Astro Journal · Mythology

Planet Myths: The Story Behind Jupiter

Jupiter represents your need to grow and improve yourself, to make progress and expand into new areas. It stands for the search for meaning and the desire to connect with something greater than yourself, to find faith and confidence in life, as well as grace and joy.

Jupiter takes about 12 years to orbit the sun and spends about a year in each sign. It’s the largest planet in the solar system and has 79 known moons, the main ones being Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, which are also the largest moons in the solar system. Jupiter is so large it can even be seen during the day when the sun is low.

The planet’s massive gravitational influence has shaped the solar system and has collected a couple of clusters of asteroids that orbit the sun. It also hoovers up comet impacts that would otherwise venture closer to earth, providing us with some protection. However, Jupiter’s gravity does send a few our way too, so it’s not all positive.

Jupiter rules Sagittarius and Pisces, and is exalted in Cancer and fall in Capricorn. Its nature opposes that of Saturn (ruler of Capricorn), but also Mercury (ruler of Gemini and Virgo). While Mercury takes care of the details, Jupiter focuses on the bigger picture and has a panoramic view.

The glyph is an inversion of the Saturn glyph showing their opposite natures. The Jupiter glyph is a lunar crescent, the half-circle of the soul, rising beside the cross of matter. The cross represents you as an incarnated being and the crescent is the descending soul entering physical form. The glyph could also be a stylised thunderbolt hurled by the gods.

Jupiter is known as the Greater Benefic and is one of the social planets, along with Saturn. Jupiter and Saturn form a complementary pair, balancing and checking each other in a cycle of expansion and contraction. More on the Jupiter Saturn Cycle here.

Some of the archetypes associated with Jupiter include the King, the Priest or Hierophant, the Explorer or Adventurer, the Philosopher, the Professor, Teacher, Mentor or Guru, the Salesman, the Gambler, and the puer or Eternal Youth. Let’s see how all this is portrayed in the myths…

Jupiter Myths

The myths associated with Jupiter mainly feature sky and thunder gods who rise to become King or Father of the Gods. Some of these are also creator gods who bring law and order to the universe, or become a teacher of the gods. Many become king by killing or overthrowing the old gods to rule over a hierarchy with them at the top. These myths reflect the development of similar structures in society with Kings and High Priests, and so on.

The Babylonians associated Jupiter with Marduk, god of thunderstorms who ruled justice, healing and magic, and sometimes agriculture and fertility. He was the son of Enki and was enlisted in the battle to overthrow Tiamat, symbol of chaos. Marduk killed her with his thunderbolt and split her body in two to create the universe, bringing order to the world.

In Hinduism, Indra is the King of the Gods and ruler of lightning, thunder, storms, rain and war. He killed the serpent Vritra, the demon of draught, using his thunderbolt, known as a Vajra.

Indra smites Vritra in his human form

The word vajra comes from a word meaning ‘hammer’ or ‘axe’ and refers to a weapon of God which is indestructible having the quality of thunderbolts and diamonds. Many gods are shown hurling these weapons, however the ‘cosmic thunderbolt’ isn’t bog-standard lightning, but a plasma discharge or plasmoid that can take a variety of shapes. More on that fascinating subject here.

In Greek myth, Zeus is the one hurling thunderbolts as King of the Gods and he rules lightning, thunder, law, order and justice. His Roman equivalent is Jupiter and both their names have the same etymological roots in the Proto-Indo-European word Dyēus meaning daylight sky, as well as Dyēu-ph’ter meaning Father Sky-God or Father Daylight-sky.

The earliest written form of Zeus’ name is found in Mycenaean Greek as di-we and di-wo, which come from the root di meaning ‘to shine’. Interestingly, the Greeks also called the planet Jupiter Phaethon which means ‘shining one’ or ‘blazing star.’

Zeus was the son of Kronos who received a prophecy warning that one of his sons would overthrow him. So the old Titan swallowed his children, but Zeus was saved by his mother Rhea who substituted a stone in his place. Zeus was raised by a goat called Amaltheia (see Capricorn Myths) until he was ready to return and overthrow his father and rescue his siblings.

Zeus led the upstart Olympian gods in a rebellion against Kronos and the Titans to become the new King of the Gods. He was given thunder and the thunderbolt by the Cyclopes after freeing them from the underworld, so these gifts came from the ancient gods and ultimately, the Great Mother Gaia.

The thunderbolts of Zeus taken from Greek coins

Like Marduk and Indra, Zeus used his thunderbolt to slay the serpent monster Typhon, which represents the chthonic instincts of nature. The thunderbolt stands for illumination and intellectual vision and the ability to transcend nature. This wasn’t something Zeus was willing to share with humanity so Prometheus stole the fire of the gods and paid the price (see Aquarius Myths).

