A Sea of Choices Between the Self and the Other
On Friday, April 19 2019, at 4:12 a.m. PDT/7:12 a.m. EDT, will be a unique and insistent full moon in Libra. It is an astrological blue moon, meaning it is the second full moon to occur in a lunar month/the same astrological sign.
The first Libra full moon was also a very powerful and initiating full moon that occurred on the same day as the spring equinox, with the Sun at 0° Aries. The theme of that event’s oracle message is echoed in this second full moon’s, which occurs at 29° Libra with the Sun at 29° Aries, also known as the critical degree.
The Aries/Libra cardinal axis is clearly, at the last possible second before the Sun enters Taurus and the barely-waning Moon enters Scorpio, reiterating some very critical themes of balance and devotion within relationships. It is also placing highly charged importance on this premier season, the aspects the two signs represent in our lives, and how this time and its choices may well determine the course of the year ahead for most of us.
Cardinal signs (Aries, Libra, Cancer, Capricorn) are all starters, initiators that herald new seasons and new cycles. Therefore we can safely conclude that this particular beginning time is of pointed significance.
This Libra full moon’s oracle of Water, the element of the Moon, is…
Penelope and the Suitors
It is in Homer’s Odyssey, the most popular telling of the myths of Odysseus, that we meet that hero’s wife – Penelope, a noble daughter of a Naiad. The basic archetype she most often represents and is lauded as is the Faithful Wife. But she is a complicated character and the stories are complicated as well, not the least by the different versions that present very different accounts of events and characters’ behavior.
However the main version tells of Odysseus gone away on a twenty-year adventure that begins with the Trojan War for the first ten years, while Penelope is confronted with 108 prospective suitors who believe Odysseus to be dead. She is swarmed by these men who install themselves in her estate, consume her family stores and constantly press her to choose a new husband.
In the 1912 painting by John William Waterhouse, her cunning device to delay that decision is depicted in vivid detail and with more depth and meaning than might meet the eye. She promises to choose among the suitors after she finishes weaving her father-in-law’s burial shroud, which she works on all day. However, she secretly unravels a portion of it every night so that she may maintain this excuse indefinitely.
On the one hand, it is indeed to Penelope’s credit that she is unfailingly loyal to her husband throughout the grueling twenty years being separated from him. Not only that, she is actively, constantly besieged by over a hundred other men living on her estate and absolutely chomping at the bit to be her new husband. This is an almost unimaginable hardship. She technically puts herself at great risk by refusing them all for so long, as she is in a poor position to defend herself and her house against them, should they decide to simply take what they want.
On the other hand, Odysseus is hardly returning her loyalty, sleeping with the goddess Calypso and the witch Circe, to name a couple at least. This is a glaring early example of the sadly enduring, toxic double standard that has beset humankind and its spiritual/social/emotional health and evolution for millennia.
In The Power Path’s full moon update, Patricia Liles concludes the astrological notes portion with this curiously synchronous observation –
“I’m drawing sustenance from the Grand Trine of three very feminine bodies in air signs paving the way into the movement next year out of Capricorn into forward thinking Aquarius. Black Moon Lilith in Aquarius, Full Moon in Libra and Juno, goddess of committed relationship, in Gemini, are holding hands across the chart to bring us a larger perspective of our lives, helping us stand in our integrity and stepping into our power to rewrite the myths of the feminine.”
What better card to pull and message to receive from feminine Water and the Moon, than that of a strong yet heavily imposed-upon figure like Penelope, who’s myth indeed needs to be rewritten? We can rewrite her in our present lives, especially women, and especially women who have or who are experiencing that and other lingering double standards.
What a fool he made of me, some say. It was a specialty of his: making fools. He got away with everything, which was another of his specialties: getting away.
