Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
Taurus, an Earth element, can be seen in the night sky as a V shaped constellation between the months of December and January and is in full height between April 21st and May 21st. Cultures all over the world recognized Taurus the Bull as the bringer of Spring, the bringer of crops, and a sign of fertility as far back as 40,000 years.
Virgo, the second Earth element, is in full height between August 23rd and September 21st and has an origin that has been broken up through antiquity. However, for 15,000 years cultures throughout the world associated the constellation Virgo with the harvest and as “the maiden of the wheat field.” Other associations attributed to Virgo are of prosperity, justice, and purity.
Capricorn, the third Earth element, marks the Winter Solstice according to the Ancient Babylonian Star Catalogue and is in full height between December 22nd and January 19th. Capricorn is amongst the water signs to represent the Capricorn nature; half goat half fish. The Capricorn origin comes from the Greeks in which the God Hermes created the first hybrid creature in order to evade the Titan Typhoon.
Wind (Libra, Aquarius, Gemini)
Libra, the first of the Air elements, is the only constellation not anthropomorphized by a living creature and was revered as a constellation of justice and balance by all ancient cultures of the old world. Libra’s constellation is in full height between September 23rd and October 23rd.
Aquarius, the second Air element, is often mistaken as a Water element due to the fact that Aquarius is known as the “water bearer” and the bringer of rain. However, according to all ancient cultures water is a representation of knowledge signifying that Aquarius is the beholder of wisdom. Aquarius’ constellation is in full height between January 20th and February 18th.
Gemini, the final Air element, is in full height between May 21st and June 20th. The brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, represent the Gemini twins. The most popular story of Gemini tells that the twins partook in cattle theft when the Milky Way was made up of a herd of dairy cows. The story also correlates with the positioning of the twins in the night sky which gives the appearance of one inside the Milky Way and the other out.
Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)
The constellation of Cancer is in full height between June 21st and July 22nd and is the first of the Water elements. Heracles, tasked with killing the multi-headed Hydra, was stalled by the Goddess Hera who sent a giant Crab which had little to no effect. Commemorating the Crab’s bravery Hera placed the crab amongst the stars North of Hydra so that he may always assist in the battle.
Scorpio, the second Water element, is in full height between October 23rd and November 22nd. Scorpio emerged from Mother Earth to compete with Orion the greatest of all hunters. Mistaking Orion for the giant Scorpion the Goddess of the Hunt, Artemis, shot an arrow through Orion ultimately killing him. To honor Orion, Artemis placed him amongst the stars across from Scorpio so that he may continue his fight.
Pisces, the last Water element, is in full height between February 19th and March 20th. A common origin story for Pisces comes from the Christians to represent Jesus. However, prior to Christianity ancient cultures associated Pisces as a symbol of creation as the two fish lie in opposite directions.
Fire (Ares, Sagittarius, Leo)
Ares, the first of the Fire elements, is the Latin name for “Ram” but is most commonly associated with the Greek God of War. The constellation of Ares is in full height between March 21st and April 19th. The Ancient Babylonians recognized the constellation of Ares as a sign of fertility, a bringer of vegetation, and the mark of the Vernal, or Spring, Equinox.
Sagittarius, the second Fire element, is in full height between November 22nd and December 21st. A well known story of Sagittarius is that of the tale of Heracles. Chiron, a Centaur, was unlike his own not barbaric but highly educated. Heracles one day grew thirsty and mistaking property for his own drank wine that belonged to the Centaurs. A quarrel broke out that resulted in bloodshed and in the chaos Chiron was misidentified and killed by an arrow of Heracles. To commemorate his intelligence Zeus placed Chiron amongst the stars.
Leo, the final Fire element, is in full height between July 21st and August 22nd. The Ancient Egyptians recognized the Leo constellation due the timing of the Nile tide in accordance with the arrival of Lions. A popular Leo origin story is that of Heracles and the Nemean Lion. Heracles’ was tasked with killing a notoriously large man-eating lion. With great effort Heracles was able to do so and the battle was commemorated amongst the night sky.
For a video presentation of the origin of the 12 constellations click here: The Origin of the 12 Constellations
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