As 2013 comes to a close with a powerful Dark Moon in Sagitarius, and 2014 begins with a potent New Moon aligned with Mercury and Pluto, we are now over a week inside the portal of our current Venus retrograde cycle in Capricorn. Venus retrograde cycles are magical portals that take us out of our linear constructs of time, working through the Golden Mean of five cycles every eight years, connecting us back to past Venus retrograde cycles as it simultaneously regenerates profound growth for our future. In the sign of Capricorn the structure of form is a significant archetypal construct, and the structure of Venus retrograde resembles not only the Golden Mean found throughout nature, but also the five fold form of the Rose and the Star Pentacle. The magic imbibed into the Golden Mean, Rose, and Pentacle has been well documented in countless esoteric symbols and stories across cultures, but the way this structure plays out in our experience of the Venus retrograde cycle to me goes something like this: that just as when we look at the glimmering stars at night we are seeing light emanating from different time periods, like time traveling, so can Venus retrograde cycles resurrect patterns and stories of our past we experience from our present moment. Those of us into astrology are aware of the repeating patterns and stories found within our birth chart, and this same phenomenon of influence can be found in the myths and stories of our world that repeat themselves. While some judge myths as only relating to the culture from which they originate, I feel the myths of Great Mystery transcend cultural boundaries and take us to a realm of perception that connects to our Soul that is beyond the culture our human form was born into at the beginning of our lifetime. A myth of Great Mystery arising of profound significance to me at this time is the story of Eros and Psyche.
We’ll get to the astrology details later, but the synchronicity of astrology asteroid transits is what validated my feeling of Psyche’s story connecting to this current Venus retrograde, as at the time of Venus stationing retrograde the Sun and Mercury were conjunct the Psyche asteroid and the North Node of the Moon in Scorpio was conjunct the Eros asteroid, and at the time of Venus stationing direct at the end of January 2014, Venus will not only be conjunct Pluto as has been widely discussed, Venus will be almost exactly conjunct the Psyche asteroid. Eros at the time of Venus stationing direct does not have a major aspect with Venus, but will have moved into Sagitarius and will be in a square to Neptune in Pisces. However, at the time of the inferior conjunction of Venus and the Sun on January 11, Eros will be closely conjunct Saturn in Scorpio and in sextile to the Venus and Sun conjunction in Capricorn. Even without such asteroid synchronicity, however, the story of Psyche and Eros resonates with Venus retrograde cycles as one of the classic interpretations of the story aligns with the astrological meaning of Venus retrograde cycles: to promote reflection, going within to change our inner Venus relationship with our self in order to change our outer Venus relationship with the world and what we manifest for ourselves in relationships.
Eros and Psyche is a story that has captured popular imagination for ages, such as being integral to some ancient Mystery rituals, and whose themes still today run rampant through popular romance novels, films, and television. For example, we can feel the presence of Psyche’s agonizing desire in the vampire romance “Twilight” series and the feeling of the heroine Bella that her love and desire for her “monstrous immortal” lover has taken on life or death proportions. This is the classic romance theme we all know from Romeo and Juliet and many other examples, in which the characters become suicidal when their passionate desire for a lover is taken away, compromised, or seems in danger of ending. These stories remain popular because so many can relate to having these sorts of feelings at least at some point in their lives- desiring someone to such an extent that it seems as if the world would end if they no longer remain as a being we merge with in passion. Some of us have even had this obsessive desire arise like a fantasy for someone we have never even been with physically, and never will- and yet something in them sparks a feeling in us that we desperately want to merge with them in passion. If we are not judgmental about ourselves for having such feelings, others around us normally are, and characters in such stories are routinely judged harshly by many. Keep in mind, however, that the story of Psyche and Eros is a Great Mystery with meaning that gets more complex the more you sit with it. Before going further I would like to state my intention that it is important to avoid judging Psyche in order to open ourselves to the deeper meaning of her story, and yet of course I must acknowledge that by writing about this myth and analyzing how it fits into the current moment I am of course judging and projecting my own meaning into the story. So be it, as these ideas are the exact topics I wish to address.
