In Homer’s works frequently the great myths of archaic constitute the reflection of complex celestial speculations. There are, especially in the Iliad, various astral allusions that deserve a more serious deepening.
We know there has always been an astronomical code, as well as timing, involved in Alchemy. In fact this code is one of the most distinctive features of the ancient art and science. To the point that the position of the sun, moon and stars constitutes one of the more kept secret of the Art.
Homer’s Iliad complex mythological plot presents many passages which can be interpreted as steps and phases of alchemical works. Of the two works of Homer, Iliad and Odyssey, especially the first presents some passages involving astral allusions not essential to the plot. Below some examples ( in italics the specific points) :
Iliad book XXII ‘Death of Hector‘, : Him the old man Priam was first to behold with his eyes, as he sped all-gleaming over the plain, like to the star that cometh forth at harvest-time, and brightly do his rays shine amid the host of stars in the darkness of night, the star that men call by name the Dog of Orion. Brightest of all is he, yet withal is he a sign of evil, and bringeth much fever upon wretched mortals. Even in such wise did the bronze gleam upon the breast of Achilles as he ran. And the old man uttered a groan, and beat upon his head with his hands, lifting them up on high, and with a groan he called aloud, beseeching his dear son, that was standing before the gates furiously eager to do battle with Achilles. To him the old man spake piteously, stretching forth his arms…
Iliad book XXII ‘Death of Hector‘, : So saying, he drew his sharp sword that hung beside his flank, a great sword and a mighty, and gathering himself together swooped like an eagle of lofty flight that darteth to the plain through the dark clouds to seize a tender lamb or a cowering hare; even so Hector swooped, brandishing his sharp sword. And Achilles rushed upon him, his beard full of savage wrath, and before his breast he made a covering of his shield, fair and richly-dight, and tossed his bright four-horned helm; and fair about it waved the plumes wrought of gold, that Hephaestus had set thick about the crest. As a star goeth forth amid stars in the darkness of night, the star of evening, that is set in heaven as the fairest of all; even so went forth a gleam from the keen spear that Achilles poised in his right hand, as he devised evil for goodly Hector, looking the while upon his fair flesh to find where it was most open to a blow. Now all the rest of his flesh was covered by the armor of bronze, the goodly armor that he had stripped from mighty Patroclus when he slew him; but there was an opening where the collar bones part the neck and shoulders, even the gullet, where destruction of life cometh most speedily; even there, as he rushed upon him, goodly Achilles let drive with his spear; and clean out through the tender neck went the point.
Iliad book XVIII ‘Armour of Achilles‘, : Then was the unwearying sun sent by ox-eyed, queenly Hera to go his way, full loath, to the stream of Ocean. So the sun set and the goodly Achaeans stayed them from the fierce strife and the evil war.
Iliad book XI ‘Battlefield‘, : But when he was now about to come beneath the city and the steep wall, then, verily, the father of men and gods came down from heaven, and sate him down on the peaks of many-fountained Ida; and in his hands he held the thunder-bolt. And he sent forth golden-winged Iris to bear his message: “Up go, swift Iris, and declare this word unto Hector: So long as he shall see Agamemnon, shepherd of the host, raging amid the fore- most fighters, laying waste the ranks of men, so long let him hold back, and bid the rest of the host fight with the foe in the fierce conflict. But when, either wounded by a spear-thrust or smitten by an arrow, Agamemnon shall leap upon his chariot, then will I vouchsafe strength to Hector to slay and slay until he come to the well-benched ships, and the sun sets and sacred darkness cometh on.”
Iliad book XI ‘Battlefield‘, : So spake he, and wind-footed swift Iris failed not to hearken, but went down from the hills of Ida to sacred Ilios. She found the son of wise-hearted Priam, goodly Hector, standing in his jointed car; and swift-footed Iris drew nigh him and spake unto him, saying: “Hector, son of Priam, peer of Zeus in counsel, Zeus the father hath sent me forth to declare to thee this message. So long as thou shalt see Agamemnon, shepherd of the host, raging amid the foremost fighters, laying waste the ranks of men, so long do thou give place from battle, but bid the rest of the host fight with the foe in the fierce conflict. But when either wounded by a spear-thrust or smitten with an arrow Agamemnon shall leap upon his chariot, then will Zeus vouchsafe strength to thee to slay and slay until thou come to the well-benched ships, and the sun sets and sacred darkness cometh on.”
Iliad ‘Quarrel of Achilles‘ I , : But when the sun set and darkness came on, they lay down to rest by the stern cables of the ship, and as soon as early rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, then they set sail for the wide camp of the Achaeans. And Apollo, who works from afar, sent them a favoring wind, and they set up the mast and spread the white sail. So the wind filled the belly of the sail, and the dark wave sang loudly about the stem of the ship, as she went, and she sped over the wave, accomplishing her way. But when they came to the wide camp of the Achaeans, they drew the black ship up on the shore, high upon the sands, and set in line the long props beneath, and themselves scattered among the tents and ships. But he in his wrath sat beside his swift-faring ships, the Zeus-sprung son of Peleus, swift-footed Achilles. Never did he go forth to the place of gathering, where men win glory, nor ever to war, but wasted away his own heart, as he tarried where he was; and he longed for the war-cry and the battle.
Referring to sunset in Alchemy (XVIII 239 – XI 281-195 – I 475) may indicate either the daily beginning of night time operations (which anyway should be finished by dawn); or symbolically the color slipping from white to black through gray (during rotation of colors in the second work). In this extent, in book XI Homer even specifies the sacrality of the darkness.
The reference to a star, in this case the Dog of Orion, supposedly Sirius (XXII 25), may indicate either an interval of time, i.e. the period of the year when the star is shining in the sky ( in this case the heatwave days); or can be taken symbolically, Sirius may indicate both supreme summer and winter sky in the northern hemisphere frame of reference. In the case of book XXII, Homer makes the star in relation with heatwave days, so apparently pointing at a ‘ drying, or hot‘ operation. But we also know the appearance of Sirius star gave off to the period of the floods in Egypt, so a ‘ flooding ‘ is actually something completely different in Alchemy; and eventually even the real influx of the star Sirius on our alchemical matter must be considered, of course in a moonless night ( better at dawn).
In book XXII 306 Homer cites a less glamorous evening star, Venus ( a planet actually). In this case we should consider either the daily period when Venus uses to appear in the sky ( just after sunset), or take it symbolically as the planet Venus, i.e. the first whiteness after the first darkness of the second-main work. Or white sulphur, as it is sometimes called.