THE DISASTROUS LOVE AFFAIR OF MOON AND MARS
by Alfred de Grazia
SACRED SCANDAL AND DISASTER
The song is sung. The play is over. Now the question is, "What
does it represent?" It represents, I think, and I must take the rest
of this book to explain myself, a shocked spell amidst
conditions of horrifying natural disaster. The Greeks
experienced it, suppressed its memories, remembered it
subconsciously, and converted it ultimately into the symbolic
form of a comedy.
The Greeks assumed the Love Affair took place in the sky nor
could it have any other location. The gods move swiftly from
place to place, the Sun is one of the actors, some of the brilliant
imagery such as of "the brazen bright threshold" suggests the
heavens, the gods involved are all sky-gods, and the decor and
associated games are celestial. Hyginus is not alone in speaking
of the play as going on in the sky; speaking of Venus exciting
Mars, he writes that "since she inflamed him violently with
love, she called the star Pyroeis, indicating this fact." 
Hyginus' Poetica Astronomica also says that: When Vulcan
married Venus he watched so Mars could only follow but never
This indicates the nature of the "love-affair" as a planetary
engagement and hints at prior close encounters of Vulcan with
Aphrodite and then a relationship such that Vulcan would
always be closer to Aphrodite than Mars could be.
Effective planetary encounters must be accompanied by grave
Probably the primordial elements of The Love Affair were
composed of the incoherent, intense feelings of people in a
frenzy of despair and fright  . Words of today cannot express
their feelings. The biblical prophets convey some impressions
of the state of mind in the throes of disaster. The mind of today,
developed in the imagery of nuclear bomb devastation, can
perhaps understand something of their feelings. Accounts of
historically experienced natural disasters such as Vesuvius,
Krakatoa, the Pestigo (Wisconsin) forest fire, and the great
Lisbon earthquake lend analogous material.
What had really happened had probably caused repeated surges
of disjoined symbols and thoughts. The poetry must have
sprung originally from a chaos of sounds, sights and human
babel and ejaculations, uttered by many tongues, over hours and
days of time. A "normal" adult would probably have been
reduced to bodies of expression such as follows:
The worst is happening... just as feared!... all
sacrifices failed... here it is... annihilator...
oracles... monster-body... war... death sun... red
dogs, blood... Aphrodite... sex... moon... darkness...
thunder... trumpets... golden... Ares... Zeus...
sword... stretched fireballs... moon rape... heat...
god, god... who... suffocation... stinks... stand still...
run... hide... don't move... a giant in the sky
calling... he was away... his flares are out... moon
is his... we give it... pray take it... all this can't
happen... we did not mean it... abah, awah, abah...
we are dying... glowers... shakes... where is he
going... where has she gone... din... deafness... the
sky and land are afire... Poseidon stop it... shake
them off... take everything... let us be... uh.
And so on.
But the horror once past paved the way for music and literature.
The state of mind of the audience of Demodocus can be reconstructed
into a more coherent story in which the matching of a
new plot with the original real story is nicely achieved. The
original memories and anxieties are blended and smoothed over
by the new story so that they erupt under control. History
cannot be forgotten, but it can be made tolerate. The Song of
Love is telling something that only the collective unconscious
can understand, and which the unconscious rarely permits to be
verbalized. I shall try, nevertheless, to force to emerge some of
the unexpressed and unconscious feelings of the people of
Phaeacia as the Love Affair is sung and played. To do so I may
resort to a rhetorical device.
AN ANCIENT PRIEST EXPLAINS
If an old priest of Delphi were to be instructing acolytes about
events of the song, we imagine that lecture-notes upon his discourse
would read as follows:
"We know these gods for what they are,
uncontrollable and primeval; we cannot say what
we think of them; we must not even say who they
are or where we first met them; we must not say
what they did to us or in any way accuse them; we
must not even remember too much lest we feel
agony and panic. The rhythms and the chords keep
our feeling under control, reinforcing the screen of
words alone. The story, as Demodocus signs it, is
familiar. Yet it contrives to excite and appease us.
We shall feel better afterwards. That is because
otherwise we might be compelled to confront the
true story, which is rather like what follows,
although we cannot be sure that it is more than a
terribly realistic dream."
THE HIDDEN STORY
Ares and Aphrodite are the planet Mars and the
Moon. The Planet Mars is ruddy and far away
now, but was then close to the Moon who was
bathed in her golden aura. Hephaestus is the
planet Venus. He is not married to Aphrodite. He
approached her on various occasions in times
past, and ourselves too, our Earth, and was
terribly destructive. And the Moon was disturbed
and drawn to him and then was drawn back, and
so we gave her in marriage, or rather Zeus gave
her in marriage, for how else could they be
legitimately coupled save by the ruler of the skies
and of humanity, who has for three thousands
years dominated us.
