The Goddess Archetypes: The Pallas Athena Myth
by Milky Way Maid
Recently I posted some brief entries on the asteroid goddesses; one was on a historical note regarding responsibilities held by the Vestal Virgins. Today I want to go back to the original myths and try to tease out some themes pertaining to each of these goddesses. (For this series of articles I refer to the excellent Goddesses in Every Woman, by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.) First up, Pallas Athena. Let’s go up close and personal with Pallas Athena, as we trace her life from birth onwards.
PEDIGREE: Most of us know that Athena sprang full-grown from her father’s (Zeus’s) head. Most of us do NOT know that she did indeed have a mother, Metis, who had been swallowed by her father. So while Athena had a nonexistent relationship with mom, I am going to posit that her father incorporated some feminine or nurturing qualities in order to be a complete parent to his daughter. He carried her to term, he suffered labor pains, presumably he felt a parental bond. One might say that Zeus gave her life twice, once in impregnating her mother, and second when birthing her. That’s a powerful bond.
Her mother, Metis, was the first consort to Zeus. She was known for her wisdom, a trait passed on to her famous daughter. By swallowing Metis, Zeus not only took on the role of mother to his daughter, he also made wisdom part of his own personality.
HABITAT: Definitely a city girl, Athena is not found wandering the wilderness or forests like Artemis, nor tending the hearth (and home) like Vesta, nor playing with the wild animals, nor the cultivated fields like Ceres. Her special city is Athens, the most civilized and democratic city of its time.
SYMBOLOGY: Often shown carrying an owl, a symbol of wisdom. Animals: Unicorn. Birds: Owl, cock. Insect: beetle or scarab. Emblem: shield or lance. Chakra: Heart center, representing philosophy. Colors: Indigo and lilac. Direction: East. Element: Water. Number: 72. Ray: Second ray of love and wisdom. Icon: six point star with a small triangle centered inside the inner pentagon.
FASHION STATEMENT: The only goddess portrayed wearing armor, she was charged with protecting her city, Athens. Only the visor of her helmet is pushed up to show her classically beautiful face. Therefore I feel that security matters are under the rulership of Pallas, in addition to military strategy. Does armor represent emotional invulnerability? Keeping her personal problems under wraps? I suppose it is akin to the general professionalism expected of most people in the workplace, ie no temper tantrums, no yelling or other outbursts, no talking about stuff outside the job, and all that.
She carries both spear and shield, with the other hand holding a spindle in the other (denoting her rulership of weaving and other domestic arts). This is an odd combination: martial and domestic arts, but she took civilization to a new level.
RULERSHIPS: Athena is the goddess of weavers, goldsmiths, potters, dressmakers. She invented the bridle to tame the horse and the yoke for oxen, plus taught the human race how to plow, build ships, and drive the chariot. She is also the goddess of hygiene, safeguarding public health. She is one smart cookie. And on top of that, she gave Athenians the olive tree.
SMARTY JONES: Athena took on her parents smarts, and became a sort of military advisor, counselor, campaign strategist, and personal cheering section. She helped Perseus, Bellerophon, and Jason to become the heroes that they are. She was involved in the strategy for fighting the Trojan War— and she was not above planting a bit of misinformation to the other side.
WOMEN FRIENDS: Now, since she is completely her father’s daughter, she rarely has close friendships with other women — not with her mom Metis, not with any mother figure like Persephone with her mother Ceres, not with sisterly women like Artemis does. There was only one exception: Pallas. Pallas was a sisterly companion who was the victim of an unfortunate accident. They were playing a competitive game, and Athena’s spear accidentally hit and killed her friend Pallas. After that, Athena took her friend’s name as part of her own. Dr. Bolen feels that Athena’s competitive drive can be fatal to her female friendships; she needs to find another gear, you might say, when hanging out with her women pals.
MARRIAGE: Athena types may or may not get married. Career women flock under her banner, whether they have their own business, work for a corporation, work in the political realm, or are in the halls of academia. But they do often get married to an up-an-comer type in business or politics, in which case they sublimate personal ambitions to provide key support in their husband’s career. Jacqueline Kennedy was an example of the behind-the-throne type.
SISTERHOOD?: Dr. Bolen is quite clear that despite Athena’s career ambitions, she is frankly NOT a women’s libber type nor does she feel any sense of sisterhood with other women. That is the province of Artemis. Moreover, Dr. Bolen feels Athena is very much a supporter of the social/political status quo, as evidenced by her vote to acquit Orestes in the murder of his mother Clytemnestra. Back to that in a moment. She also condemned Arachne to life as a spider after she submitted her weaving in a contest with the goddess. This punishment was not meted out because of Arachne’s temerity to challenge Athena in a contest of skill; it was because of the controversial subject matter of her tapestry. It depicted Zeus’ peccadilloes in seducing Danae and Leda and Europa. How dare she point out the feet of clay of her personal hero, Zeus! So not only does Athena worship her father, she also has no sympathy whatsoever for whistle-blowers in general.
