Artwork by @oracleofdelphai
In the past, I have written about my experiences reaching out to Castor. Now, I wish to perform a ‘deeper dive’ into the twin fixed stars of Castor and Pollux. The essay will begin with a pseudo literature review, exploring the existing mythos surrounding the twin stars, before ending with a discussion of my own UPG regarding the stars of Castor and Pollux. I have used an informal style of APA/Harvard referencing for this essay for the ease of making note of my sources. If anyone wishes for the exact page numbers of my sources, feel free to message me directly.
[As a side note before the article begins proper, I would like to announce that an article of mine — “To Bind the Cruel” — will be published in The Gorgon’s Guide, purchasable through Revelore Press! Likewise, I just recently completed and successfully passed Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic Astrology course and I would sincerely recommend the course to anyone interested in learning hellenistic techniques.]
The Twin Myth
The classic Greek myth often told of Castor and Pollux’s origin is as follows:
Leda was the beautiful daughter of Thestius and Eurythemis, married to King Tyndareus of Sparta. Zeus caught sight of Leda and became immediately attracted to her. Knowing that Leda was fond of animals, he disguised himself as a beautiful white swan and then had the eagle pursue him. As he flew over Leda and caught her attention, Zeus — in the form of a swan — pretended to be injured and landed near her. Leda rescued and comforted the swan, and drove the eagle away. It was then at which Zeus took the opportunity to seduce Leda and it soon became apparent that Leda was pregnant. Instead of a normal child, Leda delivered two giant eggs. These eggs soon hatched and revealed two pairs of nonidentical twins. In one egg, there was Polydeuces (Pollux), and his sister Helen. In the other egg were Castor and his sister Clytemnestra. Castor and Clytemnestra were the children of Tyndareus, while Pollux and Helen were the children of Zeus (Simpson, 2012).
As they grew up, Castor and Pollux were inseparable. They became close friends with their twin cousins Idas and Lynceus. The two cousins then joined Castor and Pollux on the expedition of the Argonauts to recapture the golden fleece. Later, the twins and the cousins joined a raid to steal a herd of cattle. After this raid, Idas was chosen to divide the spoils. He set out four portions of meat and ruled that half the cattle would go to the person who finished eating his portion first, and the remainder to the one who finished second. While the meat was being divided, and before the others were ready to begin, Idas bolted his portion, and then helped Lynceus finish his before either Castor or Pollux could finish. Feeling cheated, Castor and Pollux waited until Idas and Lynceus were away, and stole the cattle for themselves. When they heard that their cousins had returned and were planning to retaliate, they hid and lay in wait to ambush them. The ambush was foiled when the Lynceus spotted them, and a pitched battle ensued (Simpson, 2012).
In the outcome of the battle, Castor and Lynceus were killed, and Pollux was left severely injured. But before Idas could kill Pollux, Zeus stepped in to protect his son and slew Idas with a thunderbolt. As the son of Zeus, Pollux was immortal. Pollux therefore pleaded with Zeus to either return Castor to life, or to allow him to join Castor in the underworld. Yet, even the mighty Zeus lacked the ability to return people from the underworld realm of Hades. In the end, Zeus negotiated a compromise in which the two twins could be together again, with both spending half their time in the heavens and half in the underworld. This supposedly explains why the twins exist above the earth only for half the year, and below the earth and invisible for the other half, holding hands so they can never be separated again (Simpson, 2012).
But there are other versions of the myth:
An old legend has Helen as child of Nemesis; the egg she is hatched from is brought by Hermes to Leda who acts as a surrogate brooding-hen. This is possibly why D’Arcy Thompson, author of A Glossary of Greek Birds, suggests that Leda was originally herself a swan who was attacked by an eagle (Ahl, 1982). It was through myths such as these where authors such as Ahl (1982) points out the Leda myth is one that involves much ‘twinning’. Two different birds are associated with her, presumably one that is originally male (the eagle), and the other originally female (the swan). There are two sets of twins: one male (Castor and Pollux), one female (Clytemnestra and Helen). Castor and Pollux are brothers, one immortal, one mortal, alternating between the light of the world above and darkness of the world below. It is with this line of thinking that Ahl (1982) argues that if the eagle and swan were not but rival symbols of light, but rather that of the light and the banished light. Thus, it could be argued that the twins Castor and Pollux represent a form of duality.
