By Tracy Boyd

© 2004

“Teiresias, Teiresias, how clearly you saw it all!”

Sophocles (1)


Teiresias is an old man, a very wise old man, when we meet him in the Oedipus tragedies of Sophocles.  He is, in Oedipus’s own words, a


        “. . . seer: student of mysteries,

        Of all that’s taught and all that no man tells,

        Secrets of Heaven and secrets of the earth . . .(2)

He is a man honored above all others in the city of Thebes, “a lord clairvoyant to the lord Apollo,” (3) the diviner to whom the King turns to rid the city of its plague.  The chorus of elders in the Oedipus Rex sings of him as “the old man skilled at hearing Fate in the wing-beat of a bird,(4)  All of Greece knew the name of Teiresias to mean one who ‘cries the signs of the heavens’.  This “holy prophet in whom, alone of all men, truth was born(5) has a very long and varied history; and we have much to learn from him, for his mythology both conceals and reveals cosmological mysteries and truths of enormous magnitude.

His powers of prophecy are said to have been a gift of Athene, the Goddess of Wisdom, “who had blinded him for having inadvertently seen her bathing.” (6)  It was all quite innocent on his part, and on hers.  “One summer day, when the heat and stillness of noon reigned in the mountains,” (7) Athene and her favorite nymph, her loyal attendant and closest companion, Chariclo, who was, by no small coincidence, Teiresias’s mother, were cooling themselves in the refreshing waters of a flowing spring.  By chance, or by some cruel law of fate, “the youthful Teiresias, roaming the hills with his dogs, came to slake his thirst at the bubbling spring and saw what was not lawful to see.” (8)  It was there that he came upon Athene, awesome to behold in any light, the vision of her nakedness intensified by the blazing light of the sun at the cardinal hour of noon. 

Some say that the goddess merely “covered his eyes with her hands, and so rendered him sightless.” (9)  But Athene herself explained to her beloved Chariclo (10) that it was not her action, “that [it was] the laws of the gods [that] inflicted the penalty of blindness on anyone who beheld an immortal without his or her consent.” (11)  To come face to face with God is a shattering experience.  The veils that shield mortal eyes from such illumination are there for good reason.  The deity must be concealed from view until sufficient wisdom has been attained to handle the intensity of the truly awesome light without losing one’s mind.  There is a very fine line between ecstatic vision and madness.  A perfect balance is what is required to avoid going over the edge. (12)  On this fateful day the young Teiresias was a mere child, a boy in his “seventh year” (13) in a state of perfect innocence. 

So, in his behalf, his mother, whose name suggests something of her gratitude for a favor received, pleaded with her favorite goddess to restore his sight.  But as his blinding was an action of the gods that Athene could not reverse, (14) in recompense she took “the serpent Erichthonius from her aegis, [and] gave the order: ‘Cleanse Teiresias’s ears with your tongue that he may understand the language of prophetic birds’.” (15)  He was thus blessed with “the gifts of prophecy and divination, [and additionally, with] long life, and after death the retention of his mental powers undimmed in the world below.” (16)  She gave him another gift also, which was the key to unlocking all the other gifts, “a staff of cornel-wood, wherewith he walked like those who see.” (17)  


This last gift, this key to all, is not quite so straightforward as at first it might seem.  The Greek word that is used to convey the meaning of this staff is skeptron, which James G. Frazer has translated simply as ‘staff’, with the general meaning of “a staff or stick to lean upon: a walking stick.” (18)  That is its usual everyday meaning.  But a gift from a goddess is not a usual everyday event.  The word has a more sacred meaning, one that is surely meant here.  A skeptron is also “a staff or baton, as the badge of command, a sceptre, borne by kings, chiefs, and heralds: speakers on rising received a skeptron from the herald,” (19) which gave them the authority to speak.  Wherever the heralds “carried [their] wands (skeptra), their persons were inviolable, and they were regarded as . . . messengers . . . under the protection of Jove [Zeus].” (20) 

This was precisely what Teiresias received from Athene, a herald’s staff, with which he would walk “like those who see.”  This phrase, too, has a sacred as well as a secular meaning, for not only would such a staff serve as an everyday walking stick, but the herald’s staff was the very instrument used by augurs in their divination obtained from the flight and cries of birds.  The Greeks had a more formal name for this staff that was shaped, originally, like a shepherd’s crook.  It was called the kerykeion.

We find this sacred instrument, the kerykeion, in the hands of the Kerykes, an Athenian family of very exalted position who claimed it as their own.  Although they “recognized Hermes as their ancestral God,” (21) “according to the Eleusinian tradition recorded by Pausanias, their progenitor was Keryx, the younger son of Eumolpos.” (22)  Now, this Eumolpos was a shepherd, and owing to the fact that he was the son of Baubo, the primordial acorn mother of the region, he was a shepherd highly esteemed at Eleusis. (23) 

The indigenous family of the Eumolpids, and the later Kerykes clan, were charged with the administration and officiation of the greatest Mysteries of the ancient world, those of Demeter and Persephone, which were celebrated at Eleusis for more than two thousand years.  It was the Hierokeryx, the sacred herald, who, in “a clear strong voice . . . read the proclamation and ordered that silence which had to be followed by the initiates throughout” the rites of Demeter and Persephone. (24)  And it is Hermes, the winged herald, the messenger of the gods, who travels effortlessly between this world and that other, who, with kerykeion in hand, brings Persephone back from the realm of Hades.

But why should the augur adopt the staff of the herald?  Their commonality is evident in the meaning of the word herald, ‘a person who proclaims or announces significant news’. (25)  The herald, or keryx, who is sometimes called aggello, or ‘angel’, (26) is a ‘messenger’ who ‘comes before [us] to announce, or give an indication of what follows’. (27)  He ‘introduces, announces, and foretells’ (28) future events.  To foretell is synonymous with many words, among them, to prophesy, which ‘implies prediction by divine inspiration or occult knowledge’; and to prognosticate, which ‘is to foretell by the study of signs or symptoms’. (29) 

The word herald is synonymous also with forerunner, which means a ‘praecur-sor’.  A praecursor, which is defined as someone, or something ‘sent before or going before to announce or prepare the way for another or for something to follow’, also includes as its meaning ‘a sign that tells or warns of something to follow; prognostic’. (30)  A forerunner is one who ‘comes before and presages the appearance of’ things to come through ‘a foreboding’; (31) presages being those things that are ‘perceived before’ from ‘a sign of warning of a future event’, whether it be through ‘omen, portent, [or] augury’. (32) 


One who ‘cries the signs of the heavens’ is the very meaning of Teiresias’s name.  It is taken from teirea, which in the strictest sense of the word denotes ‘the heavenly bodies’, or ‘signs’, (33) but which encompasses ‘anything that serves as an omen’. (34)  The thinking is, that as a result of their proximity, “the birds who are so near the heavenly signs . . . must know more than man,” (35) thus “bird and constellation . . . are alike teirea, heavenly signs.” (36)  As Aristophanes tells us, “for the ancient Greeks all birds were ominous and the word ‘bird’ itself was synonymous with omen.” (37)  We can take Aristophanes at his word in this matter because he was, himself, something of an expert in birds, as his hilarious comedy, The Birds, of 414 B.C.E. attests. (38)  Much of the play is devoted to the ridiculous lengths to which people stretched themselves in order to obtain information from birds. 

Augury was still very much in vogue in the 3rd century of the Common Era when the philosopher Porphyry opined that “the gods, though silent, give signs and the birds divine their meaning quicker than men and so inspired give warning by whatever means they can in their capacity as heralds.” (39)  The key word here is heralds.  And, as we have seen in the claim of the Kerykes that Hermes was their ancestor, Hermes is the god of heralds.  This is so because he is the herald of the gods, the winged messenger who, because he sets the boundaries, knows no bounds, and so moves freely between the worlds over which the gods rule.  It has been conjectured that the pair of wings which occasionally appear on depictions of the staff are an allusion to his winged speed, (40) but we should miss the multi-layered messages by taking up this simplistic view.  Everything in mythology, and in the iconography that visualizes its themes, fits together into a tight little oneness.  It is all of a piece with no loose ends. 

Thus we find in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes that “power over . . . birds of omen” (41) is deeded to Hermes by his older brother Apollo, the God of the Oracle, whose site at Delphi was the literal omphalos, the center of the Greek world.  And, as at Delphi, where “the mantic birds . . . perched on the oracular stone itself,” (42) we sometimes find not just wings on the staff, but a full-bodied bird perched atop the kerykeion; and most usually we find such a bird mounting the sceptres of kings as an indication that in former days, the bird himself was king. (43)

Indeed, the ancient woodpecker magician-king Picus who appears in Virgil’s Aeneid is cited by Jane Ellen Harrison as just such a king.

          Picus holds the lituus, the augur’s curved staff; he is girt with the short    

        trabea, the augur’s robe of purple and scarlet, and he carries on his left

        arm the ancile, the sacred [figure-eight] shield borne by the Salii. He is

        a bird, an augur and a king. In Vergil, spite of the inevitable bird-end

        and the augur’s dress, Picus is more king than bird or even augur; he

        remains splendid and remote. (44)

In later times, when kings had lost the element of magic by divesting themselves of their feathers, and in so doing, their powers to divine from birds, they relied on augurs who retained their connection to the unseen world to show them the way.  There were very fine distinctions among augurs who were “officially designated as oionopoloi (bird experts) oionistai (bird interpreters) oionomanteis (bird diviners) or oionoskopoi (bird watchers). . . .  An oionopolos like Calchas [who was the personal diviner of Agamemnon in the Trojan War] was a witch doctor ‘who knew the present, the future and the past’.” (45) 

It is indeed odd, then, that in all of the texts that specifically describe Teiresias as an interpreter of the language of prophetic birds, he is called simply, manteis, ‘mantic’, or mantis, ‘seer’, and never oionomanteis.  Perhaps it was that Teiresias was so identified with this method of divination, so ‘knowing in birds’, as Jane Ellen Harrison has so wisely translated the phrase ornithas krinon, which is generally interpreted as ‘reading or discriminating omens’, (46) that to add oiono to his title would have been a superfluous redundancy.  The fact is that “the watching of birds, their flight, their notes, their habits, their migrations were in all mantic art a primary factor.” (47) 

Sophocles is so wedded to the idea of Teiresias as oionomanteis that he not only tells of his observatory, but specifies the manner in which his augury is performed.

        In the Antigone, Teiresias tells Creon, ‘You will know when you hear

        the warnings of my art. For seated at my ancient observatory, from

        which I survey every quarter of the sky I heard a strange bird cry, as

        they screamed in dire rage and raised a barbarous din. And I knew that

        they were tearing one another with murderous claws. The whir of wings

        was all too clear.(48)

The fact is that Teiresias’s observatory was not a figment of the tragedian’s rich imagination.  It was an actual place, according to Pausanias, located “behind the temple of Ammon [Zeus]” (49) in Thebes where such mantic acts were per-formed.  In other translations of the Antigone, which do not make reference to the quarters of the sky, because they are not mentioned in the original text, Teiresias tells us only that from here, “I took my place on my ancient seat for observing birds, where I can mark every bird of omen”; (50) or, “I was sitting in my chair of augury, at the place where the birds gather about me.” (51)  It was such common knowledge that augurs “were expert on the quarters of the sky in which birds appeared, as well as their cries and line of flight, whether on the left hand or on the right” (52) that the poet had no need to state the obvious.  How-ever, our first translator, who is an ornithologist as well as a Classicist, speaks to an audience with no knowledge of these practices, and we are richer for the information. 

The laws of augury had been codified to some extent in the Greek texts of Ephesus as early as the 6th century B.C.E., (53) but the elaboration of the simple division of the sky into quarters was left to the Romans who turned augury into an extraordinary high-art form.  We are fortunate to have the expertise of Nigel Pennick, a practicing geomancer, who has enumerated the particulars of this later Roman system in great detail.  In so doing he has clarified a number of issues with respect to how it would be possible for a blind person to see the signs of heaven, the teirea, those birds of omen.  We begin to understand that blind-ness is an enhancement of rather than a hindrance to the gift of second sight, and that the practice of the sighted shaman who “blindfolds his eyes so that he can enter the spirit world by his own inner light” (54) is akin to that of the blind, or blindfolded, augur who reads the signs from within. 

Of course, the Romans were a very superstitious lot, and very precise in their carrying out of every nuance and detail of ritual.  Nigel Pennick tells us that

        Technically, the augurs were concerned with the interpretation of signs    

        which had been observed by special magistrates who watched the sky at

        certain times for various signs. These signs were viewed from a special

        location – the templum – which was not, as its name might suggest, a

        temple, but an outdoor viewing mound located with regard to the intrin-

        sic qualities of the site. The magistrate sat at the prescribed location, in-

        voked the appropriate deity under whose aegis the sought-for sign would

        appear, and watched the sky. 

        Around the mound, which had been located with regard to natural and

        artificial features visible on the horizon, the sky was divided into 16

        equal areas. These were viewed using the lituus, a ceremonial staff,

        forerunner of the pastoral staff carried by Bishops in the Christian

        church. The head of the staff was in the form of a sickle-shaped crook,

        which, when held at arm’s length, divided the horizon into 16. By the

        use of this staff in relation to known direction markers on the horizon,

        the viewer could determine in which sixteenth of the sky the phenom-

        enon manifested itself. The augur himself did not see the signs, for he

        sat blindfolded, receiving the information from the magistrate.

        The arts of the augurs involved the interpretation of many separate,

        but related phenomena. One of the most important was the flight of

        birds. The interpretation here depended on the type and number of birds,

        the sounds uttered by them, the direction, directness and speed of their

        flight and the sixteenth of the sky in which they appeared.  This was, of

        course, related also to the time of day and the day of the week on which

        it occurred, and was observed in relation to a specific question or request

        for information. (55)


But despite the winged and airy aura that surrounds augury, it is a dark art filled with foreboding, as the word omen, from the Greek oiomai, which literally means, ‘I have a foreboding’, (56) makes all too clear.  Teiresias himself calls birds of omen “ornithas kako”, ‘bad birds’. (57)  We would be surprised, therefore, not to find some association of the raven, or crow, in the background of this art of divination.  These dark birds are so thoroughly grounded in augury, in fact, that we find them in the foreground of Aristophanes’s The Birds, where he pokes such brilliant fun at the superstitions surrounding these birds of omen. 

We find exactly that connection in the cornel-wood staff, which is of such great significance in Teiresias’s story as the instrument which allows him to use the gift of inward seeing that has been bestowed upon him by the serpent of the Goddess of Wisdom.  By an extraordinary confluence of mythic and etymo-logical connections, the cornel staff leads us directly to the raven, or crow, the sacred bird enthroned at the center of the omphalos at Delphi, the site of the oracular Apollo; (58) to Apollo, the God of Prophecy whom Teiresias now serves; to Apollo’s son, Asklepios, (59) the great healer; and finally, back to Athene herself. 

In Greek (kranon) and in Latin (cornus), the cornel, or dogwood tree, is related etymologically to the word for ‘crow’.  Concerning this dark bird of prophecy, Robert Graves informs us with his usual erudition, that “its Latin name cornus comes from cornix, the crow sacred to Saturn,” whose Greek name is Cronos (60) 

           . . . though the later Greeks liked to think that the name meant

        chronos, ‘time’, because any very old man was humorously called

        ‘Cronos’, the more likely derivation is from the same root cron or corn

        that gives the Greek and Latin words for crow – corone and cornix.

        The crow was a bird much consulted by augurs and symbolic, in Italy

        as in Greece, of long life.  


        . . . Crow, raven, scald-crow and other large black carrion birds are not    

        always differentiated in early times. Corone in Greek also included the

        corax, or raven; and the Latin corvus, raven, comes from the same root

        as cornix, crow. The crows of . . . Cronos, Saturn, Aesculapius and

        Apollo are, equally, ravens. (61)  

A dark shadow of corvidic alliances is revealed with chilling clarity in the events of the birth of Asklepios, who “was a Crow on both sides of the family.” (62)  His is a birth from death, fraught with peril at the hands of a jealous and venge-ful Apollo.  Apollo’s beloved, “the ‘Crow Maiden’, . . .  Koronis the dark beauty,” (63) had been unfaithful to him, a sin amongst crows who pair for life. (64)  And so, the god arranged for his twin sister, Artemis, perhaps the most revered Goddess of Childbirth in all of Greece, to slay her with her death-piercing arrow.  This she did.  And then Apollo placed Koronis on a funeral pyre as she was about to give birth, even in death. 

But as the flames rose about her he had second thoughts about the son that she was carrying, his own son, and so he saved Asklepios from the flames, delivering him from his dead mother. (65)  The name of this crow-mother, Robert Graves believes, was “probably a title of the Goddess Athene to whom the crow was sacred.” (66)  Notwithstanding the long history of the association of corvids with both prophecy and healing, all the more meaningful, then, is Athene’s presentation to Teiresias of a staff of cornel-wood. 

Whereas Teiresias’s destiny is bound to the art of prophecy and its ominous birds, Asklepios, who is trained by the centaur Chiron, the most celebrated healer of his day, is fated to be a healer of such skill that he can raise the dead back to life.  In the same manner in which Jesus becomes a very serious threat once he has raised Lazarus from the dead, so, too, does Asklepios imperil his own life with this act.  For his hubris “against the inflexible law of Moira,” (67) or Fate, Zeus strikes him dead with his thunderbolt. 

But Asklepios is not remembered for this act.  His avian heritage, too, is long-forgotten.  Rather, he is known, indeed immortalized, by the symbolic presence of his constant companion and alter-ego memorialized in art as the single serpent who twines about his very substantial rough-hewn staff.  It is understood that snake and healer are one.  The very same identification is brought to bear with absolute clarity in the continuing story of Teiresias.  Although Teiresias is completely identified with his highly evolved skills of augury, there is another myth in which his being is so altered, so utterly transformed, that we must question whether he is not a healer first and foremost.


There is another myth about Teiresias, which we are led to understand takes place many years after his blinding, and which is to be understood as a kind of biographical continuation of the first.  The thing is, that in all of the tellings, of which there are many, Teiresias is sighted.  He sees a pair of serpents twined about each other in erotic embrace, and it is the witnessing of this sight which allows Teiresias to be the recipient of another gift.  He is turned into a woman.  We are told that:


        . . . on Mount Cyllene, [others say it was on Mount Cithaeron in his

        native Boeotia, (68)] Teiresias had seen two serpents in the act of coup-

        ling. When both attacked him, he struck at them with his staff, killing

        the female. Immediately he was turned into a woman, and became a

        celebrated harlot; but seven years later he happened to see the same

        sight again at the same spot, and this time regained his manhood by

        killing the male serpent. (69)

In the Metamorphoses, Ovid presents a slightly different version in which the serpents are apparently spared their lives, but are similarly the means by which Teiresias attains his/her transformations of sex.  What Ovid tells us is that:


           Once, when two huge serpents were intertwining themselves in the

        depths of the green wood, he had struck them with his staff; from being

        a man he was miraculously changed into a woman, and had lived as such

        for seven years. In the eighth year he saw the same serpents again and

        said: ‘If there is such potent magic in the act of striking you that it changes

        the striker to the opposite sex, I shall now strike you again.’ So, by strik-

        ing the same snakes, he was restored to his former shape, and the nature

        with which he was born returned. (70)

It could be said that Teiresias, once again, has beheld a vision of such awe-inspiring proportion for which he is unprepared that he loses his manhood.  But there is far more to it than this.

We must consider the very astute observation of the Classical philologist, Marie Delcourt, that the change of sex that Teiresias undergoes is a remnant of a very archaic “trace of androgynous shamanism.” (71)  This would be in keeping with Mircea Eliade’s statement that “the few figures of Greek legend who can be compared with Shamanism are related to Apollo.” (72)  Through the example of the male shaman who emerges from initiation donning women’s clothing, thus exhibiting the outward manifestation of a return to a completeness in one being, we can but glimpse the surface of Teiresias’s experience of transgender transfor-mation. 

Delcourt astutely notes that in his role as soothsayer Teiresias never appears as a woman, that this phase “is a kind of retreat” (73) rather than an external manifestation.  That this is so, is an indication that his incorporation of the Feminine is within.  This lies in sharp contrast to the numerous “Shamans of Eastern Asia [and many other places] who, after initiation, put on feminine clothes and keep them all their life, assuming the role of a woman so completely that they have sometimes been known to take a husband.” (74) 

For an explanation of this inspired transvestism, we defer, as does Delcourt, to the best authority on Shamanism, Mircea Eliade, who sees “clear traces of a feminine magic and a matriarchal mythology” in this practice. (75)  He informs us that unlike the priestess-shamanesses of the Indonesian tribes who perform the function of ritual prostitution, as Teiresias is alleged to have done during his female incarnation, (76) their “asexual” priest-shamans are “impotent” and, therefore, “unable to procreate.” (77)  Teiresias differs markedly from these shaman with respect to his ability to bear children, for as Delcourt remarks, “he was credited with a line of descendants, mostly daughters.” (78)  She asks that question which hangs in the air, as to whether his most famous daughter Manto (‘Seeress’) is not “simply a hypostasis of the feminine Teiresias?” (79) 

We ask, rather, whether she is not so much a remnant as she is the original source to which he returns, if only for a brief moment in time.  This reasoning is not so very far removed from Eliade’s explanation of “the need to abolish polarities”: (80)


        As for the bisexuality and impotence of . . . [the priests], they arise

        from the fact that these priest-shamans are regarded as the intermedi-

        aries between the two cosmological planes – earth and sky – and also

        from the fact that they combine in their own person the feminine ele-

        ment (earth) and the masculine element (sky). We have a ritual andro-

        gyny, a well-known archaic formula for the divine biunity and the

        coincidentia oppositorum.  Like the hermaphrodism of the . . . [priest    

        shaman], the prostitution of the . . . [priestess-shamaness] is similarly

        based on the sacred value of the “intermediary,” on the need to abolish

        polarities. (81)

If we consider the moment just before the interruption by Teiresias’s staff of the erotic dance of the serpents, we have in their merging the perfect image of a return to an original Everything and Nothing state of chaos prior to creation in which all opposites are merged into a oneness and there are no separate entities or boundaries.  This is, in its very essence, a creation myth.  By their very nature, explanations of the beginnings of things are very abstract.  It is, indeed, difficult to wrap one’s unenlightened mind around the concept of creating from Nothing, or from Everything, as the case may be.  And it is equally challenging to concretize the androgynous/gynandrous nature of the oneness of man and woman prior to their separation.  One can cite numerous traditions that have gone to great extremes to do so. (82) 

The enlightened Chinese concept of T’ai Chi is one such attempt that succeeds in describing, while still retaining its beautiful mystical aura, this blissful state of non-differentiated unity, or a return to such a state, prior to any distinction between male and female.  ‘The Great Ultimate’, as it is sometimes called, has been described as “a mingled potentiality of Form, Breath, and Substance.” (83)  This, too, is the very purpose behind the inhalation and exhalation of breath in the practice of Tantric Yoga.  The ritual texts, according to Mircea Eliade, suggest that “it is the reintegration of the primordial androgyne, the conjunction, in one’s own being, of male and female – in a word, the reconquest of the completeness that precedes all creation,” (84) that is the ultimate goal.

In the mystical thinking of the Chinese cosmology, we find a perfectly rational explanation for all of this.  It is a long journey from Tao to T’ai Chi to Yin-Yang and back again.  “The process of change and evolution out of the Unknown and the ultimate return into it” (85) is minutely detailed, step by step, in a brilliant genealogy-styled chart presented in a lecture on “The Chinese Idea of the Second Self”, (86) a small portion of which we quote here.

        From all Eternity was

        Tao, the Cause, the Reason, the Principle, the Way that Cannot be

        Walked, the Name that Cannot be Named, the Unknowable.


        In the beginning was

        Wu, Nothing (nothing in which Tao was not), or

        Wu-wu, Non-existing Non-existence, or        

        Wu-chi, No Limit (which reason can find).

        From this emanated

        Hun-tun, Chaos, which is synonymous with

        Tai-chi, the Great Ultimate, the Grand Ridge-pole, the Primal Monad

        (a mingled potentiality of Form, Breath and Substance). 

        In this there took place a great change called

        T’ai-i, the Great Change,

        and there was

        T’ai-ch’u, the Great Starting (the beginning of Hsing, Form)

        which caused

        T’ai-shih, the Great Beginning (the inception of Ch’i, Breath),

        which was followed by

        T’ai-su, the Great Blank (the first formation of Chih, Substance),

        which originated

        Liang I, the two primary symbols representing

        Yin, (formerly called K’un) [The Receptive, Earth (87)] the negative

        principle or modality, [and]

        Yang, (formerly called Ch’ien), [The Creative, Heaven (88)] the

        positive principle or modality. (89)

We are not even halfway there, but that is as far as we need to go along this very clear path to realize what Teiresias so rudely interrupted, and to understand the lesson of his change of sex.  The secret resides in ‘The Great Ultimate’, or T’ai Chi, whose encompassing “circle represents the origin of all created things, and [which,] when split up into two segments, . . . is said to be reduced to its primary constituents, the male and female principles.” (90)  And yet, “the T’ai-chi is said to have produced the Yang and the Yin, the active and passive, or male and female principle, and these last to have produced all things.” (91)  In other words, prior to this separate but equal state of T’ai Chi, there was no differentiation between the sexes.  Everything was contained in Nothing, and before the Beginning, in the Tao

The T’ai Chi, then, represents a fused state of perfect union, regardless of whether in process of creation or dissolution, in which the masculine element contains one dot of feminine essence, and the feminine, one dot of the masculine element.  The symbolic depiction of T’ai Chi is visualized in the graphic emblem most call the Yin-Yang symbol, which is formed in a particular way.  “On the semi-diameter of a given circle describe a semi-circle, and on the remaining semi-diameter, but on the other side, describe another semi-circle.” (92)  The curved line, which both separates and conjoins the opposite forces into a oneness, creates the illusion of writhing serpentine forms in close embrace.

In spite of the perceived dualistic premise of Chinese thought, each side of the duality seeks, always, to achieve a oneness – to hold its other half in a balance of perfect equilibrium throughout the perpetually moving change of things.  The implication of the T’ai Chi, as we have said, is identical to the goal of Tantric yoga in the effectuation of the “conjunction, in one’s own being, of male and female . . . [that state of] completeness that precedes all creation.” (93)  This centers on the very heart of the issue of androgyny. 

We speak of the androgyny of Teiresias, not in literal terms as a hermaphroditic being, or androgyne, who is half-male, half-female, but in the abstract sense in which mystical religion intends this term. (94)  This is the ultimate meaning of Teiresias’s being “miraculously changed into a woman.” (95)  The moment that he touches the writhing female serpent he partakes of her energy and is “united

. . . with his female soul, [his] Shakti,” (96) his anima, as Jung would call her.  For, “though apparently opposites, they are in essence one.” (97)

As the message of the T’ai Chi makes crystal clear, the rules are no different for the uniting of same-sex couples.  Regardless of the actual gender of the individ-uals so engaged, in any conjunction there must always be, within the ebb and flow of give and take, an active and a passive partner for the sparks to fly.  However, in same-sex unions these roles are often interchangeable because it is a given that each partner already incorporates a more balanced proportion of the opposite sex.  In other words, they are already androgynous or gynandrous by definition. 

We are constantly reminded, however, that none of this is about sex.  We are told to keep this in mind even while contemplating the seemingly erotic Hindu and Buddhist Tantric images of male and female in blissful union.  Whether they be called under their Sanskrit name of Shiva-Shakti, or by the Tibetan appel-lation of Yab-Yum, their meaning is beyond opposites.

        Notwithstanding the fact that the Buddha essence is non-polar,

        Buddhist iconographers use sexual polarity to symbolize the twin

        concepts of insight and compassion. All goddesses [and women]

        are symbols of insight and [all] the gods [and men] represent com-

        passion. The union of compassion and insight symbolizes the non-

        polarized state of bodhicitta, or the mind of enlightenment, which

        is represented visually by showing two deities engaged in sexual

        union. Tibetans characterize such images as yab-yum, which literally

        means father-mother . . . . This sexual metaphor is also used to denote

        the highest stage of yoga in which there is no polarity, no discrimina-

        tion, and the truth is indivisible as the vajra [‘wisdom mind’ (98)] itself.

          The father-mother union image is not an example of erotic art, but is

        a manifestation of Buddha’s highest spiritual essence. . . . The female

        (mother) represents transcendent wisdom: the direct awareness of

        reality as the Buddha experienced it and taught it. The male (father),

        represents compassion for all beings, which is the natural expression of

        such wisdom. Their union, although exquisitely blissful, is ultimately

        undertaken out of compassion for the world. This sacred communion

        of the male and female Buddha generates waves of bliss and harmony

        that turn the world into a Mandala (container of essence) and showers

        forth a rain of nectar that satisfies the spiritual hunger in the hearts of

        living beings everywhere. (99)

In the abstract, Tantric imagery is reduced to its simplest form in geometric equivalences of highly complex sacred meaning.  The depiction of a simple downward-pointing triangle representing “Her,” or a single upward-directed triangle understood to be “Him,” speaks volumes.  When they are combined to form an interconnected six pointed star, identical to the Star of David, we have, once again, a configuration that “represents the deepest archetypes of the uncon-scious, integrating the powerful instinctual energies of life into a consciously sublimated and exalted state.” (100) 

The Hindu yantras utilized for intensive meditation carry this energy to the farthest reaches the mind can envision.  The inbreathing and outbreathing of the universe is depicted in the Sri (or Shri) Yantra, a sacred geometric form com-posed of opposing and “interpenetrating” female and male triangles merged in a multi-layered oneness.  Of the sublime state achieved in the Sri Yantra, Robert Lawlor, the guru of sacred geometry, has said “there is probably no other set of triangles which interlock with such integrational perfection.” (101) 

In a detailed explication of this complex yantric form, the Indologist Heinrich Zimmer, whose work was completed by Joseph Campbell upon his death, has said that “we may perceive under the abstract linear design this same primal pair” as the Hindu Shiva-Shakti or the Tibetan Yab-Yum. (102)

           There are nine triangles in the figure, interpenetrating, five pointing

        downward, four upward. The downward-pointing triangle is a female

        symbol corresponding to the yoni; it is called ‘shakti’. The upward-

        pointing triangle is the male, the lingam, and is called ‘the fire’ (vahni).

        . . . Thus the vahni-triangles denote the male essence of the god, and

        the shakti-triangles the female essence of his consort [the goddess].

        The nine signify the primitive revelation of the Absolute as it differen-

        tiates into graduated polarities, the creative activity of the cosmic male

        and female energies on successive stages of evolution. Most important

        is the fact that the Absolute itself, the Really Real, is not represented. It

        cannot be represented; for it is beyond form and space. The Absolute is

        to be visualized by the concentrating devotee as a vanishing point or dot,

        “the drop” (bindu), amidst the interplay of all the triangles. This Bindu is

        the power-point, the invisible, elusive center from which the entire dia-

        gram expands. And now, whereas four of the shakti-triangles link with

        their represented vahni-counterparts, the fifth, or innermost, remains over,

        to unite with the invisible Point.

        Like the Shiva-Shakti images, the Shri Yantra symbolizes Life, both

        universal life and individual, as an incessant interaction of co-operating

        opposites. The five female triangles expanding from above and the four

        male emerging from below, signify the continuous process of creation.

        Like an uninterrupted series of lightning flashes they delve into each other

        and mirror the eternal procreative moment–a dynamism nevertheless ex-

        hibited in a static pattern of geometrical repose. (103)

Using crystal oscillators to produce images created by vibrations, Dr. Hans Jenny has shown that this yantra is the precise geometric structure that is created by the intoning of the mantra OM. (104)  It is the sounding of the primal OM that is said to have caused the creation of the universe. (105)  That sound which begets all “is interpreted as the seed sound, the energy sound, the shakti, of all being.” (106) 

With his usual insightful and knowing detail, Joseph Campbell has examined the image of “Shiva Nataraja, ‘Lord of the Cosmic Dance’,” (107) who, he says, “includes and transcends opposites.” (108)  This is so, because his Shakti, the source of all “Cosmic Energy,” (109) is incorporated within his being.  Her presence within is what allows him to dance.  Without her essence, he would be uncentered and motionless.  This dancer is absolutely on point.  Every move-ment, every mudra of this dance “of [the] creation and destruction” (110) of the universe all at once, is a matter of Life and Death.  And, as Campbell so con-vincingly demonstrates, its totality “suggest[s] the sign of the syllable OM.” (111)  Why are we surprised? 

Shiva is not only ‘Lord of the Dance’.  He is ‘Lord of Yoga’. (112)  “In India . . . the ever-renewed cosmogony of the coming into existence of the universe and its disappearance again is understood  . . . on the basis of yoga experience.” (113)  The root meaning of the word Yoga, “‘to bind together’, ‘hold fast’, ‘yoke’,” (114) and its “‘mystical’ acceptation . . . as signifying union,” (115) make clear that the conjoining of interpenetrating opposites is the key to becoming at one with oneself.  And it is within the framework of the sacred practice of Yoga that we find an exact parallel to Teiresias’s incorporation of his femaleness and his subsequent ability to experience the transcendence of opposites.  His transfor-mation occurs as a direct result of the interruption of his staff into the midst of the perfect congress of opposing serpentine energies. 

