Apollo, Cassandra and the Archetypally Dysfunctional Marriage

Ajax and Cassandra by Solomon Joseph Solomon, 1886

Possibly, of all the many deities described within the pantheons of mythology, Apollo had the broadest remit. He was known as Apollo by both the Romans and the Greeks, which in itself was rather unusual, traditionally the Greek nomenclature was invariably altered, Romanised (although some later Roman poets did refer to him as Phoebus.) He was principally a Solar deity, a god of light, medicine, truth, science, commerce, colonisation, a defender of herds and flocks, the giver of music, poetry and song; and whilst the sheer scope of his associations are dazzlingly and dizzyingly broad, the fundamental reality is that he was a God of reason.

Crucially, for the purpose of this discussion, he was also a God of prophecy and his was a rational brand of prophecy since there is no suggestion of anything dark or mysterious about this gift; indeed, such would be antithetic to his innate quality as a god of light, science and reason.

Apollo, while looking down upon Troy, spied Cassandra, during the famed war and was so struck by her beauty that he bestowed upon her the gift of prophecy as a prelude to seduction, but when she later refused his advances he spat in her mouth, thus cursing the gift, so that her predictions would be doomed to be disbelieved.

Seeing the dread future clearly drove Cassandra to the brink of madness, as her audience scoffed at her predictions she became increasingly hysterical, irrational, which only served to further compound her apparent unreliability. Contrast this then with the Apollonic style of prediction, we have a dichotomy between rational prediction and irrational prophecy embodied in male and female archetypes: crucially, the masculine Apollonian perspective marginalises the feminine Cassandran intuition because she has the power to refuse his sexual advances, and this process is indulged as a punishment.

This marginalisation is named in psychological parlance a Cassandra complex, in its most basic format, it represents a situation where an individual’s distressing perceptions (their reality therefore) are disbelieved, derided or belittled by others (or one principal other), with the result that instability becomes gradually entrenched in the personal outlook. Laurie Layton Schapira wrote about this at length in her 1988 work: “The Cassandra Complex: Living With Disbelief: A Modern Perspective on Hysteria” and in it she states that one of the key qualities of the Cassandra complex is found in this impasse between Apollo and his would-be conquest. Typically, the complex then is projected onto those traditionally diagnosed with hysteria, denoting a tendency for them to be disbelieved or dismissed when relating the facts of their experiences to others. Based on clinical experience, Schapira delineates three factors which constitute the Cassandra complex in hysterics: (a) dysfunctional relationships with social manifestations of rationality, order, and reason, leading to; (b) emotional or physical suffering, particularly in the form of somatic, often gynaecological complaints, and (c) being disbelieved or dismissed when attempting to relate the facticity of these experiences to others.

Put more simply then, resorting to overtly feminine coping mechanisms, behaviours or beliefs is fundamentally at odds with the cultural outlook of the Apollonian society. Thus anything that cannot be rationalised, measured, proved deductively and materially is rejected, scoffed at, derided (with difficult physical and psychological consequences for the “victim”).

This is an archetypal marital dynamic. Much of my consultation time with women between the ages of 30 and 40 is taken up with this exact theme (women over 40 are very typically either reconciled to it – often by making an Apollonian metamorphosis themselves – or divorced). The husband has assumed Apollonian dimensions and the wife is beginning to doubt her sanity or – at the very least – the veracity of her perspective. Her only recourse in the face of this ongoing and hurtful marginalisation of her feelings – which she knows to be true – is to withdraw from sexual participation, since this is the only power she has left. The husband subjugates the wife by marginalising her feelings and needs as irrational, nonsensical or impractical, flattening her emotionally until she no longer has any reliable sense of emotional identity. The result is neurosis, low self-esteem and bouts of (what is identified as) hysteria. If adopted, this archetypal processing of marital dysfunction inevitably concludes in a destruction of the marriage: the husband is denied sexual access (which in any case cannot be intimate under this dynamic) and the wife is denied a valid identity, each punishes the other until one of the aforementioned outcomes is initiated.

Astrologically speaking then, we have a fabulous clue to this exact relationship dynamic in the asteroids Apollo (1862) and Kassandra (114). We can glean attitudes, potentials and insights from their positions, their relationship one to the other, and their broader integration into the nativity.

It should be noted that there are other interpretative potentials within both of these asteroids; Apollo is often interpreted as being a point at which we do not learn from our mistakes, but I cannot follow that logic in my own exploration of the mythology. Perhaps this suggestion that Apollo creates a propensity for over-rationalisation, which undermines empathy, who knows, is at the root of this assumption, but I would say that certainly, a rationalising influence is here, one which rejects intuition, scorns dark, feminine prophecy, that derides the immeasurable as akin to hysterical, and certainly, as a Solar deity, this is the archetypal perspective that seems obvious to the vast majority; what we can see is what is real, and without the light of the Sun we are blind.