Mars and Moon are not in love, nor do they make
true love. They are destroying each other and us.
Mars' huge body which once seemed like a flaming
sword interjects itself between Moon and Earth.
And the whole primal violence of extreme sexual
activity occurs on a world scale. The bed of Earth
shakes, the skies glare brilliantly, electricity is all-pervasive,
the Moon disappears and reappears. A
massive rape is occurring. Hephaestus is far away.
It is night but for the brilliance of the scene, secret
night when sex flourishes and Aphrodite, the Dark
One, makes love. Perhaps if he would return, he
would divert the assailant Mars and spare us from
total destruction. We would ourselves imitate this
orgy, if we were engaging in an alternate mood of
anxiety-therapy, or we would propitiate by
sacrificing ourselves or what belongs to us or
whatever and whomever we can lay our hands on.
We know what "gifts of Ares" are. They are
meteors. They are the steeds of Mars. They have
struck us and are showered upon Moon. When our
King Nausithous led us out of Hypereia, it was
because of the stone-giants which Mars and his
horde had hurled upon our land.
The secret will be exposed. Helios the Sun is
rising. He never takes part. He cannot rescue us.
But he will attract the attention of the Planet
Hephaestus and perhaps an intervention will
It does. Planet Hephaestus looms large, in blazing
anger, his immense arms and stunted legs making
him look like a comet. Then he disappears. He
does not approach the lovers closely. He goes to
the other side of Earth. We wonder whether he will
reappear. The destruction upon Earth is terrible.
Mars is twice the size of the Moon. We are struck
repeatedly by his "gifts"- gases, stones, quakes. The
waters are disturbed. The tides are high, the volcanos
are erupting. Will the other gods do nothing?
Now the Moon and Mars are behind us, leaving us
rocking and quaking. But Hephaestus is once more
in sight. He is as large as Mars, brilliant, and
trailing electric sparks even against the gray sky.
But if his legs drag, not so his arms. His huge arms
flap as they hammer out the sparks. The whole sky
around him is brazen. He drops flashing clouds
over our heads and from the corner posts or
pillars of the sky.
But again he departs and again come Mars and
Moon. She had returned separately to the region of
Jupiter and comes back once again to meet Mars
who has come flying along parallel to us. Moon
attracts Mars once more. Great electric sparks
envelop them. They are perturbed. They pause and
move, pause and move. Now Moon appears in an
unusual phase or position, now she disappears
behind Mars and he moves ahead showing another
part of her. Mars is closely following the Moon,
which is to say that he is moving swiftly parallel to
But Hephaestus now approaches, even larger than
he was a few hours ago (who can measure such
agonizing time?) A thunderous noise fills the
heavens, like the enraged shouts of the cuckolded
husband. It is something to cause ugly laughter; it
is a tangible, an enormous, a highly visible fact,
this entanglement of the two.
We shall now witness the catastrophe, as we
Greeks call the end of an age and also that part of
a drama which brings the culmination of a plot.
"The Gods of the Sky must come!," says the
thunderous noise. The scene must attract them, for
it is their milieu. It is the end of the age, the end of
the world. They will be our salvation or our doom.
Hephaestus is lying. He knows he is not the son of
Zeus but was cast down by Jupiter and took his
strange misshapen form (compared with the other
Olympians) from the accident. The bed of
Hephaestus is by the Moon, not as it is today, even
though he is often far away and invisible in the
But Mars has climbed upon this bed and is trapped
in the invisible electrical-gravitational net. The sex
bout has ended with the bodies suddenly largely
stilled. Our Earth also pauses.
Hephaestus hovers in the sky, glowering, raging,
exchanging bolts with Mars. Mars tries to emerge
from the bed of the Moon. Hephaestus demands his
brideprice back from Jupiter. They are the same
"gifts" as Mars, which Hephaestus had showered
upon Moon in olden time, when the marriage was
first consummated and we have not recovered from
that marriage of the gods yet.
Jupiter stays away. He is retiring more and more.
He has claimed to set up the order of the skies,
such as it is. He is scarcely responsible, it seems
to us, for he should return to strike Mars with
thunderbolts and drive him away. Instead of the
conflict being adjudicated, it will have to be
Other gods gather. Actually they do not. But
memories of them do because of the terror of our
experience. New terrors pile upon the old and
explode them. Here we see Hermes and Apollo, the
lucky and the wise. What can we except from
them? Hermes is the helper. We say he is so,
because we hope he will help and because once
long ago he had been near us when we were going
through a similar crisis; he fled to safety and we
followed; so we say he led us.
But now he is tormenting us. Prompted by Apollo,
he tells the grim truth as a sexual joke; he is an old
lover of Moon too, and great is the ruin they
brought upon each other and ourselves but great
also is the attraction these gods of the sky have for
one another. They laugh at the tragedies of others
because they suffered the same themselves and no
one consoled them.
