Iris: the Goddess of the Rainbow as the Harbinger of a New Era

There is a well-known saying that the rainbow comes only after the storm. In the Bible, after the Deluge, God places a rainbow in the sky and pledges solemnly not to send another flood upon the earth: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth,” as we read in the Book of Genesis. Symbolically, deluge denotes spiritual cleansing and redemption, which ushers in a new era. Probably everyone reading this would agree that the Earth is in deep need of renewal at this point in time. With the Sun currently in Aquarius, my thoughts have been centering on a need for cleansing and renewal; a new suit of ideas that would wake, transform our collective attitudes and fertilize our sterile collective mind. More and more individuals seem to be waiting for an outer manifestation of all the stirrings and movements that have been occurring in the collective psyche. For a reason I cannot explain, because my mind often functions in very whimsical ways, I have been thinking of the symbolism of the rainbow recently.

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Joseph Anton Koch, “Landscape with Noah”

The Greek goddess personifying the rainbow is one of the most fascinating deities to me. Her name was Iris and she was a swift-footed, golden-winged messenger to the gods, bringing important news and disappearing as miraculously and quickly as she has appeared; not unlike the rainbow itself. There is also an asteroid Iris (number 7, which is fitting if you think of the colours of the rainbow), which has just crossed the cardinal axis and entered the sign Aries. The emergence from the unconscious waters of Pisces into Aries, the first sign of the Zodiac, is associated with manifestation. Hopefully, the transiting Iris will be a harbinger of change and renewal for all of us. Let’s hope that what has been stirring inside will be brought outside now. The goddess Iris, as a rainbow bridge, linked the sea and the sky, and she was also allowed to enter the underworld and dive in the depths of the sea. The Greeks imagined that she was the goddess who supplied the clouds with the water that she obtained from the seas by means of a golden pitcher, and thus stimulated the rains that brought growth and fertility onto the earth. This must have been born from observing actual rainbows, whose one end as hiding deep beyond the horizon, often in the sea or a body of water and whose other end seemed to reach the heavens.

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Guy Head, “Iris Carrying the Water of the River Styx to Olympus for the Gods to Swear by”

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John Atkinson Grimshaw, “Iris”

I find it quite fascinating that Iris’s mother was Electra, a cloud nymph and one of the seven Pleiades. The Pleiades themselves were associated with water in all forms, such as rain, frost, ice snow, lakes, rivers, oceans, etc.

“In Greek and Aboriginal mythology the Pleiades are often referred to as ocean or sea nymphs or as water girls and ice maidens. Their relationship with water is multi-layered and multi-faceted and we see numerous connections of the Pleiades with the weather, agriculture, navigation and sailing.”

Munya Andrews

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Returning to Iris, but still staying with the symbolism of number seven and the rainbow, for Cirlot, the rainbow is a kind of an elusive bridge which links that which can be perceived with what is beyond perception. The seven colours of the rainbow also refer to the marriage of heaven and earth, because symbolically three is a number connected with heaven and god/goddess while four is associated with the earth and matter. In a classic text by Wynn Westcott (see Sources below), we read:

“The Heptad, say the followers of Pythagoras, was so called from the Greek verb ‘sebo,’ to venerate (and from the Hebrew ShBO, seven, or satisfied, abundance), being Septos, ‘Holy,’ ‘divine’…”

Elaborating on the meaning of number seven and trying to find its synthesis, Cirlot writes:

“It corresponds to the seven Directions of Space (that is, the six existential dimensions plus the centre), to the seven-pointed star, to the reconciliation of the square with the triangle by superimposing the latter upon the former (as the sky over the earth) or by inscribing it within. It is the number forming the basic series of musical notes, of colours and of the planetary spheres as well as of the gods corresponding to them; and also of the capital sins and their opposing virtues. …the six directions of space symbolize—or are equivalent to—the simultaneous and eternal presence of the six days of the Creation, and that the seventh day (of rest) signifies the return to the centre and the beginning. It was indeed the awareness of the seven Directions of Space (that is, two for each of the three dimensions plus the centre) that gave rise to the projection of the septenary order into time. Sunday—the Day of Rest—corresponds to the centre and, since all centres are linked with the ‘Centre’ or the Divine Source, it is therefore sacred in character. The idea of rest is expressive of the notion of the immobility of the ‘Centre’, whereas the other six Directions are dynamic in character.”

