Thursday, January 28, 2010

Imbolc, Hebe, Aquarius, and The Star

Preparing for Imbolc, the Pagan celebration of the first signs of spring, I've been thinking about the astrological sign of Aquarius, hoping to get more insights into this season of change and renewal. In tarot, I often find that the tarot cards that correspond with the astrological signs around certain holidays usually holds some significance - as in, there are no coincidences. (Samhain/Halloween and the Death card, New Year's Day and The Devil card, etc.) So, looking into Tarot, Astrology, and Mythology, I'm hoping to let my brain pick apart this lesser sabbat of Imbolc.

In the Wheel of The Year, Imbolc falls on February 2nd, a time when winter is still upon us but the signs of an approaching spring are becoming more apparent. Rains come, the nights are growing shorter and the hours of sunlight growing longer. At Yule, the Goddess gave birth to the Baby Sun King, and he is gaining his strength. Many legends hold that during this time of year, the Goddess, in her Maiden form, is sleeping. Once she awakens, she will join with the God and together they will bring Fertility and growth back to the land (Beltane / May Day). It is the Goddess in her young and pure Maiden form that I find represented in the Tarot card, The Star.

In this version of the card, from The Celestial Tarot by Kay Steventon and Brian Clark, she is represented as Hebe, the Greek Goddess of Youth. Here is an excerpt from the booklet that comes with this beautifully illustrated deck;

" To the ancients, Aquarius was the power of the flowing, often flooding, water. The Star represents both strands of Aquarius; it heralds the revolutionary new way of being after a period of turmoil or suppression and is also representative of a wellspring of hope and renewal. Aquarius' innovative and creative new vision pours forth like manna from heaven, a welcome downpour after the disruption and chaos of The Tower (card 16). In the Celestial Tarot, Hebe pours forth the invigorating waters recycled from the abundant springs of life over mankind. She symbolizes renewal, hope, bright prospects, inspiration, and spiritual guidance. The Star is the light of the higher self and it is Hebe the heroic anima who illuminates inner darkness and heralds the dawn of a hope filled future."

I decided to look more into this youthful Goddess, Hebe. Who was she? Hebe was the daughter of the Zeus and Hera ( The Goddess of Marriage, sister of Demeter and Hestia). Hebe was the cup bearer to the Olympians, serving them their nectar and ambrosia until she became the wife of Heracles (Hercules). She was the patron Goddess of young brides and maidens, and attendant to the Goddess Aphrodite (the Goddess of Love). It is no wonder that she is depicted in this card, The Star, as most Greek paintings and sculptures of her depict her carrying or pouring liquid from a vase or pitcher.

Hebe is known as The Goddess of Youth, or sometimes The Goddess of Spring. She was prayed to by warriors who needed the vitality of youth before going into battle. One example of this is found in the story of Iolaus, who was the former charioteer of Heracles. In his old age, he prayed to Hebe before a fight with Eurystheus, asking to be young again for just one day - a wish that Hebe granted.

The concept of Youth is central to the Astrological sign of Aquarius. The Fixed Air sign, it is related to stability and stamina. The Waterbearer is commonly known for being a humanitarian; ruling over the 11th House, the House of Friendship and Hopes & Wishes. It is easy to see how Hebe fits into this category of giving, as she happily took her place attending to the Olympian gods, refilling their cups with her nectar of vitality and youth. The Concept of youth not only refers to strength and stamina though, and being young or youthful also has other traits that are commonly associated with Aquarius. These are some common traits attributed to the Fixed Water sign of the Zodiac and you can see how everyone, in their youth, as exhibited these traits; Humanitarian, Emotionally Cool, Innovative, Rebellious, Independent, Disruptive, Friendly, Uninvolved, Visionary, Impractical, Tolerant, Perverse, Unusual, Individualistic.

As the Earth slowly awakens from it's winter slumber, it enters a period of almost juvenile youth. These late winter storms can be strong, and even harsh, as if the water and wind don't know their own strength. Yet it is through the gift of these waters that the land is reborn. The trials we face as a young adult or teen are often the ones that shape us into the adults we become. I think we can all stand to take time to look back at our youth and the lessons we learned from this period of vitality. Also, we can look at our lives now, in what ways are we still growing, still "young"? In what ways might we benefit from having the youthful attitudes of rebellion, independence, innovation, or creativity? In ancient times (and still today, it was the young men - the youthful, who were sent into battle and trusted to win the day. Perhaps this lesson can be taken to heart in another way. Yes, as we grow older we grow wiser, but sometimes in life it may be necessary to take a youthful stance, to trust that youthful part of ourselves to make the right choices and win the battle we face. Consider this; "Aquarius takes as it's purpose the experimentation with all established structures. It freely crosses all man-made boundaries in order to experience the new and unusual. It is related to reform within the structure of a group, bringing innovative ideas." ~ M.J. Abadie, from "The Everything Tarot Book.

Maybe it's time to ask Hebe to give us some of that Youth-like exuberance and innovation. The Earth is in a state of renewal and rebirth, and as her inhabitants, so are we.

Here's another quote to consider;
"I am no worshipper of Hygia, who was the daughter of that old herb-doctor Asclepius … but rather of Hebe … who had the power of restoring gods and men to the vigour of youth. She was probably the only thoroughly sound-conditioned, healthy, and robust young lady that ever walked the globe, and whenever she came it was spring." (Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862, Walden).
Here's another blog I wrote on Aquarius and The Star, check it out!
Journaling with Aquarius and The Star

Hebe - Wikipedia

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