Psyche's Second Task: Gathering the Golden Fleece
This is part of a series of articles, beginning here:
Venus Goes Retrograde: The Tale of Eros and Psyche
Aphrodite is very angry that Psyche has completed the first task. She sets another, very difficult and this time dangerous task for the mortal woman. It seems there are some very fierce rams that graze by a river and these are sun-rams, with coats made of pure gold. Psyche is to gather some of their golden fleeces and return with the shiny wool to Aphrodite. Psyche is quite sure this cannot be done and takes herself to the river, intending to throw herself in. There the reeds growing by the river’s bank speak to her and tell her the secret way she can gather the golden fleece safely. During the heat of the day, when the rams are at their most violent, she must evade them entirely, but follow them at dusk and gather their wool from the thorny bushes where it has been caught. If she is persistent, she can gather enough this way. Thanking the reeds for their wise advice, Psyche does this and presents Aphrodite with the wooly gold, infuriating her once more. “You must have had help!” storms the goddess, but it doesn’t matter, because the task is fulfilled.
What Does It Mean?
Psyche has to face aggression in this part of the story. She is advised that her best approach to aggression (the rams) is an indirect one. Do not fight back, she is told, do not make yourself a target. Instead, wait until the rams have moved on, then take what you need. Do not let greed and aggression press you to take more.
The aggression represented by the rams is both within and without. It is the anger one feels at having to repair a relationship and it is the anger one confronts in their partner who feels the same. ‘Why doesn’t love just work?’ we ask ourselves. ‘Why does something start out so beautifully and then go so terribly wrong?’ It is an insult to the very instinct of love. Yet the initial passion is inherently unsustainable and this anger is a natural response to that fact. Evading the anger, avoiding inflaming it is the way to gain access to the gold it produces. That gold is the spark that can reignite passion. Angry words are a misuse of passion. Evasion of anger allows one to gather the passion and direct into more useful channels.
Does This Apply To You?
It is human to react to love’s departure with anger. “Why don’t you love me anymore?” is an outrageous question to have to ask. “You said you’d love me forever!” also comes to mind. “You took a vow!” might even make an appearance. But these angry questions are not helpful. Inciting aggression in oneself or one’s partner does not cause love to spontaneously return.
In your anger that love has flown away, have you become too aggressive? Love cannot be forced to return, but its gold can be gathered gently. This task has the nature of Fire about it—how well do you manage your own heat, anger, assertion, aggression? Can you channel your fire or will it destroy you? The psyche must understand its own fiery nature before love can be restored.
Read about Psyche’s third task: The Waters of Forgetfulness . . .