"Of the portents recorded in ancient tales many did happen and will happen again." 7
--Plato Where does love and passion reside in myth? Everywhere! The gods and goddesses where never lukewarm about anything they desired. The first place to look for clues about passion and love, though, is in the beginning, in the myth of creation itself.
Love first emerges in Greek mythology as one of four original deities. They include Chaos, the dark and silent abyss from which all things are born, Gaea or mother earth, Tartarus, the lowest regions of the underworld and Eros, the god of love.
“In truth at first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundation of al the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth,  and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them.” 8 This suggests that Eros, and all he represents, assumes a major role as a primary and preeminent god. Although his form changes throughout history, his power to cause things to mingle remains his initial and fundamental domain.
Eros descends through mythology, transforming headlong into progressively more accessible figures. First as the son of Chaos, hatched from the egg of night, he creates the manifest wold. His form here is amorphous and intangible, omnipotent and ineffable.
Eros does soon take shape though. In some versions of myth he is portrayed as the powerful igniter of union that eventually brought forth the race of immortal Olympians. All winged creatures, from geese to falcons, proudly claim him as the father of their race.
Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in deep Tartarus with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light… Thus our origin is very much older than that of the dwellers in Olympus. We are the offspring of Eros; there are a thousand proofs to show it. We have wings and we lend assistance to lovers. 9
Shortly after fathering the race of birds, Eros creates harmony throughout the universe as the child of Uranus, the starry heavens, and Gaea, or mother earth. Now he has tangible parents and thus comes a little closer to embodiment.
Later myth portrays Eros as the son of Artemis, the moon goddess, and Hermes, the trickster. He also claims Iris, guardian of the rainbow and Zephyrs, god of the north wind as parents. In Phoenician Mythology, he is the son of Chronas and Ashtart.
When Eros appears as Aphrodite’s son, he manifests as a youthful winged deity, the lithe and gorgeous god of love. He carries a bow and quiver of arrows which he selectively shoots into the hearts of the unsuspecting.
You carry along the unyielding hearts of the immortals, Aphrodite, and the hearts of men, and with you is he of the many-colored wings, surrounding them with his swift pinions. Eros flies over the earth and over the loud-roaring salt sea and bewitches the one on whose frenzied mind he darts, winged and gold-gleaming, he bewitches the whelps of the mountain and those of the sea, what the earth brings forth and what the blazing sun looks down upon, and likewise mortal men. 10
In this form, he has seemingly abandoned the title ‘creator of harmony’ for the mischievous roll of ‘animator of love’. The experience of love that Eros injects into man and gods, and according to Euripides, all creatures of the land and sea alike, is anything but harmonious. It is the obsessive, adrenaline driven intensity of falling in love, often with the completely wrong person. In some accounts, Eros is equipped with two distinct kinds of darts. The ones dipped in gold cause the victim to fall madly in love and the ones dipped in lead cause an equally vial repulsion. Either way, it seems, it is Eros who now creates chaos!
The mixed parenthood of the god of love, as well as his transforming images, (some versions of myth have him assisting Aphrodite at her birth and in others he is her offspring), may illustrates ongoing changes in the collective awareness of the concept of erotic love and creativity. As the son of chaos, he has no tangible form. He is the power of attraction that co-ordinates the elements of the universe bringing harmony to all creation. In this role, Eros is more a cosmic force than an actual god of passionate or personal love. Portrayed as the son of Aphrodite, goddess of love, he embodies a humanoid form and eventually experiences the power and passion of love himself in his relationship to the mortal woman Psyche.
Eros then manifests as the Roman god Cupid, the son of Mars, the god of war and action and Venus, goddess of love. Here he no longer is the dangerously attractive youth capable of succumbing to the same fate of his victims. In his child-like state, he is prepubescent and immune to his own arts.
Cupid, often depicted blindfolded to mark the seemingly indiscriminant nature of love, now takes the form of a laughing, naughty infant who delightfully shoots arrows into the hearts of the unaware. His victims respond depending on the temper of their feelings. The cold, hard heart dies, the gentle but perhaps broken heart heals in ecstasy. It is the nature of erotic love to transform the participants in accordance with their own disposition.
The metamorphosis from ineffable creator of harmony to mischievous little baby god is quite a leap. It suggests an attempt to convert the unfathomable, impersonal and all mighty deity to an accessible humanized figure representing very personal needs and feelings. Jung speaks of Eros in this way:
“In Classical times, when such things were properly understood, Eros was considered a god whose divinity transcended our human limits, and who therefore could neither be comprehended nor represented in any way. I might, as many before me have attempted to do, venture an approach to this daimon, whose range of activity extends from the endless spaces of the heavens to the dark abysses of hell; but I falter before the task of finding the language which might adequately express the incalculable paradoxes of love.” 11 Some of these incalculable paradoxes are portrayed in the love story of Psyche and Eros. In this myth, we can see the actions and desires of three very important images of love, passion and desire portrayed by Eros, Venus/Aphrodite and the mortal Psyche.
The myth of Eros & Psyche
“Myths evoke feelings and imagination and touch on themes that are part of the human collective inheritance. The myths…remain current and personally relevant because there is a ring of truth in them about shared human experience.”
--Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD The story of Psyche and Eros offers a great deal of insight into the archetypal image of love, Eros and his prospective role in the astrological chart. The most recent detailed mythology regarding Eros comes from The Golden Ass, written by Lucius Apuleius in 170 AD and tells of the love between Psyche and Eros12. This myth is no less relevant for its extensive study, analysis and use as models for relationship, the emergence of consciousness, and the path of erotic love.
The story opens with a description of Psyche’s two older sisters. They were extremely beautiful, but when Psyche grew into womanhood, it was said of her:
“ Yet the singular passing beauty and maidenly majesty of the youngest daughter did so far surmount and excel them two (sisters), as no earthly creature could by any means sufficiently express or set out the same.”13 Psyche is a beauty. She enchants her father’s modest kingdom with an unobtainable and virginal loveliness that sets the inhabitants to worshiping. In only a short time, word of Psyche’s beauty has spread throughout the countryside and people swarm to see her. Meanwhile, Aphrodite’s temples are neglected. Not a good look for the goddess of love.
Predictably, Aphrodite experiences extreme insult at this delinquency. In a jealous rage, she elicits the help of her son Eros to punish the usurping Psyche and the mortals that adore her. She instructs Eros to pierce Psyche with one of his golden tipped arrows causing her to fall in love with a worthless, wretched and vial being. While Eros and Aphrodite plot her demise, Psyche pines.
In her naivete, Psyche, though beautiful and magnetic, feels miserable. The known world may worship her, but no real man comes courting. She is like an object of art, a rare painting or precious vase. Apuleius puts it this way:
“Psyche…lamented her solitary life, and being disquieted both in mind and body, although she pleased all the world, yet hated she in her self her own beauty.”14
Concerned by his youngest daughter’s despair, Psyche’s father seeks the advice of the Oracle of Apollo, the consciousness of the sun. He is shocked by what he hears for it seems the King’s precious daughter must be sacrificed to a demon god, or terrible ruin would befall the kingdom. Apuleius’ quotes the oracle:
“Let Psyches corps be clad in mourning weed
And set on rock of yonder hill aloft:
Her husband is no wight of humane seed,
But Serpent dire and fierce as might be thought.
Who flies with wings above in starry skies,
And doth subdue each thing with firie flight.
The gods themselves, and powers that seem so wise,
And darkness eke [*] , as thrall to him remain.” 15 Psyche accepted her fate as the entire kingdom despondently joined the funeral procession to the lonely rock where she is to meet her ‘death’ and marry the ‘serpent dire’. Psyche then questions her parent’s belated remorse.
“Why torment you your unhappy age with continual dolou? …Now you see the reward of my excellent beauty: now, now you perceive, but too late, the plague of envy. When the people did honor me, and call me the new Venus,
then ye should have wept, then you should have sorrowed as though I had been dead: for now I see and perceive that I am come to this misery by the only name of Venus, bring me, and as fortune hath appointed, place me on the top of the rock, I greatly desire to end my marriage, I greatly covet to
see my husband. Why doe I delay? Why should I refuse him that is appointed to destroy all the world.” 16
No one suspects that Eros, the son of Aphrodite, the golden god of love, has accidentally pricked himself on one of his own arrows and fallen madly in love with the mortal Psyche. None of Psyche’s distraught family members could guess that Eros plans to abduct her for himself. Although at this point, we might examine the oracle of Apollo more closely and ask if it may actually be indeed Eros the augury is referring to.
Eros then sends Zephyrs, god of the North wind, to retrieve Psyche from the rock and bring her to his palace. There Psyche’s wishes are tended by invisible servants who anticipate her every need. She rests, bathes and eats among the gold, ivory and jeweled mosaics that adorn the enchanted home of the god of love.
With unseen musicians playing a heavenly symphony, Eros comes to Psyche by night and makes ‘perfect consummation’ of their marriage. Night after night he keeps her company, stealing away only just before dawn. He has made Psyche promise to never look upon his face and initially she agrees. She is enchanted by the palace, her new husband and the magical servants who cater to her every need. Only the tiniest bit of loneliness befalls her in the day.
However, her loneliness and desire for human contact grows until she passes both the days and nights with tears of distress and longing. Eros, concerned by her condition, finally agrees to allow Psyche’s sister to visit, but he warns her again not to gaze upon his face. Her curiosity, he said, would bring about the end of their life together and cause the child growing inside her to be mortal, not divine.
The visit from Psyche’s sisters turns out to be as destructive as Eros feared. Feigning joy at their reunion, Psyche’s siblings are actually stricken with fierce jealousy. They suggest her husband is an evil serpent (that image again) who needs destroying before he devours Psyche and her unborn child whole. They press her to hide a razor and a lamp near the bed. When he falls asleep, she is to light the lamp and cut off his head. Psyche is flooded with anxiety and the ambivalent fear that they may speak the truth!
Torn between loyalty to her sisters and loyalty to her husband, she eventually gets up, lights the lamp and approaches the bed with the razor. When Psyche discovers that her husband is the stunning and resplendent god Eros, she is overwhelmed by the vision. In rapture she accidentally pricks herself on one of his arrows and adds ‘love upon love’ to what she already feels for him. She covers him with kisses and in the process, a splash of hot oil burns the beautiful god. He jumps up, looks at her with astonishment and deep disappointment and runs. Psyche grabs his leg and holds on as he leaps into the air until she finally drops to the ground in exhaustion. He lands near her saying:
“O simple Psyches, consider with thy self how I, little regarding the
commandment of my mother (who willed me that thou shouldst be married
to a man of base and miserable condition) did come my self from heaven to love thee, and wounded mine own body with my proper weapons, to have thee to my Spouse: And did I seem a beast unto thee, that thou shouldst go about to cut off my head with a razor, who loved thee so well? Did not I always give thee a charge? Did not I gently will thee to beware? But those cursed adlers and Counselors of thine shalt be sufficiently punished by my absence.” 17 Shocked, overwhelmed, and suffering greatly, Psyche experienced a crucial point in her relationship with Eros. At last, she discovers the inheritance of her unborn child. She also finally understands who it is she has fallen in love with. For Psyche, there is no turning back. She must reunited with Eros or die.
This point in the myth is not suggesting we never look at the face of Eros, or that by never questioning him will guarantee his presence forever. It is more an account of discovering what we really want and the steps necessary to obtain it. Until now, Psyche did not know who she loved. This knowledge, however, does not make Psyche any less despairing. As she watches his figure recede into the distance, she throws herself into a river in hopes of drowning.
As chance would have it, the river, being a friend of Eros, places Psyche back safely on the bank. As she struggled up from the muddy shore, she saw Pan, instructing, or perhaps seducing, a young woman. He looked upon the disheveled Psyche and said:
“O faire maid, I am a rusticke and rude heardsman, howbeit by reason of my old age expert in many things, for as far as I can learn by conjecture (which according as wise men do term is called divination) I perceive by your uncertain gate, your pale hew, your sobbing sighs, and your watery eyes, that you are greatly in love.” 18 Pan goes on to suggest to Psyche that she forgo suicide and focus on devoting herself to winning Eros back. Initially, she takes his advice to heart.
