The Zodiac Signs are anti-fragile. They’ve existed since before the dawn of measurable time, and they endure today. Paleolithic people painted them in caves. Priestesses on the battlements of ancient cities star-gazed, seeking answers and calculating. Sailors, crossing strange oceans, found the reassurance of their constellation in the sky.
If you time-machined yourself back in history, talking about your “star sign” would be a guaranteed go-to conversation staple. Or, to be fair, a go-to-jail move in some eras.
Still, there are images of the Zodiac Signs in many Christian cathedrals. They are etched into celebrity skin and deployed in pop culture. Each constellation (grouping of stars) has a name, and practically every culture has a version of these 12 archetypal characters.
The Origins Of The Zodiac Creatures Are Weirder Than They Seem
Zodiac originally meant “shiny herd” or “cycle of animals,” but the Air Signs are not even animals. And Sagittarius + Capricorn are both symbolized by magical creatures.
The actual Zodiac is a wide road of stars that runs in a circle. People have seen its constellations as significant for millennia, and the Sun passes through all of them in a year. Hence, Sun Signs.
The symbols for each sign are ancient and like anything that old, have adjusted over the eons. Many descriptions reflect the tone of a harsher but more simple era. Frankly, they often muted the magical weirdness and imposed medieval values onto them. So here are my suggestions for Zodiac Signs rebranding in the 21st Century.
Some Of The Zodiac Sign Symbols Were Originally Monsters
Aries: Classically this first sign of the Zodiac is the Ram, as in male sheep. Olden-day battering rams, to bust in the gates of besieged cities, often had huge rams heads on them and the Aries symbol evokes the Ram’s horns. But before about 1200BC, Aries wasn’t the first Zodiac Sign. The Ancient Babylonians called it the Hired Man. Of course, that can pertain to any role from farm laborer to assassin and usually did. Then Aries got a makeover and was associated with Chrysomallus, the fabulous, enchanted, golden-fleeced flying Ram. Suggested Rebrand: Aries, you have wings!
Taurus: The archetypal depiction of Taurus is that they’re placid and patient but berserk when aroused to anger. But how much of this came from medieval Bull roles, pulling plows and serving as a symbol of patriarchal virility? Taurus was previously associated with Hathor, the ancient Egyptian Goddess, and the original Holy Cow. Before Aries got promoted, Taurus was the first sign of the Zodiac and seen as the most important constellation. The Chinese call it the Great Bridge and it contains the Pleiades, a favorite alien conspiracy theory destination. In some old texts, Taurus was symbolized as the Unicorn. Alien Unicorn?
Gemini Was The Vermilion Bird Of The South
Gemini: In Ancient Babylon, the “Twins” that symbolize Gemini were double aspects of their Underworld God, a Mars-Pluto hybrid. They evolved into the Ancient Greco-Roman Castor + Pollux, who were warriors so close they could not bear to separate when one died. So Zeus made them both immortal Twins. The old Chinese symbol for this Zodiac sign feels more like 21st Century Gemini. The Vermilion Bird of the South is a magical creature who flies between realms, brings inspiration and carries messages. Geminis are not really bi-natured; they’re fluid and fluent in the language of the Wind.
Cancer: This Moon-ruled sign is symbolized by the Crab. The original was made immortal by the Goddess Hera after she sent him to help a serpent monster attack Hercules and things didn’t quite go to plan. They were also associated with the Scarab (or Kataka) and Lobsters. The Moon card of the Tarot features the latter. But the 21st Century Cancer symbol could well hark back to the most esoteric of mythologies around the sign: Anubis – the iconic Pluto-like God of Ancient Egypt. Anubis is associated with wolves. Cancerians know their turf and every creature on it, in-depth, like a wolf. They have crazy-strong instincts, and they often like the idea of being in a pack.
Leo Is Based On A Supernatural Lion Monster
Leo: Although the symbol evolved into being a kindly, regal and generous lion, Leo is associated with a supernatural Lion Monster. Weirdly, like neighboring Cancer, the Nemean Lion that became Leo was dispatched by Hercules. But before the Greco-Roman storyline, the constellation was associated with royalty and the Lion Goddess Sekhmet. Along with Taurus, it is one of the earliest acknowledged constellations. Suggestion: that Leo retains the Lion symbol but reclaims the Lioness aspect and the fierceness associated with the earlier Leo archetypes. In ancient times, Leo was revered as the bravest of the Zodiac. There are no cowardly lions.
Virgo: Virgo is supposedly the Virgin but halt right there. The symbol is linked to Astraea the Star Maiden, a Goddess of Justice who left Earth because they wouldn’t listen to her sensible counsel and wisdom. Additionally, it’s not actually a “virgin” as such. Virgo comes from virago aka the Heroic Maiden. The word became “bad-tempered woman” or “harridan” over the years. But it was initially a respectful title. The Virago archetype was also linked to Ceres and Isis. The 21st Century version of Virgo is simple; a subtle tweak of the current symbol to return it to Virago, and voila!
Libra Is The Azure Dragon Of The East
Libra: Libra is the only inanimate object symbol of the Zodiac, and it is a relatively recent constellation. It was a part of Scorpio and seen as the Scorpions claws. Even the “scales” symbology is suss. Some historians say that they rightly belong to Astraea, the Justice Goddess linked to Virgo. So Libra is a modern (modern in this context being the Ancient Romans) merger. In Chinese astrology, Libra is the fantastically named Azure Dragon Of The East, which sounds more Libran. It is also called the Avalon Dragon or the Blue Dragon. Rebranding Suggestion: Libra, throw away the Scales and embrace your Inner Dragon.
Scorpio: Of all the Zodiac signs, Scorpio has the strongest brand recognition. You could rock up at any point in history, say “I’m a Scorpio” and people’s eyes would drop straight to your crotch. Then they’d dart across to check out your sword. In recent times, it’s been fashionable to say that Scorpio is also the Eagle, Phoenix or even a Dove. Sure they sound more aspirational than ‘venomous desert creature,’ but Scorpion Deities were big in Ancient Mesopotamia. Repeating a now familiar pattern, the Goddess Gaia sent the original scorpion down to attack Orion. Unlike the case of the unfortunate Crab and Lion, the Scorpion won. Is it time to own the Scorpion identity, stinger and all?
Sagittarius: Classically, Sagittarius is the Centaur, half-horse/half-human and traditionally seen as male. The usual portrayal of the Centaurs is a tad frat-boyish, let’s face it. Yes, they have wisdom and good aim, but they’re also prone to trashing forests and pursuing nymphs like nobody’s business. But Sagittarius was originally a Babylonian God, one of those composite creatures that the Bible hates; a panther’s head, different color hooves and somewhere in there (why?) a Scorpion’s stinger. But Sagittarius is also symbolized by the Satyr. Satyrs like living in forests or secret hide-outs, parties and playing the Pan pipes. They enjoy the company of Muses, the custodians of knowledge.
Capricorn Has Easily The Weirdest Zodiac Sign Story Of All
Capricorn: Capricorn is actually the Sea-Goat or Mer-Goat, a mythological creature whose origin is lost in primordial time. The Greco-Roman stories about Capricorn explain the fishtail as a kind of innovation by the Goat God Pan. But the concept of Capricorn as Sea Goat goes way back. Chronos/Saturn – the Time God – is the modern ruler of Capricorn but the ancient Sea-Goats or Goat Fish were affiliated to the Sumerian God of Water and an equivalent to Mercury. Easily the weirdest Zodiac sign story of all, the Sea Goat was linked to mystical races said to live beneath the sea, the Holy Grail and the monster Cthulhu that H.P. Lovecraft depicted so chillingly. Rebranding Suggestion: Capricorns could emphasize their epic and enviable supernatural lineage?
Aquarius: The Greco-Roman concept of Aquarius as “Water Bearer” comes from an unseemly story that certainly wouldn’t fly in a modern mythic narrative. Zeus saw the boy Ganymede, thought he was hot and kidnapped him to be his “cup-bearer.” The compensation? Immortality and his father was given a magic Chariot. Further back this sign was linked to the Storm God of the old Persia and the Storm Goddess Tempestas. Both are Uranian-style deities. Another Aquarius affiliation: The Egyptian River Nile deity Hapi was shown with vases of ‘divine’ water. He was male but with female breasts and interestingly, the sign has long been associated with gender fluidity. But if “Water-Bearer” is not resonating, 21st century Aquarius could rebrand as a Storm Bearer. Storm Broker?
Pisces – Dove Or Daemon?
Pisces: For the last few thousand years, Pisces (the Latin plural for Fish) has been associated with Jesus and Co. Beforehand it was linked to Venus and her son Eros AKA Cupid. The story is that they transformed into fish to escape a monster, with a cord to connect them. Medieval texts get really frothy with Pisces, referring to one Fish as ‘demonic’ and so on. But further back, Pisces is associated with the Syrian Goddess Atagartis, who was half-Fish, half woman. She was the prototypal mermaid and often depicted with two-fish above her head, probably representing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Her key symbol was the Dove. Pisces Rebranding Suggestion: if you’re fed up with people misinterpreting the Fish symbolism, go straight for Dove.
Image: Kim Laughton