Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of May 10th - May 16th,  2002

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Hercules

Hercules

   This week in Ovid's Fasti, we're examining XV.Kal.(Feb)15th. This is one of Ovid's longer daily descriptions, with five separate themes written into the rituals associated with this day. Ovid opens with a brief background of Faunus (Pan) and his Arcadian beginnings, and proceeds to tell a tale involving the goat-footed god, Hercules and Omphale. He then relates a Latin fable involving Romulus and Remus. Next, the rationale of paying homage to Juno Lucina, the goddess of childbirth, is described, and finally, we note the Sun's entry into Pisces, and the myth associated with that legend. Of these entries, we'll take a look at the first two this week.    Ovid declares that the origin of the rite is traced back to Hercules. If we continue to test our hypothesis, the Moon on this day would fall in Virgo. What does the Moon in Virgo concern itself with?

Omphale

Omphale

   Virgo is an earth sign which deals with details. Its practical nature is interested in how to fix things, how to get places, and the tools of the trade. It's ruled by Mercury. Put together mental focus with an earth sign, and you get mapmakers. Here we are provided with a brief geographical description of Arcadia, Pan's home.

   "Witness Mount Pholoe, witness the Stymphalian waters, and the Ladon that seaward runs with rapid current: witness the ridges of the Nonacrine grove begirt with pinewoods: witness high Cyllene and the Parrhasian snows."

   After establishing the location of Pan's origin and a brief geography, Ovid then states that the priests perform their rites naked, and they remember back to a time when lifestyles were simpler. In attempting to strive for Virgo's essence (purity), these ministers of nature run around nude, presumably so the truth may be known.

   To illustrate his case, we are told of a tale of Hercules and Omphale, a Maeonian princess. Hercules had been sold to Omphale, and is her servant for three years.

   "A golden parasol kept off (Omphale) the sun's warm beams; and yet it was the hands of Hercules that bore it up."

   During this period, Hercules often spent time with the women attendants, as they spin for, adorn, and attend to their queen. This is a perfect Virgo setting for the sign that deals with tradesmen and domestic help. Just as the hammer, chisel, and file are the tools of the carpenter, so are a woman's vestments the tools of her femininity, crafting her beauty, especially when provided by servants. In the myth, they are placed upon Hercules to focus our attention on them:

Modern Virgo Moon and her Hercules

A modern Moon in Virgo
with her Hercules

   "While the attendants were making ready the viands and the wine for the wassail, she arrayed Alcides (Hercules) in her own garb. She gave him gauzy tunics in Gaetulian purple dipped; she gave him the dainty girdle, which but now had girt her waist. For his belly the girdle was too small; he undid the clasps of the tunic to thrust out his big hands. The bracelets he had broken, not made to fit those arms; his big feet split the little shoes."

   Hercules, the greatest hero of Greek mythology, is made to play the role of servant, obedient to his mistress's will. We assume the nudity to be a reflection of Virgo's purity. Next week, we'll continue to explore the other ritual mysteries of this day.


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