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Read Aquarius the Waterbearer for meanings and traits of the sun-sign Aquarius.


Star Lore of the Constellations: Aquarius the Waterbearer - by Deborah Houlding

Notable stars in Aquarius: Epoch 2000
Longitude Name Nature Mag. Position Lat. Dec.
11 Aq. 43 Albali Saturn/ Mercury 4 Left hand of Water Bearer 08N 09S
23 Aq. 24 Sadalsuud Saturn/ Mercury 3 Left Shoulder of Water Bearer 09N 06S
03 Pi. 16 Ancha Mercury / Saturn 4 Haunches of Water Bearer 03N08S
03 Pi. 21 Sadalmelik Saturn/ Mercury 3 Right Shoulder of Water Bearer 11N 00S
08 Pi. 52 Skat Saturn/ Jupiter 3 Shinbone of Water Bearer 09S16S

Aquarius is generally depicted by a young man pouring water from an urn. There seems little doubt that the symbolism arose from the Sun's passage through Aquarius during the rainy season of the ancient year, which also explains the dominance of 'watery' constellations in the surrounding area of heaven. (In the dry and arid climates where many of these figures were determined, water was taken as a sign of fertility and prosperity, besides representing danger through storm and flood.)

Aquarius is a very ancient constellation and the figure of the Waterbearer has often been associated with the Babylonian deity Ea, the sexless god of waters and streams. The Babylonians called Aquarius GU.La meaning 'Great Man' or 'Giant' which is considered by many to be a reference to Ea. There is a strong argument for Egyptian origin however; their god Hapi is an extremely ancient symbol of the Nile and is depicted pouring water onto the Earth from two jars. The symbol for Aquarius () is derived from the Egyptian hieroglyphic Mu, for water, and it was when the Moon was full in Aquarius that the Nile overflowed its banks and flooded the land.

The constellation is widely associated with the qualities of refreshment, and subsequently youth. The rainy season was regarded as a period in which the land was refreshed by water, which had purifying qualities to cleanse away old sins and prepare the land for new creativity. Our calendar still honours this period as one fit for purification and cleansing, with February named after 'Februa' the Roman festival of purification. The month was marked for activities connected to cleansing the home and the soul, culminating in a hilltop ceremony where priests performed purification rites on young women by striking them with a goatskin thong to ensure fertility and easy childbirth.[1]

Classical mythology expresses the element of youth and purity inherent in the symbolism of Aquarius by associating the constellation figure with Ganymede, a youth of such beauty, innocence and grace that he was carried up to heaven by an eagle to serve as cup-bearer to Zeus. Ganymede is often taken as a symbol for the pre-pubescent period of youth and also for homosexual, brotherly or asexual love, all of which have become tied into the symbolism of Aquarius. It represents that state of mind or period of development that is unaffected by lust or sexual enticement, explaining why, despite the obvious connection to fertility suggested by the water symbolism, the constellation has aquired a reputation for being barren and is taken in traditional texts as offering terstimony against pregnancy - "the Waterman fails to receive seed or, if he does so, spills it" claims the first century Roman astrologer, Manilius.[2]

The two main stars of the constellation are Sadalmelik, on the right shoulder of the figure, and Sadalsuud on the left. These are both pale yellow, 3rd magnitude stars, reported to have a fortunate influence. Sadalmelik takes its name from the Arabic Sa'd al Malik, 'The Lucky One of the King'.

Sadalsuud, whose name means 'Luckiest of the Lucky', is reputed to have been so named because of the weather conditions which accompanied its rising. Latin astrologers knew it by the title 'Fortuna Fortunarum', a clear indication of its benevolent nature.

Ptolemy listed the stars in the shoulder, face and left hand as exerting an influence like Saturn and Mercury. This includes Albali (a.k.a., Albireo), a 4th magnitude star in the left hand of the figure. Of the remaining stars, those in the stream of water are like Saturn and Jupiter, and those in the thighs like Mercury and Saturn. The latter includes Ancha, traditionally located on the hips. The 3rd magnitude star Skat is situated on the right shin but is considered to have a Saturn/Jupiter nature because of its proximity to the stream.

