Let’s look at the figure which symbolizes Scorpio. In very ancient astrology – Egyptian, Chaldean and Hebrew – Scorpio was represented not by the familiar scorpion, but by the serpent. This is a profound symbol which tells us a lot about Scorpio. Firstly, the serpent sheds his skin cynically, and was thought by the ancients to be immortal and capable of constant self-renewal. Now this pattern of outgrowing a skin, sloughing it and growing a new one runs through Scorpio’s life. Often his life breaks up into distinct chapters, as he moves through one cycle after another. All come to ultimate destruction. Then he rebuilds and starts again.
The serpent is also, in ancient mythology, a symbol of the wisdom of the earth itself – timeless, ancient, knowing the secret of life of all things. He moves close to the ground, and hears the secrets of the roots of things. In Biblical lore the serpent is the Devil, the Father of Lies, who tempted Eve in the Garden. He is Lucifer, the fallen angel. You can see that he has a double face. You can take him as dark or light, good or evil, for he contains both. And so does Scorpio. He has equally great power for good or evil, healing or destruction. Goethe (who had Scorpio rising) created a typically Scorpionic figure in Faust, caught between the extremes of heaven or hell.
The Scorpion, a more recent development traceable to Greek astrology, is in some ways a less descriptive animal. But he can give us some valuable clues about the Scorpio temperament. Firstly, he is an isolated animal. You don’t find herds of scorpions roving the desert munching flies together. Scorpio, the human being, is also not a collective creature. He usually dislikes crowds, mistrusts loud, extroverted parties, and prefers a small circle of trustworthy friends or a single lover. Secondly, although the scorpion is a deadly creature (not all varieties have a fatal sting, but they all give nasty bites), he is completely nonaggressive. Scorpions will not attack other animals. On the other hand, if you are silly enough to step on one, well, it’s your problem, isn’t it? You should have watched what you were walking on. Attack this tiny creature and he will move in for the kill no matter how much bigger you are. Scorpio people have an acute sense of justice. They don’t believe for a minute in all that sentimental stuff about turning the other cheek. You give back as good as you get, for it’s the only way to survive. Scorpios make bad martyrs – unless, of course, like Ghandi, the posture is necessary to prove a point.
There is a fascinating legend about the scorpion: if you corner him, and give him no avenue for escape, he will sting himself to death. This sounds a little apocryphal. But I have seen it happen. Once in the south of France I watched a group of children surround a small brown scorpion with sticks, so that it was completely trapped. It committed suicide. The message here is that Scorpio would rather destroy himself, and go down in flames by his own hand – literally or psychologically – than submit to another’s ultimatum or control. It’s that damnable pride again. ‘Better to reign in hell,’ as Lucifer says in Milton’s Paradise Lost (Milton had Scorpio rising), ‘than to serve in heaven.’ If Scorpio ever truly bows his head, he has learned one of the most valuable lessons of his life. More likely he’ll go through the sham of bowing, and pay you back threefold later. He will usually, in the end, only submit to whatever he understands as his gods. And he sometimes has some pretty peculiar gods, this enigmatic fellow. Find a Scorpio who has gone apathetic and outwardly submissive and you’ll see someone eaten up from within with furious resentment and jealousy. Often this is unknown even to himself. Then you’ll come up against real destructiveness, of the worst kind – like in those ‘happy’ families where the wife quietly sabotages her husband’s masculinity and loads her children with guilt in revenge for her unlived life. Repressed Scorpionic rage isn’t pretty. Nobody promised it would be. But every Scorpio has the courage to face whatever is in him, and transform it. As we said earlier, Scorpio has no illusions about life.
There is one famous myth which is particularly fitting for Scorpio. It’s one of the twelve labours of Hercules. In this particular labour he is told to slay the Hydra. Beneath the outward success and power, this myth describes Scorpio’s real destiny. Hercules is sent to destroy a large, deadly creature called a Hydra, which inhabits a dark cave in a swamp and preys upon the folk of the countryside. The Hydra is a serpent-like beast with nine snake heads, each of which is equipped with deadly poison fangs. A sort of multiple cobra, you might say. And it has a very nasty propensity: cut off one of it’s heads, and it sprouts three new ones in return.
