Reaching the Gods on Metal Feathers - more on the Stymphalian Birds and when they are in paran to natal planets.

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Reaching the Gods on Metal Feathers:
More on the Stymphalian Birds in the sky

 By Darrelyn Gunzburg


On the wings of an eagle I find myself
lifted through the skies
Lifted up above the world to see…

Russell Morris, The Wings Of An Eagle

These words by singer-songwriter Russell Morris describe both the power and transcendence of the eagle, one of the Stymphalian Birds. It could as well have been written of the other two Birds. This Visual Astrology Newsletter explores the way we are 'lifted through the skies' to reach for the gods on mythological 'metal feathers'.


Flock of Three

The three constellations known as the Stymphalian Birds, metal-feathered birds of prey armed with brazen wings, are found north of the ecliptic, bounded by Pegasus on the one side and Ophiuchus on the other. Cygnus the Swan soars across the sky in the wake of Aquila the Eagle (known as the Great Flying Eagle), with the vulture holding the lyre in its beak playing wing man, fending off Hercules. The vulture, identified as the Great Swooping Eagle, or the Swooping Vulture, is now known simply as the Lyre of Orpheus.

Today we look at the swan and admire its grace and elegance, yet approach its young and you may be subject to vicious attack. We observe the eagle and admire its strength and audacity, yet it is a bird of prey whose large powerful hooked beak is designed to tear flesh from its quarry. Conversely we pull away from the cruelty of the vulture that feeds on the carcasses of dead animals. Yet vultures seldom attack healthy animals, and are of great value as scavengers, especially in hot regions. However, there is much more to these birds.

As part of his Twelve Labours, Hercules was given the task of eliminating the Stymphalian Birds and an Athenian black-figure amphora c.6th century BCE in the British Museum, London, shows Heracles fighting them. Written sources from Apollonius Rhodius ( Argonautica 2, c.3rd century BCE) to Pseudo-Hyginus (Fabulae 30, c.2nd century CE) all described these Ornithes Stymphalides which haunted Lake Stymphalis in Arkadia with feathers that could be shot  from their brazen wings like arrows and which attacked men and then ate their flesh.

The only way that Hercules could eradicate them was with the noise of rattles which dislodged them from the profuse vegetation of the lake. Once free of the foliage, he could then shoot at them with his bow and arrow. The constellations Aquila and Cygnus lie either side of Sagitta, the arrow of Hercules, and this was seen as a vicious part of the sky.

However, whenever we encounter Hercules in a myth we are engaging with what appears to be the changeover from the veneration of the goddess or non-Zeus-centred religions to those where the solar god was central in worship.[1] If we look more closely at this myth, we see this deeper level emerging.

In ancient times the gods were thought to live in the landscape well before temples were built to house their images. Such landscapes included high mountains, the sources of rivers and streams, caves, and trees. Offerings of gifts eventually defined an altar and the need to protect and defend such an altar led to the building of the first temples.[2] In a valley of northwestern Arcadia, Lake Stymphalis provided such a scared space.

Lake Stymphalis with the remains of Artemis' temple.

However, according to Mnaseas, a Greek historian of the late 3rd century BCE, the Stympahlian Birds were not birds at all but women, the daughters of Stymphalos and Ornis, who were killed by Hercules because they did not receive him hospitably. [3] Pausanias, in his Description of Greece, a Greek travelogue of the 2nd century CE, at the end of the Hellenistic period, adds this to our understanding:

In Stymphalos there is also an old sanctuary of Stymphalian Artemis, the image being of wood, for the most part gilded. Near the roof of the temple have been carved, among other things, the Stymphalian birds. Now it was difficult to discern clearly whether the carving was in wood or in gypsum, but such evidence as I had led me to conclude that it was not of gypsum but of wood. There are here also maidens of white marble, with the legs of birds, and they stand behind the temple.[4]

The Temple of Artemis, built entirely of marble except for the roof and replacing an older temple, was completed around 550 BCE at Ephesus, in present-day Turkey.

 It was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the course of its history.  Classified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, today the ruins sit in a marshy field and only the foundations of the temple remain, together with a single column and scanty fragments strewn on the ground.

Three marble copies of the cult statue of the Ephesian Artemis that stood in the temple survive and are displayed in the Ephesus Museum.[5] The ‘Beautiful Artemis’ (left) appears to be an amalgam of the Greek goddess and the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele with her stomach/womb covered with multiple breasts suggestive of abundant fertility. Her necklace is made of acorns from her sacred oak tree; her breastplate contains signs of the zodiac; rows of animals, representing fertility, decorate her tight, fitted skirt; and along the sides of the skirt are images of bees. More importantly for our understanding, Macrobius described the Ephesian Artemis as being a ‘shooter of swift arrows’ [6], and the statue shows her with the feet of birds. These Stymphalian Birds, moving between the realms of earth and sky and with their deep connection to Artemis, show us how we make transitions by reaching for the divine.