To summarize and synthesize, number seven seems to be a perfect and complete number encompassing both the spiritual and the temporal spheres. Madame Blavatsky says that seven is a parthenogenic number “neither born of a mother or a father but that it proceeded ‘from the Monad directly’ and was therefore considered ‘to be a religious and perfect number.’ ” (here quoted after Munya Andrews, author of a splendid book on the mythology of the Pleiades, please refer to the Sources below). The harmony of the spheres is said to rest on the seven tones of creation. In her book on Pleiades, Andrews frequently cites scientific findings and offers her own symbolic interpretations of them, which I find quite illuminating:

 “Ancient beliefs in the creative powers of number seven have been recently affirmed by science. In ‘Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe,’ astronomer Martin Rees has identified one number as the source of our creation, and that is 0.007. What is so remarkable about this number, says Rees, ‘is that no carbon-based biosphere could exist if this number had been 0.006 or 0.008 rather than 0.007.’ ”

And even more amazingly, more so when we think of the Hindu mythology, which refers to the Pleiades as the Seven Mothers of the World:

 “What is enormously interesting about our widespread preoccupation with the number seven in many creation stories is the revelation that genetic analysis of people of European descent traces DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) carried only in female mitochondrial genes (mtDNA) to seven primordial ‘clan mothers.’ These are The Seven Daughters of Eve who feature in Bryan Sykes’ book, which overturned previously held archaeological and anthropological conjecture about early hominids and spontaneous agricultural development.”

Our Great Mother seems to have been seven in number. In fact, both Madame Blavatsky and Barbara Hand Clow, author of The Pleiadian Agenda, have associated the stars of the Pleiades with the Harmony of the Spheres and the creation of the universe by means of sound and vibration. According to Madame Blavatsky, quoted here after Munya Andrews, “it is the stars of Ursa Major acting in concert with the Pleiades that govern the various cycles of time, including the cyclical destruction and reconstruction of the cosmos.”

What kind of divine message is the goddess Iris bringing to humanity? I feel that she comes down from the heavens to share with us some sacred mysteries that have remained hidden up to now. The word revelation is actually connected etymologically with the act of tearing away a veil. Porphyry, a Neoplatonic philosopher and disciple of Plotinus, wrote that the ancients called heavens “a veil,” which was hiding the true and profound mysteries of creation. Just looking at the Pleiades or at a rainbow, provokes a sense of mystery and awe. The Pleiades seem to be wrapped in blue veils, a rainbow is never crystal clear but always misty and elusive. Barbara G. Walker likens the goddess Iris to the Hindu Maia, who personified “the many-colored veils of the world’s appearances behind which the spirit of the Goddess worked unseen.” She adds:

 “Like the part of the eye named after her, she was the Kore, Virgin, or Female Soul, a form of the Great Shakti who was both the organ of sight and the visible world that it saw. Her spectrum spanned all possible colors.”

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Mythic Tarot, Temperance

To me, both Iris and the Pleiades and their myth seem to hold the keys to the quality of the approaching New Era. It is worth pointing out that rainbows seem to be bows and arches but are in fact always full circles. We only ever see the upper half of the arc. The Great Round, Full Circle of wisdom is always hidden behind the veil. According to myth, Iris had one son with Zephyrus, god of the West Wind. His name was Pothos. James Hillman was fascinated by that mythical figure and had a lot of amazing things to say about him. For the Greeks, pothos meant “erotic feeling of nostalgic desire,” “a yearning desire for a distant object.” Somewhere over the rainbow, beyond the horizon, is what we desire. We long for “the unattainable, the ungraspable, the incomprehensible.” The eros and the spirit are forever intertwined. Winning an object of our longing will inevitably bring a feeling of pothos because a desire for love can never be fully satisfied. Says Hillman:  “Pothos, as the wider factor in eros, drives the sailor-wanderer to quest for what cannot be fulfilled and what must be impossible.”

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Pothos

We can attain what we long for ultimately only through imagination. Nothing wakes pothos so acutely as a sighting of a rainbow.

Sources:

Munya Andrews, The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades – Stories from around the World

Juan Eduardo Cirlot, Dictionary of Symbols

James Hillman, Senex and Puer (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman 3)

Barbara G. Walker, The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

Wynn Westcott, Numbers, Their Occult Powers and Mystic Virtues, http://sacred-texts.com/eso/nop/nop14.htm

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41 Responses to Iris: the Goddess of the Rainbow as the Harbinger of a New Era

  1. “Hopefully, the transiting Iris…” I will now look at rainbows and seasonal change with she in mind!

  2. Who doesn’t marvel at rainbows? They are spectacular.You mentioned Clow. Have you read her book on Chiron? I highly recommend it.

