A commentary on the season

“Io Saturnalia,” a reflection on the festival from astrological, historical, and magical angles.


An experiment in devotional astrology

A few years ago I bought a book called MythAstrology by Raven Kaldera of Northern Tradition fame. In it Kaldera explores an intriguing idea. Astrology has always connected the planets with certain gods and the signs with certain myths from the Greek and Roman pantheons. Kaldera combines the two by portraying each planet in each sign as a different deity. For example, the Sun as an astrological planet is associated with Apollo and Helios; in Kaldera’s book, the Sun in Aries is Amon-Ra, the Sun in Taurus is Gaea, the Sun in Gemini is the Dioscuri, and so on. He draws primarily but not exclusively from European pantheons, assigning the Moon in Cancer to Kuan Yin and Mars in Sagittarius to Shango, for example.

Toward the end of last year, I began to consider giving cultus to the deities of my natal chart as per Kaldera’s work. For example, my Sun in Capricorn is Hephaistos, my Moon in Libra Isis, my Mercury in Capricorn in Ptah. I allotted the deities to days of the week according to the planetary system: Sun on Sunday, Moon on Monday, Mars and Pluto on Tuesday, Mercury and Uranus on Wednesday, Jupiter on Thursday, Venus and Neptune on Friday, and Saturn on Saturday.

The outer planets that were unknown before the 19th century have more or less settled into astrology as “higher octaves” of the inner planets. Mars and Pluto both rule processes of disturbance, revelation, destruction; Venus and Neptune both rule values, ideals, experiences of beauty, pleasure, and love. Uranus along with Mercury affects communication, technology, and innovation. I might call them “lower octaves” rather than higher. Where Mercury, Mars, and Venus affect the individual, the slow-going outer planets sound long low notes that set the tone for whole generations in a society. My placement of Neptune in Scorpio, for example, is common to people born between 1957 and 1970, approximately. Kaldera assigns this planet and sign combination to Dionysus. What was Dionysian about that era? Pretty much everything: The civil rights movement that fought social oppression, the experimentation with drugs and altered states, the rise and flourishing of sex drugs and rock’n’roll.

There’s another element that Kaldera didn’t consider (and perhaps he will in a future book or a revised edition): The asteroids. In the latter half of the 20th century, a few of the thousands of asteroids that have been sighted and named in our solar system have worked their way into astrology. Chief among these are the first four asteroids discovered, named after four prominent goddesses: Ceres, Juno, Vesta, and Pallas, along with a fifth asteroid close to the planet Saturn, Chiron. Traditional astrology features only two goddesses, Diana as the Moon and Venus. The Moon is associated with the role of one’s mother in one’s life and Venus with the love object or lust object. The asteroids expanded the symbolic roles of women to include nurturer, partner, priestess, and creator.

Since I’ve been tracking those asteroids in my chart for years, I decided to incorporate them into my devotions and assigned goddesses based on my own sense of their functions. To my Vesta in Cancer, I assigned Sulis Minerva, the goddess worshipped at Bath in England, a deity of fire and water, healing and inspiration. To Ceres in Pisces, I assigned Epona, the Continental Celtic horse goddess who was also worshipped in Rome thanks to her popularity with its legions. To Pallas in Aquarius, which sits smack dab on my Ascendant, I assigned Pallas Athene herself. To Juno in Pisces, I assigned Leukothea, the apotheosized name of Ino, who fostered baby Dionysus and paid for it by losing her own son to Hera’s anger. And to Chiron, known as the wounded healer, I assigned Bran the Blessed, the high king in the Four Branches of the Mabinogi who became an oracular singing head upon his death.

With the exception of Ino/Leukothea, these are all deities with whom I had some prior connection. Sulis, Epona, and Bran I honored in my druidic periods, and Athena was my favorite goddess when I was a child, the high-achieving daddy’s girl with whom I instinctively identified. Leukothea is honored within the Ekklesia Antinoou, so I have some basis for a connection with her.

