Last Double Pisces, from their shining scaleMarcus Manilius, Astronomica tr. Thomas Creech
Spread watry influences, and incline to Sail;
To trust their Lives to Seas, to plow the Deep,
To make fit Rigging, or to build a Ship.
- Element: Water
- Group: Mutable
- Ruler: Jupiter
- Dates: Feb. 18 – March 20
- Symbol: Two fish tied together by a string swimming in opposite directions
The dim, formless scattering of stars between Andromeda and Aquarius was one of the last constellations to be given its current symbol. The Babylonians identified parts of the western fish as the “Swallow”, while the northern fish was associated with the goddess Anunitum, the “Lady of the Heaven”. Later mythologies would continue the association between the Fish and female deities—the Syrians identified the constellation as the goddess Astarte, represented by the head of a woman on a fish’s body, while the Greeks and Romans identified it with Aphrodite/Venus and her son Eros/Cupid. When fleeing from Typhon, a terrible being created by Gaia to exact revenge on the Olympians for defeating the Titans, the two jumped into a stream and became a pair of fish tied together by a string. Aphrodite, born of the sea, has strong aquatic links, and, as Manilius puts it, the Fish are “celebrated in heaven for transformation of Venus.” Pisces serves as the exaltation of Venus in astrology as a sign well suited to love, grace, the arts and all sorts of spiritual pleasures.
At the center of the constellation lies the 4th magnitude star Al Risha (from the Babylonian Riksu, “The Cord”). Brilliant in ancient times, this star is the knot in the cord that binds the Fish together, the eye in the storm of the tension inherent in this dual-bodied sign. Around 7 B.C., a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurred near this star, potentially making it the fabled star of Bethlehem signaling the birth of Jesus Christ. Indeed, Christianity would add another layer of meaning to the constellation of Pisces, with five loaves and two fish being used by Jesus to feed a multitude and the disciples given the mandate to serve as “fishers of men”. The humanism and generosity espoused by the Gospels have much to do with the sign of the Fish.
Ruled by Jupiter, the 12th and final sign of the zodiac is more spiritual than ego-driven, more free-flowing than structured. In Pisces, the fiery exuberance of Sagittarius is replaced by a spiritual generosity and a refusal to recognize distinctions between souls, between the self and the other. Hellenistic authors such as Valens attributed a fruitful fertility to this sign, thanks to the magnanimous influence of the Greater Benefic. Pisces tends toward kindness, humility, and a willingness to serve, like its opposite sign, Virgo; however, its similarities with the analytical earth sign end there. For the Fish, faith is a far more important virtue than reason. As the fall and depression of Mercury, this sign is not a place for discernment or distinction. Structure, responsibility, and materialistic realism are of little interest to the Fish; they care much more for spiritual needs than material realities.
As the only water sign without a symbolic “shell”, Pisces is sensitive, empathetic, and easily influenced— when swimming in a sea of emotions, it’s hard to tell what’s yours and what’s mine, after all. They have an innate connection to the Magna Mater, the root of life, and are heavily affected by their surroundings. They tend toward the flow and unpredictability of the open ocean and the gradual dissolution of personal barriers. Knowing that everything in their life is apt to change, they might emulate a slippery fish or the water of the open ocean itself, slipping through the holes of any net cast to trap them. The Piscean native shies away from structure and commitment, preferring to evade definition. Instead, like water, they are often defined by the container they inhabit, and just as easily take on a different form in a different situation. Schedules are also contrary to the Piscean native, who might prefer to wistfully slip out of a situation than work and live by the ticking of a clock.
The Fish is sensitive, but not necessarily fragile. Easily hurt, they may shirk commitment or responsibility, preferring to avoid any task that may prove difficult or unpleasant. They are not vindictive and are rarely inclined to seek retribution for any past wrongs. In providing support, they mean well but are notoriously slow to take action. The empathic capacity to convince themselves of the validity of any perspective further undermines their capacity to act. They tend toward the timid, sometimes hesitating to do anything that might hurt another’s feelings, which can translate into a lack of up-frontness. Some may even forego a task altogether, feigning weakness or inability to get someone else to do the heavy lifting.