Hercules at first attempts to club the Hydra to death, then to slice its heads off. He is about finished, since this results in a proliferation of heads. Then he remembers a piece of advice given to him by a wise teacher. The Hydra cannot stand the light. So Hercules gets down on his knees and lifts the creature up into the sunlight. It shrivels up and begins to die. Only one head remains, for that one is immortal, and buried within it is a precious jewel. But one head is easy for Hercules to handle. He simply buries it under a rock
The explanation of this myth isn’t really necessary for Scorpio. They usually come, sooner or later, to that place in life where they discover the hydra within themselves. But some explanation may be of value to the less introspective signs. We can say that the hydra can mean many things: jealousy, vengeance, resentment, anger, frustrated sexuality, violence. Scorpio is a sign of intense desire; and the hydra’s many heads can mean the many desires of the uncivilized human heart. Left to grow in the darkness, they can become poisonous, and begin to destroy others. But they cannot be dealt with by repression. They must be understood, held up to the light, respected as part of oneself. And although vanquished, it is a good idea to remember that one immortal head. For Scorpio, all human beings carry within them the seeds of good and evil. Evil is not an abstract thing, or somebody else’s fault; it is in everyone. Human brutality cannot be blamed on society, but ultimately only on oneself. It is relevant to realize that Freud, the great founder of modern depth psychology, had Scorpio rising. Therein lies the deepest meaning of Scorpio’s myth: come to terms with the hydra in yourself, and you redeem the world.
There are two myths which epitomize Aries, one an ancient one from Greece, the other, a medieval myth which is still beloved in our own day and continues to give rise to films, television series, and novels. We’ll deal with the second one first: the outlaw of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood.
Now, Robin Hood is a perfect Aries character. Consider first the fact that he’s an outlaw. In one way or another, Aries tends to take this stance, for he stands for change and progress. So he often comes to blows with established authority in one way or another – sometimes literally, sometimes simply as the exponent of a new set of ideas or a new method of propagating an idea. The bulwarks of society often don’t like our Aries, because he makes trouble and keeps them on their toes. So Robin Hood, self-appointed champion of the oppressed poor and enemy of established, corrupt authority, represents our Knight quite well.
Consider also that Robin Hood has a band of Merry Men. He’s not a dark, sinister outlaw skulking about in narrow alleyways; he has a damned good time of it. This too is an Arien quality; for Aries, being a fire sign, is determined to enjoy himself. Life, to him, is exhilarating, particularly when there’s danger. The greater the danger, the spicier it is. You’d expect Ariens to be quick drivers, a little reckless. Many are. The idea is to be merry in the face of battle.
The whole background in which the Robin Hood myth is embedded is also very Arien. Here is a Good King – Richard Coeur de Lion – who is away fighting a Crusade for the recapture of the Holy City from the Infidel. There is a nasty, vicious younger brother – King John – who has usurped Richard’s rightful throne. There are the oppressed poor, and the overweaning and arrogant rich. There is another nasty, vicious figure in the shape of the eternal archetype, the Sherriff of Nottingham, representing authority empty of meaning, a law empty of mercy, class structure empty of rights.
You can see why this whole myth is so Arien. Even the lovely maiden Marian fits into the Arien dream; she always has to be rescued. Many Aries play Robin Hood in one way or another in their lives, shamelessly robbing from the oppressive enemy to succour the underdog. And, of course, at the end of the story, Good King Richard returns. And there’s a quirk to this whole tale that is also pretty Arien. For Good King Richard wasn’t a particularly good king. That, to Aries, doesn’t matter; he often misses the quality of the cause or person he fights for. Joan of Arc perhaps didn’t realize that the Dauphin, Charles VII of France, might not have been particularly worth getting burned for either. It’s the vision that matters.
