July 24th, 2017: Saturn retrograde crosses to 21° Sagittarius, the degree where he will soon station direct. Also today, Venus at 21° Gemini transits opposite Saturn, as asteroid Psyche at 21° Virgo forms a T-square to the opposition. This formation invokes the role of Venus/Aphrodite in the myth of Psyche. Rather than think of Saturn literally as a god here, Saturn’s themes of tough lessons, hard work in the face of difficult situations, and the persistence it takes to make progress and growth, all fit with the role that Venus played by intervening with Psyche’s life and ultimately giving her the four famous tasks. I have always been a little obsessed with the myth of Psyche. I have natal Sun conjunct Venus, Psyche conjunct AC, and Eros conjunct my MC. This story matters to me and I think so much is lost when it is interpreted through highly sexist, gendered, and patriarchal lenses, such as the book Amor and Psyche by Erich Neumann.
The popular myth goes that Psyche was so beautiful and had so many admirers that Venus/Aphrodite was jealous, so she sent her son Eros out of spite to make her fall in love with an ugly monster. This interpretation reeks of sexism. Neumann admits that he thinks of Aphrodite as “the original, conservative, maternal source of life and her beauty serves the purpose of fertility.” And yet, he “contrasts Aphrodite with Psyche who, from the very beginning of the tale, is in conflict with the Great Mother.” Why is Psyche in conflict with Aphrodite? Because she is so beautiful? Because she has so many admirers? How would that make the original goddess of fertility and beauty jealous? It makes no sense. But that’s what toxic masculinity would project onto Aphrodite for getting involved in Psyche’s situation.
When we look deeper at this myth, we find that Psyche would not even come out to see her many admirers because she knew that they didn’t really want to know her and love her, they just wanted to be seen with her, they wanted the glory of being the one who “got” her. They would make these ostentatious shows of wealth and vanity to impress her, and she hated it, so she locked herself away.
Psyche is the Soul, and there are many vain and wealthy people that want to exploit the soul for whatever earthly benefits- but there will be no spiritual satisfaction in this. That’s why Psyche wouldn’t even talk to her suitors. She knew they had nothing to offer her. I think that Aphrodite sent her son Eros to make Psyche fall in love not with an ugly gross beast, but rather fall in love with a homely, simple man- someone who would treat her with respect and be humble- the type of kind, quiet man who is jeered at as a “Beta Male” by toxic patriarchy. The soul seeks the satisfaction of being truly seen and cared for. This is a much more resonant explanation of Aphrodite’s interest in Psyche- in a world where we shut ourselves down to avoid the constant onslaught of energy vampires, it takes a wild and senseless act of beauty to rock us back to life and connect us to what really matters. That’s why Aphrodite got involved. But all these male mythology experts want us to believe that our ancient goddess of love is actually just a total hater. Okay.
Fast forward through the part of the story where Eros “accidentally” shoots himself, falls in love with Psyche, hides from her but gets found out and runs away, to the part where Psyche seeks out Aphrodite for her help in reuniting with him. The mainstream version of this story is that Aphrodite wanted to make Psyche suffer so she put her through four insane arduous and impossible tasks. Again, this is a patriarchal twist on the mentorship and guidance that Aphrodite gives to Psyche by introducing her to those experiences. Venus is the planet of Yin principles, which are the most important for the development of the Soul. Each task is an allegory for a different type of Soul School- lessons that strengthen the Soul. If Aphrodite is so mean and wants to keep Psyche away from Eros, then why would she guide her down the path of development and for lack of a better word, education? Sure, it sometimes feels like the universe is punishing us by dragging our souls through these impossible situations. But incarnation is not a joke, people. We are here to experience these lessons, learn about ourselves, and grow. The goddess of love and beauty is not trying to punish us for petty reasons.
Psyche’s first task is to sort a mountain of mixed seeds into individual piles, which seems like an impossible task simply because of the enormity of it. The essence of the Soul is actually perfectly suited to scan, discern, choose, and create order from the infinite possibilities of embodied consciousness(seeds) but in the modern world, where we have more choices available to us than any previous generation in history, there’s no wonder why we are overwhelmed and weary, struggling and often failing to make choices that serve our Soul’s journey. Psyche is able to finish the job with the help of a colony of ants- there are varying accounts of how and why the ants came to help, but a key detail here is that they came to help her. The ants didn’t “rescue” her from having to do all the work- their participation just meant it wasn’t impossible anymore.
Ant colonies are the embodiment of sophisticated community strategies and work ethic. Each individual ant knows its place in the greater group and together they are able to create elaborate constructions and accomplish incredible goals. So it makes sense that these animal guides would appear to Psyche during the first task- they represent the maturity and Soul growth that occurs when we learn to make choices based on the knowledge of self we acquire from knowing our place in the greater group- a.k.a. staying in your lane. Increasing the Soul’s maturity means increasing your ability to make conscious, confident, strategic choices and manifest great accomplishments.
Psyche’s second task is to collect some golden fleece from the coats of the aggressive sun-rams, who spend all day scrimmaging down by the river. She realizes that there is no way to actually approach the rams without getting hurt, and goes to sit by the water. The reeds whisper to her and tell her the rams get their power from the sun, and suggests that she waits until sunset. As it starts to get dark, the rams come drink from the river and their loose fleece gets caught on the reeds- when they leave, Psyche gathers it all up.
