This week we are taking a look at Aries, the first sign of the zodiac.
Symbolized by the Ram, this sign and constellation are ruled by Mars, the Roman God of War. It is a cardinal fire sign, which rules over military matters (hence the term, martial) and all that relates to it; such as war, men-at-arms, soldiers, troops, swords and marches, from which our month, March, gets its name; marking the cadence of spring when troops would march (Mars) out to battle. It deals with macho in general and of man in particular. It is the sign of the subjective; of I, me and mine. As the ruler of the head, this can be individual combat, face to face. As a fire sign, these folks can run hot, get angry, and pick fights where no offense was intended. They are not good at patience and their interests generally wither over the long haul. This is competition, of striving, of the supreme physical exertion to win, to be the best, to become the champion over all. This is the sign of courage, honor, and who is first, best, or the premier. These are picked men. A part of their high side is that they are ready to act, at a moment's notice, without hesitation or restraint. A part of their low side is that they are ready to act, at a moment's notice, without hesitation or restraint. The dog was considered to be the animal of Mars (man's best friend), and while they do guard and protect, so, too, they can snap at and attack anyone who approaches their territory, often stopped by only a leash or fence. Aries is a sign that lives in the moment.
We have come full circle with Homer's Iliad. Having started with Chapter II. in May of 2003 with Taurus, and examined Chapter XXIV last week with Pisces, we now look at the first chapter of this work and complete the cycle. This is where Homer began his astrological primer, in the ninth year of conflict of the Trojan War, opening our theme by setting the stage (as he has through so many of the chapters in this work), by establishing the vibration of the constellation right at the start of the chapter.
Akhilleus' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men- carrion
for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done."
Anger, fear, quarrels and fights are the knotted weave of this chapter. In order now, let's work our way through and see who's angry at whom. It begins when Agamemnon ticks off Apollo, so that the god makes a 'burning wind' of plague rise in the troops (plagues generate fevers, our fire sign). So many die that the 'pyres burned night and day.' More fire. The problem, it seems, is that Agamemnon will not release a prize of battle. He had respectfully been asked by a priest of Apollo named Khryses who had brought 'no ends of ransom' to get his daughter back, but Agamemnon gets angry at him and sends him packing, without his daughter.
in silence trailing away..."
The priest then prays to Apollo to bring the plague on the army, which he does. Ten days later, after many dogs, pack animals and men have died, Akhilleus calls an assembly to discuss the plague and its causes. Agamemnon gets angry at the Greek diviner (one who received his gift of divination from Apollo) who says that having insulted Khryses, the priest of Apollo is, in fact, the problem, and then gets mad at Akhilleus for telling him to let it go. Akhilleus in turn gets mad at Agamemnon after quite a few taunts, Agamemnon finally concedes his prize on the condition that he take Akhilleus's prize of battle, another woman, instead. Akhilleus angrily contemplates single combat with Agamemnon, and is getting ready to kill him when Athena enters on the scene and tells him not to. Akhilleus decides to sit out the battle with the Trojans, no matter how much the Greeks need him, accuses Agamemnon of not having enough courage to fight with the troops, calls him 'dogface', and insults him in various other martial ways. Nestor tries to intervene, calling Agamemnon 'foremost in council' and Akhilleus 'foremost in battle.' Here we have the first and the best. Agamemnon is the Lord Marshall, while Akhilleus is the army's most formidable warrior. Each takes it personally, tempers are short, and Akhilleus seems to feel that the army has been personally offended by Agamemnon's actions. Hera gets mad at Zeus, and Zeus tells Hera to shove it, and our marvellous tale is off to its heated start!
One of the first things that jumps to mind in reading through this chapter is the predominace of Apollo throughout. While Mars is the ruler of Aries, the Sun (Apollo) is exalted in this sign. The qualities of the Sun do well in Aries. As the Sun crosses the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring, light overcomes darkness, and the promise of a new, vital year, with all of its opportunities for living begin to unfold. The days are getting longer, winter is behind us, and the exuberance, enthusiasm and excitement of shedding winter wraps, seeing the first blossoms of Spring and watching lambs, colts and calves playing in the fields warms our hearts and dispositions. While making its passage through Aries, the Sun moves fast, is strong, and gets stronger with each passing day.
Since the Sun, as the Lord Apollo, is the essence of light and life, it also represents truth, wherein no falsehood, darkness, or deception can enter. The light of the Sun eliminates shadows, and no matter how dark the tale, it cannot approach the throne of the Sun. This is why Apollo was the Lord of the Oracle, divination, and Delphi. He discerned ways to tell the truth. His association with the arrows are the rays and astrological influence of the Sun, while the realtionship to fire and the plague with its fevers should be obvious. Akhilleus has no problem making the connection of the plague to Apollo, even before the diviner has confirmed what the problem is by asking "Why all this anger of the god Apollo?"
angered him, so he made a burning wind
of plague rise in the army: rank and file
sickened and died for the ill their chief had done
in despising a man of prayer.