Zeus’ ongoing spat with Prometheus suggests he wasn’t sympathetic to humans and he even wiped us out in a flood for doing too much human sacrifice – which might be fair enough! His kind of justice involved punishing those who offended against the gods, i.e. natural laws. But he also helped the other gods to maintain peace, and weighed the fate of mortal souls in his golden scales, similar to Maat (see Libra Myths).

Zeus gained his ability to judge from his first wife Metis, a Titan goddess of wisdom. Just like his father, he received a prophecy that said any son born to Metis would gain supremacy over him. So when she was pregnant with Athena, Zeus swallowed Metis and later gave birth to Athena himself, directly from his head.

Zeus had multiple offspring and as a force of nature was notorious for his many sexual conquests. He often took animal form in pursuit of his lovers, symbolising the instincts and life force running rampant after more life. He’s best known for his tumultuous relationship with his wife/sister Hera who was understandably jealous of his lovers and persecuted their offspring.

Many of the positive qualities associated with Zeus come via his daughters, such as Athena, his favourite, a goddess of wisdom, battle strategy and weaving, who taught the crafts to mankind; and goddesses of justice like Astraea (see Virgo Myths), and Dike, goddess of justice, fair judgement and the spirit of moral order.

Zeus was also the source of the groups of goddesses called the Muses, Graces, and Hours. The Horae or Hours were goddesses of the seasons, natural order and natural time, born to Themis, a Titan. The Charites or Graces were goddesses of charm, beauty, human creativity and goodwill, born to Eurynome, an Oceanid and daughter of Tethys, a Titan. And the Muses were goddesses of science, literature and the arts, born to Mnemosyne, a Titan goddess of memory.

You’ll notice a theme here: all these goddesses spring from the ancient roots of the old gods that Zeus overthrew – the Titans and the great Mother goddesses. This shows that although Zeus is King of the Gods, he’s still bound by the old ways and dependent on them, as represented by the Fates and natural law (see Pluto Myths).

The reign of Zeus represents a shift away from the rule of necessity and the earth towards something beyond that – a transcendent spiritual reality beyond the body. He stands for the eternal spirit and intellect over the mortal body and fate. But his marriage to Hera shows that he never quite manages to escape the earth, and his wisdom and justice depend on it too.

Zeus and Hera

In Germanic and Norse mythology Jupiter is associated with Thor, god of lightning, thunder, storms and fertility. He was the son of Odin and a warrior god who threw thunderbolts with his hammer Mjölnir, which means ‘lightning’. He used his hammer to destroy but also to bless and bring his goats back to life (see Capricorn Myths). Like Indra’s vajra weapon, Mjölnir returns to his hand after he throws it.

However, Thor wasn’t King of the Gods – his father was. Odin (or Wotan in Old English) was the god of wisdom, war, sorcery, and knowledge, and was known as the Allfather. He had an 8-legged horse called Sleipnir (see Sagittarius Myths), and two ravens called Huginn and Muninn (thought and memory), who brought him news from afar.

Odin killed the primordial giant Ymir, with help from the other gods, to create the world, and gave life to the first humans. He was known for wandering about on long adventures, seeking wisdom and self-knowledge, and lost an eye in the process. He also discovered the runic alphabet by hanging from the World Tree, Yggdrasil, in a ritual death and rebirth.

Although Odin is the Allfather, he’s also a trickster and a shaman and may be closer to Mercury than Jupiter as an archetype. He doesn’t appear to have much to do with the rule of law and justice, and is more associated with outlaws, often going about in disguise. But here’s a great image of Odin wielding a thunderbolt – maybe he fits Jupiter after all:

Odin on Sleipnir

The Meaning of Jupiter

Jupiter represents how you understand your place in the cosmos and the meaning of your life as a microcosm of the macrocosm. It bridges heaven and earth, bringing the soul into the body and encouraging you to go forth and have adventures. Jupiter wants the soul to expand into new horizons, to learn as much as possible and fill your cup to the brim.

The soul can only experience life through a body and that means being subject to the limitations of Saturn. The inspiration of Jupiter represents embodied knowledge and its thunderbolt is subject to the laws of nature, unlike Uranus which is more chaotic and disruptive of the natural order.

As a social planet, Jupiter shows how you connect with others in a group through religion, culture, and social institutions, including law and education. You need to understand the laws of society so you can find your place and purpose and why you’re here on this planet. You can’t become all you’re meant to be without society, and this even applies to kings and leaders.

The king or queen may be a leader of society but he or she is also subject to the needs and expectations of the people and must uphold certain principles. Society is built by individuals coming together to create culture by sharing ideas and experiences. For this to work, you need a social conscience and morals and basic common beliefs.

Jupiter connects you to the ‘higher mind’ or ‘divine mind’ (Spirit) and its principles of truth and justice are rooted in the order of the cosmos. These are the laws the original kings and pharaohs upheld in their position as divinely sanctioned rulers put in place to maintain the order of heaven and earth.

