The word Pisces comes from the Indo-European root *peisk– ‘Fish’ but this does not offer any clues to related words. It has been suggested that there must be a relationship between the word Pisces and Latin pes, foot? Latin pes, foot, resembles the Italian variation pesce, fish. There is a similarity between Latin pes, foot, and English foot, is from the Indo-European root *ped– ‘Foot’.
Scientists have hypothesized there were two types of fish that evolved from the same parent fish, the ostracoderms. One stayed in the sea and one moved onto land to become our ancestor. “In early legend our Piscis Austrinus was the parent of the zodiacal pair, the ‘Two Fishes’, Pisces” [Allen, Star Names]. Fish originally evolved in the Devonian geologic period which is known as the Age of Fishes, about 400 million years ago. It was named after Devon, England, where rocks from this period were first studied. During this period the first fish evolved feet from fish fins and started to walk on land. Feet evolved from fish and traditional astrology says that Pisces rules the feet. Here lies another curious connection between fish and feet.
Pisces constellation is of Babylonian origin. The Babylonians saw it as a pair of fish joined by a cord. To the ancient Greeks Pisces represented the escape of Aphrodite and Eros from Typhon. In the constellation, one, the eastern fish, faces east and swims upward, vertically, north from the ecliptic, while the other, the western fish, swims west horizontally along the plane of the ecliptic. The two fishes of Pisces are bound by a cord. The story goes that both Aphrodite and Eros changed into fishes and disappeared into the the water. In order not to lose each other in the dark waters of the Euphrates, they tied their tails together with a long cord, the alpha star, Alrisha, representing the knot of the cord. Or, alternatively, Pisces is the two fishes that carried Venus and Cupid to safety. The Romans knew them as ‘Venus et Cupido’.
The Vernal Equinox Point, through the precession of the equinoxes (backward motion), conjoined the alpha fixed star of Pisces, Alrisha, around 122 B.C. Alrisha (now at Aries 29 degrees 28 minutes longitude), is positioned on the knot in the cord that joins the two fishes, and is the nearest star to Aries and the first star of Pisces that the vernal equinox conjuncted. The vernal equinox then precessed along the cord until it aligned with the figure of the first fish.
This movement is one way that Christianity became linked to the fish as a symbol. In her book Jung and Astrology Maggie Hyde explains: “The eastern Fish suggesting an upward ascent or a heavenly/spiritual disposition and is associated with Christ; the western Fish, a mundane/earthly alignment and is associated with the Antichrist. Around the time of Christ, the Spring Equinox Point lay between the constellations of Aries and Pisces, moving backwards out of Aries the Ram and into Pisces the Fish at the knot in the cord – Alrisha (Al Rischa). Hence Christ is associated with the closing of the Arian Age and the dawn of the Piscean Age. … “
The Pisces archetype is mutable and its element is water. Fluid, transforming, emotional and internalizing, attaching and intimate are some adjectives that describe water signs. With the water signs we learn to process, in fact, must process to bring to fruition this element. Mutability is about globalization, touching many, bringing the pieces together and working interdependently. Pisces is the depths, the subconscious.
To understand the Pisces archetype, you literally have to understand all the other signs that came before it. As the final sign of the zodiac, Pisces is a reflection (and a summation) of the entire circle of life, containing the imprint of every other astrological element that once passed through it. This is not at all unlike water, which retains the memory of substances long after they’ve been thoroughly diluted. Pisces is the realm of Jung’s collective unconscious and we are the fish within it, tied together yet swimming in different directions.
Many compare the zodiac to the human life cycle, and in this, Pisces is more or less about dying. Not bodily death, but ego death. Only from this perspective can all the speculation about compassion, old souls, spirituality, and “we are all one” philosophies begin to make sense. It’s precisely because of this boundlessness that Pisces is so often moved by the pain and suffering of others, making sacrifices and giving selflessly of itself. In the eyes of many this is another reason it is associated with Jesus and Christianity. In some analyses the Pisces archetype is the martyr, and again, this roll can certainly be ascribed to Jesus.