This Venus retrograde cycle in Capricorn carries some important themes we can explore through the story of Eros and Psyche: JUDGMENT, INNER AUTHORITY, DESIRE, and PROJECTION, among others. These themes are present in the story at its beginning, when we meet Psyche, the youngest daughter of a King whose beauty is considered by the people to be so unsurpassed that some begin to worship her as if she were the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. Yet Psyche remains a solitary figure in reception of this tremendous romantic projection from her father’s people, as no one has enough self-confidence to move beyond their romantic fantasy of her into an actual relationship with her. Even more ominous for Psyche, she ultimately finds herself on the receiving end of the wrath of Aphrodite, as the Goddess of Love erupts with jealousy and indignation over losing the attention of her worshipers for a mere mortal like Psyche. Aphrodite orders that her son, Eros (also known in versions as Cupid) pierce Psyche with the tip of one of his arrows in order to make her fall in love with some sort of disgusting creature that will bring societal shame to Psyche. However, Eros instead falls in love with Psyche upon seeing her and devises his own plan to express his passion for her in secret.
As time passes and potential suitors continue to be too fearful to approach Psyche because of her overwhelming beauty, her father the King consults an oracle and is told to abandon his daughter to a high cliff in order to meet her destiny of marrying a monstrous creature- it is at this point that Eros enacts his secret plan as Psyche is carried off by the wind to an idyllic palace in which she is told she will have her every need attended to. Once inside the palace, Psyche finds herself treated to elaborate banquets, luxurious baths, and other sensual delights. At night, and every following night, a stranger comes to Psyche in her bedroom and passionately makes love to her- yet Psyche is never allowed to see her lover, let alone get to know on any sort of deep level beyond hedonistic sexual pleasure.
At this point in the story it is important to remember that the version of Eros and Psyche we know finds Eros relegated to his mythic interpretation more common to his Roman version as Cupid, the son of Venus (earlier versions have different fathers, later versions focus on Cupid as being the son of Mars and Venus). However, in some ancient Greek traditions, Eros is a primordial God who was at the beginning of time along with Chaos and Gaia (such as in Hesiod) and in some versions is even the original Godly form. In these myths Eros is not even portrayed as masculine, but instead is in a form beyond duality definitions of gender. In the Orphic and Eleusinian Mystery traditions, Eros is seen not so much as primordial, but instead as the progenitor of the human race. In this version of his story, Eros is the offspring of Night, or Nyx, who mates with the winged Chaos in a dark void to produce the human race.
Together through these myths, we can sense how the Eros we eventually find portrayed as a mischievous Cupid who slings arrows of love to create great drama in human affairs was originally a primordial, chaotic creature of extraordinary power. At the beginning of our Psyche and Eros story, however, Eros has lost this sense of his own inner authority and instead gives his power away to his mother Aphrodite, allowing her to dictate the terms of his life and boss him around. However, the passion Eros projects upon seeing the beauty of Psyche calls him to attempt to defy his mother, but only in secret. Influenced by the negative parental judgment of his mother against Psyche, or perhaps as well his divine societal judgment that Gods are not allowed to enter committed romantic partnerships with mortals, Eros does not claim his inner authority to openly expose and express himself to the object of his desire, Psyche, but instead chooses to worship her body with lustful desire in secret, not allowing her to see or know him.
Judgment continues to influence events in this story as Psyche soon falls prey to the judgments of her sisters who come to visit her in her palace “paradise.” No doubt jealous of the luxurious palatial lifestyle their sister is living, Psyche’s sisters convince her that she must take a knife and a lamp to bed with her so that she can see the monstrous creature that was prophesied to marry her and kill it. Psyche gives her own authority away to her sisters and does what they tell her to do, only to find with the light of her lamp that her lover is not a hideous monster but is instead the most beautiful creature she has ever seen. Startled awake by the hot oil of Psyche’s lamp, however, Eros flees the palace in fear and Psyche abandons her secluded palace life to chase after him into the night. This takes her on a journey away from the palace of Eros, a structure of romantic ideals not unlike a structure of Capricorn, into an arduous journey that opens her up to her authentic emotions and the ultimate ability to freely express her emotional needs in her own authority, not unlike the sign of Cancer, the polarity to the current Venus retrograde in Capricorn.
