Images of the Divine Child

The representations of Zeus and Ganymede very widely in their imagery and formal details. In one, a 5th century BC statue, a young bearded Zeus strides ahead with Ganymede as a child under his arm (Figure 33), and a relief on a mirror, also 5th century BD, shows Zeus as an eagle carrying a slender youth to Olympus (Figure 34). These stories have been given at least three different interpretations: they have provided a sanction for Greek homosexuality, they have been interpreted as the soul taken up by God, or they can be seen as the integration of the mature masculinity with the figure of the child. In the birth of the son, the mother experiences the wholly other, but in the son the father finds an extension of himself similar to the Demeter-Kore relationship of women. With the re-discovery of the world of women in the late 20th century, much has been written about the need for men to relate to their feminine side. The myth of Zeus and Ganymede suggests another solution to those overly rigid aspects of the patriarchal world which descend into the senex side. That solution is to find again the child, to relate to that inner child who has been swallowed by Kronos, time, and the demands of the external collective world. The hero in acting out his conquests has had no time to play; Circe can bewitch him or he can dally in the land of the lotus-eaters only to his destruction. However once the dragon has been slain, the primordial parents separated and the masculine world achieved, the child can rescue the mature man from the one-sidedness of success and worldly accomplishments.

[aras-image:3Jc.015,b,7,,,Figure 33 Zeus and Ganymede.]
[aras-image:3Ka.028,,7,,,Figure 34 Ganymede carried off by an eagle.]

The primordial figure of the child presents manifold aspects of the "child" as an inner image. It never refers to and can never refer to any specific human child, but rather to those inner experiences of the child which constantly reappear in various guises in different times and places. Kerényi speaks of the Primordial Child as a monotone which "consists of all notes at once" and then "develops first and foremost into its polar opposite -- Zeus. For the 'biggest boy' of the Cretan hymn is the summation and epitome of all the undifferentiated possibilities as well as of all those that are realized in the pure forms of the gods." Thus it is that "Zeus stands closest to the Primordial Child" since "one pole always implies the possibilities of the other and, together with it, forms a higher unity, as is here the case with child Zeus and Zeus the Father."13