Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Story of the Lost Child: Elena Ferrante Retells the Myth of Lilith and Eve

Cover on the American edition of "Story of the Lost Child: Neopolitan Novel, Book Four" published in 2015.

Just finished the interminably long quartet of books by Elena Ferrante, part soap-opera, part chick-lit, but nonetheless an enchanting read for when you have two weeks with nothing else to do. 

I loved learning about Naples, and I had just read "The Italians" by John Hooper, so I had the cultural context for understanding the novel - I found Hooper's book helpful even though I am Italian - American; for a reader who isn't, I recommend a recent book on Italian culture so you will understand the layers of subtext in this sprawling novel of modern Italy.

Of course, one reason why I loved the story of Lila and Lenu so much is because Ferrante is telling the story of Lilith and Eve.  The Lilith she describes in this series is almost certainly a 3rd House Lilith.

Yet I noticed that many of the Amazon reviews were from readers who never really understood the story, or from those who thought it was way too long.  So I wrote a review to explain to readers what happens on the mythic level.


The key to understanding the final novel is that Elena Ferrante studied the classics, and this is her retelling of the myth of Lilith as Lila (note the similarity in the roots of both names), Eve as Lenu (who has to triumph in the end at any cost), and Adam as Nino Sarratore, the faithless philanderer who would be nothing without his women.

In “My Brilliant Friend”, Ferrante gives us the birth dates of both girls, and these are not insignificant – their horoscopes point to the archetype each girl will embody most. Lila is older, born August 11, 1944, with her Mars conjunct Lilith (making her a warrior at the head of armies), and her Venus conjunct the royal star Regulus (making her a sort of super-Aphrodite). Lenu is younger, born August 25, 1944, with her Sun conjunct Ceres – Ceres is the goddess who turns the world upside down on behalf of her daughter, Persephone, but who nonetheless spends six months each year living apart from her.

To understand Lila, you have to know the myth of Lilith, the shape-shifting first wife of Adam who created endless numbers of new forms, new ideas, new innovations, and endless numbers of children, all of whom were cursed, defective, or taken from her in some way. In “Those Who Leave”, Michele describes his intuition of Lilith residing in Lila’s mind.

“Lina has something alive in her mind that no one else has, something strong that jumps here and there and nothing can stop it, a thing that not even doctors can see and that I think not even she knows, even though it’s been there since she was born, a thing that if it doesn’t like you can cause you a lot of problems but, if it does, leaves everyone astonished.”

This Lilith residing in the mind of Lila is responsible for her mental illness (expressed as “dissolving borders” of people and objects she sees when under stress) and also for her incredible talents. This Lilith is also responsible for the damage done to Lila’s children – Rino is a learning disabled adult, and the striking, precocious Tina simply disappears without a trace. In fact, I will include a link to my blog article on Lilith in the mind, so that readers can understand how Lila embodies this character (I wrote this before Ferrante’s last book was published in English).

Lenu, her accomplice and wingman, has always felt herself in Lila’s shadow, despite the fact that Lenu becomes an elite author married into one of Italy’s most powerful families, and Lila remains a poorly educated peasant who rarely goes any farther than the city of Naples. In the Jewish myth of Lilith, Adam puts his first wife away for Eve, but in this retelling, Nino will not put away his wife for Lenu – she ends up a concubine, a woman with some legal rights who never achieves official wife status (for example, Nino recognizes her daughter, Imma, as his own, something he does for no other child sired outside his marriage). Thus, Lenu is even more motivated to see the scope of events in the narrative revolve around her, since she is determined to embody Eve, the most important woman in the Biblical story of creation.

Lenu is fascinating because she embodies two archetypes – Eve and Ceres. Like Ceres, Lenu has real parenting issues – if she isn’t away from her daughters half the year, focused on her own artistic creation and career recognition, with someone else, typically Lila, doing the work of taking care of them, Lenu isn’t happy.

Through her daughters, Lenu also relives the myth of Eve. In the Bible, Eve has three sons, and one son, Cain, kills the other son, Abel, while the third son, Seth, remains in the background. In this feminist retelling of Eve’s myth, Lenu has three daughters, and one daughter, Elsa, runs off with the other daughter’s boyfriend, necessitating Dede’s exile to America, similar to Cain’s banishment after killing Abel.

At the end of the novel, Lenu becomes obsessed with what Lila is writing – she wants one final manuscript (or creation) from Lilith that she can edit and shape and add her own byline to upon publication. No longer fertile in creativity herself, Lenu wants to take her friend’s work and pass it off as her own. But Lila foils her by disappearing the same way her daughter did, and instead sends her their childhood dolls, which Lila must have found while scavenging in the dank, filthy catacombs of Naples.

We don’t know what happens to Lila after that, only that she was at one point still alive in the literal underworld of Naples. But we shudder watching how Lenu justifies herself, trying desperately to ignore her guilt with regard to her Lila, whose capacity for manipulation was no less intense than Lenu’s instinct for coming out on top.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Jupiter in Virgo: Refinement in Discernment

National Cathedral as seen from the Bishop Garden with its late summer roses still blooming in August.

On a sleepy Sunday in August, when most DC Metro residents have fled to the beach, I took my trusty cell phone and went to National Cathedral.  The cathedral is cell phone photographer heaven, and I made sure to get there early so I could really have the place to myself.  First, I wandered around outside in the beautiful Bishop’s Garden, and hints of astrology began to “pop”, like the lovely flowers shown below, which just happen to be Tickseed coreopsis named “Mercury Rising”.

Jupiter just made the ingress into Virgo recently, with the Sun and Venus trailing not far behind.  With three planets entering Virgo one right after the other, the energy of Virgo was sure to be heightened in all of our lives.  Virgo is a detail-oriented, hard-working, busy little worker bee.  In ancient times, it was depicted as a young girl (Virgo the virgin) holding a large sheath of wheat, so there are also associations with nourishment, bread, and food and drink of all kinds.

Half-curious, I wondered if the church service would highlight Virgo themes – sermon writers inevitably tap the wisdom of astrology without consciously realizing it.  The earliest Sunday service at National Cathedral is held in the intimate, underground Bethlehem Chapel.  Upstairs, I ran around taking pictures until well past the start of the service, but I finally went downstairs – the underbelly of the Cathedral had a peaceful, dark, shadowy “Hunchback of Notre Dame” feel to it.  On my way down the stairs, I saw a thin, postmodern image of Mary shown below, embracing Christ on the Cross – a moving piece of art in a totally out-of-the-way place.   Finally, I scurried into the chapel, and easily found a seat (no photos taken out of respect).

Just as I tuned into the reading, the lady who was giving it read this verse from the Book of Kings.  And God said to Solomon, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life, or riches, or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself the understanding to discern judgment.”  1 Kings 3:11
Bingo!  This, right here.  This is the essence of Jupiter (God and religion and justice) in Virgo (discernment and judgment).  In most astrological systems, Jupiter heightens and expand whatever it touches.  During the coming year, Jupiter will heighten and expand and refine our discernment – this is the gift of the cosmos to those who can sense it, and those who understand what is happening can even choose to focus on things that help bring refinement of discernment about.

Look at which house in your nativity hosts Jupiter this year.  This is where you will feel refinement of discernment, where you will come out wiser and more knowing, and hence hopefully more generous and compassionate, and more able to share your deeper wisdom in a year’s time.  If Jupiter crosses one of your angles this year, as it does for me, you will likely feel this energy show up again and again in random areas of your life.
Not sure what all these folks in the stain glass window at #NationalCathedral are doing to each other. Really ought to give in and take the tour, I suppose...

In what months are you likely to notice this?  Very briefly, at the end of this month, Sun, Mercury and Jupiter will be in Virgo.  Three or more planets in Virgo is going to bring out its best for a lot of folks.  For most of October, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are in Virgo – astrologer Elsa Panizzon writes that doing good will pay off exponentially, and I think she is correct in thinking that service and volunteering will bring unexpected opportunities at this time.

Also, expect to see bursts of sharper discernment when Mercury and Jupiter are in mutual reception later on this year.  Mercury is in Sagittarius in November, where it naturally and graciously receives Jupiter in Virgo.  So October and November represent an extended run of revealed insight in our personal lives, or private, “a-ha” moments where the dynamics of a person or situation just seem to fall into place.

Looking ahead, March 2016 is going to be a “doozy” in this respect.  There will be insight and refined discernment to the point that it’s painful.  Four planets line up in Pisces on March 15, 2016, including the Sun, Mercury in the sign of its fall at 17 degrees Pisces, Neptune in the sign of its ruler-ship, and Venus in the sign of its exaltation, all opposite Jupiter at 17 degrees Virgo tightly conjunction Rahu (the Vedic demon of constant craving and dissatisfaction who is said to taint Jupiter’s normally justice-oriented behavior).  Wherever this potent opposition falls in your chart is where you will “Feel the Bern” (pun on maverick candidate Bernie Sanders intended).  With a wink and a grin, I can’t help but note that “Super Tuesday” is March 1, 2016, and that important states like Texas, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and Illinois are all voting in March. 

This entire hot mess is square Saturn at 16 degrees Sagittarius, creating a sort of triple mutual reception – Mercury is received in Jupiter’s sign of Pisces, Jupiter is received in Mercury’s sign of Virgo, and Saturn is received in Jupiter’s sign of Sagittarius.  Mercury is a tricky, devious communicator in Pisces, fallen, yes, but not weak.  Saturn is disciplined but uncomfortable in the expansive, far-seeing Sagittarius.  And Jupiter in Virgo is likely to be triggered by the other two planets to deliver some sort of comeuppance to the undeserving.  Whatever happens, it won’t be boring – I think I can promise you that.

Jupiter in Virgo - August, 2015 - September, 2016

Saturday, May 30, 2015

My Pinterest Astrology board

Mercury is Rx at 11 degrees Gemini smack dab on my Mid-Heaven at the moment, so you all know I'm in a communicating sort of mood!

Just thought I would put up a little note about my Pinterest board on Astrology.  This is a freebie for my readers who want to know more about my opinion on various astrology books.  If you're looking for some great summer astrology reading, this board could be just what you are looking for.  If you are looking for some great art with astrological themes, this board will be a treat.  There are a few scattered pins on Jyotish and Chinese astrology, but this is mostly a treasure trove for Western astrology lovers.

Here is the link to my Astrology board.  I hope some of you will "Follow" me if you enjoy it.

In other news, I am going to put some thoughts up for an article on the Prophet Mohammed's birthday fairly soon.  The fully developed article will hopefully follow at some point this summer when I have a little more free time to write.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturn in Sagittarius: Where's the Fun?

The author on the first day of spring, 2015. With the Sun, Moon, South Node, Mars, and Uranus all in Aries, the sign of new creation, I finally got an article written for this blog. 

Saturn takes away all of our pleasures when it travels through Sagittarius, it seems.  Long distance travel, or doing anything long-distance, like buying a house or finding a job, gets harder, more annoying and frustrating, or more impossible.    Food and alcohol consumption come under all kinds of scrutiny, because Saturn is afoot in a Jupiter sign associated with expansion.

Sagittarius is also a sign associated with learning, and learning gets harder to do or to find time for, and tests are harder to score well on.  I am not publishing as frequently on this blog – I don’t have time for the self-study and research to write good articles, even though I have some great ideas in my head.

Saturn is retrograding on its way back into Scorpio as I write this, and will arrive on Sun, June 14 – just in time for one last fun summer.  If you want to take a trip, or take a break from your diet, or just kick back and not worry, the early part of this summer (before Venus goes retrograde on Sat, July 25 – after this, the summer will involve more belt-tightening, financial and otherwise) is going to be great.  If Saturn in Scorpio was a sexy time for you, you will also find plenty of opportunities for a last sexy blast this summer.

Saturn will return to Sagittarius on Thu, Sept 15, 2015 right around the time students head back to school.  There will be a strong sense of delayed gratification right around that time for a lot of people – this theme of delayed gratification may have more to do with the core meaning of Saturn in Sagittarius than any other theme. 

We are then looking at 28 long months of not having fun when we want to, getting burned if we are not truthful, and in general, just delaying gratification and waiting things out (hopefully with a goal in mind), right up until December 19, 2017, when Saturn leaves Sagittarius.

