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Goya Saturn Devouring One of His Sons

Saturn devouring one of his sons, Francisco Goya, pg. 166 in You and the Universe. In 1819 at the age of 73 Goya bought a two-story house on the banks of the Manzanares River upon which Madrid had been founded in the ninth century. Goya painted this and 13 other works directly onto the walls of his house in the four years before he moved to Bordeaux. Uncommissioned and never meant for public display, these Black Paintings probably reflected Goya’s concern with his own mortality (he had just survived two life-threatening illnesses) and his bitterness over the civil strife in Spain. After his death Saturn was transferred to canvas where it has been displayed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.




We are all Saturn’s children in that our mortal bodies are eventually devoured by father time and our psyches by our parents’ shadows, the latter to the extent to which we do not fight for the light with which—and to which—we were born. Saturn, however, is not only our devourer but our liberator, if, while we live, we learn to bow our will to the way the world is, or more precisely, to who and what we are. And the dialogue between knowing who we are and creating who we are is a life in the dominion of time.

Saturn symbolizes our crucifixion in a world of time and space: immortal spirit bound in a mortal, dying body. Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill poignantly expresses one human experience of Saturn:

"Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,

Time held me green and dying

Though I sang in my chains like the sea."

The first race of gods were the Titans: Gaia and Uranus, and their children Kronos (Saturn), Rhea (Kronos’ wife), Oceanus, Tethys (Oceanus’ wife, mother to the 3000 ocean nymphs), Hyperion (Light, an early Sun god), Thea (mated with Hyperion, bore Helios, Eos, and Selene), Mnemosyne (memory, mother of the Muses), Themis (Justice and Order, mother of the Fates and the Seasons by Zeus), Iapetus (father of Prometheus, Epimetheus, Menoetius and Atlas), Coeus (intelligence), Phoebe (the Moon, Coeus’ wife, mother of Leto), Leto (mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus), Crius (father of Pallas, Perses and Astraios), Prometheus (Forethought, the wisest; molded the human race out of clay), Epimetheus (Afterthought), Atlas, and Metis (Mercury). After Kronos took the throne from Uranus, the Golden age of Man, a time of harmony and prosperity, ensued. According to Greek legend, during this period man lived in a paradise like the garden of Eden, without greed, violence, toil, or the need for laws.

This unfortunately did not last forever. When Kronos was about to slay his own father Uranus, it was prophesied that his son would in turn someday depose him. To keep this from being fulfilled, Kronos swallowed his children as they were born. The rest of the story was already told in the Jupiter-Zeus-Jove page, but at the end of the Age of Heroes Zeus released the Titans, making Kronos king of the Elysian Isles to rule over the shades of the Heroes.

The Roman gods are often corrupted or different versions of their Greek counterparts. The Romans compared the Greek Kronos with their corn-god, Saturn, although a monthly festival to celebrate the harvest was held in Athens in honor of Kronos. Pictures of Kronos depict him carrying a sickle, used both to gather the harvest and to castrate his father.

        This Saturn-Kronos-Cronus Mythology page and much of this 600-page website are taken from the personalized Fine Art Book You and the Universe.

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