Psyche’s first action is to confront her jealous sisters. Upon entering her oldest sister’s city Psyche explains that it was the son of Aphrodite that was her husband but when he saw she had betrayed him, he sent her away and said he’d have the sister instead. Wild with this news, the sister raced to the mountain and beseeched Zephyrs to carry her to Eros, but as she leapt off the rock, no wind lifted her and she crashed to her death in the fall. The same happened to the second sister and thus Psyche felt revenged.
Meanwhile, Eros fled to his mother’s house to have his sever burn tended. Empathetic at first, Aphrodite became enraged when she discovered Eros’s disloyalty. Brutally, she rebukes Eros for betraying her wishes and takes away his bow and arrows, cuts his hair and clips his wings. She probably slammed the door as she stormed out as well!
The incensed Aphrodite then solicits the aid of Hera and Ceres to help
find Psyche, but they, fearing Eros’s darts at some point in the future, try to reconcile the mother to her son. Aphrodite will not be soothed.
By now Psyche realizes her only course of action is to seek out the forgiveness of Aphrodite, who seems to be very much in control of her fate. She approaches the palace of the goddess of love to pray for redemption although that is not what she receives. Aphrodite humiliates Psyche, has her whipped and beaten and then presents her with a series of impossible tasks. The goddess of love is convinced a mere mortal will fail her labors, and Psyche isn’t a lot more confident either.
Psyche’s first task in regaining the love of Eros is to sort an enormous pile of mixed grains. She must separate them by evening. As Aphrodite smugly shuts the door behind her, Psyche goes into a catatonic state of despair. She can not even attempt to sort the grains. The job is that impossible. As she lays crumpled on the ground sobbing, a tiny ant comforts her. Calling to his friends, more and more ants come and by evening the grains are sorted neatly into their individual piles by the tiny insects.
It is important to notice that the help offered to psyche is completely unconscious. She neither actively requests aid or contributes any effort in the sorting of the grains. This image may suggest the myriad mixed feeling and emotions that course through the mind and body of one ‘stricken with love’ and highlights the lax of rationality that accompanies it. It also may imply the innate ability of the body to sort those feelings out, one by one, although not with the aid of consciousness, but by its acquiescence.
When Aphrodite returns and sees the labor complete, she assigns Psyche with an even more difficult task. She instructs the girl to go out into a field in the burning sun and collect golden wool from the fleece of man-eating rams.
Psyches gets up, not to do as Aphrodite commanded, but to throw herself headlong into the water, again to drown her sorrows. Then a green reed speaks to her saying:
“O Psyches I pray thee not to trouble or pollute my water by the death of thee, and yet beware that thou go not towards the terrible sheep of this coast, until such time as the heat of the sun be past, for when the sun is in his force, then seem they most dreadful and furious, with their sharp horns, their stony foreheads and their gaping throats, wherewith they arm themselves to the destruction of mankind. But until they have refreshed themselves in the river, thou maist hide thy self here by me, under this great plain tree, and as soon as their great fury is past, thou maist go among the thickets and bushes under the wood side and gather the locks their golden Fleeces, which thou shalt find hanging up on the briers.” 19
It seems the dangerous and passionate rams were unapproachable in their wild state. Direct confrontation would mean certain death, just as anger and hatred, although they can erupt along side of love, can also be love’s death. Having contained the burning passion of the wild rams, Psyche presents handfuls of golden wool to Aphrodite by morning.
Without pause, Psyche immediately receives another labor. Now she must gather water from the deadly rapids of the river Styx. She receives only a crystal bottle to contain the black liquid, the sight of which brings fear even to the hearts’ of the gods.
As Psyche climbed up the path towards the headwaters of the Styx, she intended again to end her life. She could glean no hope of ever accomplishing her task. When she arrived at the crest she stopped stone still and gazed at the two giant and bloody necked dragons guarding the precipice which marked, hundreds of feet below, the caustic waters of the river Styx.
Psyche went catatonic, again. She felt nothing in her body or her heart, neither could she take action of any kind. At this point, Zeus’s eagle swooped down to her. It is not clear whether Zeus sent him or he came of his own accord—yet there is implication that Zeus felt indebted to Eros for the affair with Ganimedes, the young boy made cup bearer to the gods. The great eagle spoke to Psyche and offered to take the bottle and collect the deadly black water himself. This he does and Psyche, not of her own accord, completes yet another task.
