The story goes* that there was once a youth of such beauty in ancient Greece, that Zeus could not help but to fall in love with him. Of course, Hera forbid the consummation of her husband’s lust and, of course, Zeus did it any way in his own clever ways. He transformed into an eagle and “raptured” Ganymede into the heavenly abode of Mount of Olympus. There, the boy was made the gods’ Water Bearer, and eventually, a constellation in the skies to immortalize his beauty and grace.
As a constellation, Ganymede becomes Aquarius–idealized, perpetual, most humane, and intellectual. It seems the boy had more than beauty going for him, after all. But he also becomes ahistorical, when the untidy homoerotic bits of ancient Greece get sanitized for successive cultures. Gender gets misrepresented and even the story’s origin in abduction by a powerful, male authority figure is forgotten. Much was forgotten–essentially, white-washed–in the march toward modernity, so that we now inherit symbols with checkered pasts.
I am interested in a very recent popularization of this name and meaning, and the Utopian/Dystopian prophecy that comes with it. It was with spiritualism and the New Age, and lyrics in the 1969 album by the same title of the band The 5th Dimension, before it became part of Hair. In that incarnation it flourished and solidly became part of the American consciousness. It spoke the same language of Utopianism and optimism that the audience had been trained to receive and “vibe with” from its foundation. The song** calls for “harmony and understanding” along with “sympathy and trust abounding,” “no more falsehoods or derisions,” “golden living dreams of visions,” “mystic crystal revelations,” and “the mind’s true liberation” in the lyrics.
To this day, with a casual-to-medium depth exposure to the true astrologers/bearers of this great wish, I have yet to hear of the full color and texture of the original myth.
It is easy to pick at the wish-fulfillment nature of astrology, or even the unbalanced nature of the American dreams of Utopia. No doubt I could make a dozen end notes on the subject that would leave one disillusioned and callused to the very idea. That is not necessary, here. We live in times that embody shining hopes dashed and progress betrayed and that is precisely the reason I am tackling this subject now. I have done so many posts to uplift and inspire with this blog, that sometimes I catch myself slipping into that same hype of a New Age.
So, instead of picking at the faults of the Aquarian Age prophecy, I will try to update it for the times here, briefly.
The roots of this cultural bonsai have already been exposed, if somewhat superficially. An exhaustive hunt for the myth might prove enlightening, somewhat, but also potentially fruitless. One has to understand what myths were for, and how they were received by the educated/thinking Greeks. They were, at least in some part, cautionary tales because their gods were not role models. The Olympian and other divinities of the Grecian isles were great and powerful beings, and thus could get away with decadent behavior and caprice. Mortals were forewarned against the hubris of acting like the gods.
Of course, that isn’t a useful lens for our modern society. We expect equality and push our versions of morality even onto supernatural beings. No matter how powerful, our gods and mythic beings–even those of a more historical nature–cannot give in to their lust and commit adultery, much less abduction and rape. In our modern society, Zeus would be judged harshly and rightly. He’d become a devil who preys on vulnerable, weak mortals. We’d call a priest (Catholic or otherwise), and carry out the exorcism.
Nonetheless, we ask for the Age of a symbol*** given lasting power by such a tainted history. What’s worse, we do not stop to recognize, much less exorcise the connotations. To a degree, this exposes the hypocrisy inherent in our own worldviews, an ability to overlook untidy and unsavory bits for the sake of empowerment. I hope that, with the recent #metoo movement, that attitude will no longer serve. I hope it is time to reassess the coming Age.
This calls for nothing less than “shadow work” for our civilization, now that it is plagued by the overt manifestation of such. It calls for us to enter into conversation with the Water Bearer in the Skies and then go deeper, drawn in by currents beyond our control. To find the overlap between our collective shadows and see what cultural and spiritual infections dwell there, and how the incidental history of this story reflects facets of the work needed. At this time, the work will be both evident and difficult. We’ll be challenged to think deeply about the way we engage with each other, scrutinize passing phrases and inherent attitudes. Everything that matters in our culture contains a tendril of its shadow, not just tyrannical madmen on the television.
Then, the question becomes: What to do with this shadow? You have seen into the Abyss, and like Nietzsche predicted, it is staring back at you. This is the work of the true Water Bearers in our culture, the ones who bring the healing of this civilization built on repression, genocide, and disenfranchisement. If you chose to roll up your sleeves to do this work, you’ll have to master the art of transformation. It begins by recognizing the Shadow is our own, not disconnected, not displaced from the Light.
We are called to reject the duality of Pisces–the previous Age, where the Fishers of Men thrived–and return to Primal Oneness. We must bring our Light and Shadow to this place of Potential–what some would call the Cauldron of the Goddess, the Sangraal of legend–and recombine them once more. It has been too long that these two binary opposites stood apart, and the Shadow has indeed festered in neglect. The Light has, in turn, grown abstract and refracted into a thousand sects. They have both forgotten the Unity of Love, the Eros that is the heartbeat of Reality.
Ah, there it is. The foundation of all being: Earth, the solid walls of the Chalice, the ground beneath it, and the All-Embracing Mother of the Waters. How dare we spoil it, abduct and claim it for a servant? This is but a viewing chamber, a womb, where we can be reborn again of our choosing, stardust shining in the Flesh.
Let me know when you get there. Be a guide for those who follow.
* Please imagine it told in the voice of Charlton Heston, narrator of Disney’s Hercules.
** Lyrics from “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from the album The Age of Aquarius, by The 5th Dimension, label Soul City.
*** I do stress the word “symbol” here. This is not a consideration of the victim, Ganymede. He whispers about personal gnosis, aching for privacy now that he is so thoroughly exposed in the stars. I think he deserves that much, at least.