by: X. Helia Allegra
The Ram, having passed the Sea, serenely shines
and leads the Year, the Prince of all the Signs.
1. THE CONSTELLATION OF ARIES- THE RAM
Aries is the first of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac, and marks the Vernal Equinox, or the beginning of Spring. The sun enters Aries this year today, March 20, around 2:16pm EST, or 19:16 GMT. This location, where the sun crosses the celestial equator, is called the First Point of Aries, and was determined in ancient times. Now, however, due to the precession, or wobble of earth’s orbit, this point has moved into western Pisces (solar months are still measured by ancient standards, and the precession does not factor in the calculation of astrological charts).
As with all the zodiacal constellations, one may view this constellation only in the opposite season of the year. In this case, look for Aries in Autumn (optimally in October) . The ecliptic runs through Aries, so planets can be seen in this area of the sky.
Viewed without magnification, the constellation is little more than its three brightest stars, the greatest of which is Hamal. In the autumn sky, look for the Ram just east of the great square of Pegasus. The triangle of stars that comprise its horns and nose lies just west of the Pleiades (or Seven Sisters) and is approximately 6 degrees of celestial latitude north of the ecliptic. The hindquarters of the Ram conjoin with the rear portion of Taurus, the Bull. The head of Aries is usually depicted as in the traditional illustration, with its head turned, as it watches Taurus and the remaining ten signs rise behind it. Other artists show the Ram standing erect, with his head facing toward the planet Mars. This is another valid interpretation, since Mars is the planetary ruler of the astrological sign of Aries.
2. SYMBOLOGY OF THE SIGN
The pictograph represents the horns and long nose of the Ram. It also pictures the eyebrows and nose of the human form, as the sign of Aries rules these parts of the body. In symbolic terms, the glyph is two half moons joined by a straight line, which indicates idealism tied to authority and leadership.
Aries also symbolizes self-realization; discovery that one is different, an individual with respect to the rest of humanity. Psychologically speaking, the Ram represents the ego, the consciousness of “self”. Aries is the beginning of the cosmic wheel, the first sparks of self-awareness coming from the realm of the collective unconscious (embodied by the sign of Pisces).
3. THE CLASSICAL MYTH OF ARIES: THE FLIGHT OF PHRIXUS
Phrixus, son of King Athamas and Queen Nephele of Boetia , was threatened with death by sacrifice to Zeus at the hands of his father‘s second wife, Ino. Phrixus was the natural heir to the throne, yet Ino plotted for her own son with Athamas, to become king.
Ino tainted the seeds of that season’s crops, which threatened the city of Boetia with starvation. She convinced Athamas that the current crop failure would continue unless he sacrificed Phrixus to Zeus. Ino bribed the couriers from the Delphic Oracle to tell Athamas the false prophesy, insuring Phrixus’ demise.
Hermes (Mercury) offered Nephele a sacred Ram that possessed golden fleece, as a consolation when her husband took the new wife, and also to aid in the children‘s escape. To keep them safe from Ino, Nephele sent Phrixus and his sister, Helle away. They soared through the air, eastward, upon this blessed, magical creature. During the journey to their sanctuary in the city of Colchis, Helle fell off the ram and drowned in a river that would thereafter bear her name, the Hellespont (now called Dardanelles, between the Aegean Sea and Sea of Marmara).
Phrixus arrived in Colchis safely, sacrificed the ram to Zeus, and offered the wool to King Aeetes as a gift. The golden fleece brought good fortune to the city of Colchis, and Aeetes hung it in the grove of Ares (Mars) atop an oak tree that was guarded by a sleepless dragon.
Aeetes offered Phrixus his daughter, Chalciope’s hand in marriage. Together the couple had four sons. They lived very well; Phrixus died an old and happy man.
Zeus rewarded the sacred ram with immortality and placed him in the sky as the constellation, Aries.