“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius”, so the song goes. But what does it actually mean? It’s more a term popularised in the 1967 hippy musical “Hair” than anything else. A lot of emphasis is put on the New Age and new spirituality it brings, but astrologers can’t even agree on when it starts! Some say 1447, some say 3597!
Scientifically, the Age of Aquarius is determined by the position of the sun in this sign at the vernal equinox. The earth’s wobble on its orbit means that the equinox moves backwards over time. Astrologers say the equinox begins with Aries, but it actually begins when the sun is in Pisces (it’s the astrology that’s one month behind astronomical fact).
As it’s name suggests an aquatic origin it comes as no surprise to learn that the constellation has been connected with water since ancient times. Aquarius rises at the time when the first rains fall onto the crops. The Babylonians represented the constellation as a man emptying two water containers onto the ground. Consequently, when the Ancient Greeks adopted the Babylonian constellations they connected Aquarius with Ganymede.
I mentioned Ganymede in my first Star Gayzing post in relation to the lost constellation Antinous. He was the young man carried away by an eagle to the home of the gods because Zeus fancied him. The Romans named their king of the gods Jupiter and merged him with Zeus. When the four main moons of the planet Jupiter were first noticed by Galileo way back in the 16th century he named them after the most famous of Jupiter’s lovers, all of them from Greek mythology – three women (Io, Callisto and Europa) and Ganymede (the largest of Jupiter’s moons).
After the Romans absorbed the Greek myths into their own, Ganymede’s name became a slang name for a young male partner of an older man, something they didn’t consider as “natural” as the Ancient Greeks did, so it became more of an insult than anything. Over the centuries the word mutated into “catmite”, and it is from this that the early Roman Catholic church and the medieval world got the word “catamite”, one of several words used for gay men.
The original Greek youth, Ganymede, was a Trojan prince, son of the city’s founder. Like Chinese whispers, the legend of the Ganymede kidnap by Zeus’s eagle developed variations through time and across
. But they all agree that Ganymede was the most drop-dead gorgeous teenager alive. This is reflected in the origin of his name, which is probably the two Greek words “ganysthia” and “medea” which, when put together, means “rejoicing in virility”. I expect there have been millions of older gay men throughout the ages who have had young male lovers, imitating Zeus enjoying the youthful energy of their own Ganymede. Greece
So, if you were born under the sign of Aquarius, or support the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, you could hardly have a gayer celestial background.