Hard Knocks on the Path of Love: the Story of Eros and Psyche

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
Psyche and Eros
Psyche and Eros

 

The Golden Ass by Apuleius
The Golden Ass by Apuleius

One myth that speaks directly to me is that of Eros and Psyche. Both these asteroids can now be located in your natal chart. Myths are private dreams that can have a real impact in your life. The myth tells that love requires faith and any doubts can make it vanish overnight. There are the hard lessons in love to reach its divine and redemptive phase- a price must be paid. The story was a prototype of the Beauty and the Beast which was rendered on film in 1946 by Jean Cocteau.* The main source for the story Eros and Psyche is an adventurous semi-autobiographical novel, the first of its kind, from 2,000 years ago, ‘The Golden Ass’ by Apuleius.  This book is a great romp in itself and very entertaining, but it contains this gem of a mythical story sandwiched in the middle- this coupling of a young girl who rivaled the beauty of Venus and the god Eros who fell in love with her and all that transpires. But it is remarkable how Venus behaves in a similar way to Saturn, dishing out tasks and hurdles for Psyche to complete. Saturn is not mentioned, but it is as if Venus acts out her inner Saturn on Psyche. Each task she doles out to Psyche becomes increasingly punishing and difficult. The difference is that Venus appears to be motivated by capriciousness, vanity and peevishness, whereas Saturn works his tasks to build your resilience, determination and help construct your destiny.

You might well be curious – a typical trait of psyche – how these two asteroids land in natal chart comparison, across the charts of your lovers and partners.  If you are madly in love with someone, quite likely there is the Sun and Moon, conjunction, square or opposition that creates bonding at a subliminal level, and perhaps a Venus and Mars, conjunction, square or opposition cranking up the sexual dynamic, but Psyche and Eros add another burden of irony to the lovers tryst. It can show your love-as-trial signature. Where does asteroid Psyche align with your partner’s Eros and vice versa?

Asteroid Psyche not only conjuncts my natal sun, it is square to Eros, so this aspect of tension compounds the bumpy ride, the bitter lessons of love, where it always felt like I was being schooled and punished rather than being able to embrace wholeheartedly any joyful experience. Each trial is a blessing people say but if only the event was not so disguised as a test.  If relationships contain ‘work’ then I had a fair share of tasks to do and could fall into despair and depression, just as Psyche did. For others, it could be any number of other asteroids that tell the story, but for me it has been this Psyche-drenched narrative. 

Watch out especially if yours or your partner’s Psyche conjuncts Pluto- that will prove to be profoundly transformational I can verify. The Sun is life purpose so that asteroid Psyche is there adds the trials of love to the story of self in a long unfolding pattern. So knowing where your Psyche is can reveal this life history. ‘Psyche’ the root of many modern words like ‘psychotherapy’, ‘psychoanalysis’, ‘psychosis’ which make it sound almost as if it is an abstract quantity. Its original meaning in Greek is ‘soul’ which cannot be quantified in stats and research papers, so to understand it this way, ‘psychic’ disorders are really ‘soul traumas’ as Brian Clark says in his book ‘Soul, Symbol and Imagination.’

Eros and Psyche: the Labours of Love

Psyche is a female archetype but being male does not prevent you from having resonance with a female archetype/asteroid and vice versa, women often resonate with male archetypes. So you can say it has a resonance for me as I even once wrote a contemporary version of this story. That’s what makes asteroids so intriguing- they inhabit your DNA somehow. Psyche can be thought of as the anima, for men, their inner archetype of the soul which men often repress in order to avoid the suspicion their masculinity is in question. For women it is the animus, a more masculine configuration, and likewise often suppressed until integrated- it’s just easier to conform to societal expectations of your sex.

Cupid and Psyche
‘Cupid and Psyche’ illustration by K.Y. Craft (1996)

Painters historically and perhaps intuitively depicted Psyche as androgynous- that Eros and Psyche were adolescent helped. The effect is to fuse them together as if they are two sides of the same coin – but in Burne-Jones’s work, this goes further than most.  Some painters chose to depict the bedroom scene erring towards titillation, and sculptors tend to go for the intertwining of limbs when rendering Eros and Psyche.  Eros remember is born directly out of the primal Chaos long before many of the other gods and is not really the son of Aphrodite. Eros is your lust for life, that which can save you from death.

