Sunday, January 8, 2017

C'est Si N'est Pas Une Planète or What I Did on My Mercury Rx Vacation

Aion holding Zodiac Wheel, floor mosaic from a Roman villa in Sentinum (today Sassoferrato in Umbria), ca. 200–250 CE

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshiped anything but himself.   

~ Sir Richard Francis Burton

Over the holidays I went into Rx retreat and did some re-searching on the Hellenistic pantheon we have become so overly (un)comfortable with in astrology. Too often I hear/read people blaming planets, natal or transit, for every little mishap, as if they are being made a Job out of, "Saturn in my 7th is wrecking all my relationships !" "I am having a crummy day, Mercury Rx !" Do we honestly believe that Saturn, rolling around the Sun, busily spinning space dust into rings and storm clouds into hexagons, gives a toss about our pithy, hooman encounters, or that hell is only unleashed in it's full fury during Mercury's apparent, backwards motion, three times a year ? We might well ask if the Goddess of this Earth is having an influence on other planets' beings (now now, just because we can't see them, doesn't mean they aren't there). I say, isn't it time we got out of this superstitious mindset ?

The horoscope is really just an elaborate clock, modeled on the solar system, from our self-centered, Earthly perspective. When we interpret a planet's effects, such as Saturn's, we are usually referring to the mythology around the God it is named after ("lame" "Darth Vader" "devours his children"), or it's alchemical characteristics ("lead" "calcification" "hardening" "black" "depression"), as well as it's natural ones, like having rings ("limitations" "responsibilities" "bindings") or being the last planet visible to the unaided eye ("the end" "the outer limit").

Drawing of Roman calendar 'grafitti',  from the first centuries AD. (via Quadriformisratio)

In the cities of ancient Greece and Rome, citizens were required to honor certain gods, on particular days and hours with rituals or sacred, communal meals. These had nothing to do with planetary orbits - other than the Sun (equinoxes and solstices) and Moon (months) - only in keeping the city in good standing with the gods of the calends. The names of our days and months are a testament to this old order. It's still a Roman Catholic tradition to eat fish (thought to be an aphrodisiac) on Vendredi/Venus' day to honour the Goddess of sexual love, whether they realize it or not. March, when rams went into rut and Roman troops prepared for battle, was named for Mars, January for Janus, etc.
Each city had their own
hymns and prayers, which they guarded carefully, and their own version of the Gods, too; Athena of Athens was not the same Athena of, say, Thebes.  Strangers could not take part in the communal meals or rituals, for that would contaminate things.  A pleb's religiosity was more like the fearful vigilance of an compulsive germaphobe than the heartfelt devotion of a whirling dervish. It must have been akin to mass schizophrenia. Dogmas were strictly adhered to, the Gods just waiting for someone to slip up. If Aeolus, chosen to sup that week, was late for a sacred dinner, with a wine stain on his white robe, the whole city would certainly be doomed. If Agnes the vestal fell asleep and let the sacred flame go out, she might be required to sacrifice herself to put things right before the vindictive and narcissistic Gods. The same discipline applied to each household, where the women folk were in charge of keeping the ancestral hearth fire going, while the father was literally the family priest. Priests are still referred to as 'father'.

It seems absurd that people should invent gods in their own image and then turn them into almighty, cruel task-masters, doesn't it ? Oh right. It's a good way to control the populace. The Gods are watching, God, the Father is watching, Santa is watching, Big Brother is watching. Facebook is watching… Either we are an experiment in a petri dish or our own conscience is out to get us. And we are narcissists.

God's Solar Eye on tombstone, Old Laurel Grove Cemetery

As mentioned, the Greek pantheon didn't start out as a planetary one. For example, the Goddess Aphrodite (Roman Venus - who herself had multiple versions) was not equated with the morning and evening stars (Phosphorus and Hesperus, respectively), who were seen as 'bringers of' the Gods of dawn or dusk. The Mesopotamian and Egyptian Gods, on the other hand, were planet and star based. So, at a certain point, the Greeks - and therefore the Romans - decided to get on board and name each planet after a God or Goddess, which meant electing the one that most closely fit the role. To the Greeks,  mathematical harmony would likely have overruled the psychology of their inconstant Gods.

Although there are signs wherein each planet feels more itself, things can get muddled, when it comes to their so-called rulerships. I'm ready to ditch the whole notion, since learning that Sagittarius used to be under the rulership of Artemis-Diana, but was given to Zeus-Jupiter instead. (I dig you conjunct my Sun, Big Guy, but with Diana Moon and Black Moon Lilith  sharing a degree, at my gates, the resentment is real ! Give me back my Moon bow and crown, at once !) Kronos-Saturn, not even part of the original Greek pantheon, replaced Demeter-Ceres, when planets were handed out (see link at bottom of page). Yes, they both have sickles and bring on the Winter, but one is a cannibal father, one a grieving mother. Here you are, Demeter-Ceres, major Goddess of the Eleusinian mysteries, most famous of the secret, religious rites in ancient Greece - you can have an asteroid…Happy Mother's Day ! Perhaps that's part of it, Saturn is the cover personality for what is secretly Ceres. Put that in your amphora.