The two fish represented in the constellation, although bound, swim in opposite directions, marking an inherent dualism. Unlike the conviction and confidence of Aquarius, the mutable Pisces knows that truth is relative, and a native born under this dual-bodied sign is often comfortable with contradiction. Indeed, they may even contain multiple contradictions within themselves. While this openness to various beliefs and “truths” can make Piscean natives gullible, it also speaks to an important open-mindedness. The Fish are particularly hard to define: the moment you think you’ve got a grasp on them, they change. This dualism weakens the self, making Pisces perhaps the most unworldly sign. Particularly weak-willed natives born under this sign may be easily influenced and led, but they have a marked capacity for self-sacrifice that ties in nicely with their ties to Christian symbolism. The influence of Jupiter may also be seen in their spiritual nature, the disciple’s capacity to believe.
The sign strives toward universality and oneness but contains within itself self-sabotaging parts. The Fish know, from millennia of tugging in opposite directions, that gain in one area represents loss in another. This is perhaps why Piscean natives are so inclined toward partnership—their instinct is to embrace, not reject, with people as with ideas. With a spiritual bend, the Piscean native tends to deny its ego in favor of the collective. They are less concerned with external factors that might preoccupy a worldly Capricorn, favoring instead spiritual development. They have an almost boundless capacity for inspiration but can falter when faced with very concrete challenges. In excess, the otherworldliness of the Fish can involve an escapist streak or a disconnect with material reality.
Cold and wet by nature, the Lesser Benefic is comfortable swimming in the highly fertile, watery sign of the Fish. Being the exaltation of Venus is clear in the Piscean knack for devotion, whether it’s devotion to another, to a craft, or a faith. Indeed, connection to another provides much-needed anchorage to a drifting fish. The Piscean native invests all of their feeling into the projects or relationships that are most important to them, though they may seem to lack the drive of more go-getter signs. Similarly, the Fish need a considerable level of emotional stimulation, and they can get restless in situations where their emotional needs are not met.
Venus in Pisces may spur the native to pursue idealized, storybook romances, or to enter a field that allows them to express their free-flowing creativity. Manilius in particular links this sign to maritime trades, but modern conceptions of the sign prefer to point out its artistic nature. Dance and poetry are fields particularly suited to the creative gifts of the Fish, as are care-taking fields like nursing or theater—recall how well this mutable sign can acclimate to the demands of a new pond. Of the body, the Fish rules the feet. Piscean natives may tend toward the phlegmatic, more lethargic, and passive than active.
Typical of its watery, boundless quality, planets placed in this sign are heavily influenced by aspecting planets. Planets in this mutable sign may lack the direction granted to a planet in a cardinal sign, and energies tend to bleed together like watercolors. While the Moon and Venus might benefit from the empathy and imagination of the Fish, Saturn and Mars lose much of their direction or impact. The same spiritual generosity typical of a Jupiter-ruled sign means reality is less cut-and-dry in this sign, and the bad is often embraced along with the good. Boundaries and organization break down as the circling Fish try to achieve oneness in the ocean of existence.
- The Contemporary Astrologer’s Handbook, Sue Tompkins
- Star Lore of the Constellations, Pisces: The Fish, Deborah Houlding
- Pisces the Fish, Deborah Houlding
- Sun Signs by Linda Goodman
- Pisces, chandra.harvard.edu
Images on this page
- pisces-february-month: Engraving by A. Collaert after H. Bol, 1585. | Public Domain Mark 1.0
- pisces-mikalojus-1907: Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis | public domain
- pisces-fisherwoman: Lithograph after S. Tresca after L. Lafitte. | Public Domain Mark 1.0
- pisces-sidney-hall: Sidney Hall | CC0 1.0 Universal