Gemini is one of the constellations of the zodiac. It was one of the 48 constellations described by the 2nd century AD astronomer Ptolemy and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations today. Its name is Latin for “twins,” and Its symbol is (Unicode ♊).
This constellation was associated with twins as far back as the second formal compendium of stars in Babylonian astronomy called the MUL.APIN. This is a pair of tablets named for their incipit, corresponding to the first constellation of the year, MULAPIN “The Plough”. The list is a direct descendent of the earlier Three Stars Each list, reworked around 1000 BC on the basis of more accurate observations. It includes the constellation Gemini “The Great Twins”, from (𒀯𒈦𒋰𒁀𒃲𒃲) MULMAŠ.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.
The Babylonian star catalogues entered Greek astronomy in the 4th century BC, via Eudoxus of Cnidus and others. A few of the constellation names in use in modern astronomy can be traced to Babylonian sources via Greek astronomy.
In Greek mythology, Gemini was associated with the myth of Castor and Pollux, the children of Leda and Argonauts both. Pollux was the son of Zeus, who seduced Leda, while Castor was the son of Tyndareus, king of Sparta and Leda’s husband. Castor and Pollux were also mythologically associated with St. Elmo’s fire in their role as the protectors of sailors. When Castor died, because he was mortal, Pollux begged his father Zeus to give Castor immortality, and he did, by uniting them together in the heavens.
In Chinese astronomy, the stars that correspond to Gemini are located in two areas: the White Tiger of the West (西方白虎, Xī Fāng Bái Hǔ) and the Vermillion Bird of the South (南方朱雀, Nán Fāng Zhū Què). The name of the western constellation in modern Chinese is 雙子座 (shuāng zǐ zuò), meaning “the twin constellation”
As of 2002, the Sun appears in the constellation Gemini from June 20 to July 20. In tropical astrology, the Sun is considered to be in the sign Gemini from May 21 to June 22, and in sidereal astrology, from June 16 to July 15.
Gemini as Archetype
Mercury is the ruler of the sign Gemini, symbolized by the Twins, Castor and Pollux. A mutable, air sign, Gemini is the natural third house of the zodiac, associated with all aspects of direct communication, writing, teaching, short-distance travel and transportation. Mercury is also the Greek Hermes. In Hermes we find many roots of archetype for Gemini. Myth has it Apollo gifted Hermes with a golden caduceus encircled with twin snakes. Serpents, as twined strands of DNA, represent the duality of male and female energy, and so Hermes takes on an androgynous quality as a metaphor of pure intellect, yet remains in many ways a child.
Mercury the element was named after the Roman god Mercury, known for his speed and mobility. It is associated with the planet Mercury; the astrological symbol for the planet is also one of the alchemical symbols for the metal; Mercury is the only metal for which the alchemical planetary name became the common name. This association of god, planet and metal and the alchemical transmutation from liquid metal into gold form a powerful metaphor of the soul’s journey toward a destination of psychological and spiritual wholeness. In the Tarot, Hermes/Mercury as the Fool symbolizes the mind’s capacity for abstract knowledge and child-like innocence.
The Gemini as archetype is well known as the twins of the zodiac, signifying dual aspects, changes of mind, mental agility and intellectualism. Only as we resolve the pairs of opposites within us, integrating conscious and unconscious, masculine and feminine, mental and emotional, can we fully integrate and evolve ourselves. Think of how twins know each others’ minds without speaking.
But Gemini is also the archetype of the communicator, the linguist, the writer and the seeker and transmitter of knowledge. The Gemini/Mercury archetypes symbolizes the experience of communing with the eternal presence through thoughts and words shared with people, another level of reconciling duality.