Symbol: The Fishes Solar month: 19 Feb – 21 Mar.
Element: Water Temperament:
Quality: Mutable Gender: Negative/feminine
Detriment of: Mercury
Exaltation of: Venus Fall of : Mercury
Modern planetary association: Neptune
Archetypal faces: Orphan/ Chameleon
Ancient & Traditional Pisces
“In its share of living things are the aquatic animals, and all vegetation that is in the water, and crystal, coral and onyx. . . ‘
‘. . . In its share of places are synagogues, and the banks of all rivers and lakes.”
“And here fantastic fishes duskly float, Using the calm for waters, while their fires throb out quick rhythms along the shallow air.”
Although probably Mesopotamian and thought to have been three independent constellations, prior to the typical evolution of the subsequent sequential zodiac, the sign of Pisces is of a nebulous exactness of origin. . Called ‘Nuni’, ‘Fishes’ in Babylonia and ‘Zib’, which is thought to mean something akin to ‘boundary’.
nomination is postulated to reflect the point that this astrological sign marks
the end/beginning of the full zodiacal round. In the earlier Chinese
zodiac this asterism related to ‘Tseu Tze’, the ‘Pig’ and later to evolve into
‘Shwang Yu’, ‘Two Fishes’. The figuring of the fish, or fishes, has been
fairly consistent in the general history of this constellation.
Under the planetary government of the traditional ‘Great Benefic’, Jupiter, Pisces has also been associated to the portenting of fortune, nobility and wisdom. Such regard also stems from an extremely ancient respect for a major fixed star, much observed and commented upon by the astrologers of antiquity. This star is known as Formalhaut, in the mouth of one fish and best known in its title as one of the ‘Royal Stars of Persia’ of which there were four. Such stars were seen as ‘sentinels’ in ‘guarding’ over the other lights of the cosmos. Back in c.500 BCE, this fixed star was an object of major heliacal observation and worship, as witnessed in the temple of Demeter at Eleusis, amongst other ancient times and places. Interestingly and perhaps testament to the nature of such stellar prominence, in the early ‘scientific age’ of the 1800’s Formalhaut was postulated as the ‘central Sun of the universe’.
This is also one of the ‘lunar stars’ and seen as of importance in naval navigation. Even in early astrology, over a millennia prior to the discovery of the planet Neptune, sea-gods and the Roman god Neptune were mythically associated with the sign of Pisces.
In very early times, one of the fishes is also associated with an early Syrian goddess and may be the mythic evolution through to a connection between this star sign and Hellenistic Venus. This sign is also seen as linked to the Syrian fish-headed god Dagon, and is also considered to be esoterically allied to a pre-classical Greek fish-goddess called Atargatis. Some other, even earlier association to the asterism of Pisces concerns a pair of goddesses, each respectively associated with the major ancient tributaries of the Tigris and the Euphrates. These goddesses were signified as ‘joined’, by a ‘leash’, or ‘band’, as assigned to the very faint, almost indistinct group of stars between the two figures in the heavens. From its earliest figuring, the two fish are seen to be joined by a ‘silver’ or ‘golden’ cord, usually at the mouth. Hence, this constellation can be viewed as three distinct components---two fish and one cord. This conjoining leash is completed with a symbolic ‘Nodus Piscium’ or ‘Knot’, which was also recognised in the figuring of pre-classical times. The existence of such partitioned ‘sub-symbolism’, as applied to this zodiacal figure, was said by some of the ancient astrologers to account for the extremely variable nature that is often assigned to Pisces.
The zodiacal figure of the Fishes is thought to have
originally been viewed as only one of the creatures, possibly due to this being
a generally faint and spreading constellation.
The two figures are widely separated in their heavenly placement, which is in the ‘watery’ section of the heavens. One is seen to head towards the shape of the Pegasus, the other towards that of the princess Andromeda. In fact the ‘northern’ fish, in relationship to ancient Hellenistic myth, was considered by some to represent the monster of the sea that was sent to devour the maiden to be sacrificed. Thus the stars of this fish were symbolically considered not as benefic (even malignant) as those of the other.
In some ancient cultures the hieroglyph of the fish was regarded as to represent something ‘odious’. To some, the entire sign and astrological activity strong within it, became classically associated with threat of deluge, an event contributive to the collective anxiety of some ancient cultures. Pliny is seen to declare that a comet manifesting in the sign of Pisces heralded a great disturbance, due to religious differences (and Pisces is the prime sign of the cloistered/sacred).