To the Greek and Roman, Castor and Pollux were venerated as the Dioskouroi. As the Dioskouroi, depictions of the Castor and Pollux in Roman art associate them with the Sun and the Moon. The Dioskouri could be seen wearing on their caps images of the Sun and the Moon, thereby painting Castor and Pollux as guardians of the day and the night hemisphere, of Heaven and of Hades, or as guardians of the two celestial hemispheres divided by the equinox and, at the same time, as personifications of the Sun and the Moon. However, to say that Castor and Pollux are mere personifications of the opposing forces that make up the universe would be reductionistic. Castor and Pollux represent not just the dichotomy of the cosmos, but also its integrity and harmonic unity. The dokana, a symbol of the Dioskouroi, is made up of two upright columns which represents the heavenly twins as pillars ensuring the stability of the cosmos, along with cross-beams which symbolizes their unity and, by extension, ‘the concord in the cosmos, as opposed to the anarchy of the chaos’ (Coucouzeli, 2006).
The concept of duality is also present in the constellation of Gemini, wherein the constellation is associated with Apollo and Heracles respectively. Hyginus and Ptolemy associated Gemini with Apollo and Heracles, and there also exist several instances where the heavenly twins are depicted carrying the characteristic attributes of Apollo and Heracles, such as a bow and/or an arrow and a lyre, and a club. This could be seen on the Zagora seal, for example, where the left-hand figure resembled Castor/Apollo, while the right-hand figure depicts Pollux/Heracles. This practice of associating Apollo with Castor and Heracles with Pollux continued into the relatively more modern time period. European celestial atlases dating from sixteenth to eighteenth centuries likewise continued to mark the twins as ‘Apollo or Castor’ and ‘Heracles or Pollux’ (Coucouzeli, 2006). Castor’s connection to Apollo is also present in the very name of the star. According to Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning by Richard Allen, Castor was called Apellon in the Doric (Greek) dialect, and the name later degenerated into Afelar, Aphellon, Aphellan, Apullum, Aphellar, and Avellar [when translated to Arabic]. In the 16th century, the name subsequently appeared as Anelar as well (Allen, 2000).
Many ancient societies from various continents all across the globe appeared to have developed their own version of a celestial twin myth. In particular, a cult of divine twin healers appears in a wide belt stretching from ancient India to the Mediterranean. The most well known of this would be that of the Vedic Ashvins who are the twin healers and physicians of the gods, often depicted in the form of divine horsemens. The Ashvins are said to be able to perform extraordinary medical feats including the resurrection of the dead, the restoration of sight to the blind, helping the lame to walk again, replacing a head which has been cut off, and providing prostheses for amputated limbs. Additionally, the Ashvins also assist in childbirth and hellp restore the aged and impotent to full vigor. It could be surmised that they are the inventors of medicines and the ones who taught mankind the healing arts (Hankoff, 1977).
All in all, the Ashvins could be described as saviors of mankind. More literally, they are known to have snatched from danger those who call on them for help, such as by freeing men who have been captured by bandits, saving men from drowning, and rescuing another from a burning chasm (Hankoff, 1977). This role of the Ashvins as being saviors of mankind is similar to the Dioskouroi’s epithet of soteres. According to Homer, Pollux and Castor are ‘savior-children of men upon the land and ships upon the sea, when the wintry winds rage over the savage deep’ (Rothrauff, 1966). The Dioskouroi are said to appear to sailors in times of danger in the form of two stars, or in the form of a phenomenon known as St Elmo’s fire (Hankoff, 1977). Aside from the supernatural powers that both the Ashvins and Dioskouroi possess that allows them to perform miracles, another quality prominently associated with celestial twins is the ability to perform divination. The Iroquois twins, for example, are associated with the prediction of the future. The Golah of Liberia are associated with the interpretation of dreams. Similarly, the twins of the Peruvian Indians and African Zulus are known to be able to foretell the weather. This is not unlike the Dioskouroi and the Vedic Ashvins who, as previously alluded to, are patrons of travelers, wayfarers, and sailors (Hankoff, 1977).
