Athena's Web

The eternal question...

Who is Athena?

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Hesiod's Hymn to Athena

I begin to sing of Pallas Athene,
the glorious goddess, bright-eyed, inventive,
unbending of heart, pure virgin,
saviour of cities, courageous Tritogeneia.

Athena on Vase



From his awful head wise Zeus himself bare her
arrayed in warlike arms of flashing gold,
and awe seized all the gods as they gased.

But Athena sprang quickly
from the immortal head and stood before
Zeus who holds the aegis,
shaking a sharp spear:
great Olympus began to reel horribly
at the might of the bright-eyed goddess,
and earth around about cried fearfully,
and the sea was moved
and tossed with dark waves,
while foam bust forth suddenly:
the bright Son of Hyperion stopped
his swift-footed horses a long while,
until the maiden Pallas Athene
had stripped the heavenly armour
from her immortal shoulders.

And wise Zeus was glad.

Athenian coin


  Hesiod's Hymn describes the birth of Athena (or Athene- both spellings are considered correct), full grown in battle armor from the head of Zeus. She is best known as a Greek goddess of warfare and strategies, personified by the Romans as Minerva. In addition, she was considered a virgin goddess of the arts and crafts in general, and of weaving and tapestries specifically. There is good reason to believe that her origins may stem from Africa, possibly Libya.

  Metis was said to be the mother of Athena. Metis is a name that means 'cunning' or 'wisdom'. Zeus used Metis to help overthrown the Titans. Cronus had been told that he would be overthrown by one of his offspring. So he swallowed his children as soon as they were born.
Athenian coin


Zeus escaped this fate when his mother substituted a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes which Cronus predictably swallowed, thinking it to be his newborn child. While in hiding, Zeus grew to manhood. It was then that he persuaded Metis to give his father, Cronus, an emetic. Cronus promptly threw up the brothers and sisters of Zeus, the youngest child. Now backed by immortal allies, the gods, Zeus and his siblings made war on the Titans; Cronus and his siblings.

  After a ten year war the gods prevailed. Zeus married Metis, who became his first wife. But just as Cronus had been warned that he would be overthrown by one of his offspring, so Zeus was warned by Uranus and Ge (Heaven and Earth) that the second child Metis bore would be a man destined to rule heaven. With the precedent already set by his father, Zeus decided to circumnavigate this fate by swallowing Metis whole, even though she was with child.

  This he did, and hence, when Athena was ready to be born, either Prometheus (the only male Titan to have helped the gods in the ten year long war) or the craftsman god Hephaestus solved the problem by splitting Zeus's head open with an ax. Out stepped Athena, as depicted by Hesiod in the hymn above.

Athena battling with a Titan

Athena in the War with the Titans

  The swallowing of Metis by Zeus implies that wisdom or cunning is always contained within the heavens, or through Zeus as the personification and Lord of the Heavens. Like her divine mother Athena is both born and the embodiment of wisdom.

  The following is one of the many myths about Athena. Arachne was a young mortal Lydian woman who had been blessed with a sacred gift. She was known throughout the land at being adept at weaving. Unfortunately, she let this fame go to her head and rashfully boasted that she would not hesitate to test her skills against Athena herself, the goddess of crafts. If there was one consistent message throughout the classical world in antiquity, it was that you don't vie with the gods. The boast ticked Athena off, and the goddess visited the young maid in the form of an old woman, warning her of the dangers of presumption. When Arachne scorned the old woman's advice, the goddess dropped her disguise, and a contest began.

  Underscoring her warning, Athena's fingers flew. She wove legends of people punished by the gods for their arrogance. In her tapestry, the young maid countered by flawlessly depicting a few Olympian scandals. Although Athena had been merely annoyed with Arachne's boasts, she now flew into a rage when the girl proved that her skills were, in fact, on a level to challenge the skills of the goddess. She tore Arachne's tapestry apart, picked up her shuttle, and began to beat the young girl with it. In humiliation Arachne hanged herself. As she turned on the end of the rope, the goddess turned her into a spider, but gave her back her life so that Arachne's talent for spinning survived unimpaired and was passed on to her offspring.



  This is a synopsis of the myth from Ovid's Metamorphoses, and illustrates various themes both past and present. Classical tradition has deep roots, but the cultures we associate them with were all products of the Age of Aries, a time when individual achievement, vanity, fame and rage were all emphasized in life and legend. The skills, both mortal and divine, are demonstrated through the weave of various threads in the tapestry, and of cunning which benefits the greater community.

  Each stitch is a part of a greater whole, for the rug, the room,
or the weave of life on heaven's loom.

  This is the essence of Athena's Web.

  Athena's Web received its official birth on Dec 1, 1978 as an hour long radio program on WMUA, Amherst, MA. Airtime was 6 PM, sharp. It continued in this guise for five years, and evolved to include spot forecasts given twice daily during the week on the celestial currents. On this series we talked to astronomers, astrologers, professors, and priests about their observations of astrology; of where it fit in the church, in history, in science and amongst other astrologers and the public. In our

'Music of the Spheres'
segment, we explored the celestial nature of various artists through their craft. Entire shows were devoted to Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin, but also to Billie Holiday, Judy Collins and Donovan, among others. In '83, a column entitled Athena's Web was begun in the Campus Connection, and was picked up by the Advocate Newspapers a year later, with a circulation of over a quarter million in the Connecticut River Valley of New England. Currently, the Web is being carried in the Amherst Bulletin.

  In '86, Athena's Web was aired as a segment of Cable Connection,a PM Magazine television show out of Springfield, MA and featured the daily spot forecasts for a year. Don went on to write, produce, and edit four half hour shows on Astrology 101 through the an introduction to the twelve signs of the zodiac in a series entitled Springfield by Starlight.

   An astrologer since 1972, Don is known for the warmth and deep insight he brings to his counseling practice. He's been writing a weekly column entitled Athena's Web since 1983 for up to a quarter million people - on-line and in local papers. He has produced shows for radio and television, including Myths, Dragons and the Ages (available on video) and has taught and lectured at a number of colleges across the country. He has built a reconstruction of one of the earliest models of Stonehenge, upon which an article appeared in the New York Times in August, 2002. Having produced a planetarium show for Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado- Boulder (offered nine times there since its creation in January, 2005), he is currently on a national speaking tour.


Parthanon Don


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