Pisces the Fish

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Who prays and serves, and prays some more?
And feeds the beggar at the door??
And weeps o'er love long lost before???
Poor, Pisces !

sign symbolism | rulerships | famous Pisceans | Babylonian myth
Sign symbolism

Pisces the Fish

by Deborah Houlding

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Pisces is represented by two fish swimming in different directions, bound to each other by a cord – the latter detail being notable in historical illustrations. The symbolism presents a direct reference to dualism, considered an ego-weakening principle because it acts against sure-mindedness and commitment to cause, especially here where the fish strain against each other and lack united motion. This depicts an element of vacillation in how a Piscean thinks and acts. At a more positive level, it shows the ability to receive influences from multiple sources and a ‘fish-eyed’, all-round view of every situation. While tending to undermine singular focus, it gives a penchant for subtle awareness, good instincts and an intuitive understanding that gain in one area is balanced by loss in another.

This is the sign of the poet and the mystic – but as its vacillating imagery suggests, Pisceans are not known for being quick, decisive problem solvers. They are apt to see everything as a dilemma, riddled with numerous potentials and shades of possibility. Complex and idealistic, a high store is set upon conscience and consequence, with the concern of upsetting others often predominating over the desire to serve self-interest. Highly sensitive and impressionable, the sign is lauded in modern astrological texts for its traits of compassion, humility and sympathetic consideration but is often berated in historical works for leading to the qualities of being weak-willed, gullible, or lacking in focus.

Kindness, trust, and a strong power of belief have given Pisces the reputation of being the most spiritual sign of the zodiac. This is not some modern derivation from the attributes of Neptune – the sign’s ancient history abounds with ties to religious themes, which is why symbols of fish have long been used as icons for churches and priests, predating even the sign’s traditional association with Jupiter, (itself a significator for priests and religious matters). Consider, for example, the adoption of fish insignia in Christianity, where it presents an emblem of gentility, peace and denial of self-interest in favour of collective needs.

The notion of meekness arises from the creature’s easy representation of the pacifist – fish are not aggressive animals, and most have no natural defence except swift, fluid movement and the instinct to swim away from trouble. The astrological reputation acknowledges the noble attributes of personal sacrifice and resolution to suffering without retribution, but it also recognises that human beings seldom live up to highest principles (timidity appearing at a lower scale under the guise of cowardice, avoidance, or, as 17th-century astrologer, William Lilly would have it, “idle, effeminacy … representing a party of no action” (CA, p.94).

Piscean impressionability also leads to a reputation of being sickly or prone to infections, so, all-in-all, this sign is hardly a Viking type (Pisceans who do fit that mould are getting that energy from some other dominant feature of their chart). The onus of Pisces doesn’t fall on physical vivacity but on strong emotional receptivity within a disposition that is reflective, considerate, and resistant to taking actions that perpetuate pain.

Pisces symbolism in early Christianity
Left: The Ichthys symbol (‘Jesus fish’), adopted by Christians around the 2nd century BCE. The Greek word ichthys translates to ‘fish’ while the characters ΙΧΘΥΣ stand as an acronym for ‘Jesus, Christ, God, Son, Saviour’. Right: Christian imagery on a grave slab in the Domitilla catacombs, Rome, feauring Alpha and Omega symbols (beginning and end) creating cross grounded into an anchor.

But pacifism represents only one element of the Piscean mystical theme. This also recognises fish as creatures of the ocean – the age-old symbol of the collective realm of ethereal and psychic energy that lies beneath physical existence, where all is connected, and nothing moves without creating a tide of motion that pulls or pushes against something else. The sea, as the Magna Mater, the primary source, signifies the boundless essence of soulful creativity and elemental life force from which everything emerges and eventually returns. Fish, intrinsic parts of this fertile yet deeply mysterious realm, have always been seen as sacred representations of the soul and the spiritual connection that animates society.

Being natives of the world of water, Pisceans are highly responsive to their environment and easily influenced by the moods and expectations of others. The element of water signifies the dissolution of personal barriers that exist to detach us from the physical pain and emotional suffering of others. Lacking the hardened shell of Cancer and Scorpio, Pisces has the least resistance amongst the water signs to surrounding impressions, making them almost as responsive to the excitement, fear, anticipation, joy, hurt, and laughter originating from without as that generated within. If they see tears, they cry; if they see a smile, they smile back; no other sign is so prone to the infectious nature of human emotion.

