The Capricorn Symbol
Its Origin and Meaning in Astrology
The above image is the established symbol (also called glyph) for the Zodiac sign Capricorn, the Goat. It's a simplified drawing of a sea-goat, the mythological animal - half goat, half fish - originally associated with the sign. The horned head is implied to the left, and the curved fish tail to the right. Both the Zodiac sign and its symbol have been along for ages.
The Zodiac, very much like the one we know today, might have emerged in Mesopotamia around 1000 BC. But Babylonian astrology is probably far older than that.
A Goat-FishAlready the Babylonians connected this Zodiac sign and the constellation with the mythological animal, sort of a mermaid goat. They called it the Goat-Fish. The reason for this is hidden in history. It's not likely to have anything to do with the constellation in the sky, which doesn't suggest such a creature even in the wildest imagination.
The constellation is usually called Capricornus, in proper Latin. It means "goat horn" or "horned goat," not necessarily a sea-goat. No matter how the stars in the constellation are connected with lines, it's hard to see the goat.
Several of the Zodiac constellations are equally vague in depicting their Zodiac sign. Here's the constellation Capricornus:
Below is an antique illustration of the same constellation, where the figure of a sea-goat has been added. It's from a 17th century book: Firmamentum sobiescianum, by Johannes Hevelius, 1690.
Capricorn in InkBelow is an ink version of the symbol for Capricorn, which I did a number of years back in an experiment of using Japanese ink calligraphy (shodo) for old European astrology symbols. I've used these pictures on my astrology websites, mainly for fun and for the odd graphic effect, and I've seen them copied all over the Internet. I'm fine with that, although I think it wouldn't hurt if the source was mentioned. Well, what to do?
Anyway, here's that ink again, this time in the original black and white (click on the image to see a bigger version):
Capricorn the SignAs for the picture commonly used to represent the Capricorn Zodiac sign, it's been an image of the mythological creature the sea-goat since the days of old Babylonia, at least - surely much longer than the symbol described above has existed. Below is one typical example of the creature and its fish tail in a knot, where the stars of the constellation Capricorn have also been marked, though not with unquestionable astronomical accuracy. It's an illustration from Poeticon astronomicon, a 1482 book by Hyginus.
Zodiac Sign SymbolsHere are the symbols (glyphs) of all the twelve Zodiac signs, and links to pages telling more about each Zodiac sign symbol.