Kassandra also has other meanings, positively, she relates to advice, to the gift of prophecy and insight and negatively to not being believed or given credibility. Kassandra’s is a feminine quality that is easily denounced however, because she is at odds with societal norms as Schapira describes:

Cassandra is a tragic figure. Her story has been the subject of Greek drama, poetry and even an opera. In literature, tragedy is a result of a flaw in the character of the tragic figure whereby some great potential goes unfulfilled, even turns destructive. What then is the nature of Cassandra’s tragedy?

When Cassandra refused to consummate their union, Apollo cursed her so that her prophecies would never be believed. But why did she refuse him? Was she simply not interested in him? The story indicates otherwise. In The Agamemnon, Cassandra describes their foreplay: “We wrestled, and his breath to me was sweet.” Only when it “came to the getting of children, as is meet,” she “swore a lie.”

Was she trying to get something for nothing? Was she being a sexual tease, like many an hysteric? Certainly, also in the manner of the hysteric, Cassandra was ambivalent. At first she complied and then she reneged. Perhaps her ambivalence also held some passive aggression: anger at Apollo for his past outrages toward the feminine, and a fear of being abused and abandoned as had happened to so many other objects of his desire.

Kassandra then is at odds with the rational, mainstream view, she rejects science and abides by prophecy and intuition and is condemned for it by society, even though she is correct. Considering the Cascade Effect, this can operate at many levels. Those with Apollo strong in the nativity will contend with rationality as a result, they can become the husband who ridicules the wife for her lack of practical sense, who worships commerce and who (as Joseph Campbell contended) buys into our society’s self-defeating delusion of rationalising avarice; alternatively they may become a scientist, an accountant, an entrepreneur. For Kassandra, the path is much less certain. It is a crossing over to the dark-side, and there is a price for that hubris (as determined by inverse populism) which is of course rejection, being considered an hysteric. Those with Kassandra strong then must contend with the choice to live outside of the normal strictures of mainstream society; they must bear ridicule, be threatened with marginalisation or they must denounce instinct, what they feel to be true and cross over to the Apollonian side. They risk divorce, derision and abandonment if they refuse.

It is for all of these reasons and many more that I believe that Apollo and Kassandra are one marital archetype. Jupiter/Juno (Zeus/Hera) is another – and bear in mind that neither role is gender specific even if there is a tendency to conform to one’s sympathetic role and thus in the Jupiter/Juno story, men are more likely to bed-hop, further enraging their jealous wife. In my experience though, the Apollo/Kassandra marital archetype is by far the most common. It characterises the marriage that lacks intimacy, where sex is infrequent, where the husband works in mainstream scientific, commercial or financial fields and the wife slowly deteriorates into a state of neurotic self-doubt and crippling uncertainty as he subtly ridicules and undermines her contribution to the family dynamic.

Much more broadly of course, the dichotomy speaks directly to the Cassandran study of astrology itself. Ridiculed, derided and disbelieved by the vast Apollonian majority, even though it is real and true.

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4 comments on “Apollo, Cassandra and the Archetypally Dysfunctional Marriage

  1. LB says:

    Jeremy,

    After reading this, I immediately re-read the comments I’ve recently left; the one that would seem to most particularly apply would be in regard to my placement of Chiron in the 6th and my frustration at not being to alleviate the suffering of others. In my case at least, I’ve not so much had a problem with my husband not hearing me, rather this “Cassandra Effect” has played out as an inability to effect any real and lasting change in the daily systems (6th house?) that I encounter. Although this has been a constant theme throughout my life, a real-life example immediately springs to mind. With Jupiter in Scorpio on the cusp of my 3rd , I tend to “elaborate”. I hope you don’t mind.

    It became necessary during the last few days of my mother’s life to place her in an “end of life” facility. As my mother lay dying, thankfully unaware and unable to respond, I noticed that the room was chilly and asked that an additional blanket be placed on her bed (my mother at this point weighed no more than 90 pounds and like many of the elderly had always complained of being cold). The staff was busy but reassured me that they would take care of it shortly. Soon after, I left for the evening (my mistake) to get some sleep. When I returned early the following morning, I discovered to my horror that not only was there still only the one thin blanket, but now the large window in the room was open wide! I quickly found a sympathetic Aide who explained to me that they had an ongoing problem with not enough blankets, so instead together we found something which served as a suitable alternative, and of course, closed the window.

    After my mother passed, I became determined to remedy some of the situations I’d witnessed (again an ongoing theme in my life), so armed with my Virgo rising, 6th house Chiron (opposite 12th house Uranus) and 12th house Pluto, I went about trying to donate some blankets. It took several months of persistent calling on my part, to finally hear back from someone. I was told that blanket donations could not be accepted, because they all had to be the same color, and in fact could only be ordered from one vendor. When I offered to make a donation specifically earmarked for this much needed supply, I received some illogical response then was told I could donate pajamas, if I wished. I won’t go into the details that followed, suffice to say it took several attempts before I was finally able to get them to accept the donation of pajamas before the winter season set in. And I might add, that although I left my number along with a note offering additional help, I’ve never heard back.

