In mythology, the planet Neptune is associated with Poseidon the god of freshwater and the sea. Even the symbol of Neptune in a birth chart is symbolic of the trident, which is said to conjure and control the water element.
It is also used to represent the trinity of the Heavens, the Underworld, the Earth and Sea because in the myth of Poseidon, he is in a trinity with his brothers Zeus (God of the Sky and Heavens) and Hades (God of the Dead and the Underworld). So, just like the Moon, we have the masculine representation of Hecate whose Lunar realm seems to cross into Neptune's realm more often than not.
Though, beyond the sea, beyond Poseidon's connection with the Moon and even the destructive nature of Neptune (as a planet of chaos and delusion), there is a disconnect between what the planet Neptune truly represents and Poseidon's nature in myth. His name means, "Lord of the Earth," as a representation of Earthquakes and his association with horses which travel the world. In fact, he is not the god of all water, but rather summons water as a part of Earth. It is not an uncommon feeling among the astrological community that Poseidon is more lucid than what the themes of Neptune suggest.
When Neptune was discovered, it was scientists who named this planet, but when the inner planets were discovered, like Mercury, Venus, and Mars– they were named by astrologers. In our earliest societies there wasn’t a separation between astronomer and astrologer, you had to be one to be the other. It wasn’t until later that these professions split off. Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto were named by scientists and they weren’t concerned with the fact that the names didn’t correlate with the archetype of the planet and the events surrounding that planet’s transits, but were instead trying to compliment the trend of mythological titles. In earlier societies they took notice, for example, that every time this planet does xyz, it affects our communication, so we’ll name it Mercury (after Hermes) as this is the God who governs communication and transport. The failure to include astrological research shows a disconnection between the planets, and therefore our true nature, with how society is today.
In fact, there is an entire book by Richard Tarnas about how the more accurate representation of the planet Uranus is Prometheus (Prometheus The Awakener, 1995). This was a prompt for my interest into the archetypes of the other modern planets.
If Poseidon is not an accurate representation of Neptune, then who is?
I was talking to my brother recently, he’s somewhat of a mythological encyclopedia and I was picking his brain about who might rule over these Neptunian qualities. He said that Hypnos or his son Morpheus might be a more accurate representation.
Now, I’m no Greek mythology nerd, though I think I am becoming one, but when looking up Morpheus, his name means “form” or “shape” as in morphing form or shape– which sounds a lot like Neptune. Morpheus was the god of dreams and nightmares. He was the leader of the Oneiroi, the dream spirits.
“The god Morpheus’ skill at transforming himself into such a life-like apparition managed to deceive even the most discerning person. The Greek gods often chose him as their messenger to appear in the dreams of mortals. Dreams could liberate the desires, hopes, and imaginations of the sleeper. However, such dreams could also portray false realities, and so betray the receiver into untoward action.” (Williams, 2022) In fact in the Iliad, Morpheus was sent by Zeus to deliver a false message to sway the victory of the Trojan war.
The name Morpheus was also used to name the drug “Morphine” as it’s known for the feeling of drowsiness and euphoria.
In my lecture about Neptune, I explore all that this planet is and those who have watched already understand how accurate this description of Morpheus is for this planet. Neptune is associated with deception, confusion, dreams, imagination, sleep, the effects from drugs– like euphoria or even psychosis– anything in that realm.
The only thing that I found about this archetype that felt a bit disconnected from Neptune was the lack of the water element– until I read about Alcyone and Ceyx. This couple, very in love, used “Zeus” and “Hera” as pet names for each other which angered Zeus– these terms of endearment seemed hubristic to him. Ceyx had to take a sea voyage even while Alcyone was concerned about the trip and begged him not to go. Zeus drowned him by sending a storm and it was Morpheus who came to Alcyone in a dream to tell her of his death. Now, I realize that the water came from Zeus and not Morpheus, but I feel that the water here serves more as a reflection, a divine prophecy, which I feel is why Neptune rules water at all (other than the unknowns in the ocean, the confusion and deception found in a body of water). I think this is also an interesting link (should we use Morpheus as a representation of Neptune) between the two rulers of Pisces as we know that Zeus is the Greek equivalent of Jupiter, the traditional ruler of Pisces.
Neptune is about truth, but you will not find truth through a direct message. You likely will not find the truth in a book, say the bible for example, even the bible is consistently negotiated with and up for interpretation. You will only find truth through reenactment. By seeing the patterns repeat over and over, you see the truth and you attempt to escape the pattern. It is usually not so obvious unless we examine the behavior. Neptune is just like dream interpretation. If Mercury is the messenger of the physical world, then just like Morpheus, Neptune is the messenger of the dream world reflecting back our daily happenings in a way that reveals a truth. This is why truth is a hard thing to find within this planet because it works in symbols, in song, in abstract thought instead of being able to read the definitive answer somewhere.
This is where recognition is important when working to remediate Neptune. The first step is always awareness. Neptune does a very good job at concealing the patterns, the icky projection, because it takes a lot of self awareness to recognize when your own insecurities are spilling over onto someone else.