When we compare this mythic image with that of the ideal Lotus Posture of Yoga, at the center of which is the perfectly erect spine around which the serpentine chakra energies flow, they cannot be distinguished.  They are identical.  So much so that it is possible to locate each of the seven chakras at each of the places where the twining serpent bodies cross each other, moving in opposite directions, and touching as they rise on the caduceus, until their heads face each other at the crown.  The infinite perfection of this state is conveyed by the pair of outstretched wings that sometimes appear at the top of the caduceus to symbolize “the ‘winged radiance’ of those who have achieved the dynamic equilibrium, the ecstatic union of these currents.” (116) 

It is the rhythmic action of the yogin’s breathing (prana), the breath of life, that creates the movement which allows the energy to flow; the inbreathing and outbreathing of the adept in concert with that of the universe.

        . . . prana reveals itself in the form of two dynamic tendencies, which

        condition and compensate each other like the positive and the negative

        poles of a magnetic or electrical field. . . . These two forces flow through

        the human body as psychic energies in two main courses or channels: the

        [left, or female] lunar ida-nadi . . . and the [right, or male] solar pingala-

        nadi . . . represented as two spirals . . . moving in opposite directions

        around susumna-nadi, which runs like a hollow channel through the

        centre of the spinal column . . . .

        The susumna . . . , which is compared with . . . the mystic world-axis,

        establishes the direct connexion between the seven centres, and is not

        only able to cause a synthesis between the solar and lunar currents, but

        also to unite the forces of the highest and the lowest centre. 


        We are dealing here . . . with the integration of a double polarity . . .

        [whose] integration is experienced in successive stages, namely in

        successive cakras, of which each represents a different dimension of

        consciousness, and in which each higher dimension includes the lower

        one without annihilating its qualities. In this way . . . , their perfect in-

        terpenetration and harmonization [is achieved], through which they

        become the qualities of one single organ: the organ of universal con-

        sciousness. (117)

The actual seat of “universal consciousness” is at the place of the Heart, Anahata, the fourth chakra, at the very center of the seven chakras, or ‘wheels’, where the doubled polarities meet.  This central place where the Heart chakra resides is symbolized by a pair of interlocking male and female equilateral triangles.  The mantra that is intoned to activate the wisdom and compassion of the heart chakra, whose element is Air, is “the one profound and all-embracing vibration of the sacred sound OM,” (118) which existed before the beginning, and which is the begetter of all sounds, all words, all forms.  It is “the seed-syllable (bija-mantra) of the universe, the magic word  . . . [that engenders] the uni-versal force of the all-embracing consciousness;” (119) “‘the symbolic word for the infinite, the perfect, the eternal.’” (120)

This highest level of consciousness is embodied in the words and deeds of the beloved Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion, Kuan Yin, who is respectfully called upon by the utterance of her full name, Kuan Shih Yin, ‘She Who Hears the Cries of the World’.  Her Sanskrit mantra, OM MANI PADME HUM, is probably the best known of any in all the world.  Few know, however, that she was originally envisioned in India and Tibet in male form as Avalokita, the “emanation of the energy of compassion” of Amitabha Buddha. (121)  In Japan, where she is venerated in exquisitely graceful female form as Kwannon, she is sometimes shown with a full mustache. (122)  The Tibetan Buddhists adamantly assert that Avalokita has never altered his gender, and “never depict him or visualise him in female guise.” (123) 

As “the Buddha’s earthly representative and . . . chief guardian of the Dharma (Sacred Doctrine),” (124) we find the living “emanation of Avalokita” in the person of the Dalai Lama (125) who epitomizes the absolute essence of the perfectly balanced Heart at the center of All.  In the meditation practices of Indian Buddhism, parallels between the compassionate Avalokitesvara and the ecstatic Shiva of Hinduism become evident when, at the final stage, the adept realizes that Avalokitesvara, with all his/her power of compassion, is nothing but a projection of the mind, and liberation is achieved, beyond forms and words. (126)


There are many versions told over many centuries by numerous Classical mythographers and bards whose stories differ with respect to the exact location and precise circumstances of Teiresias’s transcendent experiences.  But in all of the tellings, it is the staff that remains a constant, and which is central to the story of Teiresias and the mating serpents.  Teiresias’s change of sex is mirrored in, or perhaps we should say, magnified by, his arboreal staff, which is literally an extension of himself, and which is itself simultaneously transformed into an instrument of magic and healing.  Its change is of an esoteric nature, its message not immediately visible to the eye.  As a result of its contact with the serpents, the staff becomes a sacred icon whose mystery contains the secret of what is required to achieve a transcendence of opposites.  Seer and staff “wherewith he walked like those who see,” (127) are thus on a parallel journey.



One of the more astute esoteric observations that has been made about the multi-layered myth of Teiresias’s encounter with the serpents is that their “orderly arrangement around this staff provided mystic clues to cosmic geometry,” thus giving rise to Teiresias’s invention of the caduceus. (128)  The simplicity of this “cosmic geometry,” which, as we have shown, is not unique to Greece, is exquisitely portrayed in an image from Basholi, India of “a pair of snakes, symbolic of cosmic energy, coiled about an invisible lingam.” (129) Iconographically, it is identical to that which Teiresias has created by his interruption of the sacred dance, which is memorialized in the caduceus as a symbolic representation of the scene as described in myth.

But beyond the boundaries of the mystical abstraction of this story, we never actually see, or hear of, Teiresias bearing a transformed staff resembling the caduceus.  Instead, we know it intimately as the most visible emblem of Hermes, the magician-healer who stands at the “pivot-point of human existence” (130) on the threshold between life and death.  He is rarely seen without his ancient double-serpent-wreathed kerykeion, or herald’s staff, known to us by the more recognizable name of the caduceus, the physician’s emblem of healing, which is simply “a Latin adaptation of . . . the Attic kerykeion.(131)  Hermes also carries a magic rod, which became so confused with the caduceus that they are barely distinguishable, even by Classical writers. (132)  The wand is called r(h)abdos in Greek, the literal translation of which is ‘rod’, or ‘wand’, with very specific reference to its use as an instrument of magic. (133)

The crucial distinction between the rod and the staff of Hermes is elucidated by Jane Ellen Harrison in her prodigious study of the chthonic elements of Greek religion.  She authoritatively states that whereas:

           The kerykeion or herald’s staff is in intent a king’s sceptre held by the herald

        as deputy; it is a staff, a walking stick . . . by which you are supported; the

        rhabdos is a simple rod, even a pliable twig, a thing not by which you are

        supported but with which you sway others. It is in a word the enchanter’s

        wand. It is with a rhabdos that Circe transforms the comrades of Odysseus

        into swine. . . . This magic wand became the attribute of all who hold sway

        over the dead. It is the wand, not the sceptre, that is the token of life or death.


This primitive wand, she tells us in a mere footnote,

        is sometimes forked like a divining rod: the forks were entwined in various

        shapes. Round the rhabdos a snake, symbol of the underworld, was some-

        times curled as the snake is curled round the staff of Aesculapius. Ultimately

        the twisted ends of the rhabdos crystallized into curled decorative snakes. (135) 

We are made to understand that the kerykeion as we know it, which we now refer to as the caduceus, “contains elements drawn from both sceptre and rhabdos,” (136) and that it is but a formalized embodiment of the more animistic rhabdos. 

It is quite understandable that the snaky rhabdos of this primitive magician-healer should become so entwined with the beribboned herald’s sceptre, for Hermes is the herald’s herald who stands at the crossroads of life and death.  As an instrument of healing, we may trace its efficacy to the finding – and binding – of serpent paths in the earth, and to the healing effects derived from the control of this energy.  Harrison remarks that the rhabdos, which “was also called pompos, conductor,” (137) “was carried in apotropaic ceremonies, presumably with a view to exorcise bad spirits, which . . . were regarded as the source of all impurities.” (138) 

This is the very premise upon which the contemporary geomancer performs rites of purification of the earth: for the exorcism of negative energy.  According to the highly regarded British geomancer Nigel Pennick, 

           There are various methods, traditional and modern, of neutralizing areas

        which have a bad influence upon people. Dowsers . . . have different

        names and explanations for these places–geopathic zones, black streams,

        ‘ley lines’, noxious earth rays, etc. . . . yet the methods used to prevent or

        neutralize them are similar. . . . These involve hammering copper or other

        metal stakes into the ground, iron rods, even nails. These items, known as

        interrupters are thrust into the ground at places where ‘black streams’ run or

        geopathic zones begin. (139)

Of the two examples he provides as typical of the interrupters in common use, one is

a First Century C.E. stave of bronze wire twisted into the shape of the caduceus in its earliest known form that was found in a sacred spring at Finthen in Germany. (140) 

The other, an iron stake used by the Ashanti tribe of Ghana, is an exact image of the astrological symbol for the planet Mercury, the Roman name for Hermes. (141)

This gives us pause to consider the implications of the staking of the center, the nailing down of the serpent-energy at Delphi, the site of Apollo’s center of prophecy, which was, in its beginnings, the realm of Gaia and Python, the goddess-mother of the earth and her oracular serpent.  The famous omphalos at Delphi, which, like any other navel-stone, marks the absolute center of the world, has been the subject of much scholarly discussion and theory for centuries.  Through the literary testimony of the authors of the Classical periods, Jane Harrison offers ample evidence that the sacred stone stands, like a tombstone, upon “the grave-mound of a sacred snake, the sacred snake of Delphi.”(142) 

She describes the omphalos as being “covered with an agrenon, a net of fillets copied here in stone.” (143)  Her choice of the word agrenon to describe the fillets, which are thin strips or bands, is most instructive.  In its uncomplicated sense, agrenon is simply a ‘net.’  But nothing in the richly-layered Greek language is ever simple.  We find, curiously enough, that it is used also to describe a ‘net-like woolen robe worn by . . . soothsayers’. (144)  What better place could such a covering rest than on the tomb of the greatest soothsayer of all? 

But that is not the end of it.  From agrenon’s same root, agre, meaning ‘hunting’, ‘the chase’, ‘a way of catching’, as with a net, (145) is formed the epithet agreutis, ‘hunter’, which is used quite specifically to describe Apollo in his role ‘as slayer of Python’. (146)  But Apollo is known to have killed Python, not with a net, but with an arrow. 

Of course, there is another word from the same base, agreuma, which offers another ‘means of catching prey’– with ‘an arrow’. (147)  And we are informed by Jane Harrison’s impeccable research, that the serpent’s tomb is sometimes called the “‘Archer’s Mound.’” (148) 

Nigel Pennick has noted that the gravestone “is a dome-shaped stone carved with patterns that resemble skeins of wool . . . believed by some to represent the streams of serpent-like energy in the earth and their nodes, at one of which the omphalos was located.” (149)  It is quite self-evident that Apollo interrupts this serpent energy with his arrow.  Like all patriarchal dragon-slayers who perform the geomantic “act of will,” (150) his is a forceful act of aggression whose purpose is to suppress.  He tames the serpent energy by killing it rather than by merging with it.  How odd, then, that he should be possessed of the caduceus, for as we shall see, he makes the gift of it to Hermes.  

A very different version of the creation of the caduceus by the intervention of the staff between serpents appears in an unsigned entry of the esteemed 1911 edition of The Encyclopaedia Britannica.  Although the confusion of magic wand versus staff is still in evidence, the information otherwise offered is of monumental significance.  The article cites a story nearly identical to that told about Teiresias’s chancing upon mating serpents, but in this version it is Hermes himself who chances upon the serpents who are said to have been quarreling rather than copulating. 

           The caduceus of Hermes, which was given him by Apollo in exchange for

        the lyre, was a magic wand which exercised influence over the living and the

        dead, bestowed wealth and prosperity and turned everything it touched into gold.

        In it oldest form it was a rod ending in two prongs twined into a knot (probably

        an olive branch with two shoots, adorned with ribbons or garlands), for which,

        later, two serpents, with heads meeting at the top, were substituted. The myth-

        ologists explained this by the story of Hermes finding two serpents thus knotted

        together while fighting; he separated them with his wand, which, crowned by the

        serpents, became the symbol of the settlement of quarrels. (151)

Having had our eyes opened by this revelation, we are now in a position to understand a most significant detail regarding the specifics of site place in the majority of the versions that tell of Teiresias’s interruption of the serpents’ congress.  It has been duly noted by Frazer in his commentary on the various mythographers, that most of the Classical writers have chosen to lay “the scene of the incident on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia,” whereas, only two “lay it on Mount Cithaeron in Boeotia, which is more appropriate for a Theban seer.” (152)  While on the surface this is logical, in so thinking, the essential meaning of the intended connection of Teiresias to Hermes is missed entirely, for Mount Cyllene is the birthplace of Hermes.  The setting of the scene in Hermes’s territory is not a Freudian slip.  The site reference is quite intentional.  It is proof that the two figures, opposites, if you will, have been confused, like the kerykeion and rhabdos, and have merged silently into a unified mythology in the collective mind. 


Aided by this description of the evolution of the caduceus through Hermes’s eyes, a picture begins to emerge of Teiresias’s unspoken archetypal relationship with Hermes.  While their commonality is apparent in the caduceus-staff, Teiresias and Hermes are opposites in most every other aspect of their lives.  Hermes is the eternal youth, the puer aeternus who never grows up.  In nearly all of his depictions he is beardless.  His youthfulness and winged speed are accentuated above all else, but he is really old before his time.  Within hours of his birth Hermes knows what he wants to be when he grows up.  He wants to be Apollo.  What he covets most is his skill in the art of prophecy. 

Before the dawning of his second day, the baby herald makes a bold pronouncement to his mother Maia: “I too will enter upon the rite that Apollo has.” (153)  If it is not given to him by his father, Hermes warns, he will take it; he will become “a prince of robbers”; (154) he will plunder the riches of Delphi.  As we know from the marvelous portrait that we have of him in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, he schemes and plots and cheats to get what he wants from the moment of his birth.  His older brother Apollo, exasperated with his trickery, drags him, kicking and screaming, before the council of the gods to settle their many disputes.  The child Hermes, whom his father Zeus humorously describes as “a child new born that has the look of a herald,” (155) is not granted all that he unreasonably demands. 

After he is made to swear an oath that he will nevermore steal from Apollo what is rightfully his, an enchanted Apollo, charmed by his sweet song, and by the gift of his seven-stringed lyre, declares his eternal love for the child.  It is at this point that he bestows upon Hermes the prized caduceus, which he describes as “a splendid staff [rabdon] of riches and wealth: it is of gold, with three branches, and will keep you scatheless, accomplishing every task, whether of words or deeds that are good, which I claim to know through the utterance of Zeus.(156)  One could say that it is a peace offering, for Apollo is about to deny this willful child what he desires most of all.  The God of Prophecy explains to Hermes that he will allow Hermes “only to be an omen for the immortals.(157)  He will not be granted his wish to be a soothsayer because, as Apollo explains,

        as for sooth-saying [manteien], of which you ask, it is not lawful for you to

        learn it, . . . [for] I am pledged and have vowed and sworn a strong oath that

        no other of the eternal gods save I should know the wise-hearted counsel of

        Zeus. . . . Whosoever shall come guided by the call and flight of birds of sure

        omen, that man shall have advantage through my voice, and I will not deceive

        him. But whoso shall trust to idly-chattering birds and shall seek to invoke my

        prophetic art contrary to my will, and to understand more than the eternal gods,

        I declare that he shall come on an idle journey . . . .” (158)


On the other hand, Apollo will allow him to play with the ancient bees who make their dwelling in the shadow of his oracular site.  Clearly, they are the remnants of the earlier matriarchal stratum that Apollo has overthrown, and for which he has no use.  And so he makes a worthless gift of them to the less than truthful Hermes, with a warning such as one sees on astrological advertisements, that they are to be used:


        These are certain holy ones, [the Thriai] sisters born–three virgins gifted

        with wings . . . [who] dwell under a ridge of Parnassus. These are teachers

        of divination apart from me, the art which I practised while yet a boy follow-

        ing herds . . . . From their home they fly now here, now there, feeding on

        honey-comb and bringing all things to pass. And when they are inspired

        through eating yellow honey, they are willing to speak truth; but if they be

        deprived of the gods’ sweet food, then they speak falsely . . .(159)

In contrast to this lesson in ethics and morality is Teiresias’s penchant for truth-telling.  The art of soothsaying is not for those who practice the ways of deception. The prophet of Apollo must be one who is beyond reproach.  Such is Teiresias, of whom the old Choragos of the Antigone of Sophocles says, “I cannot remember that he was ever false.(160)  In this light, we would not be far from the mark to cast Teiresias as a kind of good shadow aspect of Hermes, old and wise and honest, an arbiter of Truth and Justice.  We see him as an old man, a senex figure, probably because of our familiarity with the works of Sophocles and the other poets where he appears as such, but also because Athene has bestowed upon him the gift and burden of long life. 

And this brings us to the remarkable fact that in astrology, the archetype of the wise old man is represented by the planet Saturn, whose Greek name is Cronus.  Whereas the free-wheelng Hermes, who as God of Boundaries, marks the lines between this and that with his image planted firmly in the ground, it is Saturn who actually sets bound-aries in the natal chart.  There he operates as a task-master, erecting solid walls and setting limitations.  There is a meanness about him, for his energy creates restrictions and separations, inflicting psychic pain upon those who refuse to hear his voice. 

Saturn’s lessons are those hard ones that make us face up to the truths about ourselves in no uncertain terms, and which ultimately either free us from our illusions or destroy us.  As is true of Teiresias, the underlying mechanism of Saturn is about finding and dispensing truth, and because Saturn represents the karmic aspects of life, it is also very much about justice.  But our soothsayer is a far kinder, gentler, compassionate wise old man than the archetypal Saturn.  Perhaps it is because he has been so indelibly touched by his Feminine side.

This androgynous nature of Teiresias is a most significant attribute that is equally enjoyed by his complementary archetypal opposite, Hermes.  Unlike Teiresias, Hermes’s gender is unaffected by his witnessing of the quarreling serpents, for despite the overwhelming monumental evidence to the contrary in the form of the phallic boundary markers, or herms, this distinctly phallic god is, nonetheless, androgynous to begin with.  He has always been considered so by mystics and astrologers alike. 

We are privileged to learn from Barbara G. Walker’s voluminous encyclopedic research, that in Hermetic mysticism, “‘the two serpents that are fastened around the herald’s staff and the rod of Mercury’ [are] . . . usually called . . . male and female, for the real secret of Hermetic power was androgyny.  Like that of Oriental gods, Hermes’s efficacy depended on his union with the female soul of the world, like the Aphrodite of his archaic duality.” (161)  The androgynous god, then, holds aloft the caduceus, the very symbol of “the peculiar, complete ecstasy of androgyny . . . which as a representation of snakes mating, denotes the correspondence, section by section, of the androgyne being within the cosmos.” (162)

Astrologers who are steeped in the wisdom of Jungian psychology are in agreement about the androgynous nature of Hermes, whom we know in astrology as the planet Mercury.  Among these wise souls is Howard Sasportas, who has said that

        . . . Mercury lends itself to duality. Mercury (helped along by Saturn) is that

        part of us which draws boundaries, which distinguishes one thing from an-

        other through measuring, comparing or counting. In other words, our minds

        create boundaries by making distinctions between things. But don’t forget

        that it is Mercury which also makes it possible for us to transcend duality, to

        transcend opposites and go beyond the realm of boundaries. (163)

Another of these psychological astrologers, the very insightful Richard Idemon, has classified the planets, in “a metaphorical or archetypal” sense, (164) into distinctions of yang and yin as a means of shedding light on relationship issues.  He assigns Mercury to a boundaryless place of neutrality – more or less.

           In our society, at least, the yang planets correlate with the masculine or

        positive planets and generally rule masculine signs. So I would classify

        the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus as yang. The nature of yang planets is

        to express, and, by nature, they’re usually extroverted. . . . Yin planets are

        normally introverted and inward-turning, so I place the Moon, Saturn,

        Neptune and Pluto in this category. Yang planets tend to be expressive,

        while yin planets tend to be receptive. 

        Now, this leaves two planets–Mercury and Venus–without a category.

        Mercury can be understood as a neuter planet, because it easily slides

        from one direction to another, and takes on the color of the sign it is in

        and the aspects to it. However, I believe that in our society Mercury            

        tends to be more yang than yin. . . . Like Mercury, Venus is also neuter

        or bipolar. In other words, I feel that, by nature, Venus is a bisexual

        planet even though it is associated with Aphrodite. 

        Interestingly enough, if you put Mercury together with Venus, you get

        Hermaphroditus, which was the name of the child conceived by the union

        of Hermes with Aphrodite. . . . Venus is bipolar. Venus says, “I am a mirror

        and I will reflect you, so what do you want me to be?” although in our soci-

        ety, Venus does have a predominant yin function. . . . Venus represents the

        desire to please and reflect the other, and yet it is also a very argumentative

        planet . . . the Athene face of Venus. Venus has a strong Athene component,

        which is reflected in its desire to continually redress imbalance. . . . For the

        time being, I’ll put Mercury in the yang column, and Venus in the yin col-

        umn, although they both frequently switch around. (165)

In the end, it is always a question of balance. 


In her amplification of the unique journey that is required of each sign of the Zodiac, Liz Greene, one of the most astute astrologers and Jungian psychotherapists of our time, associates mythical characters, whether they be gods or mortals or somewhere

in-between, to the various astrological signs.  She assigns Teiresias, whom she calls “a very odd mythic figure,” “a very strange man,” to the airy sign of Libra. (166)  Her choice of Teiresias for this sign, which is based upon “his experience of the opposites, both male and female, and the necessity to make an unbiased judgment,” (167) resonates with us because the diligent weighing of things and the fair judgment thus obtained are essential Libran attributes. 

Greene goes on to say that “Libra is very bound up with the problem of androgyny.  The issue of balance means both sides of an experience must be tasted.” (168)  For any placement of Libra, whether in the sign of the Sun, on the Ascendant, or in the Mid-heaven, a striving for balance is a constant, a given.  Everything is always weighed on the Libran scales, and life hangs in the balance until an equitable decision has been reached.  Teiresias is, in fact, the penultimate Libran who always “feels obligated to give the most impartial and most truthful answer,” (169) and he has a decided edge on truth, for he is blessed, or cursed, with second sight. 

But because people do not want to hear the truth, even when they ask for it, and because they can’t come face to face with the revelations that Truth unfolds, Teiresias’s pronouncements are, most often, not accepted with gratitude.  This point is brought to bear in an apparently late version of the myth of Teiresias in which it is said that it was Hera who had deprived Teiresias of his sight, and Zeus who bestowed “inward sight” upon him, “and a life extended to seven generations” in recompense. (170)  We know this cannot be.  Teiresias’s destiny had already manifested itself in his youth, at the very moment of his blinding by the gods.  But we shall ignore, for the moment, the “facts” as we know them, because this version is most instructive with respect to our inquiry into the nature of the relationship of opposites. 

In most of the stories about Hera and Zeus, these deities of marriage are anything but the ideal couple.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that they form the most cantankerous union in heaven or on earth.  But, as Heinrich Zimmer reminds us, “there are many ways of representing the differentiation of the Absolute into antagonistic yet co-operative pairs of opposites.” (171)  He numbers “among the oldest and most usual of these . . . that [are] based on the duality of the sexes: Father Heaven and Mother Earth, Uranos and Gaia, Zeus and Hera, the Chinese Yang and Yin.” (172) 

As the story goes, one day, Zeus and Hera were in the midst of one of their endless arguments.  “Hera began [by] reproaching Zeus for his numerous infidelities.  He defended them by arguing that, at any rate, when he did share her couch, she had the more enjoyable time by far.” (173)  Of course, Hera’s position was that “the exact contrary. . . [was] the case.” (174)  Teiresias was called upon to settle their dispute as to whether men or women enjoyed the pleasures of love more.  As we know, he was eminently qualified to weigh the argument, having lived both as a man and as a woman.  So poor Teiresias answered honestly, from his own personal experience, that women have the most pleasure by far.  Hera, seething with fury, and in a blinding rage for having lost the argument, blinded him.  By any measure, her reaction was com-pletely out of proportion to the situation.  It was a most unjust and inequitable act.

Which brings us, again, to the whole question of balance.  The Sun enters Libra at the moment of the Autumnal Equinox, when the hours of night and day are exactly equal.  In the Zodiac, the sign of Libra is the point of balance between opposite poles, a place of equilibrium.  It is the astrological sign of Peace, which in the I Ching, or Chinese Book of Changes, is represented by the perfect balance of the lower all yang trigram of Ch’ien, the Creative, Heaven, and the upper all yin trigram of K’un, the Receptive, Earth.  These trigrams combine to form the hexagram of T’ai, in which it is envisioned that “Heaven and earth unite” to form “the image of Peace.” (175) 

possible with a Zeus and Hera, for what we find in their dysfunctional relationship is a chronic lack of balance.  Dragging Teiresias

the Libran into the middle of this no-win situation, ostensibly for the purpose of restoring equilibrium, is a ruse.  It is also the way in which mythology informs us and teaches us its lessons, for we have understood from the telling of this story that Teiresias, who is in that centered place of the middle way, is the arche-type of hope for justice and peace.  We have learned also, that there is usually a heavy price to pay for the realization of such dreams.

Hans Holbein the Younger. c. 1523. Caduceus with crowned serpents and dove of peace mounted atop the central staff. Designed for Swiss printer Johannes Frobenius.

We mention also, in passing, the curious fact that it was actually the job of the herald to settle disputes and make peace between parties. (176)  But peace is never

The illuminating analysis of this myth by Liz Greene provides us with wisdom concern-ing truth and injustice from the viewpoint of the Libran position.  She touches on some very critical issues.

        Teiresias, being a Libran, feels obligated to give the most impartial and

        most truthful answer. . . . His flaw is the silly assumption that the gods

        are just. His blindness is the price he must pay for this flaw. Blindness,

        in myth, often suggests a kind of inward seeing, a seeing below the surface

        of things. This insight comes from Teiresias’ collision with the unfairness

        of the gods. I think this problem of a fair universe is very bound up with

        Libra’s fate. . . . Libra tends to collide with the unfairness and injustice in

        life . . . . (177)

Irrespective of whether it is Athene or Hera or the Universe that ultimately blinds Teiresias, the end result is the same.  But he is blessed, too, whether by Athene or by her father Zeus, in a redressing of the balance – a kind of afterthought at the extremity of the situation – a peace offering, if you will.  No such offering is forthcoming in Teiresias’s next encounter, for he is asked to perform another impossible task, one that he knows will destroy his beloved kingdom of Thebes.  He is asked to tell the Truth.


In the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles, the most famous example of the hubris of denial in all of literature, the highly revered seer and diviner is introduced as “the holy prophet in whom, alone of all men, truth was born.(178)  When he is called upon by Oedipus the King to purify Thebes from the contagion of murder and incest that has caused its plague and blight, the pained Teiresias mourns the wisdom that he possesses about Oedipus’s past, a past which he knows is the cause of the devastation.  This is knowledge that he has not had to obtain from the flight of birds, or from any other means of divination.  He just knows.  Teiresias says to the insistent King,

        “How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be

        When there’s no help in truth! I knew this well,

        But made myself forget. I should not have come . . .

        Let me go home. Bear your own fate, and I’ll

        Bear mine. It’s better so: trust what I say.” (179) 

Numerous incidents in Classical literature inform us that, like the Fool, who is sometimes known as “The Androgyne” in the Tarot deck, (180) and who is always berated and beaten by the king for telling the Truth with a capital “T”, the augur was generally abused by his chieftain “whenever his advice displeased.” (181)  Some Classical writers even alleged “that the gods had blinded . . . [Teiresias] because he had revealed to men what they ought not to know,” (182) that he had “revealed their secrets to men.”

(183)  The augur is a messenger of truth.  He cannot help himself.  But, even when he declines to speak of what he knows, Teiresias is insulted in every manner possible by an angry Oedipus.  We are reminded of the complaint of King Lear’s Fool:

        “I marvel at what kin thou and thy daughters are:

        they’ll have me whipped for speaking true,

        thou’lt have me whipped for lying;

        and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace.(184)

When the King demands the revelation of his knowledge and he refuses, this priest of Apollo is called “ungracious and unhelpful, a wicked old man”, unfeeling”, with “arrogance toward the city.(185)  And that is just the beginning.

After the raging Oedipus accuses Teiresias himself of having planned the murder of the old King, Teiresias has had enough.  He speaks the terrible truth to his unrelenting King, saying, “You yourself are the pollution of this country,” (186) whereupon further abuse is spat upon the reluctant revealer of the King’s most cruel fate.  He is accused of “insolence”, and “shamelessness”, (187) and is reduced, in Oedipus’s unenlightened view, to a “sightless, witless, senseless, mad old man.” (188)  Teiresias’s counter to all of these unbalanced Scorpionic indignities, is that “It is the truth sustains me.(189)  It is Scorpio, the sign of the scorpion, who, with its deadly sting, follows quite literally on the heels of Libra in the zodiacal wheel of life.  “The scorpion is the creature that revenges hubris and destroys equilibrium.” (190)  Unfortunately, it is the hubris of the King that is here projected onto the blind teller of his fate. 

Things really fall apart when the King next zeros in on an imagined collusion between the wise Teiresias and the loyal Creon, Oedipus’s devoted friend and uncle, brother of his Queen-mother wife.  In his delusional state, Oedipus has convinced himself that Creon seeks the power of kingship, and “desires in secret to destroy” him. (191)  Teiresias assures him that Creon has no part in this.  He says very matter-of-factly, “You weave your own doom.” (192)  But Oedipus is caught up in the snarling energy of his rage.  He continues, as if he has not heard, to spew his venom on Teiresias, lashing out, as he unveils his paranoid scenario.  His hubris is now palpable, his blasphemy untenable, as he speaks to the holiest man in the land.

        “He has bought this decrepit fortune-teller, this

        Collector of dirty pennies, this prophet fraud–

        Why, he is no more clairvoyant than I am!

        Tell us:

        Has your mystic mummery ever approached the truth?

        When that hellcat the Sphinx was performing here,

        What help were you to these people?

        Her magic was not for the first man who came along:

        It demanded a real exorcist. Your birds–

        What good were they? or the gods, for the matter of that?

        But I came by,

        Oedipus, the simple man, who knows nothing–

        I thought it out for myself, no birds helped me!(193)

Teiresias responds to these angry words by informing the King that he is his equal, not his servant; that it is Apollo whom he serves; and that it is the King himself who is blind – and mad.  Words fly, and in the conflagration, a frustrated Teiresias brings to light the whole horrible truth of the shadowy family secret to a disbelieving King. 

Even the Chorus of Elders, ever respectful of “the old man skilled at hearing Fate in the wingbeat of a bird,” (194) is beginning to have its doubts about Teiresias’s abilities.  His words of omen are weighed against Oedipus’s solution of the riddling words of the Sphinx so many years before; the very feat that brought him kingship.

        “Divine Zeus and Apollo hold

        Perfect intelligence alone of all tales ever told;

        And well though this diviner works, he works in his own night;

        No man can judge that rough unknown or trust second sight,

        For wisdom changes hands among the wise.

        Shall I believe my great lord criminal

        At a raging word that a blind old man let fall?

        I saw him, when the carrion woman faced him of old,

        Prove his heroic mind! These evil words are lies.” (195)

And Iocaste, the Queen of this dynasty in denial of its shadow side, is crystal clear in her contempt for this, or any other “damnable soothsayer.” (196)  She feels so because she has misunderstood the original oracle received at Delphi in which it was prophesied that Laios’s own son would kill him.  Queen Iocaste says with absolute confidence that

        “If it is a question of soothsayers, I tell you

        That you will find no man whose craft gives knowledge

        Of the unknowable.(197)

In another translation, we read from these lines that “nothing that is mortal is possessed of the prophetic art!(198)  But as Iocaste, whose very name means ‘to be shrouded in darkness’, (199) unravels the story of the killing of Laios at the crossroads, Oedipus begins to “have grievous misgivings that the prophet may have sight.(200)  Almost muttering, as to himself, he says,

        “How strange a shadowy memory crossed my mind,

        Just now while you were speaking; it chilled my heart.(201)

Iocaste, however, still doesn’t get it.  She continues to express her disdain for the oracles of Apollo, insisting that “where oracles are concerned, I would not waste a second thought on any.(202)  As the Queen exits into the palace, the Chorus of Theban Elders, distressed by the irreverence they have witnessed, sings a mournful Ode filled with concern about the price of such uncentered blasphemy.

        “Haughtiness and the high hand of disdain

        Tempt and outrage God’s holy law;

        And any mortal who dares hold

        No immortal Power in awe

        Will be caught up in a net of pain:

        The price for which his levity is sold.

        Let each man take due earnings, then,

        And keep his hands from holy things,

        And from blasphemy stand apart–

        Else the crackling blast of heaven

        Blows on his head, and on his desperate heart . . . (203)

        Shall we lose faith in Delphi’s obscurities,

        We who have heard the world’s core

        Discredited, and the sacred wood

        Of Zeus at Elis praised no more?