The word ‘psyche’ means soul and psychology should more appropriately be called ‘Soul’-ology. It  presented itself as a new science only because it had to do to survive and in order to replace religion once Nietzsche had announced that ‘God is Dead’ and the culture moved towards more secular beliefs placing Science and Technology on the altar normally reserved for exalted gods. Astrology is an art and craft of allowing the soul to speak through symbols and timed cycles, hence it tends not to fit a purely materialistic model. Psyche’s trials make her a female Hercules, but the work is all inner, and she falls many times into despair, all quite un-heroic, unless you’re familiar with the modern anti-hero hero, the one who has flaws aplenty, yet somehow makes of those flaws a virtue. It is cypher of continuous self exploration. The cure for the soul (Psyche) is the senses (Eros) and the cure for the senses is the soul- they are suspended in a homeostasis.

The Story of Eros and Psyche

characters in Cupid and PsycheThe story of Eros (Cupid is the Roman name) and Psyche involves a whole cast of characters so her plight sent ripples from Olympus to Hades: there is Zephyrus who carries Psyche on the wind; there’s Aphrodite (Venus) who is at her most vain and temperamental here and vicious towards Psyche; there are the jealous sisters who we know from other classic stories; there’s the satyr god Pan, who helps Psyche; there are Ceres and Juno whom Psyche solicits for advice but they are both unable to help as they defer to Aphrodite; Cerberus the three-headed dog that guards Hades is there, and Charon the boatman that sails to Hades are part of the story; Zeus and his eagle also appear.

Some of the themes echo across the parallel story of Lucius becoming an ass and that of Eros and Psyche. Lucius after a comedy of errors is eventually initiated into the Mysteries of Eleusis, and this is described as ‘metamorphosis’. Psyche after so many difficulties and trails eventually is allowed to join Eros and become immortal. These hardships are’the hard knocks on the path of love’. Even Shakespeare said ‘the course of love does not run smooth’.  Love as a quest links to the element Water and therefore the suit of Cups in the Tarot as the journey traverses from earthly emotions in Cancer to the most spiritual in Pisces. Other themes include being versus becoming as we never quite reach our goal and perhaps that is the point. Also, too much curiosity or being quizzical and influenced by mal-intentioned people, can extinguish the elation of love and life, which are perhaps best left as mysteries.

Themes in Cupid and Psyche themes

    The Story of Eros and Psyche

    Here’s a summary version of a story that has many variants:

    Psyche was a young girl whose beauty made her famous and people started worshipping her as an incarnation of Aphrodite herself. This angered the goddess Aphrodite who vowed to punish Psyche by getting Eros to make her fall in love with a monster. Eros hesitated to use his arrow when he saw Psyche, finding her the most beautiful creature, but following his mother’s orders used his arrow on her, so but accidentally pierced himself too while she slept.

    But no one would marry Psyche due to her reputation as Aphrodite’s enemy. So her father invited Apollo’s oracle and this suggested a doomed fate. Her husband which was meant to be a monstrous serpent. She was carried away from a cliff edge to marry this monster. She expected barren rocks and a cruel fate, but Zephyrus carried her to a beautiful palace, like a golden cage. They were now in love and wanted her as a bride an unseen husband (Eros) and to allow her to live in palatial surroundings with her every want provided. The deal was that she should never actually see who her husband was.

    Eros and Psyche
    Francois-Edouard Picot ‘Cupid and Psyche’

    This roused the interest of Psyche’s sisters. Once they were invited to visit her they became jealous and conspired to get Psyche to breach her agreement with the mystery husband. She had agreed never to see her husband’s face as he only came at night and disappeared before dawn. She had no idea he was really the beautiful young god Eros.  She was obliged to agree never to see her husband’s face. But the sisters persuaded her she was married to a monster, and the only way to tell was to reveal his hideousness at night while he slept. She did so and saw the face of a god and witnessed divine beauty. An angry Eros abandoned Psyche as she had broken her promise.  She was devastated. When Aphrodite found out she was also livid and set Psyche a series of near impossible tasks to break her spirit, but in each task whether separating grains, or retrieving a beauty box from Hades, hidden helpers came to assist Psyche in her wanderings and this became her heroic path. 

    Task 1 was to separate a mountain of grains, millet poppy seeds, lentils and beans. Ants came to sort them out for her. 

    Task 2  was to get some wool from the shining golden sheep that was guarded by vicious animals. A reed told her how to accomplish the task successfully. 

