Sophia Abscondita

The Month of the Fishes
A Parable of Our Times

by Apollonius Sophistes
© 1994

[1] Ye Muses, hear my call! Inspire my song with truth, and let me tell about the time when all the Gods - save one - were absent from the world; but most of all the Goddesses were missed, and most of these Athena, long neglected font of Holy Wisdom.

[2] It happened when the Great Month of the Ram was near its end, a month of striving heroes, building nations, sharpening wits and words, and winning high achievement. Then the Great Year's wheel revolved and came within the Fishes' Sign.

[3] The Month of Fishes is so called because this was the time that Aphrodite and Her Son, the infant Eros, fled the vengeful God, and garbed themselves in fish skins to escape. All know the Sign of Fishes to be treacherous, a source of dread; an ancient scholar [Pliny] said a portent in this sign foretells religious strife, long war and pestilence. And so it was.

[4] For in the Ram's Month came a God called Iao, the Father of the Armies [Ialdabaoth], from the desert near Phoenicia, but the Muse has not revealed to me His parents. Iao was jealous of all other Gods, and He asserted that He was the only God. He claimed to be the only source of Righteousness and Justice, and threatened to withhold the rain and nourishment from those who didn't worship Him and Him alone.

[5] The Dwellers on Olympus found this thought amusing; nothing so preposterous had ever been asserted, not by any other God. The lies of Iao the Jealous caused Them no concern, for few had even heard of Him.

[6] But Iao desired Zeus's throne and thought that He could get it by becoming wise Athena's husband, for it was foretold that Zeus would be deposed, and by a son more mighty than Himself. And therefore long ago, when Zeus had lain with Metis, Wise Council, and She was pregnant, the Sky God, fearful of a son, then joined with Her, and Zeus gave birth, as though a woman, to Athena, Ever-virgin Goddess, known as Divine Wisdom.

[7] Though this Iao was not a son of Zeus, He thought that if Athena bore His son, the child could do what He could not, and topple Zeus.

[8] So Iao came riding on a donkey and approached Athena, wooing Her with words like these: "It is not right that You should stay a virgin; bearing children is the proper function of all women, even if they're Goddesses. So come Athena, be My wife and bear My child. With him I'll topple these false Gods, and there shall be no other Gods but Me."

[9] "What foolish thought is this!" Athena said. "Revolt against our Father Zeus is pointless. Gods above and mortals on the earth live better now than any other time. And they'll live even better soon, for Zeus has heard My council, promising that in the Month of Fishes I may take His place and try My plan. With wisdom and compassion, I will bring another Golden Age. We've shown the mortals signs that it is coming, and in oracles We've told them to expect the Virgin's Reign. Why wreck what We've created with this madness?"

[10] Iao grew angry, scowled, and shook His finger. "Mark Me well! Though I'll destroy the other Gods, if You'll obey Me, You'll be spared, and though you'll be no Goddess, the honor will be Yours to be My wife. Reject Me, though, and You will perish with the rest!"

[11] Athena, font of prudence, laughed, and though She offered Him Her Wisdom, all He wanted was to lie with Her in bed, still hoping to beget a son to conquer Zeus. And so Athena left Him to His own devices, nor thought She more of Iao, the jealous God, riding in the desert on an ass. In later times, chagrined and shamed, this very vain God lied and told His followers that He had lain with Her, with virgin Wisdom.

[12] Thus Iao's advances were rejected by Athena, for He valued Her as nothing but a means to overthrow the Son of Kronos. Spurned by Her, the Jealous God appeared before a mortal maiden called Maria; dazzling Her with Heavenly Fire, He won Her over, siring a son called Iesous, mortal child of Iao and mortal maiden.

[13] Even then this Iao grew angry hearing Iesous called Maria's son, for Iao insisted that His Seed had passed right through Maria, just like water through a pipe, and that the boy was His alone.

