The Twelve Labors of Hercules by Janet Kane

“Myth is something that never happened, but is happening all the time. – Greek poet Sallistius

Janet KaneThe most important planetary transit is Saturn as it moves through the houses of our natal chart. It takes Saturn approximately 29 years to travel through all the houses spending approximately 2 1/2 years in each house. This 29 year cycle falls into two parts. Saturn spends 14 ½ years in the lower part of our chart and 14 ½ years in the upper part. The lower hemisphere of the natal chart corresponds to night and our inner life. When Saturn passes through this bottom half of the chart we grow internally. We develop strength, assimilate knowledge, get in touch with our power and find our base. When Saturn travels to the upper hemisphere we flower; we share our knowledge with others and we make our contribution to the world. As Saturn progresses around the chart he brings problems to a head in the area of our life represented by the house he is inhabiting at that time. I see Saturn as symbolizing our journey toward individuation as he brings us the experiences of pain, restriction and discipline as a means for greater consciousness and fulfillment. So every two and a half years we focus on a problem that we have ignored or repressed and in that way bring maturity to the way we deal with that issue. For example, when Saturn is transiting our 4th house we seriously look at our roots, our original family to deal with issues we may have repressed in that area. For instance in this house Saturn has us examine what family patterns are we still playing out.

One of the ways to understand transiting Saturn in the houses is to use the myth of The Twelve Labors of Hercules as an allegory for his journey. The labors of Hercules are the challenges confronting us during the Saturn transit. Each of his labors describe the experience we must face at that time but also the gift of knowledge acquired represented by the natal house.

Equating the 12 labors with the 12 signs of the zodiac goes back centuries. The first mention of this correlation was by Hesiod circa 700 BC and again by Pausanius in the 5th century BC. Eventually the Twelve Labors of Hercules were written down in full by Appolororus (180-120 BC).

HerculesHercules was both the most famous hero of ancient times and the most beloved. More stories were told about him than any other hero. Hercules was worshipped in many temples all over Greece and Rome. The Labors of Hercules are one of mythology’s most famous accounts of the archetypal journey of a hero and is also the story of our lives.

The story of Hercules starts — as so many mythical stories do — with the dysfunctional marriage of Zeus and Hera. In the story, Zeus fell in love with Alcmene. When Alcmene became pregnant, Hera was enraged and she tried many tricks to prevent the baby from being born. They all failed. When Alcmene gave birth, she named him Herakles. (The Romans pronounced the name “Hercules,”.) The name Herakles means “glorious gift of Hera” in Greek, and that got Hera angrier still. Then she tried to kill the baby by sending snakes into his crib but little Hercules strangled the snakes, one in each hand, before they could bite him. Hera wanted to get even but she knew she would lose in a fight with Zeus because he was too powerful. So she decided to pay Zeus back for his infidelity by making Hercules’ life as miserable as she could.

When Hercules grew up and had become a great warrior, he married Megara. They had two children. Hercules and Megara were very happy but Hera did something that so enraged Hercules that he murdered Megara and the children. When Hercules regained his senses and saw the horrible thing that he had done he hurried to Apollo’s temple to get advice. The temple was in the town of Delphi and was called the Delphic oracle. Apollo said that in order to purify himself for the spilling of his family’s blood, he had to go to the city of Tiryns and work for the king, Eurystheus who had a reputation for being cruel. The hero had to serve Eurystheus for twelve years and perform twelve labors. King Eurystheus is the archetype of Saturn. He puts us into difficult situations that stretch us to our limits or constricts our freedom. When the tasks were completed, Apollo said that Hercules would become immortal. Unlike other men, instead of dying and going to the Underworld of Hades, he would become a god.

Because all stories about gods incorporate the human qualities and failings of the humans who create them, Hercules represents the efforts of all ordinary humans struggling to realize their full potential. The challenges Hercules faces are metaphors for the challenges confronting us on our journey through life.

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by Janet Kane
Janet Kane is a professional astrological counselor, teacher and writer in the Washington, DC area. She uses fairy tales, and classical myths to describe the archetypes or psychological patterns in her client’s charts. She emphases bringing the archetypes to consciousness, understanding them and then developing the most positive aspects of these archetypes as the best way of transformation. In addition to private practice, Janet lectures and conducts workshops on the application of astrology to mythology and Jungian psychology. She publishes a free online newsletter, Janet's Planets. Janet is an environmental activist, the regional coordinator for Gather the Women; she facilitates a monthly Wisewoman Forum and works internationally on women’s issues. Janet can be contacted at Her website is