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Read Scorpio the Scorpion for meanings and traits of the star-sign Scorpio.


Star Lore of the Constellations: Scorpio the Scorpion - by Deborah Houlding

Notable stars in Scorpio: Epoch 2000
Longitude Name Nature Mag. Position Lat. Dec.
2 Sa. 34 Isidis Mars / Saturn 2 Right Claw of Scorpion 02S 23S
3 Sa. 11 Graffias Mars/ Saturn 2 Head of Scorpion 01N 20S
9 Sa. 46 Antares Mars/ Jupiter 1 Heart of Scorpion 05S 26S
24 Sa. 01 Lesath Mercury/ Mars 2 Sting of Scorpion 14S 37S
25 Sa. 53 Aculeus Mars/ Moon 5 Sting of Scorpion 09S 32S
28 Sa. 45 Acumen Mars/ Moon 6 Sting of Scorpion 11S 35S

In classical myth the Scorpion was the revered slayer of Orion, the powerful warrior who had boasted that his strength was so great he was invincible to the mightiest creatures of the earth. Orion's vulnerability was proven by the lowly but deadly Scorpion. The two constellations remain linked in combat in the heavens, directly opposing each other across the sky, so that Orion is said to flee in the west whenever his murderer rises in the east.

For many centuries prior to the Christian Era Scorpio was the largest of the zodiacal figures, with its claws - the chelae - extending over the area now attributed to Libra. This has been offered as an argument that the earliest zodiac contained only six great constellations, of which Scorpio was one. [1] Aratus referred to the creature as 'the Great Beast' and 'the Great Sign', both acknowledging the supremacy of its size. It is thought that the grouping of its stars may have influenced the choice of symbolism, as there is a resemblance to a tail like that of a scorpion's, while Libra (the Claws) and Scorpio together do look very much like a Scorpion.

The Scorpion, as a constellation figure, has a great antiquity in Mesopotamia where it was viewed as a symbol of darkness and resilience. An emblem of autumn, it is found on Babylonian boundary stones dating to the 12th century BC and for later dwellers on the Euphrates it became symbolic of the decline of the Sun's power after the autumnal equinox, then located within its stars. Its malignant influence was most readily seen in the stormy weather and early darkness that accompanied its rising, as witnessed in this passage from Aratus:

storm-tossed at sea, when the Sun scorches the Bow, trust no longer in the night but put to shore in the evening. Of that season and that month let the rising of the Scorpion at the close of night be a sign to thee. [2]

Concerning the nature of the stars in this constellation Ptolemy writes:

Of the stars in the body of the Scorpio, the bright stars on the forehead act in the same way as does Mars and in some degree as does Saturn; the three in the body, the middle one of which is tawny and rather bright and is called Antares, the same as Mars, and in some degree, Jupiter; those in the joints, the same as Saturn and, in some degree, Venus; those in the sting, the same as Mercury and Mars; and the so-called cloud-like cluster, the same as Mars and the Moon. [3]

Antares, a first magnitude fiery red star, is one of the most easily identifiable stars in the sky. The name means 'similar to' or 'rival of' Mars, because both are of a similar colour and luminosity, and also because - Scorpio being ruled by Mars - both were rulers and guardians of this constellation. Centrally located within the figure, it is also known as Cor Scorpii - 'Scorpion's Heart', or the 'Fire Star', on account of it notable red colour for which it is invoked in worship for protection against fire. In Egypt it has been taken as a symbol of Isis as well as the scorpion-goddess Selket, whose main role was to protect the souls of the dead; in ancient Euphratean astronomy it was known by such titles as 'Lord of the Seed', 'Creator of Prosperity', 'the King' and 'the Lusty King'.[4] In the third millennium BC Antares was one of the Four Royal Stars of Persia, [5] the 'Watcher of the West', appropriately capturing the symbolic importance of Scorpio with the autumn equinox and the association between the direction west and loss of the Sun's light. On this theme it is known that many early Grecian temples were oriented towards the rising or setting of Antares at the equinox.

A Royal star, likened to the influence of Mars and Jupiter, Antares offers extremes of success, good fortune, danger and malevolence. It clearly indicates the potential for great power, but where this is simply 'power of will' without integrity or wisdom, it carries the threat of ruination. Lilly warns that it can indicate a rash, head-strong person who is destructive to himself by his own obstinacy. [6] The direction of the luminaries to this star usually indicates great honour and advancement, but always there is a warning not to fall victim to its ruthless energies. Of the Sun directed to this star Lilly writes:

It discerns many honours, if the native be careful, and be not deceived by soldiers. It doth many times produce a burning fever, or some violent act, and prejudice the right eye. [7]

Of the direction of the Moon he writes:

It assigns unto the native a certain kind of dignity, which carries along with it a kind of fear and enmity; It endangers his life by deceit of his enemies, or fall from a horse &c., It portends the death of his mother or wife, or very great sickness.[8]

And of the direction of the midheaven:

The native is like to enjoy much society, either with soldiers or religious men, or both; their acquaintance may produce him honour, but little profit; for he will waste much money in the exercise of arms, and be very inclinable thereunto; whereupon he is like to have military command by, or from jovial or religious persons, or he may have authority or preferment at sea amongst sailors, and therefore be much envied. These preferments which come by the fixed stars alone, do seldom continue without a sudden change. [9]

Graffias is a triple star located on the head of the Scorpion which shines with a lilac hue. The name originates from the word for crab, the term for the two creatures being almost interchangeable in early cultures. In some lists it is given as Akrab, Frons Scorpii or 'Crown of the Forehead'. According to Ptolemy it is of the nature of Mars and Saturn and it is mentioned by Robson as causing 'extreme malevolence, mercilessness, fiendishness, repulsiveness, malice, theft, crime, pestilence and contagious diseases'. [10] Like Antares, it is capable of bestowing great honour and power, but its benefits are easily corrupted and abused, and attended by danger and violence. Ebertin and Hoffman claim that the star is credited with giving an ability to do research, especially into things of a hidden or secret nature but they warn of an indication of mass destruction in mundane maps, when Graffias is angular and attended by Mars, Saturn or Uranus. [11]

Isidis, a 2nd magnitude star near the right claw, is also attributed a nature like Mars and Saturn. This star appears to bestow the same destructive qualities as Antares and Graffias, but with few of the possible benefits. It is associated with imprisonment and shame, disgrace and assaults. There is the capacity for gain, but it is attended by the qualities of selfishness, envy, violence, sickness and domestic disharmony. The passions are strong and there is a tendency for trouble associated with the opposite sex, but it does indicate a shrewd and cunning mind with organisational ability. If this star promotes to high office, there is a real danger of subsequent disgrace.

The stars in the sting of the Scorpion are notorious for causing blindness and injuries to the eyes, though Dorotheus also adds that the stars in the face and the eyes of the Scorpion will cause blindness when the Moon is in conjunction and the malefics in aspect. [12]

Amongst these Lesath is a 2nd magnitude star whose name derives from the Arabic Al Las'ah, 'the Sting'. Its nature is of Mercury and Mars, suggesting an association with a quick mind, a stinging wit and a capacity for verbal attack. It is traditionally an unfortunate and unlucky star, reputed to bestow danger, violence, immorality and an affiliation with poisons. Ebertin and Hoffman, however, point out that 'if associated with a benefic stellar body, and if channelled in the right direction, there is a possibility that the energy associated with the Mars nature can make for marked achievements.[13]

Aculeus and Acumen are twin nebulas in the sting of the Scorpion, both likened to the nature of Mars and the Moon. Like most similar groups they have a marked reputation for blindness (physical, emotional and psychological), sickness and disease. The symbolism of their position on the figure illustrates a propensity for attack, both as victim and perpetrator, whilst their lack of definition argues that the emphasis is on hidden and sustained energies, rather than a direct and immediate impact which would be more characteristic of the influence of Lesath.

Scorpio is a large and sprawling constellation, best viewed in early summer - its southerly declination and brief summer evenings impede observation but Antares, the 15th brightest star in the sky, is easily identifiable. The best time to view is around 9:00 pm in July. Scorpio is low to the south - four consecutive stars trace out a scorpion head and Antares is below to the left. The stars then curve around and end in a cluster forming the stinger.
The Sun transits Isidis and Graffias around 23rd and 24th November; Antares around 1st December; Lesath around 16th December; Aculeus around 17th December and Acumens around 20th December.

Notes & References:
  1 ] Allen, Star Names, their Lore and Meaning, 1899, Dover, republished 1963; p.361.
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  2 ] Aratus, Phainomena, (3rd century BC), Harvard Heinemann, Loeb Classical Library; 300-305 (Loeb p.231).
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  3 ] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, (1st century AD), Harvard Heinemann, Loeb Classical Library; 1.9 (Loeb p.51).
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  4 ] Allen, p.366.
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  5 ] The four royal stars were:
  • Regulus (Leo) - north
  • Fomalhaut (Aquarius) - south
  • Antares (Scorpio) - west
  • Aldebaron (Taurus) - east.

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      6 ] Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647, Regulus Reprint, p.537.
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      7 ] Ibid., p.689
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      8 ] Ibid., p.703
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      9 ] Ibid., p. 677
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      10 ] Vivian Robson, The Fixed Stars and Constellations, 1923, republished by Ascella, p.169
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      11 ] Ebertin & Hoffman, Fixed Stars and their Interpretation, trans. Irmgard Banks (Tempe, AZ: The American Federation of Astrologers, 1971), p.69.
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      12 ] Dorotheus, Carmen Astrologicum, (1st cent. BC), translated by David Pingree, republished by Ascella Publications, p.253. See also Al-Biruni v. 460 and Ptolemy III.12 (Loeb p.321), where the sting of the Scorpion is said to be injurious to the eyes.
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      13 ] Ebertin and Hoffman, p.73.
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    © Deborah Houlding

    Stars & Constellations