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
lifted through the skies
Lifted up above the world to see…
Russell Morris, The Wings Of
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
Apollonius Rhodius ( Argonautica 2, c.3rd century
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. If we look more closely at this myth, we see this deeper level
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. In a valley of northwestern Arcadia, Lake Stymphalis provided such a
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. 
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.
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. 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’ , 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
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. 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.
- Vega with Mercury
Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect and engineer (6 March 1475 – 18
Vega with Mercury
‘I saw the
angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’
Michelangelo, 6 March 1475, 1.50 LMT,
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.
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’ , 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
‘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."’
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.
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
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.’ 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.  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.
Elizabeth I of England - Mercury with Altair
September 1533 15:25 Greenwich, England – 24 March 1603)
Elizabeth I, 7 September 1533,
15.25 LMT, Greenwich, UK
portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1588
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
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, 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.’ 
(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
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
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.
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. 
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.
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.
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) 
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
‘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
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.’
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
Visit www.Zyntara.com to get
a your parans emailed to you.
Brady, Bernadette (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed
Stars, York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser Inc, p.260.
George (1971). The Roman Temples of Lebanon,
Beirut: Dar el-Mashreq.
- accessed 16 August 2010.
Description of Greece 8. 22. 7 (trans. Jones) -
- accessed 16 August 2010.
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 -
- accessed 16 October, 2010.
Macrobius, Greek Lyric
5.84 as trans. in Strelan, 45.
Brady, Bernadette (1998). Brady’s Book of
Fixed Stars, p…...Shaman’s
Clément, Charles (1892). Michelangelo, Harvard University, Digitized 25
June 2007: S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, ltd.: London.
– accessed 16 October 2010.
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,
Starkey, David (2003), "Elizabeth:
Woman, Monarch, Mission", in Doran, Susan,
The Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum,
London: Chatto and Windus, p.7.
Brady, Star and Planet Combinations,
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,
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:
- accessed 3 Sept, 2010.
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