The Goddess Path  Issue #19

The Last Task of Psyche

July, 2004

This Issue: Table of Contents

Overwhelmed: A Personal Note
A Lesson from Psyche
Equal Opportunity Screensaver (Macs Rejoice!)
On The Horizon

One of life's important lessons is learning how to handle life when you fall behind schedule, become overwhelmed, have more on your plate than you can possibly "say grace over".

It helps to remember that it's not the actual amount that we have to do that kills us, it's the thinking about how much we have to do. That's why it helps to let go of what is not truly important and to remind yourself: "Breathe".

Since my life took an unexpected turn down a different path recently and left me momentarily overwhelmed and "behind schedule", I decided to share some of my experience and musings about it in this issue. Next month we'll return to normal (the newsletter, and hopefully me as well).

Ten days ago my husband had a heart attack at work.

In addition to being my beloved and best friend, he has developed quite a "following" of friends, colleagues, patients, students, and co-workers over the years -- all of whom depend upon him for guidance and support, all distressed when word spread rapidly through the ranks that their "king" had fallen and lay near death.

By the time I reached the emergency room, a small crowd was already forming, waiting for word, expressing concern and support. In the next hours, the growing number of visitors and calls became a source of distress.

And therein lay the challenge for me and the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson.

Stuck in the cardiac unit waiting room where I had been told to wait till he emerged from surgery, surrounded by a coterie of his co-workers, I felt frantic and trapped. I "needed" to focus, to meditate, pray, pace, cry, tear my hair, and to rock and keen -- none of which I felt free to do in front of an audience.

They insisted on staying, but a few hours later it seemed completely natural and easy for me to protect him, banishing countless visitor-wannabe's so that he could get the rest he needed. Fight as I would for him, I had been unable to conserve my energy by protecting myself from the "neediness" of others.

Not surprisingly, I had a brief descent into depression a few days after we returned home from the hospital. Short of sleep, behind schedule, full of pent-up emotions, and momentarily overwhelmed, I spent a whole day having my very own "Pity Party". 

Thinking about the waiting room experience , I grew even more depressed, telling myself that I had been treated as if I did not matter. I was also feeling a bit guilty about not having been very sympathetic to the needs of others. This kind of thinking, of course, only made me feel worse.

(A gloomy day that was, but I soon found my reset button and returned to what passes for normal.)

Clearly I had been poised precariously between two worlds, that of my soul and an avalanche of social convention and practicality.

What would a goddess do?

Perhaps I didn't pass the test that time, but I will. The important lessons that I need to learn become much much clearer as I reviewed the story of . . . 

Psyche's Final Task

Psyche, a mortal princess so gentle and lovely, achieved immortality and an eternal marriage to Eros, the god she loved, by successfully completing four impossible tasks that had been set for her by the jealous Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.

It was the fourth, the final task that was the most difficult of all. Aphrodite ordered Psyche to bring her a container of Persephone's beauty cream. To do this Psyche would have to persuade Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, to give her some of the magical potion. A horrifying prospect since no mortal (and only a select few of the gods) had ever been allowed to return from the underworld, the land of the dead and the sleeping.

Sensing the impossibility of her mission, Psyche was bereft and climbed into a high tower where, she planned to jump to her death.

In each of her previous tasks, when Psyche grew forlorn, something magically appeared -- an army of ants, the reeds growing by a river bank, and even an eagle sent by Zeus --  to advise her how to complete her appointed task. This reminds us that a woman faced with her own collapse usually has to withdraw into a quiet, still place to listen for the helpful elements within her deeper self.

This time it was the tower that intervened, giving Psyche the instructions she would need to perform the task.

The passage through the underworld would be difficult. Preparation for the journey was essential. Following the counsel of the tower, Psyche left to make her way alone, carrying two barley cakes and holding two coins in her teeth. Three times the kindly Psyche had to harden her heart and ignore the pleas for help from others lest she be distracted from her mission.

After paying the ferryman one of the coins to transport her across the River Styx, she had to shut her ears to the urgent cries of a drowning man, for she had been advised that her total focus and attention must be devoted to the dangerous task ahead.

Confronted by Cerberes, the three-headed guardian of the underworld, Psyche tossed one of the cakes at his feet and passed safely into the underworld as the dog's heads fought each other for the cake.