The ‘boundless ocean’ represents a very open and fluid environment where instincts reign. Changeable and unpredictable, it lacks structure, control and conformity. Likewise, Pisceans find it hard to cope with discipline, routine and order. Their emotional capacity gives a strong imagination that often manifests through escapist tendencies or dreamy, hopeful visions. Capable of great inspiration and idealism, they may also be accused of lacking realism or being too trusting in the conviction that the power of belief, hope, or love can transcend all bounds and borders. Jupiter, as the traditional ruler of the sign, promotes the urge for freedom from restraint and mundane obligations, but even Jupiter struggles to find conscious direction in Pisces, where the emphasis falls on faith over reason and freedom of the soul through denial of earthly shackles. Unless a proclivity for self-imposed structure and regulation is suggested by more earthy qualities in the chart, Pisceans often waste their potential by failing to give lasting definition to their latent creativity. They tend to ‘go with the flow’, but when interest or energy levels drop, so does application. So Pisceans are great starters of projects, and highly creative initiators of ideas, but they can often lack the sustained commitment required to fulfil long-term objectives and drive them all the way through to completion.

The same is suggested by this sign’s reputation for being highly fertile. Pisces and Jupiter are both primary significators for ‘fruitfulness’: easy conception, an abundance of offspring, lush creativity and prolific ideas. While offering a blessing in pregnancy matters, multitudinous fecundity suggests problems through being too easily impressed upon and too receptive to a host of potentials – to the detriment of the one worthy project that demands singular attention. As the fish spawns numerous eggs, Pisceans are never short of budding possibilities to explore and develop. Most will admit they abound with inspirational ideas and visionary thoughts, but lose motivation once projects require more mundane maintenance than creative origination.

This can present itself as restlessness and unreliability. Most professional Pisceans need a career path that allows for flexibility and a constant exploration of new interests or imaginative stimulation. They excel in design and development but suffer in management and administration. Their fields are the arts, the muses and the caring professions, where they can fulfil their urge to nurse, heal or soothe, or absorb and reflect the power of the psyche. Although they may be unreliable in time-keeping (so generally best when working to their own agendas or allowed flexible hours), they can truly excel once they are roused to action, providing they can pour emotion or vision into what they are focused on. And although they are not the data-driven type, some of history’s most ground-breaking scientists and originators (including Nicholas Copernicus, Michelangelo, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs) have shown typical Piscean traits in being able to envision new realities conceived in mystical moments of inspired genius or dream-like inspiration.

The modern association of Neptune with this sign demonstrates the close affinity between Pisces’ soft and subtle nature and the observable effects of this nebulous outer planet. Neptune’s principle is the dissolution into collectiveness; Although often marvelled at as a planet of great spiritual mysticism, mundane astrology accepts that part of its influence is to weaken vital force and strive towards communism, where all are equalled, segregations and barriers are broken down, and no ‘one’ shines brighter than the rest. Neptune can bring depression, and Pisceans are known for having low vitality, which makes them prey to lethargy. Their temperament is defined as phlegmatic, which is associated with delicate constitutions, pale complexions and inertia. The poor generation of heat describes the sign as slow to rouse to temper but easily susceptible to emotional hurt.

Other negative Piscean traits include carelessness, inattention to details, manipulation, and an easy dependence upon drugs, alcohol, and artificial stimulants. The former problems are largely due to the casual disregard for regulation and self-imposed limitation, the latter to the heightened sensitivity that makes Pisceans readily responsive to addictive substances. The reputation for manipulation says less about an inclination towards dishonesty as reluctance to deal directly with uncomfortable issues that feel painful and distressing to tackle head-on. Pisceans prefer to introduce a softening principle, distorting little realities to make the truth seem easier to swallow.

Pisceans are rarely motivated by pure self-interest but are easily distracted and subject to the powerful temptation of aroused emotion. Venus has played an essential part in the ancient myths surrounding the constellation Pisces and is highly dignified by exaltation in the sign of Pisces. The softening nature of that planet falls in line with the peace-loving nature attributed to Pisces and its romanticised visions of love and attraction. Pisceans live for love and often feel incomplete without a ‘soul mate’, or some admired person or thing, held to be attractive, beautiful or inspiring, that they can sacrifice their energies to. Unfortunately, Pisces is not a sign of clear and rational vision. When Pisceans fall in love, they often, quite literally, fall into an abyss of intense confusion and distorted reality that allows no room for critical reasoning. They can make the most supportive and tender-hearted lovers, but then create their own suffering in relationships, either by clinging to false dreams that bear no basis in reality or through the inability to deal with the practical rules of engagement that remain in partnerships once the initial uplift and blush of romantic sensation has faded.

