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 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.
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
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
And for the quarter mile...
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,
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?
"Iris heard his prayer and went to tell the winds,
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.
"...the north and west winds
"Now when the star of morning eastward rose
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
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
Before the fist fight Epeios warns whoever would contest with him that it would be wise to have his friends ready...
And the prediction made by Epeios turns out to have been accurate.
"Then Epeios leapt out
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..."
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
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
'Antilokhos, by heaven, even as a youngster
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:
Even our air theme images breeze through the passages as the chariot race gets underway.
"Over the plain they covered distance quickly,
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.
"Antilokhos saw the narrowing track ahead.
'Antilokhos, you're diving like a madman!
Antilokhos only drove harder, lashing his team,
'Antilokhos, no man
After the race is finished, Menelaos calls on Antilokhos to account for his reckless actions before the others Akhaians.
"'Antilokhos, you were clearheaded once.
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.
When he had spoken,
'Now, Antilokhos, I am coming round to you,
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.
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:
"Lord Marshal Agamemnon gave consent,