this constellation has some resemblance, in the grouping of its stars, to the object after which it is named. It is a very conspicuous object in the evening sky of July. In its general form it resembles a boy's bow kite, the tail of which forms that of a scorpion, and is composed of ten bright stars. The first of these, near the point of the triangle forming the body of the kite, is Antares. It is a brilliant red star, resembling the planet Mars. In the Hebrew zodiac Scorpio is referred to Dan.
The Archer follows Scorpio, and is represented as a monster, half horse and half man, in the act of shooting an arrow from a bow. Sagittarius is easily recognized by the figure of an inverted dipper, formed of several bright stars. The figure of Sagittarius appears in the ancient zodiacs of Egypt and India.
The Goat is composed of fifty-one visible stars, most of them small. It is of no particular importance, except from the connection of its sign with the winter solstice, of which more will be said hereafter. It was called by the ancient Oriental nations the southern gate of the sun.
These are the last two constellations of the zodiac. The former is represented by the figure of a man, pouring out water from a jar, the latter by two fishes joined at a considerable distance by a loose cord. Aquarius in the Hebrew zodiac represents the tribe of Reuben, and the Fishes Simeon. The stars in both of these constellations are small and unimportant, except Fomalhaut, in Aquarius, which is almost of the first magnitude, and is used by navigators. This concludes our description of the constellations of the zodiac.
The Signs of the Zodiac
The signs of the zodiac are twelve arbitrary signs, or characters, by which the twelve constellations are designated. They are as follows:
These, without doubt, had their origin in the hieroglyphic or picture writing of the ancients. In the sign Aries we have a rude but yet remaining representation of the head and horns of the Ram. In Taurus fô) of the face and horns of a
Bull. Gemini (H) denotes the Twins, seated side by side with embracing arms. The ancient statues of Castor and Pollux consisted of two upright pieces of wood, joined together by two cross-pieces. Cancer (25) yet retains a resemblance to the claws of the Crab. Leo ($) may be intended for a crouching lion, or may be the outline of its principal stars—the group now called the Sickle, the stars of which, if joined by an imaginary line, would form a figure not unlike the sign ($). In Virgo (fl]>) the resemblance seems to be lost. Libra (—) is a plain picture of a scale-beam. The sign Scorpio (ff|J displays the sting of a venomous creature. Sagittarius, the Archer, is well represented by his arrow and part of his bow (**). In Capricornus (\)o) the resemblance is again lost; but in Aquarius (2S) we recognize the waves of the sea, denoting water. In Pisces (H) the resemblance of two fishes joined is still apparent.
It is quite easy to conceive how the original pictorial representations of the creatures emblematically denoting the various constellations of speed and convenience in writing them, grew into these arbitrary signs like letters.
In the figure of the zodiac, opposite page 42 the pictorial representations of the twelve constellations are given, with the arbitrary signs denoting each placed against them. The sun, moon, and planets were also designated by hieroglyphic astronomical signs by the ancients, as follows.
The planetary signs originated in the same manner as the zodiacal ones. The sign for the sun is "a point within a circle"—the point represents the earth, and the circle the ecliptic. The moon is appropriately pictured as a crescent. In the sign of Mercury we have the caduceus of that god, composed of
two serpents twisted about a rod. Mars is represented by his shield and spear. Venus is well denoted by the picture of an ancient hand-mirror. The origin of the planetary sign for Jupiter is not so clear. It does not in the least resemble an eagle, as some suggest, nor is it any more like the initial letter of the Greek Zeus; besides, the hieroglyphs are always representations of objects, not letters. This sign resembles more nearly the no less ancient numeral sign, the figure 4, and, as Jupiter is the fourth planet from the sun (if, like the ancients, we do not enumerate the earth), this resemblance may not be accidental. Saturn, lastly, is represented by his scythe in its ancient form.
These arbitrary signs for the planets and constellations have come down to us from a remote antiquity. Their general use, by all civilized nations is of great benefit, as they form a kind of astronomical shorthand, which, like the Arabian or Hindoo numerals, is equally well understood in all countries, no matter how much their language or ordinary written characters may differ, so that astronomical tables for the use of navigators and others are as well understood and as easily read in any one part of the civilized world as another. The great convenience of this is so apparent as to require no comment. The time when the zodiac was divided into twelve constellations, and the zodiacal signs invented, is lost in the dim distance of an extreme antiquity. The best opinion at present seems to be that the zodiac was derived from the Hindoos by the Egyptians, who gave it to the Arabians, who preserved it, and in turn transmitted it to us. Baldwin, in his "Prehistoric Nations," however proves that it is highly probable that the ancient Arabians originated it in prehistoric times. When the signs of the zodiac first began to be used, or what ancient students of the starry skies invented them, is therefore unknown, save by conjecture.
The zodiac has four principal points: these are the two solstitial and two equinoctial points, which, dividing the circle of the zodiac into four equal parts, are properly designated in the foregoing diagram. These four points were anciently marked by the stars Fomalhaut, Aldebaran, Regulus, and Antares.
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