He was always so plausible. Many people have believed that his version of events was the true one, give or take a few murders, a few beautiful seductresses, a few one-eyed monsters. Even I believed him, from time to time. I knew he was tricky and a liar, I just didn’t think he would play his tricks and try out his lies on me. Hadn’t I been faithful? Hadn’t I waited, and waited, and waited, despite the temptation – almost the compulsion – to do otherwise? And what did I amount to, once the official version gained ground? An edifying legend. A stick used to beat other women with. Why couldn’t they be as considerate, as trustworthy, as all-suffering as I had been? That was the line they took, the singers, the yarn-spinners. ‘Don’t follow my example’, I want to scream in your ears – yes, yours! But when I scream, I sound like an owl.– The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (Canongate 2005)
What if Penelope reclaimed her wholeness from her faithless husband, firmly refused all suitors once and for all, and declared herself single, autonomous, her own authoritative woman and mistress of the estate? What if we all had the courage to do that, both literally and figuratively?
One could easily question the value or point of Penelope’s faithfulness to her gallivanting, cheating husband, especially when you consider the toll this took on the better part of her lifetime. Whether in romantic relationships, friendships, family relationships or one’s relationship with themselves and their own work, hobbies or passions, devotion can either easily turn into obsession or simply an unhealthy, unbalanced, unreturned waste of time.
So this Libra full moon, the element of Water and the story of Penelope ask us,
Who or what are you devoting yourself to that isn’t reciprocating?
Aries represents independence, leadership and personal identity. Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you think of yourself, value in yourself? What do you have to bring to the table, what can you start, where can you lead?
Libra is all about relationships, partnerships, harmony and balance. Especially in the case of this repeated full moon, this is the time to check in with yourself, your relationship with yourself and others and to see where there are weak spots, imbalance or where you may have energy leaks and unrequited feelings or offerings.
Are you sacrificing too much of yourself for a certain relationship? Are you devoted enough to yourself, first and foremost, that no one can mislead, discourage, or take advantage of you? Or drain or even abuse you?
You truly are, or should be, the most important person in your life. It is, in fact, your life, no on else’s! This is not the simple, inherently negative type of selfishness most people might think of. If you don’t tend to yourself, make sure you know yourself and what you stand for and what you strive for, it will be reflected in your relationships which will more easily fall into imbalance and injustice.
There is a reason why Aries, the Self and the identity, comes first, and why its opposite on the wheel of the zodiac is Libra, where one becomes two (or more). But that one needs to be as stable, true and self-possessed as possible in order to make all other relationships harmonious. Your relationship with yourself comes first.
Lastly, the questions this blue moon poses to us are two-way streets – we might well be Penelope, exceedingly prudent, talented and true yet wasting our energy, skill, devotion, love etc. on something or someone that isn’t returning it…or we might be Odysseus. So we need to be willing to also ask ourselves, am I the one who is not returning the energy or devotion I’m receiving from another? We might be staying in a relationship, of any kind, not out of devotion or love but out of fear, obligation or sheer possessiveness – the bad kind of selfishness and motivation that is irrespective of our true feelings or desires. This is certainly no better. And it requires all the more courage and honesty to recognize if that is the case and to do something about it.
As a woman, Penelope’s life is constrictingly defined. Over the course of his 10-year journey home, Odysseus faces a wide sea’s worth of choices. Penelope has only one: to stay loyal to a man who is, in all likelihood, dead; or to take a new husband.– Madeline Miller, from her article “The Wily Wife: why Homer’s patient, faithful Penelope is more cunning than Odysseus”
It is her own Scylla and Charybdis, but unlike Odysseus, who passes the monsters only once, it is a path Penelope must walk anew each day. More than a simple leap of faith, it is a life of faith: that she is right, and those around her are wrong. No wonder she weeps herself to sleep – she is being held hostage, and every morning she must refuse again to escape, betting on the husband she hasn’t seen in two decades.
Who is this woman with such strength to her, such discipline and gambler’s nerve? Homer gives us tantalising clues, but it is up to us to imagine the rest, her innermost thoughts, the past that led her to Odysseus, and the future after his return. We are drawn to wonder how she might reckon with the full arc of her life. Ten years after Odysseus came home, is she still glad she waited?
© 2019 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved