SEX AND DEATH
This week we’re taking a look at the 8th chapter of Homer’s epic novel, the Odyssey, suggesting that it is part of an Astrological Primer, an ancient handbook for learning astrology, for learning about life.
The eighth chapter corresponded not only to the sign of the zodiac we are all familiar with, it also corresponded to the eighth constellation of the zodiac. Due to precessional motion three thousand years ago, they were one and the same.
Encapsulated in each of these chapters are the personality characteristics of the sign being represented. The more you know about one of these astrological archetypal representations, the deeper your insights into the pattern and personality at work in this book.
Scorpio is a FIXED WATER sign, ruled in contemporary times by Pluto, in antiquity by Mars. Of them it is said “still waters run deep.” It is a sign, and these are the planets, that most cope with powerful emotional currents, of loving and losing, of being romantically discovered, of Death’s heavy-handed repercussions. Although we don’t like to admit it, the day will come when we must all ‘bend the knee’ to Pluto.
There are three examples we will cull from these verses in this Moon Mail.
First, there is the actual fall of Troy and all its doom and gloom.
Second, is how the verses of the blind bard and his Lyre cause Odysseus to cry into his cloak so that no one will see, hiding his tears.
Third is the adulterous affair Ares and Aphrodite have behind the Love goddess’ lawful husband’s back.
In this last myth the Lord of Blacksmiths weaves an intricate web so fine no one can see it. These are the lines of longitude and latitude, or of azimuth and altitude that form a grid system by which the motions of the planets may be traced and tracked, in this case of monitoring the planets and learning, ahead of time, when they are likely to align.
To this day this grid work system is imperceptible to the naked eye, as they are lines created (imagined if you will), by the mathematicians, astronomers and astrologers. They are simply not there, and yet are hugely important to the understanding of celestial motion, imagination and hard science, all at the same time.
So that’s our three examples; the Fall of Troy and secret behind Odysseus’ tears. What about our illicit love affair?
First, the fall of Troy.
Sing of the wooden horse
Epeus built with Athena’s help, the cunning trap that
good Odysseus brought one day to the heights of Troy,
filled with fighting men who laid the city waste . . .
For Troy was fated to perish once the city lodged
inside her walls the monstrous wooden horse
where the prime of Argive (Greek) power lay in wait
with death and slaughter bearing down on Troy.
. . . to plunder Troy-
he sang how left and right they ravaged the steep city . . .
And in fact, here is where the second example of Odysseus silently crying appears in Chapter Eight.
That was the song the famous harper sang
but great Odysseus melted into tears,’
running down from his eyes to wet his cheeks . . .
as a woman weeps, her arms flung round her darling husband
a man who fell in battle, fighting for town and townsmen,
trying to beat the day of doom from home and children.
Seeing the man go down, dying, gasping for breath,
She clings for dear life, screams and shrills-
So from Odysseus’ eyes ran tears of heartbreak now.
But his weeping went unmarked by all the others
Only Alcinous, sitting close behind him,
Noticed his guest tears,
Heard the groan in the man’s labored breathing
Our next image, of the illicit love affair, is another tale the bard sings of using the lyrics of music as the brush and life the canvas.
. . . now the bard struck up an irresistible song:
The Love of Ares (Mars)
and Aphrodite (Venus) Crowned with Flowers …
how the two had first made love in Hephaestus’ mansion,
all in secret. Ares had showered her with gifts
and showered Hephaestus’ marriage bed with shame
but a messenger ran to tell the god of fire—
Helios, lord of the sun, who’d spied the couple
lost in each other’s arms and making love.
Hephaestus, hearing the heart-wounding story,
bustled toward his forge, brooding on his revenge—
planted the huge anvil on its block and beat out chains,
not to be slipped or broken, all to pin the lovers on the spot.
This snare the Firegod forged, ablaze with his rage at War,
then limped to the room where the bed of love stood firm
and round the posts he poured the chains in a sweeping net
with streams of others flowing down from the roof beam,
gossamer-fine as spider webs no man could see,
not even a blissful god—
the Smith had forged a masterwork of guile.
Once he’d spun that cunning trap around his bed
he feigned a trip to the well-built town of Lemnos,
dearest to him by far of all the towns on earth.
But the god of battle kept no blind man’s watch.