This priest, Khryses, had come down to the ships
with gifts, no end of ransom for his daughter;
on a golden staff he carried the god's white bands
and sued for grace from the men of Akhaia,
the two Atreidai most of all:
Then all the soldiers murmured their assent:
'Behave well to the priest. And take the ransom!'
But Agamemnon would not. It went against his desire,
'Let me not find you here by the long ships
Notice how it is the army which keeps being brought into the focus.
"...so he made a burning wind
Dogs and foot soldiers, the minions of Mars.
"Now when he heard this prayer, Phoibos Apollo
Kalkhas, the diviner comes forward when asked by Akhilleus in front of the troops what the problem might be, but he is afraid to speak.
"He knew what was, what had been, what would be,
A great man in his rage is formidable
Of course Kalkhas, being a diviner, is absolutely right. Agamemnon is furious.
"He finished and sat down. The son of Atreus,
'You visionary of hell,
For all of that, I am willing now to yeild her
Prince Akhilleus answered him:
'Lord Marshal, most insatiate of men,
There are many martial weaves at work in these paragraphs. Agamemnon is ticked. He wants his prize NOW, not at some later date. The army is being hit by the plague, the army is what he is concerned about being destroyed, and it is the army which is expected to come up with his new 'prize of honor.' Through Agamemnon, the subjective case of I, me and mine is underscored. "I, of all Argives?" My prize? Me? Rewards offered later hold absolutely no allure for the king. He wants it now! Aries is a fire sign, a sign of action and immediacy. Notice that the anger feeds through his heart and emerges through his eyes...
"Round his heart resentment
Agamemnon is not a happy camper.
"Not that way
And this is where the concern for individual soldiers in the army is inflamed and considered reprehensible. Akhilleus projects his own rage onto the troops, but both are reflections of the red hot flame of Mars.
"Akhilleus frowned and looked at him, then said:
'You thick-skinned, shameless, greedy fool!
Never have I had plunder like your own
To which Agamemnon replies:
I do not
And then Agamemnon really throws the gauntlet down in a show of personal power:
This is where Agamemnon takes it to Akhilleus and calls his bluff, man to man, face to face, power to power. The time has come to either act, or back down. In return, of course, this is where Akhilleus is pushed to the limit, and it's only by the intervention of Athena that he holds his sword and gives him a tongue lashing and a promise instead, upon her advise. In the meantime Akhilleus identifies himself with the common foot soldier by asserting that Agamemnon will never abuse one soldier more (of course Akhilleus is the one who stands at the head of that line and is the one about to be abused as the others simply look on). The shouting match is more of the same, and the issues of anger, the soldiers, the army and other martial themes continue to boil away in the heat of this intense flame.
An interesting side light, however, is when Nestor attempts to intervene, to make peace between these two, recognizing the potential consequences of not having Akhilleus there with them among the troops. In doing so, he relates stories of his youth, and a further stage is set wherein our martial champions can strut their stuff across the field of battle.
"Give me your attention. Both (of you)
alive now upon earth could stand against them."
This is what Aries is all about, champions battling with champtions, an Olympics of Supermen. These were men like the immortal gods! But after all of this build up of course, the impatience of the moment grabs them, they do not listen to Nestor's advice. Generally speaking, nobody is much interested in yesterday's heroes. They pay attention only to top dogs, not old dogs. As we have mentioned before, Aries is only concerned with the here and now, of might making right in the moment.
"They quarreled in this way, face to face, and then
Aries is a sign born of spring. It is sure of its power, and when the blossom of that flower has faded, it looks back to when taste buds were intact, smells were richer, hearing was keener and vision sharper. In short, everything seems better because it was enhanced by the strength and invincibility of youth.
To say that Chapter I of Homer's Iliad, or indeed any chapter of Homer's Iliad is an Aries work, and then to go through and try to pick out the examples is like carrying coals to Newcastle. They're everywhere! The entire work was written in the middle of the Age of Aries in the heat of battle. Champions, heroes, swords, anger, testosterone and the smells of the locker room after the game are all apparent in great abundance, so much so as to become offensive. But the framework of having the Lord Marshall (or Commander-in-Chief as we would call him today) square off with his most powerful warrior in potentially fatal face to face combat, demonstrating the height of egotism and self-service, and having the army bear the brunt of the divine retrobution for his indignation knots together the essence of this first sign of the zodiac about as well as anyone possibly could.