Neptune's Shadow: the Problem of Rape in Myth
Neptune is still currently in Pisces, a sign which it rules, so it is an apt time to look at some themes connected with Neptune and the healing of the shadow in our collective. As a fore-warning, I won't be going into the topic of rape, yet I will be writing here about the theme of rape in myth and the need to re-examine these stories collectively, moving forward.
In Greek and Roman mythology, duality (good and bad or light and dark) is not so clear-cut as it may appear in other archetypal stories. In the biblical stories it is perhaps more clear to see the downward force of vice - the pathway of 'Satan' or anti-Christ against the clear path of virtue or upward force of Christ. In Tolkien's mythopoeia, the force of separation or corruption was clearly represented as Melkor; this corrupting force re-emerged in different ages, most famously as Sauron, who sought to dominate all life. Yet in Greek and Roman mythology, the gods displayed openly both light and shadow characteristics which led onto the many dramas and conflicts that unfolded between them all. This included a lot of rape and dishonouring acts - yet why were these gods engaging in acts against the consent of others, against divine will? Were these therefore acts of gods, or were these stories confirming the degradation and corruption of the times?
'The Last Judgement' by Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1482
In astrological terms, we are passing through the darkest times, known as Kali Yuga in Vedic astrology. This corresponds with the four ages told of in European culture of gold, silver, copper and lastly iron as the most degenerate and chaotic age. These four ages with the darkest iron age correspond to binary star theories as well which I will write more upon in a future post. The 'end times' have been prophesised in many cultures - yet it is a time for the new astrological age to arise - for a new dawn. In Norse mythology, this was known as the Ragnarök, a time in which the gods would fall, the earth would be submerged in water and yet would eventually arise, cleansed and anew. In Tolkien's mythopoeia, this was known as the Dagor Dagorath - the final battle. In the bible, these times can be seen in the Book of Revelations.
"Brothers will fight and kill each other,
sisters' children will defile kinship.
It is harsh in the world, whoredom rife
—an axe age, a sword age —shields are riven—
a wind age, a wolf age— before the world goes headlong.
No man will have mercy on another."
Ursula Dronke's translation of the Norse poem, Völuspá.
'The Great Day of His Wrath' by John Martin, (1851–3)
In these times, there has been much dishonouring in our collective, culture and our archetypal myths. Rape became normalised in Greek and Roman myth and many of our planetary bodies in astrology are therefore tied with myths of rape or abduction. These patterns have become so deeply entrenched within us and in our nervous systems - we have inherited many dishonouring ancestral, karmic or collective patterns or programming that sometimes it can feel overwhelming to do the real deep shadow work and it is important to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves in these times as these layers are revealed to us in the subconscious. It is through our bravery and willingness to face these shadows that the purifying process can truly begin and we can find out what patterns are running the show beneath the surface. This is the path of empowerment and the remembrance that our soul is the co-creator and has needed to have many experiences of duality. Just as we know to avoid touching a flame, we first had to get burnt in order to gain this wisdom. Now is time for us to transcend the traps of duality which can include associating with the light and avoiding any of our shadow or falling into the traps of disempowerment where we forget the power of our creator soul as it navigates through each age.
"As above, so below; as below, so above"– The Kybalion.
As we navigate through this collective purging and purifying, we will also need myths that reflect that sense of honouring and reflect it back to us. Yet what are the archetypal patterns we are purifying?
Many of our astrological gods were associated with dishonouring acts. Mars raped the virginal priestess of Vesta who became pregnant with the twins Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. The water nymph Larunda was raped by Mercury as he led her to the underworld in punishment for betraying Jupiter by revealing to his wife Juno about his infidelities - she had her tongue cut out by Jupiter and was therefore unable to speak. The beautiful Chione was raped by Hermes (Mercury) who used magic to put her to sleep. Zeus/Jupiter engaged in many acts of rape and abduction which can be read about here. According to Ovid's writings, Aphrodite (Venus) cursed the sons of Poseidon (Neptune) and Halia, (after they insulted her,) by filling them with lust for their mother, Halia, whom they raped.
