Elemental Yin Yang
Water and Intimacy
Cancer We’re the water signs and water’s all about feelings and emotions, and we’re considered to be the experts on all of that. So we’ve chosen intimacy as our topic, and we all do intimacy differently, and that’s what we’re going to talk about.
Scorpio Okay. You start.
Cancer For me, you can’t have intimacy if you don’t feel completely comfortable and accepted and safe. So when I think of intimacy, I picture a lake-
Scorpio You could drown in a lake-
Cancer I picture a lake and I’m the water in the lake, encircled and contained by the people in my life. If you contain me, I’ll contain you back.
Scorpio No thanks. I’ll pass.
Cancer Seriously, I think I’m the water sign that suffered the most leaving the womb. I need that kind of containment to trust people.
Pisces You have a very caring circle of friends, Cancer.
Cancer Yes, and I suffer when an argument or anything like that separates us.
Scorpio Well, if you’re a lake, I’m more like a waterfall, plunging into the waters of life. If you want to be intimate with me, you’ll have to take the plunge with me.
Cancer No way.
Scorpio I think that intimacy and sharing secrets go hand in hand. I’m not talking about the kinds of secrets Cancer’s sharing with friends. I’m talking about the stuff that’s hidden and buried deep inside.
Pisces Why go there?
Scorpio To know each other profoundly.
Pisces Pretty intense, Scorpio.
Scorpio I am. See, if Cancer’s all about the womb, I’m all about that moment when they cut the cord and I had to learn to breathe in a new way, survive in a new environment. I crave experiences that take me back to that moment.
Cancer Wow. Can’t beat that.
Pisces The fire signs are getting restless, so I better do my part now. I do intimacy in spurts. I guess I’m like a wave; I need to come and go as I please. The reason is that when I’m with people, I feel everything they’re going through, their troubles and pain, even if it’s unspoken. It’s like my water merges with theirs, and I start losing myself in them. When it becomes too much to bear, I slip away to find myself again. I’m often misunderstood and accused of being neglectful. But it’s not that at all. I just need some time. You can blame it on the planets that rule my sign. Neptune draws me to become one with you, and Jupiter pulls me away and sets me free.
Lone Lake by Franklin Carmichael, 1928
Leo When you’re all fired up, the first thing that happens is you lose your ability to communicate clearly.
Aries Now imagine being a fire sign like us. We’re always fired up.
Sagittarius Verbal communication is never our strength. You’ve got to get to know us on a different level, a more primal level.
Aries Don’t just listen to what we say; use your fire feelers to understand what we mean to say. Fire feelers bring you images that connect you to us and complete our sentences.
Leo It’s like when you’re trying to figure out what your personal destiny is. You’ve got to use your fire feelers to connect with your heart. When you do that, you’ll see images of what brings joy and fulfillment to your life. That’s how you know in which direction you’re heading.
Aries Same way; when you use your fire feelers to connect with us, you’ll see images of what we’re trying to communicate.
Sagittarius Before there was language, people relied on their fire feelers to understand each other all the time. Then language came along and they forgot all about them. Now there are all these people taking time off to “find themselves.” What they need to do is find their fire feelers and connect with their heart.
Aries Dust them off and put them to good use.
Leo Yeah; use them to understand us better.
Dancers by Edgar Degas, ca. 1878
Three Men talking about Earth
When I come home, take my shoes off, and Virgo shows up to check if I’ve put them in the right place, I know she’s in one of her “let’s keep the house tidy and clean so that I can think” moods. I’ll take my socks off, and before I even give them a thought, she’ll be off with them and I’ll hear the soft slam of the hamper cover. That’s when I know I’ve entered dangerous territory, and my survival instincts kick in. I compliment her on the impeccable cleaning job she’s done as I head to the kitchen. Why is it that when I’m most careful about serving myself some food, I drop half of it all over the stove and floor?
“Your hands are shaking?”
“You’re all tensed up, like I’m all tensed up just listening to you.”
Luckily, those moods of hers don’t last for more than two or three days. Then it all goes back to normal and it’s a piece of cake coming come.
Remember my table? The one I got at the garage sale?
“That ugly piece of wood with the carved animal head sticking out in the middle?”
“How can we forget; it’s your statement piece.”
Taurus gave it away. I came home and it was gone.
“What! How could she!”
“You love that thing!”
She said she couldn’t live with it anymore; it was jarring to her senses; it didn’t fit her notions of beauty.
“What did you do?”
I was so upset, I couldn’t talk to her.
“What did she do?”
She got upset too and wouldn’t talk to me either.
“Then what happened?”
I gave in; said it was okay. You know that moment when you either fight or give in? My survival instincts or animal intelligence, call it what you like, told me to give in.
“You look tired; what’s up?”
Capricorn told me all about our political system last night. Can she ever talk. I didn’t know so many words could come out of a person. She told me how it all began all the way to where we are now. Went to bed at like 2 in the morning.
“Don’t you know all that stuff already?”
“She needs to get her fire feelers going. Just because you don’t say much, doesn’t mean you don’t know.”
Actually, I think she has her fire feelers working fine. I knew the basics but not the way she knows it, not so in depth. I bet you now that I know this country better than both of you. That girl’s educating me.
