Idaean Bearer of the urna, filled with nectar and water: Your title means "watery," but when used as the name of your constellation, you are the Water Carrier. You have been called urnam qui tenet,
"He who bears the water-urn" by Ausonius. To the Greeks, you were Ὑδροχόος "Hydrochoüs," noted by Pindar as the life-giving rivers of the Nile, but most notably, you were Ganymedes: the Phyrygian youth, son of Tros and cup-bearer of Jove, before whom came Hebe. Much later in the 18th century, you were called the Skinker: the bartender. Just as Capricorn is a divine creature of Earth and Water, Aquarius as an Air sign bears Water like our atmosphere bears our watery planet in place. After reaching the peak of personal achievement in Capricorn, Aquarius comes into the cycle with the 11th house as the place of acquisition. We share the knowledge we have gained and our thoughts with others. Modern meanings for Aquarius are often that it is a sign of platonic love, togetherness and humanitarianism, yet simultaneously aloof and enigmatical.
This is a sign that has changed tremendously in meaning since antiquity. In Hellenistic astrology it was considered to be much more difficult sign than it is today. These changes seem to be due to two factors: rulership and element. Today it is of course considered an air sign, but also a water bearer. In antiquity it belonged to the water season, the winter seasonal quadrant. The Roman poet Manilius regarded this duality as an equal middle dispensation between water and earth.
"Water of life am I, poured forth for thirsty men."
Aquarius is about feeling true to ourselves from the conditioning of our identity that we have taken in through interacting with society. In this sense, we are examining ourselves from everything that is not inherent to ourselves. Why? We are preparing to focus on our relationship with the universe in Pisces. Before this can happen we naturally want to discover and then creatively project something unique of our own out into the world. The intention then is to become aware of some blockage preventing the liberation from conformity, harmful standards, and expectations. Of course this is something that many of us deal with, not just Aquarians, but it is a special part of the Aquarius archetype. Also of note is the class symbolism to Aquarius. The original myth describes a young boy who was captured by a god, brought to the heavens, only to serve as their cupbearer.
The Sun is in detriment here according to medieval tradition. This means that it is not supported in acting in accordance with its own nature, which is to be an individual, set apart and unique from others. So our Aquarian neighbors love to stare off into space and contemplate what could be. Depending on the rest of the chart, an Aquarius might brilliantly take a stand to be unique amongst the crowd. In others the sun may not be as well supported in its uniqueness and individuality. This person may be seeking a normal life, not valuing their own uniqueness. Hiding in plain view is often this individual's approach. The issue of personal privacy is more important here than for most.
The majority of us appear at face value as conventional people. Sometimes we are all just props to each other: people in each other's way at the grocery store you shop at every week. When we fit in with society, we fit in with ourselves too. This is not so with the Water-Bearer. Conventionality is a mask to Aquarius. They may choose to wear it, but if they do, they pay a terrible price: the life they lead is not their own. They feel alienated. Then, even the people closest to them never know them. They go through the motions of a relationship. But the other person can sense that there is something aloof about them. They seem distant, perhaps cold or unfeeling. Their words are right. They fulfill their responsibilities. They laugh at the right jokes. They make jokes of their own. But no one is fooled. Everyone knows that something essential is simply not being revealed. Behind those eyes, clear and penetrating as ice, there is nothing. Only a missing person.
Looking back at Hellenistic tradition, according to Vettius Valens: "Those so born are malicious and haters of their own families, unchangeable, single-minded, deceitful, treacherous, those who conceal everything, misanthropists, impious, accusers, betrayers of opinion and truth, begrudging, concerned with trifles, at times generous through the efflux of water, incontinent." Today, who would call an Aquarian a misanthrope?! When Uranus was discovered, modern astrologers adopted it as ruler of this sign. Then came along such meanings as revolutionary. Valens here seems to be coming from the opinion that Aquarius is even worse-endowed than Capricorn because it is seasonally more difficult than early winter. These attributions are coming solely from a cold Saturn. This may be an extreme example coming from a time in which reality came with different struggles. Or it may be truer than most think. (Sounds just like my dad if you ask me)...
Leo is opposite this sign. Often there is the theme of "the needs of the many (Aquarius) outweighing the needs of the few (Leo)". Sometimes, "one set against many," against great odds or against an institution; in the same way that lions are at enmity with hyenas.
Where this sign's Saturn-ruled partner Capricorn is grounded in what's real, here and now, working inside the bounds of the planet's rings, Aquarius finds itself exploring what conformity and authority truly mean. These signs are both intimately aware of the boundaries and expectations that life tends to bring these days.
A side note, but I have seen it said that "Aquarius has a lot to do with being an intermediary between the gods." Interestingly enough, this idea has some merit: the 11th house was traditionally the house of the Agathos Daimon, and daimons were seen as mediators between gods and humans.