But Jupiter shows we all have this job: to bring order to chaos and to remember who we are by developing our higher consciousness. Jupiter opens your mind to a reality larger than yourself. It enlightens and fills your mind with visions and possibilities, but you have to act on those visions to make them real (Saturn).

In Vedic astrology, Jupiter is called Guru, a spiritual teacher who brings wisdom. But it’s also named after Brihaspati, a sage who taught the gods. The word ‘guru’ means ‘heavy one’, as in heavy with wisdom and knowledge. The guru dispels the darkness of ignorance by bringing spiritual knowledge and enlightenment, represented by the lightning flash of the thunderbolt.

Jupiter is a different kind of teacher from Saturn, the notorious Taskmaster who teaches through hard work and discipline. Jupiter is more like a perpetual student, always learning and expanding horizons. A Jupiterian teacher inspires confidence and encourages you to fulfil your potential – closer to the true meaning of the word educate: ‘to lead out’.

This kind of education isn’t about gathering information and remembering disparate facts to be regurgitated in exams. That’s the province of Mercury who likes to analyse and build databases. Jupiter is more concerned with wisdom and what to do with all that information. He provides the context and meaning for Mercury and helps to filter out irrelevant noise.

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” – William James

Jupiter allows you to explore and discover new information so you can make theories that Mercury can analyse and test (with help from Saturn too). But just like Jupiter and Saturn, you also need Mercury and Jupiter to be balanced.

Too much Mercury creates information overload and you get swamped by details with no way of organising it all. Without Jupiter there’s no meaning or deeper understanding. But with too much Jupiter you have lots of big ideas, beliefs and theories with nothing to back them up. Without the right details and facts, your beliefs don’t relate to reality – it’s all hot air and talk. All mouth and no trousers.

Jupiterian learning is open-ended so it can run away with itself and get caught up in enthusiasms. Its idealism can be misled by blind faith and too much unfounded optimism. This can make Jupiter dogmatic and autocratic, convinced he can’t lose. Jupiter can be just as much a tyrant as Saturn, usually when it gets out of balance.

At worst, Jupiter creates self-aggrandising leaders, puffed up with arrogance and prone to overreaching. It creates hypocrisy and greed, exaggerated claims and promises that come to nothing. The priest who claims to speak for God, the philanthropist saving the world while boosting their own worth, the corporation destroying small businesses to build an empire…

There are a million examples of this kind of behaviour around the world today – we’re drowning in bloated Jupiterian bullshit selling us empty dreams without limits. You can have it all! Just believe!

This kind of self-indulgence and living for the moment isn’t what Jupiter is really about. Jupiter is future-oriented. Living for the moment means you’re not thinking about the future – you couldn’t care less about the consequences of what you’re doing right now, so long as it feels good. This is a sign that Jupiter has become distorted.

At best, Jupiter is ennobling and benevolent. It helps you to remember why you’re here and that life is meant to be joyful and fun. Jupiter gives you the perspective to rise above difficulties and find faith in the future.

This involves developing a philosophy of life that’s more than just an idea or collection of thoughts and theories. It has to be a way of living, like the dharma of Buddhism, for example. In other words, it has to be practical and grounded in reality (Saturn).

The potentials and possibilities of Jupiter need to be tested against reality otherwise they’re just fantasies. Faith must be grounded in the real world, as the famous saying goes:

“Trust Allah and tie up your camel.”

Jupiter Myths on Film

Films that represent the Jupiter archetype include stories about belief, religion, and philosophy, education and learning, travel, adventure and explorers. You’ll have your own favourites, but here are a few examples of Jupiter on film:

  • Indiana Jones and his adventures to secure priceless artefacts of religious significance.
  • Bill and Ted learning from great figures in history in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
  • Aron getting his arm trapped between rocks while out adventuring in 127 Hours.
  • Carl Fredricksen making new friends after his wife’s death on the ultimate adventure in Up.
  • Tripitaka travelling to India on a spiritual quest with his friends in Monkey.
  • And for a bona fide Buddha, see the Dalai Lama in Kundun.
  • Donnie grappling with the meaning of life and multiple universes in Donnie Darko.
  • Susan the working-class hairdresser expanding her horizons in Educating Rita.
  • Adam Smallbone the Anglican priest struggling with his inner city parish in Rev.

Explore more Planet Myths here. More on the holy world of Rev here.

More on Jupiter

Images: Planet; Indra; Thunderbolts; Zeus; Odin

6 thoughts on “Planet Myths: The Story Behind Jupiter

    1. Dear Jessica. Could not find your email. Do you have physical books for sale in swedish bookstore.

      Like

  1. Excellent, as always, Jessica. I learn so much from reading your posts. In my natal chart, Jupiter sits next to the north node in twelfth house Libra. My astrology teacher was very helpful in explaining to me that my outlier tendencies may be an expression of these placements.
    Happy lunar eclipse!
    Debra

    Liked by 1 person

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