Ephesian Artemis, the "Beautiful Artemis"
1st century,  CE


Deneb Adige in the tail of Cygnus the swan

We on earth observe Cygnus the swan from beneath and Deneb Adige is the bright star in its tail. Deneb Adige is considered a star of inexorable change but it is change that contains the strength and hostility of the swan, as well as its mystical or transcendent qualities. Brady refers to this star as the Shaman’s Star.[7] The practice of wearing a swan-feather cloak in order to take the shape and form of a swan is found in both the Hindu myth of Krishna who transforms into a Swan Knight, and in the Greek myth of Zeus who transforms into a swan in order to seduce Leda, mother of Castor and Pollux. Thus there is an element of shape-shifting connected with this star. The Egyptians believed Deneb Adige to be the place of exit of the birth canal of Nut, the great starry sky goddess, and from this place the Sun, Ra, was born anew every winter solstice. Thus there is also an element of rebirth connected with this star.


So this is the Stymphalian Bird that acts as an intermediary between the human world and the spirit world in order to rebalance the physical world. If you have Deneb Adige linked by paran with planets in your chart, then you learn to make transitions through a mystical/spiritual shamanistic journey that then has to be made practical, realistic and grounded.


Michelangelo  - Vega with Mercury

Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect and engineer (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564)




Vega with Mercury





‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’

Michelangelo, 6 March 1475, 1.50 LMT,
Caprese, Michelan, Italy.

Michelangelo’s skills and talents as a painter, sculptor, architect and engineer were of such excellence that he is often held up as the essence of the Renaissance, along with his rival and fellow Italian, Leonardo da Vinci.

Horoscopically Michelangelo’s Venus is in Aries square Saturn in Cancer. With both planets in detriment, this suggests a fear of rejection leading to shyness when young, difficulty with handling commitment, and seeking a different or alternative pathway (detriment) in relationships. His biography records how his mother was too sick and frail to nurse him, so he was placed with a wet nurse in a family of stone cutters where he ‘sucked in the craft of hammer and chisel with my foster mother's milk’ [8], a vivid image of this young and unformed Venus-Saturn. His biography goes on to note that in childhood he kept to himself out of shyness and lack of trust, touchy and quick to respond with fierce words (Venus in Aries/cardinal square) as a way of keeping people at bay. Yet the astrology suggests that by choosing an alternate pathway (detriment) this aspect turns into loyalty and steadfastness. This pathway was that of the artist. When he was 13-years old he shocked and enraged his father when told that him that he had agreed to apprentice in the workshop of the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. ‘When I told my father that I wished to be an artist,’ he wrote in his diary, ‘he flew into a rage, “artists are laborers, no better than shoemakers."’[9]


Michelangelo has his Venus in paran with Deneb Adige:

Deneb Adige in paran with Venus

                        The poetic soul struggling to live in the mundane world.

Seeking the divine in art or music, finding one’s fulfilment in the arts.[10]


This Stymphalian Bird in a paran with Michelangelo’s Venus indicates that the way  he transcended this world was to step into the imaginal space, bring back his visions, and make them physical literally through his paintings, sculptures and architecture. What better sums up this paran than Michelangelo’s remark: ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’



Altair in the back of Aquila the Eagle

Aquila the Eagle contains the bright star Altair and Ptolemy placed it in the back of the soaring eagle. Walker notes that the eagle is a ‘symbol of apotheosis associated with the sun god, fire, and lightning.’[11] Shepherd and Shepherd write of how the solar symbol of the double-headed eagle, used in the Mesopotamian Third Dynasty of Ur (2112-2004 BCE), represented the absolute power of royalty and sky deities, and appeared in Hittite sanctuaries in central Anatolia in the13th century BCE. [12] The double-headed eagle was also associated with the Holy Roman Empire, representing Church and State, the Byzantine Empire, representing secular and religious sovereignty over East and West, and is akin to the Vijayanagara Empire’s gandeberunda, the two-headed mythological bird of Hindu mythology thought to possess magical strength. The Greeks saw the eagle as a form of Zeus; and it was considered to be the royal bird of Rome and a symbol of male sovereignty. The Romans released eagles over the pyres of dead emperors, believing the eagle would carry the newly-dead soul back to the land of the immortals. Today it is a symbol used by the USA.

