Hercules, Shakespeare and the Stars of June

This week the ancient constellation of the kneeler, known later as Hercules, sweeps high overhead, bearing a mystery across the sky.

Hercules is not a very bright constellation, and the figure of this hero appears upside down in the night, head diving earthward. So what’s the mystery here?

In esoteric tradition, the human being is regarded as a being of body, soul, and spirit. But though the human being is threefold nature, we are only truly aware of the body while we are awake and moving through our days; the soul and the spirit live beyond the average day-wake consciousness, as though slumbering within us. The quest in esoteric practice, then, is to awaken an awareness of the soul and the spirit within.

As for Hercules, his upside down nature suggests that he’s connected to the soul-spirit nature of the human being, that part of us that is higher but slumbering within. Hercules rises toward the top of the sky as we approach the summer season, when moods give way to a dreamy, slumbering state, which is what Shakespeare captured so deftly in his play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

In the play, Shakespeare includes a mock performance of Ovid’s star-crossed lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, and by placing the activity in midsummer, he’s indicating it’s got something to do with the sky overhead in this season. Here we find moonshine and lion, and Pyramus crying out, “My soul is in the sky.”

Act Five begins with a mock reference to the threefold nature of the human being as lunatic, lover and poet, and culminates with three weddings, intimating that a happily ever after awaits all those who succeed in awakening the higher nature, an awakening that’s described esoterically as the sacred marriage.


Hear this episode on my Storyteller’s Night Sky podcast and at Interlochen Public Radio.