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Mythology of Aquarius

Astrological glyph for Aquarius.

In Babylon the mythology most associated with Aquarius is the epic story of Gilgamesh.  Enkidu, his beloved companion dies young and unexpectedly.  Devastated and unwilling to accept what fate has dealt him, Gilgamesh sets out on a quest to procure the herb of immortality, which he would use to restore his companion to life.  The Mother Goddess, infuriated that a mortal would interfere with the natural order of things, sends a bull (Taurus) and a pride of lions (Leo) to prevent Gilgamesh from reaching his goal, however, Gilgamesh perseveres.  His harshest test comes at the gates to the Underworld where he outwits and defeats the Scorpion Warriors who guard the entrance.  Taurus, Leo and Scorpio make up the first three signs in a grand cross.  These represented the qualities that would have to be mastered before Gilgamesh could enter into the Underworld where the immortal Utnapishtim lives.  Utnapishtim is recognized as Aquarius.

Utnapishtim, once a mortal himself, was tested for his faith by the gods.  He was told by the voices of the gods to build a boat, as the world was doomed to be deluged.  This is recognizable in modern religious mythology as the story of Noah in the Book of Genesis.  As a reward for his faith and actions Utnapishtim was granted eternal life and given charge of the herb of immortality.

The Egyptians carried on the myth of Aquarius through the mythology of Osiris.  Osiris was the symbolic god of the Nile.  The Nile River floods in late July and is associated with Leo, during the full Aquarian moon.   It is an enactment of Osiris overpowering the Earth, who is then put to death and dismembered, but is eventually resurrected.  Aquarius represents the vital power that renews and fertilizes all things.

In Greece, Aquarius is associated with Ganymede, a handsome boy whom Zeus took a liking to.  One day, in the form of an eagle, Zeus swooped down on the boy and carried him away to Olympus, where he became Zeus' cupbearer, along with Hebe, a daughter of Hera.  As cupbearer Ganymede poured ambrosia, then mythological elixir of immortality.

 The Olympian ruler of Leo was Zeus (Jupiter), so it was natural that the ruler of Aquarius should be Hera (Juno).  Hera, the Goddess of Marriage and Married Women, allowed her rulership over Aquarius to bring out a very different side of her.  Aquarians tend not to marry young, and tend to shun the confines of marriage until an older age. They seek freedom from confinement, especially intellectual confinement, which makes them somewhat rebellious, thanks especially to that ruling planet, Uranus. Today's Aquarian is usually somewhat of a free-thinker and social reformer.  But the Olympian connection doesn't end there.

When Prometheus stole fire from the hearth of the gods and gave it to mankind, Zeus in a state of rage, devised a plan that would create a need for the fire (enlightenment) so that mankind would have to stive rather than easily enjoy it's newly given power.  It would also preclude any attempt by man to elevate himself above his earthly confines by keeping his mind totally occupied with survival.  He instructed Hephaestus to create a beautiful box.  To ensure his plan succeeded he chose a specific young girl who was well known for her curiosity.  He then entrusted this special box to this specific young lady, Pandora.  The connection between Prometheus and Pandora becomes clear in the aftermath of the opening of the box.  After all the evils of mankind were released from the box, one thing was left: Hope.  Hope, which Pandora also gave to us, merged with enlightenment, which Prometheus gave us, creating discovery or illumination.  The Aquarian archetype culminates in the joining of these attributes, seeking illumination for the whole of mankind.

Aquarius is often portrayed as an angelic being (either female or male) pouring a never ending stream of water out of a pitcher, representing wisdom being bestowed upon mankind.  This image has confused people into thinking that Aquarius is a water sign.  Water (or seas) biblically is associated with people, literally "the masses".  In Revelation various creatures, etc., rise up out of the sea, which is allegorical to a blasphemous way of thinking or blasphemous person rising up from the midst of the masses (people).

In our modern world, where we are still seeking the answers to life, and the elixirs of youthfulness and immortality, could it be that the real answers to those questions truly do lay in the depths of the ocean? There was a movie a few years back called The Abyss where those of us who are mesmerized by science fiction watched the discovery of another world, with beings who could only be described as godlike in their abilities.  To find this "world" the hero of the story had to live through a time of violence where people he loved and cared about died.  He had to develop faith in the discoveries of other people as well as in himself to succeed by overcoming the paralyzing fear of learning to breathe in a liquid environment.  He then set out on his quest into uncharted depths and eventually, he went through a time of enlightenment, just before he lost his life.  Finally he was taken by the other-world beings and brought into a place of safety, an oxygen environment provided for his ability to breathe and he is resurrected.  The story of a modern Gilgamesh, who is himself restored to life as a mortal.

For millennia people have considered water the source and sustainer of life.  Modern interpretation is modifying that somewhat.  Today we not only associate the glyph waves of Aquarius with water, but also with electrical currents, sound waves, frequencies, and electrical spark.  So, Aquarius is guardian to those things that promote life: herb, elixir and electrical spark.  Human life, missing one of those elements cannot exist.  And is it by mere chance that it is also an "air" sign, the fourth thing we need to exist.  Herb (food), elixir (water), electrical spark (spark of life, which most associate with an electrical spark within the body), and air (breath).  Life cannot begin without the coming together of spark and breath and ends when one or the other leaves.  Once manifested, life cannot continue without herb and elixir.  Aquarius is therefore esoterically linked to the "perfect human" or human in a state of perfection, pouring out the wisdom of all things for all mankind.

Aquarius, the eleventh sign of the Zodiac is ruled by Uranus (Ouranos), which was discovered in 1781, and to a lesser degree by its ancient ruler, Saturn (Cronos).  Both Uranus and Saturn had problems with letting go of their rulership and passing it on to their sons.  Because of this trait Aquarians seem to have trouble letting go of old ideas.  They can remain firmly imbedded in what they want or believe.  Uranus is also the planet of sudden change, so when change does occur it is likely to be sudden, shattering those old ideas and bringing about an emergence into a new reality.

In the Zodiac, Aquarius is the sign opposite Leo.  In medical astrology Leo rules the heart and Aquarius rules the circulatory system.  They are dependent upon each other for wholeness.  Blood clots, arteriosclerosis, and certain kinds of tumors, as well as heart attacks are all related to a poorly relating Leo and Aquarius.  There must be a balance between the two, to create a wholeness within the body.

Universal principles are emphasized in Aquarius, a sign of universal equality.  We have been on the cusp of the Age of Aquarius since the discovery of Uranus in 1781, which was the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment, also called the Age of Technology.  Uranus entered Aquarius in 1995 where it will be until 2002.  It was joined by Neptune in 1997 where it will be until 2011.  This conjunction and placement is needed to bring about the strong evolutionary accomplishments in store for mankind as it enters fully into the Age of Aquarius, and the Age of Information.

Mythic Astrology: Archetypal Powers in the Horoscope by Ariel Guttman & Kenneth Johnson

Archetypes of the Zodiac by Kathleen Burt