Engraving of a Roman zodiac wheel, with signs and planetary Gods. Supreme God Jupiter is in the middle, and in the planet ring. (NYPL)

Most of the others have made a few sign/house switches over time, with the possible exception of the ever-constant, Venus/Taurus. (Not to mention the regular morphing and adapting of the gods, themselves). Then there's the asteroids and their not-yet-agreed-upon rulers…we have known these planetary bodies such a short while, yet countless books about their astrological significance have been published, applying the corresponding Greek myth to the asteroid of that namesake. Chiron has the more obvious implications (though by no means a done deal, since it was only discovered in 1977), due to it's cyclic return at the critical age of 50, plus it's close relationship with Saturn. Uranus (1781) and Neptune (1846) are comparatively recent additions, too; Uranus the Greek sky God is absolutely nothing like astrological or planetary Uranus, who most will agree is more the Prometheus archetype type. The Astronomical Society's criteria was based entirely on who begat who in Greco-Roman mythology. We imagined Pluto (1930) to be shadowy, underground killer, until it flashed us a big, pink heart, 85 years on, followed by a cute whale. WTF ? You are supposed to be the embodiment of evil death, Pluto, quit bursting my fear bubble !

[Side note: The 'demotion' from planet to dwarf planet bears absolutely no meaning in astrology or anywhere else. It's the brainchild of one, young, over-zealous, male astronomer and was never the consensus. He reminds me of the tailor in the fairy tale who swatted 7 flies at once and embroidered 'Seven With One Blow' on his belt (?), tricking people into thinking he'd struck down 7 men. Besides, dwarves in fairy tales/mythology are usually Plutonian, so maybe it was all part of Pluto's plan to re-invent itself.]

Ptolemy, the man who gave us Tropical Astrology (engraving from 1564)

When things get muddled and people are just repeating information without actually thinking about it, we need to stop and go back to the SOURCE, starting with the actual planet, it's nature and cycles. The ancient astronomers watched the heavens carefully and noted events that occurred during the transits of planets ('wanderers'), albeit they were more concerned with the fixed stars when it came to casting horoscopes. They saw, for example, that the red planet's proximity/position seemed to coincide with outbreaks of war, therefor he must be the bloody, war deity. (Red stars or Moon were also associated with bloodshed, back then…there was a lot of it going on). No problem finding a Greek persona for him, either, as every culture had a war god. Interestingly, Ares-Mars' metal was iron before his high iron content was known. Also, it would not have been possible to see his battle scars without a telescope, but there they were. Astrological Mars is viewed as masculine, egocentric, expressive, aggressive, hot energy. If it is repressed or held back it becomes angry, toxic or self-sabotaging; 'malefic'. But when honored, Mars is healthy, vital energy that we require. Mars' firey, bold nature makes him suited to Aries, but not all Aries are athletes and soldiers. Most are bold in their approach, though, be they brainiacs or April Fools. Spring calls for it.

Diagram of the positions of the seven planets on 18 March 816. (Roman ?)

As symbols, the planets have absorbed the collective projections of every culture, mostly the Greco-Roman, who's names and mythology have stuck. But we should not be too fixed on these. Robert Graves notes that many Greek myths did, once upon a time, originate with actual events and not from the 'collective unconscious,' in the Jungian sense. At one time, pictures and symbols - emblems - were how people commemorated and remembered events. Later, when things were recorded in writing, mythstory was replaced with history. The masculine word over the feminine symbol. As unwritten stories become relegated to distant memory, dreamtime and museums, yes, they became archetypal, but they were no less true. Therefore a myth is not the same as a lie. As well, there are many instances where the symbolism was purposely injected with a new meaning, like the 12 signs of the zodiac becoming the 12 apostles, the 4 royal stars of the fixed signs becoming the evangelists and the Sun becoming the Son. It doesn't mean these players never existed, but by inserting them into existing, symbolic/mythic roles, it assures them a long and elevated  life. Surely that was the intention, when the Greeks and Romans imprinted their own pantheon onto the planets ?

Ancient Roman zodiac unearthed in Qarat el-Muzawwaqa, Egypt, created in the 1st or 2nd century AD

Did you know …

Earth is the only planet that goes by an Anglo-Germanic name, not a Roman one ?

Some things to (re)consider when interpreting the planets, asteroids, etc:
- The actual planetary characteristics (Mars; red, iron content, 4th sphere from Sun)
- Conditions surrounding it's discovery (Uranus; revolution/scientific exploration)
- Symbol/glyph (Uranus and Chiron; keys ?)
- Archetype (Saturn; Father Time, Hermit)
- Greco-Roman god + other incarnations (Aphrodite; Venus, Ishtar, Inanna)
- Alchemical (Moon; Silver, feminine, liquid)
- Musical keys ?
- Patterns (compare charts)


Robert Graves, The Greek Myths
Foustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City
A detailed history of the zodiacal Gods by Ken Gillman

All written content herein is copyright ©Roxanna Bikadoroff 2017.

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  1. good stuff, there is still much to synth out from ancient egyptian and babylonian and INDIAn and CHINESE texts these all were very fond of the stars gods etc. I total grok Saturn being a Goddess originally ive been saying that for years and it is so in the Tarot in the Kabbalistic Sephiroth references.

  2. I agree, Tara. Rhea was the one who ate her children, symbolizing time/the life cycle. ie - We are born from the earth and we return to it. Somehow her consort got to be the main dude. Grandmother Saturn has a nice 'ring' to it, heh.