[14] Next Iao commanded Iesous, when he'd come of age, to woo Athena, hoping once again to bring into the world a child of Zeus's blood, to pull the Thunderer down so Iao might rule supreme.

[15] And Iesous wooed the Bright-eyed Goddess, speaking words like these: "Thou Radiant Maiden, I have come and will confer my favor, for the God above, the Mighty Iao, would have You be my wife and bear my son. So come now, and adorn yourself as does a bride to please her bridegroom, for You will be my bride. We'll join ourselves as one, and Iao's holy seed will pass through me to You, and thereby You'll receive His gift, and by embracing me, you'll also be embracing Him, the one and only God."

[16] Athena laughed again at Iao's designs, but pitied Iesous, innocently drawn within the web. In gentle tones She spoke these words: "This whole past month, the Ram's Great Month, we've quarreled, Gods and mortals both. We've had enough, we want the Month of Fishes to be calm and peaceful. If mortals will continue working with the Gods, We'll make another Golden Age for them. And now you talk revolt? Why sacrifice virginity to throw the world in chaos and destruction? No, it's wiser to cooperate, and work for change through peace and love; We've had enough of fighting."

[17] Quickly then the Bright-eyed Goddess left, and Iesous sat and contemplated every word She'd said. In later years, though Iesous yet proclaimed his father Iao to be the only God, Her Wisdom had come into him, and he taught peace, instead of war against the Gods, so Iao became enraged and turned against him, stirring up His priests to punish Iesous. In the end they killed him, so he might by dying aid his father's plan.

[18] When Iesous died the ones who followed Him became enraged and rampaged through the land, destroying temples, desecrating sacred sites, dishonoring the Gods because their God had died. The Gods on High Olympus watched this sacrilege to see when it would end, but it continued well within the Month of Fishes. Even Gods grow angry though, and as They watched They saw the people, swayed by priests of Iao and Iesous, say there were no Gods besides these two. The Olympians held a council, questioning each other what to do.

[19] The first to speak was Hera, who complained to Zeus in words like these: "Iesous' followers, misled by Iao, commit great crimes; they desecrate the temples, tear them down, dissuade the people from honoring the Gods."

[20] Zeus inquired, "Who's this Iesous who incites such sacrilege? Do any of you know of him?"

[21] Arising, Hermes spoke: "The followers of Iesous mock Me in his name, calling him the Shepherd, and they say it's he that leads away from earth the souls of those who've died, although he's only mortal."

[22] "Is this Iesous still among the living?" Zeus inquired.

[23] Athena spoke these words in answer: "As the Ram's Month ended he was killed by followers of Iao who thought he was a fraud, yes, murdered by his father's priests.

"I tried to warn him once, coming as a mortal woman dear to him, called Mariam. While caring for his feet, I told him he would be destroyed, advice that he ignored. He fancied he was like the Holy Shepherd Attis, or Adonis, and would be reborn; he even called himself Adonai - Lord. He prayed that I would bring my Holy Wisdom to his followers, and I agreed if only they would listen, which they haven't done. But He preferred to die, for Iao had promised everlasting life beyond the grave."

[24] Then Zeus exclaimed, "But that's a boon that only I bestow!"

[25] "I know it well," She answered, "but this proud God usurps authority and claims the offices of all the Gods, including Yours."

[26] Then Zeus, His eyebrows raised, addressed the Herald Hermes, saying, "Tell Us what You know of Iao, since You bring news from every corner of the world."

[27] The Herald stood before the Goddesses and Gods assembled there, and spoke: "The priests of Iao assert that He has all the virtues of the Gods, of all the males that is; the Goddesses are all denied, for Iao holds worthless all that's Theirs alone: Athena with Her Wisdom, Gaia Mother of All, and especially You, laughing Aphrodite, the source of generation, font of fair attraction."

[28] "With overweening pride this God lays claim to every earthly good; His priests insist that everything He does is out of love for mankind."

[29] "But if He claims to be the only God, how can He shirk the blame for all the ills afflicting mortals?" Zeus inquired.

[30] And Hermes said: "When things go not His way, He says that He's been thwarted by a Foe, some Demigod of Error He's imagined. All His own mistakes He blames on this convenient fiction, for His followers say He cannot ever err."

[31] "I've also learned," the Herald said, "that Iao demands the adoration of His Phallus, the symbol of His sovereignty, for it is not to Him the Sign of Sacred Generation, but the bludgeon of His power."

[32] Moving closer to His father, Hermes spoke in quiet tones: "This God requires His devotees to cut away their foreskins."

[33] Zeus's eyes grew wide in horror; whispering he asked, "In truth?"

[34] "I know it to be so!" affirmed the Herald.

[35] "However can He make them do such things?" the Son of Kronos wondered.

[36] "Promises," said Hermes swiftly, "promises and hopes of everlasting life."

[37] "He says He'll make them Gods?" asked Zeus.

[38] "Or some such," Hermes shrugged, "the subtleties warrant no attention."

[39] Astonished Zeus exclaimed, "Olympus won't be big enough to hold them all!"

[40] The glorious Gods and Goddesses laughed, then sat awhile in silence.

[41] Shining Hera asked, "Has this Proud God never asked another God for aid?"

[42] "I helped Him once," Athena said, "but not again. He said I'm not a God, but just His breath, and male to boot!"

[43] Apollo spoke: "I see this God foolishly drives off these wise Goddesses."

[44] "He is not like Me," replied the Thunderer, "for well You know that I surround Myself with Goddesses and always hear Their councils. First was Themis, then the Mother of Wise Council, Metis, then Athena, offspring of My very spirit. And surely Aphrodite holds Her sway with Me, inserting Her decrees within My breast. And not the least art Thou, My wedded wife, bright-shining Hera."

[45] She shook Her head and said: "I do not understand this Iao. Why would He want to do everything Himself?"

[46] Demeter nodded: "Though We often disagree among Ourselves, We know the ruling of the world requires many hands, of Gods and Mortals both, for even We can be too single-minded."

[47] Lost in wonderment They shrugged, the Gods and Goddesses of High Olympus.

[48] Regal Hera spoke: "If mortals are so foolish, I say let them have their wish, and let this jealous God try managing the world, bereft of council and cooperation."

[49] All the Gods chuckled, nodding grimly.

[50] Then Athena softly spoke: "There was a time the world was ruled by just a single God, We know His name: Chaos. To let it be again would be the end; the World would end in Chaos as it started."

[51] "And it would serve them right!" fair Aphrodite shouted, "for these mortals have dishonored Me, and I would like for them to learn how well they'd fare without Our aid, depending only on their Iao!"

[52] "And I would too," the Owl-eyed Goddess said, "for they have also denigrated Me. But utter and complete annihilation is too much, because the folk have been misled. Though they have erred, the fault is not entirely their own, and they do not deserve complete destruction."

[53] Zeus agreed: "With Wisdom speaks Athena; Chaos will not reign again, for We'll ensure from time to time that things go not too afar awry."

[54] Then Zeus, the Thunderer, inclined His head in token of decision made, proclaiming: "They will have to pay the price and learn their folly. Come, let Us withdraw form here, and let this God discover even He may err through hybris. Come, We'll take a rest from striving, each with the other, to reach the best decision, leaving all the worldly cares upon the head of that most willing steward."

[55] And so the Gods retired from Olympus' heights and closed Their doors to Earth's affairs. They dwelt in northern lands, in Hyperborea, with Dryads and with Nyads, free from cares.

[56] Soon Iao came raging in a deluge, stormed the citadel, Olympus' heights, but when He'd broken through the gates, He found the holy halls deserted, Gods and Goddesses had all retired to the North. So Iao sat proudly on the throne of Zeus and through His priests proclaimed Himself the only God. And so it was throughout the Month of Fishes.

[57] Rejected by the followers of Iao and Iesous, Pan and Aphrodite sought for vengeance, showing to these mortals that although They were denied, these Gods existed yet. Though They were not respected, neither could They ever be ignored.

