I’ve been thinking some more about what part Psyche has been playing in the unfolding story of the current retrograde cycles. I’ve noticed that at key points in the movements of Mars and then Venus Psyche has been in particularly sensitive or receptive positions, more so than many of the other planets and major asteroids. It seemed worth looking into a bit more deeply, beginning with an exploration of the myth of Psyche and what she represents in terms of symbolism and energy to tune into.
In the Greek myth Psyche was the youngest of three sisters, and was incredibly beautiful. So beautiful that the goddess Aphrodite became jealous and sent her son, Eros, to shoot her with a poisoned arrow that would make her fall in love with a vile creature or ugly beast of a man. However, this plot backfires as Eros accidentally scratches himself with the arrow and so falls deeply in love with Psyche. This is forbidden as Eros is a God and Psyche is mortal, so Eros whisks Psyche away to a hidden palace where he can visit her in secret and be her lover. However, Psyche is forbidden from looking on Eros’s face and seeing the true nature of her lover and because of this gradually begins to doubt him, urged on by her jealous sisters who convince her she must be married to a demon or a snake. One night when he is sleeping she gets a lantern and looks upon him, at which point he wakes up, sees that Psyche did not have faith in him and has disobeyed him and so leaves her to return to his jealous mother.
Desperate to be reunited with her love Psyche goes to Aphrodite and begs to be allowed to marry him. Aphrodite does not reject Psyche’s appeals out of hand but instead sets her a number of seemingly impossible tasks which Psyche manages to meet, including sorting grains of wheat from lentils, plucking one hair each from a flock of fierce, golden sheep and finally descending into the underworld and bringing back some of the beauty of Persephone, queen of the underworld. Psyche was helped in the first two tasks, but on hearing the third fell into despair as she knew no mortal could descend into the underworld and return. However Eros, who still loved her, whispered the safe ways into and out of that world and so Psyche managed to venture where no mortal should set foot and returned with Aphrodite’s request. However, once back in the land of sunlight Psyche opened the box that contained some of Persephone’s beauty and was struck down as it is too much for a mortal to bear. There she lay until Eros went looking for her, found her and woke her. He returned to Mount Olympus where he pleaded with the gods to let him take Psyche as his wife and the gods in turn persuaded Aphrodite that it should be so. Hermes then descended to earth, found Psyche and returned with her to Mount Olympus where she drank Ambrosia and was admitted into the realm of the immortals.
Psyche is Greek for soul and Eros for love, so in this tale we are reminded of the trials and tribulations the human heart is put through before love and soul can be united and eventually the human soul finds immortal life through its courage in loving.
Returning to the current retrogrades and looking at this story through the lens of the wider movements of the planets is interesting. Going back to November last year (2011) we see Psyche in Virgo and Mars enters his shadow. Mars gets ever closer to Psyche as he crosses the ‘flashpoint’ degree for the first time – the degree on which he will later oppose the Sun during his retrograde journey. He moves on through Virgo, perfecting a conjunction with Psyche before standing still and then turning on his heels to head back into that conjunction. Mars, the active, energetic urge within us has come across the gentle, quiet voice of Psyche who will remain with him throughout his retrograde journey. This colours the Mars retrograde with a hint of a search for soul, for meaning and for connection or union. With Psyche in Virgo this search centres around a desire for connection to the earth, to the healing qualities of nature, a search for some pure quality in earthly existence.
Mars’s return to the flashpoint and the opposition with the Sun shows that he is joined by both Psyche and Eros and the Sun highlights some of the tensions that need to be resolved. There is a hint here of what could be, the possibilities that might come once the soul has learned to love and once love has discovered his soul. This is the overall, deep colouring of the Mars retrograde and is developed in greater detail once Mars stations direct and Venus enters her shadow. As Venus crosses the South Node of past karma and moves into her shadow, Mars and Psyche are together and square the nodes – there is a challenge for Venus in this, just as Aphrodite is challenged in the original myth – and there is also a challenge back from Venus to Psyche and Mars. Meanwhile Eros is standing still on the flashpoint degree as if he is stubbornly insisting that there must be a change, holding out for the vision he has glimpsed.
Mars and Psyche are also opposite Chiron suggesting an element of hurt and a need for healing, a theme which is strengthened when Venus stations retrograde and Psyche is tied into a kite formation with Mars, opposing Chiron and trine Pluto and Mercury. Here we begin to see the promise and also the potential pain that Psyche must navigate if she is to fulfil the demands set by Venus as they squared up earlier. This is the pain of soul separated from love, in Virgo looking for healing and opposed by Chiron whose wound never heals.
As Venus turns direct Psyche is on her own, Mars has moved away from her and she has little help from anywhere. However, all is not lost as brave Psyche continues on her quest and as Venus moves in to complete a trine with Saturn (that trine she almost perfected before she went retrograde), Psyche is poised to square up to Venus once more and reveal her completion of the task that was set.
This is not the end of the story – in fact it is the story of the whole of human life these myths tell and so it is never really finished – Psyche goes on to meet up with Saturn as Eros and Mars reconnect, giving stability and perseverance to soul and drive and energy to love. And next year, when Venus, Uranus and the Sun meet up, Psyche trines Eros and then heads backwards so that, just before Venus meets up with Jupiter, Psyche sits on the North Node, opposing both Mars and a solar eclipse and so gaining clarity about herself and her way forward.
The overall sense is a colouring of the current retrogrades with a poignant story about the search for connection, for meaning, and for love. With Psyche’s focus in Virgo for most of the time the tale is one of innocence and relationships built with both earthly substance and mercurial thoughts and ideas, given drive from Mars and challenged by the more ‘knowing’ Venus in Gemini.
Continuing this story I have just published this: