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The Labors of Hercules - Labor X


The Slaying of Cerberus, Guardian of Hades
(Capricorn, December 22nd - January 20th)

The Myth

"The light of life must now shine forth within a world of dark," the great Presiding One declared. The Teacher understood.
"The son of man who is also the son of God must pass through Gate the tenth". he said. "Within this very hour Hercules shall venture forth."
When Hercules stood face to face with him who was his guide, the latter spoke:
"A thousand dangers you have braved, O Hercules," the Teacher said, "and much has been achieved. Wisdom and strength are yours. Will you make use of them to rescue one in agony, a prey to vast and unremitting suffering?"

The Teacher gently touched the forehead of Hercules. Before the latter's inner eye a vision rose. A man lay prone upon a rock, and groaned as if his heart would break. His hands and legs were shackled; the massive chains that bound him were tied to iron rings. A vulture, fierce and bold, kept pecking at the prostrate victim's liver; in consequence, a trickling stream of blood flowed from his side. The man uplifted his manacled hands and cried out for help; but his words echoed vainly in the desolation, and were swallowed by the wind. The vision faded. Hercules stood, as before, at the side of his guide.
"The shackled one whom you have seen is called Prometheus," the Teacher said. "For ages has he suffered thus, and [170] yet he cannot die, being immortal. From heaven he stole the fire; for this he has been punished. The place of his abode is known as Hell, the domain of Hades. Unto Prometheus, O Hercules, you are asked to be a savior. Go down into the depths, and there upon the outer planes release him from his suffering."
Having heard and understood, the son of man who was also a son of God, embarked upon this quest, and passed through Gate the tenth.

Downward, ever downward, did he travel into the binding worlds of form. The atmosphere grew stifling, the darkness steadily more intense. And yet his will was firm. This steep descent continued long and long. Alone, yet not all alone, he wandered on, for when he sought within he heard the silvery voice of the wisdom-goddess, Athena, and the strengthening words of Hermes.
At length he came to that dark, envenomed river called the Styx, a river that the souls of the deceased must cross. An obolus or penny had to be paid to Charon, the ferryman, that he might take them to the other side. The somber visitor from earth affrighted Charon, and forgetting the fee, he ferried the stranger across.
Hercules at last had entered Hades, a dim and misty region where the shades, or better said, the shells of those departed flitted by.
When Hercules perceived Medusa, her hair entwined with hissing snakes, he seized his sword, and thrust at her, but struck naught save empty air.
Through labyrinthine paths he threaded his way until he came to the court of the king who ruled the underworld, Hades. The latter, grim and stern, with threatening mien, sat stiffly on his jet black throne as Hercules approached.

"What seek you, a living mortal, in my realms?" Hades demanded. Hercules said, "I seek to free Prometheus." [171]
"The path is guarded by the monster Cerberus, a dog with three great heads, each of which has serpents coiled about it," Hades replied. "If you can conquer him with your bare hands, a feat no one has yet performed, you may unbind the suffering Prometheus."
Satisfied with this response, Hercules proceeded. Soon he saw the triple-headed dog, and heard its piercing bark. Snarling, it sprang upon him. Grasping the primary throat of Cerberus, Hercules held it in his vice-like grip. Goaded to frenzied fury, the monster thrashed about. At length, its strength subsiding, Hercules mastered it.
This done, Hercules went on, and found Prometheus. Upon a slab of stone he lay, in agonizing pain. Quickly Hercules then broke the chains, and set the sufferer free.
Retracing his steps, Hercules returned as he had come. When once again he reached the world of living things, he found his Teacher there.
"The light now shines within the world of dark." the Teacher said. "The labor is achieved. Rest now, my son."


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