured by his beauty. Not only was he beautiful on the outside, it is said he was more beautiful still on the inside. Being a prince, however, no one dared to force their affections on him. Zeus, however, completely lovestruck by Ganymede, flew down in the form of an eagle and carried him up to Olympus.
Ganymede was a very popular addition to Olympus, as he charmed all of its inhabitants. Overcome with love, Zeus flew in the face of his marriage to Hera, anointing Ganymede as his cupbearer (and lover). Out of compassion, Ganymede begged Zeus to help him send rain to the thirsty people on earth. Zeus agreed and Ganymede was deified as Aquarius, god of rain, and took his place as a constellation.
Dates: February 19th – March 20th
After the gods of Olympus, led by Zeus, defeated the Titans, Gaia (Mother Earth) coupled with Tartarus (the underworld) to create Typhon, the most unholy of creatures which had one hundred dragon heads, flaming eyes and black tongues. Gaia sent Typhon to destroy the gods of Olympus as revenge for killing the Titans. Luckily, Pan (the demigod associated with Capricorn) saw it coming and warned the other gods who all turned into different animals.
Venus and her son, Cupid, were caught off-guard by the monster, however. Venus prayed to the water nymphs for help. The nymphs transformed them into two koi fish with their tails tied by a cord so they didn’t lose each other. Their transformation was recorded in the night sky as the constellation of Pisces.
Knowing these twelve stories behind the signs of the zodiac, will help to bring your UnderLuckyStars map of the night sky to life. Whether you have ordered a star map for an anniversary, wedding, date of birth, or any number of times and places special to you, by learning about the stars themselves, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for your star map.
You may also want to learn how to find the constellations, or just brush up on your knowledge about the stars? The story you have chosen to remember with your bespoke star map is connected to hundreds more stories written in the stars.