Something that I did not discuss in this lecture (as I was already concerned about its length), is the correlation between Mercury and Neptune.
Modern astrologers have decided upon "higher octaves" of the traditional planets, which in all honesty I am not sure how I feel about as a concept, but so far they have assigned Uranus as a higher octave of Mercury, Neptune as a higher octave of Venus, and Pluto as a higher octave of Mars. “According to the theory of higher octaves, the energy of an inner planet gets expressed at a more spiritual level.” (Clay, 2021)
I think this is kind of limiting, but I know that these have been assigned as such to try to make sense of these planets as newer discoveries that we don't have as much vast evidence and research on as the traditional planets.
Uranus' association with Mercury makes sense. Not only does Mercury find triplicity in Aquarius (the sign that Uranus modernly rules), but they do have a like minded temperament as tricksters, but then, so do Neptune and Morpheus.
Just as the concept of "prophecy" does not fit any one planet but instead, planets are attributed to different kinds of prophecy (the Sun as vision, Mercury as a messenger, Jupiter as a seeker, etc.), correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's possible to say the same for this "higher octave" business.
Neptune as a representation of Venus makes sense. Neptune is beautiful, it's where we might find our desire hidden in a dream, our attachment to our earthly world in a beautiful nightmare. Neptunian beauty is highly discussed, Marilyn Monroe for example, who has Neptune close to the ascendant and aspecting Venus. Neptune as a representation of modern media, pop culture, movies, music, poetry– these are things that society deems beautiful or entertaining which is inherently Venusian. However, when discussing Neptune as a projector, a planet that shows us our behavior, a planet that reflects our waking state in our dreams, this is a subliminal messenger!
Neptune rules over the popular media and as such, we can see what the current society is trying to heal and work out subconsciously by looking at the movies and music that bring the collective together. For example, in 1950 during Neptune's transit through Libra, the animated Disney movie Cinderella was released. This was just after World War II, a time where women were given jobs in factories for the first time. Libra is a representation of women, justice, and equality. Even though post war society tried to go back to conformity and gender norms, it wasn’t completely possible for the women who were changed by this experience and this helped to transform society into what it is today where women do have more opportunities.
That was the time period, a cosmic rebalancing, where the boundaries that existed before ceased to be simply because of this horrible war (and let’s be real, a mix of capitalism) that came about. Destabilization, a theme of Neptune, provided a new perspective. Cinderella was expected to be a servant, she had a completely unreasonable set of duties and expectations that she had to adhere to simply because her step mother (only legally her mother– a theme of Libra) said so. Neptune in Libra is working out the unfair, possibly by projecting their own harmful expectations onto others as well. For this, natal Neptune in Libra is both Cinderella and the Step Mother at different times in their lives. Cinderella is also a love story, it’s about being awarded divine justice, divine interference for her to escape her current life.
The women at this time were provided an avenue to escape the roles that once trapped them, but what Neptune doesn't want you to know is that if you do escape, you will run into the same themes in a different situation. I imagine the implications of being Queen would have created just as much expectation that we don’t see in the movie (and as one of the Lunation subscribers pointed out, in the sequel, this does happen). Neptune in Libra created equality at the expense of the lives claimed in the war and it's apparent now that women are only seen as capable when it suits the rest of the common needs, which is not true equality (nor is capitalistic labor). Cinderella was a figurehead for the collective– they escaped the oppression of the homemaker and have fallen into another oppression of unequal pay. The root of the problem is still there.
The reason I bring this up is because Mercury is a symbol of behaviorism, as our behavioral patterns are influenced by our environment, which I feel Neptune reflects subconsciously in these collective messages. Another more recent example of popular media reflecting the patterns that society is trying to heal and make sense of: The OceanGate submarine that imploded in June 2023.
Neptune is currently in Pisces, the sign that best signifies water, the ocean, the trope of the victim. It also produces "double" an experience (as Pisces signifies the two fish bound together). The fate of the submarine is so similar to that of the Titanic, the wreckage that these people paid to see, that many comparisons have been made between the two tragedies especially speaking to the hubris of the rich. Neptune repeats itself over and over, minimizing the difficulty each time as we see the root of the pattern– I don't mean to say that the recent implosion is "less sad" but it claimed less people in its disaster. Soon after this happened, I was poking around Netflix for something to watch when I saw that the 1997 film, Titanic, was in the top 10 movies in the United States. While only 5 people were on that submarine, the impact of this is something that societally, we are still trying to make meaning of.
*As a side note, something that never ceases to amaze me is the great abundance of movie and music remakes that we've seen during the Neptune in Pisces transit, again signifying the "double" effect.
Neptune, is in a way, the Anti-Mercury– much like how the "antichrist" is still Christ-like. The false posing as the real. Hermes (as a representation of Mercury), is the god of roads and boundaries. Meaning that he can transcend the bounds of this world, but others cannot. He was given access to all the roads, even the ones that lead to the underworld and to Tartarus due to his role as "psychopomp," a guide of dead souls. He was the god that helped in negotiating Persephone's release from the underworld, he might even have a hand in creating personal roads that didn't exist before– a common result of communicating. On the other hand, Neptune is fantasy, the dream state as we will continue to discuss, the liminal space outside the boundaries, a planet that transcends boundaries.