    Task 3 was to fill a vessel with water of the spring that feeds the Styx and Cocytus and the Eagle of Zeus comes to help her achieve that.  

    Task 4 was to go to Hades and ask Persephone to provide Aphrodite with a box of beauty cream, past Cerberus and Charon. She is given a coin. Even Theseus had to be rescued from Hades, but Psyche managed this task too

    After completing all her tasks, to the surprise of Aphrodite, Eros relented and appealed to Zeus to do something. Zeus brought together all the gods, and absolved Psyche from any further punishment, allowing her to become immortal and join again with Eros.

    All relationships involve us in a dance of polarities, and knowing the position of Eros and Psyche can intensify that see-saw effect.  Could it be also that some people are in love with love, and cannot bear to be without someone through poor self-esteem? Or, there are people who see love as a torment, a tempestuous ride and it can be no other way, anything less would be insipid so they are no longer attracted? There are some people set to play out a psychodrama similar to that of Psyche in her loss and search to live out her Eros nature? Once you have glimpsed the divine, had that taste, you will trample the earth and sacrifice it all to find that pathway to ecstasy again. Let’s look at some examples.

    The Long Game of Aphrodite:  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

    Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
    Burton and Taylor together Betman/Getty Images

    Elisabeth Taylor, a Pisces, had seven husbands, which is quite a few more than most people.  She played feisty, demanding characters who stood up to their men as equals and her fifth husband was fellow actor Richard Burton. They met on the set of ‘Cleopatra’ in 1962. Their love affair and marriage created a sensation that was lived out in full public view, diamonds and all. Of this love Taylor said “When you are in love and lust like that, you just grab it with both hands and ride out the storm.”

    Liz Taylor natal chart
    Elizabeth Taylor with Eros and Psyche http://www.astrotheme.com

    Taylor’s chart shows a turbulent Moon in Scorpio with asteroid Psyche at 6° of Virgo- conjunct Neptune.  Was Taylor searching for the one in the many, some elusive ideal mate? She was Pisces after all, and that ideal mate might well have been Richard Burton (Scorpio). Working on the theory that Liz Taylor had some issues finding love, or that perfect marriage, love for her became a kind of quest, their synastry charts are worth a look, bearing in mind that it is not just asteroids that bring people together but the entire configuration of planets.

    Taylor’s Psyche and Eros are in direct opposition- so she had plenty of turbulence within to deal with. Their chart synastry tells a lot as why they experienced such a depth. His Sun/Saturn lies on her Moon in Scorpio, so probably the only who who could contain and influence her enough to bring moments of calm. His Mercury is on her Ascendant so talking was a direct route to the stimulus of talking. Her Sun is sextile his Venus and they their Mars placements are trine to each other.

    Taylor and Burton loved to make a show of their violent disagreements acting out the arguments for public benefit, yet the tension is there ripe for the picking as Eros at 4° is basically at the midpoint between her Mars at 1° and her Sun/Mercury at 9 ° in Pisces. Pisces likes the ideal and finds the real rather bothersome and lacking in imagination and does not mind saying so, so there’s a striving for the impossible like the grit on the pearl that eventually makes it smoother.  Eros in Pisces is the spiritual manifestation of the erotic which can easily go beyond the usual boundaries in its search for oneness but is also acutely sensitive.

    In Richard Burton’s chart Psyche is conjunct Taylor’s Descendant at 11° Gemini which would make him the most fascinating if challenging for her mind to get its teeth into. He was famed for his gift of the gab and wrote many steam love letters to her. His Eros is at 7° Libra which is conjunct her MC making him the number one lover associated with her publicly of all her husbands.

    Incidentally, another way to analyse asteroids is to look for personal name asteroids  (PNAs) to see if that offers any extra in terms of synchronicity. Elizabeth Taylor has her own name asteroid Elisabetha at 10° of Taurus conjunct asteroid Nemesis in the 5th House and asteroid Richardromeo is at  20° Virgo in 9th House, opposite Vesta, goddess of the sacred flame in the 3rd. Her own personal name asteroid Elisabetha is at 6° Capricorn conjunct Richard’s Venus at 4 ° Capricorn, which also happens to be also conjunct his muse asteroid Erato a 3 °  Erato is of course the muse of love poetry.

    Some people even have Eros and Erato conjunct. Lou Reed is an example of the poet maudit of the street and dirty realism about sex in ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. His asteroids Eros conjuncted his Erato in Capricorn.

    Crazy in Love: Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown

    Houston and Brown
    Houston and Brown

    The media had a field day with  Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown that we may never know what is fact and what is fanciful. But they had an explosive relationship all right that triggered them both in different ways. Bobby was six years younger and Whitney doted on him being there. He denied that he precipitated her descent into addiction, also that he ever abused her but he did admit to following his testosterone now and again with other women. Here I am cherry-picking for the Psyche and Eros signature and will skim over the obvious chemistry that existed to get quickly to the fact that her Eros at 11° of Capricorn is conjunct his Psyche at 13° of Capricorn.

    To have both Eros and Psyche across charts suggests the lessons of love are triggering the myth. But in Capricorn specifically it implies that they struggled to maintain the respectable side of this liaison in the media glare. This would have been the key to understanding  the difficulties, hurt and jealousy, as this pairing had some mythic patterning and most likely taught them both a huge lesson in maintaining the balance of love. The evidence is there from the asteroids.

    The most obvious aspect from straightforward synastry is that their suns opposed each other one in Leo and the other in Aquarius. His Jupiter is on her Mars, so expanding the passionate side or the angry tiffs, perhaps both. With Brown’s Uranus there too, quite likely he was abrupt with spontaneous ideas and Houston’s Mars in Libra tried to settle by compromise, and things got out of hand.

    Her asteroid Psyche was troubled and nebulous as it rests on Neptune in the Eighth House. This aligned with Brown’s MC and therefore his public reputation. She may have had some psychic ability there to boost his career with artistic ideas.  But the Psyche and Eros story is clear. His Psyche also squares her Moon/Jupiter in Aries just to add some turbulence in the mix. Some astrologers might even go to town on the fact that Houston’s South Node is just 5 ° away too, and make that the  main ‘soulmates’ from past lives narrative.  Perhaps at least they were never bored with each other. For me the Houston’s Eros bang on Brown’s Psyche is complication enough. His own Eros is at 24° Aquarius also just 5° away from her Saturn – so who was teaching who? And, Houston’s Psyche is in.Scorpio conjunct her Neptune and as said, influencing his career with artistic ideas.

    Weddinng march of
    The Wedding march of Psyche by Edward Burne-Jones (1895)

    Asteroid Psyche was discovered in 1872  in the sign of Pisces and Eros later in 1898 in the sign of Leo. So water and fire gives a Psyche and Eros dynamic. Psyche is currently (September 2020) at 15° of the sign of Gemini, making the cerebral connections much more important and for any children born during this period and Eros is at 20° of Cancer making the emotional force of the erotic stronger and more protective.

    If you have a significant placement, it could be worth pondering on this story and letting it suggest intuitive layers of meaning on any event in your life. With Psyche on your Sun, does that condemned you to an eternal quest for love that demands separations and the feeling of being tested to the limit?  I laugh and say ‘well yes, it has for me’ but it depends how you interpret the symbolism; and Zeus has not yet called the party of gods to resolve Psyche’s plight and elevate these painful liaisons to immortal status as he did with Psyche.

    To search for your own Psyche and Eros  positions in the degrees and houses use this ephemeris. It may even be as important as Venus and Mars, and if your Psyche conjuncts your partner’s Eros, it is a marker of an intense connection that you may never forget. While your every trial in love may be difficult there’s always a chance it will become eventually after some hard work, your blessing.

     

    © Kieron Devlin, Proteus Astrology, September 3rd, 2020.

    All rights reserved.

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    Open your sensors and register a reading at the complexity we now feel which can be intense. There is a lot of pushing and shoving, the drama of compliance and enforcement and the collective shadow looms large and even intrudes daily into more personal territory. Archetypes can take possession of the mind in powerful ways this can be for good channeling creative energies, but also negate all the good stuff if we are not aware of what direction they are driving us. We can see and feel that happening in the collective in 2020 as public behaviours undergo seismic shifts and are altered before our eyes. When we project hate, we often fail to see what motivates that deep in our own subconscious. There are many disowned parts floating about in the primal soup of consciousness. Shining in a light on them helps the integration process. But myths and archetypes operate in your personal most private psychological world as well and that is the challenge to see them defaulting to a blindness to what is actually going on.

     

    Published by Kieron Devlin

    Growing, guiding, nurturing, cultivating, encouraging, accepting, curiosity, confidence, kindness and understanding your place in life and the cycles of change.

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