Leo is the Zodiac sign for those born between July 23 and August 22. The symbol for Leo is a ferocious lion.
The model for Leo is the Nemean Lion, killed by Hercules during one of his twelve labours. The Nemean Lion was a frightening beast with claws sharper than any sword and able to cut through any armour, with a golden hide that could not be pierced by any weapon. With its ultimate offence and defence, no warrior could defeat the Lion and it continued to wreak havoc in Nemea. As stated in the legend of Cancer, Hercules had to complete twelve challenges for his sins, the Hydra being the second. The first labour was to kill the Nemean Lion. Not knowing that the Lion had invincible leather, Hercules shot many arrows at it with no effect. The Lion laughed at his vain attempt and pounced, ready to shred him with his claws. Hercules understood that arrows and swords were no use, so he pulled out his club and smashed the Lion’s head with full force. The Lion was completely stunned by the impact and Hercules took this opportunity to strangle it with his bare hands. After a few minutes, the Lion collapsed and Hercules came out as the victor. He tried to take the hide by cutting it with his knife, but the knife did not even make a scratch. After thinking about it, he took the claws of the Lion and found that this could cut through the hide. With the golden hide, Hercules made the toughest armour that would protect him from much harm in the future. The corpse of the Lion was lifted to the heavens and turned into a constellation.
Taurus is the Zodiac sign for those born between April 21 and May 20. The symbol for Taurus is a giant ox.
The model for Taurus is none other than the king of gods, Zeus. Zeus often came down to the human world for fun, but one day he set his eyes on a beautiful princess by the name of Europa. Europa often played on the farm with the herd of cows. Zeus fell head over heels for her and plotted how he could profess his love to her (alternatively, rape her). He decided to transform into an ox and hid among the herd. Europa was drawn to this magnificent, white ox that could even sing. She was fascinated by it, caressing it and even riding on its back. At that moment, Zeus dashed for the sea and jumped in with Europa on his back. He swam across oceans until they reached the island of Crete. There, he transformed back to his usual form and told her how he was madly in love with her. She accepted his love and the two lived happily on Crete. To honour her, Zeus named the land across the ocean they crossed Europe, thus naming the continent that we know so well.
Aries is the Zodiac sign for those born between March 21 and April 20. The symbol for Aries is a golden ram.
The model for Aries is a golden ram that rescued Phrixus and his sister Helle. The two were the children of King Athamas of Boeotia and Nephele, goddess of clouds. Athamas had divorced Nephele and married another woman named Ino, who spited the two children and plotted to rid them for good. When the season for planting seeds came, she gave farmers roasted seeds. These seeds of course did not grow and it led to a famine. The people were afraid of starving and sent messengers to an oracle. Ino bribed these messengers to tell the people that they needed to sacrifice Phrixus and Helle. But before they were killed, the two were rescued by a flying golden ram sent by their mother, Nephele. The ram flew across the ocean to take them to a safer place, but unfortunately Helle fell off and drowned. Phrixus survived the journey and he ended up in Colchis, where he met with King Aeetes who offered him hospitality and even his daughter’s hand in marriage. Phrixus sacrificed the ram in honour of the gods for saving his life and gifted the king with the golden fleece of the ram in gratitude. Zeus was so moved by this tragic tale and the ram’s sacrifice to save the children that he gave it the greatest honour of becoming a constellation in the heavens.
Pisces is the Zodiac sign for those born between February 19 and March 20. The symbol for Pisces is two fish connected by a ribbon.
The model for Pisces is Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and her son Eros. One day, the two were attending a banquet of the gods, having a good time. Suddenly, the banquet was interrupted by a monster named Typhon. Typhon was a terrifying monster 150km wide, with a hundred dragon heads, a hundred mouths through which he breathed fire and had limbs of snakes. He was a composite of various beasts such as oxens and lions, had a black tongue and had eloquent speech rivalling certain gods. When he appeared, the gods were frightened and all transformed into different animals to escape. Aphrodite and Eros jumped into the river, turned into a pair of fish and escaped. It is said that they tied a ribbon to their waists so that they would not lose each other in the stream.
Aquarius is the Zodiac sign for those born between January 20 and February 18. The symbol for Aquarius is a boy who bears a vase full of water.
The model for Aquarius is Ganymede – a beautiful Trojan prince. According to Greek mythology, one day the gods were having a feast when Hebe the cup-bearer (pouring nectar for the gods) twisted her ankle. Zeus looked all around but could not find someone worthy of replacing Hebe. The other gods introduced fine young maidens to Zeus but he was not interested.
While this was happening, Apollo went down to Troy for an errand, when he saw Prince Ganymede in the castle. He was struck by his beauty and immediately reported back to Zeus. Zeus, curious as to how beautiful this boy was, went down to Troy to see for himself. He too was taken aback by Ganymede’s beauty and he decided right there to appoint him as the cup-bearer. So Zeus transformed into a giant eagle and snatched Ganymede away. Thus, Ganymede became the cup-bearer against his will. The Trojan prince was despaired by how he would not see his family again and would cry every night. Seeing this, Zeus felt remorse and visited the king of Troy to offer an explanation and also presented golden grapes and mythical horses in exchange. Also, he allowed the prince to visit his family one last time. Afterwards, Ganymede was made immortal and became the official cup-bearer of Olympus. Zeus also made him into a constellation to honour his services.
A “good fortune teller” is not an “accurate” fortune teller. A “good fortune teller” is a fortune teller who “says good things”. A fortune teller who tells fortunes that are too real, despite warning people of the dangers to come in the future, tends to be ignored and hated on just like Cassandrafrom ancient Greek mythology. Human beings say they fear uncertainty in the future and want some certainty, but they do not want to hear about an unhappy future. This is a normal response. Who would want to hear that they will soon be diagnosed with a terminal illness, or that they will break up with their lover? However, people are fascinating in that they still try to know the future. We go to fortune tellers and read horoscopes to try figure out what will happen to us. But if they receive bad news such as “you will fail your next exam”, instead of studying even more they curse at the fortune teller for giving them a bad prediction. Thus, human beings live among curiosity about their life and fear of the unknown future, while celebrating good fortunes and actively denying bad ones.
The reason why we like to have our fortunes read is similar to why we watch previews of television shows: we are curious about what will happen. But if you ponder this deeply, you soon come to a great epiphany. The further you look out into the future, the clearer this becomes. Everyone eventually dies. A person’s life span is typically not much longer than a hundred years, with everyone meeting the same fate some day.
A fortune teller predicts the ups and downs of a person’s life. If you think about it, life is composed of a series of peaks and troughs that eventually result in death. No matter what misfortune comes your way, it will pass just as seasons come and go. A person who passed an exam is happy and leads a good life, but even if the person fails, they somehow make it through. Unless you give up, a person will continue to live on. C’est la vie. Life is as simple as that.
If the best fortune teller in the history of mankind told your fortune, they would say the following: “nothing matters, live the way you want”. Whether your fortune for the week is good or bad, you will eventually die. There is no point scaring yourself with fortunes, live every day as if it was your last. An uncertain future may be scary, but it also represents infinite possibilities. Just like Schrödinger’s cat, our tomorrows are both alive and dead at the same time. Until tomorrow comes and the box is open, we can never know what the future holds.
So as long as it does not harm you or anyone else, do whatever the hell you want.
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful girl named Psyche. Psyche was so beautiful that she even caught Aphrodite’s eyes. Despite being the goddess of love, Aphrodite was known to be very jealous and felt threatened by Psyche’s beauty. She commanded her son Eros, the god of love, to put a spell on Psyche. Eros uses the Bow of Love and anyone shot by his golden arrows falls immediately and helplessly in love with the first thing they see.
Aphrodite came up with a devious plan to have Eros shoot Psyche and have frogs around her, making her fall in love with frogs and fall into a despairing relationship. But her jealous plan was overthrown by an unexpected event. When Eros first saw Psyche’s face, he became entranced and accidentally pricked himself with his own arrow. Thus, Eros became madly in love with Psyche. Aphrodite, enraged by this, cursed Psyche to never find a mate for the rest of her life. Eros became depressed from not being able to see Psyche and gave up shooting golden arrows. After he gave up his job, no animals or human fell in love and no new life was born. Aphrodite could not bear to see such a scene and begged Eros to start shooting arrows again, offering him one thing that he wanted. Eros said that he desired Psyche without hesitation and Aphrodite reluctantly allowed them to meet.
While this happened, Aphrodite’s curse made no man come to propose to Psyche. Her parents became worried and asked the advice of the oracle at Apollo’s temple. The oracle stated that as she is destined to marry a monster, she must be placed atop a mountain in bridal attire. Accepting her fate, Psyche stood on the mountain but eventually jumped off a cliff in despair. But Zephyrus the West Wind caught her and brought her safely to Eros’ place, just as Eros planned. Psyche enjoyed a comfortable life in the beautiful castle with many maids at her service. However, her husband only came in the deep dark of the night. Whether it was because he feared Aphrodite’s wrath or the difference between a god and a mortal, he asked her to never try find out who he was and that if she truly loved him, she should trust him. But Psyche eventually fell victim to her jealous sisters’ scheme and her curiosity, leading to her accidentally dropping candle wax on Eros’ face as she took a peek at his face. Eros was awakened and became enraged. He chased her away and forbade her from coming back. Psyche fell in despair and threw herself into the river, but the river carried her to the riverside where the shepherd god Pan rescued and consoled her.
At first, Psyche tried to find Eros while avoiding Aphrodite, but eventually she decides to plea directly to her. Despite her bravery, Aphrodite threw challenging tasks one after another at her like a mean mother-in-law, ultimately commanding her to retrieve some beauty from Persephone, the queen of the underworld (since travelling to the underworld signifies death, Aphrodite must have truly hated Psyche).
However, Psyche was determined to see Eros even at the cost of her life. Admiring her commitment, a tall tower before the underworld gave her a hint. It told her to place two coins on her tongue and bread in each hand when going to the underworld. The coins would be to pay Charon the ferryman while the bread would distract Cerberus the three-headed dog guardian. She succeeded in seeing Persephone, who gave her a box of beauty and told her to never open it. But wanting to look beautiful in front of her lover (Eros), Psyche opened the box. The box did not contain beauty, but instead contained a death-like sleep from the underworld, putting Psyche in a deep sleep. Although he chased her away, Eros came back to see Psyche and found her in this sleeping state. He took the corpse-like Psyche and kissed her softly on her lips, awakening her from the deep sleep.
Eros eventually sought help from the king of gods, Zeus, to persuade Aphrodite. After Zeus’ persuasion and seeing the love the two have for each other, Aphrodite accepted the relationship and Zeus gave Psyche the immortal drink ambrosia to make her into a goddess. The now immortal Psyche and Eros were married and had a daughter named Hedone (like in Hedonism), the goddess of sensual pleasures.
Eros symbolises physical and sensual love while Psyche is a Greek symbol for butterflies, the soul and emotional love. Ergo, Eros and Psyche represent the union of physical and emotional love into perfect love. Love and the soul are inseparable things. The most basic instinct of any organism is to reproduce and human beings have evolved that into the sacred concept that is love. To speak bluntly and without philosophy, from a purely biological perspective there is no greater purpose to life than to find a suitable mate and leave descendants. There is nothing more fundamental than pure love.
In 1968, Robert Rosenthal, a social psychology professor at Harvard University, and Lenore Jacobson, a primary school principal with 20 years experience, performed a spontaneous intelligence test on a primary school in San Francisco then randomly chose 20% of the students in one class. They then gave a list of the names of those students to the teachers and convinced them that they were “students with a high possibility of improving their intelligence and career success”. Eight months later, they performed the same intelligence test and found that the students on that list performed significantly better than other students on average. Not only that, but the score for the whole school was pulled up by those students. The most important factor was the expectations and encouragement from the teachers. This study proved that the expectations a teacher places on their students has a real effect on improving their grades.
The Pygmalion effect can be summarised as the phenomenon when a person’s efficiency or results improve due to the expectations and interests of another person. The eponymous story is from Greek mythologies, regarding a sculptor named Pygmalion. After seeing many women be so immoral and vulgar, he could not see beauty in any women anymore. This led him to sculpt the most beautiful woman out of ivory instead. After finishing his sculpture, he gazed upon its face and instantly fell head over heels for it. Every day Pygmalion would caress, stroke and truly love “her”. However, being a statue it could not return his love and he grew sadder and sadder. He went to the Temple of Aphrodite and begged her to help him achieve his true love. Upon returning home, he kissed and touched the sculpture like any other day. And lo and behold, every part of the sculpture his hands touched turned from hard ivory to soft, clear skin and the sculpture eventually turned into a gorgeous lady. Thus, thanks to Aphrodite’s grace the two could live happily ever after in love.
The Pygmalion effect is extremely useful in everyday life. When parents and teachers believe that a child has talent, they spend more effort trying to grow that talent and the child ends up more successful. The simple task of showing interest to the child promotes optimism and the child works harder to meet those expectations. The child did not receive any extra compliments or rewards but their efficiency goes up regardless, thanks to their parents’ and teachers’ beliefs. Similarly, when a boss shows passion towards and has great expectations of an employee, their efficiency will go up. The Pygmalion effect is particularly powerful in relationships, where if the two love each other and are good to each other, their love will naturally deepen and they will become happier.