While Psyche’s desire to finally see her lover Eros with her own eyes, the catalyst for her journey of finding her Self and her True Love, was in some ways influenced by the judgments of her family, I also feel it came from an authentic desire of hers to actually see and know her lover as a real person instead of a fantasy. After choosing to see the real instead of the fantasy, Psyche finds herself abandoned by a river with a suicidal urge to kill herself. It is here that she meets the Nature deity Pan who comes to her assistance and is a harbinger of many other beings of Psyche’s surroundings that begin to come to her aid, everything from plants to ants to eagles. An excellent summary of this part of the story along with depth psychology analysis of meaning can be found here on the Symbol Reader blog (this post would become incredibly long if I go into all the details of the story, so hopefully you can pick up my general intent of meaning by what I include here). As the story continues, Psyche continually summons the necessary courage to persist while forming a true communion with nature and a psychic openness that can even communicate with the energy of inanimate objects, expressing her needs to her environment and finding that everything from a reed by water below her to a tall tower above her has helpful advice to give her. These instructions become vital, because on her journey to find Eros, Psyche instead crosses paths with Aphrodite who gives her a series of near impossible tasks to complete before giving the ultimate challenge: descend to the underworld where no mortal can survive and bring back a beauty ointment belonging to Persephone to give to Aphrodite.
Somehow Psyche succeeds in not only descending to the underworld, but ascending back to the upper-world having successfully received the desired beauty ointment from Persephone. However, overcome by desire to make herself beautiful for Eros, Psyche decides to open the box of beauty ointment even though she has been told it will put her into a state of perpetual sleep- which it does- but her fall into this dangerous state is what awakens Eros finally to come and revive her with a kiss. Some judge Psyche for opening the box of Persephone to claim Persephone’s beauty potion for herself, to try to make herself look pretty and pleasing for her man, but again once judgment is removed there are many levels of meaning to this action. Remember that Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld, and the Guide of Souls, and so is guiding Psyche on her journey of Soul, not guiding Aphrodite. It is also significant that Persephone gave her gift of beauty ointment to Psyche, and not to Aphrodite. Psyche takes her own authority to anoint herself with the beauty of Persephone, to meet her own need to feel beautiful, sparked by her passion for Eros. Likewise instead of judging Psyche as being “saved” by Eros like the Disney version of Snow White saved by Prince Charming, we can instead perceive that it is Psyche who helps save Eros. By claiming her own inner authority to defy Aphrodite and claim the gift that Persephone gave to her, for herself, perhaps this is the inspiration Eros needed to finally openly defy Aphrodite and claim his own inner authority to become the open lover of Psyche. And True Love’s kiss- we have all heard the fairy tales of how this can destroy any curse and create miraculous events in the lives of lovers- is this not the very breath of life (the word “psyche” means “breath” as well as “soul” and “self”) merged with passion (“eros” as a chaotic, primordial, passionate progenitor of form) so that our personality and soul can finally merge through the act of love? Is there really something to judge about this in any sort of negative way? At this point in the story of Eros and Psyche there is not, as each is finally truly seeing the other for who they are and are merging their beings in a soulful embrace that ignites the deepest embers of the soul inside each.
It is here at the end, at True Love’s kiss, that Eros and Psyche finally open themselves to the real reality of the true self of one another, instead of seeing one another through a lens of romantic fantasy- their deep merging of passion and Soul Mate relationship follows. At this point I would like to share insights I heard in a lecture by Richard Tarnas on romance, astrology, and synchronicity in March of 2012 at the Washington State Astrological Association, as he beautifully summarized a vital lesson we can take from the story of Psyche and Eros.
