The Myth of Ganymede: Cupbearer to the Gods
Astrologers spend an inordinate amount of time pondering symbols. Driving in the car, walking the dog, washing the dishes, brushing one’s teeth - these are all opportunities to contemplate the movements and mysteries of the stars. I frequently go to bed with a particular symbol in my thoughts and awaken in the morning to a deeper understanding of its meaning. Lately, I have been thinking about the sign of Aquarius. It seems that this sign, more than any other, is the focal point of 2021. The story began in December with the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and continues throughout January and February as a procession of planets pour into the cup bearer’s sign. True, Aquarius season happens every year around this time, but in 2021 there is a rare convergence: 5 of the 7 traditional planets will be co-present here - 6 when the moon passes through Aquarius February 9-11. Furthermore, the signature transit of 2021, the Saturn-Uranus square (described in an earlier post) pits the ancient and modern rulers of Aquarius against one another. It’s as if the dark and light sides of this sign are vying for dominance in 2021. Aquarius is an enigmatic sign: individualistic yet oriented toward the collective, intellectual yet often flakey, nonconformist yet sometimes ideologically rigid.
The mythological figure associated with Aquarius is Ganymede. According to Homer, this young man of Troy was the most beautiful of all humankind. So captivating was Ganymede, that Zeus himself became enamoured with him. Overcome by his desire, the king of the Gods transformed himself into an eagle and carried Ganymede off to Mount Olympus. There, he was appointed cupbearer for the Gods, a position of great honour. The story of Ganymede’s abduction evokes themes of homoeroticism, rape, and the sexual exploitation of youth. Will there be more revelations about prominent men abusing their power and privilege to manipulate and control others? Will the Me Too movement and sexual-identity politics be back in the news this year? Probably.
In Egyptian and Babylonian mythologies, Aquarius was associated with rains and floods, a connection that recurs in Greek myth as well. In one legend, Ganymede convinces Zeus to send rain after a prolonged drought. In another, Ganymede is reported to have saved humans and from a great flood. These stories offer hope that the water-bearer may deliver much needed relief to drought-parched lands in 2021 but a more sinister interpretation could suggest an increase in floods, earthquakes (Saturn-Uranus) and Typhoons.
In new-age circles Aquarius is often associated with Utopian fantasies of a world without strife: a world of peace, innovation, freedom, tolerance and equality, idealism. And these are indeed Aquarian values. But I think it’s important to acknowledge the dark side of Aquarius too: rebelliousness, fanaticism, intellectual intransigence, extremism and a tendency to privilege thought over feeling. On deeper reflection, these negative qualities are really just the positive qualities taken to extremes. Idealism turns into fanaticism, the love of freedom becomes rebellion against any and all stricture, the insistence on equality and tolerance can morph into a political correctness that is itself intolerant.
The Ganymede myth offers clues about the origins of Aquarian detachment also. Ganymede is emblematic of the eternal outsider, living among the Gods but not really one of them. Finding favour among the immortals removes him from the world of men and women, making him an outsider there as well. It’s as if our special gifts - beauty, talent, intelligence - can elevate us but also isolate us from one another. We all have Aquarius somewhere in our birth charts, and this is one area where we march to a different drum beat. It’s the place where we feel misunderstood and sometimes it is the place where we are just downright weird.
I think we are in for a whole lot of cosmic weirdness in the weeks and months to come. Enjoy the ride!