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HOMER’s ODYSSEY- Ch. XIX, Libra II

Posted on October 24th, 2018 by Don Cerow

        In this, the nineteenth chapter of Homer’s Odyssey, we are looking once again (see Chapter VII) at the nature of relationships three thousand years ago. The courtship of the belligerent suitors is brought to the fore, and, after twenty years of waiting, Odysseus and Penelope meet and lay eyes on each other at last. He knows who she is, while she does not know his true identity; at least, not yet.

Penelope is hungry for news about her husband. She is even willing to inquire from the beggar what news he may have heard.

How well you knew (she said to the servant girl)-                             (line 102)
you heard it from my own lips-
         that I meant to probe this stranger in our house
and ask about my husband . . . my heart breaks for 
him.”

This chapter divides itself into various instances of social etiquette, where refined manners are contrasted by rude behavior. Venus finds itself in its rulership in Libra, and marital harmony is the first thing that jumps to mind, but that extends to all kinds of relationships, from individual to international. Penelope feels besieged by these ‘gifts from the gods’.

Now my life is torment . . .
            look at the griefs some god has loosed against me!
All the nobles who rule the islands round about.
Dulichion, Same, and wooded Zacynthus too,
land all who lord it in sunny Ithaca itself –
they court me against my will, they lay waste to my house.
So I pay no heed to strangers, suppliants at my door,
not even heralds out on their public errands here-
I yearn for Odysseus always, my heart pines away.
They rush the marriage on, and I spin out my wiles.

Courtship, marriage, true love and youthful devotion. They’re all found here. Libra is the sign of the scales, and so balance in all things is striven for, but not always obtained. This is balance within individuals, but also balance between mortal and immortal. Penelope, aside from her tears, is the roll model for Aphrodite (Venus), the ruler of Libra. The scales represent the spirit of justice. We have also seen Mars in its detriment being apparent here, of being forceful and pushy.

“My good woman,” Odysseus, master of craft, replied,                  (line 116)
            “no man on the face of the earth could find fault with you.
Your fame, believe me, has reached the vaulting skies,
Fame like a flawless king’s who dreads the gods,
who governs a kingdom vast, proud and strong –
Who upholds justice, true, and the black earth
bears wheat and barley, trees bow down with fruit
and the sheep drop lambs and never fail and the sea
team with fish- thanks to his decent, upright rule.
and under his sovereign sway the people flourish.”

But the act that Penelope is most remembered for is her weaving of the Web during the day, and unraveling it at night. This is a ploy to help stave off her suitors, and it works, for a while . . .

A god from the blue it was that inspired me first                          (line 153)
to set up a great loom in our royal halls
and I began to weave, and the weaving finespun
the yarns endless, and I would lead them on: Young men,
my suitors, now that King Odysseus is no more,
go slowly, keen as you are to marry me, until
I can finish off this web . . .
so my weaving won’t all fray and come to nothing.
This is a shroud for old lord Laertes, for that day
when the deadly fate that lays us out at last will take him down . . .

My very words                        (line 166)
and despite their pride and passion they believed me.
So by day I’d weave at my great and growing web-
by night, by the light of the torches set beside me,
I would unravel all I’d done. Three whole years
I deceived them blind, seduced them with this scheme.
Then, when the wheeling seasons brought the fourth year on
and the months waned and the long days came round once more,
then, thanks to my maids- the shameless, reckless creatures-
the suitors caught me in the act, denounced me harshly.
So I finished it off. Against my will. They forced me.
And now I cannot escape a marriage, nor can I contrive
a deft way out. My parents urge me to tie the knot
and my son is galled as they squander his estate-
he sees it all.

      In a martial world (this is the Age of Aries), the more belligerent, raw, forceful nature of Aries becomes apparent. We no longer single-handedly murder those who would court our wife. Both the Sun and Mars are debilitated in this sign (Fall and Detriment), and their manifestation is most seen in the actions of the suitors, the princes of the island, nobility at its lowest ebb. But when there is balance between heaven and earth, then the land prospers, people are happy and the celestial blessings reign down on the Earth. To repeat perhaps the most important lesson of this chapter:

             Fame like a flawless king’s who dreads the gods,                 (line 119)
who governs a kingdom vast, proud and strong –
Who upholds justice, true, and the black earth
bears wheat and barley, trees bow down with fruit
and the sheep drop lambs and never fail and the sea
            team with fish- thanks to his decent, upright rule.
and under his sovereign sway the people flourish.”

Are our leaders just and true??

Amen.



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