Psyche’s Hidden Fifth Task: Dealing With The Wrath Of Other Women
This is part of a series of articles, beginning here:
Venus Goes Retrograde: The Tale of Eros and Psyche
How heartbreaking it is when a girl first discovers that other girls will sometimes pit themselves against her and compete over boys. She discovers this in childhood or teen years, so that by womanhood she knows all too well the ways that other women cannot be trusted. A woman who really knows herself and believes in her own lovability does not have to compete or to make preemptive strikes against other women who might compete with her. And a woman who understands sisterhood and the primal bond between women is safe for other women to relate with and trust.
In the myth, Psyche has aroused the anger of a goddess, Aphrodite, who insists on attempting to kill her, even though Psyche has no pretensions and wishes men weren’t worshipping her so inappropriately. Psyche’s business is that of the soul and she would rather leave the business of beauty to Aphrodite, which is where it belongs.
Psyche also has to deal with the jealousy of her two sisters, who poison her against her husband, claiming that he is a frightful monster instead of the finest lover she could ever imagine. Psyche never asked for all this feminine attack, nor for the beauty that aroused it. She would rather have been of middling beauty and marriageable.
Psyche’s response to both these feminine attacks is a truly soulful one—she loves and trusts her sisters and she takes on the tasks of Aphrodite. Because of this response, she is cast on a soul-journey at the end of which is her husband Eros, erotic love regained.
What Does It Mean?
The sisters represent binocular vision. Because there are two of them, depth can be seen. While Psyche lives with her husband in the dark, she cannot see him truly. Her sisters press her to shine the lamp on him and to consider that he may be a monster. Until she is willing to consider that he has ugly depths as well as divine ones, she cannot truly look at him and thus she remains innocent and in the dark. Her sisters counsel her to have a sharp knife handy, so that she can cut off the monster’s head. So she comes to her husband with both lamp and knife, prepared for the worst by her binocular vision, which includes the capacity to see evil in addition to good. This is no error on her part, it is only what the soul can do, and it’s all part of the greater plan.
Psyche’s sisters serve an important purpose—the purpose of the shadow. They force Psyche to wholeness and conscious awareness by making her look at her lover’s dark and ugly side. When she sees who he really is, and that his wings are not the wings of a gargoyle or a dragon, but the wings of the very god of love himself, she is shocked at what she has done. In her confusion, she pricks herself with one of Eros’ arrows and falls in love with him again, in full consciousness of who and what she loves. “It is said that Psyche was the first mortal who ever looked at a god in his true splendor and lived to tell the tale” (from She, by Robert Johnson).
Additionally, in her confusion, Psyche drops hot oil from the lamp on his shoulder, which causes him to awaken and catch her in the act of seeing him. He knows that he cannot stay, because his allegiance is still to his mother, Beauty (Aphrodite). He has also not loved in the light of day and so does not know the soul (Psyche) of the woman he lives with. And so he flies away, as he must, because he is also not mature. Not yet.
Does This Apply To You?
If you are a woman, do you embrace sisterhood? Are you aware of the unspoken code among women, the “non-competition clause” that says you should never attempt to seduce another woman’s man and disrupt her household? Have you ever aroused the wrath of other women by your behavior?
Unfortunately, this is something often learned the hard way, by competing or being competed with. But for women, sisterhood lives right next door to self-esteem: love other women and you love yourself. Every woman deserves to be worshipped—no one woman can claim another’s altar. And beauty alone cannot hold a relationship together—it needs soul-work. That’s what Psyche learns.
Read about Eros’ Hidden Task here . . .