originally published April 3, 2013

So you want to learn more about astrology. Maybe you’re seeking answers and guidance from the stars, or perhaps you’re just looking to fleece a few bucks off the gullible suckers who think they can find answers and guidance in the stars. No matter – you’re going to need to learn the skill of identifying astronomical symbols.

These little pictographs were used to represent various thingies in the sky, beginning back in the days of the Greek papyri from the late classical era. The standard symbols have been used ever since, from the Byzantine era up through modern times, as a means for astronomers and astrologers to keep track of all those chunks of rock and gases that flicker and fly through the cosmos.

Here’s a handy guide to remembering which symbols are which. Because astrology appears far more mystical and cool when you’re reading unintelligible symbols instead of actual words.

This is the sun symbol. Easy to remember because it looks like a boob. If you need a more specific mnemonic, just remember that when the sun is out, the boob-to-clothing ratio is much more boob-heavy. This is science; there’s always a logical process at work.

Aries, the ram. Looks like of like a ram’s horns, unless you are fixated on the St. Louis Rams’ helmet as the ultimate depiction of a ram’s horns. In that case, the Aries symbol kind of looks like it could represent the fallopian tubes of a woman’s reproductive area. “Area” sounds kind of like “Aries”. Different mnemonics work for different people.

Taurus looks sort of like a bull. It also looks a little like a medal one might wear around one’s neck. The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO was named Car of the Year by Esquire Magazine, so if the medal thing is easier for you to remember, so be it.

Gemini II: The ReGemining!!! Gemini is the twins sign, so this one should be fairly self-explanatory.

Cancer’s symbol looks nothing like a crab. But it does evoke the idea that cancers are down for some fun though, doesn’t it? They are a very reciprocal sign, if you know what I mean.

Leo doesn’t really resemble a lion either. It looks more like the middle of a fantastic yo-yo stunt. Maybe that’s the best way to remember it – Leo is simply short for Leo-yo.

In all fairness, how does one easily represent Virgo, the virgin, in a little symbol? This one doesn’t even come close though. Best way to remember it is that it looks a little like a letter M wearing an AIDS ribbon. Virgins may still be virgins because they’re worried about AIDS. Sorry, that’s all I can offer.

Libra. Easy to remember this – think of a Libra you know (like me, for example). Think of how he or she would much rather be in bed (which is true, almost always). Now you’ll remember, Libra is the symbol that kind of looks like a stickman lying down with the blankets pulled right up to his chin.

Scorpio… well, the scorpion has a stinger, and so does that little ‘M’. The word ‘scorpion’ doesn’t begin with ‘M’ though, so you’re just going to have to remember the stinger part. It almost seems as though when the Greeks couldn’t figure out what to use for a symbol, they leaned on the letter ‘M’.

Sagittarius is the archer. Archers use arrows. This one really couldn’t be simpler.

Ah, Capricorn, the goat. Unfortunately, the Capricorn symbol doesn’t look anything like a goat. It sort of looks like a lower-case ‘n’ standing on the neck of a fleeing sperm. Yeah, you’re on your own with this one.

Aquarius, the water-bearer. Looks like water. It also somewhat resembles the top of Bart Simpson’s hair standing in front of a distant mountain range. If that’s an easier way for you to remember the symbol for Aquarius, use it.

The symbol for Pisces looks nothing like a fish. It looks like an ‘H’ that’s straining to stand up under its own weight. Perhaps the ‘H’ could drop a few pounds if it would lay off the red meat and eat more fish. It’s a roundabout mnemonic, but it might work for you.

The planets each get their own symbol as well, because astrologers are caring people, and don’t want them to feel left out.

Mercury is simple to remember. Just think of the symbol for ‘woman’, then put devil horns on her. Because she’s closer to the sun of course, not because she’s a conniving bitch. Come on! This is science! Leave your biases outside!

Venus is simply the symbol for woman. Most scientific films about Venus will cover the Amazonian she-goddesses who roam the planet, so this one is fairly self-explanatory.

Earth. It seems only logical that the planet upon which everyone wants to kill everyone else would have a gun-sight as its symbol.

The symbol for Mars is the symbol for ‘man’. Rather than refer to that self-help book which declares in its title that men are from Mars, I’d rather use something easier. ‘Mars’ and ‘man’ start with the same two letters. There you go.

Jupiter looks like a fancy number ‘4’. This is easy to remember, because Jupiter is the fourth planet from the sun. If you don’t count Mercury. And really, why would you?

Saturn looks like a lower-case ‘h’, because with its fancy rings looking like a brim, Saturn looks like it has a hat-urn. (Please note: if you’re still reading beyond this horrific joke, you are either a definitive sadist or clinically insane. You should look into this.)

Let’s see… how to describe this without making an anus joke. Nope, I’ve got nothing. Uranus’ symbol is an anus with a butt-crack above it. I’m so disappointed in me.

The trident of Neptune is so obvious, it’s hardly worth mentioning. So I hardly will.

Pluto doesn’t get a lot of love in the astronomical community anymore, but she does have her own symbol. If it kind of looks like a fancy monogram for someone with the initials ‘P.L.’ you’re actually not far off. The symbol stands for Percival Lowell, the guy who started tracking ‘Planet X’, which was later discovered to be Pluto.

Hopefully this handy guide will help you in your quest to understand astrology, or at the very least to come up with the basis for your next neck tattoo which you will no doubt regret once you sober up.

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