The Prayer before the Meal by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin, ca. 1740
Air and Detachment
You get into your car and there’s Gemini standing there. You turn your car on and Gemini decides to help you back out of your parking spot. He signals with his hand to go ahead and go back; the road’s clear. His phone rings and he forgets about you, but his hand doesn’t. He answers his phone with his right and his left hand still signals for you to go back. When his left hand sees a car coming, it stops signalling and you brake in time not to back into it.
You get into your car and there’s Libra standing there. You turn your car on and Libra decides to help you back out of your parking spot. He signals with his hand to go ahead and go back; the road’s clear. From the corner of his eye, Libra sees the woman he’s been wanting to go out with walking in his direction. He signals for you to stop, smoothly puts his shades on, and turns around to talk to her. You watch them flirt for a while, then smack yourself on the forehead thinking, What are you waiting for? You’ve always backed out on your own.
You get into your car and there’s Aquarius standing there. You turn your car on and look up to see Aquarius making hand signals for you to go back, and you follow them. He really isn’t. He’s just fanning himself; it’s so hot outside. Each time he stops fanning himself to wipe the sweat off his face, you brake. It takes longer for you to back out this way but you don’t want to hurt his feelings. You back out of your parking spot without any incidents, wave at him and drive off.
Lekythos of Hermes, attributed to the Tithonos Painter, ca.180-470 B.C.
The story of Libra
Libra was first part of the Virgo constellation. Her scales were at the farmer’s feet, and they represented the earth’s good counsel. There were no oracles back then; people who farmed the land would lie on the ground and listen to the earth tell them when to sow the land and when to let it rest. In the beginning, Libra was earthy.
Then she became part of the Scorpio constellation. She became the scorpion’s claws held by her scales; still earthy but now watery as well. The counsel she gave was not only with knowledge of the order of things on earth, but it rose to include people’s emotions.
Before Libra took her own place in the sky, she existed in relationship with another; first with Virgo and then with Scorpio, and this is how Libra needs to be understood. More than any other sign, she’s aware that we exist in relationship, and everything we say and do affects another.
From Virgo she learnt about the fault lines that exist on earth, and from Scorpio she learnt about the fault lines that exist among people. She holds the scales up in the air and with them she measures the actions that will keep the fault lines intact and the ones that will disturb and rearrange them. She measures everything she says and does looking at the wider picture. Her bird’s eye view shows her the ripple effect that a gift, a slam of a door, a praise and a whisper can have.
The Story of Virgo
Virgo’s story begins with purity and perfection; it begins with Persephone when she was still a maiden.
Demeter did not want her daughter Persephone to marry. She wanted to preserve her innocence forever. But Pluto fell in love with her and carried her off to the underworld.
Demeter went mad looking for her daughter. She asked the Sun if he had seen her, and the Sun told her that Pluto had taken her with him. In her grief, Demeter shut herself off, and the world became barren and people began to starve.
Jupiter intervened and asked Pluto to return Persephone to her mother, but Pluto said he couldn’t. Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds in the underworld and she now belonged to him. But he did agree to an arrangement; Persephone would spend 9 months of the year with Demeter and 3 months with him.
Thankful to see her daughter again, Demeter created the seasons and gave the people on earth the gift of agriculture. From then on, Spring would see Persephone come back to her, and Winter would see her go back to the underworld. Winter would also see Demeter grieve for how things were before the loss of innocence.
That’s what Virgos do when they clean the house; they grieve for how things were before, and they try to capture, even for brief moment, a time of purity and perfection.
Demeter. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek original from the 4th century BC
The story of Leo brings in the story of Cancer
The lion of the Leo constellation is the Nemean lion from Heracles’ First Labour. But it’s not the lion alone. It’s Heracles wearing the lion’s skin.
Heracles was born from the union of Jupiter and a mortal. Jupiter named him after his wife Hera, thinking that this would appease her, but it didn’t appease her at all. From the time Hera learned of the child, she tried to kill him. She made repeated attempts, but Heracles was not meant to die by her hand.
When Heracles married and had a family, Hera struck him with a temporary madness, and in his madness, Heracles killed his family. To atone for his crime, he had to carry out the Twelve Labours he is known for.
The first one was to slay the Nemean Lion, a golden lion with impenetrable skin. Heracles killed the lion with his bare hands, and then used the lion’s claw, the only thing that could penetrate it, to skin it. He wore the skin throughout the duration of his labours, never once removing it from his body, and he became the golden lion with impenetrable skin.
Each time Heracles was in the middle of a labour, tackling some horrible monster, a crab would appear and snap at his ankles. The crab would remind him that after he completed the labour, he needed to take the lion’s skin off, take a shower, get some rest, and most importantly, reconnect with his soul. You’re losing yourself in that skin, the crab would tell him. But Heracles never listened; he’d just shake his leg and get rid of the crab. He didn’t need to reconnect with his soul; he needed to purify it, and he was having the time of his life doing that.
When all the labours were done, and Heracles finally took the lion’s skin off, he couldn’t bear it. He didn’t know who he was without the skin, and he couldn’t live with the hollowness he felt inside. He was about to give himself to death, when a crab pinched him and he fell back and into the waters of Cancer.
