Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of August 4th - August 10th, 2006

Olympian Sunrise

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Olympian Sunrise

Sunrise as seen from Mt. Olympus

  "The sun rose on the flawless brimming sea
into a sky all brazen- all one brightening
for immortal gods and mortal men
on plowlands blessed with grain."

  Homer's Odyssey, Chap. III, 1-4

  As I write this week's column, I am watching a brilliant sunrise from a hostel nestled in one of the many folds of Mt. Olympus, the legendary home of the mythical gods of Greece. Looking east over the coastal plain from this elevated summit, a golden path extends between Heaven and Earth, reflecting off the waters of the early morning Aegean Sea.

  Mt. Olympus is the tallest mountain in Greece, logging in at 2917 meters, with its peaks often shrouded in cloud. It is located in the northeastern corner of the country, close to the shores of the Aegean, or more specifically, the Gulf of Thermaikos. Astrologers are quick to point out the connection between planets and ancient pantheon. While the seven visible planets may be linked to seven gods of this tradition (Phoebus Apollo or Helios is the Sun; Artemis, Diana or Hecate the Moon; Hermes as Mercury; Aphrodite as Venus; Ares as Mars; Zeus as Jupiter and Kronos as Saturn) astronomers are dubious about the associations.
Sunset atop Mt Olympus

Sunset over Mt. Olympus

Who, in the celestial firmament, did astrologers think Uranus, Neptune or Pluto were thousands of years before these planetary bodies were discovered? What about the gods who have yet to be equated with celestial bodies, such as Pan, Dionysus or Heracles? These are good empirical arguments. While there is little doubt that during the period of the Roman Empire astrology was deeply entwined with the roots of the mythological tradition (many classical authors wrote extensive books on the subject), how early did this association go back, and was it indeed present at the start of pagan worship?

Mercury with caduceus and purse

Mercury

  As in contemporary astrology, the gods or goddesses work through people, taking on the guise of this or that person. Today, as Mercury pivots, going retrograde or direct, communicational energies are heightened and we may get a call from work or an email from a friend changing our plans. In the same manner, Mercury (Hermes) comes to give Odysseus some information which was apparently heaven sent. From Chapter 10 of the Odyssey:

  "I turned and left him, left the shore and ship,
and went up through the woodland
hushed and shady
to find the subtle witch in her long hall.
But Hermes met me, with his golden wand,
barring the way- a boy whose lip was downy
in the first bloom of manhood, so he seemed.
He took my hand
and spoke as though he knew me..."

  In this short passage several of the planetary attributes are being related, working through this choreographed encounter. Both Apollo and Hermes (the Sun and Mercury) are generally depicted in their youth; Mercury in its first bloom (like Bob Dylan, ruled by Mercury, in his early song writing days), and Apollo in his prime, as a virile young man. The hand is one of the parts of the body ruled by Mercury, as are the arms, lungs and nervous system. Finally as the messenger of the gods Mercury deals with communications, and here Odysseus is being given advice on what to do. This was the way in which heavenly influence was described in antiquity.

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