Notebook, 1993-



Poseidon [Neptune] was the son of Kronos and Rhea, lord of the sea, but also of the land. This deity is a pure Greek creation, and just as he would stir up the sea and create massive waves with his trident, when angered, so too he would cause earthquakes which have always plagued the country. In addition he was the patron of fresh water sources such as rivers and springs. And lastly, he was the patron god of horses, for the Greeks attributed to him their knowledge of horsemanship. He it was that gave to Peleus two immortal steeds Xanthus and Balius. Like the other divinities he was known for his amorous affairs, and besides fathering the offspring of his legitimate consort Amphitrite, he produced numerous children indiscriminately with goddesses or mortals who did not all have a reputation for kindness and love of man. Among the latter, the better known were his sons Polyphemos [a Cyclops], Antaeos, Amykos, Cercyon, Scyron, Sines, Procrustes, and Eryx. He not only sired mortals but had bestial [p. 41] offshoots as well such as the legendary horse Arion whom he begot with Demetra, and Pegasus with Medusa. Greek anthropomorphism was such that Poseidon like all other deities was directly involved with the affairs of men. Well known are his quarrels with Athena for the possession of Athens, with Helios for Corinth, and Hera for the possession of Argos. In the Trojan War he fought on the side of the Greeks because the Trojans had not rewarded him for the help given them in the building of the walls of the city. His worship began in Thessaly and spread southwards to Boeotia. It is known that Poseidon was worshipped at Delphi before the Apollo cult was established there. In Athens too the worship of Poseidon antedated that of Athena but disappeared from Attica only to reappear at a later date when the two deities were reconciled. They were honoured jointly in the same temple, the Erechtheum in Athens. One of the most ancient shrines of the god of the watery elements was at Troezenia known also as Poseidonia. But the most famous center of his worship was Corinth which was divided between Poseidon and Helios. That part falling to Poseidon was Isthmia where panhellenic festivals were held in his honour. These festivities were as celebrated as those of Delphi, Olympia and Nemea. Temples of the god existed also at Patras near Rio, Aegion, Helice, Aege, and in the islands of the Saronic gulf Calauria and Aegina. In the interior of the country, the god was worshipped in many cities of Arcadia of which the principal temple was at Mantinea. To Poseidon the Greeks attributed the paternity of Delphi and Parnassos, who had discovered the art of prognostication, the former by examination of the inners of sacrificial animals, and the latter by the pattern of flight which the birds take. In art Poseidon is depicted as a dignified and handsome god with a thick beard and curly hair. His symbols are the trident, and the tuna fish and dolphin. [pp. 41-42]

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication. pp. 7-11]

Poseidon. [Homer called the god of the oceans and of horses 'the illustrious shaker of the earth'. Underneath his majestic, self-contained dignity the god of storms and earthquakes embodies the infinite possibilities of our fluid unconscious but also its turbulence and the dangers unleashed when the forces slumbering under the surface of consciousness erupt. [p. 32]

Riding his chariot of horses across the sea, Poseidon, god of the oceans and god of horses, embodies the two age-old symbols of the unconscious: horse and water. Water has always evoked in man the infinite mystery, infinite possibilities and infinite dangers of our fluid unconscious. With no predetermined shape of its own, it is constantly in movement, never changing yet never the same for two successive moments. And the horse personifies in its primitive potency the instinctive drives of our own raw nature. We have reined the horse, we have controlled or submerged our instincts, but the longing in us to be united with our life-giving power remains unquenchable.

'Equus, I love you', cries the young boy in Peter Shaffer's play. 'Now! - Bear me away! Make us one person!' And the psychiatrist in the lay recognizes the same longing in himself. 'You see, I'm wearing that horse's head myself. That's the feeling. All reined up in old language and old assumptions, straining to jump clean-hoofed onto a whole new track of being I only suspect is there. I can't see it, because my educated, average head is being held at the wrong angle. I can't jump because the bit forbids it, and my own basic force--my horsepower, if you like--is too little.'

Our horsepower does become too little when our cultured, educated heads reject the unconscious powers over which Poseidon rules. But the fear that leads us to suppress them is a very real one. Poseidon was the most primitive of the gods, the earthshaker, the god of storms and earthquakes, of the sudden devastation of tidal waves--the dangers unleashed when the forces slumbering under the surface of consciousness erupt.

Poseidon's menacing nature and suppressed savagery find countless expressions in his myths. Angered at Troy, he sends against the city a seamonster that would break to the surface of the water and devour everything [p. 42] and everyone on the Trojan plain; seeking revenge for the blinding of the Cyclopes, he sends a torrential storm to wreck the raft Odysseus has built to escape from the Calypso's island; furious with Queen Cassiopeia for boasting that she was even more beautiful than the goddesses of the sea, he sends a savage beast to lay waste her kingdom of Ethiopia.