[58] From time to time swift Hermes travelled gathering news and bringing it to Zeus. With furrowed brows the Thunderer, consulting with the other Gods of High Olympus, designated one of Them to go and keep at bay fierce Chaos. Even Aphrodite and Athena were persuaded, though They worked invisibly, and were insulted still by priests of Iao and Iesous. Thus the World was ruled for one Great Month, the Month of Fishes, by the Jealous Iao and Iesous.

[59] In the middle of the month, some followers of Iesous called the Spirit of Wisdom to return to them, but they were killed by those who thought no other God could share the sovereignty of Iao.

[60] And so, when half the month had past, and all humanity was crushed by ignorance, despair and poverty, then wise Athena called the herald Hermes to Herself and said, "Come, Thou God of Learning, God of Letters. The people have forgot what they once knew. Nourished by My wisdom, they will learn again the seven arts from which all others are descended." Thus Athena for a time did walk again upon the earth, though in disguise, and called Herself the Love of Wisdom, fair Philosophia. And Hermes followed Her, teaching many arts, and brought to mortals ancient, long neglected books. But to a few the secrets of the pagans were revealed. With just this much assistance Hermes and Athena once again withdrew.

[61] As the Great Year approached the Second Fish, the people turned away from Iao, and looked again on Nature. Thus the secrets of the world were learned, and useful arts invented, but without Athena's aid they could not rightly use what they had learned.

[62] Bereft of female wisdom, grinding hunger and disease soon came upon the people. Crying out in anguish and despair, some mortals even thought again upon the Gods that once had held Olympus. Even though they held their rites in secret, vengeful priests, the minions of the Prince of Peace and Iao, discovered them, and burned the living flesh from off their bones.

[63] The Goddesses and Gods reluctantly observed the wrecking of the world by Iao. Hephaestus, though, in anger seething at the Goddesses because they had rejected Him, contrived to help the jealous God and Iesous, and to have revenge on all the Goddesses. They formed a pact, for Iao had seen that He could not administer the world alone. The Craftsman said He'd make the lot of mortals easier, so Iao would win their gratitude.

[64] Hephaestus showed the people how to make machines to ease their burdens. Then He made for them the instruments of war, and gave them to the followers of Iesous. Soon they'd spread around the world, proclaiming Iao's dominion, slaughtering whoever dared resist the henchmen of the jealous God.

[65] Deceived by His own pride, too late discovered Iao that folk preferred Hephaestus' comfort over Iao's stern authority. Though still in name the only God, He saw Hephaestus was the one who was obeyed. As the Great Month of the Fishes grew old, the sovereignty slipped away from Iao, although His priests still preached His name. Indeed, throughout the last Great Week of this month, the Jealous God's authority declined to nil. The Craftsman, burning still with anger, had usurped the throne.

[66] But as the Fish advanced and yielded to the Waterboy, the gentle Mother Earth groaned under the Tongs and Hammer of Hephaestus, still resenting that He'd been so long denied the love of Laughing Aphrodite, lawfully His wife, and of the other Goddesses.

[67] On earth the mortal women raised their voices loud to wise Athena and to Artemis, to all the long neglected Goddesses. They begged release from their oppression.

[68] Gaia, Mother Earth, complained both long and hard to Zeus: "The people whom I nurture now dishonor Me. This Iao has taught them not to love Me; He says I'm foul and base, and all My creatures are their chattel."

[69] Artemis the Huntress said, "The forests are destroyed, and poisoned by the rain, which is their rightful food."

[70] "My priestesses they burn alive like corpses on a pyre," Hecate complained.

[71] But Pan complained most bitterly of all: "They say that I'm the most outrageous thing, a God whose only goal is working mischief in the world! Yes Me! who makes the flocks grow strong and saves the shepherd. Their priests imagine that they're shepherds, but know nought of husbandry. Though I've played some tricks from time to time, I don't deserve this blame."