On the other hand, when it comes to Babylonian star lore related to the constellation of Gemini, the Gemini twins are more heavily associated with the underworld and the dead. The Neo-Babylonians associated Gemini with the deity Nergal, a war god whose cult center was the city of Kutha in central Mesopotamia. From the Akkadian to Neo-Assyrian periods, his cultic presence and influence expanded throughout Mesopotamia, Syria and the Levant, and Cilicia, Cappadocia, and Anatolia. As his popularity and cult grew, he maintained his connection to war, but also came to be associated with disease, death, and eventually became ‘Lord of the Underworld’ by the mid-second millennium BC. Nergal is typically depicted as a bearded man wearing a long garment and either a flat, horned cap or a high tiara. In many Mesopotamian communities, there was a close relationship between Nergal and Nanna/Sîn, with a number of traditions identifying them as siblings/twins. Likewise, the two twin figures of Lugal-Irra and Meslamta-ea are said to be two personae of Nergal (Dandrow, 2021).
Interestingly enough, this association of the celestial twins with death can also be seen in modern times, albeit only mainly via folk practices related to the Dioskouroi. Wenzel (1967) argues that a group of rituals which are still carried on at the Serbian village of Duboko, at whose core is a fire-making ritual, is related to the rituals of the Danube tablets whose purpose is to avert danger from a living person or to secure him the help of powerful beings— namely, the Dioscuri. Similarly, it is implied that the Dioskouroi are associated with several folk dances and ritualistic practices originating in the Balkans, such as the practice of the padalice, also known as the ‘falling ones’. Wenzel (1967) believes that the purpose of the rituals of the falling ones is to remove death from a dead person through entering the otherworld as a substitute for the dead, so that deceased person may be released.
The twins’ association with death can also be potentially seen in relation to the Eleusinian Mysteries as well. In Aulus Gellius’ Attic Nights, a work of the late second century AD, it is shown how the Dioskouroi were frequently invoked in oaths, although differently by men and women (Gartrell, 2021). An explanation for this gendered exclamation may be that women’s use of oaths derives from the Eleusinian initiations to the mysteries of Demeter and Proserpina (Gartrell, 2021). Although the Dioskouroi do not appear to have been worshiped at the mysteries themselves, they were thought to have been initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries. According to Wright (1919), the Mysteries were divided into two parts: the Lesser Mysteries and the Greater Mysteries. The Lesser Mysteries were said to have been instituted when Hercules, Castor and Pollux expressed a desire to be initiated. Hence, it may not be improbable that the Dioskouroi were ‘linked in their role as companions at death or psychopomps to these mysteries concerned with the afterlife’ (Gartrell, 2021).
The concept of Castor as a spiritual psychopomp comes up again when delineating the sign of Gemini. In his article Gemini: The Search for the Missing Twin, Brian Clark comments on the myth of Castor and Pollux, stating that: ‘it is the severed connection to the twin/sibling that allows the other to cross the threshold to the underworld, the psychological territory where we encounter ‘shadow’. Castor, the mortal, becomes a psychopomp leading his brother across the liminal of death’ (Clark, 2000). If Gemini were to be viewed as a metaphor for the stage of development in the human psyche that occurs at an early age — the age before we develop our ability to reflect or analyze, before the experience of emotional attachment has been internalized — then as a symbol of the development process, it can be said that Gemini represents the mind that is too young to consciously hold the impact of a profound loss such as the loss Pollux experienced (Clark, 2000).
This grief that Pollux experienced, a grief so profound he would rather die than spend a life apart from his twin, is so immense and yet due to the inability for the grief to be integrated, the emotions are forgotten. Again, to quote Clark (2000): ‘the feelings that are constellated with this loss are consciously forgotten, flowing into the Lethe, the Underworld river of forgetting. The potent feelings of grief, awoken by the separation from the other, are interred and denied conscious access, becoming shades of feelings: a sense of emptiness, something feels missing or lost, a feeling of incompleteness’. In this light, it could perhaps be concluded that the twins’ association with the Underworld is less related to the concept of death itself, and more so the concept of loss and grief, especially with regards to loss as a form of forgetting.
