I am running a few days late with this. Strange times for us all.
This is a revised and updated article, first published AskAstrology.com
Most of us know our sun sign, or sign of the zodiac, but what does it look like in the night sky, and what is the story behind it? The spring equinox was on March 20. Time to talk about Aries the Ram, the first sign of the new astrological year…
Date of Birth: 19/21 March to 20 April
Ruling planet: Mars
Lucky Day: Tuesday
Energy: Yang (Masculine/Extrovert)
Quality: Cardinal (the start of the season of spring)
Key phrase: I am
Body: Head, neck
Birth Stone: Topaz, Aquamarine, Diamond
Herbs/Flowers: Honeysuckle, tulip, thistle, bryony, peppermint, tiger lily, geranium, hops, impatiens, onions, hollyhock, thorn-bearing trees/shrubs, some firs
Tarot Card: The Emperor (Masculinity, Fatherhood, Government, Law and Order, Courage, Stability)
Note the rams heads adorning his throne.
If I am asked ‘when?’ during a reading and I draw The Emperor, the time-frame suggested is Aries.
Aries is located in the Northern Hemisphere between Pisces to its west and Taurus to its east.
It is not a specially bright or large constellation. The brightest star in Aries is Alpha Arietis, or Hamal, from the Arabic Al Ras al Hamal, meaning “the Head of the Sheep.” Hamal is a red giant with a magnitude of 2.0, visible to the naked eye, which is about as bright as Mars when the planet is at its farthest point from Earth. The other two brightest stars are the horns of the Ram, Sheratan and
Between 2000 BC and 100 BC the spring equinox used to be April 24 when Hamal was conjunct with the sun, but now the spring equinox is 20 March when the sun shines in front of the constellation Pisces on the border with Aries.
This is because the sun moves westward in front of the backdrop constellations by about one degree (two sun diameters) every 72 years. This drifting is due to a motion of Earth, a wobble on its axis, called the precession of the equinoxes.
But for historical reasons the spring/vernal equinox is still referred as the First Point of Aries.
The Aries constellation contains a galaxy about 100 million light-years from our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and it also a planetary system called 30 Ari, which consists of a gas giant and four stars.
A supernova in Aries was recorded in May, in the year 1012 AD.
The best time to see Aries.
Look for it in December around 9 p.m. local time, rising in the east. A Northern Hemisphere spring or Southern Hemisphere autumn is the worst time of year for viewing Aries, when it is lost in the sun’s glare. December is an especially good month for viewing Aries, when the Earth is on the other side of the sun. In late October, Aries rises in the east at sunset, reaches its highest point in the sky at midnight and sets in the west at sunrise.
Aries reaches its highest point in the sky about 10 p.m. local time (the time in all time zones) in late November, 8 p.m. local time in late December and 6 p.m. local time in late January.
History and Mythology
The spring equinox was a time of renewal throughout the northern half of Earth, an event of great significance to people who were much more aware than we are nowadays, of human dependence on the land and sky.
Once upon a time Aries marked the end of the wild sheep main lambing season in Europe, 21 March – 20 April.
Below, in this rather humorous and charming illustration from India, is surely the least ever fiery ram of a wild sheep.
Humanity made connections, looking up and making patterns out of the skies overhead at that time, matching these to such significant natural events on the ground.
The Sumerians are one of the oldest known urban civilisations in what is now called Southern Iraq, during the Neolithic-Bronze Age, 4500 BC to 1500 years BC. The ancient Sumerians called the sun, Subat, meaning the Ancient Sheep or Ram and the planets were the Celestial Herd.
The brother and sister Phrixus and Helle were the children of the Boeotian king Athamas and the cloud fairy, Nephele. She died, the king remarried, and his new wife, Ino, feared and hated them and planned to kill them as a perceived threat to her own two children by the king.
They fled, rescued by a flying golden ram sent by Hermes at the plea of the dead Nephele, watching in anguish from the other world, but Helle fell into the sea below and was lost in the Dardanelles, named the Hellespont in her honour. Later, safely in Colchis, Phrixus (rather ungratefully) sacrificed the Golden Ram, returning it to the gods, and presented its fleece as a gift to King Aeetes, who placed it on a tree in a grove under the guard of a dragon, the hideous Hydra, whom Jason later killed in order to steal the magical healing fleece.
In ancient Egyptian astronomy, Aries was called Lord of the Head, and was associated with the god Amon-Ra, depicted as a man with a ram’s head and representing fertility and creativity. And because it was the location of the spring (vernal) equinox, it was also called the “Indicator of the Reborn Sun.” The position of Aries at the zenith coincided with the rising of Sirius in the east and the flooding of the Nile.
The Temple of Amon-Ra at Karnak bore the likeness of the supreme sun-god with the horns of a ram. The road to Karnak was formed from the wings of two granite sphinxes bearing the head of Aries.
However, Aries was not fully recognized as a constellation until classical times when the ancient Greeks from about 1580 B.C. to 360 B.C. oriented the construction of many of their sacred temples in relationship to Hamal.
In Hellenistic astrology, the constellation of Aries is associated with the golden ram of Greek mythology that rescued Phrixus and Helle on orders from Hermes, taking them to the land of Colchis.
The brother and sister, Phrixus and Helle, were the children of the Boeotian king Athamas and the cloud fairy, Nephele. Athamas was unfaithful and Nepehele left. Drought followed but Athamas remarried, and his new wife, Ino, planned to kill Phrixus and Helle as a perceived threat to her own two children by the king.
They fled, rescued by a flying golden ram sent by Hermes at the plea of Nephele, watching in anguish from the other world, but Helle fell into the sea below and was lost in the Dardanelles, named the Hellespont in her honour.
The magical ram, Krios, spoke to Phrixus to calm and comfort him as they continued on their way. Later, safely in Colchis, Phrixus (perhaps rather ungratefully) sacrificed the Golden Ram, returning it to the gods, and presented its fleece as a gift to King Aeetes, who placed it on a tree in a grove under the guard of a dragon, the hideous Hydra, whom Jason later killed in order to steal the magical healing fleece.
The name Phrixus means ‘curly.’
There is no such thing in reality as THE Aries personality and the same goes for all the zodiac sun signs. Your sun sign is an archetype, a keynote, but of course it is not your full astrological portrait. We are all unique and it could never be the whole story.
Aries is ultra-virile, with a warrior spirit, just as a ram will charge headlong, at an intruder, and may even kill a person who enters his field, threatening his ewes and his territory at the wrong moment.
Aries is known for its determination and zest for life, and in the same spirit, Aries can be reckless and with it, accident prone in its general haste to get on and do whatever is the next thing. Aries are at a statistically increased risk of accidents, especially with head and neck injuries in comparison with other signs, largely due to impatience and risk-taking behaviours.
Aries is ready to experiment or pioneer but may not finish what it starts. They are determined but can be diverted by their own impatience if they don’t get quick results.
In their personal relationships Aries are lively, pleasant, frank, direct and generous. Full of wit and bravery and bounce and joie de vivre, there is much to love and admire about the early springtime subjects of fiery Aries, the Mighty Ram.
This concludes my series exploring the science and history of the Zodiac. Browse the archives for the astronomy and ancient stories behind the other signs of the Zodiac.
Until next time 🙂