This task highlights the contrast of Yang and Yin principles. The mind gets its best education with Yang, but the Soul gets its best education with Yin. In this myth, the group of exuberant rams energized by the sun, expressing their life force by play-fighting bashing horns, is set up to frame a contrasting context for the Yin lessons Psyche must learn. Yin is the river and the reeds, the gentle whispered advice, the patience, the act of gathering-up when the time is right (as opposed to seeking/taking on one’s own terms). In a sexist culture where all things Yin (or “female”) are looked down on and/or not taken seriously, it’s no wonder that so many souls are plagued by weak Yin and out-of-control raging Yang. Psyche’s second task shows us that slowing down, listening, and waiting- in other words, honoring the principles of Yin- are crucial to the process of Soul growth.
Psyche’s third task is to fill a cup with water from the River Styx, which flows in a continuous loop forming the border between Earth and the Underworld. This task speaks to me about the burden of embodiment, the great mystery of what it means to be born and have a Soul in a body. I don’t at all subscribe to the new age belief that the body is an illusion. Many “spiritual” people focus exclusively on the unseen aspects of who we are, which is a very unhelpful and reactionary approach to a toxic culture that focuses exclusively on the body. The strengths and limitations of the body are just as real, and just as important to developing spiritually, as the strengths and limitations of the mind and the soul.
There is a collective consciousness, and we each have our own specific POV called mind; there is source lovelight, and we each have our own portion called Soul; and then there is Mother Earth- just as our mind and Soul are small parts of something greater, each of our bodies are a small part of Gaia. Psyche is given the task of filling a small cup with water from the border between Underworld and Earth as a symbol of our physical incarnation as a individual mind-Soul-body contraption. For this task, Psyche receives help from Zeus’s Eagle, who coaches her on the dangers to watch out for, gives her a motivational speech, and then takes the cup from her, bringing it back full.
Zeus/Jupiter’s Eagle feels like a metaphor for the Crown chakra. Chakras are points of connection between the physical and auric bodies, and the Crown chakra connects the body to the source of consciousness and Soul. The Sun and planets represent various aspects of what makes us who we are as multidimensional beings, and I have always thought of Jupiter as the planet that best represents the reality of the physical body and brain- Jupiter’s role as the shield of the inner planets, shepherd of asteroids, and its gravitational pull on the Sun can all be seen as metaphors for the body: the conductor of our emotional and psychological symphony, and a powerful medium for karma.
Embodiment is indeed a painful mystery, even under the most ideal conditions it is a difficult reality for the Soul to come to terms with. Injury and pain, disease and medication, sex and procreation, exploring our abilities and accepting our disabilities- it is a major understatement to say that the body is an important part of the Soul’s journey. These experiences define our lives and who we are becoming. It would be very easy to get stuck in the body even if we didn’t live in a toxic culture that constantly tried to convince us that Souls aren’t important. The best tool I have found to rise up from the body trap- to transcend the emotional/psychological nightmares that go along with physical pain and suffering- and bring body, mind, and soul into balance, is the Crown chakra.
The fourth and most elaborate task that Venus inflicts upon Psyche is a trip to the Underworld to retrieve Persephone’s beauty cream. The insanely sexist interpretation from Erich Neumann states that the beauty cream is a metaphor for “the barren frigid beauty of mere maidenhood, without love for a man” Again- this makes no sense whatsoever. First of all, it’s pretty disgusting that grown men like to sit around fantasizing about young girls afraid of being penetrated and call it psychology. Secondly why would Persephone even have that, when the whole point of her being in the Underworld is a consenting acceptance and acknowledgement of shadow (which usually includes a boat-load of sexual darkness)?
So, what does Persephone’s beauty cream represent then? What lesson does it contain for Psyche? Could it be something as simple as Psyche learning about Persephone’s self-care routine in the Underworld? Hold up- Persephone has a self-care routine in the Underworld??? Yes she does. As I pointed out in the second task, we live in a sexist culture where all things Yin (or “female”) are looked down on and/or not taken seriously, so cosmetic oils, soaps, lotions and creams are usually seen as proof of female vanity, instead of the near-medicinal potential they can bring to the self-care toolbox of all people. Then why does Psyche literally “lose consciousness” when she puts it on herself? She seemingly forgot the lessons that the previous tasks had taught her: she strayed out of her lane; she took what she wanted, when she wanted it; and she was caught in the body trap. Remember, Psyche was instructed to retrieve the cream for Aphrodite, and was warned not to use it herself. Perhaps Aphrodite’s intention was for Psyche to use it ceremonially as she reunited with Eros. But because she used it selfishly, it causes her to fall into a deep sleep. Eros finds her unconscious form. After going through his own transformative process and maturing, he brings Psyche to Mt. Olympus and declares before all the gods and goddesses that he is ready for a conscious relationship, and Psyche is awakened.
I discussed Psyche’s ability to travel past Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the entrance to the Underworld, in my article for last month’s Capricorn Full Moon Conjunct Pluto Trine Psyche
Check out my previous article Into The Lion’s Gate: Leo New Moon Conjunct Mars for a thorough examination of the past week’s major astrological aspects and events.
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