Scorpio: The Scorpion

The currents run deep with the fixed water sign of Scorpio, whose nocturnal martial nature channels elements of both its invertebrate namesake and the soaring eagle.

Published Categorized as Fundamentals
The constellation of Scorpio by Sidney Hall

“Bright Scorpio Arm’d, with poys’nous Tail prepares,
Mens Martial Minds, for violence and Wars;
His Venom heats, and boyls their Bloods to Rage,
And Rapine spreads o’re the unlucky Age”

Marcus Manilius, Astronomica tr. Thomas Creech
  • Element: Water
  • Modality: Fixed
  • Ruler: Mars
  • Date: October 23 – November 22
  • Symbol: Scorpion

Star Lore

Depicted as early as the 12th century BCE, Scorpio was one of the largest identified constellations of the ancient world, its claws sprawling over what is now the sign of Libra. The Greek poet Aratus called it “the great beast” due to its size. The Greeks identified it with the lowly scorpion sent by Gaia to slay Orion after the supposedly invincible hero boasted he would kill all wild animals on Earth. The stars still re-enact this ancient drama, with the constellation of Orion fleeing to the west as Scorpio rises in the east.

The constellation’s brightest star, Antares, was one of the Royal Stars of Persia, marking the decline of the Sun’s power at the autumn equinox in ancient times. The star’s reddish hue gave it its name, meaning “rival of Mars.”

Not unlike the zodiac sign itself, the symbol of the scorpion has a complex and layered history. In Christianity, the insect is a symbol of death and self-interest associated with Judas Iscariot, whereas in Muslim cultures it is seen as a symbol of human sexuality. In pre-Islamic Mesopotamia, however, the scorpion was the symbol of various goddesses, especially those associated with love and fertility. The Mesopotamian primordial sea goddess Tiamat created half-scorpion, half-human monsters to avenge the murder of her mate by the new gods. These monsters later guarded the gates the Sun god used to enter the realm of darkness at night. Scorpions were also the symbol of Ishara, a goddess of love in parts of ancient Syria, and Serket, the ancient Egyptian goddess of fertility, nature, animals, medicine, and magic. 

Scorpio – the Scorpion, detail from the Horoscope from ‘The book of birth of Iskandar”

Many of the mythological characteristics of scorpions stem from the behavior of the animal itself. Of the 1,300 species of scorpions found around the world, only about 25 possess potentially lethal venom. The insects are extremely resilient, preferring dark, hidden dens, and capable of going without food for months. Their connection to love and sexuality could come from the intricate pas de deux that many species of scorpions perform before mating. Scorpions are also some of the most exemplary insect mothers, carrying their offspring on their backs until they can fend for themselves. 

In more recent times, Scorpio has been associated with another animal symbol. The tetramorph, a Christian symbol meant to represent the four evangelists, has its roots in the Babylonian depiction of the four fixed signs of the zodiac. In it, John the apostle is represented by an eagle that, in turn, stands in for the fixed water sign of Scorpio. The eagle is an apt depiction of the sign’s potential and martial nature: a formidable and patient hunter, the eagle is capable of soaring to great heights but, importantly, is largely a scavenger. Some astrologers also associate the sign with the phoenix due to its modern association with death, transformation, and rebirth.  


As a water sign, the archetype of Scorpio can be associated with deep, still waters, filled with long-accumulated sentiment. The fertile mud at the bottom of a river or the depths of the ocean fit with this image, as does the hulking iceberg—fixed, frozen water, with its bulk largely hidden under the surface. The fixed modality of the sign lends it a stubbornness; those with strong Scorpio placements can only be moved from a point of focus with great effort, their rooted strength allowing them to channel juggernaut tendencies in pursuit of a goal. 

Ancient astrologers considered Scorpio to be both a bestial sign, as it is represented by an animal, and fertile, like the other water signs. They possess considerable creative power, whether artistic or reproductive. While the sign has gained a reputation for raw sexuality in contemporary astrology, ancient Mesopotamian astrologers called Antares, the principal star of Scorpio, the “lord of the seed” or the “lusty king”, due to its associations with reproduction. The mating behavior of the scorpion plays a role in reinforcing this, but so does their maternal instinct. Many Scorpios have the drive to reproduce, and are typically very caring—if occasionally controlling or temperamental—parents. 

The month October and the sign of Scorpio, represented by the vintage and by the parable of the unjust husbandmen

Scorpios tend to command a deep psychological resilience, usually coupled with a kind of physical toughness. The association with deep waters is a good metaphor for the strength and emotional depth of a Scorpio, with watery Mars energy translating into fortitude and willpower. On the flip side, Scorpio natives can have trouble accepting weakness in others, and even more trouble accepting it in themselves. This can lead to quite the tangle of feelings; with a powerful emotional memory, Scorpios often have a few sore spots that they keep close to their chests, making forgiving themselves—and others—a Herculean task. 

Typical of a fixed sign, Scorpios place heavy value on loyalty and can be jealous or possessive, an extension of their all-or-nothing mindset. As the detriment of Venus, they have trouble having fun for fun’s sake and require a deeper reward to consider something worth it. Scorpios tend to have a nurturing instinct, with an innate understanding of emotional turmoil. Few other signs can provide the same sort of shelter in a storm. 

Scorpios learn by experience, and ever the more timid specimens have done plenty of poking around the darker parts of humanity, or themselves. This Mars-ruled sign’s courage allows it to face the good, the bad, and the ugly head-on, even less clear-cut, emotional situations that the brave Aries would feel out of their depth in. However, the intensity of Scorpio, as well as its unwillingness to compromise, can sometimes escalate a situation beyond what is necessary.

Not unlike Libras, Scorpios are unlikely to show all of their cards in the first interaction, often withholding until they have a better idea of who they are dealing with. In contrast to Libra, however, Scorpios reject facades and prefer to go beyond the superficial to the heart of the matter. They have no trouble ruffling feathers, and will not hesitate to cut another person down to size if they feel a display of power is in order. Scorpios are typically skilled at deception but value the truth—a Scorpio telling lies is a sign they do not want to engage with you. 

Scorpio by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, 1907

Perhaps the most basic drive of the Scorpion is to penetrate the surface and plumb the depths, to discover the root of things, either in themselves or others. This is part of the reason Scorpio is considered the fall of the Moon—even if emotions run deep in this fixed water sign, they are seldom visible, and can remain hidden in the native’s heart until a crisis forces them to well up to the surface. Ancient astrologers considered the Moon in Scorpio a time for deception when the true motivation of events is obscured. 

Mars’ rulership of the sign, as well as the martial influence of Antares, gives Scorpio an aggressive side, with many natives prone to temperamental outbursts. However, this nocturnal martial nature is distinct from that of the diurnal Aries. Unlike the Ram, which rushes headlong into challenges and overwhelms with its opening blows, the Scorpion prefers a subtler approach, lying in wait until the opening presents itself before striking with deadly force. The Scorpion is unlikely to start a fight, but they have no qualms about finishing one, often with deadly precision. 

Hunter-like instincts and a fixed modality give the Scorpion the persistence it needs to follow through on its commitments, sometimes to the point of obsession. Natives with Mars in Scorpio possess a notably single-minded focus. Notoriously secretive signs, their drive to get to the bottom of things can have an element of espionage. Mercury in Scorpio could signify a deep curiosity and a considerable capacity for research, as well as a tendency for distrust or deception. 

This sign’s weaponized instinct is apparent in its glyph. Though similar to the “m” of Virgo, the final embellishment is sharpened and pointed outward, like the tail of a scorpion, whereas for Virgo it is directed inward. The sign rules the groin, both the reproductive and excretory organs. Scorpio is associated with birds of prey and arachnids, as well as other scavengers of the animal kingdom—all animals that provoke fear, even if harmless, and who play a vital role in cleaning up corpses. True to their martial nature, a range of military equipment has been named after scorpions, from Roman siege weapons to modern tanks. 

Phoenix Rising by Heni Sandoval

In dress Scorpios prefer to make bold statements, preferring deep, strong colors. Planets in Scorpio have an extra depth, intensity, or secrecy, where all is not revealed to a casual onlooker. Scorpio placements can also indicate an interest in the occult, or a taboo subject.

Caught between truth and deception, between the heights and the depths, the Scorpion uses its emotional power to experience life in its full raw intensity. As the nights grow longer and the weather grows colder, the Sun in Scorpio reminds us to embrace the darkness as well as the light, to plumb the depths to gain a greater understanding of the world around us and within us.  


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