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Read Pisces the Fishes for meanings and traits of the sun-sign Pisces.


Star Lore of the Constellations: Pisces the Fishes - by Deborah Houlding

Notable stars in Pisces: Epoch 2000
Longitude Name Nature Mag. Position Lat. Dec.
26 Ar. 49 Alpherg Saturn / Jupiter 3.62 Northern Cord 5N 15N
29 Ar. 23 Al Rischa Mars / Mercury 3.79 The knot in the cord 9S 3N

Pisces is a curious star group; the stars are dim, scattered, and don't form a distinctive asterism. The two figures of the Fishes are widely separated from each other with one lying next to the figure of Andromeda and the other near to Aquarius and Pegasus. Neither fish is brightly illuminated, with only three of the constellation stars appearing slightly brighter than 4th magnitude. The ancient astronomer Aratus (3rd century BC) said of them:

Ever one is higher than the other, and louder hears the fresh rush of the North wind. From both there stretch, as it were, chains, whereby their tails on either side are joined. The meeting chains are knit by a single beautiful and great star, which is called the Knot of the Tails. Let the left shoulder of Andromeda be thy guide to the northern fish, for it is very near. [1]

The constellation has an almost universal association with female deities. The ancient Babylonians recognised the Fishes as the goddesses Anunitum and Simmah; while the Syrians saw the group as a representation of their goddess Ashtarte and frequently drew it as a woman's head upon a fish's body. The Greeks adopted this identification, suggesting that the two Fishes represent Venus and her son Cupid. According to mythology, Venus and cupid dived into a river and transformed themselves into fishes in order to escape the evil attack of monstrous Typhon. Of course, mythology also claims that Venus was born from the sea while astrology, appropriately, exalts her in the sign of the Fishes.

The first century astrologer Manilius also claimed that the Fishes were celebrated in the heavens for the transformation of Venus. [2] Those that are ruled by the sign, he says, possess a love of the sea and have numerous skills connected with water and rivers. He gives a good assessment of the character of Pisces where he says:

The children of this sign are endowed with fertile offspring, a friendly disposition, swiftness of movement, and lives in which everything is ever apt to change. [3]

The great classical astronomer Ptolemy defined the nature of the stars in the head of the Southern Fish as of the nature of Mercury and Saturn; those in the body like Jupiter and Mercury; those in the tail and southern cord like Saturn and Venus, those in the northern cord like Saturn and Jupiter and the bright star on the bond like Mars and Mercury.[4] This star, in the knot of the band, which Aratus referred to as 'the single beautiful and great star... the knot of the tails', is AL RISCHA, which derives its name from the Babylonian Riksu 'the Cord'. Though it was obviously brilliant in classical times, it is listed today as a fourth magnitude binary star of pale green and blue. It remains one of the brightest stars in the constellation but is noticeably absent in most contemporary astrological texts. Ramesey called it the knot of the band of the fishes or pole of the whale and conflicted with Ptolemy by listing its nature like Jupiter and Mercury.[5]

The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which occurred around this star in 7BC, has given rise to speculation that this was the biblical 'star of Bethlehem' that proclaimed the birth of Christ. Certainly, awareness that the vernal point was slipping from Aries to Pisces would have given astrologers of the time reasons to look for celestial signals ushering in a new age, and the natural symbolism of a knot, tying together cords that are straining in opposite directions, would characterise this star as one that offers amalgamation through conflict and tension. From a wider perspective it is worth reflecting upon the fact that the fishes that are bound by the cord swim away from each other, suggesting an influence that denotes a central theme of dualism. An individual whose nativity is marked by this star may, for example, be prone to exploration of extremes and sympathy for opposing viewpoints. The energies of this star could be likened to the tension experienced at the eye of the storm, great effort is required to overcome confusion and lack of direction, but if a strong sense of definition can be maintained, such an individual could be capable of great feats of unification.

Although Al Rischa is still considered the Alpha star of Pisces, it is no longer the brightest star. Slightly brighter today is ALPHERG, (Eta Piscium), which is taken as the starting point for the sidereal zodiac. The name derives from an Arabic term Al Pharg, meaning 'pouring point of water'. This a double star in the northern section of the cord and hence of a Saturn and Jupiter influence according to Ptolemy. Both Venus and Neptune appear to have strong connections with the star however, Neptune being discovered as the Vernal point crossed this star in 1846, and Venus being exalted in its longitude position - 27 Pisces. Where either planet is connected by aspect, it is presumed that this star will act as a strong focus for their energies. Generally, Alpherg is reputed to have a nature that supports artistic flair, whilst according to Robson it gives preparedness, steadiness, determination and final success. ([6] )

Pisces is best viewed from the UK during the months of September through to January.
The Sun crosses Al Rischa around April 20th / Alpherg around April 17th.
The stars in Pisces are difficult to locate but if you can find Alpheratz (alpha Andromedae) and Aldebaran (alpha Tauri), you should be able to locate Al Rischa. Midway between Alpheratz and Aldebaran you will find Hamal (alpha Arietis), Al Rischa lies twenty degrees directly to the south of Hamal.

Notes & References:
  1 ] Aratus, Phainomena, (3rd century BC), Harvard Heinemann, Loeb Classical Library; 240-250 (Loeb p.277)
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  2 ] Manilius, Astronomica, (c.10 AD), Harvard Heinemann, Loeb Classical Library; 2.446, (Loeb p.85)
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  3 ] Ibid., 273-292 (Loeb pp.243-245)
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  4 ] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, (1st century AD), Harvard Heinemann, Loeb Classical Library, I.9 (Loeb pp.53-55)
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  5 ] Ramesey, Astrology Restored , (1653), Bk II; Ascella Reprint p.94
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  6 ] Vivian Robson, The Fixed Stars & Constellations, (1923); p.134
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© Deborah Houlding

Stars & Constellations