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Labour 8: Destroying the Lernean Hydra



When a drought occurred in Argos, Amymone called upon the aid of Neptune, who commanded her to strike a rock, from which, when she did, gushed out three crystal streams. But soon a terrible hydra came to live there and a plague spread over the whole countryside. Hercules must now destroy this monster with its nine heads, of which one is immortal. His teacher warns him that conventional methods will not work for destroying one head causes two to grow in its place. The only help he can offer Hercules is to remind him, “We rise by kneeling; we conquer by surrendering; we gain by giving up”.


In the stench of the Lernean swamp, Hercules tracks the foul beast to its lair and is forced to resort to firing arrows, dipped in burning pitch, to draw it out into the open. Provoked, the raging monster attacks Hercules and battle commences – the hydra growing stronger, not weaker, with each assault. Then, recalling his Teacher’s advice, Hercules throws away his weapons, drops to his knees and raises the hydra aloft. In the pure air and sunlight, the monster looses its power and its nine heads drop, lifeless. Then Hercules is able to perceive the mystic head that is immortal. He cuts it off and buries it, still fiercely hissing, beneath a rock.


Interpretation of the myth:

Scorpio has been described both as a turning point for the individual and in the life of humanity. In the hydra, we have depicted the serpent of desire and all the unredeemed aspects of human nature and in the associated tests and trials are illustrated the formidable problems of self-mastery. Its symbolism is particularly apposite in our contemporary way of life in the ethos of a consumer society that feeds selfish desire with little regard to the consequences or the pressing material needs of others.


If we aspire to reconnect to the wellspring of spiritual life, we must free ourselves from the prison of clamouring desires. Like Hercules, the disciple must first recognise the existence of the hydra, search for it with patience and finally, with humility, destroy it. The concise reminder, given to Hercules by his Teacher, is revealing: “We rise by kneeling, we conquer by surrendering; we gain by giving up”. As long as Hercules fights the hydra in its own environment, representing the unredeemed aspects of human nature, his task is impossible. When he raises his problems above the slough of the subconscious into the light of that wisdom we call the soul, he can view his dilemma from a new angle of vision, overcome the hydra and bury its immortal head beneath the rock of the will. Rightly controlled and channelled, it now becomes a source of power.


In Scorpio, Hercules becomes the triumphant disciple. He demonstrates to himself that he can rise above the thrall of matter and stand, for all time, in spiritual being. The same test awaits each disciple and humanity, the world disciple. But all who work in Scorpio to overcome the Great Illusion in their own personal lives contribute to the good of the whole and the progress of the group disciple.


Keynote of Scorpio:

Personality Aspect: And the Word said: Let Maya flourish and deception rule.

Soul Aspect: Warrior I am, and from the battle I emerge triumphant.