So within the cosmic pairing that constitutes this sign, the ancients knew one as the ‘golden fish’, as it was brighter than the other. The ‘greater’ or ‘southern’ fish has also been known as, the ‘Fish Drinking the Stream’, that is the ‘outflow’ of the Aquarian urn. The southern fish is considered to have taken form, due to the myth of the escape of Aphrodite and Eros from the terrible monster Typhon. It is said that they became two fishes in order to dive into the waters and to escape.
The answer as to why Venus is exalted in Pisces???
It is also said, in another mythic view offered by the Latin writers, that two fish carried each of the immortals to safety, thus to be commemorated in the heavenly firmament. Hence the statement that ‘Venus ow’d her safety to their shape’ . Thus this constellation was also entitled ‘Venus et Cupido’, ‘Venus Mater’, by some, this becomes interesting, given that the planet Venus is astrologically exalted, when posited within this star sign.
This is also an extension of this feminine mythology, through to Marian symbology, which regards Mary as mother of Jesus. Again, a face of the sea (‘mare’), as an important maternal symbol, is reflected by the connection of the symbolic and the aquatic.
The fish is very well known in its capacity as a primitive sanctified symbol and some pagan peoples saw the stars of Pisces as their ‘Dolphin’, a sacred icon. Throughout history the fish is also to become a well known Christian symbol, and their plain and simple pictographic version is thought to have derived from an anagram of ancient letters, pertaining to the mystical face of the religion. The symbol of the fish is thus said to speak of the profound spiritual essences and gnosis, that may underlie the world of the apparent, whether secular or sacred. The pagan connection of times earlier still applies here, as the dolphin/fish was considered as generally symbolic of the surging up of the life force, from the collective watery vastness. Certain ancient thought had it that Pisces also represented the thousands that Christ fed. As a Christian symbol, the fish and the constellation become connected with the often stereotyped principles of sacrifice, suffering, peace and spirituality.
As symbolic of the human anatomy, this sign directly relates to the feet and again, in the biblical myth, witnessed is the metaphor of the washing of the feet. The symbolism of this gesture is seen to embody some of the characteristics related to this zodiacal archetype, particularly those of devotion, service and humility. In such context, another biblical metaphor pertaining to the feet is that of the crucifixion, thus typical Piscean principles of sacrifice, suffering and so on, are also to be reflected here. In the symbolic facets of mythology and fairytale that pick up on the archetypal reflections of this sign, often may be seen are the metaphors of the pain of pilgrimage, impossible yearning, becoming mute, walking as if on shards of glass and such like.
Various and changing theories, both ancient and modern concerning the Star of Bethlehem and birth of Jesus Christ , also involve this Jupiter-ruled sign. One hypothesis postulates that the Star of the Magi was the creation of a grand conjunction between the planets Jupiter and Saturn, within the sign of Pisces. This celestial event is seen to have occurred at 16 degrees Pisces, on the 5th of December 7 BCE. However, it has been noted that the planets did not match in celestial latitude (declination), which is necessary in order to give the illusion of one large enduring light. Other scholars postulate that the phenomenon was due to the meeting of the planets Jupiter and Venus. Still others give a very salient argument for the whole story being a writer's fabrication. Nonetheless, in the Judaic tradition the same planetary joining, in the same sign, is said to have augured the earlier birth of Moses. Therefore, ‘the wise’ apparently knew that the cyclic return of such a conjoining heralded the arrival of another ‘holy king’ or ‘messenger of god’. Accordingly, the sign of the fishes was considered the national zodiacal emblem of the Jews, from times much earlier than that of Jesus.
In regard to the precession of the equinoxes, it is reasoned that the Piscean thematics concerning collective evolution have been in a general dominance for a long period of time. The commencement of the great ‘Piscean Age’ is hypothesised have began somewhere around the onset of Christian era. Of course, such a vast slice of time and tremendous collectivity of context is not just about the Christian ethos. In addition, the exact boundaries of any Great Age are debatable. Nonetheless, Jesus was known as a ‘fisher of men’, drawing his first followers from amongst the fishermen themselves and ultimately out of a greater portion of the ‘sea of humanity’. The analogy of a spiritual leader as ‘fishing’ seems archetypal, to some degree. For example, Buddha, as avatar, was given this title as well, in turn due to the universality and integral dynamics of his religion. In addition, another major figure, in Hindu myth, the god Vishnu incarnates as a fish to save mankind, so again, the fish becomes connected with the concept of a god-related saviour, or messiah.