Cancer contained Heracles; she soothed him and took care of him, and she showed him how to be an ordinary man.
Amphora with Athena, Heracles, the Crab, the Hydra, Iolaos, and an unidentified character (possibly Zeus/Jupiter), ca. 540–530 BC
The Story of Gemini
Castor and Pollux are the inseparable twins of the Gemini constellation. They were conceived on a day when their mother, the beautiful Leda, made love twice; she made love with Jupiter disguised as a swan in the day, and with her husband, King Tyndareus of Sparta, in the night. The result was that Castor was born a mortal, and Pollux was immortal. They were not of the same father, but they were known to all as the Dioscuri, the boys of Jupiter,
The twins grew up to be noble in character and excellent horsemen, and they were always very busy. Throughout the Greco-Roman period, you would see them galloping away on a rescue mission. They were needed. They were of god and of man, and they brought magical thinking to human logic. No matter how dire the situation, things worked out as if by magic when they were around.
Then they fell in love and disaster struck. They fell in love with a set of twin sisters who were already betrothed to another set of twin brothers, cousins of the Dioscuri. The Dioscuri fought with their cousins over the women, and Castor was killed in the fight.
Pollux could not imagine life without his brother, and to keep him alive, he shared his immortality with him. From then on, Pollux would be on Mt. Olympus and Castor in the underworld one day, and they would switch the following day. They were still together, but never in the same place, and they were now both human and divine, but never at the same time.
Dioscuri, Roman statuettes, 3rd century AD.
The story of Gemini you just read is only a fragment of what happened. After our mother’s encounter with the swan, she lay two eggs and had two sets of twins; Pollux and myself hatched from one egg, and Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra hatched from the other. So you see, Gemini isn’t just about duality, it’s about multiplicity; and really, who isn’t complex and multiplicious?
Imagine if Helen and Cly were in the sky instead of us. Helen, the chosen one, next to Cly who everyone forgot was Helen’s mortal twin. The only painter who painted her into the picture was Leonardo; decent man; knew his mythology. Everyone else left Cly out, including her husband Agamemnon. He killed their daughter as an offering to the gods for favourable winds to sail to Troy, and then left her for ten years. What followed when he returned was a story of revenge. Then there’s Helen, every man’s dream, who switched sides like the wind; first of Sparta, then of Troy, and then back to being of Sparta. She revealed what she knew of the Spartans to the Trojans as much as she concealed. She figured out what the Trojan Horse was about and who were the men hiding inside, but she didn’t tell. Instead, she stood close to the horse, imitating the voices of the men’s wives, teasing them, testing if they’d answer back and reveal themselves. When they didn’t, she let their plot take its course.
But it’s not them in the sky; it’s us.
It should be the four of us together. People would understand our purpose better.
We draw out people’s multiplicity and reveal it to them. You’re not just the moral and ethical principles you claim to uphold; you’re so much more; everyone is.
Leda and the Swan (copy after Leonardo da Vinci’s original) possibly by Francesco Melzi, ca. 1515
Look at Virgo. Her story is about respecting the seasons of the earth, and the rituals that accompany each season. But her story also includes the beginning, when Demeter tried to prevent the natural course of her daughter’s life, keeping her virginal, until Pluto took her away. Her story’s cyclical and linear at the same time. Virgo’s the farmer who can weed the garden until she weeds it of its fruits.
Wasn’t mother weeding the garden when she saw the swan? I think that’s how she’d begin telling us our story.
Yes; she’d say that she heard a commotion while weeding the garden, and saw an eagle chasing a swan. She rushed to save the swan and took it in her arms. Later on, she found out that Jupiter had told Mercury to turn into an eagle, and to chase him disguised as a swan. Come to think of it, no other god is more complex than father.
I wouldn’t call him complex; he just can’t seem to rein in his animal instincts.
The story of Gemini brings in the story of Sagittarius
The centaur in the constellation of the Archer is not Chiron. Chiron is a minor planet, and you’ll see him on your birth chart, in the house where you’ve been wounded. If you have Chiron in your first house of Self, you may carry a wound that does not let you shine your brightest. But you don’t have to look at your chart to know where you’ve been wounded; it’s that part of you that can keep you down and that you try to overcome. Chiron is known as the wounded healer, and he heals you by wounding you again, until you rise above your wound and shine your brightest.
The centaur in the constellation of the Archer is Sagittarius. He took part in the war between the centaurs and their cousins, the Lapiths; the war known as the Centauromachy. The centaurs had been invited to a Lapith wedding, and unused to drinking wine, they lost their senses and tried to abduct the Lapith women, including the bride. The result was a war that expelled the centaurs from the region. Sagittarius went off on his own to tame his wildness, be less barbaric and more civilized, and along the way he met Chiron. Chiron helped him rein in his animal instincts with lessons about the world of men, justice, the healing arts, and archery.
A Centauromachy relief on an ancient Roman sarcophagus, ca. 150 AD
Chiron opened up a thirst for knowledge in Sagittarius. Here he was, half man half horse, not belonging to one world or the other. He felt wondrous and wounded at the same time. He needed to find the truth about himself; he needed to rise above the tamed and the untamed, the barbaric and the civilized to know the answer.
