Phaeton was a son of the sea nymph Clymene and the sun god Helios. His father was never at home, being busy lighting the world every day, and Phaeton’s playmates refused to believe him when he told them Helios was his father. Distraught, he turned to his mother, who counselled him to go to Helios and ask for himself.
Helios confirmed his paternity, but Phaeton wanted proof to return with to his friends, so Helios agreed to grant him whatever he requested. Phaethon asked to drive the chariot of the sun for a day, and despite his misgivings, true to his word, Helios agreed.
The result was a disaster. At first all went well, but the fiery steeds, realizing they lacked the firm hand of their master, ran amok and careened through the sky, swinging dangerously low and threatening to burn the earth to ashes. To avert this catastrophe, Zeus hurled a thunderbolt and struck the chariot, and Phaethon, from the sky.
In the late 1700s, the name Phaeton was applied to a popular type of sporty, open carriage, and eventually to motorized open touring cars.
Astrologically, Phaethon represents assuming responsibilities before one is ready to handle them; the consequences of rash or impulsive desires; and feeling out of control or in above one’s head. It can also indicate involvement with cars or other forms of transport.