Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, hero of Homer’s epic poems, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. A new mother when Odysseus leaves for the Trojan War, Penelope kept the homes fires (literally) burning for twenty years until his return, raising her infant son Telemachus into manhood, and remaining faithful to her husband, despite the importunities of up to 108 suitors for her hand.
The war itself dragged on for ten years, but during that time, reports from the front kept hope alive that Odysseus would one day return, and Penelope’s position as queen and regent was unassailed. But when Odysseus failed to return from the war in a timely fashion, many considered him lost at sea, and with a plum as rich as Ithaca in the balance, there was no lack of interest in obtaining Penelope as wife.
Suitors by the dozen descended upon the little court, and at first, Penelope refused to even meet them, but Athena persuaded her to present herself, as her suitors’ ardor for her hand would enhance her standing with her son and husband. Penelope is never serious about remarriage, but has now put herself in a difficult position (to say nothing of the expense, feeding and housing her would-be spouses). She devises a series of stratagems to delay making a choice from among them, the most famous of which is her weaving. Penelope declares that before she can accept a new groom, she must first weave a burial shroud for her elderly father-in-law Laertes. For three years Penelope puts off her suitors, by spending hours at her loom each day, only to undo the weaving by night.
Once discovered in this deception she declares that she will have no one unless he is Odysseus’ equal, and to prove this, the successful suitor will be able to string Odysseus’ famously powerful, massive bow, then shoot an arrow through twelve axe-heads. At this point, Odysseus himself returns, but in disguise, wishing to spy out the lie of the land and determine if Penelope has truly been faithful. The disguised hero requests an interview with his wife, and she tells him of the contest, to which he begs inclusion.
Penelope agrees, the contest begins, but of course none of her suitors can string the bow. Odysseus then does so, and with the help of his now-grown son, two aged servants and Athena herself, proceeds to slaughter the suitors. He reveals himself to Penelope, but she is uncertain if it is truly him or perhaps some god in disguise. She tests him by ordering a servant to move the bed in their bridal-chamber, but Odysseus, knowing that he built the bed himself using a live olive tree as one of the posts, correctly states that the bed cannot be moved, and Penelope accepts him as the genuine article.
Astrologically, Penelope represents fidelity and faithfulness; delaying tactics; cleverness and the ability to wait and bide one’s time for a desired outcome.