Athena's Web Weekly Column
Week of Jan 27th - Feb 2nd, 2006
The Stars of the Water Bearer
The symbol of the Water Bearer is one of the oldest and most consistent of all the zodiac. On early Babylonian stones it was depicted as a man or boy, pouring water from a bucket or urn.
There is a grouping of watery constellations throughout this part of heaven, with Capricorn (depicted by the Babylonians as a sea-goat), Cetus (the Whale), Delphinus (Dolphin), Eridanus (River), Hydra (Water Serpent), Pisces (Fish), and Pisces Australis (Southern Fish) all part of the collective school swimming through what was known as the 'Sea'. All of these constellations were thought to be under the control of Aquarius.
Many cultures associate the stars of the Water Bearer with luck, but apparently this can be either good or bad as their fortunes vary considerably. In ancient Babylon, for instance, it was associated with the 11th month Shabatu,'the curse of rain', coinciding with the months already mentioned.
While many of the constellations derive from Greek and Babylonian sources, these were largely left in their pictoral form, with whole constellations being named after the lucinda, or chief star, of that group. Stars might be identified as the mouth of the Southern Fish, or the upraised arm of the Kneeler (Hercules) for instance. But it was the Arabic designation of these names which finally took hold, and when 'Al' is seen as part of the name, it is simply the definite article 'the' in Arabic.
The brighter stars of the constellation Aquarius (none are particularly bright) convey some of the good fortune associated with this sign. Alpha, the brightest of the stars, was named Sadalmelik, from the Arabic Al Sa'd al Malik, 'the Lucky One of the King'. Beta is known as Sadalsuud, from Al Sa'd al Su'ud, liberally translated as 'the Luckiest of the Lucky'. On the Euphrates it was called Kakkab Nammax, 'the Star of Mighty Destiny'. Gamma, next in line of brightness, is called Sadachbia, from Al Sa'd al Alibiyah, 'the Lucky Star of Hidden Things or Hiding Places'. Delta is now known as Skat and derives from Al Shi'at, 'the Wish', while epsilon, Al Bali from Al Sa'd al Bula, is curiously known as 'the Good Fortune of the Swallower'. Precessional motion has carried these stars into the late degrees of Aquarius and early degrees of Pisces.
Firmicus Maternus conveys some of these notions of the reversal of fortune, both for good and for ill, in his classic work, the Mathesis.
"If the ascendant is in Aquarius, whatever the native attains will be lost and ruined; whatever he seeks he will lose again, but whatever he has lost he will regain easily... He will be in great danger so that his life is despaired of, but he will be freed by the protection of the gods... He will work with divine or religious writings and will be known to many for his good deeds... He will travel from one place to another and, if he is low-born, will carry on servile occupations; but afterwards, affairs will turn out prosperously for him. He will have misfortunes in early life concerning wife and children, but later fortune will come to him from the notice of others... He will quarrel with his wife, he will be married to an old or an unworthy woman, or one who has been detected in various love affairs... Enemies will rise up against him suddenly but he will overcome them with his courage and his strength."