Uranus: Myths and Ancient Stories
Myths and Ancient Stories: Applying them to Chart Interpretation
Part Three: URANUS
(Although Chiron was the promised topic for this month, I will be speaking on Chiron for the February SDAS meeting, so Chiron will be a two-parter appearing closer to that time!)
Tracking down the mythical Uranus is not a particularly rewarding task for an astrologer. Not a lot is told about Uranus. And as you look at the bits of the Uranus myth, it raises the question of how planets are named. To my knowledge, there are only two important (in my thinking) objects in our solar system that were named for logical rather than serendipitous or mystic reasons. Charon, the moon of Pluto, was originally assumed to orbit Pluto the way our moon orbits earth. So, for “logical” reasons, it was given the name of the gatekeeper of Hades…the reasoning being that the orbiting moon, like Charon, circumscribes the boundaries of Pluto’s realm. But Pluto’s moon has been found not to orbit the planet, as was discussed in the previous article on Pluto. Uranus received its name because of its orbital placement. The argument ran like this: Since Saturn was the father of Jupiter and orbits outside the orbit of Jupiter, the next planet should be named for Saturn’s father, Uranus. But the problem is, the mythical Uranus has little resemblance to the astrological understanding of Uranus. The Greek word, ouranos, means “sky”. In the myths, Gaia (earth) was born out of Chaos, and then produced Uranus without the aid of a male (making Uranus a counterpart to Pallas Athena who was born of Zeus/Jupiter’s head, without the aid of a female, and according to Hesiod, to his own “daughter” Aphrodite/Venus). Gaia and Uranus then mated and produced the race of Titans, among whom was Saturn. Uranus was jealous of his children from the beginning and tried to push them back into the womb, so Gaia armed Saturn with a sickle, which he later used to overthrow his father, castrate him, and throw his genitals into the sea. Hesiod’s version says that the foam forming around his seed became Aphrodite, so she, too was born without a sexual union. (Ran in the family.) But this is all we know about Uranus. Where is the rebel, the new-age thinker, the high-tech and inventiveness of the astrological Uranus in this story??
Well, Richard Tarnas asked this question and wrote a fascinating booklet several years ago, speculating on an alternative answer. Titled “Prometheus, the Awakener”, Tarnas posits Prometheus as the more appropriate archetype associated with Uranus’ astrological functions. Let’s look at this more closely.
Prometheus was a Titan, neither god nor human. Grant and Haxel’s “Who’s Who in Classical Mythology” says “He was the mythical arch-rebel and champion of mankind against the hostility of the gods; his name, meaning ‘forethought’, illustrates his character.” Doesn’t this sound more like our interpretation of Uranus? The rebel, fighting for the good of humanity–seeing things ahead of his time… Furthermore, Hesiod says Prometheus was a master craftsman who actually created the human race from clay. According to some accounts he showed the individual models to Zeus for approval, except for one particularly beautiful boy, named Phaenon, or “shining bright”. When Zeus discovered the omission he took the boy into heaven and made him into the planet we call Jupiter–slightly confusing account since Zeus and Jupiter are Greek and Roman names for the same dieties, but presumably they had a different name for the planet back then. This is an interesting aside, considering the connection many astrologers make between Uranus and homosexuality. The story continues with a battle between Zeus and Prometheus in which Zeus deprives humanity of fire and Prometheus, ever the trickster, outwits the gods and steals fire back for humanity. Here we have Prometheus/Uranus as bringer of light (Uranus association with electricity? inspiration?). As punishment, Prometheus was chained to a rock, where Zeus’ eagle would come each day to eat out his liver, and each night it would grow back. And since Prometheus, even so, continued to refuse to divulge the secret technique by which he stole the fire without being detected, Zeus punished him further by sending him, rock, chains, eagle and all, to Tartarus (the underworld). The technique, by the way, was to hide a spark in a hollow fennel stalk–an image redolent with images of electrical and electronic wiring and circuitry.
Now we get to look at Uranus/Prometheus in the horoscope. If we are looking at the ego-imprint of Uranus in a person’s life, it is fitting that the promethean image of freedom and rebellion be prominent. And indeed, Uranus’ placement in a birth chart represents the arena of life in which we fear of loss of freedom. As Hugh Martin expresses it (Hugh teaches and uses the concept of specific fears associated outer planets in his astrological work) Uranus represents the need for “Freedom at all costs.” When seriously challenged, the Uranus response is “I don’t NEED this (expletive)! I’m OUTTA here!! The knee-jerk quality of the response when a person’s Uranus is challenged can be downright funny, and is a perfect illustration of how the planets are NOT us! I’ve even rectified charts by “test pushing” a person’s Uranus button. Another expression of the need for freedom (or rebellion) is noticeable unusualness. So Uranus’ placement can also reflect something highly unusual about the arena of life represented by that house. You may notice that this (Aquarius rising, Uranus in the fifth) writer has difficulty talking about characteristics of Uranus reactions without some tongue-in cheek. Although the examples I’m using are hardly of earth-shattering variety, Uranus’ influence on one’s reactivities in life are profound and nearly impossible to change. In my opinion, the only way to deal with it at all is to laugh!
Michael Grant and John Hazel, “Who’s Who in Classical Mythology”, Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 285