Interpreting the Myth
From this point onwards, what I write is based upon my own subjective interpretation of the lore associated with Castor, along with my own personal experiences with the star. I do not claim any of this to be the unrefutable truth. Likewise, I don’t necessary think the nature of a god associated with a star equates to the nature of the star itself, or that myth equates to truth, but there is something to be gleaned from studying the stellar gods and their myths.
My first takeaway from studying the Dioskouroi’s myth is that love is the point. There is a reason why the Lovers card in tarot is associated with Gemini, the constellation that Castor and Pollux is in. It is love that elevated Castor to the heavens— the love Pollux has for his brother, the love Zeus has for his son. With love, however, comes grief. Yet, although Castor was the one who died, he was not the one who was left to experience the grief. It is instead Pollux who mourns him. It is Pollux who is forced into the role of the witnesser of death. It is those who are left behind who are the ones suffering from the pain of loss. This may perhaps explain Castor’s sunnier disposition compared to Pollux’ darker personality. Moreover, it is Castor who knows the taste of both mortality and divinity, for he was a mortal who was given immortality unlike Pollux who was immortal from the beginning.
With regards to my personal relationship with Castor, the fixed star Castor is a star that exists upon my meridian. Likewise, Castor and Pollux are conjunct my IC in the fourth house. Erin Sullivan has described the IC and the fourth house to be a ‘temple of darkness’, associating the fourth house with the ‘womb and the tomb’, for the womb and the tomb are closely aligned by their very nature, both holding the unborn. The fourth house is a place we return to eventually, no matter how much we try to escape it. Similarly, the astrologer Alice Sparkly Kat has written a post on the nature of the fourth house, stating that the ‘fourth house is a basement […] A basement is a crypt […] The fourth house is where the bodies are buried. […] The fourth house is a keeper of memory, hidden and rediscovered.’ Hence, it is safe to say that Castor, in my case, dwells within the burial crypt, a place where the dead and the forgotten rest.
To me, I perceive Pollux to be the one who forgets and longs to remember what is forgotten, and Castor as the keeper of forgotten memories. Castor and Pollux, much like the constellation Gemini, represents a sense of longing, an inexplicable ache in the heart for something nostalgic that one can’t quite recall or put a finger on. Yet, to quote a line from a TV show I hold a fondness for: ‘You said memories become stories when we forget them. Maybe some of them become songs.’ Castor — perhaps due to the star’s connection with Apollo — feels very much like a bard and seer, a being of song and prophecy. Castor, in my experience, is a weaver of tales and spinner of fate and an embodied spirit of divination.
Storytelling and magic is something that I have been interested in long before I was aware of Castor’s placement within my chart. As a kid, I told my parents that I wanted to be an author, a dream my father entertained for a while. I published my first piece of writing around the time I was nearing the end of my high school years. One thing I noticed that no matter what fictional story I tell, a recurring theme in the things I write tend to be that of a longing or yearning for someone or something that is missing but meant to or used to be there. Additionally, when I later became interested in the occult, I became drawn towards deities such as Dionysus— a deity who rules over theatre and magic, and historically acted as a god presiding over the Temple of Delphi during the winter months when Apollo was away. For a time, I even venerated and worked with Odin. Likewise, I became fascinated by verbal charms and storytelling-as-magic, whether it be via Celtic draiocht ceoil, the Slavic zagovory, the Nordic seiðr or the Vedic vrata katha.
Also, interestingly enough, my ascendant is placed in the nakshatra of Ashvini— the lunar mansion ruled by the Ashvins, divine twin horsemen aforementioned within this article. The motif of horse riders or charioteers is a recurring one in my chart, apparently. When I think of horsemen, one other figure that popped into my mind is that of the Sabbatic Cain. For a quick summary of Him, I would like to share an excerpt from Borax: The Jewel of Midnight by Douglas Kincaid:
“Here’s to the horse with the four white feet,
the chestnut tail and mane;
a star on his face and a spot on his breast,
and his master’s name was Cain.”
