Aries – herald of spring

Aries is the first sign of the natural zodiac and marks the Spring Equinox. Light and dark are in perfect balance, but the nascent Sun is gaining strength every day. This is a youthful, virile, potent, active sign, not quite yet fully aware of its own strength, which is why it sometimes oversteps the mark. The sign of Aries comes at a time of the year when nature awakens from its winter slumber. Tender young growth, fresh shoots and leaves are cautiously braving the elements. It is a time of hope, optimism, and intrepidness. Before long youthful innocence gives way to the disillusioning hindsight of experience.  Thus, the sign of Aries stands for new beginnings, as well as the determination it takes to realize one’s calling. It is very fitting that its symbol should be the headstrong ram.

Ego-glory – or Self-sacrifice

Historically, rams played a very important role in the religious life of the ancients. They were used as sacrificial animals. Now, from a modern perspective, that seems like a pretty rotten lot in life. But back then, the sacrificial beasts was deemed more valuable than gold.

A sacrifice is an act of honouring and worshipping the Gods. Originally, the sacrifice required was the firstborn. But in time, the practice was altered and instead of an infant, a surrogate was offered. Most frequently that would have been a virile ram or a bull.

Aries is a natural warrior. He is always ready for a fight – preferably one that lets him shine and stand out as a hero. He is full of fire and ready to come to the rescue, whether he’s been asked or not. He is gallant, incorrigible and determined to get his way.

However, he can also be impulsive, and quick to act – alas, without stopping to think things through.

He sometimes fails to appreciate or even notice the fact that others may have plans and ideas of their own.

Despite his headstrong and passionate nature, he harbours an egg-shell ego. When told off or rejected, his pride is likely to crumble.

More than most, Aries needs a myth to live by – a myth that gives meaning to his life’s battles.

Aries Mythology – The Golden Fleece

The most famous Aries myth associated with the sign of Aries is the story of Jason and the Argonauts. The story actually begins much earlier, long before Jason assembled his brave men and set off on his adventure. It started with the twins Phrixus and Helle, born to  the half-nymph Nephele and King Athamas of Boeotia.

Unfortunately, their stepmother, Ino, who hated them, plotted to get them killed. But somehow, Hermes got wind of the ill-conceived idea. Alarmed, he devised a cunning plan and sent a sacred ram to the children’s rescue.

The ram took to the sky! He flew to Colchis at break-neck speed. But after he had picked up the children he raced so fast that poor Helle could not hold on tight enough. She fell off the ram’s back and into the waters below. The narrow strait in which she fell was later named ‘Hellespont’ in her memory and is now known as the Dardanelles.

Phrixus, however, reached Colchis and King Aeetes was good enough to take him in. As a gesture of gratitude, Phrixus sacrificed the ram and gave King Aeetes his Golden Fleece. He accepted the gift and kept it in the cave of Ares, where it was guarded by the watchful eyes of an unsleeping dragon.

Jason and the Argonauts

Quite an adventure, you might think. But this is only the preamble of the real Aries Quest which is the story of Jason and the Argonauts. Jason was the son of Aeson, King of Iolkos, who happened to have been overthrown by his half-brother Pelias.

Fortunately, Jason’s mother Alcimede, managed to hide Jason (who was then just a small child) from Pelias. But how long could this go on, undetected? Alcimede decided that it was too dangerous for Jason to remain in Iolkos. No doubt, Pelias would eventually find the child and have him killed. Thus, with a heavy heart, she sent him away to be educated by Chiron, the wisest of the Centaurs.

Eventually, Jason returned to Iolcos to claim the throne as his birthright. But King Pelias was expecting the challenge as long ago he had consulted an oracle which had warned him that one day his right to his stolen throne would be challenged by its rightful heir. When he recognized the challenger, he pretended to concede, but demanded that Jason should earn the right to the throne.  And to do so he set  the young lad a challenge that he could not resist!

The Hero’s Quest

Peleus demanded that Jason should bring him the Golden Fleece. This would leave no trace of doubt as to his bravery and courage. Of course, Peleus was sure that Jason would never return from this adventure. It was an impossible feat and surely would get the boy killed without him having to do the dirty deed.

Jason accepted the challenge, without too much of a second thought. Immediately he began to prepare and to gather his crew of brave men who were willing to join him on this daring adventure.

Many challenges lay ahead, which would take too long to tell. Very nearly he failed altogether. But in the end, the sorceress Medea took pity on him (or, a fancy to him?) and came to his aide. Thanks to her magic he succeeded and returned triumphantly, not only with the Golden Fleece but also with Medea as his wife.

The story is a real hero story: here we have the unrecognized champion, who despite being born a noble, has to brave great challenges before he can take his rightful place. The outcome is by no means certain but aided by a female ally, he eventually succeeds.

Happy End – you might think.

The betrayal

But there is another twist. Drunk with glory, he failed to acknowledge those who fought by his side and helped him to succeed. In particular, he failed to acknowledge and honor the power of his female ally, Medea. Without her, he would never have been victorious! But with his chest full of pride he abandoned her for a younger and more beautiful wife. Alas, Medea did not take kindly to being betrayed in this way and in her rage she killed their children and left Iolkos.

The lesson that the hero must learn is that no man can overcome great challenges alone. Even a hero depends on his allies and supporters. It is not HIS glory that matters, but the deed itself: the fact that he was willing to face any danger for the sake of his country and his family. So, paradoxically, his glory lis tied to his ability to sacrifice his ego, rather than to glorify it.

Aries is a brave and courageous sign, but must recognize, that he is not the only actor in the play. He must not only earn the respect of others but also to keep it. That is to say, he must be careful not to step on the toes of those who helped him achieve his goals.