The image of the ‘fishes of the sea’ is esoterically representative of ‘those immersed in the waves of worldly affairs’ . As all of humanity is seen to be ‘swimming in the waters of life’, these ‘waters’ being the aetheric field, as poured from the urn of the waterbearer (Aquarius). Thus it is said that the sign of the fishes ‘swims’ in the starry ‘waters’, that are tumbling from the urn. In the same vein of symbolism, there is also the esoteric image of the ‘cosmic fish’ which is reflective of the ‘ocean’ of the whole physical universe. This symbolic ocean has many levels and currents, which are the different planes that the different beings ‘swim’ in, relative to the reflections of their own consciousness. The most watery of constellations is strongly related to interdimensional, other-worldly and surreal contexts, expressions and manifestations.
As a zodiacal component and in the traditional context,
the sign of Pisces is seen to bring an ‘action’ to the element of water, of a
third mode. Thus, reflecting the energetic symbolism, in regard to a further
releasing of the form, of the season previous. Hence it is stated that the
quality of the Piscean seasonal process is that ‘by which is caused a motion of
nature for the annihilation and destruction’.
Here moisture/water is symbolised as in excess and a certain degree of coldness may still maintain, as certainly the vivifying light of day is still to come to a real fullness of prominence. Nevertheless, winter is now truly well under a mutation and dissolution, therefore anything still manifest yet absolutely spent and thus unregenerative, may now truly stagnate. Here form is seen to alter, to be loosened and to be washed away, further dissolved, by the inundation of wetness. Some traditional classifications and descriptions relating to this sign are as follows; the ‘night house of Jupiter’, feminine, moist, phlegmatic, nocturnal, mute, fertile, dual, malleable, marine, filling.
Some more Symbology & Mythology
Pisces is definitely one of the earliest zodiacal signs on record and it is a fact the fish, in itself, is one of the most widely employed symbols throughout much of the history of many cultures (multi-faceted is a standard Piscean keyword). The constellation is usually depicted as two fish, bound by a cord and appearing to swim in opposite directions. Typically, this figuring is regarded as symbolic of the material versus the spiritual aspects of being and therefore this sign is seen as always containing a certain sense of duality. In reference to the zodiacal sequencing, and the subsequent signs placed before and after Pisces, one fish appears to symbolically ‘swim’ toward the heroic individuation of Aries and the other, towards the social collectivity of Aquarius.
Thus the sign of Pisces is said to generally represent the dynamics concerning the material versus the astral, or the urge to give form to the self, against that to dissolve into the immaterial oneness with ‘all that is’. The astrological glyph for Pisces, in itself represents these two fish tied together and never separated. More esoterically, the horizontal line that is linking the semicircles of this symbol is regarded as to ‘link the semicircles of finite and infinite consciousness’. Pop-symbolism has also seen it as the ‘semicircles of the soul’ ( ), bound to the manifest world, by the horizontal bracket of the ‘cross of matter’(+).
At some point in Roman history, the fish is seen as a funerary symbol, as representing the expression of the dissolution in the next world, thus once more, this asterism may become connected with the concept of a ‘void’, or ‘cosmic ocean’. As the last in the overall sequence of the twelve signs, Pisces may carry the principle of the dissolution of form, back into the greater whole. Hence this is a star sign said to be associated with the vast ocean of boundless experience, or the ‘great oceanic waters from which all beings spring’ and other such analogies. This is because the astrological fish is always bound by water and profoundly bonded to the symbolism of this element, both physically and metaphysically.
All of this symbolism may be applied to the kaleidoscopic potential of the demonstrations of water. Such metaphysics and manifestation may range from the most ultimate gossamer of mists, to the most overwhelming of waves and floods. Therefore what such manifestations may relate to, do pertain most powerfully to astrological Pisces. This is a watery, mutable sign, with the additional ‘moistness’ of Jupiter within its basic symbolic template. In general, water softens and washes away the dross. Thus the symbolism of this element is the basis for ritual of baptism. Themes of immersing, libation and washing are seen as representative the ego’s surrender to ‘death’ and thus a cleansing, so one can thus be reborn and liberated in spirit.
