A Modest Grecian Proposal

Apollo, being adored by nymphs, one of the perks of being a fabulous god

Unlike Jonathan Swift, I am not asking you to entertain the notion of cannibalism (for those of you who read A Modest Proposaland remember it. For those of you who have not yet read it, now you will want to—which is my purpose, to make obscure texts interesting again).

Further, what I am about to propose has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Hellenistic astrology, which has had a fairly recent resurgence of interest. At some point in the future, I might have to say something about Hellenistic astrology, but this is not the moment.

Instead, what I would like to propose is simple, yet profoundly important, I believe, and is based on the rhetoric of astrology, a concept that has not yet gotten the kind of interest I hope to begin to impart to you. What is the rhetoric of astrology, you ask?

Okay, fair question, and I’m glad you asked, even if you were prompted to do so and never thought of it before. Essentially, rhetoric involves the analysis of language use; why we use the words we do, what they mean to us, their history, etymologies, etc.

Applying this principle to astrology, you might begin to see what happens to our thinking, our making of meaning via metaphor and myth, if we abandon Roman names and rename the planets (and—sigh—the comets, and assorted chunks of spacedust) with the Greek names that inspired the Romans.

A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet, in other words. In the world of rhetorical analysis, what we call something is not interchangeable; instead, each word carries its very own meaning and set of symbols and expectations attached to it. This collective evaluation is part of the linguistic heritage we bring to our understanding of any word.

However, what is important to know, I believe, is that you have the freedom to determine for yourself what a word means. You might be alone in imparting that meaning to a word, and that’s a very lonely place to stand, yes, but at least you will have put your personal stamp on the word, by creating new meaning.

So, let’s say that instead of calling Venus Venus, we call it Aphrodite. We do the same for Jupiter, referring to it instead as Zeus. (You’ll notice that many of the ‘minor’ planets, planetoids, crumbling rocks known as asteroids, already have Greek names.) What happens to our thinking when we begin to apply those names, and the original myths to our concepts of how the planets ‘work’ in a chart?

Reading the myth about Helios can give you a greater understanding about how the Sun functions in your own chart

When I use Poseidon, an extremely angry god a lot of the time, to describe Neptune, I begin to understand what had previously been much more nebulous and incomprehensible, for Poseidon was not nebulous, nor was he filmy, glamourous, head-in-the-clouds, or swathed in gossamer.

No, Poseidon had his very own mythology, as did Aphrodite, who makes Venus in a chart much more jealous, much more complicated, than we might imagine when we rely on the watered-down mythologies the Romans liked.

Not to diss on the Romans, but, come on.

You’ve thought Roman-inspired thoughts long enough. I want you to start thinking outside the Roman box, and come back to the Greeks, without whom the Romans would not have had much of a pantheon. And if you will follow me down this path for awhile, I think you will see what’s interesting about applying Greek myths to the planets: the Greeks were much more complicated, less reductionist, and wanted their gods and goddesses to be difficult, jealous, contentious.

In other words, they wanted their gods to resemble humans.

The existential distance between the god and the individual was not inscribed in Greek religion to the extent it has become the norm ever since the Christian overthrow of paganism. The Greeks, therefore, created gods who encompassed their darker side, and to revision astrology and make it useful and meaningful, it is my belief we need to accept our darker side, our multivalences, our humanity.

If you start to read the chart from a Greek perspective, you end up with very interesting metaphorical layering effect. Following up on Apollo replacing our reading of ‘the sun’ in a natal chart, then, a strongly-aspected sun, without a lot of debilitation, posited in strong houses, might give the personality an Apollonian demeanor.

Now, the problem with Apollo, if you will, is that he was extremely strong-willed, to the point of insensitivity. How many sun-dominated people do you know who behave, not so much like children, but as though they were the only person affected by their decisions? Strongly Apollonian personalities, who are not modified by some softer influences, therefore might be expected to behave like Apollo often did (and he was famous for imposing his will on others, whether they agreed with him or not).

The glorious Sun personality outshines others. Look for a strong Sun at the angles or supported in the chart through aspects, sign, or house.
The glorious Sun personality outshines others. Look for a strong Sun at the angles or supported in the chart through aspects, sign, or house.

However, Apollo, expressed positively, can be a creative force that inspires others to creativity and inception, a concept the Greeks would, at least theoretically, heartily approve of (well, not Plato, but he’s so stodgy, we do tend to want to work around him).

Similarly, when you stop thinking of Jupiter as the Lucky Santa Claus planet, and start thinking of it as Zeus, the guy with the thunder bolts, you might begin to see where you are covetous, jealous, demanding, capable of over-doing all your physical appetites. I, for one, have never been able to make sense of Jupiter as the “lucky” planet in either the natal or the mundane chart.

I’m sorry, but I think that’s absurd, no matter what the Babylonians said.

Instead, the value to me of astrology is to explain us to us—no more, no less. I am not looking to predict political outcomes, and I am bored to the point of stupefaction by discussions of how Saturn, Pluto and Neptune represent our potential downfall as a civilisation. I think, from my previous posts, you can see that apocalyptic endings are written into history, and astrology helped foment that fear.

So, today, take a look at the placement of your Neptune, and instead of thinking of it the way you have up till now, read up on Poseidon, and see if there is any part of Poseidon’s myth that leads you to rethink your own personal story. Poseidon ruled the oceans. He was intimately connected to the element of water. He also represented justice, and was an extremely vengeful god (as was Zeus).

My suggestion would be to look at your natal Neptune, ask yourself what you think of the element of water (not what others have told you to think) and ask yourself how you handle injustice and your own deeper emotions, or any obvious turbulence you see in your life. If you begin to think the way the Greeks did about their gods, you might illuminate your chart in an entirely new way.

Poseidon, in a bad mood

Take a look here for more research on Greek myths.