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Birthstone bookmark information

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac represented by the ram.

In the myth of the golden fleece, the ram was given by Nephele to Phrixus and Helle.

To escape the wrath of Hera, the pair fled across the sea on the back of the ram.

Helle fell off the ram and drowned, giving her name to the Hellespont but Phrixus arrived safely in Colchis.

There he sacrificed the ram to Zeus who placed it in the constellations.

Taurus is the second sign of the zodiac represented by the bull.

It is the snow white Bull which took Europe across the sea to Crete. The bull was Zeus in disguise and Europe bore him three children - Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon.

Minos became king of Crete and his queen, PasiphaŽ, gave birth to a bull-headed son called the Minotaur which was later slain by Theseus in the Labyrinth.

Some say that Taurus is a later Cretan bull that was slain by Herakles.

Gemini is the third sign of the zodiac represented by the Greeks as two children.

The Greek twins are usually Castor and Pollux (the Latinised form of the original Greek, Polydeukes).

They may be Herakles and Apollo or the pair connected with Demeter: Triptolemus (the 'thrice-daring' herdsman) and Iasion (struck dead by Zeus for consorting with Demeter in a 'thrice ploughed' field).

Cancer is the fourth sign of the zodiac represented by the Greeks as a Crab.

It is the enormous creature which the goddess Hera sent from the swamp against Herakles during his battle with the Lernaean Hydra, his second labour.

The crab nipped his foot and he stamped on it, crushing it beneath his heel, whereupon Hera set it in the zodiac as one of the twelve signs.

The story is a strange echo of that involving the other zodiacal creature with claws, Scorpio.

The Greek year began in Cancer, on the new moon after the Summer Solstice, and the story is of each new year following on the heels of the old.

Leo is the fifth sign of the zodiac, represented by a Lion, specifically the terrible Nemean Lion which had a skin no weapon could penetrate and which had depopulated Nemea.

As the first of his labours, Herakles strangled the lion losing a finger to it in the struggle, and thereafter used its skin as armour and its head as an helmet.

Zeus raised the lion to the heavens in honour of Herakles.

Virgo is the sixth sign of the zodiac, represented by the Virgin or 'maid'.

Hesiod thought her the daughter of Jupiter and Themis, the Arcadian nymph whom the Romans and later Greeks associated with Libra, but that is just gossip. The Virgin may be Iustia, the daughter of Astraeus and Ancora, or Erigone, the daughter of Icarus, or even Apollo's daughter, Parthene, whose name means 'virgin'. She is Eve in Genesis who originally crushed the head of the Serpent, Scorpio.

Libra is the seventh sign of the zodiac and is the only one not represented by a living creature.

Early zodiacs did not recognise the sign as it was only created in Roman times to separate and maintain the balance between the Virgo - Scorpio pair who are, according to Genesis, Eve crushing the Serpent's head and the Serpent, or Scorpion, striking at the Virgin's heel - a story with its basis in the turn of the year at the new moon following the Autumnal Equinox.

Scorpio is the eighth sign of the zodiac, represented by a Scorpion.

Until separated by Libra, the scorpion stung the heels of Virgo at the Autumnal Equinox while she crushed it underfoot. Scorpio is the Serpent in Genesis.

In Greek myth, it was placed in the zodiac by Hera as reward for killing Orion the Hunter.

The story is similar to the Greek new-year tale of Cancer and its roots go back through Jewish myth to the Babylonian legend of the hero, Gilgamesh, when the new year began at the Autumnal Equinox.

Sagittarius is the ninth sign of the zodiac, represented as a Centaur losing an arrow.

The Centaur is Crotus, the son of Pan and Eupheme who was nurse to the Muses.

Sagittarian Crotus is often confused with the famous Cheiron, king of the Centaurs and tutor to Apollo's son, Asclepius, the god of healing, but Cheiron's constellation is Centaurus - although Centaurus is sometimes thought to be Pholus, the son of Pan-like Silenus and a wood nymph.

Capricorn is the tenth sign of the zodiac, represented by a Goat with crooked horns and the hind parts of a Fish.

The goat is Pan, the lusty and licentious god normally portrayed as a bearded, curly-haired human with legs, tail and horns of a goat.

On plunging into the Nile to escape from the mighty Typhon, the father of dangerous winds, his upper part became wholly goat but the submerged parts changed into those of a fish. The story is remarkably like that of Pisces.

Aquarius is the eleventh sign of the zodiac, represented by a young man bearing either a pitcher of water or a cup.

The young man is Ganymedes, son of Tros who gave his name to Troy.

Zeus took a fancy to Ganymedes and took him to be the cup bearer to the gods, previously the duty of Hera's daughter, Hebe.

Hera's pique at this insult to her daughter annoyed Zeus who set Ganymedes in the sky as Aquarius.

Pisces is the twelth and last sign of the zodiac represented by two fishes.

The Greek myth, echoing that of Capricorn, tells how the erotic love gods, Eros and Aphrodite, were turned into fishes when they leapt into water to escape the wrath of the storm god Typhon.

The usual images of Pisces show the two fishes head to tail, like the oriental yin-yang symbol, to emphasise the male and female aspects. This hides the true constellation image of fish tied by their tails and hanging like plumb lines divided by the square of Pegasus - seen by the Babylonians as the Ark of the Deluge.

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