Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Jul 9th - Jul 15th,  2004

Chapter XXIII

Be Cool!

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  This week we are taking a look at Aquarius, the 11th sign of the zodiac.



  This is a fixed air sign currently ruled by Uranus. The keywords of Aquarius are 'I know', and it is a sign that deals with knowledge, information and instruction. We first looked at the vibration of this constellation in Homer in Chapter XI. On the high side, these people are brilliant, intelligent and excellent tacticians; they are independent and clearheaded. On the flip side, these same qualities can be lacking; their wiring is frayed, their current intermittent. They can be weird, bohemian and crazy, subscribing to notions which the rest of us might consider 'off the wall'. They teach us about things which open up new aspects of science, the world, or life around us; but they can also go on about things which we already know, often at great length.
The Constellation Aquarius

The constellation Aquarius

Eccentricity is a personality characteristic which they carefully cultivate. They are not afraid to make an independent stand, calling things exactly the way they see it, but they can also have a charismatic personality people are drawn to, wanting to be their friends. Like a light switch, these qualities can turn people 'on' or 'off' regarding their nature. Folks are either really repulsed by their independence, or conversely, are fascinated and drawn to their unique individuality. This is also the sign of hopes, wishes and aspirations.

  The symbol for Aquarius is the waterbearer, who pours the liquid from an urn, usually borne upon his shoulder. These are said to be the celestial ethers of knowledge, distributed to the people or their friends. Even on very early Babylonian stones the constellation has been immemorially represented as a man or youth pouring out water from a bucket or urn. Al Biruni had it in his astrological charts as Amphora, a two-handled wine jar which he may have adopted from Ausonius, a 4th century AD poet. Vercingetorix, Caesar's principle foe in Gaul in 52 BC, was said to have put a similar figure on his stateres with the title Diota, a two-eared jar. Ganymede, the handsome youth abducted by the eagle of Zeus was associated with Aquarius, and was said to be his cupbearer. In these examples from history we have bucket, urn, a two-handled wine jar, two-eared jar and a cup, each different, but united in their capacity to hold, and distribute, their essential essence for the task at hand.

Aquarian Bowl II

An Aquarian Bowl

  Is it any surprise then, if Chapter XXIII of Homer's Iliad corresponds to the constellation Aquarius as has been our hypothesis, that there would be twenty seven references to urns, cups, two handed cups, tripods, caldrons (large kettles), bowls, winebowls and mixing bowls?

  No, not at all. In fact, we should come to expect it.

  In this chapter, Akhilleus has achieved all the things he has set out to do. He has avenged Patroklos by killing Hektor, and now is preparing the funeral rites for his friend. Having completed these, he sets up funeral games, like a mini-Olympics, for those that knew Patroklos, offering lavish prizes. The first of these events is a chariot race, and the following are the prizes...

"First for charioteers he set the prizes
a girl adept at gentle handicraft
to be taken by the winner, and a tripod
holding twenty-six quarts
, with handle-rings.
For the runner-up he offered a six-year old
unbroken mare, big with a mule foal.

Chariot races

Chariot races

For third prize a fine caldron of four gallons,
never scorched, bright as on casting day,
and for the fourth two measured bars of gold;
for fifth, a new two-handled bowl."

  And for the fist fight, Akhilleus offers a mule to the winner...

"And for the loser
he set out a two-handled cup..."

  And for the quarter mile...

offered a silver winebowl of six gallons.
Never a mixing bowl in all the world
could match its beauty
: artisans of Sidon
had lavished art upon it. Phoinikians


Antilokhos, Aias, and Odysseus

had brought it out by sea and mooring ship
in a roadstead, had conferred the bowl of Thoas.
Euneos, son of Ieson, later gave it
as ransom to Patroklos for Lykaon,
son of Priam. Now at his old friend's funeral
Akhilleus put the bowl down, as first prize..."

  Which Odysseus wins...

"But Prince Odysseus, the long-enduring,
bore off the winebowl, having finished first..."

  And what are cups, bowls, wine bowls, mixing bowls and cup bearers without a drinking bout? Guess who's coming over? Would you believe the North, South, East and West winds? How's that for four fixed air sign representatives?

North Wind

North Wind

"Iris heard his prayer and went to tell the winds,
at that time gathered indoors, in the home
of the blustering west wind, for a drinking bout.
Iris ran down to stand upon the doorstone,
and, when they saw her, all the winds uprose
with invitations
, each one for himself."

  The funeral pyre is ready to ignite. The tears have been shed, the funeral offerings, together with the body of Patroklos, have been accordingly laid out on the ceremonial mound, but the fire will not light. Akhilleus therefore steps aside and prays to the winds. Iris takes his prayers to them, and of course they respond; but what a wonderful way to invoke the power of our fixed air sign, Aquarius.

Funeral Pyre

Funeral Pyre

"...the north and west winds
issued a wondrous cry
, both driving
cloud before them
. Over open sea
they blew in a rush and took their gusty way,
as seas grew rough under the galewind wailing.
Then to the fertile plain of Troy they came
and fell upon the pyre
. The flame roared,
blazing up terribly, and all night long
they joined to toss the crest of fire high
with keening blasts

Aquarian Bowl III

An Aquarian Urn

"Now when the star of morning eastward rose
to herald daylight on the earth, and Dawn
came after, yellow-robed, above the sea,
the pyre died down, the flame sank, and the winds
, veering homeward once again
by sea for Thrace, as the ground swell heaved and foamed."

  But if we think of the four winds sitting together, before they come to Akhilleus's aid, what would a drinking bout be without having your friends over? Would you believe that there are fourteen references to friends, and another three to companions in this chapter? Once again Homer is bringing these images to our attention through their repetition, especially bringing them to the fore in their repesentative chapters. Both friends and urns, for instance, may be found in other chapters, but not to the degree that they are found here.

"Friends, lords and captains of the Argives, am I
the only one who can make out the horses,
or do you too?"

  Because of the way the chariot race plays out, there is a bowl left over which is presented to Nestor, who, after thanking Akhilleus says...



Well, carry on
the funeral of your friend with competitions."

  Before the fist fight Epeios warns whoever would contest with him that it would be wise to have his friends ready...

"His friends
should gather and stand by to take him off

after my left and right have put him down."

  And the prediction made by Epeios turns out to have been accurate.

"Then Epeios leapt out
with a long left hook and smashed the other's cheek
as he peered out through puffed eyes. He could keep
his feet no longer, but his legs gave way


Boxing. Notice the blood
streaming from the nose.

and down he went- the way a leaping fish
falls backward in the offshore sea when north wind
ruffles it down a beach
littered with seawrack:
black waves hide him. So the man left his feet
and dropped at the blow. Gallantly Epeios
gave him a hand and pulled him up
; his friends
with arms around him helped him from the ring
scuffing his feet and spitting gouts of blood,
his head helplessly rolling side to side.
They sat him down, addled, among themselves,
and took charge of the double-handled cup."

  Here we see the north wind, a friendly Epeios, friends of the fallen boxer, and the double-handled cup all appearing together in these lines. Indeed, Chapter XXIII opens with a specific reference to friends. From line 6...

"Chariot-skirmishers, friends of my heart..."

Grecian Style Funerary Urn

Greek Style Funerary Urn

  Much of the chapter is devoted to what an important friend Patroklos was to Akhilleus, and although it was not penned by Homer, Fitzgerald (the translator of this particular version) has dubbed the title of this chapter as 'A Friend Consigned to Death.' The theme, and the vibration, definitely run throughout. In fact, in returning to our original image, the ghost of Patroklos comes back and requests that the ashes of his body, and those of Akhilleus (whom everyone seems to know is going to die soon) be combined in the same urn together.

"So may the same urn hide our bones, the one
of gold your gracious mother gave."

  But the bright side of Aquarius is in their information gathering abilities and its dissemination. They can be brilliant, and, on the flip side, foolish. They can tell us things that are new, innovative and original; or they can repeat things to us that we either already know, or that we've heard endlessly before. Nestor tells his son Antilokhos, 'No need for me to tell you what to do', and then spends the next several long paragraphs telling him things he supposedly already knows.

"At his elbow now
his father halted, with a word to the wise:



'Antilokhos, by heaven, even as a youngster
Zeus and Poseidon cared for you and taught you
every kind of horsemanship
. No need
for me to add instruction
, when you know
so well the trick of making turns
. However,
these are slow horses, and they may turn in
a second rate performance. The other teams
are faster. But the charioteers
know no more racing strategy than you do.
Work out a plan of action in your mind
dear son, don't let the prize slip through your fingers.
Astuteness makes a forester, not brawn,
and by astuteness of the open sea
a helmsman holds a ship on the right course
though roughed by winds. One driver beats another
thinking it out beforehand

  Because Aquarius is a fixed air sign, these people are often set in their idealogical beliefs, and don't change their minds (unlike the mutable air sign Gemini) very often. They can also be somewhat emotionally distant, friendly with quite a few people around them, but not necessarily as bonded to family ties and commitments. For this reason, they can seem cool and aloof, like the personalities of Aquarian Paul Newman in 'Cool Hand Luke', or James Dean. Both the fact that they can remain steady in a crisis, focused on their plan, ideology or strategy helps them to chart a steady course through rough seas, as characterized by Homer.

"But mind there's no collision with the stump:
you'll hurt the horses and destroy the car,
and that will bring joy to your adversaries,
humiliation to you. No, son, be cool and watchful."

  Even our air theme images breeze through the passages as the chariot race gets underway.



"Over the plain they covered distance quickly,
running at full stretch, leaving the ships behind,
as dust rose under the barrels of the horses
like a cloud raise by a whirlwind, and their manes
flew backward in the windstream as they ran
The cars were rocketing, now on the level field,
now through the air on rises. Charioteers
kept their feet, and each man's heart beat hard
with passion to be first. All cheered their teams,
and horses raised a dustcloud in their flight."

  But sticking to a set plan does not allow for adaptation to changing conditions, and some people may think you to be crazy in following such a notion, regardless of external circumstances.

Chariot race winner

Chariot race winner

"Antilokhos saw the narrowing track ahead.
A gully ran there, where storm water had massed
had broken off the edge and made a landslide.
Driving for the passage, Menelaos
tried to keep his wheels clear, but Antilokhos
swung to one side to pass
, and drove his team
outside the track
, sheering a little toward him.
Then Menelaos was afraid. He yelled:

'Antilokhos, you're diving like a madman!
Pull up! The track's too narrow here. Ahead
it widens, you can pass there! Keep away,
or you'll collide and wreck us both!'



Antilokhos only drove harder, lashing his team,
like a man deaf and blind. About as far
as a discus flies, whirled out from wheeling shoulders,
when a young athlete tries his form, so far
the two teams raced each other. Then Menelaos'
mares fell back; he leaned back on the reins,
not to let the chariots lock wheels
and overturn and pile up on the track
while drivers
, mad to win, sprawled in the dust.
His opponent passed, and tawny Menelaos
growled at him:

'Antilokhos, no man
in the world is a more dangerous pest than you are
Pass, and be damned to you. The rest of us
were wrong to think you had a grain of sense

  After the race is finished, Menelaos calls on Antilokhos to account for his reckless actions before the others Akhaians.

"'Antilokhos, you were clearheaded once.
How have you acted now? Mocked at my skill
and fouled my horses, pushing your own ahead,
though they were inferior by far."

  Rather than deny the accusations, Antilokhos does a flip and totally agrees with Menelaos. Like good technique in martial arts, he goes with the force of the blow rather than attempting to resist it, and the strategy pays off, as he quickly brings Menelaos around. Notice, too, throughout all this, that the rank of Menelaos made no difference to Antilokhos during the race, as Aquarians see everyone as equal (which can sometimes tend to tick off those in positions of power who rely on such things).



"Clearheaded Antilokhos answered:

'Wait a bit, sir.
Surely I'm younger far than you, my Lord
Menelaos; you stand higher in age and rank.
You know a young man may go out of bounds:
his wits are nimble, but his judgment slight.
Be patient then. The mare I won I'll give to you,
and any other and greater thing of mine
you might request I'd wish to give at once
rather than fall in your esteem, my lord,
for all my days, and live as an offender
before unseen powers.'

When he had spoken,
the son of Nestor led the mare across
and put the bridle in Menelaos' hands
And Menelaos was refreshed at heart
as growing grain is, when ears shine with dew,
and the fields ripple. So the heart within you,
Menelaos, was refreshed. And happily
the older man said to the younger:

Cupbearer of the Gods

The Cupbearer

'Now, Antilokhos, I am coming round to you,
after my anger. You were never thoughtless
before this
. Youth prevailed over your good sense.
The next time, have a care not to pull tricks
on higher officers. Truly, no other
Akhaian could so quickly win me over

  Aquarians are good at turning the tables by doing the unexpected, and Antilokhos has certainly done his celestial homework and provides for us a fine example of first playing the madman, helping others to see it from a different point of view, and then using his magnetic charm to help 'refresh' (change) Menelaos's perspective; all notable Aquarian characteristics. He also provides an excellent example of their altruistic capacity to give, by offering Menelaos anything he would 'wish', another Aquarian keyword. Although Antilokhos may have originally ticked off Menelaos with his madcap driving, and not been intimidated enough to try by his rank, he is wise enough to know that he should not leave things this way.

  As with all of these chapters, there are additional examples of the celestial writ running here on earth.

Classical Greek Urn

Classical Greek Urn

One of Aquarius's qualities is that, when they are 'on', their actions can be brilliant, incredible, and even border on the unbelievable... when it works. There is an example of this in the archery contest at the end of the chapter which I will leave for you to investigate on your own. The themes we have been examining here are the bonded connections of comrades, not only among the officers, but among the troops as well as they witness the fun and frivolity of friendly competition. Lines where they move 'as one' are another of the threads which weaves its way through this chapter, in joy or in sadness, as 'the crowd of Akhaians laughed,' or 'the soldiers roared applause', or 'All the Akhaians breathed a mighty sigh' (groaned). This is the people, together, as one. There are additional references to the winds, friends, and even of individuals running against the grain of popular opinion and getting away with it (that's what Aquarians do). But it was the image of the urn, cauldron or drinking vessel which was everywhere present, but easily overlooked, as it was masterfully woven into the story line and yet perfectly concealed within the flow of the narrative, so seamless the stitch. It only makes sense that, like the arrow of Sagittarius to the archer, so the urn, caldron and cup would be the stylized symbol of the waterbearer. The chapter opens with the urn which will hold the ashes of both Patroklos and Akhilleus, and whose final lines seize on this very image for added emphasis with a new caldron 'chased with floral figures.' In all, there are twenty-seven times that this motif bubbles to the surface of these airy ethers in Chapter XXIII. Here are the final four lines:

Cauldron border

"Lord Marshal Agamemnon gave consent,
so the bronze-shod spear went to Meriones.
Then to his crier, Talthybios,
Agamemnon entrusted the beautiful caldron."

Urn border