Virgin enthroned with saints, resting on a Roman sarcophagus with a relief of the Centauromachy, by Luca Signorelli, 1491
He found his answer on the Camino de Santiago, where his fusion, his gallop, his stature, and his muscles attracted everyone’s attention. He heard people calling him exciting, fringe, and so risqué. He was stretching their imagination.
Then he saw her and knew he wasn’t alone.
The story of Sagittarius brings in the story of Capricorn
The ancient people of Mesopotamia imagined godly beings that existed between worlds; they were surreal and magical. Their betweenness gave them access to realms people could not reach, and they were endowed with supra-natural powers. The shamans of the ancient lands of Mesopotamia would call upon them to exorcise evil, to heal and purify, and to divine the future.
The sea-goat in the constellation of Capricorn was one such being imagined by the ancients of Mesopotamia. He was a goat with the tail of a fish, and a symbol of the god Enki-Ea, creator and protector of humanity.
Capricornus as a sea-goat from Urania’s Mirror (1825)
Enki-Ea lived in the waters beneath the earth, a place called the abzu. He made the earth fertile with the sweet waters of the abzu, and populated it with people to work the land and feed the gods living among them. Enki-Ea was of the earth and wore a horned cap; but he was also of the abzu, and was always depicted with flowing streams of water rich in fish. His symbols were the turtle and the sea-goat.
The Adda Seal, an ancient Akkadian cylinder seal showing (from left to right) Inanna, Utu, Enki and Isimud (ca. 2300 BC)
The people of Mesopotamia considered all the sweet water of the earth to have come from the abzu, and to have sacred properties. Whenever they saw a bad omen in the sky, the shamans would organize a purification ritual for their king. They would put the king in a bath, and recite incantations to invoke Enki-Ea. They would ask the powerful sea-goat to cleanse their king, exorcise all evil and restore his purity; they would ask him to prevent anything bad from befalling their kingdom. It was a “bath house” ritual and a ritual based on faith.
Capricorn was imagined with faith.
A mountain goat swimming Nanika Lake. Photograph by Frank Cyril Swannell (1880-1969)
The story of Scorpio
Standing behind the scorpion in the sky or holding it in front of her is Artemis, goddess of the hunt and goddess of the crescent moon.
Like the crescent moon, Artemis was a maiden; she was mistress of the animals and a huntress who lived in a wild forest with her seven nymphs. If a man ventured into the forest to find her, she’d kill him. She was wild and she was chaste, and she would hunt alone or with her twin brother Apollo, until she met the mortal Orion.
Orion came into the forest looking for one her nymphs, and perhaps his disinterest in her made Artemis turn her attention on him. She discovered that he was a great hunter like she was, and they began spending time together, having playful hunting competitions. For the first time, Artemis felt a deep connection with another, and she defended her friendship with Orion when Apollo criticized her for sullying her perfection with a mortal.
Then came betrayal. Either Orion forced himself on Opis, priestess of Artemis, or Apollo said he did. Artemis was betrayed either by the man she considered to be a true companion or by her twin brother. Whichever one it was, she felt violated. She called on Scorpius to kill Orion because she found she couldn’t do it herself.
Now she stands behind the scorpion or holds it in front of her, warning those who come close, one strike and you’re out.
Artemis. Roman marble statue, 2nd century CE
The story of Aquarius
Ganymede is the cup-bearer in the constellation of Aquarius. When Jupiter brought the beautiful Ganymede to Mt. Olympus, he had him replace his daughter Hebe as cup-bearer to the gods. Hera was insulted by this; she protested; how could he allow mortal hands to serve the gods the ambrosia of immortality.
Because that’s how it really is. If mortals don’t nourish the gods, the gods disappear.
The story of Pisces
Venus and Eros are the fish in the constellation of Pisces.
The story begins when the old rule of the Titans was challenged by the Olympians, the younger generation of gods. When the challenge became a threat, both sides prepared for war. The Olympians forged formidable weapons to defend themselves, and the Titans created Typhon, a monster like no other.
Heaven and earth shook during the battle that would topple the old order and establish a new pantheon of gods. During this time of chaos, Venus took refuge in a cave near a river. There, she tended to her son Eros. She wanted to keep all the destruction going on between the gods away from them.
Venus consoling Eros Stung by a Bee by Benjamin West, 1802
The day she saw Typhon approach the cave, she tied Eros to her with a cord, jumped into the river, and transformed both of them into fish. They swam in the river until the Olympians won the war; the water protecting them and buffering the cacophony of battle noise. In the silence of the river, all they could see above them were ripples of lights, the magical lights of Jupiter’s thunderbolts.
Detail of a stained glass window in Chartres Cathedral
The story of Pisces brings in the story of Aries
In Pisces, we can be the Typhon, father of all the monsters in Greek and Roman stories. He contains the Hydra and the Chimera and Cerberus and all the others; he’s formless in all his forms and a force of destruction. In Pisces, we can be the fish insulated from the real world, cushioned by self-absorption and dreams and imagination and spirituality; a fountain of shapeless potential and a force of creation. We materialize and give shape and form to creation and destruction in Aries.
