Pisces, also known as ‘the fishes’, is depicted by two fishes that are joined by a cord but swim in opposite directions. Pisces is the last sign of the natural Zodiac and as such, it is perhaps the most complex. By the time the Sun reaches Pisces, the path of individuation has almost come full circle. Having discovered itself, established its ego identity and learned how to enter into a relationship of ‘give and take’, the last three signs of the zodiac teach the Solar-hero the lessons of collective service and ego-transcendence.
Pisces can be pretty slippery when one tries to pin it down. It does not like to be defined and pigeon-holed. Its chameleon-like quality adapts so easily to all the subtle undercurrents that it is in constant inner motion.
Let’s investigate the Piscean myth to see if it can shed some light on this seemingly contradictory and sometimes nebulous sign.
Here we find a dramatic story – an epic tale, even! In fact, it is the story of the fight between good and evil, for dominion over the world.
According to the ancient stories, the Olympians had usurped the Titans long ago, and under the reign of Zeus, they were living their eternal lives, unhampered. But the Titans, the primordial Gods, were jealous and not at all amused to have been displaced. So, one day, Typhon, the most formidable and hideous of the Titans, launched an attack on the Olympians. To imagine the scene, let me quote Robert Graves’ description of this monster:
“From the thighs downward he was nothing but coiled serpents, and his arms which, when he spread them out, reached a hundred leagues in either direction, had countless serpents’ heads instead of hands. His brutish ass-head touched the stars, his vast wings denied the sun, fire last from his eyes, and flaming rocks hurtled from his mouth.”
Clearly, this was not a God to be trifled with.
The Olympians, hastily transforming themselves into various animals, fled as quickly as they could. But Aphrodite and Eros were caught unaware. When Typhon happened upon them, they escaped the only way they could: by jumping into the ocean. As if by magic, two fishes appeared and spirited them away.
But, the fishes were not in agreement and one swam off towards the light while the other went the opposite way and into the deep. To prevent them from losing touch with each other Aphrodite and Eros joined their tails with a cord.
In the end, Jupiter won the battle and the Olympians were saved.
The fishes, who had selflessly come to the rescue of Aphrodite and Eros, later received their place of honour among the stars.
Psychologically, Pisces often finds himself torn between the two poles of existence, between light and dark. One fish probes the depth where all that is abject and rejected is discarded. The other reaches for the cosmic spheres. Pisces feels the weight of human suffering almost as a personal cross to bear. No other sign has the capacity to understand deeply the tragic-comic paradox of this, our human sphere.
As a dual sign, the challenge is not to attach oneself and one’s values to only one of the fishes, while denying the other, but to keep them together, preserving the bond between them, so both light and shadow can be integrated. That is how Pisces can help us keep the full spectrum of the human experience in perspective. When this is accomplished true wisdom has been attained.