Gemini (♊)is the third astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between May 20 and June 21. Gemini represents the mythical Greek twins Kastor (Κάστωρ) and Polydeukes (Πολυδεύκης). The Latinized forms of their names are Castor and Pollux (sometimes Polydeuces), by which they are now generally known. The Greeks referred to them jointly as the Dioskouroi or Dioscuri in Latin. Their mother was Leda, but they had different fathers; Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, while Pollux, known in Greek as Polydeuces, was the divine son of Zeus, who appeared to Leda as a swan. As a result of her union with both her husband and Zeus, Leda also produced another pair of twins, the half-sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra. The Discouri were inseperable and grew closer with age. Castor was a famous as a horseman who taught Heracles to fence, while Pollux was a champion boxer.
There are variations in the story. Castor and Pollux are sometimes both mortal, sometimes both divine. One consistent point is that if only one of them is immortal, it is Pollux. So a common version is that when Castor was killed during a battle, Pollux was inconsolable and gave up his own life to be with his brother. Another version has it Pollux asked Zeus to let him share his own immortality with his twin to keep them together. So Zeus granted his son’s wish and rewarded their love by placing their images among the stars. Two lines of stars makes up this constellation, and two bright stars at the top of each line represent Castorand Pollux’s heads.
The pair were regarded as the patrons of sailors, to whom they appeared as St. Elmo’s fire. St. Elmo’s fire is luminous plasma created by a coronal discharge from a sharp or pointed object in a strong electric field in the atmosphere. It is often created in thunderstorms or by a volcanic eruption.
This was described by Pliny, the Roman writer of the first century AD, in his book Natural History:
On a voyage stars alight on the yards and other parts of the ship. If there are two of them, they denote safety and portend a successful voyage. For this reason they are called Castor and Pollux, and people pray to them as gods for aid at sea.
A single glow was called Helena and was considered a sign of disaster.
The twins were also associated with horsemanship, the belief being that they rode the ‘white horses’ of foam that were formed by curling ocean waves. These associations most likely originated from when the twins joined the expedition of Jason and the Argonauts in search of the golden fleece. In addition to other exploits, on the Argonauts’ homeward trip with the golden fleece Castor and Pollux were of value to the crew. Apollonius Rhodius recounts briefly that during the voyage from the mouth of the Rhone to the Stoechades Islands (the present-day Iles d’Hyères off Toulon) the Argonauts owed their safety to Castor and Pollux. Ever since this episode, says Apollonius, while assuring that there were other voyages on which they were saviours, the twins have been the patron saints of sailors. Hyginus said that the twins were given the power to save shipwrecked sailors by Poseidon, the sea god, who also presented them with the white horses that they often rode.
Astronomers have found that Castor is actually a complex system of six stars linked by gravity, although to the eye they appear as one. Pollux is an orange giant star. Although Castor is labelled Alpha Geminorum, it is actually fainter than Pollux, which is Beta Geminorum. Unlike the twins that they represent, the stars Castor and Pollux are not related since they lie at different distances from us, 52 and 34 light years respectively. Eta Geminorum is called Propus, from the Greek πρόπου ϛ (propous) meaning ‘forward foot’, a name that first appears with Eratosthenes; it arises from the star’s position in the left (leading) foot of the advance twin, Castor.
Gemini as Archetype
Gemini is the mutable air sign, the thought that flies away so quickly many will miss it. It’s ruling planet is Mercury, the messenger of the gods. Therefore, nothing is to be taken too seriously. And so it is the archetype of the messenger, the storyteller, the sparkling quick wit and intellectual prowess. Mercury is the Roman version of the Greek Hermes. Hermes was a youthful, and agile god, the link between the three worlds; Olympus, Earth and Hades. Hermes was the only Greek god without a home on Olympus since he was always in transit.
Gemini is the archetype of disseminating knowledge, mental perception and youthful versatility. This archetype forms the basic genesis of all language, the ability to process experience mentally and give it meaning within. Gemini’s variety seeking nature makes it the core archetypal image of the quest for information or knowledge. It represents the scribe and the writer, aspiring to think, perceive and learn from experience. Not mentioned as often is Gemini as the archetype of positive duality, the advantage of two working as one, as did Castor and Pollux.