Pisces by Jason Hackenwerth, 2013. Sculpture made with 10,000 latex balloons, representing the legend of Aphrodite and Eros https://www.itsliquid.com/jason-hackenwerth-pisces.html
Chrysomallus is the ram in the constellation of Aries. He is the winged ram with golden wool that rescued Phrixos and Helle, children of the Boeotian king, from being murdered by their stepmother.
There had been a terrible drought in the land, and the children’s stepmother lied and said that to prevent famine, the Oracle of Delphi had asked the king to sacrifice his children.
“Sacrilege!” cried the gods on Mt. Olympus. Before the stepmother could carry out her heinous deed, they sent Chrysomallus to whisk the children away to Colchis. But Helle wasn’t ready; the swift rescue mission was too much for her and she fell off the ram and into the water below. Phrixos tried to pull her out but she wouldn’t let him; she wanted to swim back home. The gods intervened and turned her into a fish so that she could swim safely in the waters of Pisces.
Vessel with Phrixos on the Ram, 340–310 B.C.
When Phrixos arrived to Colchis, he sacrificed Chrysomallus to return him to the gods, and then gave the ram’s Golden Fleece to Aeëtes, King of Colchis. The king put the Golden Fleece in a grove sacred to Mars, and the god of war sent a fiery and sleepless dragon to protect it.
Chrysomallus was now in the constellation of Aries, but his story continued on earth with the arrival of Jason and the Argonauts to Colchis.
Jason was the rightful King of Iolcus, but his uncle Pelias had usurped the throne. When Jason came of age and claimed it, Pelias told him he could have it, but only if he brought the Golden Fleece as proof that he was fit to rule. Jason agreed and prepared for his quest. He assembled a group of warriors and together they sailed away on the Argos. After a long and arduous journey that tested and strengthened their skills, they arrived to Colchis. There, they found the Golden Fleece guarded by a fierce, fire-spitting dragon that never slept.
Paintings tell two different versions of what happened next.
Some tell that Medea, daughter of King Aeëtes, helped Jason get the fleece by preparing a potion that would put the dragon to sleep.
Jason and Medea by John William Waterhouse, 1907
Others tell that Jason fought the dragon and was swallowed by it, and that Athena came to his aid and made the dragon regurgitate him. With Athena’s blessing, Jason took the fleece and returned home.
Jason being regurgitated by the dragon that protected the Golden Fleece (centre, hanging on a tree) while Athena stands to the right. Red-figure cup by Douris, ca. 480 B.C.
You can choose the version you like; the hero you prefer.
Mars Personally, I like the second version better; it completes the journey with an initiation of sorts. The dragon spits him out and he’s born again, ready to be king. Pluto meets Mars kind of thing.
Chrysomallus Scorpio meets Aries.
Artemis So’s the potion version. Scorpio’s all about potions.
Mars And poison, let’s not forget.
Artemis I should have given Orion a second chance. Now we just chase each other in the sky; when I rise, he sets, and when I set, he rises.
Chrysomallus At least you’re getting good exercise.
Artemis and Mars look at the ram
Chrysomallus I always say, stay fit, be brave, and do the right thing.
Order of the Golden Fleece (Spain 1800-1820)
The story of Taurus
I haven’t had the heart to tell Artemis that although she and Orion- I really should say, Scorpius and Orion miss each other in the sky, Orion gets to see her seven nymphs all the time. They’re the Pleiades in my constellation, and Orion’s my neighbour; can’t tell you how glad I am to have so many neighbours up here.
I’m the bull in the constellation of Taurus; I’m by no means your ordinary bull, and I wouldn’t take part in any of those life-threatening bull sports either.
Some say I’m the dazzling bull that the shape-shifting Jupiter turned into to win Europa’s heart. Europa and her friends used to hang out in the fields and Jupiter fell in love with her. He appeared in the middle of a field one day wearing a garland of laurel leaves, and their scent attracted Europa’s attention. She came close to him and put her arms around his neck to smell them, and he carried her away, all the way to Crete where he seduced her.
Europa carried away by Jupiter by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, 1772
Minos was born of their union, and when Minos grew up, he wanted to become king. He prayed to the gods to send him a perfect bull, a bull that would prove he was favoured by them to become King of Crete. He promised the gods that in return, he would sacrifice the bull to them. The gods granted his wish and Minos became king, but Minos sacrificed a lesser bull to the gods; he couldn’t let go of the perfect bull. The gods punished him by having his wife Pasiphaë fall madly in love with the bull. Do you know what it is to fall so madly in love that you lose your senses and forget yourself completely? That’s how Pasiphaë loved the godsent bull. She wanted to mate with it and she asked the inventor Daedalus to build her a cow she could hide in.
Pasiphaë Sculpture By Oscar Estruga. In Vilanova I La Geltru. Photograph by Marek Poplawski, 2014
I was born of this union. My name’s Asterion, but you may know me better as the Minotaur. By the look on your face you probably just know the old story; I’ll tell you the old story and the new one.
The old story’s that the king put me away in a labyrinth under the palace at Knossos; he hid me, his broken promise to the gods, and my mother’s passion underground. The worst part is that the people of Crete who danced with bulls in the rites of passage allowed him to do this to me. They turned me into a monster and fed me the youth of Athens. Then my own half-sister Ariadne helped Theseus come into the labyrinth and kill me, and that was the end of me. The old story’s a really bad dream.
Bull-leaping fresco from the east wing of the palace of Knossos (reconstructed), ca. 1400 B.C.E.
The new story’s that Ariadne defied her father who was King Minos, and used a ball of thread to come see me every day. All the palace servants were in on this. Ariadne took care of me, brought me the greens I love to eat, played with me and made the youth of Athens play with me too. She patiently taught me to read and write; she taught me everything she could despite my bullheadedness. More than anything, my sister recognized that I was born of love.
Janus (Ariadne and Asterion) by Michael Bergt, 2017
When the time was right, Ariadne brought me and my hybrid self out of the labyrinth. She presented me to the people of Crete as their prince, Prince Asterion. She made them bow to me and my whole story; I am every character in my story. Then she nudged me to bow back.
Now you know why Taurus cannot live with a table that has an ugly animal head sticking out of it. Neptune himself created the perfect bull that rose from the water to make Minos a king, and Venus herself cast the love spell on Pasiphaë. A body marked by the bull is refined in its gruffness and fine in sensibility; it quivers when it’s in love.
After Picasso by Michael Bergt, 2017
The question here isn’t what motivates you; the question is what calls you. The first one puts you and your Mars in charge; the second one takes you one step further and connects you with your daimon, your deity, your guiding force. Don’t tell me you don’t have one cause Plato says you do. He wrote it in his Republic.
He said that before you incarnate, you choose your daimon, your own personal deity who will guide you through life. You then go see the goddess Necessity and discuss your upcoming life with her. While you do this, her three daughters weave the threads of your destiny into the wheels of Necessity’s spindle. The outer wheel’s the zodiac, and there are seven inner wheels; one for the Sun, one for the Moon, and one for each of the five planets known during Plato’s time: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury.
So you see, you’re never alone; you’ve got your daimon with you. It makes sure that whatever calls you is meant for you.
Necessity and the Fates, 4th Century B.C.
I’ve heard people say that your daimon is some kind of winged creature that guides you, but that’s not how I experience mine. Mine’s more like a force that only shows up when it wants to warn me against something that’s calling me. It’s literally a force of resistance that presses against my chest and tries to prevent me from going in that direction. It pushes against me and silently says, Not for you. I’ve learnt to listen to my daimon’s advice the hard way.
Taking Flight by Michael Bergt, 2009
Me too I’ve heard people say that your daimon’s some kind of angel that guides you. I’ve never seen mine or heard mine, but I know when she’s around. She only shows up when she wants to warn me about a thought I’m having; something I’m thinking of doing; something that’s calling me. My daimon can hear my thoughts. She warns me not to even think about it by bringing something crashing down; the last time it was a plate that broke into a million pieces. When the same thought crept into my mind again, I stepped on a piece that the vacuum cleaner had missed.
Brisa by Michael Bergt, 2004
I imagine my daimon to be an invisible bull that blocks my way. I used to try to push him aside, but couldn’t. I had to muster my will to walk through the force of him, and when I did, I felt that I had walked against my will. Then came a day when he wasn’t just one bull but ten, warning me and keeping me from reaching the thing that called me. When I pushed against him, and the next, and the third, and pushed forward, I was sentenced to 100 days confinement.
If your daimon’s a bull, then I gather it’s his head pressing against you. Whatever my daimon is, she’s a female, and she has either wings or a tail to sweep things off my countertops. In the beginning, she’d sweep things that wouldn’t break, and I’d pick them right back up and get into trouble. Then one day she swept an old vase that I loved, and that’s the day I made the connection. I knew that if I carried out what I’d been thinking, I’d end up like you, confined. I didn’t vacuum the broken pieces of the vase; I’ve kept them to remember the day I met my daimon.
Nowadays, when he shows up, I do not cross him. I feel his force and I heed his warning; I take a step back.
Nowadays, when she shows up, I bend down to touch the shards of glass or ceramic, and I understand what she’s telling me. I get the vacuum cleaner out knowing that some of the broken pieces will hide, just in case I need a reminder.
Ness He’s not preventing me from heading your way, Brisa. The way to you is as clear as a breeze.
Brisa Then come over; my floors are safe and I have a gift for you. I’ve made a bull with the broken pieces of my vase.
He comes over and she gives it to him
Ness So this is what my daimon looks like.
Brisa Yes; he’s colourful and ready to charge.
Gaudi Trencadís Bull (contemporary)
Léa Remember Singing Grass told us that the ambulance we kept seeing was protecting us and warning us? Those are daimon traits.
Rose He also said it was reminding us of our stupidity.
Mary Léa, do you think your daimon is an ambulance?
Léa Well, Ness has an invisible bull pressing against him, and Brisa has a winged dragoness sweeping things down with its tail. I happen to have the flashing lights and the siren call of an ambulance.