Unlike the fierce and wild nature of the passionate rams, the waters of the river Styx may represent the cold cruel hatred of frozen feelings. It seems these too must be faced and contained if Eros is to be won back. Like the wool and the sorting of the grain, psyche must step aside, stand still, or even sleep, allowing the unconscious to complete the task. Readers who find it frustrating that Psyche never seems to gain any overt courage, resolve or strength from her subsequent tasks probably view this ‘stepping aside’ as weak or degrading. On the contrary, in this case it is the necessary and only way to accomplish the labor. It is the only way to unravel the complex repercussions of love.
The final task of Psyche requires a decent into the underworld. She has to borrow some of Persephone’s beauty and place it in a box. She must deliver the box to Aphrodite, unopened and untouched.
Again, psyche’s first and foremost response is suicide. What quicker way to get to Hades than to die? She climbs to the top of a tower and attempts to throw herself off. The tower, however, is inspired, (it is unclear by whom), and speaks to Psyche. He instructs her on how to enter the underworld without dying, how to avoid the distractions that will play upon her virtue and humanity, how to behave with Persephone and how to get out alive, with the box of beauty intact. Finally, Psyche gets to perform a task completely herself.
She follows the tower’s instructions to the letter. She ignores the lame man, the floating corpses, and the desperate weaving women. She ignores her ego drives to aid and assist. She allows Charon to extract a coin from her mouth with his dirty fingers and she tosses honey cakes to the terrifying three headed dog Cerberus, who guards the gaits of Hell. She is careful to accept no nourishment while in the underworld. She humbly procures the box of beauty from Persephone and retraces her steps back past Cerberus, across the river Styx and into the light of day.
It is then, her final task completed with full consciousness, that she causes her own death.
“When Psyches was returned from hell, to the light of the
world, she was ravished with great desire, saying, Am not I a fool, that knowing that I carry here the divine beauty, will not take a little thereof to garnish my face, to please my love with all? And by and by she opened the box where she could perceive no beauty nor any thing else, save only an infernal and deadly sleep, which immediately invaded all her members as soon as the box was uncovered, in such sort that she fell down upon the ground, and lay there as a sleeping corps.” 20
As Psyche slips into a deadly coma, Eros finally awakens from his brood. He sneaks out of the tower room in his mother’s palace, finds his wings and flies straight to Psyche.
It appears that the labors of Psyche have simultaneously transformed Eros as well.
“Eros, the fiery flighty spirit who came and went secretly and refused to be seen in the light, has acquired at least the substance of a healed wound.The Eros she knows now is…produced by the Soul’s contemplation of the Divine Mind; it is the medium through which she can finally be present to “that other loveliness”. He is the carrier of divine beauty which must, to become united with psyche and soma, be touched by the pain of earthly life.21
Eros awakens Psyche with a prick from one of his arrows, returns the beauty to its box and gently chastises his wife.
“O wretched captive, behold thou were well-nigh perished again, with the overmuch curiosity: well, go thou, and do thy message to my Mother, and in the mean season, I will provide for all things accordingly.” 22
Obviously, his vial anger and contempt for Psyche’s behavior has lost its edge. What Eros provided for was Psyche’s immortality, bestowed by Zeus and blessed, finally, by Aphrodite. The wedding banquet on Mt. Olympus was attended by all the gods and goddesses, greater and lesser, demonstrating their universal admiration and acknowledgement of the union.
Not long after, a divine child was born to Psyche and Eros. The name they gave her was Pleasure.
The full translated version of the Tale of Psyche and Eros from The Golden Ass may be found in the appendix. Much pleasure and meaning may be gained from its reading and contemplation in full. As Harriet Eisman shares in her closing paragraph of That other Loveliness:
In pursuing it (Eros), we pursue our greatest desire. Yet, after all, we live in
ignorance of how it will approach. We can only listen, and pray, for the sounds of Eros’ soft, quivering wings.” 23
Eros through the Water Signs of the Zodiac
The twelve signs of the zodiac are divided up into four elements: fire, earth, air and water. Each element represents a particular orientation which the signs belonging to it share. These elements may be compared with Jung’s personality types of intuition, sensation, thinking and feeling respectively. Exploring the mythology of Eros in association with the signs can further our understanding of this mysterious god of love.