CRAFTY N SAVVY: Athena was the go-to person if you had a riddle or problem that your poor, feeble human brain could not figure out the solution to. She told Perseus how to master the fearsome Gorgon (look at it only via a mirror). She gave the equestrian and general, Bellerophon, a golden bridle to tame Pegasus with. She helped Jason and his crew build the famed ship Argo (no, not nailing boards together; with technical advice). She whispered tips and encouragement to Achilles. Like I said, she is one smart cookie. Athena might be compared to the frontier women who not only helped plow the fields but also wove the fabric for their clothing, as they and their mates wrested the land from the wilderness into a homestead.
LEGAL EAGLE: Now, back to that trial of Orestes. This is a very muddled issue in my mind because unfortunately Athena did not write a legal opinion on the case explaining her reasoning. Did she vote to acquit because this was a revenge killing? (Orestes’ mother had killed his father) Did she sympathize with anyone who was faced with the death of a father? Did she think that perhaps Orestes was crippled by temporary insanity, and let him off on that plea? Or did she think that women should never strike out against their own husbands, no matter what the provocation?
A closer look at the story of Orestes: The house of Atreus was one of those supremely dysfunctional families. Orestes’ mother, Clytemnestra, was cheating on her husband, King Agamemnon. Agamemnon returns from the Trojan War with his booty, the girl Cassandra. King and Queen go into the palace and the queen comes out all bloody after killing the king, saying it was revenge for his killing one of their children. Son Orestes is in the same boat as Hamlet, wondering if avenging his father extends to even the crime of killing a mother. So he goes to the oracles of Delphi, where Apollo himself tells him to kill both mom and her lover. Orestes does so, then wanders for some time in the wilderness before he goes to Athena to explain himself. Apollo is beside him to vouch for the fact that he ordered this vengeance killing. Athena, establishing a new order of mercy, acquitted Orestes, and the curse on the Atreus family was lifted.
So by looking closer at the story of Orestes, I believe we can say that Athena’s brand of justice was tempered by MERCY, and that she realized the only way to end a cycle of murder was to stop the shedding of blood, both illicit and licit. She realized that even legally sanctioned murder must stop. Oh, it just occurred to me that Athena would be against the death penalty for that reason.
So there you have an overview of the legendary goddess Pallas Athena: smart n savvy, a skillful weaver and crafter and shipbuilder, a tamer of large animals (animal husbandry), a merciful judge, a military strategist, a political analyst, an ombudsman or consultant, city girl, ambitious career woman, competitive athlete and business-woman. Not a warm, fuzzy type with a dozen cats, and not a fashion plate who lives for the New York fashion shows. But a smart, wise woman of the world.
So many modern women who eschew marriage or just do not set a priority on getting married and having kids are accused of trying to be men. That is NOT TRUE. They follow another drummer, a female drummer who loves the challenges of trying to uphold civilization with laws, industry, education and high-quality craftwork. Oh, and olive trees.
Dave at AstroAmerica stated in a recent newsletter that Pallas Athena represents how we gained the father’s approval. I might add that clues to HOW we were rewarded with that approval may be gleaned from the sign and house position of the asteroid. For example, my Pallas is in Aries; I feel that part of the meaning of this placement is that I was rewarded for taking the initiative in some things, in my childhood. For getting on that bike and learning to ride, for venturing down to the corner park alone, for upholstering that old chair, etc.
How might Pallas, the asteroid, operate in the various houses? First House: you feel rewarded for speaking up for yourself, for putting yourself out there and introducing yourself. Sometimes spread self too thin over too many projects. Second House: Pallas is not interested in wealth per se is good at saving and conserving. Will never sell out their reputations for personal gain. Third House: Pallas here might prompt you to go into education but probably not in the primary grades. Third House also rules the city, her favorite place, so you may be quite involved in local politics.
Fourth House: Pallas is not very domestic but she does run an organized household, like a military operation. She may be the pioneer type who not only weaves the fabric for clothing but also puts up food and helps with the plowing. Also rules security systems. May start a home-based business. Fifth House: Geez, Pallas is not much into fun n games nor into romance, so that leaves the arts. Particularly textile arts, but any work that is equal parts skill and craft like shipbuilding. Enjoys strategy games like chess and bridge rather than golf, etc. Sixth House: OK, now you’re talking. Pallas is very much at home with any career where one wears a uniform: the military, nurses and doctors (especially public health personnel), and police. Also working in civil service may be the sort of Confucian duty that appeals to her.
Seventh House: You may be a very public person, someone who perhaps investigates consumer problems brought to your attention. You may be more known for the person you marry, and prefer to be the “power behind the throne.” In one case the placement of Pallas in the seventh showed the husband’s occupation (Scorpio: he was a police detective). Eighth House: Management of pooled funds such as insurance, state lotteries, joint accounts. Also good for surgeons. Ninth House: Another one of Pallas’ fave houses, where she can exercise her Legal Eagle savvy, get involved in academia, national or world politics, or heck, rule the world. She could do that.
Tenth House: Pallas here can easily handle being high in the executive boardrooms of major corporations. Eleventh House: here is a difficult place for Pallas because she is just not really chummy, doesn’t hang out at the mall with friends, doesn’t care too much for pure socializing. But she does excel at heading, organizing and fund-raising for charitable or non-profit groups. Twelfth House: Hmmm, not likely to be a fave place for Pallas although her rulership of hygiene may help her to run large hospitals or other medical facilities.
Next up: Vesta, aka Hestia.