Many of Poseidon's lovers were water deities such as water nymphs and some of his children were personifications of islands of the sea such as Rhodos (Rhodes) or cities such as Ergiscus (Ergisce) who was the son of the naiad water nymph Aba. Many of his children were also kings, kings of islands, founders of tribes and included Eumolpus, the legendary king of Thrace and Theseus the founder-hero of Athens. The giant cyclops Polyphemus, was the son of Poseidon and the sea nymph Thoosa and the sea deity Proteus was a son of Poseidon and the princess Phoenice. His daughters included Evadne who became a lover of Apollo and whose mother was a water spring nymph, as well as the spring goddess Despoina, daughter of Demeter.
Yet some of these unions involved rape and perhaps the most famous story was his rape of the maiden Medusa in the temple of Minerva/Athena - whether she was raped or seduced is unclear and in Ovid's account different words have been used in the translation. Either way, Minerva punished Medusa for this act by turning her hair into snakes and cursed her so that everyone she looked at turned to stone. Another example includes the rape of his sister Demeter who tried to escape by turning into a mare, yet Poseidon transformed into a stallion and took her. We will look at deeper clues as to why all this rape of the gods was manifesting, using Neptune's myths as our focus, so that we can gain a clearer understanding moving forward.
'Odysseus und Kalypso' by Arnold Böcklin (1883)
Males were also involved in many dishonouring acts. The beautiful man Ganymede was abducted by Zeus to be his cup-bearer in an act known as the 'rape of Ganymede' although it is not clear whether this involved assault. In some accounts, it was written that Odysseus was detained on an island by the nymph Calypso and raped by her. He only escaped after Hermes demanded that Calypso freed him after seven years after being considerably tested and declining Calypso's offer of immortality and only wished to return home, to his wife.
"Calypso went out to look for Odysseus, for she had heard Zeus’ message. She found him sitting upon the beach with his eyes ever filled with tears, his sweet life wasting away as he mourned his nostos; for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he, that would have it so. As for the daytime, he spent it on the rocks and on the sea-shore, weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and always looking out upon the sea." Homer, The Odyssey.
Yet here we will focus primarily on the stories of Neptune since he plays an important role in these times as the ruler of Pisces. As we let go of the Age of Pisces and prepare for the Age of Aquarius, we are invited to purify these ancient and archetypal collective patterns of dishonourment in its various forms.
Poseidon/Neptune was the god of water, seas, rivers, storms as well as horses and horse-racing. It was said that he had the ability to tame horses and his sea chariot was led by a team of horses. Poseidon was also portrayed in a chariot led by hippocampi which were half-horse, half-fish. His trident was able to create springs on the land with a strike. The Roman writer Maurus Servius Honoratus believed that the trident represented the three forms of water, "seas, streams and rivers." His connection with storms and powerful sea weather can be read about here.
'The Horses of Neptune' by Walter Crane (1892 - 1893.)
Yet in one myth, Poseidon/Neptune tried to rape his older sister Demeter who escaped in the form of a mare but he transformed into a stallion and raped her. According to the 2nd century writer Pausanias in the Description of Greece, Demeter was known as 'Black Demeter' in the province of Arcadia, since she clothed herself in black apparel in grief and retreated into a cave in Phigalia - there she stayed in anger and grief about Poseidon (as well as about the abduction of her daughter Persephone into the underworld,) until she was discovered by Pan who called upon Zeus for aid. The Arcadians believed that she gave birth to a daughter known as 'the Mistress,' 'lady' or Despoina who became a goddess revered for her relationship with water springs and animals. Demeter was known as Ceres in Roman mythology and more about her connection with astrology and the sign of Taurus can be read about here.
A Roman marble statue of Demeter, copied from a Greek original - 4th century BC.
In another account Demeter gained the title Erinys meaning 'fury' due to her rage about the rape - yet she released this emotion in the river Ladon and became known as Demeter Lousia, or 'the bathed Demeter.'
"At first, they say, Demeter was angry at what had happened, but later on she laid aside her wrath and wished to bathe in the Ladon. So the goddess had obtained two surnames, Fury because of her avenging anger, because the Arcadians call being wrathful “being furious,” and Bather (Lusia) because she bathed in the Ladon." From the Description of Greece [8.25.6] by Pausanias.
It was also said by some that she gave birth to a horse called Arion from the union - he was a great black horse who was ridden by Hercules in battle.
Here the story gets interesting. Why did Demeter - the divine goddess of agriculture and harvests who was associated with the chaste sign of Virgo create this act with her brother? The story contains some interesting clues and symbols.