In his lecture Tarnas explained how synchronicity, astrology, and romantic love all have the underlying structure in common of an archetypal, synchronistic field, and that Carl Jung’s “self archetype” is constellated by a profound romantic love involving the marriage of opposites, the cosmic marriage of the inner and the outer. However, since astrology and synchronicity are not openly acknowledged in consensus society, we end up with a heightened desire for romantic love in mainstream culture as romantic love in this consensus worldview carries the entire magical, anima mundi sense of a communion between souls opening up a new universe, an opening that goes beyond the compressed isolation of the Cartesian Ego. Tarnas pointed out that astrology, synchronicity, and romantic love all (1) have great potential for profound significance, (2) are extremely susceptible to a skeptical negation, and (3) are also susceptible to both projection and illusion. The theme of judgment I have begun to address through the Psyche and Eros story is important in connection to the danger of negating a divine communion with the other, as Tarnas made the point that Jung and his followers tend to judge romantic love as a projection of the ideal, and there is a tendency among therapists to ask their clients to “own” their projection of romantic desire, saying it’s really something coming from inside their self. While projection is extremely important to reflect upon as I will continue to discuss in connection to the astrology of this time, it also leads to the potential of negating our connection with a numinous quality through romantic love. Indeed, in his lecture Tarnas made the argument that if I am carrying the divine inside me, then it is not impossible for a communion of divinities to occur through romantic love in that I am recognizing the divinity of the other as they are recognizing it in me.
How did Tarnas explain how to discern if our romantic desire for the other is a projection? He said such discernment requires an “I-thou” relationship with the other instead of an “I-it” connection. This means that projection comes from an “I-it” perception in which we are projecting our own romantic ideals despite who the other really is- in other words, we are looking at the other as an instrument of our own emotional or sexual satisfaction rather than their actual person-hood. This is how we end up with an illusionary projection of our own ideal or needs upon the other in spite of who the other actually is, instead of each person actually disclosing their real reality to the other. In contrast, instead of seeing the other as an “it” who meets our needs or ideals, we connect with their true “self” and as a result open to the potential for a communion of soul or inner divinity to occur through romantic love.
Being open to this sort of communion in my opinion means that we work with the astrological polarity of Capricorn to Cancer brought by the current Venus retrograde, and learn to fulfill and nurture our own emotional needs when possible, but also importantly to learn to express and communicate our emotional needs to others without blocking ourselves for fear of being judged or shamed. The importance of having compassion for our psyche and feelings of fantasy that can arise has been illuminated by James Hillman, who actually used the story of Eros and Psyche as the core myth behind his contrast of the traditional development of Depth Psychology with his own conception of Archetypal Psychology. Instrinsic to Hillman’s idea of Archetypal Psychology is compassion and acceptance of Psyche, the Psyche of myth as well as the feelings and sensations of our own Psyche:
“Psyche into life” can be put in many ways. Most simply I mean the freeing of psychic phenomenon from the curse of the analytical mind. This involves reflection upon the analytical mind, realizing its predilections for psychopathology and the fact that psychology has become a massive yet subtle system for distorting the psyche into a belief that there is something “wrong” with it and, accordingly, for analyzing its imagination into diagnostic categories. Moving the psyche into life means moving it, not from its sickness, but from its sick view of itself . . . The helping professions- education, social work, pastoral counseling, psychotherapy- all must envision suffering and illness as something “wrong.” They have a vested interest in psychology as it is now conceived. They must see sickness in the soul so they can get in there and do their job. But suppose the fantasies, feelings, and behavior arising from the imaginal part of ourselves are archetypal in their sickness and thus natural. Suppose they are authentic, belonging to the nature of man; suppose even that their odd irrationalities are required for life, else we wither into rigid stalks of reason. –James Hillman, The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays on Archetypal Psychology, pages 3 – 4
Hillman highlights in this work that “we discover a sense of soul in the sufferings of psychopathology” (p. 4-5), and so we can move with our psyche into life with its “sickness,” so to speak, instead of giving our power over to a therapist in analysis or trying to repress feelings in order to fit into the “real world” of society. I don’t mean to suggest by any means that one should avoid entering therapy with a therapist- however, the current Venus retrograde in Capricorn is a further sign of the danger we can cause for ourselves by judging our feelings and fantasies through a lens of shame and guilt. The story of Psyche and Eros carries the potential of us connecting with our inner divinity, our soul, and even true love by learning to express our authentic emotions without shame and guilt, as Psyche and Eros each learn to do.