        The deeds and the strange prophecies

        Must make a pattern yet to be understood.

        Zeus, if indeed you are lord of all,

        Throned in light over night and day,

        Mirror this in your endless mind:

        Our masters call the oracle

        Words on the wind, and the Delphic vision blind!

        Their hearts no longer know Apollo,

        And reverence for the gods has died away.(204)

As if she has heard their words, Iocaste immediately re-enters the stage.  She appears to have had second thoughts after all, for she says, “it has occurred to me to visit the altars of the gods,(205) and proceeds to the altar of Apollo to make supplication.  And why this sudden reversal?  Because, as she explains, the King is unbalanced, “not himself,” (206) and he will not listen to her advice to ignore the prophecies of the god to whom she now offers garlands and incense.  To this great lord of the oracle, she turns, saying, “To you, then, Apollo, since you are nearest, I turn in prayer.(207)  Her language is transparent, revealing that her attitude of irreverence is unchanged.  She is just going through the motions.  And after they have had a messenger’s news that Polybus, Oedipus’s father who is not his father, is dead, she wraps herself in total darkness with a, “See,?  I told you so” smugness, secure in her contempt for the prophecies of doom.  Oedipus expresses their mutual disdain for the “empty words” of the oracle and its avian priests: (208)


        “Why should a man respect the Pythian hearth, or

        Give heed to the birds that jangle above his head?(209)

But now it is the turn of the shepherd to speak, the very man who had rescued the abandoned child Oedipus from certain death, and as he recalls the events of the past, Iocaste’s repressed memory is stirred.  She realizes, with a recognition of horror, the truth of his words, and what has brought them to this pass.  And she knows now, all too well, what will become of them when the second shepherd, the one to whom she herself had given the child, arrives at court.  Just as Oedipus is on the brink of bringing the whole truth to bear, she pleads with him to stop his questioning; to cease his search for who he is.  But he insists that “the truth must be made known.(210)  Her chilling final wish for him, “May you never learn who you are,” (211) is followed by the “passionate silence(212) of her grief. 

As the Choragos tells us, she leaves the scene in “a passion of sorrow,” (213) and next we know, a messenger announces that “The Queen is dead.” (214)  Iocaste has chosen suicide by hanging as her method of escape, which symbolizes, as hangings do, a suspension between two worlds.  She is neither here nor there in the impossible transition between matriarchy and patriarchy.  She has no place.  Everything is out of balance, and she is caught in the middle with nowhere to hide.

When, finally, the shadow that had cast its darkness over the whole land is brought to light, Oedipus cannot bear to look upon it.  He blots out the outward sight of all that he has looked upon.  The instrument of his violent self-blinding is chosen with deliberate purpose.  He rips from his mother-wife’s gown the “golden brooches that were her ornament,(215) the long brooch pins that every married woman wore with pride as the emblem of her marriage and symbol of the hoped-for fertility of motherhood.  These he raised high, as if to the gods, and then “plunged them down(216) into his eyes, striking them many times until he could see no more.  In this state of blindness, as in his life, he now quite literally takes on the meaning of Iocaste’s name in physical terms, for he is truly ‘shrouded in darkness’.  From this moment forward, he is the broken man whom an unwilling messenger of bad tidings had envisioned he would become.  Though we hear no more from Teiresias on this stage, his words float in the air.  No longer are they “Words on the wind.(217)  Many years from now, an ancient Choragos will reflect upon the fateful truths of Teiresias’s wisdom and he will find himself intoning, “Teiresias, Teiresias, how clearly you saw it all!(218)






1. Spoken by Choragos in Sophocles, Antigone, in The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version. Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald, Trans. (San Diego, New York, London: A Harvest/HBJ Book of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1939-1977), Exodus, p. 232.

2. Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, in The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, op. cit., Scene I, p. 16.

3. Ibid., p. 15.

4. Ibid., p. 24.

5. Ibid., p. 16.

6. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths. Two Volumes. (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd. 1955, 1960), Vol. II., 105.g, p. 10.

7. Apollodorus, The Library. Sir James George Frazer, Translator and Commentator. Two Volumes. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, MCMLXXVI), Vol. I, III. vi. 7, note 1, p. 363, Frazer quoting and paraphrasing Callimachus, The Baths of Pallas, 3rd cent. B.C.E., lines 57-133.

8. Ibid.

9. Apollodorus, The Library, op. cit., Vol. I, III. vi. 7, p. 363.

10. The nature of Athene’s love for Chariclo is discussed at length by Christine Downing in her thoroughly engrossing book, Myths and Mysteries of Same-Sex Love. (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1989), pp. 207-210.

11. Apollodorus, The Library, op. cit., Vol. I, III. vi. 7, note 1, p. 363, Frazer quoting and paraphrasing Callimachus, The Baths of Pallas, 57-133.

12. Tracy Boyd, “Wind Over Water: The Breath of Creation” at <www.sacredthreads.net>

13. Unsigned Article, “Teiresias” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica. Eleventh Edition. (Cambridge: University Press, 1911), Vol. XXVI, p. 508.

14. Apollodorus, The Library, op. cit., Vol. I, III. vi. 7, p. 363.

15. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, op. cit., Vol. II, 105.g, p. 10.

16. Apollodorus, The Library, op. cit., Vol. I, III. vi. 7, note 1, p. 363, Frazer quoting and paraphrasing Callimachus, The Baths of Pallas, 57-133.

17. Apollodorus, The Library, op. cit., Vol. I, III. vi. 7, p. 363.

18. Liddell and Scott, A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), “skeptron”, p. 639.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid., “keryx”, p. 376.

21. George E. Mylonas, Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 234.

22. Ibid.

23. Tracy Boyd, “I Am Baubo, The Acorn Fool” at <www.sacredthreads.net>

24. George E. Mylonas, Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries, op. cit., p. 233.

25. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language. College Edition. (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Co., 1959), “herald”, p. 678.

26. Divry’s New English-Greek and Greek-English Dictionary. G. C. Divry and C. G. Divry, Eds. (New York: D. C. Divry, Inc. Publishers, 1974.), “herald”, p. 95.

27. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, op. cit., “herald”, p. 678.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid., “foretell”, p. 567.

30. Ibid., “forerunner”, p. 566.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid., “presage”, p. 1152.

33. Liddell and Scott, A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, op. cit., “teirea”, p. 695.

34. Ibid., “teras”, singular of teirea, p. 698.

  1. 35.Jane Ellen Harrison, Epilegomena to the Study of Greek Religion and Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion. (New Hyde Park: University Books, 1962 Reprint from Cambridge: Epilegomena, 1912; Themis, 1912, Revised 1927), Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, p. 97.

36. Ibid.

37. John Pollard, Birds in Greek Life and Myth. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977), p. 116, quot. Aristophanes, The Birds, 719.

38. See: John Pollard, Birds in Greek Life and Myth, op. cit., p. 13.

39. Ibid., p. 116, quot. Porphyry, Abst. III, 5, 3.

40. Unsigned Article, “caduceus” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica. Eleventh Edition. (Cambridge: University Press, 1910), Vol. IV, p. 932.

41. John Pollard, Birds in Greek Life and Myth, op. cit., p. 123, quot. Homeric Hymn to Hermes, 550f.

42. Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, op. cit., p. 99.

43. Ibid., pp. 100-01.

44. Ibid., p. 105, and quot. Virgil, Aeneid, VII. 170 ff.; see also Tracy Boyd, “I Am Baubo, The Acorn Fool” at <www.sacredthreads.net> for a discussion of the primitive woodpecker-king as weather-maker.

45. John Pollard, Birds in Greek Life and Myth, op. cit., p. 120, quot. Iliad  I, 70.

46. Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, op. cit., p. 98.

47. Ibid., p. 99.

48. John Pollard, Birds in Greek Life and Myth, op. cit., pp. 125-126, quot. Sophocles, Antigone, 999f.

49. Ibid., p. 126.

50. Sophocles, Antigone. Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Ed. and Trans. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, Vol. 21, 1998), lines 999-1001, pp. 94-95.

51. Sophocles, Antigone, in The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, op. cit., Scene V, pp. 224-25.

52. John Pollard, Birds in Greek Life and Myth, op. cit., p. 121.

53. Ibid.

54. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Willard R. Trask, Trans. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series LXXVI, 1964-1974), p. 148.

55. Nigel Pennick, Games of the Gods: The Origin of Board Games in Magic and Divination. (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1989), pp. 19-20; For an exhaustive discussion of Roman augury, see: G. Wissowa, “Divination (Roman)” in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. James Hastings, Editor. Twelve Volumes + Index. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912), Vol. 4, pp. 820-827.

56. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, op. cit., “omen”, p. 1024.

57. Sophocles, Antigone, Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Ed. and Trans., op. cit., line 1001, p. 94.

58. See: Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, op. cit., Fig. 16, p. 100.

59. The Latin spelling of his name is Aesculapius.

60. Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974: 7th Printing of Amended and Enlarged Edition of 1966), p. 172.

61. Ibid., pp. 66-67.

62. Ibid., p. 52.

63. C. Kerenyi, Asklepios: The Archetypal Image of the Physician’s Existence. Ralph Manheim, Trans. (New York: Pantheon Books, Bollingen Series LXV.3, 1959), p. 93.

64. John Pollard, Birds in Greek Life and Myth, op. cit., p. 26.

65. C. Kerenyi, Asklepios: The Archetypal Image of the Physician’s Existence, op. cit., p. 95; Preface xix.

66. Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, op. cit., p. 52.

67. C. Kerenyi, Asklepios: The Archetypal Image of the Physician’s Existence, op. cit., p. 99.

68. Apollodorus, The Library, op. cit., Vol. I, III. vi. 7, note 1, p. 364.

69. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, op. cit., Vol. II, 105.h , p. 11.

70. Ovid, Metamorphoses, in The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Translated, with an Introduction by Mary M. Innes. (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, Inc., 1955), Book III, 316 ff., p. 82.

71. Marie Delcourt, Hermaphrodite: Myths and Rites of the Bisexual Figure in Classical Antiquity. Jennifer Nicholson, Trans. (London: Studio Books, 1961), p. 41.

72. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, op. cit., p. 388.

73. Marie Delcourt, Hermaphrodite: Myths and Rites of the Bisexual Figure in Classical Antiquity, op. cit., p. 41.

74. Ibid., p. 39, quot. Mircea Eliade, Chamanisme, p. 317.  In the English edition, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, p. 351.

75. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, op. cit., p. 352.

76. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, op. cit., Vol. II, 105.h , p. 11.

77. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, op. cit., p. 352.

78. Marie Delcourt, Hermaphrodite: Myths and Rites of the Bisexual Figure in Classical Antiquity, op. cit., p. 42.

79. Ibid.

80. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, op. cit., p. 352.

81. Ibid.

82. See: Barbara G. Walker, “Androgyne”, in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1983), pp. 32-34.  For numerous examples of the male/female unity prior to their bifurcation, see: Barbara C. Sproul, Primal Myths: Creating the World. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1979.

