Fifth labor - Augean stables submitted by Arch
- By Saturn Celeste
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Fifth labor - Augean stables:
In this next labor of Hercules, Eurystheus wanted to try to break Hercules through his pride.
He figured that giving him a demeaning task of cleaning out the stables of King Augean in a day
would be sufficiently humbling given that Hercules had only had successes.
The stables of Augean was particularly dirty, housing thousands of animals and had not been cleaned in thirty years.
So Eurystheus was sure that not only would Hercules be humbled, but he would fail this task too.
When Hercules arrived he didn't tell King Augean that he was sent on the orders of Eurystheus,
but rather offered to clean out the stables in a day for a price.
Augean of course thought Hercules was mad and humored him with offering him one tenth of his cattle,
should he somehow succeed in this obviously impossible task.
He let his son set him to task by giving Hercules a shovel and thought nothing more of it.
Hercules ignored the shovel, and rather went to two large rivers.
He threw giant rocks in them and diverted the water through the stables, thereby cleaning them out.
When he came back to King Augean to claim his reward he was told,
that Augean had received word from Eurystheus about who actually wanted the work done.
Augean therefore refused to pay Hercules.
Conflicting tales about Hercules reaction and treatment on this exist,
yet regardless Hercules was told when he returned to Eurystheus that he had failed his task for demanding payment.
Now this story struck me as a great mystery upon first reading it.
It was pretty hard to untangle for me compared to the first 4 labors.
But that of course has a lot to do with me being very comfortable
with symbols that connect easily to the Bible and Jung.
Just due to my upbringing and life history.
To really understand what is going on here, we need to take a closer look on the whole Greek pantheon.
We have the first Gods the Titans, who where overthrown by the Olympians.
Of course the Olympians where the children of the Titan's, so they are mostly different in name.
And now Hercules represents a new generation that challenges his fathers order.
Hence we see a certain cyclical idea of the new overthrowing the old.
The old must die so the new can come into the light.
Hence we have the Death card at thirteen.
As you can notice in the picture, the Reaper is in a boat crossing a river.
In the Greek underworld there are many rivers, the most important is the Styx.
So when Hercules uses the rivers to clean the stables,
he is using his new contact to water and the underworld.
The Augean stables represent all the mess the old order has left behind,
not being cleaned for 30 years can be interpreted as having lived a full life,
especially when one takes into account a life expectancy of about 40 tops back in ancient times.
So all the mess of life has to somehow be dealt with in a day,
making sense if death is around the corner any day now.
The mess is by the way created by society not having a place for it.
"...man's instinctual nature is always coming up against the checks imposed by
civilization. The names alter, but the facts remain the same. We also know today that it
is by no means the animal nature alone that is at odds with civilized constraints; very
often it is new ideas which are thrusting upwards from the unconscious and are just as
much out of harmony with the dominating culture as the instincts."
Carl Jung - Two Essays
Yet this isn't just a physical death, but a spiritual death as well.
Having faced the Erymantian Boar in the last labor,
could in some way be said to be too much for Eurystheus.
Everytime he runs and hides, can be interpreted as him perishing in his current form.
He then died a spiritual ego-death after both the Lion and the Boar.
Yet an ego death isn't a death in the ordinary sense, but rather an inner transformation.
We die an inner death and wake up to a new reality, and that is what in some sense has happened here.
The Augean stables are in some sense just another Nemian Lion.
Hercules has come full circle, and has to fight a new battle on a new level.
But if that where so, then Hercules should have some of that one-sidedness.
And indeed he has, because his victories has gone to his head.
That is precisely the reason why the stables are his new challenge,
they are challenging his pride, and he fails the test,
because he doesn't even want to admit that he does it as penance anymore,
he presents it to King Augean as a business proposal.
From a Tarot perspective we have to then wonder, how did we end up at this position from the victory position of 6.
Cause after all after 6 comes 7, and that is a divine number.
Which is true, but does Hercules deserve a divine victory here?
Is Hercules victorious, was he victorious over the Boar?
Not really, as he wasn't allowed to keep it.
Also 6 + 7 is 13, foreshadowing the inevitable end.
So we are back at the chariot symbolizing our energy, just as with the Nemian lion.
Once again we face seven, yet since there isn't enough energy accessible,
because Eurystheus couldn't handle it, we end up with a goal that is impossible in our earthly form.
Because just like hercules, when we try to grasp it, our ego grow too large, and we get delusional.
Our ego becomes charged with too much energy, and we act just like the one-sided barbarian.
No matter how many battles we have fought so far, the sky is still just out of reach.
"This masculine collective figure who now rises out of the dark background and
takes possession of the conscious personality entails a psychic danger
of a subtle nature for by inflating the conscious mind it can destroy everything
that was gained by coming to terms with the anima. It is therefore of no
little practical importance to know that in the hierarchy of the unconscious
the anima occupies the lowest rank, only one of many possible figures, and
that her subjection constellates another collective figure which now takes over her mana.
Actually it is the figure of the magician, as I will call it for short,
who attracts the mana to himself, i.e., the autonomous valency of
the anima. Only in so far as I unconsciously identify with his figure can I
imagine that I myself possess the anima's mana. But I will infallibly do so
under these circumstances.
The figure of the magician has a no less dangerous equivalent in women:
a sublime, matriarchal figure, the Great Mother, the All-Merciful, who
understands everything, forgives everything, who already acts for the best,
living only for others, and never seeking her own interests, the discoverer
of the great love, just as the magician is the mouthpiece of the
ultimate truth. And just as the great love is never appreciated, so the great
wisdom is never understood. Neither, of course can stand the sight of the other.
Here is cause for serious misunderstanding, for without a doubt it is a question of inflation.
The ego has appropriated something that does not belong to it.
But how has it appropriated the mana? If it was really the ego
that conquered the anima, then the mana does indeed belong to it, and it would
be correct to conclude that one has become important. But why does not this
importance, the mana, work upon others? That would surely be an essential criterion!
It does not work because one has not in fact become important,
but has merely become adulterated with an archetype, another unconscious figure."
Carl Jung - Two essays
We see here that who is actually there at the very top guarding against us reaching heaven,
is the Magician and the High priestess.
Grabbing us by the neck while we are intoxicated by the potential for divine power.
What was Hercules solution to this?
He allied with the underworld, the very place that held the cure for the imbalance of Zeus order.
He called upon the river gods to cleanse it for him.
Chief of these where Achelous, which was the father of the sirens.
The sirens was in many ways taskmasters of heaven, earth and hell.
In heaven they led the souls on a celestial path.
In hell they led the souls on a cathartic path.
On earth they led humankind on a generative path.
In this lies a very important clue to what one is supposed to do with the mess of the stables,
in other words the very mess that is our lives.
We have to follow a siren path and through the pathway to water this opens up,
discard our baggage in the river that washes through us when we walk it.
The sevens generally point to this point, I find the example of pentacles to be the best here.
We need to invest our energy in some kind of crop, and through that investment,
find our own way too heaven one step at a time, and the best time to start is right now.
We will always find our-self back on earth, thrown down into the muck of the stable,
each time we imagine that we can take spiritual shortcuts and elevate our-self into divinity.
Another card that is central every time we fall down is the Wheel of fortune,
we can always change directions, and when one has lost ones ego,
change can be much more easy to accept.