We are the only creatures who are in-between. We’re of the earth, but don’t belong to it, because we strain after the heavens; and yet the heavens aren’t full in us. So, this wonderful, restless, eternal longing in us has us always on a quest—John O’Donohue.
Wearing thin leather shoes with heavy metal spikes, Roger Bannister, the gentleman athlete, did the impossible—he sprinted across the finishing tape, covering one mile in under four minutes. Of his world-breaking athletic record, he said it was simply, “good luck”.
With a fiery Aries Sun conjunct barrier-breaking Uranus in tight square to disciplined and self-effacing Saturn, Roger Bannister was an unassuming Hero who gave up competitive running to pursue a successful career as a neurologist.
Yet, his heroic feat of courage and determination, describes our eternal longing, our Hero’s Quest: “Those last few seconds seemed never-ending … the faint line of the finishing tape stood ahead as a haven of peace, after the struggle. The arms of the world were waiting to receive me if only I reached the tape without slackening my speed. If I faltered, there would be no arms to hold me and the world would be a cold, forbidding place, because I had been so close. I leapt at the tape like a man taking his last spring to save himself from the chasm that threatens to engulf him.”
In our patriarchal culture, the hero myth is associated with the existential courage and the white-knuckled will power that overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Modern heroes are “sporting greats”, intrepid adventurers, astronauts and soldiers. And as the Great Wheel of the Year turns, and the Sun enters Aries on March 21st, a light shines through an aperture—igniting the hero/warrior archetype, and its shadow: the destroyer. In myth and in fairy tale, the hero/warrior archetype is typically masculine. Heroes slay nine-headed dragons, rescue hapless damsels, defeat degenerate villains. Yet the destroyer lives amongst us, tattooed in pain and anger on the skin of the wounded Fisher King.
Starhawk describes the distortion of the Hero/Warrior archetype still so prevalent in our culture today. “The soldiers in Vietnam patted first their machine guns, then their groins: this is my rifle/this is my gun/ one is for fighting/one is for fun.”
For most of us, our heroes’, or heroine’s quest is a response to the challenges of life that is not muscular or spectacularly heroic. So often, it’s the austere grip of Necessity that wrenches us out of our ordinary lives and catapults us on the Hero’s quest. Financial ruin, illness, the noxious fallout from a ruined relationship, may ignite within our hearts, the courage we never knew we had. The Dark Knight of Desperation may spur our leap of faith. Compassion may break open our heart to moisten the lips of a dying parent after years of painful estrangement. The dragons we slay might be the fears that terrorise us in the darkest hours just before the first bird sings. The hapless damsel might be our own deeply wounded Feminine nature. The degenerate villain may be the impotent Masculine, who hides his wounded vulnerability beneath the rusty armour of bravado and grandiosity.
The sky-story for the second half of March has a very different feel to the first half of this month. The phallic thrust that propels us through these last weeks is charged with daring, action and adventure. Mercury, Venus, Uranus, and the Sun are all in the Mars-ruled sign of the Ram and it is in Aries that we must dare to find the deeper meaning of courage, the true hero’s quest.
On March 21st, the Sun’s chariot of fire races through the gate of the Equinox into the sign of Aries. We cross the threshold into Spring or Autumn. We emerge from the reflective soulful region of the human psyche, depicted by the Sun’s journey through the sign of Pisces, into the forge of fire, depicted by the archetype of Aries.
Mars, pumped with testosterone from his journey through fiery Sagittarius, rides into battle on March 18th, crossing into new terrain as he joins Pluto and Saturn in Capricorn, the Mer-Goat. Mercury turns Retrograde on March 23rd at 16 degrees Aries, urging us to retrace, recover, revisit old ground. Jupiter in the Mars-ruled sign of Scorpio, turned Retrograde on March 9th at 23 degrees Scorpio, reminding us of that eternal longing, calling us back to our soul’s quest, depicted in our own birth chart.
Some of us may realise that the harshness and discord in the world reflects our own internal state. That the rocks and thorns are on the pathways of our internal landscape. Some of us may know that there are no heroes who can save us from ourselves. That our quest as women, is not to attempt a hero’s journey, to try to be pseudo-men. That modern heroines require a skill set that pays the mortgage and the school fees.
“You can’t do it all. No one can have two full-time jobs, have perfect children and cook three meals and be multi-orgasmic till dawn. Superwoman is the adversary of the women’s movement,” says Gloria Steinem.
In the words of poet Mark Nepo, “our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world, but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet, and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”
Leia, Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley are heroines with their own very distinctive quest: to define and validate feminine values in the urn, the alembic, that contains intuition and empathy; courage and intellect. Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, and Roger Bannister, present a more nuanced manifestation of the Hero.
Says author and teacher, Gary Zukov , “The Old Male is limited to the perceptions of the five senses, evolves by surviving, and survives by pursuing external power… the New Male re-defines masculinity. He feels his emotions, consults intuition, laughs, cries, and shares himself easily, and looks for partner to grow with, spiritually.”
Some of us may aspire to become army generals or astronauts. Some of us may aspire to scale the Seven Summits.
Some of us aspire to watch our grandchildren play in safety, in the sunshine.
Cheryl Strayed writes, “you go on by doing the best you can. You go on by being generous. You go on by being true. You go on by offering comfort to others who can’t go on. You go on by allowing the unbearable days to pass and by allowing the pleasure in other days. You go on by finding a channel for your love and another for your rage”.
For some of us, an ordinary life lived with as much consciousness and courage we can muster, is heroic. Our quest is cyclical, not linear. And even though there are times when it takes every last spark of courage to unearth something positive, anything hopeful, to hold onto, we go on. And we do the best we can.
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