Unfortunately, people have a tendency to underestimate the power of love and are unable to utilise this great effect. Therefore, children and employees are often plagued by the golem effect (the phenomenon of low expectations causing a fall in efficiency) instead.
Among the many gods and goddesses in Greek mythology, there is a trio of goddesses who are personifications of beauty, elegance and grace – Aglaia (brightness and splendour), Thalia (festivity and plentiful) and Euphrosyne (joyfulness). They are daughters of Zeus and Eurynome the nymph and are famous for their pure, graceful looks and representing the beauty in life. Also known as the Charities, they are often depicted in artworks as dancing merrily in a circle or tending to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sex, and her son Eros.
The Graces are known as young, virgin maidens who are often depicted as naked with clear, fair skin. They are beauty in the purest form with the absence of sexual lust (despite the nudity). Although they have no active role in mythologies, it is considered that their presence in any party or festival ensures people will have a joyous and fun time. Much like the Muses, the Three Graces are also connected to the arts, often shown with musical instruments. They are one of the most popular models in paintings and sculptures as they embody the concept of perfect beauty. This is why, like Aphrodite, they tend to be drawn with body proportions matching the Golden Ratio. Interestingly, they are almost always arranged to have two facing forwards with the middle one facing the other way.
(From top-left: Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera, Antonio Canova’s The Three Graces, Raphael’s The Three Graces, Greek sculpture of The Three Graces, Raphael’s Cupid and The Three Graces)
After killing his children in a psychotic state inflicted by Hera, Hercules was dethroned and was set ten tasks, all deemed impossible, which he had to complete for forgiveness of his sins. Each task required problem-solving and unconventional thinking, which eventually granted Hercules the reward of immortality.
The twelve (including two that were added as he was blamed for cheating in two tasks) labours in order were:
Kill the Nemean Lion, a monster with hide so thick that no arrow can pierce it. Hercules stunned the lion with a club and then strangled it, after which proceeded to skin its hide with its own claws to use as armour.
Kill the Lernean Hydra, a monster with nine heads, which could regrow two heads in the place where one was cut. Hercules instructed his charioteer, Iolaus, to cauterise the necks after cutting the heads to prevent it regenerating, then used the poisonous blood to coat his arrows. This was considered cheating as he used the help of Iolaus.
Capture the Cerynian Hind, Artemis’ beloved deer. Hercules followed the hind for an entire year and then safely carried it away, to avoid harming the frail creature and angering the goddess.
Capture the Erymanthian Boar, a wild beast that intimidated all of the inhabitants of the mountain. Hercules captured the creature using a net.
Clean the Augean Stables, a gigantic stable housing thousands of cows that had not been cleaned in 30 years, Hercules was given one day for the task, so he bent two rivers so they flowed through the stables to clean the filth. He was about to receive payment for his service, which was considered cheating by King Eurystheus (who set the tasks).
Kill the Stymphalian Birds, murderous birds with bronze beaks and claws, and metallic feathers that they could shoot like darts. Hercules killed them with poison arrows tipped with the Hydra’s blood.
Capture the Cretan Bull, a rampant bull capable of breathing fire. Hercules wrestled to control the beast and successfully captured it.
Capture the horses of Diomedes, that were trained to feed on human flesh. Hercules killed King Diomedes who raised them and fed his corpse to the horses, thus taming them.
Take the Girdle of Hippolyte, the queen of the Amazons. Hercules was gifted the girdle by Hippolyte, but Hera spread a rumour that he was there to conquer the Amazons, forcing him to kill the Amazons and steal the belt in the end.
Capture the Cattle of Geryon, a winged monster with three human bodies. Hercules killed Geryon and his guardian dog, and then took his herd of cattle.
Take the Golden Apples of Hesperides, protected by Ladon, a dragon with a hundred heads. Hercules bargained with Atlas to hold the Earth while he retrieved it. Atlas tried to walk away free from his damned task, but Hercules tricked him by asking to hold the Earth while he shifted his cloak.
Capture Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded the underworld. Hercules had to wrestle Cerberus into submission as he was not allowed to use his weapons, and Cerberus agreed to be taken to see the king, after which it returned unharmed to the underworld.
This goes to show that any task is possible as long as one has the right mindset, can think outside the square and put in all of his or her strength into it.