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The Labors of Hercules - Labor XII

The Capture of the Red Cattle of Geryon
(Pisces, February 20th - March 20th)

The Myth

Within the sacred Council Chamber, the great Presiding One revealed unto the Teacher the Will of What Must Be.
"Lost he is, and found; dead, yet vibrant with Life. The server becomes the savior, and homeward turns."
The Teacher pondered; then he called for Hercules. "Before the last gate now you stand," the Teacher said, "One labor yet remains before the circle is complete, and liberation is attained. Proceed to that dark place called Erytheia where Great Illusion is enthroned where Geryon, the monster of three heads, three bodies and six hands, is lord and king. Unlawfully he holds a herd of dark red cattle. From Erytheia to our Sacred City must you drive this herd. Beware of Eurytion, the shepherd, and his two-headed dog, Orthrus." He paused. "One caution I can give," he added slowly. "Invoke the aid of Helius."
Through Gate the Twelfth the son of man who was also the Son of God departed. In search of Geryon he went.
Within a temple Hercules made offerings to Helius, the god of fire in the sun. For seven days he meditated, and then a favor was bestowed on him. A golden chalice fell upon the ground before his feet. He knew within himself that this bright object would enable him to cross the seas to reach the land of Erytheia.

And so it was. Within the safe protection of the golden chalice, he sailed across the tossing seas until he came to Erytheia. Upon a strand in that far country, Hercules debarked. [196]
Not long thereafter he came upon the pasture land where the red-hued cattle grazed. Guarded were they by the shepherd Eurytion and the double-headed dog, Orthrus.
When Hercules approached, the dog sped forward like an arrow to its target. Upon the visitor the creature hurled itself, snarling viciously, its bared fangs fiercely snapping. With one decisive blow did Hercules lay the monster low.Then Eurytion, fearful of the brave warrior who stood before him, supplicated that his life be spared. Hercules conceded his request. Driving the blood-red cattle before him, Hercules turned his face toward the Sacred City.
Not far had he gone when he perceived a distant cloud of dust that rapidly grew larger. Surmising that the monster Geryon had come in mad pursuit, he turned to face his foe. Soon Geryon and Hercules stood face to face. Breathing fire and flame from all three heads at once, the monster came upon him.
Geryon hurled a spear at Hercules that almost hit its mark. Stepping agilely aside, Hercules evaded the deadly shaft.
Stretching taut his bow, Hercules let fly an arrow that seemed to burn the air as he released it, and struck the monster squarely in the side. With such great impetus had it been shot that all three bodies of fierce Geryon were pierced. With a shrill, despairing groan, the monster swayed, then fell, nevermore to rise.
Toward the Sacred City, then, Hercules drove the sleek, red cattle. Difficult was the task. Again and yet again some cattle strayed, and Hercules would leave the herd in search of errant wanderers.
Across the Alps he drove his cattle, and into Italy. Wherever wrong had triumphed he dealt the powers of evil a deadly blow, and righted the balance in favor of justice. When Eryx the wrestler challenged him, Hercules cast him down so forcefully that there he stayed. Again, when the giant Alcyoneus threw a rock that weighed a ton at Hercules, the latter caught it [197] on his club, and hurled it back to kill the one who sent it forth. At times he lost his way, but always Hercules turned back, retraced his steps, and journeyed on. Though wearied by this most exacting labor, Hercules at last returned. The Teacher awaited his coming.

"Welcome, O Son of God who is also a son of man," he greeted the returning warrior. "The jewel of immortality is yours. By these twelve labors have you overcome the human, and put on the divine. Home have you come, no more to leave. Upon the starry firmament your name shall be inscribed, a symbol to the struggling sons of men of their immortal destiny. The human labors ended, your cosmic tasks begin."
From out the Council Chamber came a voice that said, "well done, O Son of God."


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