The ties that bind Eros to Aphrodite resemble the umbilical ties of the first of the water signs, Cancer. This is the life giving and life destroying link that connects the participants in an eternal cycle of creative inspiration, production and withdrawal reminiscent of the Moon, of Mother and of the realm of feelings and creative expression. Joseph Campbell elaborates:
“(Eros) is linked definitely and firmly to Aphrodite as her child…but as our whole survey of the prehistory of the Aegan has shown, the goddess Aphrodite and her son are exactly the great cosmic mother and her son, the ever dying, ever-living god.” 24 Campbell points out that the variety of myths of Eros’s parentage confirm this background. From Chaos to Aphrodite, they represent transformations of the same mythology, pointing unanimously to the mother goddesses and their lover-sons: Atargatis and Ichthys, Ishtar and Tammuz, Kybele and Attis. The young male deities were indestructibly bonded to their mothers as servants-lovers-sons. Inevitably, they were destroyed by their mother goddesses in a cycle of birth, fruition, death and rebirth. Thus they were worshipped as eternally dying and resuscitate gods.
Eros, in association with Aphrodite, takes the role of zealous servant and attentive companion. He travels with her, and assists her in various tasks, from brushing her lustrous hair to making the arrangements necessary for Helen of Troy to fall in love with Paris, precipitating the Trojan War. His intended part in the tale of Psyche and Eros was to assist his mother’s craving for revenge:
“I pray thee my dear child, by motherly bond of love, by the sweet wounds of thy piercing darts, by the pleasant heat of thy fire, revenge the injury which is done to thy mother by the false and disobedient beauty of a mortal maiden, and I pray thee, that without delay she may fall in love with the most miserable creature living, the most poor, the most crooked, and the most vile, that there may be.”25
Aphrodite, sovereign mistress or not, had no immunity to the darts of Eros herself though. She complains bitterly to him in The Golden Ass about this and other transgressions.
“Is this an honest thing…is this reason, that thou hats violated and broken the commandment of thy mother and sovereign mistress: and whereas thou
shouldst have vexed my enemy with loathsome love, thou hats done otherwise?…Thou hats often offended thy ancients, and especially me that am thy mother, thou hats pierced me with thy darts…” 26
Aphrodite then points out that she is not too old to have another son, and he would certainly turn out better than the first one, who’s upbringing has been a complete disaster!
Eros is also associated with the creative aspect of the sign of Cancer. To experience the passion of Eros is in part a poetic revelation that may translate into a masterpiece of dance, art, literature or music. However, to experience the erotic transformation symbolized by second water sign Scorpio, this tie with mother, this umbilical link, must be broken.
The separation from the mother, although painful and agonizing, leads to the awakening of the individual and the capacity to experience the erotic. Richard Idemon27 makes clear the importance of this separation as prerequisite to union.
The desires for transformation, sexual intensity, and the power to create change through merging, all have erotic and Scorpio-like overtones. The fully awakened Eros might be difficult to distinguish from an activated Pluto in this context, except that the effects are much more personal. If, on the other hand, Eros is denied or repressed, he becomes the uninvited god, like the thirteenth fairy in Briar Rose. Not a happy guest.
The consequences to such a rejection can be harsh. The refusal of a god, or archetypal image, equates with the refusal of a part of the unconscious life. This paves the way for fate to come and drag us down into the underworld where we are forced into experiencing passion, although probably in an unpleasant way. Here again Eros feels like he wears a Scorpio robe, and may be exhibiting his relationship to the Erinyes as dispenser of fate.
Eros’s fate with his Mother also links him firmly to the third water sign of Pisces. One myth of the origin of the constellation of Pisces tells the tale of Eros and Aphrodite turning themselves into fishes and swimming up the Nile to escape the monster Typhon.
