Mythology and Astrology
This section will talk about the connection between mythology and astrology. Whether astrology is a science or an art, or both, is an ongoing debate within the astrological community. But that discussion, important as it is, is beyond the scope of this section.
However there are some indisputable facets to astrology: namely that it is both ancient and contemporary; and that astrology is a symbolic language, comparable to how mathematics is also a symbolic language.
When we think astrologically, we use a systematic, descriptive, diagnostic, symbolic language. And the language of astrology is not arbitrary- it relates to the cosmos, to mythology, to our solar system, to mathematical relationships between heavenly bodies, and to facets of human nature, human experience, and historical phenomenon. Natal astrology can also be seen as the progenitor of 20th and 21st century psychology.
But both astrology and psychology have an even more ancient lineage, and that is mythology.
Jungian analyst and writer, Robert Johnson, author of popular books such as We, He, and She, wrote his autobiography Balancing Heaven and Earth in 1999. In it he tells the story of how he inadvertently became a Jungian psychotherapist. When a young man, Johnson asked his first therapist how he could learn about human nature. Johnson says that his analyst, Dr. Kunkel, provided a wonderful answer. Dr Kunkel said:
“There are three ways: one way is to read all the ancient Greek mythology, because it is all right there. A second way is to read the collected works of Carl Jung. And the third way is to wait and watch- that is really the best way.”
Of course, as astrologers we know that we would add a fourth way, and that is to study astrology. As students of natal astrology, we are acute observers of human action and human nature. Astrology is able to accurately describe, diagnose and delineate how very complex we humans are, both in our individual uniqueness and our collective nature.
You cannot simply translate the use of mythology into astrology, or into archetypal psychology. The astronomical planet is one entity, the mythological predecessor or archetype of god or goddess is another being, and the astrological planets as used in the horoscope represent yet again another system of knowledge or logos. It is very important to make distinctions- you cannot just transpose one kind of presence or energy onto the other. But, you can use the knowledge of mythology to help you understand and become more fluent in the language of astrology.
In this section I will introduce you to the Greek/Roman gods and goddesses whose archetypal energies are represented in the symbolic language of our Western, tropical astrology.
Here in this section, we will explore the human psyche through the imagery of mythology. It is my hope that grounding our knowledge of the planetary archetypes in their mythological roots will allow us to be able to approach our work with astrology on a deeper and richer level. Mythology is by no means the sum total of astrology; it is in fact only a part of the magnificent, multifaceted system of knowledge and wisdom that astrology is comprised of. But mythology is one ingredient, and an important compenent, so hopefully this column will share with you some of my insights on mythology and astrology.
The Ancient Gods of Greek Myth
The psychological branch of Astrology uses the concept of primeval images, or ‘archetypes‘ constellated at the very roots of a person’s being. These images have an energy and motivate our behaviour from a deep primitive level of the unconscious. They can be viewed as models of activity in behaviour, response, thinking and emotional expression and are defined by the specifics of the archetype. In this way we all respond in the same core way, our behavious modified by certain ‘overlaying’ factors, such as ethnicity, cultural roots and personal experiences.
Mythology, regardless of its ethnic origins expresses ‘archetypes’ in a very clear way. Every mythology has its ‘God of War” – its “God of Love” and so on. This illustrates the commonality of ‘gods’ as energies within human culture and hence, within each person regardless of ethnic roots. Jung postulates that archetypes are limited in number and ‘live’ in the collective unconscious – that is the unconscious of each one of us. They link to and are accessed by each and every person in the humanrace and are expressed according to the life style, religion, cultural mores and tribal and family expectations of the individual, arising from the core, through levels of ‘veils’ that each colour and add a tonal quality to the archetype.
The core archetype in itself is pure and unchanging, a source of specific energy. Because in Westerns society we are culturally affected in many cases by the Greek myths, the stories of the gods of that mythos touch us – because they trigger our responses at an archetypal level.
The astrological connection arises as we understand the planets of the solar system to represent core archetypal models. The planets bear the names of ancient gods and in making and understanding the connection between known behaviours (archetypal models) , gods and planets, we experience a triad of meaning which in itself is an archetype of completion. We can then understand ourselves, our mythic gods and the experiences in our lives which in many situations are mirrors of the experiences of the gods!
Often when working with a chart, I find a mythic ‘theme’ emerging. Understanding the psychology of the myth, it’s hidden allegorical meaning is a very useful way to explore the chart. Many of the stories and myths each ‘fit’ the planets, expressing a similar energy.
There are not simply ten myths, each fitting conveniently with a planet, but many composite ‘characters’ which express facets of the core. We might view the various characters as ‘projections’ of the core archetypes that are expressed through the more powerful of the Olympian Gods.
We find a whole panorama of characters that aptly describe the variances of expression embedded in each planet/god model. For example the “hero” myths are all Solar or Sun myths, yet the difference between the myth of the hero Herakles and the hero Orpheus have very different undertones. Each has a core ‘quest’ but a different way of expressing that quest as do we. Finding our own particular myth through understanding our Orphean or Heraklean inclinations give colourful insight into human dynamics.