This is the Stymphalian Bird of power and protection which, through acts of courage, gains divine rank or stature. This is the way the hero becomes deified. If you have Altair linked by paran with planets in your chart, then you learn to make transitions through bravery, risk-taking and daring which inspires others and thus in some way gives you immortality.


Queen Elizabeth I of England - Mercury with Altair

 (7 September 1533 15:25 Greenwich, England – 24 March 1603)



Queen Elizabeth I, 7 September 1533,
15.25 LMT, Greenwich, UK

 The Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1588


Queen Elizabeth I of England had her Mercury in Libra in the 8th house square a Saturn-Uranus conjunction in Cancer in the 7th house. This suggests someone with brilliant ideas (Mercury-Uranus) who forges new pathways slowly over the steadiness of time (Saturn-Uranus) and who requires support and assistance (Saturn-Uranus in the 7th house, Saturn in fall in Cancer), diplomacy (Mercury in Libra) and employs alternative ways of thinking (Mercury-Saturn and Saturn in fall) in order to achieve change (Mercury in the 8th house). We see and understand one expression of this by the education Elizabeth received. By the time her formal tutoring ended in 1550 she could write English, Latin, French and Greek and was the best-educated woman of her generation.  Elizabeth ruled through turbulent times, fought off potential civil wars, the Spanish Armada as well as the insistence of her advisors that she marry to produce an heir.  


Mercury and Altair

Elizabeth I had Altair in paran to both her Mercury and Mars:

Altair in paran with Mercury
A natural ability to think fast yielding a military mind, a brave and
independent thinker. Successful in independent action.

                                                     Altair in paran with Mars
                               To be daring and at times take rash action.
     To be drawn to the military or to use a military-style approach to problem-solving.


Her military mind at work (Mercury in paran with Altair) is exemplified by a reign famous for the defeat of the Armada, along with successful raids against the Spanish, such as those on Cádiz in 1587 and 1596. However, some historians point to military failures on land and at sea,[14] the ‘rash action’ of Mars in paran with Altair. Yet despite her largely defensive foreign policy, her reign raised England's status abroad. ‘She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island,’ Pope Sixtus V noted in awe, ‘and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all.’ [15] (Mercury and Mars in paran with Altair). She established an English church that helped shape a national identity and which remains in place today. Further under her reign, the nation gained a new self-confidence and sense of sovereignty, as Christendom fragmented.[16]

This Stymphalian Bird, linked with her Mercury and Mars indicates that through power and protection, through acts of courage as a woman in a man’s world, and thus by inspiring her people she gained divine rank and immortality.


Vega the bright star in Lyra, the ‘Vulture’

This constellation is usually associated with a musical instrument and Greek writers from Aratus (Phaenomena) to Manilius (Astronmica) have written of it as the Lyre of Orpheus. The Greeks of the Classical age believed the legendary figure of Orpheus to be chief among poets and musicians, and the one who perfected the lyre invented by Hermes. Poets like Pseudo-Apollodorus, Euripides and Ovid commented on how, with his music and singing, Orpheus could charm birds, fish and wild beasts, and coax the trees and rocks into dance, divert the course of rivers, and move the dead to tears. Through his gift of singing Orpheus was one of the handful of Greek heroes to visit the Underworld and return. Ovid wrote:

Then Orpheus plucked his lyre as he sang [to the inhabitants of hell]. The Bloodless shades shed tears: they heard his plea... . . . It's even said that, moved by Orpheus' song, the Furies wept— the only tears the Furies ever shed. [17]

The beautiful and bright star in the crown of Lyra is Vega. Brady comments on the enormous charisma such a star carries and the sense that one has been touched by the other world, linked through its mythological association with Orpheus to enchantment and spell-binding music.[18]


However, up to a few centuries ago this constellation was known as the Swooping Vulture and imaged as an upturned vulture’s head bearing a lyre in its beak. As a totem animal of the Great Mother Goddess in her death aspect, the vulture was revered in Neolithic times as the embodiment of the Mother’s spirit, eating the dead and carrying them up to heaven. The vulture was particularly important in Egypt, where it was worshipped as Mut, Isis, or Nekhbet and was considered the ‘origin of all things’. Ancient Iranians exposed their dead to vulture in dakhmas, ‘towers of silence’ that were built when they worshipped Mah, the Moon-goddess.[19]


This Stymphalian Bird works with the detritus of life, taking the flesh of the dead and making it immortal. Since the vulture carries the lyre in its beak, so the act of immortalizing can be through the voice. If you have Vega linked by paran with planets in your chart, then the way that you make transitions will be to work with where life breaks down or appears to have ended and to transform it, carry it back to the goddess through the voice and make it enduring.