Firstly, after the rape, Demeter went into the cave and was willing to face her shadow. She wore black clothes to honour the grieving process and she allowed herself to feel the rage - the consequence of the dishonouring - the touching of the flame. Secondly, she then realised that she needed to release the anger and completely let go by bathing in the river Ladon where she released her emotions (emotions are associated with water.) She experienced the full spectrum of emotion from grief to anger and rage.
'At the First Touch of Winter, Summer Fades Away' by Valentine Cameron Prinsep
Shadows in the Cave
Yet what is perhaps the most revealing is the meeting of her shadow which isn't spoken about but can be seen when examining the symbols. When Demeter first escaped her brother, she turned into a horse of all animals - yet Poseidon/Neptune was the god of horses. Here we can see the shadow at play - the aspect of the subconscious which co-created this experience in this realm of duality (light and dark.) It is interesting that horses feature so strongly in this story - they are connected with water through Poseidon but also as surf horses, sea-horses and hippocampi. Their wild, sensitive and unpredictable emotional natures are also like water and some water places derived their names from the horse (hippos.) The winged horse Pegasus, (who sprung from the neck of the beheaded Medusa) was also associated with springs. It was from the union of these two gods, Demeter and Neptune that a great horse was born as well as a spring goddess in some accounts.
Secondly, she purified herself using water which again is the realm of Poseidon/Neptune. There was perhaps the realisation that she could not escape her darkness or shadow - she had to meet Poseidon, the god of waters, again in a purified and pure state, as the river Ladon. Demeter made the journey in a full circle - in dark times there was an archetypal need to experience the corruption and subsequent rage and then she engaged on the transformative journey of water (emotions) before finally releasing her grief in the river Ladon and meeting Poseidon and herself in a pure state as water once more. It can be easy to overlook this aspect of Poseidon and we may take this pure elemental water for granted - yet this was also his realm.
The Power to Let Go
Demeter's ability to completely let go is awe-inspiring and powerful - but there is also a message here about the transformative quality of water and the emotions - they can reach intense rage before falling back into the gentle flow of life. It was through her grief and releasing tears at the eyes that Demeter became a river herself. Demeter understood the wisdom of letting go so that she could flow with life once more, where the only reliable constant is change. She also gained, though the pain of experience, the wisdom of the true value of honouring herself. This is a story of water and its powerful range of states, yet also its purifying and transformative qualities.
'Demeter Mourning for Persephone' by Evelyn De Morgan, 1906
One trapping of trauma can be its continued hold over us - we may give our power away to it, to a protector aspect or to an identity that arose from it. To hold the wisdom, but to let go of the emotions in self-forgiveness is the mastery displayed by both Demeter as 'bathed Demeter' and as Poseidon as both the river Ladon and the tears on the cheeks of Demeter - as lord of waters, he became fully aware of the grief and consequences of his act and found wisdom.
Achintya-Bheda-Abheda - 'Inconceivable Oneness and Difference'
Back in this purified state is the remembrance that all is the divine, experiencing its consciousness at different levels of reality - this is the transcendence of duality (meaning two) and the return to oneness or non-duality (meaning 'not two'.) It is the recognition of the pure Self in the other.
In this space there is clear knowing of choices which raise us or lower us ('good' or 'bad') yet there is no need to separate anyone or anything and there is the acknowledgement of everyone's journey back to their Self happening in their own time and according to their own lessons; some individuals need space from us if they are still making destructive choices and this is where boundaries can be a healing aspect for these Piscean themes.
Roman 'Mosaic of the Seasons' portraying Neptune.
Pisces - Feeling the Waters of All
Neptune and Pisces can feel the waters of everything, including grief – it is the sign of the interconnectedness and immensity of life and as such is very mystical and imaginative. However, for Pisces, this watery information is received in an interconnected way with other non-human aspects of life and this may be easier to relay as art or music. This sign is therefore very shamanic and may feel a connection with power animals or animal communication - Neptune, in the mythology, was deeply connected with animals including horses, dolphins, sea creatures and the merpeople. This sign can fall easily into the vastness of the oceans whereas its opposite sign, Virgo, has expertise with the fine details and organisation of life.
The shadow side of Pisces can include blurry boundaries, delusions, deceptions and emotionally messy dynamics - these issues have been brought to our attention acutely in these closing times of the Age of Pisces. They are also clearly seen in Neptune's mythological stories, particularly the very blurry boundaries and the need to purify and connect with pure water again.