Let’s look at some of the things that have been in the news lately, and notice how the Saturn in Sagittarius signature is influencing us.

  •  Last fall, a few months before Saturn entered Sagittarius, the NYT reported that 51,000 law students had the lowest scores on the national bar exam in nearly a decade.  Law school deans are starting to fight back, because the legal profession in the US has already been in serious decline since 2008.  Here is the article:  

MY NOTE:  People who are willing to put a tremendous amount of effort into studying will be rewarded in the next three years.  But many of us are just not natural learners – and for many, it will be harder to learn while Saturn is in Sagittarius.  The exception may be the retired, who have plenty of time on their hands (Saturn rules time) to learn new things. 

  • Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t have a huge success rate treating those of us with alcohol dependence, and people who don’t relate to the AA approach really need to find other ways of controlling their urge to drink.  Here is the article:
          “The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous"

  • Moms who are making money selling off their extra breast milk have found a way to tap into all the concern about the food and drink we are consuming.  This New York Times article made the “Most Emailed” List.

MY NOTE:  Depending on what aspects Saturn makes in your natal chart, this upcoming Saturn in Sagittarius period might be a good time to work on getting back into shape, and losing some weight.  Some people will really find the energy is there to accomplish this goal in the next couple of years. 

Others will lose willpower, and experience a lot of stops and re-starts, or a lot of backsliding and frustration, suggesting a weak Saturn.  Still others will tip over into anorexia, suggesting a Saturn on steroids.  Expect the spotlight and the scrutiny to remain on folks who are under-controlling or over-controlling their diet – with Saturn on the pulse, everyone is all up in your business.

Saturn in Sag also forces people to have faith (a Jupiter quality) in the process of whatever is taking place in our lives, because many of us will not have a “sense of the future” while Saturn is in Sagittarius.  Sagittarius is a very future-oriented sign – it likes to expand and make connections with faraway ideas/elements and prosper through doing advantageous deals with faraway people. 

Saturn will restrict these opportunities for all who aren’t lavishly wealthy.  For the rest of us, vacations in one’s own country, or moving to the location where one hopes to buy a home or find a job, are going to be necessary while Saturn is in Sagittarius – being local will lead to success during this period.

Anything far away is going to cost you, with Saturn in Sagittarius.  The dollar is almost equal to the Euro, the first time since 2002.  Look for it to achieve equality once Saturn re-enters Sagittarius around September, 2015.  Americans will find that travel in western Europe is still pretty darn expensive, despite the stronger dollar, while Europeans are definitely going to pay more to vacation or travel in the US.

MY NOTE:  Any local business that can tap the Saturn in Sagittarius angst over obesity or unhealthiness by providing a high-quality, organic product, from weed to homebrews to organic produce is going to get a double boost of expansion energy when Jupiter is in Virgo from Sunday, August 9, 2015 to September 9, 2016.  

In fact, some would argue that we are in the “shadow” of Jupiter in Virgo now, and that this is already occurring.  Jupiter in Virgo is going to look and feel a lot like Saturn in Sagittarius, with a double dose of Virgo’s discriminating critics – expect an interesting US primary race in 2016.

One final comment about Saturn in Sagittarius:  those who haven’t been truthful are going to get burned.  This is a bad time for Hillary Clinton, whose essential secretiveness and tendency to shade the truth, has lost her a huge amount of credibility with the American people.  The March 23, 2015 issue of Time Magazine has this feature on the cover, “The Clinton Way: They write their own rules.  Will it work this time?” 
My feeling is this will not work out.  Hillary is a liar, and her ass is going to have to cash that check in next year’s debates, when other competitors will hammer her for all the emails she withheld from the American public.  Saturn in Sagittarius may sink Hillary’s Presidential ambitions, and an unknown from the state I grew up in, Martin O’Malley of Maryland, may come from behind and unseat the Queen the same way Obama did in 2008.   Or Vice President Biden might step in as a safe default candidate.

O’Malley looks great on paper…for those who are interested, the profile is “Can O’Malley pull a Carter ’76 in 2016?”


What's Up Next?

You might have to wait until Saturn goes back into Scorpio, dears.

What Did I Miss?  

What Time Was Hillary Born?