In Evolutionary Astrology as taught by Jeff Green, the Capricorn archetype that connects with our current Venus retrograde in part involves the structure of form, the phenomenon of time and space which connects with our sense of mortality and the limitations of form and structure. This sense of structure in the Capricorn archetype leads to the collective organization of people into societies with consensus laws that lead to social expectations, bringing us to the concepts of conformity and resulting guilt or shame one can feel from breaking free of consensus conformity. Venus in the sign of Capricorn as a result can become controlled or cautious in expressing their emotional needs not because of lacking deep feelings- instead it is actually the opposite, Venus in Capricorn underneath carries enormous magnetism and passion- but there can be trepidation to share feelings and needs because of a fear of rejection or false judgment. When we have not had our emotional needs met in childhood, or experienced either rejection or wrong judgment from our parents or other early authority figures, we can end up with emotional needs as adults that have become incredibly distorted and exaggerated because of being displaced from a childhood in which our sense of having an inner authority was suppressed or broken in some manner.
As a result as adults we can develop a tendency to then have a fear of expressing our true emotional needs for fear of being judged, and our own internal conflicts with our own sense of inner authority can lead us to attract partners into our lives who play out the role of a controlling, dominating, judgmental, or hypocritical authority over us. Venus retrograde in Capricorn will give us the opportunity to utilize the Capricorn gift of structure to reflect upon the nature of imprinting we received from our parents and early development in the society we were born into, in order to gain awareness for how we have developed our current self-image so that we can now re-structure our inner relationship with our self in greater alignment with our authentic emotions and needs. With this Venus retrograde in Capricorn happening inside the context of an intense Cardinal Grand Cross (Libra Mars opposite Uranus in Aries, both in square to Jupiter in Cancer opposite Pluto in Capricorn along with Mercury, the Sun, and the Moon at the moment) we may gain a visceral sense of a vast emptiness we have inside of us from not having our emotional needs met in the past, an inner void we attempt to fill with obsessions or addictions of one sort or another- this is the same source a lot of our romantic projections can come from that are more about a fantasy of having our emotional needs met more so than intimacy with the actual reality of the person we desire, or a projection that is more about having someone else meet our needs instead of doing the hard inner work to nurture the needs inside of us that we are actually responsible for. Of course, this dynamic can also play out in other ways, such as an overcompensation in which we attempt to control others or events in a role of an external authority, leading to a tendency to attract relationships that are dependent upon us, mirroring our own actual need to have someone take care of our own needs. Whatever internal dynamics are at play inside of us at this time, with inner attention it will be possible to reach profound realizations of how our inner world is impacting the external world we are experiencing.
It is notable that Jeff Green was born with a Scorpio Venus retrograde on his Ascendant, and so his perspective of how the Venus retrograde cycle connects with the evolution of our connection with our soul comes from his own unique experience:
[Venus retrograde] is a very significant time for all individuals on Earth because it will correlate to a time frame in which we must reexamine and reflect on the overall nature of our reality. The intention in this is to become aware of what we no longer need in our lives- the dynamics or circumstances that are now counterproductive to our need to grow and move forward. At the same time, it creates an awareness of what we do need in order to move forward . . . [it can also] correlate to a time in which we re-experience old issues or dynamics that we may have felt that we have already worked through or left behind.
–Jeff Green, Pluto Vol. II: The Soul’s Evolution through Relationship, pp. 202-3
With Venus retrograde in Capricorn, this will utilize the Cardinal sign archetype of moving backwards in order to move forwards, in part through possibly having old wounds, memories, and issues dredged up for us to reflect upon. Since Venus is in Capricorn, we can utilize the self-determination of Capricorn to not drown in past emotional wounding but instead use the awareness for how we have developed our current self-image to de-condition ourselves from this past process so that we can then re-create a new self-image that aligns with our true self-empowerment. With the recent trine between Jupiter in Cancer and Saturn in Scorpio, and a Cancer Jupiter that is widely opposite Capricorn Venus, we will have greater capacity to re-create a new self-image that will facilitate us integrating into society in a new way that aligns with our actualized self or intrinsic individuality. Important in this Capricorn process of Venus will be the removal of guilt associations from our past conditioning, so that we can freely express our emotional needs without restriction or fear of rejection or judgment.
