Scorpio…The celestial scorpion
Most of us know our sign of the zodiac, but what does its constellation look like in the night sky, and what’s the story behind the sign? Around October 23 this month we entered the sign of the Scorpion.
Dates: October 23 –November 22
Ruling planets: Co-ruled by Mars, and after its discovery in 1930, Pluto
Symbol: Scorpion, Eagle (Because of the nearby constellation, Aquila, the Eagle)
Zodiac element: Water
Zodiac quality: Fixed
Keyword: I desire. I transform
Colour: Dark red
Birthstone: Yellow Topaz, Opal, Aquamarine, Tourmaline.
Tree: Walnut,Hawthorn, Blackthorn
Tarot Card: Death
Image from the Rider –Waite
Scorpius from which the zodiac sign of Scorpio gets its name, is a massive and spectacular j- shaped constellation located in the southern hemisphere near the centre of the Milky Way. In the Northern hemisphere it can be seen in July and August, most visible in July at 9.00 PM. In the Southern hemisphere it is visible from March to October, looking like a faint band in the Milky Way overhead.
Its name is Latin for scorpion and it is one of the 48 constellations identified by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century. Like Aries, Taurus and Leo, it is an ancient constellation, recognised as such pre-dating the Greeks.
Scorpius is the southernmost of all the constellations in the zodiac, and lies between Libra to the west and Sagittarius to the east. It used to be bigger, but its claws later became part of the constellation the Romans named Libra in the first century.
Its brightest star, one of the brightest of all in the night sky, is the ‘heart’ of the scorpion, Antares, meaning ‘rival of Ares’ (the Greek name for the Roman god of war, Mars) It is so-named because it is bright reddish in colour, like Mars, and also because Scorpio’s ruling planet was Mars until Pluto was discovered in 1930. Now it is considered co-ruled by both Mars (The Warrior) and Pluto (The Transformer)
Scorpius contains many bright stars, and interesting exo-planets.
The planet PSR B1620-26 b is sometimes nicknamed “Methuselah” being estimated at 12.7 billion years old. (The universe is about 13.7 billion years old.) Methuselah is vast, with a mass about twice that of Jupiter and it orbits around not one, but two stars.
Gliese 667Cc is a “super-Earth” about four times as massive as Earth. It orbits a red dwarf star, Gliese 667C; part of a three-star system only 22 light-years away from Earth. It’s considered potentially habitable and the same system contains two other potentially habitable planets: Gliese 667Ce and Gliese 667Cf – both are about 2.7 times the mass of Earth.
“Habitability” is defined as a rocky world that is close enough to its parent star for liquid water to exist on the surface, though other factors may later rule it out, such as the variability of its star, or the composition of the planet’s atmosphere.
Mythology & History
Nature, religion and astrology were intertwined in the ancient world, and the scorpion has been here hundreds of millions of years, more than 450 million, compared with our six million or so.
Sometime around four thousand years ago the Babylonians looked up, discerned the brightly leaning J- shape in the summer stars and called this constellation MUL.GIR.TAB – the ‘Scorpion’, literally read as ‘the (creature with) a burning sting’.
The movements and relative positions of Scorpius were mapped by Babylonian magicians and astrologers, who left written records.
“When a halo surrounds the Moon and Scorpio stands in it, it will cause men to marry princesses, (or) lions will die, and the traffic of the land will be hindered.”
A comet appearing in Scorpius was read as a warning of a plague, but when the Sun rose in Scorpius, alchemists saw their one chance for the transmutation of lead into gold.
In Greek mythology the scorpion refers to a story about Orion. According to one of these myths Orion boasted to his friend the goddess Artemis and her mother, Leto, that he would hunt and kill every animal on Earth. Demeter, the goddess of Earth decided this was completely unacceptable behaviour.
Artemis was a great hunter herself, but she did not kill for the sake of killing and was ultimately a protector of all creatures. Demeter sent a scorpion to deal with Orion. He fought back, and according to some accounts he killed the scorpion, but whether or not Orion killed the scorpion, the scorpion definitely killed Orion.
Zeus was much impressed by the scorpion’s battle spirit, and raised the scorpion to heaven, and at the request of Artemis; he did the same for Orion.
In other cultures it is not seen as a scorpion. In Indonesia it is the Banyakangrem – “the brooded swan,” or the Kalapa Doyong, meaning “the leaning coconut tree.” In Hawaii, it is “The Fishhook” of the demi-god Maui.
In Chinese mythology, the constellation is part of the Azure Dragon.
And yet, there is consensus across not only continents but hemispheres. Thousands of years before the Greeks and Romans established their societies, the Australian Aboriginal people also saw the stars of Scorpius as a cosmic scorpion, as did the Aztecs of Central Mexico. The Lowland Mayans had scorpion constellations. These may have matched up with the Scorpion of the zodiac, but there no clear proof. It is thought that the Mayans viewed the celestial scorpion as an eclipse-causing agent.
The arrival of Scorpio’s sign in the northern hemisphere coincides with the advent of mystery, the fast fading autumn light, and the ghosts, myths and superstitions of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, hence its association with the Tarot’s Death Card.
Facts about scorpions
- They are an ancient creature, the earliest evidence dates from the Silurian period 450 million years ago, when the first scorpion ancestors left the seas for the land. Fossils from the Carboniferous 300 million years ago indicate little change since then. Early scorpions may have had compound eyes.
- They are arachnids: arachnida scorpiones, with a body in two sections, 2 pincers or pedi-palps, 8 legs like a spider, and an exo-skeleton made of chitin. They are more closely related to Harvestmen than spiders.
- They dance before mating, a stately promenade. They give birth to live young and carry them on their backs until the babies have their first moult when they disperse. The mothers may eat the young if resources are desperately scarce.
- They have a long life span compared with other arachnids, 2-3 years in the wild but they have lived up to 25 years in captivity. They can live a year without food and eat insects, spiders, other scorpions and lizards. They also eat small mammals, such as mice.
- They glow in the dark except when newly moulted. Scorpion fossils still fluoresce, despite spending hundreds of millions of years embedded in rock.
- They are famously venomous. However of the nearly 2,000 known species of scorpions, only 25 have venom powerful enough to be dangerous to an adult human. In the U.S., the Arizona bark scorpion, Centruroides sculpturatus, produces venom strong enough to kill a small child, but anti-venom means deaths are rare.
The Scorpio Zodiac Personality
Like the other water signs, Cancer and Pisces, Scorpio is considered clairvoyant, or at least, keenly intuitive. But Scorpio has far greater intensity. This is water behaving as steam, while not overlooking the venom of its sting.
Scorpio rules the eighth sign of the zodiac, to do with Birth, Sex and Death. No wonder the subjects can be intense, and they are often possessed of great personal charisma. They are watchful but keep their feelings hidden. Born investigators, spies or secret agents, they are shrewd judges of human nature, while less conscientious Scorpio subjects may make use of this to their advantage, and drop friends whom they no longer see as useful. But combined with their intense determination and loyalty where they decide to accord it, Scorpios can make great leaders, scientist, and devoted doctors. They are quick learners, very adaptable, often changing careers, going down new paths.
Scorpio can be vengeful…and patient, but also devoted, and they never forget a kindness either.
Next time…the story of Sagittarius.