Typhon was said to be born from the elder deities Gaia (Mother Earth) and Tartarus. Although the youngest of Gaia’s offspring, Typhon was by far the deadliest and the largest monster ever conceived. He had legs of coiled serpents and arms that spread across the skies from horizon to horizon. When he walked upright, his head touched the stars. Typhon spat giant boulders and blotted out the sun with his wings. He was a big and scary guy.
Sensibly, the Olympians were reticent to fight him. They fled to Egypt and hid themselves by transforming into animals. Zeus changed himself into a ram, Dionysus a goat and Aphrodite and Eros disguised themselves as fish and swam up the Nile.
Typhon was eventually defeated by the combined efforts of Athene’s wisdom, Hermes’ and Pan’s guile and the awesome power of Zeus’s thunderbolts. Later, the image of two fishes tied together by their tales was placed in the heavens in honor of the Olympians escape from the mighty Typhon.
Much of the romantic longing, ecstatic love and tragic loss associated with Pisces and Neptune come to life in certain aspects of Eros and Aphrodite/Venus and certainly arise when there are aspects between these bodies. The state of being in love, the search for a soul mate and the madness of the divine other all mingle in the same cup. Perhaps it is Eros who pours the elixir while secretly shooting the odd dart. Pisces, however, is not the only duel sign linked to Eros.
Eros and the Sign of the Twins
To complicate matters, one version of myth associates Eros with a Gemini like twin brother, Anteros. In this case, Aphrodite is called the mother of the twin loves. Where Eros is love, Anteros is love avenged or returned. This seems odd at first, a divergence away from the water element and into its opposite principle, air.
Yet Anteros symbolizes a returned or opposite love. It is said that Eros pined with loneliness until Aphrodite gave him Anteros as a playmate. In this role, Anteros is the answer to love’s longing. He is also depicted as the one who punishes those who scorn love or do not return the love of others.
The story of Timagora and Meles reveals this theme. The young Athenian Meles rejects the love of his friend Timagoras. Meles mockingly tells the spurned lover to climb to the top of a cliff and throw himself off. Timagoras does so without question, showing his dedication. He dies instantly in the decent. When Meles realizes what he has done, he is filled with guilt and regret. He then casts himself down the same cliff and also dies. Thus in some areas, Anteros is worshipped as the avenging spirit of Timagoras.
This mythic theme reveals characteristics of the Gemini twins. These two brothers can represent the heights of divine love to the pits of guilt, remorse and revenge. Perhaps because these qualities are so divergent, it was necessary to split them apart and view them as separate entities. As anyone aquatinted with experience of erotic love, the two are not separate at all but different expressions on the face of the same god.
You ask why I have so much rage in the heart
And on a flexible neck an untamed head;
It is that I come from the race of Antée,
I return the darts against the victorious god.
Yes, I am that which inspires the Avenger,
He marked me on the face with his irritated lip;
Under the paleness of Abel, alas! Blood-stained,
Sometimes I have of Cain the relentless redness!
Jehovah! the last, overcome by your engineering,
Who, of the deepest of the hells, shouted: "O tyranny!"
It is my Bélus grandfather or my Dragon father...
They plunged me three times in the water of Cocyte,
And, protecting all alone my Amalecite mother,
I sow again with his feet the teeth of the old dragon. 28
The love and passion of Eros is by no means limited to the element of water. Each sign, however, has it’s own mythic flavor, a costume of varying size a hue. Aries, like the god of war, has a passion to assert his will. Taurus, like Venus, may have the classical passion towards sensual pleasure. Gemini, messenger of the gods, has a passion for communication and knowledge. Cancer’s passion lies in emotional ties and feelings. Leo has the passion and loyalty of the lion heart and Virgo has a distinct passion for selection and discrimination. Libra has passion for beauty, balance and refinement. Scorpio has passion for intensity and merging. Sagittarius has boundless passion for adventure and the unknown. Capricorn has passion for perfection and successful accomplishment and Aquarius has passion for freedom and ideals. Pisces’ passion often mingles with a longing for union with the divine.
All the planets and signs in the astrological chart are important when it comes to understanding love. Each has something to offer and something secret to reveal. Focusing on Eros, discovering the sign, house position and aspect of this celestial body, can shed even greater light on our personal and unique experiences of love in all its many forms. Ignoring this image is like turning away from a part of our own soul.