  3. cat says:

    Love rain … stayed in BC, Canada once for 3 months straight … it rained almost every day .. some sun in the morning … rainbows all the time … so hungry for rainbows … greetings from winter country Ab, Canada …

  4. Fascinating article as always. Now I’m wondering about Pothos. A word I just learned. On the level of longing it seems to relate to the poetic idea of duende. About the idea of seeing what you long for this is certainly intriguing: ‘…a form of the Great Shakti who was both the organ of sight and the visible world that it saw…’ Once again, I will reread your post.

  5. ptero9 says:

    “for Cirlot, the rainbow is a kind of an elusive bridge which links that which can be perceived with what is beyond perception.”

    What wonderful connections you make here. I much prefer to think of the rainbow as “an elusive bridge” than a promise 🙂

    In Oregon, where I live, we get a lot of rain in the Winter and Spring. The rainbows here are often big, beautiful and plentiful. When I first moved here, I wondered why they were not considered traffic hazards as they were impossible for me to ignore.
    Debra

  6. karinvandenbergh says:

    Interesting post. Thanks. I didn’t know Iris – Greek mythology was part of my studies but no mention of her. 2014 is predicted to be ‘all’ about revelation and big changes, so Iris..bring it on babe 🙂 ! Talking about outer manifestations of the collective mind, I just read a very intriguing article by David Wilcock about the relationship between the polar vortex and the ‘chilling effect’ of NSA surveillance. Everything is connected.

  7. Soul Fields says:

    Wonderful! Thank you.

    You could guess that this is a personally special post to me, if you´d remember that 7 is my favorite number (my 2nd favorite being 5), that is intuitively already as a child before I knew any of its meanings and the fact that the 7th house of my natal chart for example is so occupied. I love the way you connect it with Goddess Iris including the asteroid, I had not thought about 7 in those terms that much, although having known Iris is the Rainbow Goddess. Your post is also in synch with that I´ve been drawn to bridges lately, rainbow being one manifestation of them, like you wrote. I have also just played with and kind of re-energized the symbol of my life purpose: the seven pointed star. 😀

    Also the seven chakras and The Seven Rays (Seven Wills as Sanaya Roman puts them connecting them with the Big Dipper, but also with other stars including the Pleiades) and the tone 7 (resonant) in Mayan astrology (happens to be my tone/Yellow Resonant Warrior) came to my mind.

    PS. Other important numbers to myself are 8 and 11. They have been more challenging and taught me much, where as 7 and 5 have been the more naturally flowing, “lighter” numbers, so to speak.

  8. I agree with you the link of this to Aquarius, the New Moon today, the New Year of the Wood Horse leaping out of water years, with Venus also stationing direct conjunct Pluto and opposite Jupiter- great asteroid synchronicity again with Iris crossing the cardinal axis into Aries. The Pleiades continue to fascinate me. I was even just reading about Pythagoras a little bit and very interested in the associated culture he cultivated which included vegetarianism and the acceptance of women as equals, or so I read somewhere. Also the number 7, there are just so many associations and I think it is one of the reasons traditional astrologers like to work with all of the old complexity that can be found through only working with the 7 planets. I just saw a rainbow yesterday, and really love how you worked in Pothos into all of this- very stimulating to consider.

    • Yes, number seven is an inexhaustible topic. Aquarius is really connected with gender and right now in Poland there is a debate about it. Not so long ago a group of crazy skinheads burnt down a rainbow (I mean a work of art made of flowers) that stood on a major square in Warsaw, Poland’s capital. That was shameful.
      About the Pleiades, I literally sank into that book I mentioned in the post. Just looking at the Pleiades in the sky always gives me this extraordinary feeling I cannot even put into words.

      • I may need to get that book. I do have the “Pleiadian Agenda” by Clow but have only read part of it. I love gazing at the Pleiades at night as well, and know we do both have our Moons conjunct it, as well as South Nodes. I also meant to mention the Olympia astrologer Rosie Finn who I have taken classes from in the past, pointed out to me there will be a strong 7th Harmonic in February. One point is 13 Capricorn with Venus and Pluto, one is 4-5 Pisces with Neptune and Mercury, one is 22-23 with Saturn in Scorpio, then the other points are 26 Aries, 0.5 Libra, 9 Leo, and 17.5 Gemini.

      • That is extraordinary with the seventh harmonic in February. I hope you will decide to write more about this.

