Nearly everyone knows a little something about astrology — even if it’s only where to find the daily horoscope section in the local newspaper. Whether you truly believe the stars control your destiny, think it’s all bunk, or just like to have fun with it, the 12 signs of the zodiac are part of our cultural heritage. Over the next year, the Farmers’ Almanac will introduce you to the facts and lore behind each constellation in the traditional Western zodiac. First up, Gemini.
Gemini is the third constellation of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for “twins,” because it contains the two bright stars commonly known as Castor and Pollux, named after prominent twin brothers in Greek and Roman mythology.
The astrological symbol for Gemini is ♊, and the constellation sits in the sky between Taurus to the west and Cancer to the east. Other nearby constellations include Auriga and Lynx to the north and Monoceros and Canis Minor to the south.
The constellation itself consists of the two twins, with the brightest stars representing their heads. Castor, also known as Alpha Geminorum, sits to the right, next to his twin Pollux, or Beta Geminorum. A series of less bright stars form two parallel lines descending from these two main stars, causing them to resemble two bodies.
In the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, Castor and Pollux were both the sons of Queen Leda of Sparta, but had two separate fathers: Castor’s father was Leda’s husband, King Tyndareus, and Pollux was sired by the Greek god Zeus. This meant that Pollux, a demigod, was immortal, while his brother, Castor, was a mere mortal. According to legend, when Castor died in battle, Pollux asked his father, Zeus, to let his brother share in his own immortality so the twins would not have to be separated. Zeus responded by transforming the pair into the constellation Gemini, and placing them in the heavens for all eternity.
Many other myths surround the brothers, who were brave and heroic adventurers, as well as troublemakers. In Greek, they are collectively known as the Dioscuri.
Astrologically, the Sun resides in the house of Gemini from May 21 to June 20 each year. People born during this period have Gemini as their Sun sign. Proponents of astrological determinism believe that people born under the same Sun sign share certain personality traits. The character traits most often associated with Gemini people are high energy, charisma, good communication skills, wit, playfulness, intellectual curiosity, and adaptability.