Now let’s look at the other Arien myth. It’s about Jason and the Argonauts, and the capture of the golden fleece. Yes, of course it would be a golden fleece, for the ram is Aries’ symbol. You can take it, if you like, as a symbol of the ultimate goal of Aries – whether it’s the realization of his own individuality, or the achievement of his quest, or the rescue of the damsel, or whatever. Never mind. Jason, like a true Aries, hears about this fantastic fleece and is delighted to find that it’s impossible to find. That only encourages him. So he sets off with his band of merry men – the Argonauts – through one terrible danger after another, finally arriving in Colchis where the fleece is hidden, and capturing it.
The Jason myth doesn’t, however, end happily ever after. It highlights in certain ways the dangers confronting Aries on his quest. Jason is a kind of failed Aries, where Robin Hood is a successful one. His failure, wouldn’t you know, is due to his treatment of a woman.
In order for Jason to capture the golden fleece, he must enlist the aid of a sorceress-princess, Medea. Now Medea, daughter of the King of Colchis, falls wildly in love with Jason. He’s so bold, so heroic, so brave, so courageous, so noble. She is even willing to sacrifice the life of her brother to help him, so deeply in love is she. Everything goes well enough until they return. All that golden fleece goes to Jason’s woolly head. He begins to behave more like a very stupid sheep than a golden ram. He tries to discard Medea in favour of a younger, more suitable princess. This is a problem with Aries: once he’s reached his goal, he often forgets the help he’s received along the way. Or he becomes bored, and moves on. It’s a common pattern in Aries relationships. Medea is not the woman to put up with this sort of treatment. She was probably a Scorpio. Instead of retiring gracefully to make way for the new favorite, she slaughters her two children by Jason, poisons the young bride with a cloak that has been steeped in some dreadful witch’s brew, and escapes in her chariot drawn by winged dragons. Jason’s luck goes downhill from there. In a sense, you can say that he underrates or overlooks the power and value of the feminine. And many Ariens do; to them, the world is populated by heroes and noble deeds, but Aries can often overlook the power of gentleness, patience, sympathy, compromise, adjustment. Aries women too, do this: remember that Joan of Arc insisted on wearing men’s clothes. So our Jason comes to a bad end – not because he failed to capture the golden fleece, but because he wouldn’t take into account anything except his own wishes, his own vision, his own values. And incurred some pretty nasty vengeance as a result.
Both of these myths touch on the deeper needs and motivations in Aries’ nature. There is a need to have a goal – without the goal, like for Aries is meaningless. It can be a long-term or a short-term goal, but there must be a goal. There is a need for a quest – either some journey that takes one into danger but ends with a coveted but almost impossible prize, or some battle which runs many risks but defends the ideals and the visions that have given it birth. Aries is a sign of new ideas and a sign of change – and the need to promote change, to look to the future, to conquer the enemy is embedded deep in the sign. We can, if we like, look at the twelve signs of the zodiac as a cycle, beginning with Aries and ending with Pisces, describing the round of life and the cold and barren winter. All of nature heralds the spring with a burst of life and colour, sometimes precipitate, sometimes rash, sometimes premature, but a reminder that everything has a new birth, that no matter how dark or limiting or depressing the winter, it always ends with the spring. The whole world responds to the new hope and new life of the spring. For Aries, it’s a constant spring, a constant challenge to end the grip of winter, a constant effort to bring new life up through the frozen ground. However impatient or irascible and clumsy he may be, the Knight in Shining Armour makes it possible for life to progress and change and grow in a way, he must be a little crude or forceful or insensitive to do it; and perhaps in a more sober age, where we have forgotten knights and chivalry and courtly love, where we have learned to compromise too much, the voice of Aries is worth a little closer listening.
From the book “Astrology for Lovers,” written by Liz Green.