I still haven’t written prayers to all the deities represented in my natal chart. Seven planets and five asteroids gave me a wealth of material to work with. Some of those deities were personally challenging to me. Kaldera assigns Pluto in Virgo, the placement for people born between 1956 and 1972, to the goddess Hel. I suspect that seeking to learn something about her and compose an appropriate prayer to her led to my writing “A distinguished visitor from the north”, in which she plays an important role.

My Uranus in Virgo is assigned to Lilith, who certainly rose to prominence in the 1960s. Is she goddess or spirit, demon or heroine? Whatever she may be, she has been important in the feminist movement, which my prayer to her reflects. And my Saturn in Pisces is embodied in the complex character of Odin, dominating my first house. In composing my weekly prayer to him, I focused on a point of similarity between the god and myself: We have a tendency to insist on learning things for ourselves, and often on learning it the hard way. There have been times in my life that were the equivalent of hanging from the World Tree, suffering from exposure, waiting for the answer to appear, even if what I needed to learn was nowhere near as significant as the runes.

Finally, there is the planetary assignment that really inspired me to this project: Venus in Aquarius. The usual descriptions of Venus in this sign emphasize its close relationship between romantic love and friendship, its need for an intellectual connection with a lover, and its desire for a bit of rebellion or experimentation, or at least independence. One might say that the biggest turn-on of the Aquarian Venus is equality in a relationship.

Kaldera assigns this Venus to Ganymede, the Trojan boy who was deified because Zeus fell in love with him. He became cup-bearer to the Olympians, in some accounts replacing Hebe in this role. The boy with the cup is directly related to “aquarius”, a masculine Latin noun meaning “water-carrier”. As I read Kaldera’s description of the nature of Aquarian Venus, however, I became convinced that he should have assigned that placement to–of course–Antinous, who is syncretized with Ganymede in some sources, who is associated with the sign and age of Aquarius, and who very much supports egalitarian romance and eros in which friendship plays a major role.

I’ll conclude this entry, then (at last!), by sharing the prayer I wrote for Antinous-Ganymede as patron of Venus in Aquarius:

O Antinous Ganymede,

you bear the cup of friendship

around the halls of the gods,

giving drink to each one equally

as they need: May I give

the drink of love and friendship

to each friend as they need it

and receive the same in return.

Goddesses and heroines

At this time of year, I often find myself thinking that I’m a bad Pagan because I’m not a huge fan of Halloween. I love cooler weather, brisk winds, falling leaves, gourds and tiny pumpkins decorating my table. However, I have no desire to dress up or go to parties, and I don’t like scary movies very much because they actually scare me.

On this feast day, the people of Antinous celebrate the Panthea in honor of all the goddesses, divae, sanctae, and heroines associated with the youthful god. It’s one of those days that makes me feel like a bad feminist because I don’t have a relationship with a lot of goddesses. I hung around or at least read about Goddess spirituality and Wicca long enough to absorb the idea that women need goddesses, yet the deities I approach daily are Antinous himself; Serapis, to whom I pray as a father; and Vesta. Vesta is not, to me,¬†mother or sister, lover or beloved, but rather¬†a protectress, a role model, a powerful force, a presence. She is less personal in her manifestation to me than the two gods, but no less important.

In my previous post, I listed the goddesses who have close connections with the Bithynian Boy. As a girl, I was very attracted to Athena, as the deity with whom I had most in common. In my twenties, I discovered that the asteroid named Pallas, after Athena, sits exactly on my ascendant, in the sign of Aquarius. I seem much more like a typical Aquarius than a typical Capricorn, which is where my natal sun is situated. I suppose it’s typical of an Athena type of woman that she’s more interested in men, ofttimes, than in other women, more drawn to gods than to goddesses.

I was feeling depressed earlier today, after a trying week. Like many women, I turned to an unfailing source of comfort: a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Remembering that I ought to do something for the holy day, that I *wanted* to do something, I lit Vesta’s candle on my shrine and put some of my ice cream in a small dish. I offered it to the goddesses and named their names before taking my first mouthful of frozen dairy therapy. Once I finished it, I felt better, able to make the post I had been planning for the day.

I wonder if even a goddess might want a pint of ice cream now and then? In any case, the holy powers do seem to appreciate it when I share favorite foods with them.