[72] Then Zeus stood up and spoke with thundering voice: "This game has gone too far. The time has come to seize the reins from this God's grip before, like Phaethon, He's burned the world to cinders."

[73] The Gods all gathered; coming as a whirlwind from the North, flashing bright like burnished bronze, the Gods ascended High Olympus. When They stood outside its gates, the Thunderer addressed the Owl-eyed Goddess, and He said: "Athena, wise child of My brow, since You combine the best of Me and of Your mother Metis, wisest of the Gods, I pass to You the scepter. For I need a rest, and Your direction of the world has been too long delayed; this victory belongs to You, and to Your sisters."

[74] The Goddesses conferred and made Their plans, a way that Iao might be evicted from the Holy Halls. Fair Aphrodite first approached the brazen doors, speaking sweetly: "Hear me Iao, for I'm of the seed of Kronos, sister (one might say) to Zeus. Who better to beget the God who's destined to unseat the Son of Kronos?"

[75] Iao, inflamed by Aphrodite's beauty, grew more jealous of His rival. Down He stepped upon the marble floor and strode up to the door. Enraptured by the Paphian, He gazed with hungry eyes and drew the bolt. With graceful moves She stepped across the threshold, loosing from Her shoulders the gown, which fell in silky waves around Her feet. Impotent before the force of this attack, the Jealous God was paralyzed. The Goddess swiftly wrapped Her glistening girdle round Him, binding Him with Her own special strength.

[76] Around the corner Artemis appeared and urged Her barking dogs upon the staggering God. Escaping from the Golden Girdle, Iao in panic fled the Hall, chased by the pack, which nipped His heels.

[77] Abruptly Iao stopped, stumbling at the edge of high Olympus. He turned to face the Goddesses, and from Their midst Athena stepped before Him, growing tall and shining in Her glory. Raising high Her spear, She spoke these words: "Why have You boasted in this way, denying Us and saying You're the only God, and claiming You're the father of all things. Behold, You are but one of many."

[78] Then Athena raised Her spear and aimed it at His heart. In fear He tumbled backwards over the edge and fell from High Olympus. Nine days He fell before He reached the earth, and nine days more He fell before He sank into the gloom of Tartarus. Imprisoned under Mother Earth, He dwells with other Gods of overweening pride.

[79] For it was true in ancient times, and still is true and evermore shall be: that there is just one God, no matter what He's called, who dares to rule alone, despising aid and council of the other Gods; just one, and Chaos is His name.

* * *
[80] I sing of things that have already happened in our time: the Goddesses and Gods already have reclaimed Olympus; now They set affairs aright. But more - the sweet-voiced sacred Muses speak, and grant a glimpse of future times. I will not swear that it will come to pass, for Muses sometimes joke, instead of telling truth, but this is what I've seen:

[81] Though Zeus's thought will be to throw Hephaestus into Tartarus with Iao, Athena then will beg for mercy for the Smith, who'll be forgiven. Then there'll be a wondrous marriage, for Athena also loves the crafts, and She will wed the Crippled Smith Hephaestus. In a mystic union the Ever-virgin Goddess will absorb the Craftsman, bearing in Her womb His child. In little time a Goddess will be born, emerging from Athena's heart: a Maiden, glorious to behold. She'll show the way to wisdom in the crafts, and how to wisely use machines. Indeed, She'll bring to mortal folk the Gods' ambrosia, the holy draught of life.

[82] The Wise Child will sing, in sounds as sweet as honey: "Come, let's pour out ambrosia for the mortals, wet their dry and dusty spirits, quench their thirst, and wash away their discontent. With wisdom, people will cooperate with Us, for Gods and mortals both are Gaia's children. Mortals, come, drink deep the holy draught of wisdom."

[83] This will come to pass, the Muses say, and so my song is done.


Return to Biblioteca Arcana page

Send comments about this page
Last updated: Mon Dec 22 16:59:39 EST 1997