Myths paint a picture and offer a background story to the constellations, which were used to define the characteristics of sun signs. What myths and stories did the ancients use to explain and find meaning in the constellation Aquarius? Explore the ancient myths that figured prominently in ancient Aquarius mythology.
Aquarius in Greek Mythology
The Greeks depicted the constellation Aquarius as a young man pouring water from a vase or urn into the mouth of southern fish, Piscis Austrinus. The Greeks have several Greek myths related to the constellation Aquarius.
The Myth of Ganymede
Ganymede, an extremely handsome young aristocratic Trojan, caught the attention of Zeus, who transformed himself into an eagle, abducted Ganymede, and carried him off to Mount Olympus. Another version of this myth says that Eos, the Goddess of the Dawn, carries off Ganymede to Mount Olympus, where Zeus took him from her to be cupbearer to the gods. In any case, once there, Ganymede faced the wrath of Hera, the wife of Zeus, who was jealous and angry that her husband had taken such a fancy to a young man. She was even more upset when Zeus replaced her daughter, Hebe, with Ganymede and made him cupbearer to the gods. Zeus rewarded Ganymede for his service with immortality and eternal youth as constellation Aquarius.
Handsome Young Ganymede
In another version of the myth, Zeus had a homosexual passion for Ganymede. In fact, the Ganymede myth was the first indication of male homosexuality in Greek literature. Interestingly, in ancient Rome, Ganymede was a name often used for the handsome young slaves who served as cupbearers. Catamite (Latin: catamitus,) generally a term of affection for pubescent boys, literally means "Ganymede" in Latin. However, Plato's writings of conversations with Socrates point out that the meaning of the name Ganymede is for "taking pleasure of the mind."
The Myth of the Deucalion and Pyrrha
Another Greek myth differs significantly from the myth of Ganymede. Instead of representing the water bearer, the constellation Aquarius represents a fabled couple that survived the Great Flood. Deucalion and his wife, Pyrrha, were warned by Zeus to build a large boat and stock it as quickly as possible. The couple was obedient, heeded Zeus's warning, survived the global flood, and beached on Mount Parnassus. As they walked along the receding waters, Deucalion and Pyrrha began to toss Mother Earth (rocks and stones) over their shoulders until, at one point in the myth, the two look behind them to find that the rocks have turned into men and women that would create a new and wiser human race.
The Myth of Hyas
Still, another Greek myth about the constellation Aquarius involves the death of Hyas. Hyas was a mighty hunter who was killed by a lion. The gods placed him in the sky to become constellation Aquarius upon his death. Then to protect Hyas, they put the lion that killed him at the other end of the sky as constellation Leo. This is the ancient Greek explanation for why neither constellation appears together in the night sky. When one constellation sets in the west, the other rises in the east.
Aquarius in Arabian Mythology
The Arabs pictured the constellation of Aquarius as a bucket. Although they sometimes pictured a mule carrying the buckets of water. To ancient Arabians, the stars of the constellation Aquarius were considered lucky. Why lucky? In the Middle East, the sun entering Aquarius marked a time of life-giving rains.
Aquarius in Babylonian Mythology
The Babylonians identified Aquarius as Gula, "The Great One." Gula was also known as "the Irrigator," who harnessed the power of rain and floods. Gula was often depicted with fish swimming in the streams flowing from his shoulders. He's also seen pouring water from an urn or holding an overflowing vase over the earth. The sun passing through the Aquarius constellation brought the annual rainfall for the Babylonians.
Aquarius in Sumerian Mythology
The Sumerians believed Aquarius was responsible for a great flood covering the earth. They also tell the story of Etana, a legendary hero-king. According to the Sumerian king list, Etana ruled the city of Kish after a great deluge or flood. Etana is also "the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries."
Aquarius in Egyptian Mythology
The ancient Egyptians identified Aquarius with the god of the Nile, Hapi. He was often depicted as pouring water of the Nile from two large urns. Hapi was the cause of the annual flooding of the river, which ensured the fertility of the land. Hapi was depicted as androgynous--a male god with breasts. The urns represented good fortune.
Aquarius in Hindu Mythology
In the Hindu zodiac, Kumbha means "water-pitcher" and is associated with the goddess Ganga, the personification of the river Ganges. The birth story of the goddess Ganga and how she descended to earth is told in the Bhagavata Purana. It seems that while Vishnu was measuring the universe, he pierced a hole through the cover, and the water of the "Causal Ocean" poured through the hole and became the Ganges. Bathing in the Ganges is believed to wash away sins and bring you closer to liberation.
The Astrological Sign of Aquarius
Aquarius is the fixed air sign. Yet most of the myths above portray the constellation Aquarius with water and it's often thought to be a water sign. Why? Constellation Aquarius is located in a deep, dark area of the sky called the celestial sea. Its name begins with "aqua" (the Latin prefix meaning water), and its glyph symbol is the Egyptian hieroglyphic for water. Yes, it's all a bit confusing. But Aquarius is the water bearer, the urn or the bucket, not the water. The water is often interpreted as washing away the past. Fixed air is the correct element for Aquarius because it's controlled and concerned with the intellectual, the abstract, and the futuristic. The three water signs are emotional and concerned with feelings.
Aquarius: Water-Bearer and Wave-Maker
Several millennia after Aquarius was first named by ancient astrologers, the discovery of the planet Uranus in the late 1700s led to astrologers making Uranus the ruler of Aquarius. Uranus is an exceptionally airy planet. It rules electricity, lightning, electronic media, technology, computers, the internet, networking, social media, and everything virtual. It's associated with invention, innovation, social change, political activism, humanitarianism, and all things radical, futuristic, and disruptive. You could say that when Uranus became the ruler of Aquarius, Aquarius became not only the water-bearer, but also the wave-maker.