Sagittarius is the ninth sign of the astrological zodiac and its name means archer in Latin. People born between November the 22rd and December 21st fall under this sign, which is commonly represented by a man (or often a centaur) drawing a bow.
The roots of these associations go back as far as Babylonian times. In modern astrology, Sagittarius is considered a fire sign and a mutable sign – meaning passionate desires may flare up and dissipate quickly in people of this sign. The symbolic archer, with the keystone stars that make up the arrow of the bow pointing directly at the heart of Scorpio, is also associated with prophecies and predictions. In fact, the most famous seer of all, Nostradamus, was born under the sign of Sagittarius.
In astronomical terms, the constellation consists of eight major stars. It is also notable because it covers the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy, as viewed from Earth. This has led to modern observers noting the similarity of its shape to a teapot, with the galactic core representing the steam. However, this rather mundane alternative imagery has yet to replace that of the Centaur Archer in popular consciousness.
Myths and Legends
Sagittarius’ identity as a horseback (or even a centaur) archer, go back as far as the Ancient Babylonians who associated this constellation with their god Nergal. However, the Mesopotamian civilisation also depicted Nergal as having two heads (one horse, one human) and a scorpion’s tail. So not exactly the same as our modern-day ideas. Even the Ancient Sumerian civilisation recognised the constellation of Sagittarius and designated it as a horse-man hybrid.
Fast forward a few millennia to the classical period of ancient history, and the Ancient Greeks hadn’t changed their opinion on Sagittarius very much. They also saw it as a centaur, and it was variously associated with Crotus (the son of the Satyr demi-god Pan) and Chiron – a man who transformed himself into a horse to escape his overbearing wife and eventually went on to tutor Jason of the Argonauts fame. He ascended to heaven after Hercules accidentally slew him with a poison arrow.
The arrow of Sagittarius points at the heart of Scorpius, ready to avenge the death of Orion who the zodiacal legends hold was slain by a scorpion.
There is also another legendary centaur that takes up a much larger portion of the sky, namely the constellation Centaurus. However, Sagittarius is the zodiacal constellation of the two and was thus more important to most ancient cultures and in the modern astrological sense.
In modern western astrology, Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter and represents the need for humans to tame their animalistic impulses on a path to betterment. It is a fire sign, meaning Sagittarians experience burning desires and passions that often have to be finely honed, or even tamed, before they can become useful in the forward movements of one’s life.