I feel as though, while Mercury himself can transcend boundaries, it's almost as if Neptune (kind of like Prometheus in a way) steals this ability and gifts it to humans through our dreams, drugs, and other altered states. In the tale of Alcyone and Cyex, Morpheus tells Alcyone about the death that Zeus inflicted, not quite rebelling against the Gods like Prometheus, but still informing her. The problem with this comes when one does not know how to handle this ability that Neptune gifts with reverence– ecstasy can become psychosis very quickly. The fascinating Ocean can become lethal. Hermes may be the verbal warnings that we receive (and there was a surplus for both the Titanic and the OceanGate incident).
In a conversation, there are boundaries– sometimes societal, but whatever they are fueled by, there are appropriate things to say and then there are not. A Mercurial native may even test the boundaries of what is truly appropriate to say and how and when, but then, maybe they are granted this power by Hermes. Some jokes, for example, are received better coming from particular people (only a subconscious projection for sure, ruled by Neptune). This is the duplicity of Mercury.
Neptune is what is unspoken, what may even be confusing to the point of worry (though nervousness is Mercurial– do you see how intertwined these two are?). Sometimes there is a natural end to a conversation, a lapse that wiggles its way into the flow, and those who have the clarity (Mercury) to notice will respect the boundary that has been placed. Neptune may very well be the ones who push farther anyway, the ones who can't recognize the pattern, either because it's hidden or because their perspective is different, they say what is beyond the bounds of propriety. Or perhaps, they respect the natural end and still find themselves laden with worry and confusion, "Do they not like me? Did I say the wrong thing?" No communication leaves room for interpretation. I think these ocean tragedies crossed the bounds of fate, the bounds of Mercury, the bounds of reverence. It was the boastful notion at the time of the Titanic's voyage that "Not even God himself could sink this ship".
If you are struggling to find the distinction between Mercury and Neptune, put this dynamic another way: Mercury may be the technique, the brushes and technical strokes, the craftsmanship to create a painting, but Neptune is the illusion it produces, the divine inspiration to paint the thing in the first place. You'll notice many Geminis for example, are immensely creative people but only because they have an understanding of the technical aspect that such a project requires, what they put out into the world is dreamy while the skill behind it is a science (they do have Pisces ruling the 10th house after all, the sign that Neptune modernly governs).
Neptune is the dream showing you things that will probably never happen, while Mercury is the waking reality that Neptune is trying to reflect and make sense of in the subconscious.
In a way, Neptune drowns Mercury and in a way, Mercury in all his clarity, is just as confusing when holding millions of ideas at once. Perhaps they are each other's nemeses, perhaps they are one and the same, maybe they are best friends or lovers. Even Hypnos, the God of Sleep, had a twin brother reminiscent of Hermes' sign, Gemini, a representation of The Twins. Some say that Morpheus uses Hermes' realm to deliver messages and prophecy in the dream state, while others say that Hermes' staff is used to put mortals to sleep to deliver his messages. Either way, you can see how thin the line is between these two seeming opposites.
There was a point in the making of the Neptune lecture that I stopped and asked, "What is the difference between Neptune and Mercury, again?" and of course there are many answers to that. Mercury takes 2-3 weeks to travel one sign while Neptune takes around 14 years, Mercury rules clarity while Neptune rules truth (and these things are not the same), Mercury communicates while Neptune's communication is interpretive, hidden in rhyme, intuitive.
But at the core, these two dance together. Crossing into each other's realm constantly, it's like they can't stay away from each other, or maybe Neptune is just messing with Mercury, much like Pan's shadow.
If this realm interests you, if you're wanting to understand the subconscious projections your own Neptune sign might produce, if you have Pisces placements and you've always wondered about this other mystical part of you, or if you have Neptune making major aspects to inner planets in your chart, this lecture is definitely for you. I have aimed to discuss the generational and familial trauma that Neptune messily acts out, desperately trying to get our attention– so really, this lecture is for anyone. Join Lunation to discover these truths that Neptune is trying to communicate to you, it is $13 a month, you are welcome to cancel at any time.
Clay, A. (2021). Dwarf planets as higher octaves. Astrodienst. https://www.astro.com/astrology/tma_article211214_e.htm
New World Encyclopedia. “Neptune (Mythology).” Visit the main page, 2022. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Neptune_(mythology).
Stone, Adam. “Nanna/Suen/Sin (God).” Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, 2016. http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/nannasuen/.
Tarnas, Richard. Prometheus the Awakener. S.l.: Spring Publications, 2018.
Williams , Bethany. “Morpheus: The Greek God of Dreams and Nightmares.” The Collector, March 18, 2022. https://www.thecollector.com/morpheus-greek-god/.