Hunter & The Hunted: Dejanira & Nessus

The Rape of Dejanira- Guido Reni

February’s full moon in Leo occurring at 07.33 GMT opens a gateway into a theme which is constantly discussed and often misunderstood –  the dynamics of the abused and the abuser.

This may seem like a surprising comment given that our social media and psycho-spiritual channels are currently saturated with information on how to identify and over-come toxic and damaging ways of relating. Particularly in the field of personality disorders, NPD, or narcissistic personality disorder has claimed the hotspot in being the new evil incarnate. Podcasts, YouTube videos, talks, seminars, books and films readily expose and condemn the diabolical indicators of that new breed of human- the ‘Narc’.

But it’s not only NPD that is being exposed in an attempt to better understand the inner workings of abusive relationships, and as one thing can’t exist without the other, it becomes apparent that there can be no abuser without a victim to abuse. Co-dependents, sufferers of PTSD, border-liners, empaths, and an array of increasingly complex personality disordered behaviour comes under the sway of psychotherapy in an attempt to understand why we humans are so challenged and dysfunctional in our intimate relating.

It’s little wonder that these matters-especially issues of abuser and perpetrator-should occupy much of our interest these days, after all we are under a Saturn Pluto conjunction which in itself is undoubtedly bringing issues of power, abuse of power, and the exposure of hidden things to the surface.

But under this full moon we also have the added intensity of asteroid Nessus exactly conjunct asteroid Dejanira at 9 degrees of Pisces.

Let me explain…

In Greek mythology Dejanira who was a Calydonian princess and whose name translates as “man-destroyer” or “destroyer of her husband” has become synonymous in astrology with the victim archetype.

Here is her story-

One day Dejanira, the wife of Hercules, wanted to cross the river Euenos and was offered a lift by the centaur Nessus who invited her to hop on his back while her ferried her over the water. Dejanira, grateful for the offer accepts the invitation but halfway across the centaur attempts to rape her. The scene is witnessed by Hercules who standing on the opposite riverbank promptly raises his bow and shoots Nessus with a poisonous arrow. Before his imminent death Nessus tricks Dejanira by exploiting her worst fears and deepest insecurities, namely the infidelities of her husband which may eventually lead to her abandonment.

The cunning Nessus draws Dejanira into a ruse that enables him to inflict revenge on his adversary Hercules from beyond the grave. He offers Dejanira a sample of his blood telling her that if she ever fears abandonment by Hercules, she should smear the blood on him thus ensuring his fidelity and lasting commitment.

When Hercules-who was well known for fathering children all over Greece- falls in love with Iola, it is more than Dejanira can bear, and desperately fearing abandonment she places a little of the centaur’s poisonous blood on her husband’s famous lion-skin shirt causing his skin to burn instantly. In great pain Hercules jumps into a nearby funeral pyre, and stricken with grief Dejanira takes her own life shortly after. A tragic tale indeed!

In astrology, the position of Dejanira indicates our susceptibility to abuse or the places we feel vulnerable to abuse. Nessus points to our potential abusive or predatory tendencies. In synastry charts where couples have these asteroids in hard aspect issues of abuse and sometimes dangerous liaisons, are highlighted- although this is not always the case and layers of complexity refuse any forgone conclusions.

Clues to the complexity of this duo are to be found in the myth itself. Firstly, why is Dejanira so riddled with insecurity to begin with? While it is clear that she has married a philandering husband, what is not clear is what drives her- a princess- into a situation where she is repeatedly disrespected.

And what of Nessus’s revenge from beyond the grave? This speaks of legacies, feuds, and unresolved issues passed down through lifetimes. There is no redemption in this story, everyone ends up dead. But at least then there is a sense that the feud, or curse, or bad blood has finally come to an end.

In her desperate love of her husband, Dejanira’s fears are more than realised in the demise of both of them.

Astrologer Melanie Reinhart relates Nessus issues to sexuality, death, revenge and jealousy, and says that it has to with abuse of power and has ancestral implications.

But Nessus also offers the possibility of reprieve and breaking of the toxic ties for good. As Melanie says of Nessus, ‘the buck stops here’.

 “It seems that Nessus brings opportunities to understand and release deep patterns of helplessness, being taken advantage of, and being oppressed. Nessus processes really do seem to end the unfathomable ties that bind us to people, places, and situations.”

First though we have to understand how these processes operate in our lives. Have you ever found yourself at the end, or in the middle of an intensely difficult relationship scouring books and the internet for information in a desperate attempt to understand what the hell is going on, only to find yourself staring in the mirror wondering if you are the abused or the abuser? And if we accept that we have unwittingly got ourselves involved with (yet another) narcissist, or psychopath, or crazy lady does it not necessitate a deep probing into our own core wounding to ask why we would allow that? Afterall, emotionally healthy people do not invite nor stay in unhealthy relationships.

And in touching our core wounds and travelling back through our psychic timeline can we see where the pattern began, the place where the psychic fingerprints of our father or mother, and their father and mother left marks on our fledgling soul? And then further back down the ancestral line can we identify the patterns of abuse, or unlove, or hidden things whose shadow grows bigger with each generation that refuses to acknowledge it… until the buck stops here- with you.

But this is no small feat and overcoming intergenerational trauma requires more than just personal will and cognitive understanding. Healing wounds of the soul requires spiritual grace, love, forgiveness and compassion- centauress Chariklo can point us in this direction.

African writer and healer Patrice Malidoma say that what we think of as a curse is really the legacy of unlove. What curses live in the rivers of our families’ crossing from lifetime to lifetime? What betrayals wait in the inner sanctums of our homes? And where did it all begin?

These are sacred wounds, they are ours and yet they are not only ours, they belong also to our ancestors as they belong to our culture and societies.

The myth of Dejanira provides an archetypal lens through which we can explore issues of the abused and the abuser. It is too easy to blame the other. Often we form relationships with those souls who are precisely able to draw stagnant waters form our deepest well.

Like in the myth of Dejanira these poisons are carried in the blood from generation to generation until someone, usually after a great deal of trauma, decides to confront the family skeletons and clears the ancestral field.

Often the kind of relationships that are able to facilitate this holy healing are in the end just too difficult to sustain, though hopefully along the way we bring each other closer to a state of grace where we can finally let go of blame and the ultimately unrealistic polarity of abuser and abused.

Looking at the placements of Dejanira and Nessus in your own chart-and if you have them the charts of your parents- is hugely beneficial in identifying the family curse.

Dejanira’s killing of her husband is unmeditated and accidental but it is from her own deep wounds and insecurities that she destroys her husband and herself.

As I’ve been writing this blog a song from the 80’s has been rolling around in my head- Hunter and the Hunted by Simple Minds-

 

 

 

 

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