83. C. A. S. Williams, Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs. (Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 3rd Revised Edition Reprint of 1974, n. d.), “Yin and Yang”, p. 460.

84. Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. Willard R. Trask, Trans. (New York: Bollingen Foundation Series LVI, 1958/Princeton: Princeton University Press, Second Edition, 1969-1973), p. 271.

85. C. A. S. Williams, Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs, op. cit., “Yin and Yang”, p. 460.

86. Ibid.

87. The I Ching or Book of Changes. The Richard Wilhelm Translation rendered into English by Cary F. Baynes; Forward by C. G. Jung; Preface to the Third Edition by Hellmut Wilhelm. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XIX, 1950-1969), pp. 10-15.

88. Ibid., pp. 3- 10.

89. C. A. S. Williams, Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs, op. cit., “Yin and Yang”, pp. 460-62, quot. Mr. E. T. C. Werner, “The Chinese Idea of the Second Self”, Read on 26th May, 1931 at the Things Chinese Society, Peiping, China.

90. C. A. S. Williams, Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs, op. cit., “T’ai Chi”, p. 387.

91. Ibid.

92. Ibid., p. 385.

93. Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, op. cit., p. 271.

94. See: Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and Mircea Eliade, “Androgynes”, in The Encyclopedia of Religion. Mircea Eliade, Editor-in-Chief. 16 Volumes. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987), Vol. 1, p. 276.

95. Ovid, Metamorphoses, in The Metamorphoses of Ovid, op. cit., Book III, 316 ff., p. 82.

96. See: Barbara G. Walker, “Liebestod”, in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, op. cit., p. 538.

97. Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Joseph Campbell, Ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers; The Bollingen Library, Pantheon Books, Inc., 1946; Harper Torchbooks Reprint, 1962), p. 139.

98. For a thorough analysis of vajra, see: Robert Beer, The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs. (Boston: Shambhala, 1999), p. 236.

99. Nitin Kumar, “Yab-Yum” at <www.exoticindia.com> at <www.bhartiyakala.com> website.

100. Ibid.

101. Robert Lawlor, Sacred Geometry: Philosophy and Practice. Jill Purce, General Editor. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1990), p. 9.

102. Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, op. cit., pp. 146-47.

103. Ibid., pp. 147-48.

104. See: <www.fusionanomaly.net/cymatics.html>

105. See: Tracy Boyd, “On Wind Over Water: The Breath of Creation” at <www.sacredthreads.net>

106. Joseph Campbell, The Mythic Image. Assisted by M. J. Abadie. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series C, 1974), p. 356.

107. Ibid., p. 359; Image 330, unpaginated p. 358.

108. Ibid., p. 359.

109. Barbara G. Walker, “Shakti”, in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, op. cit., p. 929.

110. Joseph Campbell, The Mythic Image, op. cit., p. 359.

111. Ibid., p. 359; Image 330, unpaginated p. 358.

112. Barbara G. Walker, “Shiva”, in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, op. cit., p. 935.

113. Heinrich Zimmer, Philosophies of India. Joseph Campbell, Ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XXVI, 1951-1974), pp. 556-557.

114. Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, op. cit., p. 4.

115. Ibid., p. 5.

116. Jill Purce, The Mystic Spiral: Journey of the Soul. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1980 Reprint of 1974 ed.), p. 25.

117. Lama Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism: According to the Esoteric Teachings of the Great Mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. (York Beach, ME: Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC, 1969), pp. 155-56.

118. Ibid., p. 22.

119. Ibid.

120. Ibid., p. 46, quot. the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore; For an exquisite explanation of the chakras, see: Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion. Diane K. Osbon, Ed. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), pp. 109-116; For further discussions on Om, see: Tracy Boyd, “Wind Over Water: The Breath of Creation” at <www.sacredthreads.net>

121. John Blofeld, Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin. (Boulder: Shambhala, 1978), p. 39.

122. Elemire Zolla, The Androgyne: Reconciliation of Male and Female. (London: Thames and Hudson/New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 1981), unpaginated p. 37.

123. John Blofeld, Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin, op. cit., p. 39.

124. Ibid.

125. Ibid.

126. Elemire Zolla, The Androgyne: Reconciliation of Male and Female, op. cit., p. 32.

127. Apollodorus, The Library, op. cit., Vol. I, III. vi. 7, p. 363.

128. Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols & Sacred Objects. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988), pp. 85-86, citing Gertrude Jobes, “Tiresias (Teiresias)”, in Dictionary of Mythology Folklore and Symbols. Two Parts. (New York: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1961), Part 2, p. 1576.  The citation is incorrect, nevertheless, the connection remains.

129. Philip Rawson, The Art of Tantra. (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society Ltd., 1972), unpaginated p. 85, and plate 67, unpaginated p. 84. Dated. c. 1700 C.E., Basholi, India.

130. Karl Kerenyi, Hermes: Guide of Souls: The Mythologem of the Masculine Source of Life. Murray Stein, Trans. (Zurich: Spring Publications, 1976), p. 84.

131. Unsigned Article, “caduceus” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 932.

132. See: Tracy Boyd, “Circe’s Circle of Oaks at the Edge of the World” at <www.sacredthreads.net>

133. A Greek-English Lexicon. Compiled by Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 9th ed., with a 1968 Supplement, 1983), “rabdos”, p. 1562.

134. Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion. (New York: Meridian Books, 1955), pp. 44-45; see also: Tracy Boyd, “Circe’s Circle of Oaks at the Edge of the World” at <www.sacredthreads.net>

135. Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, op. cit., p. 46, Note 1.

136. Ibid.

137. Ibid., p. 45.

138. Ibid., p. 46, and pp. 44-46 passim.

139. Nigel Pennick, Earth Harmony: Siting and Protecting Your Home – a Practical and Spiritual Guide. (London: Century Hutchinson Ltd., 1987), pp. 245-46.

140. Ibid., Fig. 57, p. 246.

141. Ibid., Fig. 58, p. 247.

142. Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, op. cit., p. 399.

143. Ibid., p. 398.

144. A Greek-English Lexicon, Compiled by Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, op. cit., “agrenon”, p. 14.

145. Ibid., “agre”, p. 14.

146. Ibid., “agreutis”, p. 14.

147. Ibid., “agreuma”, p. 14.

148. Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, op. cit., p. 399.

149. Nigel Pennick, Earth Harmony: Siting and Protecting Your Home – a Practical and Spiritual Guide, op. cit., p. 85.

150. Ibid., p. 84.

151. Unsigned Article, “caduceus” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 932, quot. Thucydides i. 53; Macrobius, Sat. i. 19; Hyginus, Poet. Astron. ii. 7.

152. Apollodorus, The Library, op. cit., Vol. I, III. vi. 7, note 1, p. 364.

153. The Homeric Hymn to Hermes, in Hesiod The Homeric Hymns and Homerica. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Trans. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, The Loeb Classical Library, 1914-1954), line 173, p. 377.

154. Ibid., line 175, p. 377.

155. Ibid., line 331, p. 387.

156. Ibid., lines 527-32, p. 401.

157. Ibid., line 526, p. 401.

158. Ibid., lines 532-34 . . . 536-39 . . . 544-50, pp. 401-03.

159. Ibid., lines 552-57 . . . 558-63 . . . pp. 403-05; and Note 1, p. 403.

160. Sophocles, Antigone, in The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, op. cit., Scene V, p. 228.

161. Barbara G. Walker, “Hermes”, in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, op. cit., p. 398.

162. Elemire Zolla, The Androgyne: Reconciliation of Male and Female, op. cit., p. 76.

163. Howard Sasportas, “Tricksters, Thieves, and Magicians: The Many Faces of Mercury in Mythology”, in Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas, The Inner Planets: Building Blocks of Personal Reality. Seminars in Psychological Astrology, Volume 4. Howard Sasportas, Editor. (York Beach, ME.: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1993), p. 29.

164. Richard Idemon, Through the Looking Glass: A Search for the Self in the Mirror of Relationships. Seminars in Psychological Astrology, Volume 5. Howard Sasportas, Editor. (York Beach, ME.: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1992), p. 210.

165. Ibid., p. 210-12.

166. Liz Greene, “The Myth of the Individual Journey”, in Stephen Arroyo & Liz Greene, New Insights in Modern Astrology. (Sebastopol, CA: CRCS Publications, Revised Ed. of 1984 The Jupiter/Saturn Conference Lectures, 1991), p. 64.

167. Ibid.

168. Ibid.

169. Ibid.

170. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, op. cit., Vol. II, 105.h, p. 11.

171. Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, op. cit., p. 137.

172. Ibid.

173. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, op. cit., Vol. II, 105.h, p. 11.

174. Ibid.

175. The I Ching or Book of Changes, op. cit., Hexagram 11 “T’ai /Peace”, p. 49, and pp. 48-52 passim.

176. Unsigned Article, “caduceus” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 932.

177. Liz Greene, “The Myth of the Individual Journey”, in Stephen Arroyo & Liz Greene, New Insights in Modern Astrology, op. cit., pp. 64-65.

178. Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, in The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, op. cit., Scene I, p. 16.

179. Ibid.

180. Gertrude Jobes, Dictionary of Mythology Folklore and Symbols. Two Parts. (New York: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1961), Part I, p. 94.

181. John Pollard, Birds in Greek Life and Myth, op. cit., p. 120.

182. Unsigned Article, “Teiresias” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, op. cit., Vol. XXVI, p. 508.

183. Apollodorus, The Library, op. cit., Vol. I, III. vi. 7, p. 361.

184. William Shakespeare, King Lear, I.iv.200-04.

185. Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, in The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, op, cit., Scene I, p. 17.

186. Ibid., p. 18.

187. Ibid.

188. Ibid., p. 19.

189. Ibid., p. 18.

190. Liz Greene, “The Myth of the Individual Journey”, in Stephen Arroyo & Liz Greene, New Insights in Modern Astrology, op. cit., p. 65.

191. Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, in The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, op, cit., Scene I, p. 20.

192. Ibid.

193. Ibid., pp. 20-21.

194. Ibid., Ode I, Strophe 2, p. 24.

195. Ibid., Ode I, Antistrophe 2, p. 25.

196. Ibid., Scene II, p. 36.

197. Ibid.

198. Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Ed. and Trans. (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, Vol. 21, 1998), lines 708-09, pp. 396-97.

199. Tracy Boyd, “The Power of Naming”, from the author’s unpublished manuscript, The Death of Matriarchy, 1978- 88.

200. Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Ed. and Trans., op. cit., line 747, pp. 400-01.

201. Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, in The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, op, cit., Scene II, p. 37.

202. Ibid., p. 43.

203. Ibid., Ode II, Strophe 2, pp. 44-45.

204. Ibid., Ode II, Antistrophe 2, p. 45.

205. Ibid., Scene III, p. 45.

206. Ibid.

207. Ibid.

208. Ibid., p. 48.

209. Ibid.

210. Ibid., p. 55.

211. Ibid.

212. Ibid., Exodus, p. 66.

213. Ibid., Scene III. p. 56.

214. Ibid., Exodus, p. 65.

215. Ibid., Exodus, p. 67.

216. Ibid.

217. Ibid., Ode II, Antistrophe 2, p. 45.

  1. 218.Sophocles, Antigone, in The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, op. cit., Exodus, p. 232.