  9. Pingback: Iris: the Goddess of the Rainbow as the Harbinger of a New Era | lampmagician

  10. such rich symbolism, as always so meticulously researched and presented with ardour and inspiration – always a delight to read your presentations Monika – I often wonder that the world has lost so much in the eradication of the ancient Greco-Roman religion, mythology and theology which today only persists among esoteric circles of curious intellectuals – Like the rich Hindu pantheon it too shaped behaviour art poetry sculpture painting and philosophy – what a pity that in their early enthusiasm as converts to Christianity, the Roman emperors buried a great school of art and thought and we only glimpse that as relics in a museum rather than a living force – Islam too tried to do the same to Hinduism and its mythology but its metaphysical strength and diversity withstood the onslaught of a thousand years to meaningfully survive and thrive to this day.

    • Interesting thoughts, Indrajit, thank you very much. I think the demise of mythology is not only to be blamed on early Christians but perhaps generally on the sterile, patriarchal Western culture. However, there is a lot of mythological revival taking place also in the west, a lot of new books are being published, etc. My hopes are high at this point.

      • Would you mean mythological revival like star Wars, Lord of the rings, Avatar etc? – thats the only new western Myths that are popular these days – I didnt mean to criticize christianity which is one of the noblest religions – what i said was that the enthusiasm of the early Roman new convert emperors was responsible.

      • I was thinking more of the actual Greek mythology. I think it is again starting to interest people in the West.

      • in fact it always did – look at the classical paintings of the renaissance – full of that mythology.

      • Yes, of course. I also think that the new age of Aquarius and the paradigm shift will have a lot to do with the return of the divine feminine, who had her most beautiful expression in myth. We shall see if my impressions are correct.

  11. The divine feminine is rich in India at least today – the primordial mother figure ‘shakti’ – riding a tiger protecting supporting mothering – energy (shakti) is feminine and the power of all gods are shown as their consorts that personify their power – There is a famous shrine in kashmir of Vaishnav Devi up in the mountains where devotees climb up daily 24 hours in a continuous pilgrimage like no other on earth and the shrine remains open 24 hours no rest all the year round – the mountain stands against the sky and strangely as the sun sets the whole sky becomes a rainbow of VIBGYOR ( VIOLET, INDIG0, GREEN YELLOW ORANGE RED) after the sun has set – two golden lions guard the cave as the devotees throng before it to chant vedic hymns extolling the MOTHER’S divine attributes of love, patience, creativity,compassion, and all the qualities that we cherish attributed to Her – strangely a post i created on the divine mother – Tribute to Kali – and all Her attributes attracts daily over 6 months since i created it at least 10 visitors and it has alone been responsible for over a 1000 hits and counting – you should go see what has become a phenomenal post if you have not already – it is full of the power of the feminine myth.

    Indrajit

    • WOW about the Kashmir valley and the shrine. I am absolutely in love with this valley although I know it only from photographs.
      The post about Kali that yoiu wrote was beautiful, I remember it very well.

      • how does the Indian view of the godless compare with the classical Greeko-Roman – considering you are a kind of expert with symbolism and the way it effects behaviour? – despite the godess effect which is essentially maternal rather than feminine ( important distinction) Indian society remains essentially patriarchal and chauvanisitic – the mother is respected but not the ‘female’ – i think you understand – cant understand how this happens

      • I think the extraordinary thing is that the Greek myth views the feminine in exactly the same way as the Indian lore. The costumes or names may change but the archetypal essence is the same because it is universal for all humans. When I read your poem on Kali I am thinking about the goddess Hekate, the dark goddess of the Greek myth. Similarly to you, I cannot understand how you can worship the goddess and mistreat the woman.

      • this is apparently because we in India worship our mothers but when it comes to another female as a partner we tend to forget that mere physical strength is not what gives you power and that masculine preponderance ( more hair, darker colouring, physical strength, muscle and a deeper voice) are merely attributes of attraction for the female and NOT signs of superiority – we forget that the ‘colourful’ male is only an attribute of the paler female and that essentially ( and now i am speaking from inner creative inspiration which has come in the moment) all creation is basically female – i too have for instance tits that have been made non functional for example and serve no purpose – what does that mean? it means that essentially i am female transformed like a peacock with colours by some agency – a female injected by natures colour to create a difference from my base which is female – creation is basically all female to start with the male is then colourful diversion, – a cells replication into another cell is not sexual it is neither male nor female in that phase it is perhaps neutral and possibly the neutral may well be defined as female – it is when an enzyme is sprayed on it that it turns male – i.e. female plus enzyme = male – thus the basic entity is female later transformed with colouring – thus we need to have basic and intrinsic respect for that BASE. – this is the first time i have thought such a thought – wonder what you think – have i derailed my thinking??

      • No, you have not derailed your thinking. The female IS the sacred basis of all creation (although not in the Old Testament, but that is another story). It is the most profound truth we must all wake up to.

      • well said Monika – i believe now strongly that , that is so

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