Pisces, King Arthur, and the Fisher King
The motifs of the Arthurian-related myth of ‘Parsifal and the Holy Grail’ are essentially considered as of a ‘Piscean’ nature and is rich in its detailed symbology. The ‘seeking of the grail’ and the mystery of ‘whom it may serve’, is considered to offer much of the symbolism pertaining to the astrological thematics of this sign. The central face of the story which concerns the restoring of the grail (enlightenment) to humanity, in a complex journey concerned with the redeeming of the self, others and the Waste Land. In this epic tale, the profoundly wounded figure of the elder ‘Fisher King’ (or ‘rich fisherman’) is met, who is in requirement of compassion. This vast myth has been well-analysed and explored on many levels and especially as a psycho-emotional allegory. The grail mythology is another typical ‘heroic journey’ which is dressed in the metaphors which generally stem from the Age of the Romances. Passed on to the young hero is a heritage concerning redemption and the ultimate development of an inner spiritual reality. This tale may represent the transformative process of the inner self via the yearning for and seeking of an elusive chimera. A lot about the symbolism of the sign of Pisces is certainly thoroughly laced within the entire tale. Anyone interested in Pisces should aquaint themselves with this story.
The metaphor of fishing generally regards ‘fishing in the soul’ and extracting the unconscious elements from deep levels of experience. The fish (and grail) may both be as symbols of an archetypal ‘elusive treasure’, reflecting the nature of how tricky and challenging it can be to capture a tangible experience of a soul-centred awareness and god-connected experience. All type of vast journeying may equate to this zodiacal sign, particularly those of an ‘oceanic’ tone in regard to travel; even more so to the ‘inner travel’ concerning the spiritual journey.
A theosophically heightened and most esoteric aspect of the sign of Pisces is said to represent the final period of evolution upon the buddhic plane, when the uniting of the higher and lower consciousness may potentially take place. In comparison to the other mutable Jupiterian ‘masculine’ and fiery sign of Sagittarius, is the primitive quality of moistness that is in an abundance within the esoteric symbolism of Pisces. Thus much bonding and a syncretism, of some fashion, may be represented by this wet Jupiter-ruled sign (or ‘feminine’ elemental face of this planets further astrology).
As the birds can be symbolic of the heights of the atmosphere, the element of air (and thus the mental function) are related to fish; the swimming creatures are considered the ‘birds of the nether regions'---or that which dwells at the feeling, unconscious and collective levels.
Another interesting personification of Piscean archetypal energy is the forms of the sirens, loreli, or mermaids, mythic denizens of the oceans, who seduced sailors into drowning with their hypnotic singing and beguiling beauty. This kind of archetypal personification depicts the well-touted Piscean theme of becoming seduced by illusion, glamour and images. Thus offered is a signal of the more materially-oriented fish being the most ‘powerful swimmer’ and thus may be prone to the setting and piloting of an unregenerative direction.
Universality of Consciousness. Dissolution of the Ego. Release of Spiritual Essence. Surrender to Inspiration. Glorification of Sacrifice. Faith and Trust in the Unseen. Ensouling the Material. Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty. Illumination of Compassion.
Examples of Mythic Representations
All deities of the sea and the waters, e.g; Poseidon/Neptune – Deluge myths – Lost at sea, in the mists, in exile, enslaved, cloistered and such like - Mythic ‘artistes’ and poets and those motivated by transcendent/redemptive function, e.g; Dionysus, Orpheus, Parsifal – The Lady of the Lake and Grail mythos - Shapeshifters and timeshifters – The sacrificed, Jesus on the cross and all other martyrs – The orphaned and vulnerable– The return to the godhead– Mermaids and sprites of the waters, sirens, loreli, water nymphs – stories centred upon principles concerning compassion, ‘turning the other cheek’ and such like – The priestly, sacred nobility – The Muses and mythic figures concerned with the heightening of inspiration.
Examples of Archetypal & Stereotypal Personas
Advisors to Nobles, Artist, Psychic, Poet, Oracle, Saint/Samaritan, Messiah, Visionary, Madman, Victim, Martyr, Priest/Nun, The Cloistered, Addict, Chameleon, Illusionist, Charlatan, The Meek and Mild, The Alluring and Shapeshifting, Shangri-la.
Examples of Archetypal
Objects and Symbols
Fish, Sea, Dolphin, Whale, Mermaid, Sea monsters Veils, Smoke and mists, Kaleidoscope, Mock Turtle, Caravan of dreams, Flotsam and jetsam, Mirrors, Mirage, Scintillating light, The Deluge.
Examples of Key Manifestations
Inspiration, universality, devotion, sensitivity, distortion,
dreams, escape, transcend, osmosis, intuition, imagination, meditation,
reflection, ethereal, fantasy, artistry, glamour, deluge, delusion, addiction,
helplessness, deceit, loss of boundaries, merger, surrender, flow, submission,
invisibility, sacrifice, multifaceted, loosening, shifting,
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copyright: Donna O'Connor 2000-2008
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