But for all the sorrows of an overly empathetic nature, the kind, open heart symbolised by Pisces makes the world a better place and, at its finest, typifies the noblest virtues of humanity. Peace-loving, caring, and generators of tranquil auras, the modern world – with its message that anyone can have anything so long as they demand it aggressively enough, take no prisoners and impress their will firmly upon everyone else – can be a challenging and hostile environment for the gentle, non-confrontational Piscean. But this sign has been blessed with excellent intuition and a deep spiritual source from which to draw calm resolution. The cord that binds the two fishes is an illustration intended to show that although Pisceans get caught up in emotional and psychic drifts, they are forever tied into centring themselves and their societies, anchored into a role of bringing equilibrium into their own life, and that of the natural world around them.
Above: illustration from Sidney’s Hall’s Urania’s Mirror, 1825; top left: medieval illustration, unknown source;  
bottom left: from Giambattista della Porta’s Celeste Fisonomia, 1652.
Aries | Taurus | Gemini | Cancer | Leo | Virgo | Libra | Scorpius | Sagittarius | Capricornus | Aquarius | Pisces

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Pisces the Fish
Watery, cold & moist, phlegmatic, nocturnal, feminine, double-bodied, mutable (common), prolific, mute

See also:

Pisces PISCES Pisces


Dignified Planets

Jupiter: Jupiter  - as sign ruler.
Venus: Venus  - as exaltation ruler.
Mars: Mars  - as triplicity ruler.

Debilitated Planets

Mercury: Mercury - by detriment and fall.

Typical Features

Pisces inclines to shortness, with the body erring towards fleshiness, with sensitivity to swellings, water retention and plumpness in later age (especially if water signs are generally predominant in the rest of the chart). The face is expected to be large and full (rounded), the complexion pale and often not very clear, being subject to skin disorders, or there is a translucency to the skin. The hair is usually quite thick. Traditional texts report a tendency towards slouching rather than an upright composure and overall there may be a sense of lethargy or a lack of vitality.

Traditional Rulerships

Direction:   All water signs broadly relate to the north; Pisces specifically signifies north-west.

Anatomy:  Pisces rules the feet

Illnesses:  Traditional texts report Pisces to be a lethargic and sickly sign denoting a poor constitution, because a lack of strong assertive will reflects a lack of vital energy and so a slow metabolism. It governs the feet and signifies all diseases and afflictions that relate to them – athlete’s foot, gout, aches and pains, lameness, ingrowing toenails, bunions, etc. It is also associated with colds, flu and all ‘moist’ illnesses: those that make eyes stream and the nose run. The phlegmatic (watery) Piscean temperament is susceptible to swellings and water-retention, and offers poor resistance against contagious diseases, and heightened sensitivity to drugs and negative psychosomatic complaints.

Because this is a sign of low vital spirits, it is associated with afflictions caused by corruption of the blood; those that result in a poor sense of all-round health and vitality, and cause the complexion to suffer. It signifies many kinds of skin afflictions including eczema, acne, and boils. Pisceans often suffer from lack of exercise and poor diet making them vulnerable to ulcers or medical problems that accumulate as the result of long periods of neglect. With a slap-happy attitude to hygiene, and a proclivity towards being ‘influenced’ (or easily infected) by others, the sign is traditionally associated with scabies, lice and skin infections caused by contamination.

Pisces is a fertile sign and may show a leaning towards multiple births. As a ‘mute’ sign it can also indicate problems related to the ability to offer clear verbal communication.

Places:  The places that Pisces rules are primarily related to its watery element and include fishponds, rivers, springs, watermills, water pumps, wells, marshy or watery ground, moats, springs, the ocean, and all locations near to water inside or around the house. Inside the house it is the bathroom and all the areas where water flows or presents its symbolism. It also signifies hermitages, monasteries or places of seclusion, temples or religious retreats and sanctuaries (Al Biruni gave it rulership over holy places and ‘abodes of angels’).