Modern descriptions of the traits of Aquarius tend to focus upon its elemental qualitity of dryness. Yet the relevance of the watery symbolism is heavily emphasised in traditional descriptions of the constellation's influence, as evident in Manilius' text:

The youthful waterman, who from upturned pot pours forth his stream, likewise bestows skills which have affinity with himself: how to divine springs under the ground and conduct them above, to transform the flow of waters so as to spray the very stars, to mock the sea with man-made shores at the bidding of luxury, to construct different types of artificial lakes and rivers, and to support aloft for domestic use streams that come from afar. Beneath this sign there dwell a thousand crafts regulated by water. . Never will the sons of Aquarius grow tired of the work which come in the wake of water and follow springs. They who issue from this sign are a gentle sort and a loveable breed, and no meanness of heart is theirs; they are prone to suffer losses; and of riches they have neither need nor surfeit. Ever thus does the urn's streams flow. [3]

In view of Manilius's comments, it is interesting to note that of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, the six that relate to the engineering of structures connected to water demonstrate strong contacts with the three main stars of Aquarius in the horoscopes of those famed for their construction: [4]

Robert Stevenson, engineer for the Bell Rock Tower Lighthouse, (born Glasgow, 8 June 1772), has Sadalsuud conjunct Jupiter.

Vicomte Ferdinand de Lesseps, famed for his difficult role in the construction of the Suez Canal (born Versailles, France, November 19, 1805), has Pluto conjunct Skat, with the Moon in trine from Scorpio and Venus conjunct NN in sextile from Capricorn.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, (born Portsmouth, 9 April 1806), who built the 'Great Eastern' ship, has Skat on the midpoint of a Mercury-Jupiter trine. It lies on the sextile of Mercury (8 Taurus) and Jupiter (8 Capricorn).

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (born Enfield, 28 March 1819), engineer for the London Sewers, has Mars conjunct Sadalmelik and Venus conjunct Sadalsuud.

John A. Roebling, designer for the Brooklyn Bridge, (born Muhlhausen, Prussia, June 12, 1806), has a Saturn-Uranus conjunction at 22 Libra in trine to Sadalsuud.

Frank Crowe, engineer for the Hoover Dam, (born Trenholmville, Canada, October 12, 1882), had Saturn in Taurus square to Sadalsuud, Jupiter in Cancer trine to Sadalmelik, and a Mercury-Mars conjunction in Scorpio on the trine of Skat.

In the northern hemisphere Aquarius culminates due south around midnight during September. It mainly comprises 4th and 5th magnitude stars and is therefore not an easy constellation to identify. Sadalmelik lies to the south of Pegasus. Just to the east of this star lies the most noticeable feature of Aquarius - the Y-shaped water jar out of which the stream pours.
The Sun crosses Sadalsuud around 13th February, Sadalmelik around 23rd February, and Skat around 28th February.

Notes & References:
  1 ] February derives from the Latin terms Februa 'purification' + arius 'pertaining to'. Februa was the Roman term for instruments of purification, such as water (continued through the use of Holy Water by the Catholic church), fire, the skins of sacrificial animals or any object by which the body was cleansed. The early forerunner to St. Valentine's day was the festival held on the 15th day of the month when goats were sacrificed and their skins made into whips. Sometimes the priests would perform the cleansing of young women by striking them with the februum, or the young men, anointed with the sacrificial blood, would chase the women and lash them to ensure easy fertility. It was believed that, providing the event was assisted by incantation, evil could be washed away, burnt away, or banished by contact with a purification stick, wand or whip.
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  2 ] Manilius, Astronomica, (c. 10 AD) trans. G.P. Goold, 1997, published by Harvard Heinemann, Loeb classical library, London. 2.234, (Loeb p.101).
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  3 ] Ibid., 2.259, (Loeb p. 243).
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  4 ] For details of the wonders see -
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© Deborah Houlding, December 2004

Stars & Constellations