Krishna Das, kirtan singer - Vega in paran with Venus

(born Jeffrey Kagel 31 May, 1947 23:43, Long Island, New York) [20]



Krishna Das, 31 May, 1947. 23.43
Long Island, NY, USA

 ‘When KD begins to sing, the gods pull up their chairs.’


Krishna Das, called KD by his friends and fans, is recognized as the best-known U.S. singer of Indian kirtan-style devotional music (chanting the names of god). The emotional turmoil of his early adult years were salved somewhat when he met Ram Das in 1968 who had just returned from India with his guru, Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaj-ji). Deeply touched by what he felt, in 1971 KD travelled there on his own pilgrimage and stayed the best part of three years before Maharaj-ji sent him back to the USA. In the emotional turmoil that followed, KD realized he could best serve Maharaj-ji by singing kirtan to him. However, it took a long time for this to eventuate. As KD himself says:

‘My epiphany that I had in 1994, which is 21 years after he [Maharaj-ji] died, was that I had to sing with people if I was ever going to have the chance to clean out the dark places in my own heart.’ [21]

In 1994 KD began singing in public as well as recording kirtan CDs, employing a fusion of Western and Eastern sounds that blended electric guitar and drums with traditional Indian instruments. The result was immediate success. It’s something about that voice. It’s not the beautiful melodic voice of opera but it is compelling. In a documentary about KD, one observer commented: ‘When KD begins to sing, the gods pull up their chairs.’

In his horoscope KD has Venus in Taurus in rulership the 3rd house, so one could argue that communication (the 3rd house) via singing (Venus in Taurus) to others (cadent) brings him success (Venus in rulership).


KD's Venus and the stars


Not surprisingly KD's Venus is in paran with Vega, the alpha star of the Great Swooping Vulture:

 Vega in paran with Venus

The artist and visionary or one who supports different ideas about new social orders.A celebration of the arts, a charismatic person who takes centre stage.


So this Venus offers KD the ability to take the difficulties he experiences and through his singing, through Orpheus’ lyre in the beak of the vulture, he is offered the gift of the bard. KD writes in his book Chants of a Lifetime that his dream when young was to be a rock star but if he had taken that path when it was offered in his early 20s, rather than following Neem Karoli Baba, he would not have been able to handle that world. Success came to him at an age when he had more life experience to deal with the trappings that success brings. Knowing this does not take away the difficult nature of his Venus but it does offer an insight into how Vega can be used artistically and spiritually for good to, literally, give voice to this other world.


In paran with KD’s Venus this Stymphalian Bird indicates that by working with the deep black spaces of his despair, where life appeared to have broken down or ended and singing to it, he transforms it into something enduring and divine.


Note: Michelangelo also had his Venus in paran with Vega and in order understand human anatomy he was given permission from the prior of the church of Santo Spirito, Niccolò Bichiellini to study corpses (an act that was strictly forbidden by The Church). Michelangelo’s literal contact with dead bodies gave them immortality in his paintings.



In conclusion


The Stymphalian Birds of mythology describe the ‘other’ ways we make transitions and how we reach for the divine. Deneb Adige in Cygnus the Swan moves into the unseen mystical sprit world in order to make the visible earth-bound world more practical. Altair in Aquila the Eagle seeks events of physical courage and daring as a means of deification. Vega in Lyra the Vulture works with the dark spaces of life and elevates them to make them holy.


Have a look at your own parans and see whether the Stymphalian Birds fly around the sacred lake of your life and how you make changes and transitions. 


Visit www.Zyntara.com to get a your parans emailed to you.