A Roman mosaic of Neptune and Salacia, from Herculaneum, Italy.
The Water Planet
Amazingly, the planet Neptune is a water planet, unlike Jupiter which is thought to be made of gas. It is thought that up to 80% of the planet is made up of dense liquids including water, ammonia and methane and along with Uranus is called an 'ice giant.' The planet has 14 moons which are all named after water deities from Greek and Roman mythology. The gas planet Jupiter is the traditional ruler of Pisces, yet after Neptune was discovered in 1846, it eventually became known as the ruler or co-ruler of Pisces.
A dark spot on Neptune shown by Hubble in 2020 - it is thought to be an anticyclone storm. Here again we can see the connection with Neptune and storms.
The distance between the orbits of the planets follows precise mathematics with the most accurate law known as Blagg's formula which was a revision of the Titus-Bode Law. It was from this law that it was predicted that a planet should be found in the 'gap' between Jupiter and Mars and eventually Ceres (Demeter) in the asteroid belt was found, with some hypothesising that this was once a planet which was destroyed and broken up into asteroids. In the image above you can see Neptune out in the deep depths of oceanic space, just before Pluto, King of the Underworld.
They all are a different note on the 'octave scale' with something unique to offer - their placements may reveal tensions or challenges but nothing is inherently 'bad' or 'good;' this can lead to separation and discord - themes which we need to collectively heal now as we begin to notice the divine in all. On a piano, the C note is not greater than the G - all are needed to play a song and all offer unique and beautiful vibrations in their purity.
The Moons of Neptune
The largest moon is called Triton, named after Neptune's son the mermaid Triton who was born to Neptune's wife Salacia (Amphitrite in Greek mythology.) King Triton appeared in the Disney film The Little Mermaid which was based on the same fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, although the characters were not named in Andersen's story. In mythology, Triton was thought to live in a golden palace with his parents at the bottom of the sea and he was depicted blowing into a conch shell like a trumpet. Triton ruled the deep ocean and his wife was an oceanid (nymph of the ocean) called Libya and they had various nymph children.
'The Little Mermaid Watches a Ship' by Anne Anderson
In Roman mythology Neptune was the son of Saturn and Ops and brother of Jupiter and Pluto. His wife was Salacia who was the goddess of salt-water and a personification of the calm, sunlit part of the sea. In 2004, a planetoid was discovered in the Kuiper belt and was given the name Salacia after the water goddess and so her mythology now plays a stronger role in our evolving understanding of astrology. Salacia has one moon called Actaea, named after a Greek sea nymph (a nereid) who was the sister of Amphitrite, the Greek equivalent of Salacia, making them sisters.
Actaea, the Nymph of the Shore by English painter Lord Frederick Leighton, 1853. Actaea is the only moon of Salacia.
Salacia was a beautiful sea-nymph whom Neptune wanted to marry, but in shyness of his magnitude, she hid in the Atlantic Ocean and Neptune sent a dolphin out to find her and persuaded her to return, which she did. In gratitude, Neptune placed the dolphin in the heavens, which is now known as the constellation Delphinus - a Decan found in Capricorn.
Nereids and Water Deities
Many of Neptune's moons are named after the Nereides who were sea nymphs who often accompanied Poseidon (Neptune) in Greek mythology and more about their folklore can be read here. They are a group of 50 daughters born of Nereus and Doris and Amphitrite (Salacia) was the eldest daughter. They symbolised the beauty of the ocean in its various forms, they were friendly to sailors and sang songs.
A Roman fresco from Pompeii of Neptune and his wife the eldest Nereid, Salacia.
Regular Moons of Neptune and their Myths
The first seven regular moons in distance from Neptune are: Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Galatea, Larissa, Hippocamp, and Proteus.
1) The moon Naiad was named after the water nymphs known as the naiads of Greek mythology and more about their mythology can be read here.
'A Sea-Nymph' by Edward Burne-Jones, 1881. It is likely that the sea-nymphs, as shape-shifters, were similar to merpeople.
2) Interestingly, Thalassa was the Greek feminine personification for the sea - she was a goddess of the sea and 'thalassa' was the general word for sea. Thalassa created the sea creatures and fish and her male counterpart was Pontos.
3) The moon Despina was named after Despoina, the spring goddess who was born from Demeter and Poseidon (Neptune.)