Rose (pointing at Mary and herself) So do we.
Mary What if our daimons are manifesting in the form of an ambulance? They’re deities, aren’t they?
Rose They could just be driving them.
Rocky Road by Michael Bergt, 2016
When he pushed past me ten times, I went daimonic on him. I let him plunge into the unknown. Some people don’t survive the fall, but he did. He let go of all control and reconnected with Necessity; he remembered their conversation buried long ago. 100 days later, when he returned home, he found his old friends had dropped away. Something new was calling him; his fortuna was calling him.
She wouldn’t have survived the fall, so I did the worst thing I could do. I let a vase, the only keepsake she had of her mom, drop to the ground and shatter. She dropped to the ground with it, and I knelt beside her. In her moment of pain, I brought back a dream she had forgotten; her dream of becoming an artist.
Someone’s been hijacking ambulances in the city. The moment paramedics step out of their vehicle for a coffee break, there’s an ambulance on the run. It doesn’t run away surreptitiously; not at all. It runs away with the warning lights flashing and the sirens calling the paramedics to run after it. Cops join the chase as well, and when they reach it, there’s nobody inside. The funny thing is that the runaways always end up in the same parking lot. They’re obviously trying to tell us something, but we just can’t figure out what.
The Plunge by Michael Bergt, 2001
When I was locked up and put away, I remembered Necessity. She reminded me that I had not yet met all the people I had to meet. She wanted to know if I could hear them calling me. I said I couldn’t hear anything, and that all I really wanted was to drown in my misfortune. She ran her fingers through my hair and I sank into them, and I heard the voices she wanted me to hear; people asking me about my story, about the daimon and the daimonic; my own voice telling them that they are part of the same energy; two horns of a bull, two wings of a dragoness.
Undercurrent by Michael Bergt, 2011
I had spread all the bits and pieces of my mother’s vase on my bed, and began sorting them by colour. While I did this, I heard Ness talking on the radio; he was going to give a workshop and I was going to sign up for it.
Transformation by Michael Bergt, 2006
Léa, Mary and Rose
Paramedics came to see us; asked us if we knew anything about the runaway ambulances. There was a camera at so and so intersection, and every time a runaway ambulance made a left turn there, one of our cars was in the picture.
We tested the waters and asked if they knew what a daimon was. They said they had some idea; they had heard Ness talking about it on the radio.
We took a chance and told them that our daimons were driving the ambulances to warn us not to make a left turn at that intersection.
They asked us if we were on any drugs, any medication, and before we could say no, their ambulance took off and they went running after.
Try catching our daimons.
Bull Jumper by Michael Bergt, 2015
The moment I stepped outside the building, the ambulance I had sent over to see the 3 women drove toward me and parked in front of me. I opened the ambulance door knowing and confirming there was nobody inside; this was the first time a runaway had driven itself to home base. I sat in the driver’s seat and saw the key in the ignition; I started the engine.
I stood in front of the house where the 3 women had gathered to talk to the paramedics. Before I could take the steps that led to the door, my daimon came to stand in front of me. Unlike Ness and Brisa and all the others at the workshop, I wouldn’t say my daimon came to warn me; it came to ask me if I was ready for a challenge. Sometimes I wasn’t, but this time I was and I pushed through the rolls of flesh of a sumo wrestler. He now stood behind me, and with his hand on my shoulder wishing me luck, I rang the doorbell.
Resistance by Michael Bergt, 2008
I sat with the women and read their play. They told me they had no idea that when they pushed aside their hesitation to work with the lawyer, they had pushed aside their daimons; and look what happened; they ended up with yin eyes. On top of that, police officers 1 and 2 had shown up at their door, warning them not to contact the lawyer or they’d be charged with harassment. They showed me the complaint the lawyer had filed against them, and when I read it, I saw what my profession would call madness. They told me that this was the complaint their daimons did not want them to forget when they were near the lawyer’s office. I asked them if there was a chance they’d forget, and they said, not anymore; they’d made copies and each one had a copy hanging on the rearview mirror of their car; in case they forgot that the lawyer’s secret life could not interfere with his livelihood.
Well that should put a rest to any more ambulances taking off on their own; people were blaming paramedics for leaving the key in the ignition.
You never know, they said; their daimons liked to play.
I wondered why my daimon thought this visit would be a challenge when I realized I had put down my Rod of Asclepius. I was about to tell them my secret. I tried to hold back but something called me to tell them; probably a knot of Necessity; her daughters must have joined the threads of our destiny with a knot. I said they weren’t the only ones caught in a web.
Léa I wouldn’t say we’re caught in a web. We’re more like Br’er Rabbit fighting with Tar-Baby; the more we fight, the more stuck we get.
Ambulance Service Same thing as being caught in a web. The more the insect fights, the more entangled it gets.
Mary But we like being rabbits more than insects; rabbits get away.
Rose Are you about to tell us that you went to see the same lawyer?
Ambulance Service No, someone else, but my story’s not that different from yours. You ended up writing a play, and I ended up doing skits, the kind that you describe in your play. It’s now become a pastime I enjoy.
Rose Really? Usually the women we’ve seen in skits look upset and unhappy.
