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Labour 4: The Capture of the Doe



Hercules is “sent to labour in a field wherein he must decide which voice, of all the many voices, will arouse the obedience of his heart”.


At the fourth gate, Hercules stands in silence. He looks across to a far horizon where the temple of the Lord, the shrine of the Sun God, can be seen, and, on a nearby hill, a slender fawn. The silence is broken by the voice of Artemis, goddess of the moon, claiming the doe for her own, soon countered by that of Diana, huntress of the heavens, claiming the doe for herself. Later, above their quarrelling, comes a commanding voice telling Hercules that the doe belongs to neither, but to God alone. It directs him rescue it and bring it to rest at the holy shrine.


As he pursues the elusive doe from place to place, each maid deludes him and tries to foil his efforts. Finally, wounding the exhausted fawn, he picks it up and draws it to his heart. He wants to keep it for himself until he is reminded that he is a Son of God who shares the same sacred home. Hercules bears the doe to the shrine where Artemis, still protesting, is not allowed entry, and Diana, allowed a glimpse, but sees it seeming to lie dead. Not understanding why Hercules, having slain the doe, is allowed to enter, she is told that it is because he bore the animal in his arms, close to his heart, and that both doe and man find rest in the same holy place. Hercules returns again to the Gate and, looking out, gazes on the exact same scene - the shrine of the Sun God on the far horizon and a slender fawn on a nearby hill. Wondering whether he has passed the test, he is told, “again and yet again must all the sons of men, who are the sons of God, seek the golden antlered fawn and bear it to the holy place; again and yet again”.


Interpretation of the myth:

The sign of Cancer is known as the gateway to incarnation, and represents the mass or instinctual consciousness. The myth’s reference to returning “again and yet again” alludes to the process of reincarnation, when instinct and intellect have done their work they can be superseded by group consciousness or intuition. The sign is ruled both by the moon, giving that mass identification with form, and spiritually by Neptune, giving great sensitivity, initially to emotions, and later to ideas.


The simplicity of the myth clearly depicts that the doe that Hercules sought is sacred not only to Artemis, symbolising form life, and to Diana, daughter of the sun, but also to Apollo, the sun god. Here the different aspects of consciousness - instinct, intellect and intuition - are considered and clearly portrayed. We have animal instinct, as divine in its place as any other aspect. We also have the intellectual consciousness of self, where we respond to the world of thought and ideas, as symbolised by Diana the huntress and seeker before the Lord. However, it is not the doe itself, the instinctual life that Hercules seeks, but rather the doe’s more elusive form, the spiritual consciousness, claimed by the Sun God. Through right understanding, instinctual and intellectual capacity must be carried into the temple of the Lord to be transmuted into intuition and, eventually, to ultimate consummation in Capricorn.


Keynote of Cancer:

Personality Aspect: Let isolation be the rule, and yet the crowd exists.

Soul Aspect: I build a lighted house, and therein dwell.