Labour 6: Seizing the Girdle of Hippolyte
Hippolyte is the Queen of the Amazons, a great race of women warriors, to whom Venus, the Queen of Love, has given a girdle, the symbol of unity, motherhood and the sacred Child, achieved through struggle. Travelling to the shores of her kingdom, Hercules fights Hippolyte and kills her for the girdle. Too late, he realises that Hippolyte had not put up any struggle but offered the girdle to Hercules freely, under instruction from God. In a state of shock, Hercules sets forth to redeem this failure. While journeying back to the shores of the sea, he hears the screams of the beautiful Hesione being attacked and then swallowed by a sea monster. Hercules swims furiously out to sea to rescue her and, as the monster turns on him, opening its mouth to roar, Hercules rushes down the red tunnel of its throat, grasps Hesione and hews his way out of the serpent’s belly. Thus, after slaughtering the feminine principle that gave him what he needed, Hercules makes amends by rescuing that which also needed him.
Interpretation of the myth:
From some aspects, Virgo is said to be the oldest of the zodiacal signs and represents the mother, portrayed, down the ages, by figures such as Isis, Eve and the Virgin Mary. Mary carries the portrayal of the quality of this sign the furthest, for she bears the sacred Child in her arms. It is in Virgo that the Christ consciousness is conceived and nurtured in the “womb of time”. Virgo concerns the whole goal of the evolutionary process, to shield, nurture and, finally to reveal the hidden spiritual reality.
Virgo is known as the Goddess of Virtue or of Vice, and, in this labour, both these qualities are evoked in Hercules’ nature. At first, in this labour, he fares badly for, despite obtaining his objective, the girdle of unity, his lack of love and understanding leads him to fight and kill Hippolyte for what she freely offers. His mishandling of the feminine principle, however, is ultimately redeemed by his deed of love in saving Hesione.
Those who first put foot on the spiritual path, yearning to free themselves from that which has ruled and enslaved their spiritual nature for so long, often consider the body the root of all evil. But this is not so, however, for the purpose of human incarnation is to redeem matter, to raise it into heaven through the birth and rule of the Christ consciousness. In the legend, the Amazons’ worship of the moon (the form nature) and of Mars, the God of war, shows a lack of awareness of their own true function. The disciple in Virgo demonstrates an understanding of the feminine principle of nature through a changed perspective, symbolised by Mary, pictured with the moon under her feet and the one to be known as the Prince of Peace, in her arms.
Keynote of Virgo:
Personality Aspect: And the Word said, Let Matter reign.
Soul Aspect: I am the mother and the child. I, God, I, matter am.