Πέμπτη, 6 Απριλίου 2017

Erostasia: the Scales of Venus*.

"And when the other is beside him, 
he [the beloved] shares his respite from anguish; 
when he is absent, he likewise shares his longing 
and being longed for, since he possesses
that Anteros, which is the image of love."
~~~Plato, Phaedrus 255d

*The following article was first published in IAM - Infinity Astrological Magazine, March/April 2017, issue 12. Since November 2016, I have the pleasure to be part of the IAM team, writing articles on facets of astrological culture mostly in the ancient world. More information about IAM given at the end of the article.

Planet Venus has been traditionally associated with the need of man to seek out and establish harmonious personal relationships. These Venusian qualities associated with the need to feel close to one another, to feel the comfort and harmony inside and out have been depicted in ancient Greek art through a rare scene known as erostasia or erotostasia literally meaning weighing of the loves (eros). Let’s examine first what the scene of erostasia is all about and then I will discuss the ways we can relate it to the astrological properties of the planet Venus. 

The image on the right[i] shows the Greek goddess Aphrodite (Venus) standing before a young man. In her right hand she holds a pair of scales where in each pan sits a figure of Eros, a winged smaller figure. One of them is identified as Eros, love proffered and the other one as Anteros, love returned or counter love. Even though the meaning of the scene has troubled art historians, we are looking at an erostasia, that is the “weighing of love.” Open to a variety of interpretations it is possibly that erostasia is very close to our own game "he loves me, he loves me not" when one seeks to know whether the object of their affection returns that affection or not. 

According to Greek mythology Anteros was the brother of Eros and the son of the god Mars and goddess Aphrodite; yet the Roman author Claudius Aelianus offers an alternative genealogy saying that Anteros was the outcome of the mutual love between the god Poseidon and Nerites [De Natura Animalium, 14.28]. Anteros in iconography bears many similarities to his brother Eros armed with either a golden club or a set of a bow and arrow, though Anteros is usually depicted with longer hair and two pairs of overlapping wings, like the ones of a butterfly. 
Even though Anteros has been an enigma in art and literature most of the time is set against his brother Eros, where the latter causes people to fall in love and in contrast, the former punishes those who refuse the love of others or fail to reciprocate love. In his book Anteros: a forgotten myth, author Craig E. Stephenson presents all myths about Anteros from ancient to early modern times, summarizing his traits as a god who “appears to represent a dark deity, an avenger of offences against the god of love, but he is also imagined as a counterforce without Eros cannot mature. (p. 12)” Consequently, in most cases Anteros complements, rather opposes Eros. 

Lorenzo Lotto. Detail from Venus and Cupid
This year beginning early March, planet Venus will be retrograde, opening a cycle where we will be given the opportunity to rethink our personal relationships, to re-evaluate what we seek in the companionship of others and whether we feel satisfied and fulfilled by them. It is a period where we may take in our hands our personal scales and like Aphrodite weigh the worth and value of those around us, weigh “our loves.” In this astrological context the scene of Erostasia can be perceived as a constructive image for self-reflection where the scales of Venus are used to remind us the flaws and shortcomings in our need to bond with, to love and be loved by other people. Likewise through this period, retrograde Venus will look in the face of Anteros/others for love and harmony, that is all reciprocal things needed in order for Eros/ love to blossom. 

As in the scene of erostasia where Venus weighs Eros and Anteros, Venus in astrology represents both the unhindered flow of love (Eros) and the influx of love (Anteros). It is a reciprocal action of loving, caring and sensuality for the persons involved. The scene of Erostasia bears one of the basic attributes associated with Venus the harmonious and balanced act of giving and receiving. The need for equilibrium in this Venusian arrangement is also attested in the etymology of the word Anteros: the preposition Anti and the noun Eros, where anti- in ancient Greek signifies something “in return for, in exchange for,” or “as a substitute for.” Therefore one may suggest that the scene of erostasia captures perfectly in an image this dynamic principle related to the astrological Venus as an exchange of energy with others through giving of self and receiving from others. 

The image on the right [ii] is another interesting iconographical example of erostasia where Aphrodite is accompanied this time by the god Hermes. By the same token we can also read in this scene the planetary principles of Venus and Mercury combined. Mercury is associated with the need for communication which is also part of a process involving the flow and influx of information. Looking through the erostasia, if Mercury finds difficulty to communicate his perceptions and ideas to the person which Venus wants to feel close in order to offer her love (Eros/flow), then there’s both an intellectual and emotional difficulty to reciprocate love (Anteros/influx). 

Finally, taking advantage of Venus starting her seemingly retrograde motion let’s weigh our urges and desires when we express and receive affection. Is this about a two-way movement of energy that leads to balanced relationships? In other words where does our scale attunes to, in harmony or discord? There is no better way to express this other than the myth that describes the birth and growth of Eros as recorded by the fourth-century CE philosopher Themistius : “When Aphrodite bore Eros, the lad was fair and like his mother in every way, save that he did not grow to a stature befitting his beauty not did he put on flesh; but he long remained at the size which he had at birth. This matter perplexed his mother and the Muses who nursed him, and presenting themselves before Themis they begged for a cure to this strange and wondrous mischance. So Themis spoke. “Why,” said she, “I will solve your difficulty, for you have not yet learned the nature of the child. Your true Eros, Aphrodite, might indeed be born by himself, but could not possibly grow by himself; if you wish Eros to grow you need Anteros. These two brothers will be the one of the same nature, and each will be the cause of the other’s growth; for as they see each other they will aloike grow, but if either is left alone they will both waste away.” [Themistius, Orations 24]. 

As a final thought, while the outcome of picking one petal off a flower to determine whether “he/she loves me … loves me not” may lie outside our control, we can always borrow the Venusian scales and hold the balance in our hands. If the outcome is not to your satisfaction you can alternatively start picking the feathers of Eros and Anteros wings. Have a wonderfully balanced Venus retrograde time!

  • Stephen Arroyo, Astrology, Psychology and the Four Elements (CRCS Publications, 1978)
  • Craig E. Stephenson, Anteros: A Forgotten Myth (Routledge, 2011)
IAM - Infinity Astrological Magazine
IAM-Infinity Astrological Magazine is a bimonthly online magazine, founded in 2015 by Serbian astrologer Smiljana Gavrančić. IAM is for professionals astrologers, students of astrology and for all astrology lovers.
Serbian astrologer Smiljana Gavrančić is the founding editor and owner of IAM. She specializes in exploring significant degrees in Mundane Astrology and her writings have appeared in the Astrological Journal and in The Mountain Astrologer blog and in ISAR’s International Astrologer.
As of November 2016, all issues of IAM have become part of AlexandriaiBase Project (www.alexandriaibase.org), a digital astrological database.
From March 2017, IAM is on featured in the Astrodienst (www.astro.com) section ''Understanding Astrology'' along with the Astrological Journal and the Mountain Astrologer.
IAM is associated with most relevant schools, journals and people in the astrological field.
You can download all IAM issues for free at the following link:  infinityastrologicalmagazine.com

[i] Apulian Red Figure amphora, British Museum, London (ca. 350 BCE)
[ii] Attic Red Figure Krater,   National Archaeological Museum, Athens (ca.  400 - 300 BCE)

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