4) The moon Galatea was another Nereid sea nymph who fell in love with the mortal Acis - when Acis was killed by the jealous giant cyclops (Polyphemus, son of Poseidon,) Galatea transformed him into an eternal river spirit.
Acis and Galatea, by Michel Corneille
5) The next moon Larissa was a water nymph and lover of Poseidon and they had three children: Achaios, Phthios, and Pelasgus.
6) Hippocamp was named after the mythological sea beings which were half-horse and half-fish.
7) The moon Proteus was named after a shape-changing early sea god in Greek mythology and in one account was said to be the son of Poseidon and Phoenice. It was said that he had the ability to prophesy the future and was the herdsman of Poseidon's seals.
A Roman wall-painting from Pompeii of a Nereid riding on the back of a seahorse.
Irregular Moons of Neptune and their Myths
The seven irregular moons in distance from Neptune are: Triton, Nereid, Halimede, Sao, Laomedeia, Psamathe, and Neso.
Halimede, Sao, Laomedeia and Neso were named after the Nereid sea nymphs although there is not a lot of mythology associated with them. The moon Nereid refers to them as a group.
Psamathe was also a Nereid and there were some stories connected with her. Psamathe was the goddess of sand beaches and had the ability, like many of the deities, to shape-shift. She once shape-shifted into a seal to escape from the advances of King Aeacus yet was unsuccessful and from this union a son was born called Phocus, meaning 'seal.'
'Mermaid' by John William Waterhouse, 1900
In Tolkien's mythopoeia, the Lord of the Waters and King of the Sea was known as Ulmo and he was deeply gifted with music which matches the artistic and mystical themes of Pisces already mentioned. He lived alone in the deeps of the waters - content in his own company. It could be argued that here we see Neptune in its most enlightened or pure capacities - content in the deep oneness and vastness of life - yet he felt the pains of humans deeply and their grief and spoke to all dwelling in Middle-Earth with the music of water in all its forms, including rivers and springs.
Pisces and 'Hidden Enemies'
In astrology, Pisces and Neptune are the rulers of the 12th house which is the house of the 'unseen realm' of dreams, visions, the hidden in the subconscious and 'hidden enemies.' These are the individuals in our life whom we may have experienced a lot of tension with which may be karmic or past life. Pisces and Neptune can help us to identify more about the nature of these dynamics and find the pathway of healing - these revelations may even be shown to us in the dream-time. Many dreams are 'organisational' and some can also contain profound messages, yet some dreams which we recall may highlight to us underlying dynamics in need of healing - here Pisces and Neptune, the rulers of the vast oceans, can help us. Pisces is the sign of mysticism and interconnectedness and feels the waters of life flowing through everyone and everything; whereas the water sign Cancer tends to have its gifts in understanding human emotions. Pisces is therefore good at reading symbols and signs, (particularly of animals) in dreams and clues that they can reveal about stranger dynamics in our reality which we may have overlooked from a limited human lens.
"'I know what you want' said the sea witch," from Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. Art by Harry Clarke, 1916.
These are times where radical honesty is required and a thorough self-enquiry regarding the shadow and the archetypal wounds we've inherited or repeat from this darkest age. Too many times are people projecting their shadow outwardly instead of doing the work and returning back to their true state of empowerment. If you see a world leader and witness a discordant energy, is there a part of you that feels unworthy of anything better? Do we feel undeserving of peace or feeling honoured? Or is there a hidden aspect in us that feeds off the drama or needs to complain? These are old ancestral and collective energies we are healing and this is vital work right now which Pisces, Neptune, Salacia and the water deities, within, can support us with. May the waters purify our lands, minds, stories and myths so that, once again, we can see the crystal-like purity beneath it all.
"The waves hold sea-green gods—
echoing Triton, shifty Proteus,
Aegaeon with arms pressing the huge backs
of whales, along with Doris and her daughters
(some seem to be swimming, others sitting
on the shore, drying their green hair, and some
being carried on a fish—in appearance
all look different and yet somehow the same,
as sisters ought to). The Earth has cities,
human beings, woods, wild beasts, rivers, nymphs,
and other rural deities. Above these
is placed the image of a brilliant sky,
six constellations on the right-hand doors
and the same number on the left-hand side."
From Metamorphoses, Book Two, by Ovid.
(Note that he is describing the 12 astrological signs with 6 on each side of the "doors" of the ecliptic - the pathway of the sun.)