The Myths of the Zodiac- Pisces the Fish

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The Myths of the Zodiac- Pisces the Fish

Post by swetha » Thu Mar 16, 2006 9:26 pm

Of the constellations, this one is most difficult to understand. Modern mythographers avoid it all together in Greek and Roman terms, and go to the Babylonians (the Fish are the twelfth sign in their zodiac) and other climes for explanation. The ancients evidently are not the only ones who equate what is old with what is wise.

Hyginus, however, gives us an extraordinary clue and it is very discreet, as it has to be under the circumstances. He writes that Aphrodite and her son Eros were at the Euphrates River when Typhon suddenly appeared. The two deities leaped into the river and changed themselves into fish to escape the danger. Hence, the Syrians keep the fish taboo from eating.

We have encountered Typhon before in Capricorn and we found that Pan too had transformed himself into a fish to get away from this horrible monster. To find the answer, we must to go Nonnos, the last great epic poet of the classical world, which was about to be subsumed and destroyed the Christians.

After Zeus had taken his sister from Sidon to Crete, Cadmus went in search for her, looking for the bull that no one could find. Cadmus, who would bring to Greece those strange scrawlings for sounds, known as the alphabet, came to the Cilician Mountains whose highest peak is Mount Taurus. There was an ominous flock of birds and other creatures in the air above him.

At this time, Zeus had gone in a neighboring cave to seduce the nymph Pluto. Ge, seeking vengeance, gave her son Typhon the monster another chance at Zeus. For this time, Zeus, as he was very busy lovemaking, had put down his lightning bolts, his great power. Typhon quickly grabbed the weapons, and all the gods, seeing what had happened, fled for Egypt. They turned into various animals and flew away. It is at this point, quite possibly, that Aphrodite and Eros, turned themselves into fish. Imagine that two of most powerful forces of love and desire are themselves powerless against such a creature, a monster of hundreds of heads and mouths and thousands of snakes. Typhon is a monster to give an Olympian god a nightmare, a monster that exists only in the deepest reaches of the cosmos.

The monster coiled around the helpless body of Zeus, prying out his sickle, and cutting out the sinews of his hands and feet, leaving Zeus completely helpless wrapped in a bearskin and guarded by Delphine, half-girl, half-snake. Cadmus came upon the scene, all alone, armed with nothing but intelligence. Cadmus remembered something he had learned from Apollo. It was music. In a nearby grove of trees, he began to play some pipes, and the sweetness of the sound intoxicated and intrigued the monster. Part of the monster’s many arms and the only human head it had came out to speak to see him. The monster challenged Cadmus, the monster’s thunder versus Cadmus’s music. The monster took pride in his strength and power that he had no achieved. Moreover, for the song, the monster promised to take Cadmus to Olympus and offered him any of the goddesses, even the virgins Athena and Artemis, everyone but Hera, whom he would keep for himself. Frightened, but resourceful, Cadmus boasted that "what would you do when I strike out a hymn of victory on the harp of seven strings, to honor your throne?" Forget about the pipes, Cadmus said, he could compete masterfully with the harp, whose seven strings, obviously play the music of the seven spheres, the seven sacred vowels. Unfortunately, however, Cadmus didn’t have the sinews to make a harp. The monster, acting like every grand seigneur and wanting to hear the magic music, went into the cave and came out carrying Zeus’s sinews in his hands and gave them Cadmus, who handled them as if he were some great professional musician testing out the wares before he strung them into his instrument. Cadmus went off to build his instrument, hiding the sinews under a rock. Back into a thicket of trees, and he began to play his pipes again.

Nonnos writes: "When a sailor hears the Siren’s perfidious song, and bewitched by the melody, he is dragged to a self-chosen fate too soon; no longer he cleaves the waves, no longer he whitens the blue water with his oars unwetted now, but falling into the net of melodious Fate, he forgets to steer, quite happy, caring not for the seven starry Pleiades and the Bear’s circling course; so the monster, shaken by the breath of that deceitful tune, welcomed with delight the wound of the pipes which was his escort to death."

The monster heard the tune, but did not understand it or hear it very well. He was straining to hear the composition that Cadmus promised him, an opus to celebrate the fleeing of the gods from Olympus. Typhon finally came out of the cave to hear the song, with all his hundred heads distracted. "But now the shepherd’s reed breathing melody fell silent, and a mantling shadow of cloud hid the piper as he cut off his tune. Typhoeus rushed head-in-air with the fury of battle into the cave’s recesses, and searched with hurried madness for the wind-coursing thunderbolt and lightning unapproachable; with inquiring foot he chased the fire-shotten gleam of the stolen thunderbolt, and found an empty cave!"

Before Cadmus took on Typhon in his musical battle, Zeus appeared to him in the form of a bull. The god was anguished, fearing that the cosmos would roar with laughter from his once defeated father, Kronos. "I fear Hellas even more," the bull said, for he feared that all the great myths about him would be retold with Typhon enjoying all the glory. The bull, too, promised "I will make you savior of the world’s harmony, and the husband of the lady Harmonia. You also, Eros, primeval founder of fecund marriage, bend your bow, and the cosmos is no longer adrift."

Rearmed Zeus, chased Typhon to Sicily and finally killed him by throwing Mount Etna on top him. The volcano is what is left of the monster.

So from just a leap of Aphrodite and Eros into the water in fear of Typhon, we find that the Fish are the remembrance of how the entire cosmos is restored to order, to what it was and what it ought to be in the end.

By Kalev Pehme

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