Countries & Cities:   Include Portugal, Normandy, northern Egypt, Alexandria, Rheims in France, Calabria in Sicily, Worms and Ratisbon in Germany and Compostella in Spain

Colours  Associated with white and glittering colours, and all pale colours, especially sea-green and blues.

Stones & Metals:  Stones and metals fall under the rulership of planets, not signs, but through its association with Jupiter, Pisces has affinity with crystals, amethysts, clear shining stones (sapphires, emeralds) and marble. Aquamarine, a member of the Beryl family, whose name means ‘sea water’ also seems particularly appropriate to the symbolism of Pisces, as do soft, gentle-coloured stones associated with the planet Venus (such as Rose quartz) which relate to Pisces being the sign of this planet's exaltation.

Animals:  Pisces signifies all aquatic animals, sea creatures and water snakes, and is also generally associated with birds according to Al Biruni (371). Planets within this sign help to give more definition; for example, Mars in Pisces can signify aggressive or dangerous sea creatures such as sharks and sting rays, whereas Venus in Pisces is more suggestive of a beautifully coloured gentle goldfish.

Traditional Definitions:

Fruitful:  As a water sign, Pisces is defined as ‘fruitful’ and associated with dualities and multitudes. Unless afflicted, Pisces shows a propensity for large families, many children, or easy conception in pregnancies.

Mute or slow of voice:  Symbolised by a creature that is silent in voice, Pisces is not known for verbal dexterity, and is one of the signs that is traditionally classified as ‘mute’. These signs (which include all the water signs) relate more to feelings than words, and so Pisceans can feel uncomfortable when expected to communicate spontaneously through words.

Nicholas Copernicus 19 February 1473; Torun, Poland; 4:48 pm LAT (RR:AA) chart & bio ⇨
Michelangelo 6 March 1475; Caprese Michelangelo, Italy; 1:45 am LMT (RR:AA) chart ⇨
Jean Baptiste Morin 23 February 1583; Villefranche, France; 8:46 am LMT (RR:B) chart & bio ⇨
George Washington 22 February 1732; Westmoreland, VA, USA; 10:00 am LMT (RR:AA) chart ⇨
Edgar Cayce 18 March 1877; Hopkinsville, KY, USA; 3:20 pm LMT (RR:C) chart ⇨
Albert Einstein 14 March 1879; Ulm, Germany; 11:30 am LMT (RR:AA) chart ⇨
Rudolf Steiner 25 February 1861; Donji Kraljevec, Croatia; 11:15 pm LMT (RR:X) chart ⇨
Elizabeth Taylor 27 February 1932; London, England; 2:30 am GMT (RR:AA) chart ⇨
George Harrison 25 February 1943; Liverpool, England; 12:10 am GDT (RR:A) chart ⇨
Liza Minnelli 12 March 1946; Los Angeles, CA, USA; 7:58 am PST (RR:AA) chart ⇨
Steve Jobs 24 February 1955; San Francisco, CA, USA; 7:15 pm PST (RR:AA) chart ⇨
Prince Andrew, Duke of York 19 February 1960; London, England; 3:30 pm GMT (RR:AA) chart ⇨
Seal 19 February 1963; London, England; 3:34 pm GMT (RR:X) chart ⇨
Kurt Cobain 20 February 1967; Aberdeen, WA, USA; 7:38 pm PST (RR:AA) chart ⇨
Queen Latifah 18 March 1970; Newark, NJ, USA; 8:02 am EST (RR:AA) chart ⇨
Drew Barrymore 22 February 1975; Culver City, CA, USA; 11:51 am PST (RR:AA) chart ⇨
Sam Bankman-Fried 5 March 1992; Stanford, CA, USA; 9:51 am PST (RR:AA) chart ⇨


Plate from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, 1690

Aries | Taurus | Gemini | Cancer | Leo | Virgo | Libra | Scorpius | Sagittarius | Capricornus | Aquarius | Pisces

Deb HouldingDeborah Houlding, creator of Skyscript, is based in the UK and has worked as an astrologer since the late 1980s. Founder of The Traditional Astrologer (1993 to 2000) and STA School of Traditional Astrology, she is the author of the STA Practitioners-Level Horary Course, The Houses: Temples of the Sky, and (with Oner Doser) Soru Astrolojisi: Horary Astrology (2015). She is also the editor of a modern retype, annotated edition of William Lilly's Christian Astrology and Griffin's Astrological Judgement Touching Theft.