Meeting with Persephone, Psyche graciously declined her offer of hospitality as she had been instructed, for to eat or drink in the underworld would mean she would never be allowed to return to earth.  Growing in confidence, she persuaded Persephone to part with a small container of her precious beauty preparation as a gift for Aphrodite.

Using the last barley cake to distract the dog once more and her last coin to hire the ferryman to take her back, Psyche emerged from the underworld. Safely home, the pressure was off (and perhaps she was feeling a bit smug about just having done the impossible) she decided to bend the rules a bit.

"Just one little dab", she thought, "no one will ever miss it." And so, disobeying the tower's instruction, she opened the jar and found . . .

Nothing! At least there was nothing for her to see, only a vapor that causes an eternal sleep.  With its release Psyche fell unconscious on the path.

Eros, hearing news of her collapse, flew to her side and, wiping the eternal slumber from her eyes, awakens her. Placing the vapor back in the box, he directs Psyche to take it to Aphrodite to complete the task so that the lovers might finally be reunited.

Meanwhile Eros hastens to his father Zeus where he pleads their case, begging to be allowed to marry Psyche. Zeus, touched by Psyche's suffering and impressed with her bravery, removes the obstacle to the marriage of a god to a mortal by giving Psyche a jar of immortality to drink so that she became a goddess in her own right.

The spectacular wedding festivities were unrivalled in the history of Mount Olympus. Even Aphrodite had such a marvelous time that she relented and gave her blessing to their union.

So there it was, the happily ever after . . .
Eventually Psyche gave birth to their daughter.
Her name was Pleasure.

There are many lessons for women in this myth.  Psyche must find her way in the dark recesses of the interior world of the spirit, hoarding her energy for the things that are most important, and learning to resist the normal feminine impulse to kindness by ignoring the entreaties of the needy lest she be stranded when her resources have been exhausted.

Her journey requires solitude. Though she explores the underworld (her unconscious), she must not stay there. Psyche is called to return to the world of mortals and to embrace the practical details of an ordinary life.

The final task of Psyche speaks of the collision of the ordinary world and the darkly beautiful world of the spirit. We are given a choice: whether or not to live consciously, in full awareness of the numinous beauty, heroism, and terror of our lives.

Personally, I still don't know whether I should give thanks for that. I must admit that there are moments when I'm more inclined to beg the goddesses to go back where they belong and leave me to cope in an ordinary human fashion.

To read more about Psyche, her love affair and marriage to Eros, and the valuable lessons she was required to learn click here:
Greek goddess Psyche

It's About Time!  A Goddess Screensaver
for Mac Users is Now Available

By popular demand we developed a second version of the Goddess Screensaver for you Mac users out there. Yes, your emails did make us feel guilty about depriving you of the wonderful experience of having stunning classical images of "The Lady" spiraling across your screen in a never-ending series of transitions . . . some innocent and playful, others moody and mysterious, and others self-possessed and radiant, each bringing inspiration in her wake.

Steve Whittaker of My Dark Canvas Design took Mindy's gorgeous creation and adapted it to work on the Mac. Both versions ( for Windows and for Macs) are easy to install and uninstall. Find the free download using the link below. Invite the presence of the goddess into your daily life:  Goddess Screensaver

On The Horizon

After a year and a half on the web, Goddess Gift is undergoing an evaluation of our progress, a review of our operations that will help us decide what works and what doesn't.  Under review are:

1) the overall website design -- we're aware that we need to improve navigation and to increase consistency of the site's "look and feel".

2) the pricing of the Goddess Quiz and Report, with an increase in price being a possibility.

3) the viability of the Goddess Shop. Following review we are considering eliminating the shop in its current form. Earnings are minimal and it requires a lot of work.

We're exploring a different kind of shop, offering a few select products that are very goddess oriented, including a very, very special item that has absolutely stolen our hearts. We plan to share it with you next month, so stay tuned.

For those of you wanting to order a God or Goddess Report (or to take the Goddess Quiz again) we're offering Gift Certificates to take the Goddess Quiz at $12 each (a 30% discount). If we have to raise the prices of the Goddess Quiz next month, we'll still always offer a discount to subscribers, but this may be the last chance to get them at this low price.
Goddess Quiz Certificates

For the Truly Curious Among Us . . .

For more detail about our work at the website, you can read the:

In closing, a timely reminder to ....

improve the balance in your life and to tend carefully those things that you hold dear.

Balance and Breathe,


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