As soon as he saw the Master Craftsman leave
he plied his golden reins and arrived at once
and entered the famous god of fire’s mansion,
chafing with lust for Aphrodite crowned with flowers.
She’d just returned from her father’s palace, mighty Zeus,
and now she sat in her rooms as Ares strode right in
and grasped her hand with a warm, seductive urging:
“Quick, my darling, come, let’s go to bed
and lose ourselves in love! Your husband’s away—
by now he must be off in the wilds of Lemnos,
consorting with his raucous Sintian friends.”
So he pressed
and her heart raced with joy to sleep with War
and off they went to bed and down they lay—
and down around them came those cunning chains
of the crafty god of fire, showering down now
till the couple could not move a limb or lift a finger—
then they knew at last: there was no way out, not now.
But now the glorious crippled Smith was drawing near …
he’d turned around, miles short of the Lemnos coast,
for the Sungod kept his watch and told Hephaestus all,
so back he rushed to his house, his heart consumed with anguish.
Halting there at the gates, seized with savage rage
he howled a terrible cry, imploring all the gods,
“Father Zeus, look here—
the rest of you happy gods who live forever—
here is a sight to make you laugh, revolt you too!
Just because I am crippled, Zeus’s daughter Aphrodite
will always spurn me and love that devastating Ares,
just because of his stunning looks and racer’s legs
while I am a weakling, lame from birth, and who’s to blame?
Both my parents—who else? If only they’d never bred me!
Just look at the two lovers … crawled inside my bed,
locked in each other’s arms—the sight makes me burn!
But I doubt they’ll want to lie that way much longer,
not a moment more—mad as they are for each other.
No, they’ll soon tire of bedding down together,
but then my cunning chains will bind them fast
till our Father pays my bride-gifts back in full,
all I handed him for that shameless bitch his daughter,
irresistible beauty—all unbridled too!”
So Hephaestus wailed
as the gods came crowding up to his bronze-floored house.
Poseidon (Neptune) god of the earthquake came,
and Hermes (Mercury) came,
the running god of luck, and the Archer, lord Apollo (the Sun),
while modesty kept each goddess to her mansion.
The immortals, givers of all good things, stood at the gates,
and uncontrollable laughter burst from the happy gods
when they saw the god of fire’s subtle, cunning work.
One would glance at his neighbor, laughing out,
“A bad day for adultery! Slow outstrips the Swift.”
“Look how limping Hephaestus conquers War,
quickest of all the gods who rule Olympus!”
“The cripple wins by craft.”
“The adulterer, he will pay the price!”
So the gods would banter
among themselves but lord Apollo goaded Hermes on:
“Tell me, Quicksilver (another name for Mercury),
giver of all good things—
even with those unwieldy shackles wrapped around you,
how would you like to bed the golden Aphrodite?”
“Oh Apollo, if only!” the giant-killer cried.
“Archer, bind me down with triple those endless chains!
Let all you gods look on, and all you goddesses too—
how I’d love to bed that golden Aphrodite!”
A peal of laughter broke from the deathless ones
but not Poseidon, not a smile from him; he kept on
begging the famous Smith to loose the god of war,
pleading, his words flying, “Let him go!
I guarantee you Ares will pay the price,
whatever you ask, Hephaestus,
whatever’s right in the eyes of all the gods.”
But the famous crippled Smith appealed in turn,
“God of the earthquake, please don’t urge this on me.
A pledge for a worthless man is a worthless pledge indeed.
What if he slips out of his chains—his debts as well?
How could I shackle you while all the gods look on?”
But the god of earthquakes reassured the Smith,
“Look, Hephaestus, if Ares scuttles off and away,
squirming out of his debt, I’ll pay the fine myself.”
And the famous crippled Smith complied at last:
“Now there’s an offer I really can’t refuse!”
With all his force the god of fire loosed the chains
and the two lovers, free of the bonds that overwhelmed them so,
sprang up and away at once, and the Wargod sped to Thrace
while Love with her telltale laughter sped to Paphos,
Cyprus Isle, where her grove and scented altar stand.
There the Graces bathed and anointed her with oil,
ambrosial oil, the bloom that clings to the gods
who never die, and swathed her round in gowns
to stop the heart … an ecstasy—a vision.
That was the song the famous harper sang
and Odysseus relished every note . . .
What do you think? Scorpio or no?