This toast reveals a figure who historically is linked to Horses, Men-Witches, and the Spirit which accompanies these rituals, Cain. Cain, and Tubal-Cain, is the Artificer of the old Crafts and who is a guise for the Elder Spirits. He is the Forge and Farrier God in this narrative within the Craft which is introduced through Christian and Jewish influences. Being of the Cain lineage he is related to ‘serpent blood’ and so wields power to charm all horses
Tubal Qayn is a prevalent tutelary figure in Horsemanship, Toadmanship, and Bonemanship as he is a prevelnet spirit which teaches the Crafts of Smithry and Magic. We can see within Mackay’s poem the woe of Tubal who had created the sword that killed so many in war and battle, but later turned the sword into a ploughshare and tended to horses and farm life instead of warring. The double nature of the artificer is a common theme and mystery here, two-as-one as the saying goes. For what is Peace without War? What is the Sword without the Ploughshare?
As I recently have been drawn towards the Sabbatic current, initially via a text that references the toad-bone rite and the yoking of the sky-horse, I feel like Castor’s recent activeness in my life is significant somehow. Nevertheless, as Castor is a companion who will walk with me my whole life, I am certain that there will be much more for me to learn from him in the future. For now though, I would like to end this article with a snippet of a work-in-progress devotional prayer to Castor, one which I began writing at a time when Castor was conjunct the ascendant:
O rider of the horse!
Come, in your shining chariot.
Come, your arrival heralded by
Gallops and songs!
Bright light, ever beaming,
Illuminating the dark.
May your light illuminate the way.
Illuminate my sight—
O ever-twinkling prophet,
O savior of mankind!
Son of Cygnus,
Twin-child of the Swan.
O Light to Pollux’s Darkness,
O Guardian of Dusk and Dawn.
Dweller of the Deep Earth and
Traverser of the Stars—
You are the Lord of Liminality,
You are the Weaver of Tales,
Existing in the In-Between.
Castor— mortal slain!
Castor— God reborn!
Just as day becomes night
And night becomes day.
Your brother’s love and father’s mercy
Placed you among the heavens.
You are he-who-knows-death,
Walking among the dead
And spinning the fates of the living.
Ahl, F.M. (1982). Amber, Avallon, and Apollo’s Singing Swan. The American Journal of Philology, 103(4), p. 373. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2307/294518.
Allen, R.H. (2000) Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning. New York: Dover Publ.
Clark, B. (2000). Gemini: The Search for the Missing Twin. The Mountain Astrologer, pp. 29–35.
Coucouzeli, A. (2006). The Zagora Cryptograph. Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, 6(3), pp. 33–52.
Dandrow, E. (2021). An Unpublished ‘Medallion’ of Elagabalus from Edessa in Osrhoene: Nergal and Syro-Mesopotamian Religious Continuity?. KOINON: The International Journal of Classical Numismatic Studies, 4, 106–127. https://archaeopresspublishing.com/ojs/index.php/koinon/article/view/1113
Gartrell, A. (2021) The Cult of Castor and Pollux in Ancient Rome: Myth, Ritual, and Society. Cambridge; New York ; Port Melbourne ; New Delhi ; Singapore: Cambridge University Press.
Hankoff, L.D. (1977). Why the Healing Gods Are Twins. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 50, 307 – 319.
Kat, A.S. (2021) The Fourth House. Available at: https://www.alicesparklykat.com/articles/278/The_Fourth_House/
Kincaid, D. (2017) Borax: The Jewel of Midnight. SABAX Publishing.
Rothrauff, C. (1966). The Name Savior as Applied to Gods and Men Among the Greeks. Names, 14(1), pp. 11–17. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1179/nam.19188.8.131.52.
Simpson, P. (2012) Guidebook to the constellations telescopic sights, tales, and Myths. New York, NY: Springer New York.
Sullivan, E. (2000) Retrograde Planets: Traversing the Inner Landscape. York Beach, Me.: S. Weiser.
Wright, D. (1919) The Eleusinian Mysteries & Rites. London. Wenzel, M. (1967). The Dioscuri in the Balkans. Slavic Review, 26(3), pp. 363–381. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2307/2492722.
3 thoughts on “Castor and Pollux: A Deeper Dive”
So interesting and instructive, thank you very much for sharing! And congrats on your certification!! 🙏