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Old woodcarving of Aquarius, the water bearer

Aquarius Mythology

Aquarius is depicted as a young man pouring water (or alternatively, nectar) from an amphora into the mouth of the Southern Fish, represented by the constellation Piscis Austrinus.

Aquarius is usually associated with Ganymede, the son of King Tros, in Greek mythology. Ganymede was a beautiful Trojan youth who caught Zeus’ eye, which prompted the god to disguise himself as an eagle (represented by the constellation Aquila) and carry him off to Olympus to serve as cup-bearer to the gods. In a different story, the constellation represents Deucalion, son of Prometheus, who survived the great flood along with his wife Pyrrha.

One day Ganymede was off tending to his father’s sheep in a grassy area on Mount Ida when he was spotted by Zeus. Now, you have to remember that back in ancient Greece, it was the social norm for an older man to take a “young boy” (anywhere from 12 to 19) as a lover. In Ganymede’s case, he was probably around 15 or so when the considerably older Zeus found him irresistibly beautiful and decided that he wanted him for himself.

Zeus transformed himself into the shape of a giant eagle and swooped down from Mount Olympus to Mount Ida. He grabbed Ganymede in his talons and carried him back to Mount Olympus to be his young lover/servant. Now, normally in these kinds of relationships, the older man would serve as a sort of mentor to the younger ones, but this was Zeus, and he pretty much gets whatever he wants. So Zeus decides that Ganymede will become his personal cup-bearer, basically bringing him drinks whenever he pleases.

Since Ganymede is now essentially Zeus’s slave, Zeus offers Ganymede’s father a herd of the finest horses in the land as compensation for taking his son away. This apparently appeases the father, though it’s doubtful that he had much of a say in the matter either way.

One day Ganymede has had enough, and he decides to pour out all of the wine, ambrosia, and water of the gods, refusing to stay Zeus’s cupbearer any longer. The legend goes that the water all fell to Earth, causing inundating rains for days upon days, which created a massive flood that flooded the entire world.

At first, Zeus wants to punish Ganymede, but in a rare moment of self-reflection, Zeus realises that he has been a bit unkind to the boy, so he makes him immortal as the constellation representing the Aquarius myth.

In Babylonian mythology, Aquarius is identified as Gula (the great one), the god Ea himself, and, in Egyptian tales, the constellation was said to represent the god of the Nile.

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