The Labours of Hercules

August -The Boar of Erymantheus

 

The Mythos:

Eurystheus bids Hercules to capture alive an enormous wild boar, which devastated the forest of Erymantheus in Arcadia.

Hercules pursued the boar to the far north into an expanse of deep snow, caught it alive in a net when it was tired out, and carried it to Mycenę.

The Clavis

The Boar, in its wild and unrestrained condition, is symbolical of the blindness and ignorance caused by selfish insatiable appetites, which are to be transformed and utilised. Hence the boar is to be taken alive. Greed, like Pride, is one of the deadly sins, and one which is productive of awful consequences in all realms of life - intellectual as well as physical. But the assimilative powers of the boar are extraordinary, and when utilized for ideal purposes can work wonders in the realms of pure intellect and virgin spirit, denoted by Erymantheus in Arcadia.

Virgo - "The Virgin", the Zodiacal Sign of Protective Essence, Conservation, Continuity, and Preservation, is associated with this Labour.

Some inverted Virginian aspects are covetousness, selfish-acquisitiveness, idleness, over-criticism, carping, irritableness, and prudishness.

The pure influences are orderly assimilation, continuity, continence, helpfulness, discrimination, practical industry and thrift.


The Exegesis

This task may be considered as the removal of that illusion and ignorance of the real purpose of life, brought about by self-centred attitudes and indifference to the welfare of others.

The instinct of self-preservation and self-justification is strong in all beings, but when through lack of intelligence this is carried to the extreme, it produces not only the above undesirable traits but numerous other effects and reactions connected with inordinate efforts to conserve energy, to preserve chastity and continence, to store up knowledge and possessions, to justify oneself for all one's personal action or inaction. The net result being that instead of impressing others with our importance, uprightness, and learning, we become the personification of a boar.

The hero-soul must manifest its prepotency over all corporeal appetites and tendencies, and its capacity to turn them to good. Thus Hercules drives the boar into the deep snow (latent truth and virginal goodness) and captures it with the net, which is the symbol of the mind's power of acquiring knowledge and controlling the appetites.

And when Hercules bears the boar triumphantly back to Mycenę, it is as though the soul has converted all greed and acquisitiveness of body, heart, and mind into pure energies consecrated to the preservation and perpetuation of all goodness, beauty, and truth.

 

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from Sacred Mythoi of Demigods and Heroes © The Shrine of Wisdom 1999