The Pisces Myth- The Myth Of Orpheus
The Orpheus myth
In Greek mythology, the Orpheus myth is particularly charged with intensity and symbolism as well as touching and full of feelings that can still evoke strong emotions now.
It is a very ancient myth that has gradually developed over time to the point of becoming a real “theology”. The Orpheus myth has certainly influenced somehow the early Christianity and then theatre and music. Some of its characteristics makes it fully fit in with the symbolism of Pisces.
Orpheus was the son of the Thracian king Oeagrus, and of the Muse Calliope, the first in dignity of the nine muses. The God Apollo gave him a lyre and the Muses taught him to play it and he was so skilful that according to Seneca himself:
“At his sweet strains, the roar of the rushing stream was stilled, the waters ceased their flow… The still woods moved, with their birds among the trees; or if some wandering birds heard the moving strains, strength failed them and they fell to the ground … The Dryads, leaving their oak trees, quickly came close to the bard, and even the beasts ran out of their dens to listen to his melodious singing…”
Orpheus was the bard par excellence, the musician and poet. He took part in the adventures of the Argonauts but, since he was weaker than the other heroes, he was not asked to row but to be the stroke. When Jason’s ship came close to the island of the Sirens, he was the one that attenuated their sweet singing with the sound of his lyre, so that the Argonauts could not fall into their trap.
Nevertheless, Orpheus is better-known for his descent to the Underworld.
According to the myth, Orpheus fell in love with Eurydice, the only woman of his life and the only one he ever loved. On the wedding day, Orpheus felt on top of the world because he was realizing his greatest dream at last.
He was extremely happy and this reminds us of a state of mind that is typically Neptunian in which we experience the original fusion through another person, which brings our soul back to “absolute perfection”. He felt as if he was able to touch the sky; his soul was experiencing the “absolute”.
Eurydice was the daughter of Nereus and Doris. But the two lovers were not destined for a long-lasting love, since unfortunately someone was plotting against them. Eurydice was so beautiful that Aristeaus too fell in love with her, although his love was not requited. Right on the wedding day, he tried to seduce her, and she started to run to escape him, but she had the misfortune to trample on a snake hidden in the grass which bit her and caused her instant death from poisoning.
This pain drove Orpheus absolutely mad, since he could not conceive his own life without his bride and, as he looked completely out of his mind, was advised to descend to the Underworld and ask Hades to try to bring her back to life. He convinced Charon to ferry him across the river Styx, and surrounded by lost souls that were trying hard to claw him, he came in the presence of Hades and Persephone completely worn out.
In front of them, Orpheus started to sing and recite poems; his despair and loneliness were such that his singing let all his pain shine through, to such an extent that the gods of the underworld themselves were moved; even the Erinyes cried; Ixion stopped turning his wheel and the perfidious vultures who were devouring Tityos’ liver did not have the courage to continue their macabre task; even Tantalos forgot his thirst and for the first time the Underworld learned what pity was, as Ovid tells in the Metamorphoses.
Hades and Persephone allowed Orpheus to bring Eurydice back to the World of the Living on condition that on their way up he never turned back to look at her face until they had reached the light of the sun. In short, Hades was asking him to have “trust” and not to look for a confirmation.
This too is very Neptunian: Hades, as the real king of the Underworld, knew perfectly what Orpheus’ weakness was; he knew that he would not bear it, and that before getting to Earth, he would surrender.
Orpheus was happy again and his mood was going from absolute sadness to absolute euphoria. In this strange emotional condition, he took his bride by her hand and started to go up towards the light.
But, on his way, he began to wonder whether he was really leading Eurydice or maybe just a shadow. Orpheus started to be overcome by doubts and thought he had been deceived. He thought that the hand he was holding was not Eurydice’s, but the hand of a creature belonging to the Underworld instead.
He forgot his promise and looked back at her but, in the same instant when their eyes met, Eurydice disappeared and Orpheus saw powerless her bride dying for the second time.
Orpheus understood that this time death would be eternal and nothing could be done to save her. In the end, he had not been trusting and, in a certain sense, he knew he had definitively lost his lover.
Nevertheless, Orpheus tried again for seven days to persuade Charon to lead him again to the lord of the Underworld but Charon threw him back into the light of life.
Then Orpheus took refuge in the Rhodope mountains, in Thrace, and spent his time in loneliness and in prey of his despair. According to the myth, since then, he only received men and boys whom he taught about the origin of the world and of the gods.
Many women tried to win his heart, among whom some Bacchantes who were very angry at his indifference and, also instigated by Dionysus because Orpheus refused to worship him, decided to kill him during an orgiastic rite. At the planned time, they flew at him in a fury, they tore him to pieces, scattered his limbs over the country and threw his head into the river Hebrus.
After Orpheus’ death, his lyre was taken to the sky where it became a constellation. Orpheus’ soul was taken to the Elysian Fields, where, draped in a white garment, keeps singing for the blessed.
The Orphic theology originated from this myth. From the descent to the Underworld to the search for Eurydice it was thought that Orpheus had provided information about the way of reaching the world of the Blessed and avoiding all the hurdles and traps that the soul finds after death.
Basically, this character refers to Neptune and to the sign of Pisces whose main objective is to “trust” to a higher plan, without being seized by doubts and uncertainties. Orpheus is a Neptunian hero that tells us what can happen if there is no self-confidence and if we do not believe that there is a Self that has a precise plan in mind for us.
Pisces reminds us that when the “Ego” passes judgement on the Self, you are unlikely to achieve a real self-fulfilment. Unfortunately, Orpheus had no confidence in his most intense and deepest intuitions and motivations, so he lost everything he most wanted in the world.