The goddesses stayed away, "out of shame", we
sing. The goddesses are not ashamed; it is male
conceit. Their names are taken by the male gods
whenever they please. Artemis "is" Apollo. Hera
"was" Poseidon and "is" now Jupiter. And Athena?
Well, Athena "is" Hephaestus, the only planetary
female, so she is here in fact and deed.
Hephaestus-Venus will stay married to the Moon.
We know how it will end. The only question is
whether Mars should pay anything. Apollo
remains aloof and laughing. But for Earth and Sea
it is no laughing matter. Poseidon stands for Earth
when Mother Earth is absent, as well as for the
all-encircling seas and waters. He is The Earth-Shaker!
He repeatedly beseeches the Planet Venus
on our behalf to uncouple Mars and Moon. Earth
is already paying its price and willing to pay more
if only the disasters will cease.
The tension is terrible to bear. Fortunately Venus-Hephaestus
is about to move away. The disaster
cannot continue. He therefore accepts the offer of
the Earth-Shaker who may be growing tired of his
own exertions. More will be paid by Earth to the
Planet that shines in daytime. This bodes ill. More
songs, more dances, prayers, sacrifices, suffering
will be required in the future, from Venus as well
as from Mars.
So the two bodies are loosed and spring up and
away. Thank the Gods! The break happened fast.
As Venus withdrew, Mars speeded away in a new
orbit to the Northwest, propelled by the planets
Earth and Venus, and the Moon, violently abused,
flew Southwest where all smoke and fires were
quickly quenched and she emerged soon,
appearing as round and golden as she did before
but she now carries new pocks and scars. The
character of the Moon is unchanged.
The Gods are uncontrollable; we must not offend
them; we must not pretend to be like them; but we
cannot help but sing and dance about them. It is
one of the few things we can do to prevent our
utter destruction in the future and suppress our
intolerable memories of the past.
And the old priest would conclude with a warning to the
acolytes: "Someday you will understand this, but what I have
told you must always remain a secret from everybody."
The song, the music, and the dancing are ended. The transition
to the ordinary frame of mind occurs. The sons of the good
King Alcinous perform a dance to lighten the minds and hearts
of the audience. They cast a beautiful purple ball far into the air,
leaping to catch it. It seems to reach the shadowy clouds. They
seem to touch the sky, to be as light as air. This heavenly sphere
has no counterparts on earth. Perhaps it is a stretched and
round-stitched bladder or skin filled with feathers, fashioned by
a master hand, or a round-shaped gourd ball. It makes contact
with the celestial spheres-Sun, Moon, Planets. They keep them
up and leap after them; all is done quickly; it is a trompe l'oeil,
a dazzling coda.
If the preceding replay of Demodocus' song as a representation
of the unconscious contains both a new "real" parallel plot and
a certain "madness," one need not be repelled or even surprised.
Literature was not invented by humankind out of boredom with
spending long nights in caves. It emerged as a method of
controlling psychological distress.
Both the "real" story and the "madness" will come in for more
lengthy discussion. One asks here simply for a beginning of
understanding. As the plot breaks down under analysis, it
should evidence some well-known psychoses of which the
mind is capable under stress. In its suffering and terror the mind
engages in many forms of delusional thought. An important
effect is the belief that the skies and the earth are alive with
beings who resemble oneself and are similarly motivated. This
anthropomorphism helps the transfiguration of the
uncontrollable and huge forces into the images of sex, social
power, and property that the mind is accustomed to dealing
Ambivalence to the gods erupts quickly, once the gods are born
out of nature. Hate is just as quickly suppressed and turned
upon oneself, for fear that one will be terribly punished if it
becomes known to the gods. A persecution complex occurs
instantly; one cannot evade the mighty punishers. Symptoms of
schizophrenia are abundant: attempts at shutting out the real
world; attempts at reconstructing quickly a new world of one's
own in which events are controlled only by the mind.
Forgetting and distortion proceed quickly. As soon as possible,
means will be invented to screen off both the real story and its
effects on the psyche. Literature, songs, and games will be
invented. Wars will be waged, for one must handle the urge to
punish oneself by moving out wildly and attacking others.
Temples and palaces for the provision of security and order
must be erected; these will celebrate, in a different screening
language, of course, the events of those days; they will see to it
that the right food is eaten and digested and the proper mating
and reproduction will occur.
Notes (Chapter 3: The Love Affair as the Mask of Tragedy)
1. Poetica Astronomica, II 42. The root "pyr" denotes
2. Alfred de Grazia, "The Palaetiology of Fear and
Memory," (Lethbridge, Canada: University of Lethbridge, 1976), Part I.