In the story of Psyche and Eros, I feel that Psyche’s time in the castle of Eros was like a time spent in a Capricorn structure of her conditioned societal needs- having great wealth, overflowing food and luxury, and erotic sex every night. When she leaves the structure Eros secretly created to express his desire for her without claiming his own inner authority to defy his mother Aphrodite, Psyche is thrown into trials and tribulations that open her to her deepest emotions and vulnerability, not unlike a journey into the Cancer polarity of Capricorn. More than once Psyche overflows with emotion and vulnerability near water, and learns to express her needs to her environment while also surrendering herself to an allowing of what life is bringing to her. To me, there is an emotional integrity and emotional authenticity she gains that is not unlike the Queen of Cups in the tarot. In fact, while contemplating this article I have had a few images come to mind of a Queen of Cups tarot card integrating the image of Psyche overcoming her trials and tribulations through psychic sensitivity and emotional authenticity.
This brings us to the astrological meaning of the Psyche asteroid, which Demetra George has viewed as “a higher octave of Venus, expressing a refinement of personal love and psychic attunement to another” (George, p. 188). According to Demetra, when we follow the path of Psyche we find that “conscious relationship provides a path to spiritual illumination,” and in our birth charts the Psyche asteroid symbolizes our “capacity for psychic sensitivity to the mind and feelings of another person” (George, p. 188). In contrast, Demetra has viewed the Eros asteroid as representing “passionate desire” and the “masculine sexual force . . . and generative masculine power which brought the world into creation” (George, p. 189). If you do not like ascribing the term masculine to Eros, in remembrance of the original multi-gender nature of this deity, I do feel it is important to associate Eros much more with an active yang energy in interpretation more so than the receptive yin energy embodied by Psyche. Demetra also has described Eros as a “higher octave of Mars,” and that he symbolizes “one’s passion, sexual attraction, sexual preference, and vital energy . . . the need to continuously recreate the excitement of falling in and being in love” (George, p. 189).
This idea of Psyche being a higher octave of Venus and Eros a higher octave of Mars makes them even more significant to the current astrological climate with regards to the transit of the lunar nodes. Currently we are finishing the transit of the South Node of the Moon in Taurus, ruled by the transiting Venus in Capricorn that has now gone retrograde. At the same time we are concluding the transit of the North Node of the Moon in Scorpio, ruled in traditional astrology by transiting Mars that is currently in Libra. In February of 2014 we will have a transition of lunar nodes to the South Node of the Moon entering the sign of Aries, meaning that the transiting Mars in Libra will become the ruler of the transiting South Node, as the North Node of the Moon enters the sign of Libra (it will even do this conjunct Mars in Libra) meaning that Venus will become the ruler of the transiting North Node. Not long after this transition, Mars will station retrograde, so we end up with a phenomenon with this transition of lunar nodes with the ruler of the South Node, first Venus and then Mars, being retrograde. If that did not completely confuse you, it means in part a heightened intensity of processing past patterns in all of our relationships, including our inner relationship with our Self and how this is projected outward in our relationships.
Finally, I want to include a few astrology charts to point out where exactly the Psyche and Eros asteroids have been in the context of the greater whole. Below is a chart for the December Solstice of 2013, the same day that Venus stationed retrograde, the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. When looking at this chart, you can place Eros at roughly six degrees of Scorpio and Psyche at twenty-eight degrees of Capricorn:
Finally, I will end with the chart of the potent New Moon occurring on January 1, 2014 that ushers in the year of 2014 with a Cardinal Grand Cross that will have a huge influence on events of the next year. You can place the Psyche asteroid into this chart at roughly three degrees of Capricorn, widely conjunct the New Moon and widely square to Uranus, and more closely in trine to the South Node of the Moon in Taurus. You can place Eros into this chart at roughly fifteen degrees of Scorpio, in trine to Jupiter and the true node of Black Moon Lilith in Cancer, and more widely in trine to Chiron in Pisces. Eros at this time is entering into a conjunction with Saturn in Scorpio that significantly will become exact around the time of the inferior conjunction of Venus and the Sun around January 11, 2014:
George, Demetra with Bloch, Douglas. (1986). Asteroid Goddesses. ACS.
Green, Jeff. (2009). Pluto Volume II: The Soul’s Evolution through Relationships. The Wessex Astrologer.
Hillman, James. (1960). The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology. Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd.
Tarnas, Richard. (March 2012). Lecture on Astrology, Synchronicity and Romantic Love. Washington State Astrological Association.