Ambulance Service It’s just an act; I guess it helps us do what we normally wouldn’t.
Léa What’s your name?
Ambulance Service Amanda.
Léa Would you like some tea, Amanda? Your ambulance doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Amanda I’d love some… Would you read my cards?
Mary I’ll get the cards.
Rose I’ll do your birth chart. When were you born?
Léa I’ll get the tea.
The Seeker by Michael Bergt, 2014
Dare yourself to push through your daimon like Ness did, and the intensity of your experience will mark you; it will change your chemistry and demand more of the same. That’s why Ness can’t walk away from it; he’s made a life of his workshops.
My workshops close the gap between heaven and earth. You should join me, Brisa; help people visualize their daimons with your art.
I’ll join you and bring to life what you describe. I’ll give it shape and form. In the beginning, you chose your daimon, pushed against it and had a fall. Necessity rescued you and gave the threads of your destiny back to you, and here you are now.
Balancing them with yours.
Balancing Act by Michael Bergt, 2018
Every time I’m in an empty place in my life, a man wearing a moustache and a trench coat crosses my path, outdoors, in a grocery store, in a movie theatre; the same man every time. He links together all those empty moments in my life when nothing calls me, nothing grips me. His presence reassures me that something will, soon, and soon enough something does. The last time he crossed my path I heard Ness on the radio.
I’ve always believed that the planets come into our lives as daimones, spirits that guide us and motivate us, inspire us and cast love spells on us; but the idea of having my own personal daimon was new and exciting to me. I needed to explore this deeper, and I’ll tell you why. I’m a volunteer guide; I lead people in my community on walking tours, and each time, by chance, someone in the group runs into a long lost friend or a long lost lover. It’s not really by chance that it happens; it’s because something pushes me to walk in one direction and not the other. I needed to know if it was my daimon pushing me, and I signed up for one of Ness and Brisa’s workshops.
The atmosphere of the workshop was right out of the 60s; everyone was open to what everyone else had to say; we were all fragments of a whole. What united us was the idea that we were all guided through life in some way, if we cared to listen, and even if we didn’t, we were not alone. Ness gave an account of his experience with his daimon and he asked us if we remembered the first time we met ours.
I remembered being told as a child not to go into the garden barefoot, and I went into the garden barefoot and stepped on a nail that was longer than my finger. I tiptoed back into the house and into the washroom with the point of the nail stuck in my heel and the rest of it dragging on the floor. I closed the washroom door and prayed to god to give me the courage to pull it out, and when I finished praying, I lost my balance and stepped on the heel with the nail stuck inside and the nail flew out. That was the first time I met my daimon. It whinnied.
We shared our stories and I shared mine, and I said that I was sure daimons got together to orchestrate encounters between people. I told them about my experience with my walking tours and others added their own experiences to mine.
Brisa brought out art supplies and we all imagined what our daimons looked like. She helped me draw mine because I was never good at drawing, and I had such a clear picture that I could describe it to her. I told her my daimon wasn’t a regular horse; maybe it was when I was young, but not anymore. It was a yin yang horse; it helped bring people missing their other halves together.
Equus by Michael Bergt, 2000
My eyes were drawn to Liad the moment he walked in; he was older than the rest of the people signed up for the same 3-day workshop. From the start, he was protective of the shyer ones in the group, the ones who were easily left out and interrupted; he’d make sure we went back to them and listened to what they had to say. He united the group and I liked that.
When he described his daimon to me, he said it was a crossroads-daimon, a daimon that stood at a crossroads and told him which way to go; pushed him, actually. It was a yin yang daimon too; always on the lookout for the person someone needed to find. You can only feel whole on your own for so long, he said. I sat down beside him and drew what I imagined his daimon to look like, and when he saw the finished drawing, his eyes twinkled with mischief. That’s when I realized that all along, he’d been telling us what his daimon did for others, but not what it did for him personally.
I asked him if he was married, and he said he’d never married. I asked him how had he managed to feel whole all these years, and he said he was never without a girlfriend. There was that twinkle in his eyes again.
Brisa This daimon of yours tells me you have many to choose from. Does it always lead you to the right one?
Liad Looking at your drawing, now I know this daimon of mine is responsible for leading me to the right one; the one who needs me most.
Brisa I like the way you say that. I guess Ness and I need each other most, exclusively.
Liad We have different daimons; each one has a different purpose.
Brisa We should talk about this tomorrow.
Liad I’ll bring it up.
What came to mind when we were done for the day were the celestial dragon and tiger of so many ancient cultures; the duality that made things whole. Like the celestial dragon, my dragoness was fire and air. Like the celestial tiger, Ness’ bull was earth and water. Together they brought all four elements together. We balanced each other well.
Dualidad by Rufino Tamayo, 1964
Looks to me like they’re about to kill each other.
It’s to show that Yin and Yang don’t blend. They’re two forces that come together but remain true to themselves.
Looks to me like Yin is trying to dominate Yang, and Yang is going to strike back.
They’re keeping each other in check. It’s a tense balance between two powerful and opposing forces.
I hope the tiger wins.
You’re missing the point.
I see what I see, and looks to me like there’s going to be a fight.