Its Origin and Meaning in Astrology
The above image is the established symbol (also called glyph) for the Zodiac sign Pisces, the Fish. It’s a very simplified drawing of two fish swimming in converging streams of water. Both the Zodiac sign and its symbol have been along for ages.
The Zodiac division of the ecliptic into twelve parts, each assigned a Zodiac sign, is probably of Babylonian (Mesopotamia) origin. They were very early with astrology, mapping the sky and noting planetary movements thousands of years ago.
The Zodiac, very much like the one we know today, might have emerged in Mesopotamia around 1000 BC. But Babylonian astrology is probably far older than that.
The Babylonians called this constellation and sign “The Tails,” picturing the two fish swimming in opposite directions, also representing the rivers Euphrate and Tigris. The reason for the connection between the constellation and the fish is hidden in history, but it has been persistent. The constellation gives no clue.
When the stars in the constellation are connected with lines, it’s not possible to make out the two fish, not even with the wildest imagination. Several of the Zodiac constellations are equally vague in depicting their Zodiac sign. Here’s the constellation Pisces:
As you can see, there’s not much in the constellation suggesting a pair of fish. That hasn’t stopped astrologers in the past from suggesting them.
Below is an antique illustration of the same constellation, where the figures of the fish has been added. It’s from a 17th century book: Firmamentum sobiescianum, by Johannes Hevelius, 1690.
Pisces in Ink
Below is an ink version of the symbol for Pisces, which I did a number of years back in an experiment of using Japanese ink calligraphy (shodo) for old European astrology symbols. I’ve used these pictures on my astrology websites, mainly for fun and for the odd graphic effect, and I’ve seen them copied all over the Internet. I’m fine with that, although I think it wouldn’t hurt if the source was mentioned. Well, what to do?
Anyway, here’s that ink again, this time in the original black and white (click on the image to see a bigger version):
Pisces the Sign
As for the picture commonly used to represent the Pisces Zodiac sign, it’s been an image of two fish since the days of old Babylonia – surely much longer than the symbol described above has existed. Below is one typical example of the figure, where the stars of the constellation Pisces have also been marked, though not with unquestionable astronomical accuracy. It’s an illustration from Poeticon astronomicon, a 1482 book by Hyginus.
For the header of this website, I used a picture of a whole school of fish, combined with the shaded symbol for the Zodiac sign.
Here are the symbols (glyphs) of all the twelve Zodiac signs, and links to pages telling more about each Zodiac sign symbol.