A story appeared in the news the other day; a tiny moon of Neptune called Hippocamp was discovered. It is a break off from the much bigger moon Proteus, and it reminded me to explain what was the reason I chose the name Proteus for my Face Book page and my approach to astrology. How planets, planetoids and asteroids are named is not random. The hippocampus, a tiny part of the brain shaped like a sea-horse, has long been considered as where memories are stored, yet new evidence suggests it is more wide ranging from multiple areas of the cortex.
Assuming this was a reason Hippocamp was given its name, it triggered a memory. More than ten years ago, I thought of Proteus as an image of transformation for reflection and self development. He is a shapeshifter and there are good and bad aspects of that. You can change to avoid detection of being pinned down, or you can change to provide a helpful answer to others who are lost and just need you to reflect the truth back to them. So Proteus is a double edged sword, or in this case a mirror that reflects the visible and invisible. Proteus therefore is about using astrology as a mirror to learn about time, the self, choices, dealing with others, using cycles effectively, travel, love, money, wisdom, challenges and decisions. It is a universal mirror including the totality of existence. That’s why astrology is a never-ending subject and is also endlessly fascinating. Plato thought learning was remembering. But it would be churlish to assume that everyone is excited about this quest as it demands effort too. Some keep that inner door to the soul firmly shut. Others are seekers and may understand what this means.
Though Hippocamp orbits Neptune, it could have broken off from Proteus -and this is the link- so could be a kind of son or daughter to Proteus which is one of 14 moons of Neptune. Proteus has an unusual shape, not like an ellipsoid, but more like a polyhedron, a multi sided object. This fascinates me as in mythology, the story of Proteus was that he was a shifty character who had divinatory and prophetic powers. Proteus (Πρωτεύς- in Greek means ‘of the first’) fell under the rulership of Neptune, the Roman version of the Greek god Poseidon. Proteus was the herder of seals which are graceful and flexible in water but awkward on land. According to the story, Menelaus came to find him with a question about what he should do next? But Proteus didn’t like being asked questions so it took some ingenuity. But Menelaus was determined:
Proteus was not easy to consult. He was herding seals, and the seals stank even through the ambrosia Eidothea had provided. And when Menelaus crept up close, disguised as a seal, and grabbed him, Proteus turned into a lion, a dragon, a leopard, a boar, a film of water, and a high-branched tree. But Menelaus managed to hang on until Proteus gave up and was himself again; whereupon Menelaus asked him the one great question: How do I get home? And Proteus told him: You had better go back to Egypt and sacrifice to the gods some more” (Britannica.com).
What tickles me is that one of the best ways to see how shapeshifting works in action is the scene from Disney’s ‘The Sword in the Stone’ (1963) where the marvellous, mad Madame Mim and Merlin, the magician do battle. They both claim they are the greatest. Madame Mim changes from a crocodile, to a fox, a hen, an elephant, a tiger, a rattlesnake a rhinocerous and then a purple dragon. Merlin outwits her finally by turning into a microbe and giving her a disease. Merlin and Madame Mim have a vigorous battle of equals and Disney spins is as one of wit and ingenuity more than physical or magical prowess. It is lots of fun to watch, but how might this apply to our own lives? This is what we learn from Proteus too. It is what do in our own lives, often without realising. By adapting too well to circumstances that can harm us, we change shape to escape being dis-empowered by others. What shape you choose can make you victim or predator in a nano-second and the fact that it is portrayed as a battle is real, but also needs to be brought back into greater balance.
When Proteus finally relented, and told Menelaus what to do, he fulfilled his function as an oracle. Oracles were held in great reverence in the ancient world. He effectively helped Menelaus find his way home simply by telling him what he already knew, that he must go home. So there is an element of shifting and mirroring in Proteus. He’s difficult to pin down into concrete reality, so more than a bit Mercurial too, but he points to what the questioner already knows is true.
The astrology of Proteus, moon of Neptune, has not been outlined before to my knowledge, so I am curious as to what it means. I did a chart for Proteus based on the time of its discovery. This was July 7th, 1989 in Pasadena, California, when its discovery was announced by Stephen P. Synnott, and Bradford E. Smith. This birth chart has Mercury conjunct the MC and a strong opposition between Chiron conjunct the Sun to Neptune conjunct Saturn.
