The God of Cuckoldry Gives Advice on Marriage

Monday October 31st 2011
Imagine you are…
Classical Lady by John William Godward

OK, we are back in Rome, sometime in the 2nd century AD. It’s autumn, the grape harvest is in. We’ve all been celebrating in perhaps too Dionysian a fashion.

Imagine that you are a togaed Roman with time and money on your hands. How would you while away those moonlit hours between eating dormice and having your skin oiled?

As a double Libra (Moon and Sun) you are prone to weaving tangled webs of relationships. Your lover is poor but gorgeous, your spouse is rich but repulsive. This has all worked well for years, but now your spouse has a new darling and you feel jealous.

One evening, you climb the stairs to the rooftop where I practice my craft. Me? I’m an astrologer.

I look at you chart and my advice to you is simple – go to the temple of Vulcan, the smith god, and make an offering. You leave – rather miffed if the truth be told. Oh, and one more thing, I say, as you stand on the top step, think about the tale of Vulcan’s net.

Now why would a Roman astrologer tell you to go to the cuckold god for help about a marriage?

Well, it would have been a textbook case.

I’ve written about tutelary deities before. These are the gods who act as wise counsellors to each sign of the Zodiac, according to the Roman poem Astronomica. They fell completely out of use in the Christian Era, but I think these archetypes can teach us something useful about how to work with the energies of the signs. Libra is a very good case in point.

Photo by Tobias R, Metoc

As anyone who has had the pleasure of spending some time with Libra knows, the sign of the scales has certain wonderful qualities – an instinct for beauty, an ability to make any room lovely, a natural desire to charm, a sense of fair play. And some flaws too – lack of depth, an ability to choose a rotter, applying reason to emotional problems and emotion to reason.

This is where Vulcan might come in. Tutelary deities (I think) sometimes help us to balance out a sign’s energies. They point to a way of dealing with a sign which may not be obvious.

As you know, Libra is ruled by Venus, the goddess of love and wife of the crippled smith god Vulcan. Venus was a faithless wife. She regularly copped off with various mortals, immortals and a whole gamut of in-betweeners.

Her affair with the god of war, Mars, was a long-standing off-again-on-again thing, which caused poor Vulcan no end of hurt and shame, not least because they used his bed.

Being a craftsman, Vulcan could make almost anything. So he forged a net and caught Mars and Venus in the act. All the Olympians came and laughed and mocked the pair and agreed to pay Vulcan damages. Although he is physically weak, he has outwitted the strongest of the gods, Mars. Vulcan gets revenge but at what cost?

Craft and guile and patience. The first lesson is: you may not get the girl (or the guy) to love you, but you can make them pay for hurting you. This sounds like alimony. Courts are ruled by Libra, of course.

I don’t think that’s a very fruitful outcome though, do you? Vulcan is still going to feel bitter.

Here’s the second and better lesson: you can create something useful and beautiful from your experience. Vulcan’t net is a masterpiece of art and craftsmanship.  And here’s a thought, Venus may shag Mars, but she (beauty) is married to Vulcan (craft).

And here is a question: do we learn anything about marriage from Vulcan? He is, after all, the tutelary deity of the sign of marriage, Libra.

He might well tell a typical lovely Libra (usually so eager to tie the knot) to learn from his experience and be careful before signing any contract. You may humiliate your rivals but you will still be stuck in a loveless marriage.

What do you think Vulcan might teach us about marriage?

Click on these links to view posts I’ve written on other tutelary deities: PallasDianaJunoVesta. Here is more on Astronomica.

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  1. Opal says:

    Hahaha, excellent!

    The first things that came to mind were qualities like forbearance and endurance, which are necessary for anything to succeed long-term. Very Saturnian, and in the way he teaches them both a lesson they’ll never forget. Whether they learn from it or not, though…

  2. Christina says:

    Yes they both rush off in different directions. Although Venus gets to go to Cyprus which doesn’t sound so bad on the last day of October.

  3. jomad says:

    Aphrodite was married off to Hephaestus by her father Zeus for political reasons not because of love.
    Hephaestus was her antithesis in every way and most likely he was not able to satisfy her Libran needs.
    She had many lovers because her nature demanded it.
    Otherwise she would have become a boring, sad shell of a woman….
    Let’s cut her some slack 😉

  4. Christina says:

    @jomad – what’s more Zeus was forced to marry her off to Hephaestus because he (H) had trapped Hera (his own mother) in a magical chair. Poor Venus. And it goes to show that if you win your bride through trickery, still won’t win you her love.

    On the other hand, the reason the smith god was so angry with his Mum is because she’d abandoned him at birth.

    How like modern times eh

  5. jess says:

    It makes me think of how our ideas about marriage change through time. For the Romans I guess, marriage was a contract and fun was to be had outside the marriage bed.

    For most of history love and marriage did not necessarily go together. It’s only we romantic moderns who want to have our cake and eat it!