1.      Brady, Bernadette (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars, York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser Inc, p.260.
      Taylor, George (1971). The Roman Temples of Lebanon, Beirut: Dar el-Mashreq.
3.      http://www.theoi.com/Ther/OrnithesStymphalides.html  - accessed 16 August 2010.
      Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 22. 7 (trans. Jones) - http://www.theoi.com/Text/Pausanias8B.html - accessed 16 August 2010.
5.      These statues are known as the ‘Great Artemis’ (Ephesus Museum Inv. 712, from the time of Trajan), the ‘Beautiful Artemis’ (Inv. 718, from the time of Hadrian); and the ‘Small Artemis’ (Inv. 717, from the second century). All three were found in the area of the Prytaneion in Ephesus. From Holly Hayes’ MPhil thesis on the religious history of ancient Ephesus, submitted in June 2007 at the University of Oxford -
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/ephesus-artemis.htm#_ftn13 - accessed 16 October, 2010.
      Macrobius, Greek Lyric 5.84 as trans. in Strelan, 45.
7.      Brady, Bernadette (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars, p…...Shaman’s Star.
     Clément, Charles (1892). Michelangelo, Harvard University, Digitized 25 June 2007: S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, ltd.: London. http://books.google.com/?id=GsDAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=michelangelo. – accessed 16 October 2010.
      Clément, Charles (1892). Michelangelo.
    Brady, Bernadette (2008). Star and Planet Combinations, Bournemouth: The Wessex Astrologer, p.148.
  Walker, Barbara (1983) The Woman’s Encyclopedia Of Myths And Secrets, San Francisco: Harper and Rowe.
  Shepherd, Rowena and Rupert (2002), 1000 Symbols: What Shapes Mean In Art And Myth, London: Thames & Hudson.
13.    Brady, Bernadette (2008). Star and Planet Combinations, p.....
14.  Starkey, David (2003), "Elizabeth: Woman, Monarch, Mission", in Doran, Susan, Elizabeth: The Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, London: Chatto and Windus, p.7.
15.  Brady, Star and Planet Combinations, p.118.
16.  Haigh, Christopher (2000), Elizabeth I (2nd ed.), Harlow (UK): Longman Pearson, p.132. Somerset, Anne (2003), Elizabeth I. (1st Anchor Books ed.), London: Anchor Books, p.727.
  Ovid. The Metamorphoses of Ovid, translated by Allen Mandelbaum. Harcourt Brace & Co, New York, 1993, B. X, L. 34-46.
  Brady, Star and Planet Combinations, p.244.
  Walker, Barbara (1983). The Women’s Encyclopedia, pp.1053-1054.
  Time and date given personally by KD to Darrelyn Gunzburg on Saturday 19th June 2010 in London, UK, at a kirtan 'mini-retreat'. More on Krishna Das can be found at: www.krishnadas.com
  http://www.mvgazette.com/article.php?27077 - accessed 3 Sept, 2010. 



And happening Down Under! - Only 7 places left.


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Re-Thinking the Heavens -  
7- 9 January 2011 in Adelaide, South Australia.

Issue No. 70
October, 2010

On related topics

March 2010

Introducing the Stymphalian Birds

July 2006

Phases, the Heliacal Setting Star - Vega in paran with Saturn and Venus.


December 2005

A Chorus from Christmas Past -  Altair in paran with Mercury




In brief...

The three Stymphalian Birds teach us the three ways we make transitions by reaching for the divine.


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visual astrology  sky happenings


November 2010

Saturn has now emerged from the light of the Sun, and can be seen rising in the early dawn light. The balsamic Moon will join with Saturn on 4 November. By late November the Morning Star, Venus, will join with the 'king'. This is an enhanced time of effectiveness for any person in power.  

Jupiter is now high in the sky at sunset, glowing near the western fish of Pisces.   

Mars spends the month hovering in the liminal space between the worlds - moving towards being visible, so it is standing on the edge of enchantment. Once it is lost in the Sun's light it will not become visible again till April 2011.

Venus now becomes  the Morning Star visible from mid-November and radiates the King (Saturn). As a morning star Venus is focused, active and empowering. Mid-November to late-November is a time when action can be taken.   








Calendar of
forthcoming Events

8-10 January, 2011
Adelaide, Australia

Re-Thinking the Heavens :
Cosmology, Sky and Charts

A 3-day specialist conference with Bernadette Brady and Darrelyn Gunzburg.


More information on Astro Logos web site

8, 9, 10 April, 2011
Tiefenbrunnen, Zurich Switzerland

Maps of the Psyche - Astrology and the Path to the Stars
Liz Greene, Nick Campion and Bernadette Brady
This 3-day conference, drawing on ideas from ancient and classical teachings as well as modern psychology, will examine astrological notions of the horoscope as a map, locating humanity within a celestial environment and describing a journey through life and a pathway to the stars.

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13, 14 , 15 May, 2011
ORIGINS, the Egyptian and Mesopotamian contribution to astrology
This event is unique in the USA. For the very first time, the Sophia Centre at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK through Dr Nick Campion and Bernadette Brady will be teaching an intensive, exploring the Babylonian and Egyptian contribution to Western Astrology.

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13 - 16 October 2011 - Bristol, UK
Astronomy and Culture
An academic conference being held at The University of Bristol, UK.
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