Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of September 2nd - September 8th,  2011

Shape-Shifter

Columns Archive

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the Golden Egg

the Golden Egg

  Last week we watched Heaven's Laithe metamorphed from one archetype into another. The themes of Gemini- of duality, travel, communication, AIR, eggs and birds, gave up their spiritual supremacy to the leader of the herd. The Earth Sign Taurus took over as Heaven's Spring, and Creation passed it's baton to the Great Bull.

  We listened as two myths embraced this pictorial shift. Legend tells us that the Earth God Geb, the head of the Egyptian pantheon at the time, had originally been known as the Great Cackler, the heavenly Goose who daily laid the golden Egg of Creation, the day, and the gift it gives us, life.

  For what greater gift could you ask?

  The other myth which steps into the telephone booth for a quick transference is the Tale of Two Brothers, which sets the stage with Twins, but then transitions into a Bull.

  In each of these two examples, it is Time that becomes the variable ingredient. Where is the Spring Time point (the Vernal Equinox) at the moment? What moment are you talking about?

Two Brothers

A Tale of Two Brothers

  Another myth that employs these shape shifting elements is that of the battle of Heracles and Achelous. In this myth, Time is not a variable, it is set. Rather, one of the personalities that our Super Hero puts on is that of his true nature, his secret identity. According to Bullfinch's Mythology, we even have a first hand account.

  "The river god Achelous told the story of Erisichthon to Theseus and his companions, whom he was entertaining at his hospitable board, while they were delayed on their journey by the overflow of his waters. Having finished his story, he added, "But why should I tell of other persons' transformations when I myself am an instance of the possession of this power? Sometimes I become a serpent, and sometimes a bull, with horns on my head. Or I should say I once could do so; but now I have but one horn, having lost one." And here he groaned and was silent.

Akheloos or Achelous

The source of the myth?

  "Theseus asked him the cause of his grief, and how he lost his horn. To which question the river god replied as follows: "Who likes to tell of his defeats? Yet I will not hesitate to relate mine, comforting myself with the thought of the greatness of my conqueror, for it was Hercules. Perhaps you have heard of the fame of Dejanira, the fairest of maidens, whom a host of suitors strove to win. Hercules and myself were of the number, and the rest yielded to us two. He urged in his behalf his descent from Jove and his labours by which he had exceeded the exactions of Juno, his stepmother. I, on the other hand, said to the father of the maiden, 'Behold me, the king of the waters that flow through your land. I am no stranger from a foreign shore, but belong to the country, a part of your realm. Let it not stand in my way that royal Juno owes me no enmity nor punishes me with heavy tasks. As for this man, who boasts himself the son of Jove, it is either a false pretence, or disgraceful to him if true, for it cannot be true except by his mother's shame.'

Battling the River

Heracles battling Achelous
at the headwaters

  "As I said this Hercules scowled upon me, and with difficulty restrained his rage. 'My hand will answer better than my tongue,' said he. 'I yield to you the victory in words, but trust my cause to the strife of deeds.' With that he advanced towards me, and I was ashamed, after what I had said, to yield. I threw off my green vesture and presented myself for the struggle. He tried to throw me, now attacking my head, now my body. My bulk was my protection, and he assailed me in vain. For a time we stopped, then returned to the conflict. We each kept our position, determined not to yield, foot to foot, I bending over him, clenching his hand in mine, with my forehead almost touching his. Thrice Hercules tried to throw me off, and the fourth time he succeeded, brought me to the ground, and himself upon my back. I tell you the truth, it was as if a mountain had fallen on me. I struggled to get my arms at liberty, panting and reeking with perspiration. He gave me no chance to recover, but seized my throat. My knees were on the earth and my mouth in the dust.

  "Finding that I was no match for him in the warrior's art, I resorted to others and glided away in the form of a serpent. I curled my body in a coil and hissed at him with my forked tongue. He smiled scornfully at this, and said, 'It was the labour of my infancy to conquer snakes.' So saying he clasped my neck with his hands. I was almost choked, and struggled to get my neck out of his grasp. Vanquished in this form, I tried what alone remained to me and assumed the form of a bull. He grasped my neck with his arm, and dragging my head down to the ground, overthrew me on the sand. Nor was this enough. His ruthless hand rent my horn from my head. The Naiads took it, consecrated it, and filled it with fragrant flowers. Plenty adopted my horn and made it her own, and called it 'Cornucopia.'"

Heracles and Akhiloos doing battle

Note the broken horn on the floor
between the legs of Heracles

  "The ancients were fond of finding a hidden meaning in their mythological tales. They explain this fight of Achelous with Hercules by saying Achelous was a river that in seasons of rain overflowed its banks. When the fable says that Achelous loved Dejanira, and sought a union with her, the meaning is that the river in its windings flowed through part of Dejanira's kingdom. It was said to take the form of a snake because of its winding, and of a bull because it made a brawling or roaring in its course. When the river swelled, it made itself another channel. Thus its head was horned. Hercules prevented the return of these periodical overflows by embankments and canals; and therefore he was said to have vanquished the river god and cut off his horn. Finally, the lands formerly subject to overflow, but now redeemed, became very fertile, and this is meant by the horn of plenty."

  In their first guise, they are correct. Achelous is the River, with his bulk his best defense, but the serpent and the Bull they miss the mark on. Yes, the river winds like a serpent, but that is not the source of the connection.

  The Serpent and Bull are our Center and Circle. Rather than a 'shift' in time, we are being given a specific period of time. When the Bull God's horn was being snapped off by the Sky God Heracles (son of the Sky God Zeus), when the ecliptic 'cut' the upper horn of the Bull, sometime between 3200 and 2900 BC.

  Agricultural tools and tips were being passed on and implemented through this period in western Greece.

  Using the cycle of the Seasons (Heracles), the flooding wathers of the river were diked, damed and controlled, and the river valley's bounty was made available to Greece at the end of the 3rd, beginning of the second milleninna.

  Or so the myth seems to be telling us.


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