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Posted on December 18th, 2017 by Don Cerow

               LAUNDRY DAY 

Virgo is the sixth sign of the Zodiac. Ruled by Mercury, it is a MUTABLE EARTH sign symbolized by the Virgin and the sheath of wheat she holds. It is a vibration that deals with practical crafts like wool or basket weaving, knitting, quilt making and the like. Each of these involve patterns, often with a number of women traditionally working together in a cooperative endeavor. Their end game aids humanity with some useful product whether as a blanket to help keep warm or a basket to hold laundry.

For those who have studied the celestial science, this one is so obvious that it speaks for itself. Virgo says work on all the practical (Earth) details (Mercury) that need help. If there’s a problem, solve it. If something’s broken, fix it. These are the workers, the service industry with their skills and tools.  Line 2 of Chapter 6 sets the tone, with a reference to the dedication to whatever the task may be.

” . . . borne down by his hard labors first . . .’

But then, in what will represent the main image of our literary theme in this chapter, Athena awakens the Phaeacian princess Nausicaa with a dream that she should do the laundry.

how could your mother bear a careless girl like you?
Look at your fine clothes, lying here neglected-
with your marriage not far off,
the day you should be decked in all your glory
and offer elegant dress to those who from your escort.
That’s how a bride’s good name goes out across the world
and it brings her father and queenly mother joy. Come,
let’s go wash these clothes at the break of day-
I’ll help you, lend a hand, and the work will fly!

(Ch. VI; 27-36)

The ‘good name’ comes from Mercury’s rulership over this sign. Our name is what we respond to when people call us. And then, throughout the chapter, we get a detailed list of just how the laundry should be properly washed, from start to finish. Having awoken from her dream, our princess hurries to seek permission from the king to use the tools necessary to complete the job.

“Daddy Dear,
I wonder, won’t you have them harness a wagon for me,
the tall one with the good smooth wheels . . . so I
can take our clothes to the river for a washing?
Lovely things, but lying before me all soiled.
And you yourself, sitting among princes ‘
debating points at your counsel,
you really should be wearing spotless linen.
Then you have five sons, full-grown in the palace,
two of them married, but three are lusty bachelors
always demanding crisp shirts fresh from the wash
when they go out to dance. Look to my duties-
that all rests on me.”                                                      
(Ch VI; 61-73)

      The dreams and requests are the preliminary parts of the job, but then we get down to the real nitty-gritty a few lines later.

            Once they reached the banks of the river flowing strong
where the pools would never fail, with plenty of water
cool and clear, bubbling up and rushing through
to scour the darkest stains- they loosed the mules,
out from under the wagon yoke, and chased them down
the river’s rippling banks to graze on luscious clover.
Down from the cradle they lifted clothes by the armfull,
plunged them into the dark pools and stamped them down
in the hollows, one girl racing the next to finish first
until they had scoured and rinsed off all the grime,
then spread them out in a line along the beach
where the surf had washed a pebbly scree ashore.
And once they had bathed and smoothed their skin with oil,
they took their picnic, sitting along the river’s banks
and waiting for all the clothes to dry in the hot noon sun.
 (Ch. VI; 95-109)

That’s a precise list.

      Both Gemini and Virgo are ruled by Mercury.

In Chapter 3 (Gemini) we meet Nestor, the great charioteer together with his horses. Gemini (AIR) deals with transportation. At the end of the chapter we have Telemachus and Nestor’s son mounting the chariot to begin a two-day overland journey, compatible with our celestial theme.

In Chapter 6 we feature the mules and wagon. Chapter 6 corresponds to Mercury ruling (EARTH Sign) Virgo. Nausicaa hitches up the mules to do laundry and is featured in the story line on the way to the river, while there, and on the return journey. Mercury in Virgo is much more about daily chores and projects.

Gemini, transportation. Virgo, daily chores (laundry).

Two different kinds of equines, horse and mule, bred to fulfill two different kinds of service for humanity, but each under the auspices of Mercury.

      Having washed both the clothes and themselves, the handmaidens (more Virgo) turn to bathe the man of the hour, but are met by another Virgonian personality trait.

            So quick, my girls,
give our newfound friend some food and drink
and bathe the man in the river,
wherever you find some shelter from the wind.”

At that
they came to a halt and teased each other on
and led Odysseus down to a sheltered spot
where he could find a seat,
just as great Alcinous’ daughter told them.
They laid out cloak and shirt for him to wear,
they gave him the golden flask of supplying olive oil
and pressed him to bathe himself in the river’s steam.
Then thoughtful Odysseus reassured the handmaids,
“”Stand where you are, dear girls, a good way off,
so I can rinse the brine from my shoulders now
and rub myself with oil . . .
how long it’s been since oil touched my skin!
But I won’t bathe in front of you. I would be embarrassed-
stark naked before your girls with lovely braids.”

Thoughtful Odysseus‘ is perfect for our hero in this chapter, paired together with another component of the personality of Virgo, its shyness, which we are seeing as we saw earlier in this chapter in lines 74 and 75 (not quoted). Our narrative continuous.

            The handmaids scurried off to tell their mistress.
Great Odysseus bathed in the river, scrubbed his body
clean of brine that clung to his back and broad shoulders,
scoured away the brackish scurf that caked his head.
And then, once he had bathed all over, rubbed in oil
and donned the clothes the virgin princess gave him,
Zeus’s daughter Athena made him taller to all eyes,
his build move massive now, and down from his brow
she ran his curls like thick hyacinth clusters full of blooms.
 (Ch. VI; 229-256)

The ‘Virgin princess’ is our heroine of this tale, overseen and orchestrated by the Virgin Goddess, Athena.

And those are the threads that weave this chapter together.

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