Monsters and storms are powerful symbols of the turbulence and the dangers of the unconscious. And what Poseidon's myths tells us is that the hero who will save us from its dangers has to dive into the mosnter, plunge into the sea and, havign confronted its dangers, discover its mysteriously creative source and the power of renewal, perrsonified in the myths by a beautiful princess. Troy was saved by Herakles who dived into the monster and came out through its belly, leavng it dead and releasing Hesione, the daughter of the king. Odysseus was saved after swimming in the ocean, the deep, dark, night sea of the soul, for two days and two nights, until he reached the island of the Phaeacians, and found on the shore the little princess Nausicaa. And Andromeda, Queen Cassiopeia's daughter, who had been offered as a propitiatory sacrifice to the god, was saved by Perseus; he dived at the monster and killed it just as, its huge jaws wide open, it was ready to swallow the chained Andromeda.

The beautiful princesses, like the Rhinemaidens' gold glinting beneath the waters in Wagner's Ring, reprsent the supreme value, the creative force, submerged in the subconscious, which is why Poseidon is both the 'loud-crushing Earthshaker' and 'the god of the creative flow'. In many of his myths the emblem of his ferocious power, the trident, is transformed into an agent of creation and generation. He would strike the trident on rocks or dry land and a spring of fresh running water would be released where there was none before. Life and creativity come forth from the same unconscious source that can bring about destruction and dissolution. 'Why did they make birds so delicate and fine as those sea-swallows when the ocean can be so cruel?', asks Hemingway in The Old Man and The Sea. 'The old man always thought of the sea as la mar, which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Some of the younger fishermen . . . spoke of her as el mar which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as somethng that gave or witheld great favours . . . . '

The paradoxical nature of the sea is the paradoxical nature of its god: he is both the avenger and the protector of those at sea. In ancient times navigation of the oceans was a highly risky and dangerous undertaking and, at all times, the journey into the darkness and uncertainty of the unconscious is fraught wiith the dangers of disisntegration. Yet in the same way that venturing into the oceans is essential for survival, venturing into the [p. 46] unconscious is essential for life. 'The connection with the suprapersonal or collective unconscious', wrote Jung, 'means an extension of man beyond himself . . . a rebirth in a new dimension as was literally enacted in certain of the ancient mysteries . . . We can no longer deny that the dark stirrings of the unconscious are active powers, that psychic forces exist which cannot be fitted into our rational order . . . . The layman can hardly conceive how much his inclinations, moods and decisions are influenced by the dark forces of his psyche, and how dangerous or helpful they may be in shaping his destiny.'

This ambivalence is representde in astrological symbolism by the planet Neptune that is said to 'rule' the Twelfth House dealing with the depths of the soul from which come both the oceanic experience of oneness with life and the danger of losing oneself in the ocean of the the unconscious in its vastness and formlessness. Astrologers have associated Neptune with poetry and music, feeling and imagination, and the discovery of the planet in 1846 coincided with the height of the Romantic era. In its positive aspect Neptune leads to the urge to devote ourselves to goals that transcend selfish pursuits and focus instead on the service of the larger whole - the family, the community, the world. It can also come to the fore in the quest for mystical experiences and idealized love and in our absorption in art and religion. In its negative aspect it can bring about instability, the urge to escape from the responsibilities of reality into day-dreams, infantile fantasies or drugs, an obsessive religiosity, or a fanatical pursuit of utopian politics where the idealized ends are used to justify the most cruel means.

The extreme ambivalence of the planet and of the god is embodied in Poseidon's son Proteus who has the power to take on any number of shapes and forms. He can transform himself into a lion, serpent, a panther, a boar, running water, a leafy tree . . . . Transformation is the essence of the journey into the unconscious and of the extension of man beyond mundane reality and his narrow self. The instinct that drives us to constant change and transformation, however great the dangers and powerful the monsters we encounter along the way, is the instinct that Poseidon personifies - the instinct that drives us to wander through endless adventures, as Odysseus was forced to do by the sea god, until we reach Ithaca, the place where we started from, and, through transformed eyes, see it again for the first time. [p. 47]

Marble statue of Poseidon, Roman copy of a Greek original, from Cherchel in Algeria. Homer called the god of the oceans and of horses 'The illustrious shaker of the earth'. Underneath his majestic, self-contained dignity the god of storms and earthquakes embodies the infinite possibilities of our fluid unconscious but also its turbulence and the dangers unleashed when the forces slumbering under the surface of consciousness erupt. [p. 42]

Mt Phengari, on the island of Samothrace, from where, Homer tells us in the Iliad, Poseidon watched the battle of Troy: "Neither did the powerful shaker of the earth keep blind watch; for he sat and admired the fighting and the run of the battle, aloft on the top of the highest summit of timbered Samos, the Thracian place; and from there all Ida appeared before him, and the city of Priam was plain to see, and the ships of the Achaians. There he came up out of the water, and sat, and pitied the Achaians who were beaten by the Trojans, and blamed Zeus for it in bitterness.' [p. 47]

Marble slab from the eastern frieze of the Parthenon showing [from left to right] Poseidon, Apollo and Artemis, c . 442-438 BC]

'Once more let it be your morning, Gods.

We repeat. You alone are primal source

With you the world arises, and a fresh start

On all the fragments of our failures . . . . '

[Rainer Maria Rilke] [p. 44]

[Stassinopoulos, Arianna and Roloff Beny. The Gods of Greece. New York: Abrams. 1983.]



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