    After reading your article, I looked up Cassandra’s placement in my chart and found it to reside in my 4th house, in the same degree as both my Mercury and Moon, forming a sextile to the former and a semi-sextile to the latter. It also trines my Pluto (in Virgo) in the 12th, which sextiles both my Mercury/Neptune/Jupiter conjunction in Scorpio in the 2nd /3rd and is within 6 degrees of forming a trine with my Virgo ascendant. It also seems significant that my Mercury (in Scorpio) is in mutual reception with my Pluto (in Virgo). Apollo is placed somewhere in the middle of my first house, at 29 degrees Virgo, and from what I can see, the only possible ptolemaic aspect would be a square to Saturn at 21 degrees Sagittarius, which would seem from my uninformed perspective to be too wide of an orb, but I don’t know.

    I’m very grateful for the insights you continue to share. Astrology is at its best when it offers us an in-depth look at our own unique strengths and weaknesses, then points out alternative ways of dealing with the challenges presented. Having worked for many years in a very stressful non-profit environment (one with a therapeutic component), I begin to realize how helpful a tool Astrology would have been. But as you say, the study of Astrology also suffers from the Cassandra Effect. At least some of us recognize its value. You always offer up food for my soul and I thank you.

  2. Urania says:

    This is interesting. I have Apollo exactly conjunct Urania in my 2nd house. I have Cassandra loosely conjunct my Nth Node in the 10th. Both of these sextile Lilith conjunct Asc.

    I am precise (urania & apollo) – my work is done in 24ths of a second and my hobbies are detail, colour and eye hand focussed. I’m able to rationalise (Apollo) abstract concepts (Urania) and explain them in layman’s terms. I’m entrepenurial (Apollo) I have also worked as a psychic and healer and had experiences others don’t believe. I think Lilith helps here because I’ve seldom doubted myself psychically although I have investigated whether there may be health issues exacerbating or causing the experiences in order to discount that possibility. This has always been initiated by me though – never at anyone else’s suggestion. I don’t trust doctors so even if they’d told me I was crazy I would’ve ignored them.

    I did, however had issues with menses – I was furious as soon as it arrived and it wasn’t welcome it was an outrage – and this is an area where doctors managed to fill me with doubt because I was a teenage girl when it started. I was prone and open to the patriarchal authority. This continued until someone close to me nearly died at the hands of a doctor – google National Women’s Hospital, Cartwright enquiry and be amazed. I then realised they were human and chose to take their advice with a pound of salt from that point on. It took 27ish years to discover it was a misaligned spine causing the problems. Imagine if I’d had the hysterectomy they suggested my early 20s? When it was just an issue of posture. Absurd.

    In terms of relationships the positions of the asteroids sextile Lilith may have assisted me again – I’ve never continued a romantic relationship if the person was taking the dysfunctional path you have described with their Apollonian energy. Even a hint of it and I’d be gone. I’ve been known to decide before bed and be gone by lunch the next day in those circumstances. I’m happy to discuss alternative points of view and open to changing my stance but will not allow the negative seeds of derision and self-doubt to be planted in my mind – ever. Meet me as an equal or not at all – power is for sharing not lording.

    In terms of synastry my husband’s moon and chiron are conjunct my cassandra and north node in the 10th. He was my partner in my healing/clairvoyant business. I don’t want children (Cassandra?), but he did. I thought about it and eventually said I’d do it for him. He then decided it was unfair to ask me to sacrifice things I do want to do something I didn’t want for him – something that would waylay me from my goals for at least 18 years.

    His Pluto in the 5th is conjunct my Sun conjunct Uranus in the 4th. Our relationship is profound and he has helped me understand the benefits of staying in one place for a while – I have taught him about the benefits of initiating change on impulse.

    His Lilith in the 6th is conjunct my Mercury conjunct Venus in the 5th. I don’t know what that means but I love him and he is the ONLY man I ever considered having a child with.

    His Apollo is conjunct my Saturn in the 10th. He brought a more rational energy to my work as a healer but was 100% open to it in all its expansive glory.

    His Cassandra is conjunct his sun and north node in the 9th. He too is psychic and when we met he started to be able to dream having never done so before and also see the future. We both had past life visions when we met and I often wonder if our reconnection is what switched his visions on.

    We live outside the mainstream in terms of our goals and ambitions but we do “normal” creative jobs – now to fund the life lived outside the bounds of employment.

  3. T says:

    I am not clear about much things but I am decisive and clear about the bed situation. No tears here. If it doesn´t work out I take the consequences. Apollo (scorp) between Uranus and DC.

  4. melissa says:

    I am fascinated whenever I read about finefine doing an astrological chart. I font understand it at all. wish I did. can anyone explain it to a complete novice.
    June 28 1972 Melissa

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