This powerful opposition emphasizes a cardinal Cancer to Capricorn polarity from who we are to who we are seen to be. There is also an interesting union of Venus and Mars in Leo in the 11th, suggesting an internal balance or harmony of masculine and feminine in the dramatic sign of the hero. The Moon is trine to Uranus and sextile to Pluto offering evidence of original insight into deep feelings for any truth seeker. Pluto is in its home sign of Scorpio well embedded there at 12 degrees and the only planet in its quadrant. It is also trine to the Sun/Chiron.
Put simply, I liked the story of Proteus as he appeared to be an oracle with an attitude. He threw back questions on the questioner. He is elusive, and wriggles out of his role. He adopts forms like poetry uses metaphors, so he can merge into the sea and be a drop of water in the ocean – ungraspable. But he offers meaning and vision and is obliged once caught to always tell the truth.
In order to survive, people shape shift out of their true identity to one that satisfies the expectations of family, and the crowd. This is all fine and we all do it, but sometimes it can become acutely painful as the shape we adopt to be acceptable to others damages and suppresses who we really are. A balance must be struck or the true self will manifest as fated events. I became a shape-shifter out of necessity, but it can become damaging to real growth. Sometimes uncomfortable confrontations are exactly what you need to clear the air and even realising it is happening can confer power over a difficult situation.
Proteus has this ability to morph as in the word ‘metamorphosis’ chiming in with the 2nd century ‘The Golden Ass’ by Apuleius (originally called ‘The Metamorphoses’) where the protagonist, Lucius, is transformed into a donkey. Eventually, Lucius finds a way to revert back to his human form and is initiated into the priesthood of Isis – all very caterpillar to butterfly. This kind of transformation could also be aligned to Pluto, so it is good to think of Proteus as the watery version of Pluto. Pluto in the discovery chart operates as a kind of lever to the see-saw of those pesky planets in opposition.
Proteus is also a kind of a trickster/healer, since he answers questions only if you can catch him. You have to prepare to struggle to obtain these illuminations. Proteus often reflects back the most obvious answers to yourself. So he is analogous to the difficulties the conscious mind has in grasping the knowledge contained in the unconscious mind. The harder you try to catch meaning, the more elusive it becomes. This is also like trying to remember dreams- they vanish the more you struggle to capture their meaning.
Yet, through the oracle, you can accept the obvious answer- as if this gives divine confirmation of your intuition. This story shows us how to find our way back to our own intuitional skill, which is often downgraded and devalued in a society that has become obsessed with only the most visible, materialistic signs of success. This is where astrology can help a great deal, but it takes some study.
So I have adopted Proteus as my emblem and mascot. He is almost an alchemical symbol, for diving into psychological territory. He can be called upon to establish that an astrological reading might involve some truth previously not known. This is not to say that both Mercury and Pluto cannot also give clues about where someone needs to change. It would be better to assume that the client could have some agency over how to deal with that, and not just to assume a person does not have any agency over the more apparently fated elements in their chart.
Astrology is not solely fortune telling, but better considered as a way to align with inner cycles which allows you to have a better grasp of universal energies working within you. There is still some room for adjusting to the inevitable aspects of your life too. Astrology also enhances the ability to perceive more than usual; you can go beyond the present moment to see dimensions of past and future.
There are many stages to an astrology reading: the basics of who you are from the Sun, Moon, Ascendant trio, the element/modality balance, and that can be revealing enough in itself, and help people a lot to gain understanding, but then further stages and sessions might analyse trickier aspects, solar and lunar progressions, synastry with various significant others, your Astrocartography (see my article in Celestial Vibes) for better informed travel decisions, and even deeper into the asteroids, and what their impact is, solar returns, and even Plutonic signatures for a deep dive into more long term reflective self-analysis and lifelong individuation. All of this hopefully attracts the kind of client who just wants to know more about who they are, but is also willing to probe into the mysteries of time cycles and how the planets are within and those who know that a little knowledge goes a long way.
You are welcome read the Proteus page on Face book and book a session.
© Kieron Devlin @ Proteus Astrology, Face Book Page.
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